Notes for November 18, 2022
I’m still trying to wrap my head around what exactly I’m wanting to do with these weekly notes (this is only my second one), but I’m the type of person that needs to do something to get a feel for it and not one that’s good at planning ahead… Anyways! Here are some notes from today, this 18th day of November, 2022:
Grab two of everything and hop onto the Arc
Earlier this week, I received an invite to try the brand new, overly hyped, Arc browser. First impressions:
- It’s… a browser? But the sidebar is on the left side, and it has a nice enough design, but that icon… it’s very ugly? Is that just me? It kinda looks like the Apple App Store icon had a baby with the Amazon logo.
- I really like how the ⌘+T shortcut brings up the Command Bar instead of opening a new tab. That shortcut is already ingrained in my muscle memory, so using it how the people behind Arc want me to use their browser is easy enough. I like how I can switch between tabs from here, search the web, enter URLs, whatever. Clever idea.
- I really like the idea of folders and spaces, and the easel seems like a great way to collect research and notes.
- My problem with all that though (and the fact that it’s based on Chromium) is that I already have years and years of workflows built using Safari, not to mention some amazing Safari-only extensions that I simply cannot install in Arc. I want to like Arc, but old habits die hard.
- If you’d like to try it, I have 5 invites to the first 5 people to click this link!
Not your father’s wrestling federation
Earlier this week, I hopped onto the Mastodon bandwagon, and I have mostly been enjoying myself. It’s not a place I’m spending too much of my time in, but when I do, it’s nice. Quiet. But it does have its quirks, quirks that were nicely explained in this article by the EFF:
No matter how much you love or hate email itself, it is a working federated system that’s been around for over a half-century. It doesn’t matter what email server you use, what email client you use, we all use email and the experience is more or less the same for us all, and that’s a good thing. The Web is also federated – any web site can link to, embed, refer to stuff on any other site and in general, it doesn’t matter what browser you use. The internet started out federated, and even continues to be.
I really liked this email analogy because once I read it, I immediately understood what a federated social media network actually meant and what it will mean in the future. This is what social media should have been all along!
However, it took email a long time before people fully grokked it, and I think the same will be true for Mastadon and other federated networks. Max Böck put it best when he wrote:
I think we’re at a special moment right now. People have been fed up with social media and its various problems (surveillance capitalism, erosion of mental health, active destruction of democracy, bla bla bla) for quite a while now. But it needs a special bang to get a critical mass of users to actually pack up their stuff and move.
When that happens, we have the chance to build something better. We could enable people to connect and publish their content on the web independently – the technology for these services is already there. For that to succeed though, these services have to be useable by all people - not just those who understand the tech.
Just like with migration to another country, it takes two sides to make this work: Easing access at the border to let folks in, and the willingness to accept a shared culture - to make that new place a home.
These services have to be useable by all people - not just those who understand the tech. Exactly. I think we can get there, though, especially if these services can accommodate more and more people, people who don’t want to understand all this “tech stuff.” Give it to the big guys, though: they made this stuff easy for anyone to understand. But it was this ease that got us into this mess in the first place!
“This enshittification [more mass surveillance, finer-grained and more intrusive ad targeting],” writes Cory Doctorow, “was made possible by high switching costs. The vast communities who’d been brought in by network effects were so valuable that users couldn’t afford to quit, because that would mean giving up on important personal, professional, commercial and romantic ties.”
With federated networks, these switching costs are no longer an issue. Hell, I created my Mastodon account in 2018, but I switched to the social.lol instance in just a few minutes. All my followers, everyone I followed, my block and mute lists, all transferred over just fine. The whole experience was slick! Again, this is what social media should be.
To the moon! Some stretchy stuff! 8 billion people!
NASA launched the Artemis 1 rocket earlier this week, “which will, among other things, take scientific experiments to produce metal on the moon.”
What if we could save money by using the resources that are already there? This process is called in-situ resource utilization, and it’s exactly what astrometallurgy researchers are trying to achieve.
While the moon has metals in abundance, they’re bound up in the rocks as oxides—metals and oxygen stuck together. This is where astrometallurgy comes in, which is simply the study of extracting metal from space rocks.
I love that astrometallurgy exists. What a cool word and what a cool science.
Apparently, scientists have created a “skinlike sticker” that “runs machine-learning algorithms to continuously collect and analyze health data directly on the body. The skinlike sticker… includes a soft, stretchable computing chip that mimics the human brain.”
“We envision that wearable electronics,” they continue
will play a key role in tracking complex indicators of human health, including body temperature, cardiac activity, levels of oxygen, sugar, metabolites and immune molecules in the blood. […] Our work is a good starting point for creating devices that build artificial intelligence into wearable electronics – devices that could help people live longer and healthier lives.
That always seems to be the promise, huh? This promise to “live longer and healthier lives.” Living longer is always nice, but should we? Our bodies might possibly go on for forever, but can our minds? Can a human mind handle 150, 500, 1000 years of being alive? At some point, we have to die. But this stretchable sticker idea is cool.
The UN reported earlier this week that humanity has surpassed 8 billion people. Imagine 8 billion people living for over 100 years. Can planet earth sustain that? I don’t think it can. I’m glad and excited that we’re pushing our species past our home and into the great unknown that is outer space, but earth is our home, too. Are we parasites or caretakers? Are we here to ravage this place and move on, or can we live with some sort of harmony with our ancestral home?
I hope we can, but unless I live to be 250 years old, I might not be alive to find out.
Sleeping while on duty
Finally, I learned a new term today: inemuri (居眠り), or “present while sleeping” in Japanese. Basically, it’s this idea of taking power naps while at work, and in Japan, these naps are seen as virtuous because it signifies that you’ve worked to the point of complete exhaustion.
For me, though, it means that napping is a necessary part of modern human culture. I’ve been having trouble sleeping all year, but my 10, 20, 30 minute naps I have taken throughout the year have helped me stay sane. And yes, sometimes I have snuck a quick nap or two while at work, and I am not ashamed! It means I have worked myself to the point of complete exhaustion. Like a real American!