Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel on the New York Times:

While innovation — the social process of introducing new things — is important, most technologies around us are old, and for the smooth functioning of daily life, maintenance is more important. […] It’s not just maintenance that our society fails to appreciate; it’s also the maintainers themselves. We do not grant them high social status or high salaries. Typically, maintenance is a blue-collar occupation: mechanic, plumber, janitor, electrician. There are white-collar maintainers (like the I.T. crowd) and white-jacket maintainers (like dentists). But they, too, are not celebrated like the inventor.

Once you notice this problem — innovation is exalted, maintenance devalued — you begin to see it everywhere.

Same authors (they organised a conference around this topic), on Aeon Magazine:

First, it is crucial to understand that technology is not innovation. Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology. This preoccupation with novelty is unfortunate because it fails to account for technologies in widespread use, and it obscures how many of the things around us are quite old. […]

Second, by dropping innovation, we can recognise the essential role of basic infrastructures. […]

Third, focusing on infrastructure or on old, existing things rather than novel ones reminds us of the absolute centrality of the work that goes into keeping the entire world going.

To truly appreciate the mundane labour that keeps everything running pay attention to the details, to how stuff works. It’s anything but mundane. Maintaining stuff should be cool.

Un-doing is oftentimes easier — the number of times I heard someone suggesting starting from scratch to take the complexity away. The problem with this line of thought is that things only stay simple in the beginning. Any mature system is complex.

Robin Hanson:

First, we should seriously worry about which aspects of our modern civilization system are rotting. Human culture has lasted a million years, but many parts of our modern world are far younger. If the first easiest version of a system that we can find to do something is typically be a rotting system, and if it takes a lots more work to find a non-rotting version, should we presume that most of the new systems we have are rotting versions? Farming-era empires consistently rotted; how sure can we be that our world-wide industry-era empire isn’t similarly rotting today? We may be accumulating a technical debt that will be expensive to repay.

Un nuovo trailer di Lo and Behold, il documentario di Werner Herzog su internet e l’intelligenza artificiale. Ne attendo l’uscita trepidante.

Real Life è un nuovo magazine (sponsorizzato da Snapchat) curato da Nathan Jurgenson, uno di quelli che da tempo spiega in maniera più efficiente e intelligente come la rete stia influenzano il nostro modo di comunicare e stare assieme, contestando l’idea molto diffusa che i rapporti che intessiamo online — le nostre interazioni “virtuali” — abbiano meno valore di quelli che intratteniamo fuori dalla rete, solo perché non avvengono in uno spazio fisico ma su internet.

Nathan contesta soprattutto la distinzione fra offline e online, fra reale e virtuale, definendola un “dualismo digitale“. Spiegato, da un articolo di Bicycle Mind di un paio di anni fa, così:

Il mondo puro e naturale come alcuni lo immaginano non esiste, ma è profondamente mediato da una serie di variabili che potremmo anche definire “cultura”. Gli umani sono sempre stati tecnologici: non ha riscontro nella realtà quest’idea di un rapporto umano puro, naturale. Abbiamo avuto tecnologie invadenti per tanto tempo, alcune non le consideriamo più tali semplicemente perché sono recesse allo stato di natura. I nostri rapporti e le connessioni che stabiliamo con gli altri individui sono mediati dall’architettura del luogo in cui ci troviamo, dal modo in cui siamo vestiti, da tutto ciò che ci circonda: internet, la rete, è solo una delle tanti variabili che si è di recente aggiunta. Pretendere di avere accesso a una versione più pura di noi stessi e del mondo facendone a meno è illudersi.

I primi articoli di Real Life sono usciti ieri. L’obiettivo della rivista, come scrive Nathan, è proprio quello di descrivere come viviamo con la tecnologia senza lasciarsi andare ai soliti articoli allarmanti del tipo “internet ci sta rendendo stupidi?”:

Real Life will publish essays, arguments, and narratives about living with technology. It won’t be a news site with gadget reviews or industry gossip. It will be about how we live today and how our lives are mediated by devices. We plan to publish one piece of writing every weekday, though we may eventually expand to other mediums and formats as well. […]

Popular discourse on technology has sustained the idea that there is a digital space apart from the social world rather than intrinsic to it, while popular tech writing is often limited to explaining gadgets and services as if they’re alien, as well as reporting on the companies that provide them. This work is crucial, but writing about technology is too often relegated to the business section. On this site, it will be the main event. We’re not a news or reviews site, but we will describe the tech world—specifically how that industry shapes the world we live in today. To that end, we aim to address the political uses of technology, including some of the worst practices both inside and outside the tech industry itself.