The Mullahs Killed Michael Jackson

[Editor’s Warning: elitist liberal moralizing to follow]

Dan Savage:

The Iranian regime has accused the CIA of killing Neda in order to win sympathy for the protesters and create disorder in Iran. I accuse the Iranian regime of killing Michael Jackson to end all coverage of the protests in Iran on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

(“The Mullahs Killed Michael Jackson,” SLOG, The Stranger, 25 June 2009)

It’s unfortunate that the public and the media are so transfixed by the solipsistic, bread-and-circus phantasmagoria. Entertainment trumps world history every time.

The Iranian Election and the New Media Revolution

I remember CNN’s moment when Bernard Shaw reported live Baghdad in 1992 as the First Gulf War commenced or Aaron Brown live from Midtown Manhattan as the first tower of the World Trade Center fell. News events like those were the height of old media accomplishment. Right now the most amazing thing happening in the world is the election protests in Iran and I turn on the television hoping for something current and relevant. I’m paying for the extended cable package because I have hitherto thought that when a major story happens, only the big news channels can offer coverage up to the magnitude of the event. On CNN Larry King is interviewing Paul Teutul about his favorite muscle cars and on FOX News Geraldo At Large is interviewing Carrie Prejean about her spat with the Miss USA Pageant. On CNN’s website the lead stories are the Six Flags bankruptcy and the troubles at the FCC hotline over the analog cable shutoff.

The only place for news on Iran right now is twitter, internet forums, YouTube, flickr and various other photo sights where individual Iranians are uploading. Twitter is serving as the guide to it all. I am regularly refreshing the #IranElection twitter hash and getting snippets of what’s happening there in bustles of disorganized 140 character updates. Right now #IranElection, Tehran, Mousavi are the numbers two, four and five highest Trending Topics on twitter. The hash #CNNfail is coming in at number three. When CNN does run some loop story about Iran, they are using still photos culled from FaceBook!

I suspect that within a few days the Iranian police will get a handle on this and the Ahmadinejad victory will be made to stick. This will be unfortunate for the Iranian people and the cause of peace.

However, the new media revolution proceeds apace.

Petrified Onions

The latest controversy to sweep the blogosphere is the outing of previously pseudonymous blogger John Blevins, a.k.a. Publius by Ed Whelan (Whelan, Ed, “Exposing an Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger,” The Corner, National Review Online, 6 June 2009; Blevins, John, “Stay Classy Ed Whelan,” Obsidian Wings, 6 June 2009; Whelan eventually apologized, “My Apologies to Publius,” The Corner, 8 June 2009). This prompts some musings on the subject of on-line personae by Matthew Yglesias (“The Metaphysics of Pseudonymity,” Think Progress, 9 June 2009):

And of course it’s a fallacy to assume a perfect identity between any Internet persona and its author(s). A whole bunch of different writers collaborate on producing Think Progress and they write in what I think is a pretty uniform voice. But like the writers behind The Economist, they’re actually all beautiful unique snowflakes who are often quite different from the TP persona. And by the same token, Matthew Yglesias “in real life” is not the same as the character I play on the Internet. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s quite right to say that the in-the-flesh [ME] is “real” and the on-the-Internet one is somehow “fake.” This blog has existed for over seven years now, and it’s almost certainly the case that more people “know” the persona than know me. And I think that should hold all the more strongly for any prominent pseudonymous bloggers. The well-known, stable character is a person with integrity, influence, a personality, a reputation, social connections, etc., the same as anyone else. To be sure, they may be artifice in terms of the presentation of the character. But our various “in real life” self-presentations (to a boss, to a first date, to family, to friends, to people we run into at a high school reunion) involve artifice as well.

In the past you body was at least the skeleton on which your personae hung. They depended on you to take them places, to animate them. The dutiful son only existed at the family get-together, after which he was de-emanated. The nightclub alter ego only came out to play when the costume was dawned.

Media personae persist. In the era of mass participation mass media, your personae don’t need you anymore. They’re out there, being recreated by anonymous onlookers while you are sleeping.

Marx is Back!

April-May 2009, Marx is Back! / 1 de Mayo immigrant's march posters

Out of character for the city, there have been a number of lefty signs around. Some of my recent favorites are the two above. The one on the right is for a Mayday immigrant march. Notice that the flag in the hands of the native American is the United States as a tree with its roots in the shape of the rest of the world. The little plaque on the man’s chest reads both “Sise puede” and “Yes we can.” And the rally is meeting in Malcolm X Park, the unofficial name for Meridian Hill Park (Google Maps | Wikipedia).

I love the socialist conference poster. “Marx is back!” One may wonder where he ever went. I guess some people though that Marxism went into remission after the end of the Cold War. But everyone is on notice that he’s back now.

March 2008-May 2009, Newsweek, Foreign Policy and BusinessWeek, varying degrees of questioning capitalism

With Newsweek going beyond declaring us merely Keynesians now and portraying George Bush, Jr. in the style of Che Guevara, Foreign Policy putting Marx on the cover of their “Big Think” issue (“Why he matters now”), BusinessWeek making Ben Bernanke look like Lenin and including Henry Paulson in Stalinist Soviet style collages and Richard Posner titling his current book A Failure of Capitalism, things are feeling positively European.

But the return of Marx is more than just media camp. With respect to national security, Charles Krauthammer referred to the liberal internationalism of the Clinton years as a “holiday from history” (The Washington Post, 14 February 2003, p. A31). Robert Kagan is now referring to the post-1990s as The Return of History and the End of Dreams. Supposedly September 11, 2001 and the ensuing clash of civilizations has woken us up from our Fukuyam-esque ex-historical state. Similarly, we might refer to the phenomena of “Marx is Back” as the return of history to the economic sphere after 20 years of economic dreams (given that the current crisis has wiped out nearly 15 years of stock market value, it does seem as if it was all a dream). Just as September 11, 2001 broke the exclusive claim of liberal internationalism upon the thinking of the foreign policy establishment and showed that the future would be one of continuing world-historical ideological contention, so the holiday of political-economy that was the Washington Consensus has been knocked askew. The future of the economy will be one of political conflict.

But I kid myself. The legitimacy of capitalism within a given polity has nothing to do with the soundness of ideas and little to do with events. It is primarily a function of the Gini coefficient: the more money there is sloshing around in the upper social strata, the more inassailable the reputation of capitalism. And since that’s hardly going to change in the current crisis, I doubt that the Washington Consensus will emerge with anything more than a few fast forgotten slights.

In this regard the conservatism of the Obama administration should be noted. They are doing whatever they can to handle the current situation with as little enduring systematic change or publicity as possible. And I guess I’m in favor of this. While I may sympathize with dialectical materialism and Marx’s critique of the corruptions of capitalism, he was grossly wrong in his assessment of capitalism as ineluctably hell-bent-for-crisis. I’m essentially an advocate of Keynesian tinkering in a mostly stable system. And besides, alienation is a feature of capitalism, not a bug. The last thing I want is to be railroaded into a syndicate with a bunch of hippies. Those guys are fascists.

My Interests, As Reverse Engineered by Amazon.com

According to Amazon.com’s reverse engineering of my purchases, here are my interests:

Accounting, Asia, Biology, Chaos & Systems, Cognitive Psychology, Communism & Socialism, Consciousness & Thought, Economic Conditions, Economic History, Economic Policy & Development, Epistemology, Ethics, Finance, Government, Greek & Roman, History & Surveys, History & Theory, Holocaust, Intelligence, Intelligence Agencies, International Relations, International Security, Investments & Securities, Japan, Logic, Marxism, Military & Spies, Military Science, Modern, Napoleon, Naval, Nonfiction, Nuclear, Philosophy, Physics, Political, Political History, Political Ideologies, Presidents & Heads of State, Public Policy, Purple Politics, Relations, Russia, Social Theory, Sociology, Statistics, Strategy, Theory, World War I

That reads about right. I could quibble about some omissions, e.g. where’s Europe. That being said, why do Amazon’s recommendations suck so much? How is it that I can routinely go into a bookstore and find, not obscurely hidden in a lesser-trafficked corner, but prominently displayed, some work of exceptional interest to me, but that Amazon hasn’t recommended? And the heavily cut tracks! I find that I have an occasional interest in, say, the U.S. Civil War, but that I refrain from adding a Civil War title to my wish list because the Civil War is such an overdone cottage industry: if you add a single Civil War title, next thing you know every new volume by every small-town antiquarian, about every two-bit local general is going to be recommended.

Update, 5 April 2008: And what the hell is “Purple Politics”? Everything listed under that category seems perfectly respectable, but when I hear “purple politics” I think of Jessica Cutler’s The Washingtonienne, the Starr Report or the tabloids on Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni.

Group Proprioception Goes Interspecies

Some Seattle artist and I aren’t the only ones who think your pet should be life logging: the British government does too. Reading University has been commissioned to conduct a study of how much wildlife is being destroyed by domestic cats (McKie, Robin, “Special Tags to Measure How Often Cats Kill,” The Observer, 15 February 2009):

“For the first time, cats will be fitted with data loggers that will show their movements, range and behaviour 24 hours a day. We will know when one kills an animal — typically by the way it plays with its prey.

“We will then be able to work out precisely how many animals a cat is killing every year, and from that estimate a national figure. It will be a pretty formidable number.”

Now if they could just get some sort of pattern recognition software to read the live GPS data stream coming off your cat and tweet his kills to your cell phone, then your cat would be twittering too.

The Iconography of Barack Obama: The First American

26 January 2009 The New Yorker and 14 February 2009 Economist, both with Barack Obama as George Washington

See what I’m sayin’. A lot has been made of President Obama’s appropriation of Abraham Lincoln, but why stop there. Obama is the every-president. The 26 January 2009 issue of The New Yorker put Drew Friedman’s illustration, “The First” on the cover and the 14 February 2009 issue of The Economist has for its cover a parody of Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, both featuring Barack Obama as George Washington.

Life Logging: Not Just for Human Life Anymore

Not only should you be thinking about life logging, but you should also be thinking about it for your pet (Chansanchai, Athima, “Cooper the Cat Shows His Stuff in Photo Exhibit,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 13 February 2009):

For this Seattle cat, photography is his medium, a gift from his “parents” — filmmakers Michael and Deirdre Cross, who gave him a very small and light digital camera that hung from his collar one day a week for a year. It was programmed to take a picture every two minutes.

They wanted the answer to a question many pet lovers have asked themselves: What does he do all day?

He came back with thousands of answers — 16 of which are framed and on display at the Urban Light Studios in the Greenwood Collective. The exhibit opens with a reception tonight as part of the Greenwood Art Walk. The show runs through March 10.

Cooper the cat photographer has a blog dedicated to his exploits at http://cooper-catphotographer.blogspot.com/.

And while you’re at it, you may want to survey your environment for any particularly interesting non-living things, appliances, informational or gameworld agents, et cetera whose activities you might want to see in your FaceBook feed.

Update, 15 September 2011: Cooper the cat photographer’s blog has been relocated. It can now be found at http://www.photographercat.com/.

The End of the Era of Orphanage

I am prone to say that there is a bigger issue at stake in something like life logging. As Carl Sagan pointed out in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, we’re all orphans abandoned at the doorstep of time. Ten thousand generations of humans have inhabited this planet and the most tenacious genealogist can perhaps recount seven of those generations. Indeed, your great grandchildren won’t even know your name. I recall one of Andy Rooney’s commentaries on 60 Minutes where he wandered through a number of old cemeteries, grown over, fences falling, headstones cracked and weathered to illegibility. It was obviously a very elegiac piece. He ended it by saying that we ought to make an indelible record of every person who’s ever lived. And we ought to. There was a time when we had to be pragmatic and pragmatism necessitated a massive forgetting. The realm of what’s pragmatic has grown. Time to stop forgetting.

I watch all the animals that scamper about the city and it is horrible that they lead such anonymous lives. They live beautifully without making an impression, they fall ill and there is no aid, they die without a thought from their fellows and their corpses are left where they fall. Once I saw a documentary in which a paleoanthropologist pulled a hominid skull out of a drawer and held it next to the skull of a saber-toothed tiger so that the two fangs of the tiger skull straddled the occipital bun of the human and lined up perfectly with two small holes in the back of the little human’s skull. Of those ten thousand generations, perhaps the majority were the lives of humans led as animals: noble, but uncelebrated lives of struggle leading to unmourned graves. Every one of those lives were ones of immense drama, and every one necessary to carry us down to the place we find ourselves today, and yet nearly to a one, utterly gone. And despite all our advancements, the lives of almost everyone alive today are not one iota less anonymous. In life, a titan; in death, dust.

Sometimes I am prone to a great man theory of history: that we masses are indebted for all of our modern day prosperity on an incredibly small number of geniuses without whom none of it would be possible. We common folk are parasites upon their achievements. But then I consider this world into which we are born. We just found it as it was, fully build. Massive buildings, sprawling cities whose assessed value runs to the trillions of dollars, public works projects the scale of which is baffling. I am dependent for my protection from the elements upon a building. Where this building came from, I have no idea. I have no idea who built it. I have no idea who first wanted it and commissioned its construction. I have no idea when the presumably original utility basement was remodeled into a living space. I have no idea how it was handed down and eventually would up with it’s present owner. As Graham Robb points out in The Discovery of France, even what we take to be untrammeled nature has already been drained, logged and contoured by generations so forgotten that we can no longer detect their impact. Countless trillions of person-hours have gone into making the world what it is, almost all of them completely forgotten. We just found the world as it is and don’t even consider it. It is Newton’s old, “If I have seen so far, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” There is a grandeur in the accumulated accomplishment of all the forgotten people who have carried the species down through the ages to deposit us were we have found ourselves. They should get their names etched in the base of their great accomplishment. Perhaps life logging will result in a certain solipsism, but in other sectors, perhaps it will chip away at a solipsism from which we already suffer.

But then, but then …

Atheism is more than just one belief about the nonexistence of the gods. It is a habit of mind. Once one has ceased to believe in god, one has only started to be an atheist. One must then purge one’s self of the thoughts that grow out of god. The need for eternity, the sole valuation of the eternal, the denigration of all things transient — in other words, the denigration of all things — is the most pernicious of such habits. There is obviously something to secularization thesis. Sometimes I think that this rage for permanence is just a bastion of my former Christianity. The insistence on the illusion of eternity is part of the myth of humanity as standing somehow opposed to and outside of nature. But we are as much animals and artifacts of nature now as ever. Perhaps we should live our lives like Buddhist sand mandala: exercises in the transient, in the timely. Coming to terms with becoming, evolution, development, decay and passing is how one is to be in harmony with the world, is it not?

Life Logging: It’s All About the Metadata

Yes, yes, I agree with John that much of what you presently see that might fall under the rubric of life logging is either boring or pretentious or pornography. I really can’t even make it through the cream of such stuff, say, BloggingHeads. As for solipsism, there’s no sense in complaining: that’s our inevitable future. Suburbanization, materialism, the cultural conditions of capitalism et al. are merely the low tech predecessors to the coming introversion. But look past what it is today to the potential that it holds.

Don’t just imagine me sitting at home eating deli potato salad watching on a screen as Frank sits at home web browsing eating a microwave burrito. One person’s life log 24/7: not so interesting. But let’s cut it up and remix it. Imagine if everyone’s life stream was well marked up with metadata. It’s all timestamped and geotagged. Face recognition software tags all the people, perhaps place recognition software adds even more specific location data (H.M.S. Victory instead of just 50° 48′ North Latitude, 1° 06′ West Longitude). All conversations are parsed through speech to text and indexed. Stats on SIPs are tallied. User tags are attached to add to the raw machine indexes. Viewer rating and hit counts are recorded so we have some measures of quality or import. Now we’re ready for some serious use. And what will that consist of? Probably more than I can conceive, but just to toss off a few ideas:

  1. Hindsight is 20/20. There’s really little problem determining in retrospect what was important and what not. The problem is having the foresight to know what’s important before the fact and be at the ready to capture it. If the technology is there (practically limitless storage) then dispense with the hard part of being clairvoyant about impending events and just record everything. We can edit it down later. And with no pressing limit, why not make it much, much later? Or why bother editing at all? In an earlier incarnation along this path, my thought was that what I wanted was complete sense data capture with, say, a ten minute buffer so that I could go back and edit down. But when the trend in data storage struck me, I thought why trade precious time for picayune space?

    But actually hindsight is not 20/20. It only seems so under the sway of dogma. Really the past is inscrutable. There’s almost no telling what revaluation the endless mulling of the past might produce. In the perennial purges to which the raging simplifiers are want, the data trails of alternate narratives are eliminated. What seems inconsequential from one perspective is everything from another. The meager holdings of a peasant’s hovel, junk according to the great man theory of history, become the stuff of grand narrative at the hands of the archeologist. Who is to say what trend, indiscernible to us in the present, will grow to word-historical proportions in the future, or for that matter, what minutia will obsess future generations.

  2. If you build it they will come. One of the interesting phenomena of the budding age is the growing degree of unintended consequences. If you’ve got something, even something unrefined, then put it out there and a bunch of content scavengers will come along with a mash-up of some sort and put it to a heretofore unanticipated good use. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. What do we do with all that stuff? I don’t know, but my not knowing is not sufficient. Someone else knows. And that right there is a solid gold law of the Internet age. In a system of synergy, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, even inert garbage is a contribution to the potential of the system.

  3. Rashomon. Human recall is notoriously unreliable. If you have five witnesses, you have five different versions of events. Life logging may bring some element of objectivity to things. And once you’ve set aside trying to figure out when to turn the recorder on and when to leave it off, catching the unexpected is less of a problem. Just think how much better When Animals Attack or Destroyed in Seconds television programming we’ll have.

  4. Audience. There is, of course, the blatant issue of audience. Who do we log our lives for? As S. e-mailed me,

    To the right audience, there is value. I would give a lot for the ability to look at a few moments (any moments) of the world from my eyes as a second grader. Or a few moments from the eyes of my great-great-grandmother.

    Maybe my two year old self is not of any interest to strangers, but to my parents, to myself, to my children, my great grand children, it would be more valuable than the Zapruder film, the Omaha beach photographs, anything. As a man with a first baby on the way, I anticipate a wholesale reevaluation of your opinion as to what’s dull and forgettable and what important and in need of preservation.

    And per observation number one, the audience is subject to change over time. If that second grader grows up to be an insurance salesman, than maybe interest remains confined to family. If he grows up to be the next Einstein or the next Hitler, than the audience becomes much larger and how valuable all those things are changes vastly.

  5. The human sciences. Imagine just a few of the questions that the sociologist, the historian, the linguist, the political scientist, the antiquarian might be able to address with such a wealth of information at their disposal. The study of linguistic and meme evolution, presently confined to source material consisting of that most contrived medium, writing, would have a plethora of data. If nothing else, the study of nonce words would be revolutionized. Or think what it would do for the preservation of the dying languages and cultures. They could be preserved as they were lived, not as a graduate anthropology student’s field notes. As linguistic analysis tools become more sophisticated the empirical study of the structure of belief, moral practice and reasoning would become possible without the taint of self-consciousness interfering. Perhaps rhetoric would become a hard science. Historians have shifted their interest from great man and political history to people’s or cultural history, but prior to the fairly recent past, there’s almost nothing for them to go on. For developments in culinary practice, foods, cooking and eating tools, historians have to turn to paintings of banquets and study what’s on the table. What furnishings could you expect to find in a peasant’s house in the thirteenth century? Almost a complete mystery. There is worth in the preservation of the quotidian.

  6. Searching and Sorting. Increasingly we will search and sort by ostension. And the join between me and what I’m looking for is other people. It’s Petabyte Age analytics applied to the issue of human interest. People are too complicated for a theory that delves into the internals, so just engage in atheoretic pattern matching, one person to another. This was damn near the first thing that I wrote about as a blogger (see the “theoretical discussion” of my “Inaugural Post,” 21 June 2004).

    Information isn’t just produced and distributed (as if distribution was unproblematic). It’s vouched for, it’s filtered, it’s branded, it’s packaged with other information, it’s marketed and it’s mapped into a network. As the traditional means of these functions — newspapers, magazines, books, television stations — break down, they are being replaced by newer, more individualized methods. It used to be that a person would turn to their established sources — The New York Times, CNN, Cambridge University Press, et cetera. The editors at these institutions served the role of guaranteeing the veracity of information, of assembling a package of information desirable to a certain market segment, of providing the correct admixture of variability. But these were rather dumb packages aimed at gigantic demographics: the readership of The New York Times or the listeners of NPR. With the tools that the information age is making available, people are able to cut out the editor and design their own customized, unique information agglomerations.

    There is so much going on out there in the world that I could never keep up on it all, so I rely on intermediaries. And really I don’t want to keep up on everything. I want intermediaries who are like me and so filter in things similar to the ones that I would select myself. But I don’t want people too much like me. I want some variety and I want to be exposed to new and unanticipated things. But not too much variety. There are some things that I’m absolutely not interested in. I want people who are different enough to introduce variety, but still sufficiently similar to introduce the right kind of variety. Specifying this in an abstract way is extremely difficult. What if you had to make up a list of tags or SIPs that you wanted to see? Could you think of them all? Do you have the time to pursue the Library of Congress subject catalog? And the problem of variety is that of an unknown unknown: most of the variety that I want is stuff in which I don’t yet know that I’m interested. To define this explicitly would be a chore and one that I probably couldn’t do very well through traditional means, so I do so by ostension.

    And the way to do this is with a personally determined network of trust relationships. I subscribe to RSS feeds, I follow certain bloggers, I read my FaceBook News Feed, I add people to my “interesting library” list on LibraryThing, I trust people in recommendation systems like Amazon.com. Their purview becomes an extension of my own. Each node in my network of associations becomes like a radar picket, seeing out from one horizon to the next. They become my agents, recommending back to me the things in which I might be interested, in exchange for others doing the same for them.

    It’s an extension of what’s always gone on. People have always got together and swapped information. They’ve relayed news and gossip, passed on leads on cheap produce, swapped how-to tips. In the past it was rather easy to find people who were into what you were into because there simply wasn’t that much to be into. There weren’t many games, there wasn’t much by way of entertainment, there were fewer hobbies, there weren’t as many job opportunities because the scope of economic activity was narrower, the publishing industry was small. But just as our culture fractures into ever more narrow segments, so our ability to reach out broadens. Our capability to establish similar such relationships is no longer confined to our immediate surroundings and our geographic neighbors. It now extends over the globe and to our ideologically proximate neighbors.

    But if we are to apply Petabyte Age analytics to people, first what we require are the petabytes. In order for other people to serve an ostensive role, they have to make their information available: what they are doing, what events they are attending, what they are reading, what they are watching, what they are purchasing, what they think about all these things. Only then can one start to make determinations about whose life signature to include as part of one’s search criteria and only then do they produce the information to draw into the vortex that is you. Life logging-like behavior is a critical component of search by ostension.

  7. Environmental awareness. Generalized sights like outside.in and EveryBlock try to provide people with information specific to their locality. Sights like Menu Pix or Indie Coffee Shops do the same with respect to particular categories of interest. This is an extension of searching by ostension, only instead of like-minde people, I am interested in like-located people.

    Imagine what life logging would mean for augmented reality. What happens to a cityscape when standing in front of a building, I have the design discussions of the architect and the client, the experience of the laborers who built it, reactions of architecture critics, views of what preceded it on the lot all at my disposal. Imagine being in a new city and having the whisperings of previous visitors or longtime residents in your ear. People often say, “imagine if these walls could talk.” In the future, they will.

  8. The long tail of entertainment. To apply a straightforward materialist analysis to it, life logging is essentially a long tail phenomenon. Production and distribution of content — news, entertainment, educational, documentary — used to entail significant costs, both opportunity and financial. There was only a little bit of bandwidth and fully equipped and staffed studios and broadcast stations were extremely expensive so producers stuck to the safe side of the 80/20 rule. They went with the lowest common denominator of programming to maximize return on bandwidth expended. As the price of production, storage and distribution fall and the learning curve flattens out, what makes the cut will move comparably further down the long tail. Do you think that a thousand television channels are too many? How about one for every man, woman and child in the world? How narrow will a niche become? It’s the other side of the question of how low will production and distribution costs go. Will it go so low that the niche audience shrinks to a single person? I don’t think that even that is the limit. Probably the remote possibility of a single view or incorporation of a minute fragment of one’s output into a larger work is the limit.

    Of course people’s level of interest in participation will be a limit, but as it becomes ever easier — so easy that participation is almost indistinguishable from nonparticipation — it will eventually require active rejection to not participate. And then society might develop positive inducements to overcome even that. There’s always the dreaded network effects, but one can imagine much more stringent inducements. Not having a life log might make a person a social pariah or a life log might serve in place of a curriculum vitae or a portfolio.

  9. Personality as entertainment. Already I think in programs like No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Man vs. Wild, MythBusters, The Rachael Ray Show, fill in your favorite example — and I know you have one — we are seeing the maturation of reality television into personality-based programming and hence a limited form of life logging. Already the focus of these shows isn’t a premise or a regular subject, so much as the featured personality. Yeah, sure, each theme-based channel — the Food Network, HGTV, Discovery — picks someone relevant to their brand and that’s cute and all, but at this point I suspect unnecessary. For all your boredom at the medium, a person with a well developed shtick is a person with entertainment potential. And already that’s widely the case with many a medium. Whether it’s Christiane Amanpour, Rick Steves, David Brooks, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter or the Crocodile Hunter, people tune in for the personae as much as any of the other content.

    And regarding the expansion of personality-based programming into a more generalized life logging, is our meritocracy already so frictionlessly efficient that there are no overlooked talents, eccentrics, geniuses, subversives, whatnot left to be discovered? There’s a word for it already: micro-celebrity. It was the second thing I ever blogged about (“William Gibson’s Idoru and Blogging,” smarties, 21 June 2004). Yeah, sure, some of this is boring, but some shows get cancelled too.

  10. The Zeitgeist becomes tangible. Imagine being able to request a twenty minute medley of the top 100 conversations conducted at my comprehension level on a topic, say consciousness or string theory, over the last six months. You could scan the thoughts of humanity like you presently do radio stations on your car stereo. We’re stitching together the universal consciousness here. For that to happen our thoughts have to stop happening in isolation or small factions and occur in a unified intellectual space.

Was that what you had in mind, John, when you wrote that you were taking a risk dissenting against me?