Supposedly it is no longer cool to just have a drug dealer on speed dial. Nobody has speed dial anymore. The whole world population is assembled on Facebook (translation to Portuguese: feissebuque) or Twitter (no translation available; god help you if you don’t get what Twitter is). The other day a colleague (handsome, latino, just the right amount of grey hair) showed up at my office with a worried face and asking me how I am. It is not every day that I have an handsome sportsman asking me how I am doing. I decided to take his question seriously. The question had been prompted by my off-the-cuff status update on Facebook that mentioned the nastier sides of my character and a Swiss fish wrapper named Blick (on the level of the National Enquirer or the Mirror; trash really). Needless to say that I go to Facebook for the same reasons that I page through the Blick when I find an abandoned copy in a train or at the Rathaus. Actually at the Rathaus in Bern the Blick is a rare sight, and it is the Berner Bär that takes its place. The quality of these two publications is indistinguishable. Anyhow, these fish wrappers are full of gossip and local trivia very far removed from my daily preoccupations, they entertain. I will not touch the Berner Bär, and it could just be that I am totally out of touch with what goes on around me.

I go into Facebook for signs – pictures – of the my very lively cousins who seem to party non-stop. The cousins are delightful girls doing what girls do in college, party and supposedly study a bit. We have been there, done that; some of us have the t-shirt to prove it. My handsome colleague and I go to Facebook for identical reasons: to keep in touch with distant relatives and friends who are outside the own work ecology. Perhaps I ought to reconsider what the appropriate level of sarcasm in my status updates should be, or else just stick to pretty pictures. Still, disgusted as I am with Facebook – something about it is repulsive – it has some utility in the communication and entertainment categories. And then again, I ought to reconsider my relationship to Facebook now that even The Economist is reporting on the phenomenon. Besides that, a no-nonsense kind friend in London recently commented on how so many people claim to not be paying much attention to Facebook. I suspect that somehow, this little social utility has a shadowy reputation that borders on pornography and voyeurism. I can only speak for myself, and I do confess that it is social voyeurism that has me log in to Facebook. Came to think of it, it is also social pornography that appeals to me. Forgive me for stripping both voyeurism and pornography of their sexual content, and to replace it with the social. Anyhow, it is the graphical display of social life that stimulates envy and satisfies curiosity that leads me to such expropriation of meaning in two words that represent, for the most part, behaviors that are not too desirable.

So, how am I doing?


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Reboot 8.0 – Renaissance

After I was good and overwhelmed with all the interaction going on at reboot, Euan Semple held the last keynote presentation before the closing of reboot 8.0. It was a bit zen. If I remember correctly, and I made no notes, it was something about the internet being about love. Four letters of pure misunderstanding is what love tends to be about in a lot of occasions, but not always. Love I understood in this reboot context to be taking the form of connection which is what the live web does allow us all to do. Renaissance pure it is!

Take it for a fact that right now here I sit at my desk writing on a somewhat complex piece of electromechanical machinery and that within seconds my friends in India and California can be reading my opinions and then commenting on them. Furthermore, if they feel like it, then they can call or skype or email. It is all occurring at the speed of light? No… electrical signals do travel a bit slower. Anyhow, for human perception, we are all connected at the push of a button that takes less than one second to actuate, that is to say, instantaneously or thereabouts within seconds.

We are connected and we are autonomously alone simultaneously. The imperative duality of human nature (more on this later) is finally represented in our physical world, Euan is talking about love, others are talking about how to be a renaissance man and that markets are not just conversations, they are relationships (à la Doc Searls). Whatever…  markets are secondary expressions of human needs. The latter are simple: food, shelter and love. That is humans are social animals that eat and drink and are ill adapted for living on trees or on the hot sands of arabia.

I was born in the late fifties, went to college in the seventies and eighties in California and that puts me in a generation that arrived at the tail end of the hippie culture and Timoty Leary. For me drugs and sex were always there for the taking even if I was not at Berkeley; rock-and-roll was optional. This is the generation that gave us the personal computer, also known that instrument that marked the beginning of the erosion of slow communication and expensive advertising campaigns. In those days communication was specialized, slow and it could be controlled. Today communication is a commodity at the finger tip of any individual able to connect to the internet by whatever device. Although these days I am not willing to pay for what a Nokia N90 costs, it is one pregnant device with the shape of things to come. Make that same mobile device a plug in object into my PowerBook, and then I may not be able to resist. I like plug-and-play and multi-functionality that involves socializing hardware itself, not just humans. Besides that I need something that allows me to write fast enough and that allows me to think. I also do not always feel like voicing my thoughts, thus a recording device that writes may also not cover my needs.

But where am I going with all of this rambling about the seventies, the democratization of communication, the non-existense of markets in an abstract sense, abstraction itself and the renaissance man? Or to phrase it differently, what does sex have to do with software?

Really, I am talking about software, not some dysfunctional being’s fantasies or delirium. In this Renaissance of ours midwifed by the likes of geeks and hackers, software is going to be a commodity, like electricity is a commodity now, while energy may present us all a challenge. Our present wars are about land, water and oil. Technology is incidental and commodity-like. Terrorism is a form or warfare using intelligence as its key resource and not technology. It is perhaps not too surprising that using technology to fight intelligence is failing.

Could we perhaps consider that if we want to give this world another perspective we might want to be looking at what values are being served by the creation of new commodities?

Why do I blog this? These are incomplete thoughts that have been inspired by the multitude of experiences and exchange of ideas at reboot 8. I use blogging for publishing both drafts and lose notes of ideas. To me the web is alive and an ongoing conversation on several planes.

Intellectual Property Consultation

It is time for the stake-holders, whom you might be, in patent matters to voice their opinion directly to the European Union in what pertains the  new policy on PATENTS. This is indeed important, and if you do have a view on this, and you can make your argumentation clear, please take the opportunity to participate in this consultation process. The deadline for the submission of input is March 31, 2006. You can download all the relevant information from the EU website here.

Should you have any questions on this, please feel free to contact me either by leaving a comment, sending email or calling me.

In addition I will be publishing my own input here when I have finished drafting it, however it will be only on or after the deadline. Update (April 14): Contrary that announcement, I will not be publishing my own input, but I will comment on the matter at another time.

Update (April 6, 2006): IMPORTANT NOTICE The deadline for submission of replies is extended until 12 April 2006.

Please note that this deadline determines which replies will be taken into account for the hearing on 13 June 2006.

However, we welcome all replies submitted after the deadline. They will be duly analysed and taken into account by the Commission in formulation of the future patent policy in Europe.