So it was an unexpected two week break from the internets, which obviously was no break at all as all that happens when I’m not writing this is that I store up all of the webspaff in my secret pouch until I can regurgitate it all again for your pleasure. Two weeks in which I unaccountably once again failed to win a Mcarthur genius grant AGAIN (DO THEY NOT READ WEB CURI...oh), and during which we slipped seamlessly into decorative gourd season once again. What a fortnight, kids.
Anyway, no time for reflection and rumination, which is just as well really. Brace yourselves to receive the full force of a fortnight’s pent-up internet full in the face; and yes, it may cause bleeding to the eyes and nose and mouth and ears, but, seriously, you have no idea what it does to me. This, as ever, is Web Curios.
The Democratic People's Republic of North Korea has an Internet rather more like an Intranet - a closed set of websites which are not accessible from the outside world and, conversely, North Koreans are not allowed to access most foreign websites. However, for a small period of time earlier this week, that changed, and gave us an insight into an undeveloped online world - one with all of the crap taken out.
In the world of technology, business, and media, the concept of ‘creative work environment’ is not new. Offices kitted out with ‘breakout areas’, ping pong tables and flexible working stations are all the rage, as well as workflow processes such as lean methodology and agile working. Go to any future tech conference and you’re guaranteed to find a session on ‘innovation culture’.
But it’s not just about the shiny office gimmicks – businesses are increasingly focusing on changing their entire workplace model and their relationships with their employees to ensure that goals are reached faster than their competitors, and in time with the pace of technological advancements.
The same can’t be said of the world of science. It’s 2016, and we have ten times more currently active scientists than the total number of scientists throughout history all added together – and yet the productivity of the scientific ecosystem leaves much to be desired. Admin and metrics seem to take precedent over actually doing research; funds are predominantly channelled into incremental, ‘quick win’ projects over big questions with long research timelines; and scientists find themselves in low-paid, unstable positions in which they have to focus on getting the next lot of money in over doing work which really matters. As a result, the industry is progressing at a snail’s pace when it comes to producing ground-breaking work – which is highly ironic considering it is built to create our world of the future.
British intelligence and security body GCHQ wants to build a national DNS filter, essentially delivering a national firewall for the UK.
Apple doomsayers have a new arrow in their quiver. To add to the usual arguments that Apple’s success relies too much on the iPhone and that its growth cannot keep up with its historical levels, they can now also point to Apple’s run in with the EU over its Irish tax affairs. But this does not mean that Apple is doomed.
During my first visit to Ars Electronica, I was humoured by the excessive amount of 'hello world' creativity that is often produced when science and technology meet and exhibit interactive spectacles that make very little claim other than an enchanting proof-of-concept. What I thought would be an interesting media festival turned out to be a robotics roadshow. This tech road show attracts over 90,000 people from Europe and Asia to wonder at the latest innovations in robotics, VR, bio-hacking, 3d printing, drones and anything that glossed the pages of Wired as the next big thing. The alchemists of our time, or as I like to call them 'Dumb wizards', are continuing to design and exhibit technological achievements in self-fulfilling speculative words that have very little concern, consideration or critique with any relevant social issues of our time.
SHINY NEW TOYS! DISTRACTIONS! NEW, BETTER SCREENS! Yes, that’s right, it’s been another BIG WEEK for the world, with the announcement of a brand new expensive distraction box for us to mindlessly covet; oh, and there’s been some geopolitics and stuff, but let’s not worry about that.
How are you all doing? Are you ok? It doesn’t really matter either way, or course, but I’m told that it’s important to attempt to engender a sense of rapport with one’s readers, however superficial, in an attempt to make some sort of connection. Do you feel connected with me? PLEASE CONNECT WITH ME.
Ahem. It’s been a long couple of weeks, the nights are drawing in, Summer’s but a distant memory and all we have to look forward to is John Lewis advert day looming large on the horizon like some sort of beacon of hope in an otherwise black, black night. So draw in close and huddle round the infofire as I stoke it with links and attempt to bring some light and warmth into existences which, let’s be honest, are growing darker and colder by the second; don’t breathe too deep, mind, as the fumes are awful. This, as ever, is Web Curios.
The modern day bounty hunter doesn’t ride a motorcycle or chase down criminals. They spend their days hunched over a laptop, honing in on cracks in online security systems for big tech firms, in exchange for a cash reward. Welcome to the world of the bug bounty.