LeWeb'13: The Future is Usually the Present [en]

[fr] Quand on parle du futur, on parle en fait uniquement du présent. Toutes ces technologies existent déjà! Ce qui n'ôte rien au fait que c'est super intéressant 🙂

The theme of LeWeb this year is “The Next 10 Years”. I have to admit I’m always a bit skeptical about all this “future” talk. We always end up talking about the present, when we talk about the future. All this exciting technology is already here, but not evenly distributed, as William Gibson might say. Your future is my present. My future is already somebody else’s present. See what I mean?

That being said, all the stuff that Loïc is talking about on stage right now (intelligent homes, robots, 3D-printed houses, the quantified self, drones, fun new apps…) is very much in my current zone of interest. I’m a geek who loves new toys, even though you wouldn’t guess that if you want through my stuff at home. It’s one of the things that drew me to the web at the end of the 90s: extraordinary exciting things were happening there, and only a comparatively small number of people knew that and were a part of it. I jumped in.

I’ve probably mentioned a few times recently that I feel like I lost a part of myself along the way these last years. I haven’t been feeding my inner geek. I’m hoping to be inspired these next three days.

Thoughts on Dystopian Tech Future Vision [en]

These last weeks I’ve been catching up with On The Media (partly thanks to being back in the saddle), and earlier this evening I was listening to the February 18 piece on “Our Future With Technology”.

I had a few thoughts as I was listening that I’d like to share with you.

First of all, I quite strongly believe in the position defended by Brooke at some point which says that technology mainly allows us to become more of what we are. This is along the line of what I try to explain about “dangers” of the internet regarding teenagers: most of the trouble they face online is the same kind of trouble they face offline. Yes, sometimes with a twist, and other consequences. But in a very general way, the internet is not a completely alien place — as our local online world sociologist Olivier Glassey said a few months back during a talk I attended, we need to stop thinking of the “online” as a “separate space” (the expression he used is “le lieu de l’altérité”).

A bit later in the show, they are talking about augmented reality: what will it be like when we can wear glasses or contact lenses which, along with facial recognition software, will allow us to identify the people we come upon in the streets? OMG-there-will-be-no-privacy-anymore the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it <insert more dystopian panic here>.

I’m always surprised that this kind of thought experiment never includes things like “well, some people might end up covering their faces” or “we’ll start wearing masks” or “there will be a way to opt out of being ‘facially recognized'” or… whatever coping mechanism one can imagine. Because as technology advances and disrupts the way we are used to living, we also evolve coping or evading mechanisms to resist change. Why does run-of-the-mill dystopian thinking always depict us as passive victims of the unstoppable advance of technology?

We’re not passive. We usually actively resist change. For example, we now carry on our phones everywhere we go, but we choose to mute them or screen our calls — something that was pretty unthinkable 30 years ago when all we knew was landlines.

With the dystopian glasses on (the show was constructed as an attempted dialogue between utopian and dystopian visions of our tech future) the idea was brought up that augmented reality might at some point allow us to ignore or obliterate what we disagree with — extreme example: not seeing people with radically opposed views to ours. Bob concluded “people obliterate people”, which in my sense is right: we are already obliterating what we don’t want to see. Technology might allow us to do it better (“becoming more of what we are”) but sticking to what is familiar and ignoring the rest is fundamentally human. If I wasn’t so tired right now I’d fish out this article I read (no memory where) which shows how we very selectively remember what already fits in our worldview and obliterate the rest.

I see the “people obliterating people” thing at play in India. In the same spaces (I’m talking of streets or neighbourhoods here), you have completely parallel and distinct societies that live on with very little knowledge or understanding of each other. Literally invisible to each other.

LeWeb'09: Violet Blue, The Future of Sex [en]

Live notes from LeWeb’09. They could be inaccurate, although I do my best. You might want to read other posts by official bloggers, in various languages!

Safesearch is off!

Future of sex:

  1. instantaneous orgasms
  2. orgasm on demand
  3. sex with robots
  4. virtual sex

Why do we need to speculate on sex in the future? is the present sex so dull?

Instantaneous orgasms

1964, Barbarella. A machine which can almost torture you to death through orgasms.

A patent (more recent, 1999) to use spinal implants to help control pain, and a year ago treating female patients getting her pain treatment… ended up producing orgasms with those implants (by chance at first).

Orgasm on demand

Orgasms on the tap. When you want.

Sex with robots

In SF story. Guy who is getting married but his wife is so boring Mr. Edison makes an android copy of his wife for him.

Andy is 5500 € — high-level android for sale today. All sorts of options. Oral sex option, G-spot, etc.

Historically: treatment of female hysteria — everybody (doctors, nurses) were very happy when the vibrator showed up to relieve them of the hard work.

Virtual sex

Also predicted by SF. MMORPG. Second Life (if they got funding!) – Sex on the holodeck in Star Trek. Very strong role of gaming in sex in the future. Very efficient way to get stuff in the hands of consumers. Having sex in a world where anything is possible.

Virtual girlfriends. If she’s not human, is it cheating? Love plus game (spelling?) on Nintendo DS. Guy who wanted to get married to his AI (ALICE).

*(steph-note: this is starting to get a little creepy for me)*

Japanese guy with a robotic wife, loaded with tons of software, including facial recognition *steph-note: didn’t get the name* — sensors on her body, can recognize touch or tickle… But won’t have true emotion or soul.

Promiscuous new friends, uninhibited sex. Beware though of mad scientists who base their artificial intelligences on their own brains before having therapy first.

Designer sex experiences

As people are less inhibited, we’re seeing lots of dissatisfied and more sophisticated sex consumers. It has to be good for the environment, etc, and stylish.

“Je Joue”, British company, body-safe materials, rechargeable, made to mimic the human tongue, learns from the user. Plays back the patterns that you used. Toys that learn from you. Reading heart beat, body temperature etc. or even brain waves as feedback.

Virtual hole. World domination plans! It’s actually a very well thought-out plan. (Check it out.) Goes all the way to virtual bodies and the whole immersive gear, headphones and goggles.


Porn, sex toys and sex info online have been a commodity. Companies want to move in the space and make money. Hackers want to create toys and have sex with robots (etc.) — The distribution chain has been disrupted. Specially for women (empowerment).

1 in 3 porn consumers online are women (distruptive!)

Imagining sex in the future is a way to explore one’s ideas and fantasies about sex. It’s a blank canvas on which people can paint. Sexual hopes and dreams.

Update: check out Violet’s post about this talk on her blog.

Lift09 — Envisioning the Future City — Anne Galloway [en]

Expectations, promises and hopes are things that we do.

Anne looks at what people do, make, say. Tries to figure out why we don’t do, make, say other things.

To make certain futures happen: broken relationships between certain groups of people.

*steph-note: missing a lot here, having trouble seeing where we’re going*

So, city of the future. Hybrid cities, real-time, sensor, read-write, mobile, adaptive… cities.

Attention: not to ignore what’s happening now.

“What if we imagine the future city as a gift we want to give people.” Through all these projects, everybody had the best of intentions. Want to give people good things. Make lives better. In five years, Anne has never talked to anyone who has anything but good intentions. The people who do make things want to give people good things.

Gifts are powerful. Show that we love, care, or have obligations to each other. Different gifts for different people. Usually put energy in choosing gifts for some people — but not all of them.

Even the good intentions end up being a little off sometimes. Superhero superpowers. Example of Superuseless Superpower: Lati-dude and Longi-dude. Transport yourself to the same point on the other side of the earth. (haha!)

Gifting is a tricky business. there is always some tension at some point. Some people are better at it than others (giving and receiving gifts well).

So, what does it mean to give people new cities or technologies? What is the gift doing?

What is the relationship between the gifter and the “user”? What can we expect of the other? Eg. gifts between colleages at X-mas, we have different expectations than from family, lovers, grandparents.

When we give someone a gift, how do we even know they want it? Could a gift be damaging? cause stress, upset, anger? How do you know if they appreciate it? (“thank you very much, that’s a lovely gift”) What do you do if they dislike it? How do you act if they misuse it? (the project has failed…)

Did you ever get a gift that you didn’t use? Or “what in god’s name do you think of me to give me this?” (Head-massaging helmet… “everyone likes a good head massage!” => you become an anomaly.)

“Oh, it’s not so difficult, let me show you how it works!! It wasn’t meant to make you feel stupid!”

Until you get into the process, you have no idea how to interact.

Back to the gifted city. Gifted in the superhero sense: look, it can do all that!!!

Examples of future cities we’ve seen: many people in the room probably went “oh cool!”, but certainly some also went “cool, but what am i going to do with it?”

We gift opportunities with these cities. Citizen engagement projects. Data to take political action. New technologies => act in new ways.

Projects which allow people to map environmental issues.

But not everyone wants to be a data collector, or cares about the data. Many kinds of publics. Not everyone will be interested in doing certain parts of the “job”. Public science: challenge = getting people to do science work, sometimes people don’t want to be scientists, not interested in the labour, or lack the capacity to do it.

=> fragmented public. The gift needs us to want to act as data collectors and it needs us to have the ability to make sense of the data we collect.

Gifted risks. With these expectations etc, we can start thinking of the risks associated to those gifts. If citizenship requires technology, non-techies start feeling like non-citizens. Not everyone has a cellphone! Lots of people share cellphones! Or own multiple mobile phones… Locking out people…

Giving access to information that people didn’t use to have. They still don’t usually have the possibility to generate certain sets of data. Someone has decided what will be sensed (what the sensors capture). Assumption, also, that scientific data is more important/true than other emotional, affective, subjective… data.

When you’re building the future city:

– What kind of future city do you hope to give?
– What kind of future city do you expect to receive?

Without asking those questions, risks much higher than possible opportunities.

Lift09 — Future Cities — Carlo Ratti [en]

We are headed for the death of cities. In 2008, half the world population is living in cities.

mapping = complexity to simplicity

How do we make sense of all these digital representations of physical spaces? Bunch of projects.

(haha! the cyborg’s primary tool is the iPhone ;-))

Represent the map of the city in a different way. Map of cellphone activity in Rome around the World Cup Finals.

Concentration of pedestrians (difficult in Rome, because you usually use velocity to identify pedestrians, and pedestrians often move faster than vehicles!)

Barcelona, photos on Flickr.

View density of pictures taken in various places. (Florence for example.) Patterns of movement of Italians vs. Americans in Italy.

Map of Barcelona which shows pictures from Flickr streaming out of it, over time (video map). Filter by tag. Paralells between geography of brits and parties in Barcelona 😉

New York 2008

New York talk exchange. Who is NY talking to? Spinning globe showing phone calls as threads linking two places. Over time, too. Beautiful!

Zoom and see what parts of the city are calling what parts of the world. Information on the composition of those areas.

Zaragoza 2008

*steph-note: tuned out during that one, sorry. Something about an info box at the expo, water on the roof and running down the sides, and a roof which collapses to the ground — better run out fast!*

Other projects: GreenWheel — on a bike, capture energy while you’re braking. Copenhagen citybike. Smart tags to see where your garbage goes (awareness! Wall-E!) Put tags in the trash in NY and then follow it.

Le futur n'est pas encore ici de façon homogène [fr]

[en] What I'm doing these days: getting my "offline crowd" acquainted with newsreaders (Google Reader and Feedly, in particular).

Ces temps, je me retrouve régulièrement à initier les gens à Google Reader ou Feedly. C’est où en sont gentiment ceux de mon entourage qui sont moins connectés que moi, mais qui par contagion, s’y mettent gentiment. Il y a deux ans, c’était les comptes GMail, Skype, et doucettement GTalk.

FOWA: Predicting the Future of Web Apps (Edwin Aoki) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

Here are my live notes of this Future of Web Apps (FOWA) session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.

FOWA 2007 91

  1. A new industry consortium will develop standards for building web apps and concente for low-cost, reduced capability devices

  2. AOL will announce a major push for HTML and JS applications on the desktop

  3. A new mobile computing device, with a modern OS and open developer platform. The hardware will include a hard drive, harndwriting recognition, and a touch screen.

All these predictions have already come true… 10 years ago!

  1. The Network Computer Reference Platform.
  2. 1997: Netscape Crossware
  3. AT&T/EO communicator (1994)

All these ideas are still relevant today. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the ideas.

The web apps of the future need to run everywhere. AJAX browser in the pocket (iPhoto), or on your Wii.

But you can’t be everywhere all at once.


  • small and beautiful beats big and clunky
  • sweat the details but not the infrastructure (let service providers do the heavy lifting for you)
  • standards and openness are really important (employ them with an eye towards security and trust)
  • technology moves faster than society (laws, education, customs), so use these tools responsibly — it’s up to us

Edwin predicts “Future of Stuff”, 5-10 years from now.

Brainstorm/Discussion — The Future of Blogging Technology (Gabor Cselle) [en]

[fr] Le futur du blog... discussion.

blogcamp.ch notes, may be inaccurate

with Gabor Cselle

Barcamp: talk about stuff. Where is blogging technology going to go? What are the trends?

Future of blogging conversation/brainstorm

Blogging software is about adding features, growing ecosystem (technorati, digg etc. steph-note: god am I sick of those popularity things), pseudo-blogging things (Twitter etc. steph-note: I don’t agree with Twitter being called a “microblogging” platform.)

Who writes for who? (Twitter: an individual writing for a small bunch of friends.)

Getting paid for blogging? Ads… or indirect revenue. Micropayments (indiekarma — looks interesting).

steph-note: this is going to be more about my ideas following the discussion more than an account of what is said

Where I see blogging technology going: ajaxy flickr-like interfaces (the death of the admin panel for posting and editing), smarter privacy management (à la Facebook: blog tool knows who you are and shows you stuff you are allowed to see based on your relationship as defined by the blog author), of course, smarter language stuff. Maybe smart internal linking: post something, and have the blog tool dig through old posts, offer you possible related material to link to (yes, there are already related posts plugins).

Wiki and blog technology will not merge, because blogs are about the person behind it, and wikis are about diluting authorship and crowd-voice.