Lift12, Technology vs. People: Anaïs Saint-Jude, From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of  Anaïs Saint-Jude‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

Anaïs Saint-Jude

Robert Musil. Unfinished book upon his death.

Overload? The feeling is not new. Early 20th century already… what about before? Actually, since ancient times. What’s interesting is that it is always experienced as something new and particular to one’s own era.

Plato in Phaedrus: if we depend on writing, we will lose the ability to remember. Ecclesiastes, Seneca, Descartes, Diderot… They all bemoaned the uselessness and overload created by writing or books, things we consider “normal” today — but sometimes same criticism as what we see today for our new technologies.

Diderot: driving itch for the Encyclopédie!

How many books can we read? 4680 in a lifetime (a book a week all your life).

We aren’t the first to experience information overload. It’s part of the human condition.

We always perceive our environment as overly complex.

Let’s look at early modern period information overload. 16th-17th century. Similarities with today.

  • copernican revolution
  • discovery of the New World
  • recovery of ancient texts
  • printing press
  • correspondance networks

Instead of being perceived as something negative, information overload can perceive it as a driving force for new innovations.

Théophraste Renaudot (1585-1653) was a doctor. Identified a need => 2 innovations:

  • Conferences (1633-1642)
  • Gazette (1631-1915 first French weekly newspaper!)

He was making use of the established correspondance networks for news distribution. It’s wrong to say “social networks have just started”…

16th-17th century, the merchant network started to shift to an intellectual correspondance network, centered on France rather than Venice. Forefathers and mothers of our blogs and tweets…

Similar issues as what we see with tweets today: sparking distress, sources are more or less reliable, etc…

Correspondance networks created social groups, collected and diffused information, created public opinion, were and instrument of cultural change, and illiterate people participated as the news was then passed on orally. steph-note: see the parallels?

Athanasius Kircher (1602) — had about 760 correspondants, mainly scientists, all over the world. Voltaire’s correspondance map is also impressive (though, note, most of them are between Geneva and Paris. Not only for people far away, but also people close by.)

Information overload has always existed and is part of the human condition, generative force for innovation. Correspondance networks are not new either, they use the tools of their time.

Le lever de Voltaire by Jean Hubert: painting, you see Voltaire barely getting dressed and already dictating a letter — we’re not the first to check our e-mails first thing in the morning!

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Lift12, Technology vs. People: JP Rangaswami [en]

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of JP Rangaswami‘s talk — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

lift12 1100288.jpg

So, is technology good or bad?

We need to think about the reasons this technology exists. For a long time, two drives to create new technology:

  • Flying? Perceived need.
  • Velcro? Observation.

Interesting: cooking as pre-digestion or external stomach. Cooked food allows us to have a relatively small stomach for our size.  => wish to speed up evolution.

Technology: we need to evaluate it in context — e.g. Cocaine toothache pills, dentists recommending which brand to smoke..

We’re not leaving enough time to evaluate the impact of technologies.

Interesting: medicine has gone from customer-centric (holistic) to product-centric (treating the illness). Not that much progress with cancer.

We should not just be thinking the technology we have, but about the technology we do not develop. What we choose not to do is also important.

Technology is also pioneering: e.g. Foursquare, mapping the digital world. Pioneers are sometimes ridiculed, or pay with their life (Marie Curie). Innovation seen as positive today did not come without criticism and bad things happening.

Crickets biggest betting scandal figured out by somebody who had all the time in the world to look at hours and hours of tape (and connect the dots…).

Unintended consequences of banning technology (ie, Pakistan and YouTube).

How Target Figured Out Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before her Dad Did.

Sometimes technology is not to accelerate things, but to slow them down (e.g. qwerty — steph-note: wasn’t that a myth? need to check.)

Look at things holistically: pioneers exist, unintended consequences.

Development of the suburbs. Positives and negatives coming out — was television created to produce a generation of couch potatoes? Unintended consequence. Was Google created to “make us dumb”?

Online interactions to augment offline interactions, but from the outside, fear that online is replacing offline.

Photo rescue project. People giving their time and skill to help save other people’s memories.


Technology itself is not good or bad, it is the engagement of humans that decides that. We still get to choose good or bad.

Every economic era has its peculiar abundances and scarcities. Hyperconnectivity is our abundance. How can we create business value from this abundance? What does it mean to have pressure on attention?

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Very Last Moment to Propose a Contribution for LIFT'08 [en]

[fr] C'est la dernière minute pour faire une proposition de workshop, discours, discussion, ou encore participation à la venture night de la conférence LIFT. (Utilisez les liens dans le corps de l'article.) Eh oui, c'est aujourd'hui le dernier jour!

Il est d'ores et déjà possible de s'inscrire aux workshops (j'y propose d'ailleurs une initiation aux blogs -- inscrivez-vous si vous ne bloguez pas encore, ou parlez-en à vos amis non-blogueurs). J'ai aussi proposé une présentation-éclair de 5 minutes au sujet de Going Solo (ça me rappelle qu'il faut que je blogue à ce sujet en français un peu plus en détail), et je pense animer une discussion autour de toutes ces questions linguistiques qui me préoccupent.

Quel programme!

I almost missed [the announcement]( Submissions for [workshops](, [open stage speeches](, [discussions]( or [the venture night]( at the [LIFT conference]( close today! (I don’t know exactly when, but remember that LIFT is European, so it might very well be end-of-day CET.)

If you click on the links above you can already see what has been proposed. I’ve proposed [a workshop (Get Started With Blogging)]( — you can already [sign up for workshops]( by visiting the page of the workshop you’re interested in and adding your name to the page — and [an open stage speech]( in which I want to tell the story behind [Going Solo]( (I also reproduced it [on the Going Solo blog]( — have you subscribed to it yet?).

I’m going to send in a [discussion proposal]( too (thought you could avoid me? tough!) — most certainly around all the [language and multilingualism](/focus/multilingual) stuff that’s been going around in my head lately. I was hesitating with something about [teenagers and the internet](/tags/youth/) but as I see there is already [a workshop on the topic (Teenagers/Generation Y and Technology)](, which I want to attend, I think it’s better to come up with a totally different topic.

Any thoughts?

**Update, 1pm:** sent in proposal for language discussion: [All These Languages! Localization and Multilingualism Online]( — if you’re interested in being one of the “discussion starters”, get in touch (otherwise, please vote for my proposal!)

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