Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Myth definitions

This post is a rolling inventory of definitions and descriptions of myth – mine, and those of others. I’ll move it to the top of the blog every time I update it.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Huawei as ritual scapegoat

Thinking about the mythological resonances of two recent op-eds about US posturing regarding 5G (h/t Dale Hatfield) took me to an ancient ritual: scapegoating.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Tech is just a cool tool, folks. Move along now.

For my sins, I occasionally look at corporate PR to see how companies talk about tech. This post by Satya Nadella would certainly win a bunch of Cringe Awards. I was struck (but not surprised) that tech is portrayed as a tool – and not at all as something, as Heidegger argues, that changes everything into stuff-ready-to-be-used (cf. section 2.1 of this SEP entry).

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The T Prize

Someone in Washington DC asked me how the government's R&D agenda could re-invigorate the US wireless manufacturing sector.

Thursday, January 02, 2020


My discovery of a performance of Corelli's La Follia on recorder and harpsichord (Michala Petri and Mahan Esfahani) led me to recordings of follias by Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI: La Folia, 1490-1701, and Altre Follie, 1500-1750. What I thought was one composer's set of variations turned out to be a tradition more than two hundred years long.

Though everyone improvised over pretty much the same bass line, each composer brought their own quirks. It was a wonderful reminder that there is great value in saying the same old thing, even just slightly differently.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Is high tech still pre-mythological?

I was struck by a paradox in an Esquire article about why les GAFA should be broken up : the argument and examples are compelling, but there’s no sense of who les GAFA are as characters, let alone as mythological archetypes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2020s - Decade of Reliability?

In the PolicyTracker 2019 Christmas newsletter, Martin Sims argues that the consumer benefits of higher and higher broadband speeds become ever more marginal. The challenge for industry (especially 5G) is whether customers will pay extra for it. While I sympathize with the sentiment, this claim is not new; we hear it every time broadband speeds click up. Betting on “Consumers now have enough X” is a proven way to lose money... and yet.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Tech the Troublemaker

A colleague recently circulated a news story that police in Longmont, CO decided to keep radio traffic encrypted after the completion of a pilot program. Discussion ensued about the pros and cons of encrypting police channels, including First Amendment concerns. I decided to take a mythological tangent.

Sunday, December 22, 2019


I think of experiment as a reasoned procedure to learn something by trying out a series of variations. (Wikipedia notes the importance of "repeatable procedure and logical analysis," for example.) I enjoy baking beskuit (South African rusks; think Boere-biscotti) because it's an endless experiment: with every batch, I try something new.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fertilility myths in high tech

I was very taken by Derek Thompson's "Google X and the Science of Radical Creativity" in the November 2017 issue of The Atlantic. I was inspired to scan it for metaphors, which are documented in a doc shared here. I was especially struck by the prevalence of fertility metaphors; keywords include seeds, harvest, drought, fruit, reap, and gestation.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Narrative in economics: Shiller’s stories

I was excited by the title of Robert Shiller’s new book Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events (2019), but disappointed to find that he defines “narrative” much more widely than the stories I'm looking for, and was hoping to find. Overall, though, I think his meaning is close to my interest in myths: stories spread by word-of-mouth that shape how society imagines itself.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Twins, digital and mythological

A comment piece in Nature this week talks about mirror worlds (cf. RF mirror worlds), though the authors use the currently-fashionable term “digital twins” rather than Gelernter’s “mirror worlds.” While there's more to be said about the substance of the piece (it's a very technocratic and manufacturing-oriented perspective), I'm going to focus on the cultural underpinnings.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Molding humans

Two stories from the Research Highlights section of a recent Nature podcast got me thinking about the wide range in human behaviors, e.g. extraversion and introversion, risk appetite and aversion, optimism and pessimism.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Second thoughts on statistics and chaos

I argued in the last post, Mythology, old and new, that modern times call for a new god of uncertainty; I felt that neither Tyche nor Dionysus quite fit the bill. After Susan Tonkin’s private feedback, I’ve become less certain. (Her help with this whole series has been invaluable.)