Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mike Masnick on Hollywood's Historical Hysterics

I love just about everything Mike Masnick writes (even though I throw in the occasional asterisk to his techno-optimist viewpoint). He recently posted this piece on the hysteria that has surrounded Hollywood each time a new technology shows up on the scene to threaten it.

This latest example comes courtesy of Mary Pickford (), claiming that Pay TV will be "the death of the motion picture industry."

Or, in a similar vein:


Of course, this has clearly not come to pass, and I can appreciate Masnick's point about history repeating itself, but I say in the comments:

The difference between the disruption seen in 1959 and the disruption today, is that it was two different (but related) industries that were vying for control of a distribution medium. Throughout media's modern history, the reigns of power have changed hands but there was still scarcity in play (sometimes artificial, sometimes natural). The gatekeepers changed positions, but they were always gatekeepers.
The Internet removes that scarcity, and removes those gatekeepers. I'm not saying that we won't find a way to benefit from this new structure, but I am saying that it is truly novel, and not just a continuation on a historical curve. I'm not sure that history can inform us on this matter.

If one wants to look to history to help make sense of the economic and cultural disruption that the Internet is enabling, we can't just look at (historically) recent changes in the entertainment industry like they are on a predictable curve. We need to look at those technologies that fundamentally altered the world. Pay TV and VCRs don't inform us on the disruptive power of the Internet nearly so much as studying things like the printing press and the assembly line. And one of the most important lessons we can learn studying those phenomenon is that the people of the time had a horrible track record of prediction, because they couldn't see the revolutionary nature of what was right before their eyes.

As always the Techdirt comments are great, so (while comments are always welcome here) take comments over there, where the real discussion is taking place.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why I love Charles Stross

Charles Stross is a science fiction author. He keeps a blog running for a his fans, and shares a good amount of give-and-take with them about his writing process, ideas, and activities.

And he writes sentences like this:

Writing a space opera with FTL means accepting causality violation. And accepting causality violation means computing with closed timelike curves or, in simpler terms, really strong deterministic solutions to P=NP, and then some. Procedural AI hops out of the FTL hat like a demented magician's rabbit and the singularity takes a shit all over your neatly designed Napoleonics-in-Spaaaaaace boardgame table.
Read the whole thing if you're a fan. If you're not a fan, go grab some of his books and become one.