Good reads, listens, looks!

Robert X. Cringely

(pen name of Mark Stephens and ex: PBS). Almost every post is worth a read, but here are some I remember...
Title Date
Why wind turbines have three blades May-2016 Showing how mindless following of conventional wisdom leaves wind turbines much less efficient than they could be.
Executive ego and the Sony Pictures network hack Dec-2014 How the idiot bloated ego's at Sony were to blame for the (N. Korean) hack, resulting in the non-release of The Interview .
An impending black swan for electric cars Mar-2014 Predicting a step-shift in battery technology (maybe Sulphur-Lithium based) - which of course would affect all sorts of other things, such as mobile device longevity.
Doug Engelbart, visionary Jul-2013 Obituary for a great man - and claims that DE envisioned much of what he famously demo'd at Stanford in 1968 (mouse and other not-yet-feasible computer interfaces that we now take for granted) in 1950!
... back from the dead… again Apr-2013 Phew! a reprieve after this year's annual predictions announced he would stop blogging! I look forward to the book that has enabled this.
Off with their heads! Why financial regulation stopped working Oct-2012 A shut-them-down-after-three-faults sanction is the only way to make financial institutions toe the line.
But with a fascinating lead-in linking this to his unplanned witnessing of a judicial beheading in Saudi in 1982.
Prediction: Amazon and Bezos supplant Apple and Jobs Jan-2012 Sadly the end of the line for Cringely's annual predictions, as he turns 60 and moves from blogging to publishing. But, here he pitches that Amazon have such a broad market base that they could be the first $1 trillion company ... Amazon competes with [media, home electronics and computing]companies and Walmart. Apple would never sell cars ... Can you see Amazon selling cars? I can
Major Jalloud Feb-2011 Brutal henchman to Qadaffi's showman as an explanation for the brutalities on both sides of the Arab Spring. Interesting mainly as indicator of the depth and breadth of Cringely's contacts and experience!
SIDS / Chase Cringely - Finding Meaning in a Lost Life   Apr-2002 Description of the death of his infant son (link is to Internet Archive page - PBS original no longer available) and his determination and challenge to devise a cheap monitor to address the SIDS that killed him.
Then, this letter in Jan-2013 raging at the lack of take up by the X-Prize organisation of the solution he devised (and follow-on response from X-Prize and his riposte to that).
Then his Apr-2017 spec for switching his design to Amazon's Echo Dot.


an excellent organisation that hosts fascinating, short, presentations on all sorts of things (not just Technology, Entertainment and Design). Some gems:
Title Mins Date
Suzanne Lee: Why Biofabrication is the next Industrial Revolution 12 Jul-2019 Use of Biofabrication to grow fabrics, concrete and other materials.
Stuart Oda: Are indoor vertical farms the future of agriculture 9 Jun-2019 Indoor farms located where the food is needed solve the world's problems - less land, water, transport; better quality. ... but he sadly skirted the cost of the electricity needed to make it viable.
Yeonmi Park: WhatI learned about freedom after escaping North Korea 10 Apr-2019 Moving talk from young woman who escaped. Makes some interesting points, such as that you can only be isolated if you don't know you are. Also pleads to consider the freedom-less N. Koreans at least as much as Climate Change and other things that the free can worry about.
Dina Katabi: A new way to monitor vital signs that can see through walls 13 Apr-2018 Fascinating use of Wi-Fi signals and an ultra-sensitive detector for a sort of "radar" to monitor peoples bodies, and their location. Difficult to see it not being widely used for nefarious purposes before long (despite her rather feeble built-in mechanism to try to prevent this).
Yasmin Green: How technology can fight extremism and online harassment 11 Apr-2018 Encouraging talk about Google's Jigsaw unit using AI and some form of (unexplained) way of identifying useful counter-messages to generate "ads" counteracting the very professional and effective extremists, and harrassers, messages. Apparently started in 2016, I wonder if it is as good as she says.
Keller Rinaudo: How we're using drones to deliver blood and save lives 15 Aug-2017 Talking about his Zipline startup using economical drones (with nice low-tech catapult launchers) to deliver blood supplies around Rwanda. Both solving a costly distribution problem and getting good tech and training on the ground in Africa.
David Casarett: A doctor's case for medical marijuana 15 Nov-2016 Explaining how MM both gives patients control of degenerative symptoms (which, as he says, we will all come to at some point) but also how the clinics dispensing it are shining example of client focus - happily spending an hour advising a potential customer - by contrast to traditional main-stream medicine.
Jonathan Haidt: Can a divided America heal? 20 Nov-2016 Filmed just before the Trump election. Great "interview" by TED founder Chris Anderson letting the massively eloquent JH to explain how mankind has become more partisan and divided. Also to encourage people to empathise with folk that disgust them as the only way of reversing the polarisation.

Don Tapscott: How the blockchain is changing money and business

18 Jun-2016 Reasonably intelligible explanation of blockchains along with many wonderful ways they are and can be used. I wonder if it will really bring the nirvana he eloquently outlines!

Timothy Ihrig: What we can do to die well

13 Dec-2013 In much the same vein as Atul Gawande's "How do we heal medicine" talk. This palliative doctor describes how listening to patients wishes for their end of life, rather than focussing on treating the prevalent ailments, often extends their life, certainly gives them a better one with much less hospitalisation and, by the way, costs less.
James Veitch: This is what happens when you reply to spam email 10 Dec-2015 Bit of fun as comedian retells how he got into conversation with a couple of money-grubbing email scammers.
Atul Gawande: How do we heal medicine? 19 Mar-2012 Eloquent talk about how Doctors (particularly) can and need to improve medical outcomes. And how this doesn't need to be by spending more - one great example being a check-list before surgery which made dramatic improvement to success rates.

Also good to see the author of the fantastic book Being Mortal in the flesh (almost!).

Abe Davis: New Video Technology that reveals an object's hidden properties 18 Mar-2015 Using clever algorithms this guy and his team "amplify" tiny movements caught on video recordings. This might sound arcane but feels like one of those things that might have profound uses (and not just for spies).
He starts showing how video of an apparently inert human (eg: old person or sleeping and motionless baby) can show a healthy pulse or breathing.
Then, spookily, by amplifying the microscopic disturbances made on objects by sound waves he can hear sounds using only a video signal. He shows a remote camera filming a crisp packet and "hearing" what nearby folk are saying.
Finally by extrapolating tiny movements he has built a computer model to examine the physical "life-size" behaviour of an object when manipulated on the computer. A blue sky "for instance" suggests being able to interactively answer the question "how would this bridge behave when such and such a force were applied".
TED Talk about sounding smart in a TED Talk 6 Jan-2015 Great send-up of TED talk styles.
Brian Dettmer: Old books reborn as art 6 Nov-2014 Beautiful carvings into physical books, cleverly exposing slivers of their content.
Slightly reminiscent of the Body Worlds flayed humans. Must keep a look out for his exhibition if it comes our way. Surprisingly wooden and un-artistic presenter.
Zeynep Tufekci: Online social change: easy to organize, hard to win 16 Oct-2014 Slightly trite and overlong making the point that recent social change, using mobile and Internet tools, is less lasting than, for instance, the 1960's Civil Rights movement which needed so much more dedication and organisation.
Moshe Safdie: How to reinvent the apartment building 5 Mar-2014 Inspiring modern apartments - sadly mainly artists impressions, but I think the one in China is real, where a planning law demands all dwellings get 3 hours direct sunlight per day in winter.
Uldus Bakhtiozina: Wry photos that turn stereotypes upside down 4 Mar-2014 Short talk by a beautiful ironic Russian artist which made me chuckle.
Simon Sinek: Why good leaders make you feel safe 12 Mar-2014 Would make an excellent 5 minute talk. Nice examples of leaders who, for instance, think of heart-count not head-count, going out of their way to encourage and love their employees. With predictable good results.
Randall Munroe: Comics that ask "what if?" 9 Mar-2014 Just interesting to me to see the guy behind the What If website/feed (which has sadly slipped over the years as the questions he follows become more arcane).
Michel Laberge: How synchronized hammer strikes could generate nuclear fusion 13 Mar-2014 Inspiring view of possible fusion power, by engaging Skandi (I think) guy.
Andrew Bastawrous: Get your next eye exam on a smartphone 6 Mar-2014 Another great use of mobiles to improve health.
James Patten: The best computer interface? Maybe ... your hands 6 Aug-2013 Brief and not too illuminating use of mini hand manipulate-able thingy's. But given I didn't think anything of Jeff Han's fondle interface (see below) when I saw it before the iPhone used it, maybe this will also be run-of-the-mill before long!
Elizabeth Loftus: How reliable is your memory 15 Jun-2013 Explains how memory can be affected and modified by careful or inadvertent externals. Particularly castigating some forms of psychiatry which may over encourage incorrect "memories".
Alessandro Acquisti: Why privacy matters 15 Jun-2013 Marrying of Facebook photos and face recognition and public info to infer secret stuff.

Coincidentally I saw this the day Bob C published Privacy is dead and here’s how.

Jennifer Healey: If cars could talk, accidents might be avoidable 9 Apr-2013 Nice clear plea for smart cars that talk to each other.
David Pogue: 10 top time-saving tech tips 6 Feb-2013 Excellent quick set of tips on using computers and smartphones. Must keep an eye our for other gems from him.
John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!! 14 Feb-2013 Texting is a new language, not a form of writing.
Jinha Lee: Reach into the computer and grab a pixel 6 Feb-2013 Slightly poor presentation on a 3-D computer/smart-phone interface. I couldn't grasp whether it will ever be of use in the mass-market, but then I didn't understand where Jeff Han's fondle demo (see below) would end up!
Hans Rosling: Religions and babies 13 Apr-2012 Wonderfully clear data presentation - both computerised (with a lovely long screen pointer!) but, the best uses 10 cardboard boxes to show why, despite birth rates having already stabilised at ~2/woman, the world's population will plateau at 10 billion (from today's 7).
And, he argues and shows that, rather than being due to religion, it depends on a) better healthcare means that more children survive b) less children being needed for work c) women being educated and working and d) accessible family planning.
HR will be Louis Potter's (brother of mappiness's George MacKerron) prof in Stockholm.
Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems... palsy is just one 14 Dec-2013 Very amusing and telling talk by female comic with cerebral palsy.
Mark Kendall: Demo: A needle-free vaccine patch that's safer and way cheaper 13 Jun-2013 Ingenious micro-spike replacement, and huge improvement, for jag.
Raffaello D'Andrea: The astounding athletic power of quadcopters 16 Jun-2013 Very clever and visual use of maths and computing to make small electric powered flying machines react to real world situations.
Joshua Prager: In search of the man who broke my neck 18 Mar-2013 A most compelling story-teller. The tale itself is intriguing (though raising many questions - how do recover from paraplegia to being hemiplegic? - and not answering them; read his eBook to find out more, I guess) and appropriately moralising!
Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud 22 Feb-2013 Update on this lovely and amusing man's progress with kids self learning.
He points out that traditional education was optimised for the Victorian-era bureaucracy "machine", which needed masses of cifer-like workers, and the age of Empires, which needed folk who would follow orders regardless.
He expands on some of his "Granny Cloud" successes and wants to build on this with a"Broadband + Collaboration + Encouragement" environment where "teachers" only pose questions, leaving kids to work on their own, but then be on hand to admire their answers.
Robin Chase: Excuse me, may I rent your car? 12 Jul-2012 By the elegant founder of Zipcar (street pickup car rental) who has (10 years later) created Buzzcar (car sharing). Slightly rambling, but interesting passion on the other "peers inc." companies emerging and the hassles and wow's of the volunteers who effectively co-own the company.
Bobby Ghosh: Why global jihad is losing 16 Sep-2012 Interestingly tells that the "original" definition of Jihad is of the internal struggles for believers - which he equates to the word Grace for Christians. But then says that "Global" and "Local" Jihad have been hijacked by minorities to mean world-wide/anti-western (now, he thinks a fading thing) and internal to a country - being used mainly for parochial and often non-religious fanaticism.
Amos Winter: The cheap all-terrain wheelchair 11 Jun-2012 Cunning bit of design creating a massively geared chair from basic and cheap components.
Daphne Koller: What we're learning from online education
Passionate talk on free online University. Very slightly American focused, but fascinating on how they use peer- and self- assessment, as well as clever computer-controlled presentation.
Donald Sadoway: The missing link to renewable enery
Grid-level batteries using liquid metals. Example of design to a price point. Slightly smug presentation, and units are still in the lab, but fascinating if this does scale up as he claims. Also wonderful to see a presentation using a blackboard instead of PowerPoint!
Todd Humphreys: How to fool a GPS
He starts out proclaiming how GPS accuracy will soon move from meters to millimetres, with "GPS dots" becoming a cheap and ubiquitous way to track our possessions (or ex-lovers).
He describes the slightly alarming fact that GPS can be jammed and spoofed. Though illegal, this could, for instance, ruin aircraft and other navigation.
Paddy Ashdown: The global power shift
Hugely fluent if slightly verbose, un-tele-prompted, outline of how to handle globalization. Sort of the politics to address Parag Khanna's world.
Rory Stewart: Time to end the war in Afghanistan
Plea for less western (military) involvement. He's a compelling speaker, and one wonders if he (a UK MP) will become better known in UK politics.
Justin Hall-Tipping: Freeing energy from the grid
Amazing claims of free energy from electron-level storage and nano-tube technology. Let's hope he's right about it all. Moving endnote.
Geoff Mulgan: A short intro to the Studio School
6 Jul-2011 New, practically-focussed, UK schools teaching by doing. And getting good GCSE results!
Abraham Verghese: A doctor's touch 18 Jul-2011 The need for much more physical contact between doctor and patient, to reverse the growing from-behind-computer-data approach to "care". Echo'ed similar worries about waning nursing standards in the UK's Cavendish report (Sep-2011).
Also, interesting to see the author of the superb Cutting for Stone.
Amy Lockwood: Selling condoms in the Congo
4 Jul-2011 Free condoms have poor takeup because they are marketed incorrectly.
Jeremy Gilley: One day of peace
17 Jul-2011 Delightfully enthusiastic and (apparently) unscripted/prompted diatribe on world peace from Daniel Craig lookalike!
The future of business is the "mesh" 14 Jan-2011 Easy-listening round up of web-enabled real life. Given in Detroit, so somewhat car-centric (eg: Zipcar), but makes me want to read her "Mesh" book!
Voting without fraud 7 Jul-2010 Very cheap and simple way to ensure secure voting in polling booth, avoiding intimidation and fraud; but I didn't see how vote removal would be easily caught, or how this applied to E-voting (the talk's title).
Sugata Mitra: Child-driven education 17 Jul-2010 Hugely uplifting report on how kids from zero-education background can teach themselves if a) they work in groups (without adults!) and b) have access to the Internet.
The shape-shifting future of the mobile phone 4 Feb-2010 Is this where the user interface goes next after the iPhone made Jeff Han's interface (see below) de-facto?
New traffic sign: Take Turns 4 Feb-2010
Build a tower, build a team 7 Feb-2010 Design as a contact sport - the Marshmallow challenge.
Does the world need nuclear energy? 23 Feb-2010 Includes references to:
Bill Gates on energy: Innovating to zero! 27 Feb-2010 Slightly rambling but good.
Let's simplify legal jargon! 4 Feb-2010
Inside a school for suicide bombers 8 Feb-2010 Scary.
How great leaders inspire action 18 Sep-2009 Worth persevering through the initial poor sound (they switch mikes half way through) for this engaging talk about how to present products - and why Apple are so good at.
Parag Khanna maps the future of countries
Jul-2009 The new global relationships.
Michael Pritchard: How to make filthy water drinkable 9 Jul-2009 Great simple water purifier; not sure why one hasn't heard more about it.
Presumably not because the inventor/presenter does not come over well (unlike almost all TED's!).

Interesting that Joe Madiath's Oct-2014 Better toilets, better life didn't mention it amongst its staggering fact that 70% of rural Indians defecate in the open, being 60% of all open defecations in the world.

1.3m reasons to re-invent the syringe 5 Jul-2009 Brilliant! If you don't know the story, stop the video at 3:50 just before he shows you in a few seconds his invention and see if you can guess what it is.
A lab the size of a postage stamp 16 Jul-2009 More cheap medical innovation.
Bill Gates on mosquitos, malaria and education 20 Feb-2009 Including plugs for KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Programme) as well as the famous release of mozzies into the audience!
This is broken 15? Sep-2006 Amusing critique of bad design.
Jeff Han - mouseless user interface 9 Aug-2006 eg: iPhone finger-interface (iPhone launched Jan-07, on sale Jun-07)
Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity 19 Feb-2006 Powerful, almost overly standup-comic, talk. A plea that formal education, which was introduced to provid the Industrial Revolution with skilled workers, is not what is required for mankind now.
Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce 17 Feb-2004 Delightfully amusing, slightly tongue-in-cheek/shaggy-dog, lecture showing a) how people seldom know what they want, and b) that you need many variations of a product to handle folks' diversity.
Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness 21 Feb-2004 Another (more academic, but equally well told) polemic on happiness, explaining how a) our brain makes us believe we're in the best of all possible worlds, and b) choice is often the antithesis of happiness.

Gresham College

Title Date
Is Society Ready for Driverless Cars - Professor Martyn Thomas Oct-2017 Fascinating and salutory romp over issues of Driverless Cars (AV's).
The software being the car, who owns it? Who maintains it? How long would updates be available for? What happens if the "manufacturer" goes bust? All AV's would probably have to be leased not owned. What about "right to maintain"? Should it be illegal to drive an AV with out-of-date software. Current software is poor and shot full of bugs (as with commercial stuff); AV's would need to be Internet-updatable so hugely exposed to hacking and the horrors that could entail.
Behavioural issues: Eye contact is key to some subtle interactions between 2 or more drivers; what if one is an AV? Pedestrians could stop traffic and behave selfishly, knowing that an AV would always avoid running them over.



Page last edited: 24-Oct-2020