Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Look forward from 1979 to 2020 by Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Power

As the U.S. turns inward during this Presidential election, I though it was useful to share this long passage from Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Power's book: Global Village. The book was published in 1989 and was "put together" from 1976 to 1984. McLuhan died in 1980. Forty years into the future this is what they saw:

Nineteenth-century America concentrated on the uniform ethos of a smokestack economy: to be specialist, isolated, and self-directed in its world aims. Extractive industries and agriculture held dominion. A left-hemisphere sense of significant order held sway. The U.S. population was relatively small and determined to spread itself as far west as possible. Like James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking, Americans were always moving over the hill, through the forest, to the next clearing.

Twentieth-century America, from now until about 2020, will not be engaged single-mindedly in raising crops or throwing up steel mills as much as nurturing people, in an inner-directed way largely as a result of legal and illegal immigration. Military adventure in Japan, China, Southeast Asia and Central America have brought about and will continue to be the source of continuous migrations to the American mainland, which will splinter the white Anglo-Saxon cast of U.S. government, education and business structures and create a salad-like melange of ethnic minorities without any single one being predominant.

The recipients of this racial trek will be the supercities of the West Coast and Atlantic South, cities which have doubled or tripled in size as the United States passed through its century-old movement from country to city and air-conditioning has made year-round work possible.

Many extractive, agricultural, and low-level manufacturing industries — largely due to high labor cost — will be lost to Third World countries, transforming the United States and some part of of Canada into hard-scrabble competitors in the making of “high ticket” consumer goods, like consumer robotics and electric commuter cars. While a segment of the U.S. population will be educated and mentally attuned enough to become participants in high technology, most native-born Americans will be unprepared for the new consumer economy which will emerge, offering service-related jobs not always suited to their intelligence or training. Ethnic diversity will help to ignite a full-blown economy based on information exchange.

The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Arabs, Lebanese, Mexicans, Central Americans, and Indians who are washing up on U.S. shores by the tens of thousands, legally and illegally, will be well served by the new media technologies. Hundred channel systems will be divided up by culture and language. (Already a hundred and seven languages are being spoken in Southern California.) Videocassettes and videodiscs will spawn new markets for ethnic music, cinema, and stage productions. Regional banks will employ electronic means to create new lending and accounting methods geared to the minority traditions of handling money. Neighborhood schools, as in the last century, will be tailor-made linguistically. Whether rich or poor, the new ethnics, largely as a backspin against too rapid assimilation, will develop complex and self-intergraded barrios. 

Although most third- and fourth-generation Americans will be numbed by the coming changes, government and business leaders, with recent foreign backgrounds, will be quick to recognize one inescapable fact about U.S. cities: whereas in the past they were primary transfer and warehousing points for railroad, air and sea trade, by 1994 many principal cities will be gestaltic political conglomeratations of white, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics fighting with each other for what is left of the economic pie in a nation of declining birthrate of native-born Americans and aging white population. In many older cities, like Buffalo and Detroit, the tax base will have foundered due to loss of trade functions and heavy industry, prompting a furious competition for federal support.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

JSConf Iceland 2016

The spirit of JSConf lives in Iceland! Conversations with new and old friends, two great tracks, wonderful social events, diversity, significant other track, an inspiring venue, local and global sponsors and the friendly organizers from Iceland. JSConfis had it all. The Williams family who started JSConf US, the crew from JSConfeu and all other JSConf organizers would approve. The JSConfis team and the local JavaScript community should be very proud of faithfully carrying on the JSConf tradition with a strong Icelandic flavor.

Iceland has a strong place in JSConf history. The second JSConf in the US was disrupted by the 2011 volcano the exploded behind a nearby Icelandic farm. Most airline flights between Europe and the US were cancelled for a week. Several speakers were stranded in the US and one speaker could not make it. This created an opportunity for Jed Schmidt to give an excellent, humous presentation and so a JSConf star was born. Over the years Jed has given back to the community with more talks at JSConf and helping to create one of the strongest local JSConf meetups in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn has now given back to Iceland as several of the speakers are Brooklyn alumni.

JSConfis also benefited from the JSConfeu. Many of the JSConfeu team were in attendance. They were mentors and two spoke. Only the JSConfis organizers can tell the full story of all the assistance. But as an example, I found out about JSConfis from a JSConfeu announcement.

Why did I attend JSConfis? I've been fortunate to have attend all eight JSConfus. I've also attended one JSConfeu. With JSConfus cancelled, I had planned to attend JSConfeu this year. However, when that too was cancelled for this year, I followed Jan's recommendation and bought a ticket for JSConfis. I'm so glad that I did because I was once again inspired by JSConf.

JavaScript is a creative tool. An obvious example was Amy Cheng's "Recreate Masterpiece of Modern Art with JavaScript".  She recreated Damien Hirst’s Spot paintings and one of Piet Mondrian’s Composition paintings. I hope to take her work and port it to screens in my living room.

Another example was Mariko Kosak's presentation on "Making a Robot Eye with JavaScript - or Magic of Computer Vision Unraveled".  With grace and ease she conveyed this very technical and mathematical topic in simple terms and ended with a great demo.

The JavaScript community also cares about people. The first keynote talk by Myles Borins - "On left-pad and empathy: understanding human connection" set the tone. (I was not able to attend Berglind Ósk Bergsdóttir's "Feeling like a fake - the Impostor Syndrome".)  Jan Lehnardt presented an emotional talk on "The state of the JavaScript Community". As a leader in both Open Source and the JSConf community, he poured his heart and soul into this talk and raised serious questions for every developer around the world to consider. Hopefully it will become a Smashing Magazine article soon.

Speaking of Smashing, Vitaly Friedman's session on "Dirty little front-end tricks" amazed even the CSS experts with surprising details from the specs and creative hacks. Similarly, Malte Ubl, lead developer for Google's AMP project,  in "#notalljavascript" made his audience look at the details and dark side of third party JavaScript that we use for social media, ads, comments and other purposes. It is worse than you think.

JSConfs provide a way to gauge community trends. React, which was introduced at JSConfus in 2013, has a major role. "Pivoting to React, at scale" by Tilde Ann Thurium provided hard numbers on improvements from using React. I complemented her on how her presentation scaled down from her 160 person shop to my one man shop. There were several other react talks which I could not attend. Simultaneously, in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, my friend Kevin Old was speaking at React Rally. So no doubt, I should study up on React - which I've said before.

Speaking of entertaining, with two musical interludes Visnu Pitiyanuvath talked and sang about "HSL: The RGB You've Been Waiting For." He convinced me. Liv Erickson's keynote on "Why you should care about the VR Web - and how to build it!" was convincing because of her personal passion for the technology. Perhaps it needs to be tempered by the "Laws of Media", but I will definitely explore this. David Khourshid convinced me in "Reactive Animations with CSS Variables" that I need to know CSS variables.

Finally, in a well researched talk Jenna Zeigen showed "How Your Brain is Conspiring Against You Making Good Software." I've already recommend this to a non-JavaScript person as very useful to anyone on a work team. The topic deserves wide distribution and perhaps an interactive version.

Not all the talks are covered above. Often it was a coin flip as to which track to attend which attests to the high quality of the conference. For example, I missed the talk by Azat Mardan who is also from Virginia in the US.

Again, the entire JSConf community should be proud of the team behind JSConfis. Thanks to everyone who made the conference possible and provided a great experience for me and my family. Congratulations on creating a great JSConf.

[Note: I'll come back to this post when I return home and add links to videos and presentations.]

PS Our family spent a week prior to the conference touring Iceland. Wow! It is beautiful and exceptional. This just enhanced our enjoyment of JSConfis.