Four For Friday (24)

This week, it is all about technology and culture. Culture, to me, is a catch-all term for how we think, feel, live, behave, interact and grow (or indeed retrograde). Technology is but science in action, and co-evolves with culture.

In which, Sebastian Normandin explores the allure of pseudoscience — man’s search, sometimes desperate, for meaning:

“Science, in short, is sobering and provides no succour. Pseudoscience, in contrast, is comforting in the extreme. It rashly speculates on connections and contexts that are poorly supported and largely impossible to prove but that suggest all sorts of possibilities which, while they may seem appealing, are simply not tenable. In their quest to create an easy or oversimplified meaning, pseudoscientists engage in all sorts of scientifically dubious practices — using vague or untested claims, focusing more on confirmation rather than refutation (in this respect the pseudoscientific forgets philosopher Karl Popper’s central notion of falsifiability — essentially that science advances through negation rather than confirmation), making their beliefs about a particular idea a point of personal pride, and, finally, a general lack of rigour in methods and means of expression (i.e. language).”

There is an important place for Luddism today, a long essay worth reading in full.

“Consequently, the Luddite impulse is to embrace a certain distinction between human and machine. Thomas Pynchon put his finger on it in 1984 when he wrote that the midcentury Luddite impulse, embodied particularly in science fiction, embraced “a definition of ‘human’ as particularly distinguished from ‘machine.’ ” “Humanity” was held up as an incommensurable yardstick: You either had it or you wanted it.”

We live in interesting times, which many of us may know is effectively a Chinese curse. But how much do we know about Chinese Philosophy? Does Chinese Philosophy not belong in the academe for its exploration of ways of thinking other than how dead Greek men did? That needs to change, argues this essay.

“Because the dominant academic culture in the U.S. traces back to Europe, the ancient Chinese philosophers were not taught to, and thus not read by, the succeeding generations. Ignorance thus apparently justifies ignorance: Because we don’t know their work, they have little impact on our philosophy. Because they have little impact on our philosophy, we believe we are justified in remaining ignorant about their work.

In our diverse, globally influenced country, such narrow-mindedness shouldn’t fly.”

Many in my generation — and definitely in my father’s generation — never heard the word “startup” till we were in our 20s. But now every little new business is a startup. With dreams of raising VC money, creating vast wealth through exits and then doing it all over again.. or becoming a VC. This week Peter Griffin provided humour, effective because it cuts close to the bone of the “startup culture”, in the form of nursery rhymes reinvented.

Twinkle, twinkle, start-up star,

O M G, you’ve come so far!

You got valuations sky-high,

But boss, where’s the R O I?

Four For Friday (3)

This occasional series appears when the week’s readings have been good and should be shared. The themes are strategy, technology, investment and regulation, but sometimes they just cannot be separated.

Gaping Void’s Hugh McLeod has 10 questions for Seth Godin. Seth in my estimation is one of the rare, fluff-free marketers out there.

Om Malik reports on Sequoia Ventures sounding alarm bells for Silicon Valley start-ups. Sequoia asks its portfolio companies, reports Om, to buckle down for what could be the worst economic downturn of their relatively short lives. It is worth mentioning that this report appears after my last post – Only the monetising survive!

The use of quantum cryptography was reported as ‘unbreakable encryption‘. It is worth a mention that that unbreakability refers to the assumption that no single person may have the resources – computing and time – available to crack the encryption, not to any magical powers of the encryption per se.

The EU tries to grease the wheels of consumer spending by introducing better e-shoppers’ rights across the EU states. That there are price discrepancies across the EU is common knowledge. But is it wise to hamstring small and medium sized businesses selling online, by adding new responsibilities (read: costs) to their business? Worth watching.

Four for Friday (2)

This occasional series appears when the week’s readings have been too good not to share. Problogger calls this “reader evangelism“. The themes are strategy, technology, investment and regulation, but sometimes they just cannot be separated.

ReadWriteWeb has a fascinating series on how religious organisations are using web technology with articles focusing on Christianity, Judaism and Islam. (Count these as one reading, please!) 

Fred Wilson gives the keynote talk at Web 2.0 NYC, titled The New York Internet Industry, 1995 to 2008, From Nascent to Ascendant.

In investment readings, Dreamworks inks a US$ 1.2Bn deal with Reliance-ADAG in India.

Nikhil Pahwa at Media Nama discusses how WiFi is being linked with terrorism in India and possible impact on telecoms regulation.

Four for Friday

This will be an occasional series when the week’s readings have been too good not to share. The themes will be strategy, technology, investment and regulation, but in most cases, these are so intertwined that they cannot be separated.

Dharmesh Shah summarises Seth Godin’s start-up insights; for those, who have not met Dharmesh, he is an entrepreneurial superstar himself but very unassuming.

Jeff Nolan on Open Source companies to watch.

Fred Wilson on Feedisation of the Web; also read his first post on Feedisation of the Text User Interface.

Amit on why regulation should be case-specific and not ideologically-driven.