clive thompson

clive thompson bw

intro’d to Clive via his new book..

smarter than you think

book links to amazon


smarter than you think on kindle notes

an audacious idea. What would happen if, instead of competing against one another, humans and computers collaborated

Feynman understood the extended mind; he knew that writing his equations and ideas on paper was crucial to his thought. But when Weiner looked over a pile of Feynman’s notebooks, he called them a wonderful “record of his day-to-day work.” No, no, Feynman replied testily. They weren’t a record of his thinking process. They were his thinking process

three shifts—infinite memory, dot connecting, explosive publishing—are

We’re becoming more conversational thinkers—a shift that has been rocky, not least because everyday public thought uncorks the incivility and prejudices that are commonly repressed in face-to-face life. But at its best (which, I’d argue, is surprisingly often), it’s a thrilling development, reigniting ancient traditions of dialogue and debate

We need a new way to talk clearly about the rewards and pleasures of our digital experiences—one that’s rooted in our lived experience and also detangled from the hype of Silicon Valley

it turns out that when chess players were genuinely passionate about learning and being creative in their game, computers didn’t degrade their own human abilities. Quite the opposite: it helped them internalize the game much more profoundly and advance to new levels of human excellence.

on leaving a trail rather than trying/seeking to prove yourself

there’s something even more unusual about catching it unintentionally.

Once thinking is public, connections take over.

the first stage of conversational “augmented reality”: public thinking woven into our real-world public space

The tricky part of public thinking is that it works best in situations where people aren’t worried about “owning” ideas.


Still, for video to really advance as a medium for thinking, there’s one major shift that will have to occur: We’ll need to begin using it to communicate with ourselves.

unless there is. imagine an app that literally sets people free. imagine a turtle shell.

realistically, I suspect there’s no killer app to end distraction. The downsides of being highly networked are constitutionally tied to the benefits. The only way we can reduce the negative side effects is by changing our relationship to the digital environment, both as a society and as individuals.

You’ve got to make the systems so that they help people pay attention to the world in front of them.

…help people pay attention to the world in front of them.


find/follow Clive:

link twitter

clive thompsons site


Clive writes for The New York Times MagazineThe Washington PostLingua FrancaWiredShiftEntertainment Weekly and several other publications….

like mother jones:

clive writing for mother jones



Clive on mesh net.. alter net.. ness .. oct 2013:

clive on mesh


Clive on Thad Starner:

Perhaps most interesting is his distinction between the psychology of finding something and refinding it. If he’s alone and doing research, he’ll use his wearable to google documents, just like any of us sitting at a computer. But when he’s talking to someone, he’ll mostly just ping his notes; he searches online much less often. That’s because his notes are his personal semantic stores; he’s recuing facts, refreshing the details of what he already generally knows. That process is fast and doesn’t distract. But trying to imbibe a new fact requires focus and attention, so he avoids doing it while in conversation.

Starner doesn’t think his use of on-tap recall has eroded his own memory. “It’s actually the opposite,” he argues. His recall of arcane is strengthened by repetition. “If you pull up the same fact seven or eight times, eventually you’ve been reencountering it so often that you wind up remembering it unaided,” he says. That is indeed what technological pioneers envisioned in their dreamy, visionary manifestos.

He uses it his wearable only to look up information that augments a conversation he’s having.

[have to find yet – must be in his book – about his first f to f with Thad – how surprised he was at how awake Thad was in the convo]

about Mann and Starner – on google glass ness et al:

Starner has evolved strict social protocols about when and how to use his wearable computer, to avoid ignoring people. For example, he never checks e-mail while talking to someone. “Your I.Q. goes down like 40 points,” Starner says.

“You’ve got to make the systems so that they help people pay attention to the world in front of them,” he argues.

so that was a quote from Starner.. oops..

Mann: He regarded the picture-taking as a type of note-taking: “Remembering is recording,” he says….. Mann says he thinks that society will eventually adapt to omnipresent recording by everyday people. “Sousveillance,” he calls it, punning on the French word for “under,” sous — surveillance by the many rather than the few.


wear able ness


on jordan

Part of Peterson’s deep allure is that sprinkling references to ancient myths, legends and religious texts can make a completely banal and even wrong/stupid point sound deep and wise. I know; I’ve *done this myself*, heh. Alas. 5/x

Original Tweet:


Clive Thompson (@pomeranian99) tweeted at 6:25 AM – 25 Jun 2019 :
My latest @WIRED column, sparked by terrific convos with @davidedjen on Twitter, about why we need a data revolution for the environment:
Tl;dr — we’re data poor on many enviro goals! And if you can’t track it you can’t fix it. But … (

In other words, if we’re going to help the planet heal and adapt, we need a data revolution. We need to build a “digital eco­system for the environment,” as Jensen puts it..t

what world needs most: the energy of 7bn alive people.. so data revolution we need most: self-talk as data.. ie: data from whales in sea world is killing us

The good news is that we’ve got the tools. If there’s one thing tech excels at (for good and ill), it’s surveillance, right? We live in a world filled with cameras and pocket computers, titanic cloud computing, and the eerily sharp insights of machine learning. And this stuff can be used for something truly worthwhile: studying the planet..t

we do have the tools.. but ie: studying planet.. via how whales in sea world treat it.. is wrong focus.. we have to go deeper.. (free whales first.. or just spinning wheels)

tech as it could be.. (listening to every voice everyday)


coders – thanks library

knows a lot of people i’m familiar with.. i’d heard a lot of his stories.. so skimmed a lot



the founders created a system that americans are, absent a rewriting of the constitution, stuck with

not stuck with.. human\e constitution.. and 2 convers as infra et al


code is speech; speech a human utters to silicon, which makes the machine come to life and do our will. this makes code oddly literary


more than introversion or logic, though, coding selects for people who can handle endless frustration..


it’s been a story of people who discovered they liked the combo of logic and art that lets you talk to machines


part of what made instagram such a hit was that photos are a universal language


who’s the jane jacobs of this attention city? no one, he (tristan harris) feared. his colleagues were sharp and clever but, he argues, unprepared to think about the society-wide implication of what they do


office workers of he period were known for accepting conformity w a shrug – slapping on the gray flannel suit and playing their part in the hierarchy. they were the ‘ones of our middle class who have left home, spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life’ as william h whyte wrote in the organization man. they believed in subsuming themselves to a larger whole; they followed orders dutifully’ they were, in essence, collectivists. the people who gravitated to coder jobs weren’t. they were odder, more idiosyncratic, off-putting..

let go


‘what i like about these guys’ she (jennifer 8 lee) explains ‘is they’re very reliable’ that’s the upside to people who build rules governed systems..’they would be good husbands and good fathers and i was willing to sacrifice some of the warm fuzzy stuff’ they were skilled at managing anything in life requiring organization, systematization..


the comparison to deep sea diving is revealing, because many programers have told me the same thing. ‘most of the time we’re not snippy or weird or overly logical’ they say. it’s just that they turn into terrifying robots during the actual act of coding… it often requires thinking about the enormous hairball of the entire system


you’ve soared high enough in the air that you can see the entire city arrayed before you at night.. you can see the matrix. and it is at this point that programmers can actually get serious work done, because they understand the implications of changing any tiny part of the mechanism..


coders, in other words, have an artistic temperament, something that unsettled their managers back in the 60s and 70s.. the managers expected engineers to act in engineer-y, logical ways, and the programmers certainly did.. but they also ..  coder workflows are deeply romantics.. in the original sense of the word..


computers, in many ways, inspire dreams of efficiency greater than any tool that came before.. that’s because they’re remarkably good at automating repetitive tasks.. (humans) give us a repetitive task, and our mind tends to wander, so we gradually perform it more and more irregularly..


school is another swamp of repetition


in his book on perl, he and his coauthors wrote that one of the key virtues of a programmer is ‘laziness’.. it’s not that you’re too lazy for coding.. it’s that you’re too lazy to do routine things, so it inspires you to automate them..


‘if you make a list of the great software built in the last 50 yrs, you’d find that  in virtually every case, it’s one or two people. it’s almost never a team of 300. it’s at most a team of one or two’


‘if they’re physically capable of staying awake, they can get really far’ he says.. ‘the limits are awake time. it takes you tow hours to get the whole thing loaded into your head, and then you get like 10 or 12 or 14 hrs where you can function at that level’


oftentimes the real 10xing isn’t in writing the code but rather in fixing someone else’s blunders


there is, of course, a deep irony – even hilarity – in virtually anyone in tech being a libertarian, given that the entire american industry has been built on innovations patiently funded by the govt.. w/o the military buying early microchips en masse, that whole industry would probably have been stillborn.. t


nonetheless, the libertarian protestations if a certain set of coders continues apace. in recent years, blockchain tech has been the latest site of tech’s anti govt fervor. that ranges from bitcoin – a currency specifically designed to create money that couldn’t be controlled by dough printing central bands – to ethereum, a way of creating ‘smart contracts’ that, its adherent hope, would allow commerce so frictionless and decentralized that even lawyers wouldn’t be necessary


newhouse noted: most truly useful coding isn’t a lone gunman activity. it’s a deeply social team sport


‘in the culture of heroics, you get rewarded for heroics’ turner notes.. ‘but ultimately your job should be to eliminate the heroism’


the men who ran eniac would figure out what they wanted the program to do; they’d spec out the code, as it were. ti was up to the eniac women to physically crawl around – and even inside – the machine, hooking up wires that ‘programmed’ the machine to execute the instructions. it was head scratching, pioneering work; they wound up understanding how eniac worked eve better than many of the men who’d built it .. they invented groundbreaking ideas in coding


‘what i came to realize’ gardner tells me ‘is that it’s not that woman are excluded. its’ that practically everyone is excluded if you’re not a young white man who’s single’


where do cypherpunks (a blend of the old word cyberpunk w cypher – the code making/breaking of computer cryptography) come from? they arise form a combo of coding skills and a deep distrust of centralized power..


‘signing code was thought of as arrogant’ recalls brewster kahle, who arrived at the lab in 1980. ‘it was all for building the machine. it was a community project’


‘to a hacker, a closed door is an insults, an a locked door is an outrage’ as steven levy wrote of those mit coders in hackers. ‘just as info should be clearly and elegantly transported w/in a computer, am just as software should be freely disseminated, hackers believed that people should be allowed access to files or tools that might promote the hacker quest to find out and improve the way the world works.. when a hacker needed something to create, explore, or fix, he did not bother w such ridiculous concepts as property rights


diffie’s discovery deeply alarmed the feds. the nsa was used to being the big dog in the world of crypto – they were the world masters at breaking secret codes and they wanted to keep it hat way. so they didn’t like academics and coders even discussing the idea of powerful crypto..’there is a very real and critical danger that unrestrained public discussion of cryptologic matters will seriously damage the ability of this govt to conduct signals intelligence’ worried vice admiral bobby inman, then head of the nsa


if crypto was going to happen across society, dammit, then they (nsa) wanted to make sure they controlled it. working w the clinton admin, nsa leaders argued that all computers and phones should, indeed have a powerful crypto. but it should be in the form of a computer chip the nsa itself had created: the ‘clipper’ chip. if a device had a clipper chip in it, it’d encrypt anything you did online or said on a phone, os it would be safe from prying eyes. w one exception: the nsa itself.. they’d keep a ‘back door’ key that gave them access to every device


clinton and gore quietly pulled the plug on the chip. the hackers, computer scientists, and cypherpunks had won


‘aaron was persecuted for reading too quickly in a library’ says brewster kahle, a cofounder of the aaron swartz hackathon along w lisa rein, herself a cofound of creative commons..  kahle founded the internet archive.. swartz’s vision made reality, in a way..


there’s no way to create crypto math that gives privacy to only the ‘good’ people.. the cypher punks all know this. most are perfectly fine w it; freedom means freedom to do not just good things but bad ones. their willingness to say this up front can be startling, or refreshing, depending on your political pov..


for years, coders have been programing computers to do our repetitive actions. now they’re automating our repetitive thoughts..


coders would come to realize that the dartmouth crew vastly underestimated how complicated it would be to get machines to ‘think’.. that’s partly because computers are great at following crisp, clear rules.. but the fabric of human thought is incredibly complex and gnarly..t


computer programs break when they reach an ‘edge case’ when the user tries to do something that the coder never anticipated. and human interactions are filled w edge cases..t


unlike most coding, which requires very little math at all, hard core deep learners need to be fluent in linear algebra and stats. like cryptography – which involves scrambling and unscrambling messages – machine learning attracts the kids who were diehard math heads, who sit around envisioning multidimensional vectors just for fun


instead of having infrequent but long convos, people on twitter were trading many, many very tiny notes..

‘you become like a microorganism’ he mused. ‘we’re getting closer to these situation where we can move like a flock of birds of something.. we can communicate in real tie, really fast in what you’re already noticing to be this sixth sense.. i know where everyone is.. ‘


like stone, dorsey argued that the on-the-fly group coordination that twitter brokered was transformational.. it created an efficiency of person to person communication, a throughput that had never before been seen


the lust for scale is also fueled by the dictates of venture capitalists..the investor isn’t looking for stability: they want rapid growth that leads to a bigger return on their investment


the only other way to make money is to get as huge as possible, then sell advertising to your audience.. yet advertising changes the nature of how software firms treat their users


the truth is that only deep, structural change can seriously alter the trajectory of big tech


the entire world of programming is now growing so quickly that it’s changing the nature of who becomes a coder, and why (compulsory taught in schools et al)


one of the things that makes coding weird, as an industry, is that people can teach themselves how to do it

?.. that’s everything in life..


on proprioception

An essay about how it all came together, showcasing
@stevenbjohnson’s concept of “the slow hunch”:
Original Tweet:

The value is in the cumulative effect of tons of them.

small is {ginormous} beautiful ness

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

@monk51295 “slow/social proprioception”
Original Tweet:

It is sometimes described as the “sixth sense”.

in article:

In 1994 I was on vacation and happened upon a discarded copy of Oliver Sack’s 1984 book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat — Sack’s famous collection of tales of patients with neurological disorders. I had insomnia a few days later, and spent the evening reading the book.

I became fascinated by the third chapter, “The Disembodied Lady”. Sacks tells the tale of Christina, a 27-year-old woman who is afflicted with an infection that knocks out her body’s “proprioception”. I’d never heard of proprioception, but as Sacks explains, it’s our body’s “hidden sense” of itself. It’s how we know where our limbs are when we’re not looking at them. It’s why we can pass a baseball from one hand to another behind our backs.

In Christina’s case, losing her proprioception is devastating: She has to relearn how to engage in everyday life, using her eyes to establish what her limbs are doing.

I’d never heard of proprioception, but the concept fascinated me, and stuck in my head.

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening

oliver sacks..