s3e10: Of Course I Still Love You 

by danhon

0.0 Station Ident

3:06pm on Friday, 8 April 2016 at Salt Lake City airport on the way to San Francisco for the weekend to visit friends. Normally in this part of the episode I write a bit about what I’m listening to or watching, or what’s going on in my immediate environment. This time, though, my layover coincided perfectly with SpaceX’s latest Station resupply mission – delivering amongst other things an experimental Bigelow Aerospace inflatable habitat as well as the first landing of a stage 1 rocket on an autonomous spaceport drone ship.

[stream interrupted]

[stream recommenced Sunday, 10 April 2016, San Francisco international airport]

Oh, oh. I have an idea for WOWBAGGER which might be my next McSweeney’s submission. The only clue I’ll give you is that it lets me expense buying/renting a copy of Contact just for the line “they should’ve sent a poet”.

1.0 We Have A Falcon Nine Onboard

OK, so the big thing was loading up the live SpaceX technical webcast[0] while on my layover and seeing on screen the words “the first stage of Falcon is attempting an experimental landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship”, of which the last half of the sentence is one that generates a sort of 2016 sensawunda. Sure, it might not feel like a big deal to *some people*, but it certainly felt like a big deal to me and elicited a sort of holy-shit moment. What the SpaceX team had done wasn’t an impossible thing. It was, as has been said before[1], a hard thing. And, as some others have argued, one that we could have accomplished earlier had we just *concentrated more* or *wanted it more*. Well, now it’s fallen down to ~5,000 pretty determined people and, perhaps, one pretty determined man with a bunch of money. But now, it feels like we’re within just-about-reaching-with-your-fingertips-distance if you step up on your toes to business-as-usual, manufactured-normalcy, lob a rocket up, land it, turn it around and do it again. And that would be something.

[0] CRS-8 Dragon Technical Webcast – YouTube

2.0 APPLE

Over breakfast with a friend playing the popular middle-class San Francisco sport of “Guess What Apple Will Do Next”, to which I was able to throw in a facetious remark I’d made to a friend earlier in the week that “Apple will only get in to VR when Jony Ive can get the headset thin and light enough” (which I’m, like, 80% willing to back as a significant point?).

Anyway. Things that Apple Will Do Next: a car, but not a self-driving car. More like a re-play of the MP3 player situation. Look, here’s a bunch of cars. Some of them are electric, some of them aren’t, some of them can self-drive to various degrees. But, what I think Apple might think it could say, most of them are a bit shit in terms of the user experience. Sure, the Tesla’s pretty good, and at some point in 2017, Tesla might be able to say “hey, there’s 100,000 of these Model 3s out there” and then Apple will say “Oh hey would you look at that, cars are a thing. Chevy’s got a bit of a crap one, Nissan’s got one, Tesla’s got theirs, which we kind of like, nudge-nudge, wink-wink” and then they’ll come out with one where the software makes a bit more sense and it’s the kind of 1,000 songs-in-your-pocket version. It’s just “better” at helping you listen to music on the move. There’s a question as to how much better an Apple car would be than a Tesla car, or how more affordable it’d be, or what kind of financing model would be available (all those 300k+ people who put down a refundable $1k deposit on a car that’s got an average selling price of around $42k are all financing/leasing, right? Just like… a really big iPhone over slightly more years, right?) but I think there’s a reasonable argument that Apple would be able to show off the *user interface* of the car and not necessarily the tech specs of the car (in a reprise, some sort of “not as fast as a Tesla, no wireless charging, lame”[0]). Sure, it’s not the fastest. Sure, it might not even have the biggest central console screen. But, it could well be Apple-y in some sort of way, without needing to have nailed the whole self-driving problem. And then, yes, we can say that cars are just giant phones on wheels.

My next reckon is the whole: not VR, but probably AR. Some sort of APPLE glasses? Look, here’s a company that a) buys more high quality high resolution screens than anyone else; b) buys more high quality glass than anyone else and was nearly going to kickstart the whole ‘using sapphire’ thing; c) knows how to custom-mould li-ion batteries to maximise battery life; d) knows how to make GPUs; e) and super good systems-on-a-chip; f) likes making things thin and light…

The question of course is what the hell APPLE glass would do, and the answer is: look, does it have to be this hard? Straight off the bat, you’ve got “watch your iTunes purchases as if they’re on a giant projected 80in screen in front of you”, then you’ve got a whole bunch of “talk to Siri more” as well as *every single bit of already existing iOS app reconfigured for floating-in-front-of-your-face mode*.

(an aside: if you have a new Apple TV, open up Apple Maps on your mobile device and mirror the display over to your TV, turn on 3D mode and then explore a big city. It’s super fun and modulo the *really shitty Apple remote*, feels like it should be a native tvOS app.)

Oh, right: get rid of the Macbook Airs because it’ll just be Macbooks and Macbooks Pro, update the Mac Pro and finally(!) release a retina external display once the new generation of GPUs come out with Thunderbolt 3 and displayport whatever.something so you can actually drive an external retina display without faffing about with cables.

[0] iPod – Wikiquote

3.0 Noise

Other idle thoughts:

– states require licensing by professional boards[0] explicitly to protect the public and WE’RE STILL HAVING THE SAME ARGUMENT ABOUT WHETHER SOFTWARE ENGINEERS NEED TO BE LICENSED (obviously they would argue for no) but seriously how many more data breaches (at whatever level: corporate or government) do we need that affect millions of people before anyone will give a shit and say: maybe we should try to prevent people from writing shitty software, because “letting the market decide” has just created a black market in personally identifiable information. Relatedly, if Klingons built social software then you just know that even when it was being mean to you, it would at least be honorable about it.

– After my slight rant about the unbearable fragility of smart device services, Deb Chachra[1, 2] was super helpful in pointing out a number of concepts that had passed me by, not least of which was the idea of the matter battle[3] from Bryan Boyder in 2011, the nightmarish and frankly sickening Ubik-like implications of smart devices when applied to individuals renting property from landlords (and the intersection with women renters, too) and the ensuing power dynamic, as well as reminding me that Scott Smith and Natalie Kane have been thinking about this for a while over at ThingClash[4]

– Does anyone know any consumer Internet of Things devices that are marketed primarily based on reliability and longevity? In other words, what are the home appliance brands that already connote reliability and solidity? If Miele or Bosch came out with IoT devices, would you be more likely to buy them because of their brand heritage? I presume (for lack of evidence, and lack of trying) that not many if any at all IoT devices/brands are being made on the back of being reliable and stable. Which, you know, feels like a bit of a hole, and I suppose one we should be grateful that the IoT startups aren’t just blatantly lying themselves into it.

– I finished reading Matthew de Abaitua’s The Destructives [US Amazon affiliate] to which I am preparing a *long thought* in response, and all I have to say at the moment is that it was BRILLIANT and I LOVED IT and that I’m pretty sure I highlighted something on *every single page*.

[0] In Oregon, for example, licensing for social workers and massage therapists amongst others
[1] Deb Chachra (@debcha) | Twitter
[2] Metafoundry by Deb Chachra
[3] ‎etc.ofthiswearesure.com/2011/01/matter_battle/
[4] Thingclash

OK, 4:12pm on a Sunday afternoon waiting for a delayed flight back home. That’s enough for your surprise episode, I’ll see you on the other side.

Best,

Dan