Vous avez vu tous les Fast and Furious, vous connaissez par cœur les répliques de
Bruce Willis dans Armageddon, vous maîtrisez chaque stratagème de L’Art
d’avoir toujours raison de Schopenhauer et vous récitez la Rhétorique
d’Aristote à vous enfants pour les endormir. Bref: en adrénaline comme en dialectique
éristique vous êtes sérieusement badass (ou “mauvaiscul”, comme diraient nos
amis étouffeurs de la langue française). Mais connaissez-vous le lightning talk?
As you well know, dear reader, I am a freelancer, and as freelancers well know
Contracts Must Die. Thanks to the kind support of Adobe, Google, and Microsoft, I have
had an interesting two-year run being part of the W3C Team and shepherding the HTML5
specification towards Recommendation. As August goes, these two years too will end.
Waiting for the singularity
With all these Web@25, W3C@20, WHAT@10, and of course Robin@37 worldwide celebrations it seems
like as good a time as any to take a few minutes for musings about where we’ll be ten years
from now. The content here is not meant to be particularly serious (or anywhere near
complete), but I operate under conservative assumptions, for instance that the world doesn’t get
overrun by an evil AI in the meantime. I’m also not interested in every other small detail.
These are some of my opinions, and while I very, very much welcome opinionated disagreement I
certainly don’t mind that part of them may feel outrageous to some — nor how wrong they turn
out to be.
Evil geniuses, be it in history or fiction, tend to distinguish themselves through some
unique trait that hallmarks their own personal expertise beyond the generic,
run-of-the-mill apparatus of evil. Dracula has dread, Torquemada has torture, Carly Rae
Call Me Maybe. If ever an evil genius were to rise from the ranks of the
standards community, there is no shade of a doubt for me that her evil specificity will be
In 1937, Walter Lippmann wrote
The Good Society which captured with stunning
lucidity the politics of his time. And as many potent political texts, it echoes well
beyond its era. One of my favourite quotes from it is:
Austening ourselves to the full Brontë
Allow me, Dear Reader, to kick off with a remarkable statement that will no doubt keep you
astonished for days to come: I really, really don't like DRM. I want a third
party to be allowed to control my ownership of my books, movies, and music just as much
as I wish Ikea were allowed to come reclaim tables and cupboards from my home, Uniqlo to
snatch clothes off my hunky pecs, or Tanziti Abdelfattah (the baker around the corner) to
grab his baguette right out of my toaster.
Let us start off with Boltzmann Brains. Imagine a universe that is nothing more than a diffuse
cloud of stuff, without any structure to speak of. Perhaps it is at the heat death end of a
universe such as ours, perhaps it is because no such structure has emerged yet. That does not
matter. It also does not matter what the "stuff" is. It can be lots of elementary particles,
the sort that we know of; it can be some variant from another universe; or it can just be a
chaotic primordial bit soup, just raw random information.The latter type of
ur-chaos can match a good definition of nothing, but that’s the topic for
another blog post. What this diffuse universe is made of is irrelevant to the
argument made here.