Happy Birthday Rewiring Virtue!

© Caroline’s Cakes

A year ago, I was on sabbatical writing a couple of articles on technology ethics.  One of the great things about academia is the fact that people engage in serious conversation and are willing to put work into understanding one another’s perspectives. We write books and journal articles so that we can figure out how the heck the world works and—in my field—how to create a more human and just society.

The down side is that this conversation takes ages.  One of those articles still hasn’t been published yet.  The other only took 16 months to publish—and that was positively speedy.  The glacial pace drives me crazy.  So, I wanted to see if I could move the ideas and the conversation along a bit faster.  That’s why I started Rewiring Virtue. One year and 112 posts later, I think things have worked out pretty well.  I certainly have been able to do a lot of thinking and learning about the mediated life. And I’ve been fortunate that folks have found it interesting.

Thank you for being my conversation partners.

Gruber on EFF

The incisive, insightful John Gruber on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s manifesto:

The piece is supposed to be a criticism of Apple’s platform design and policies, but really, what they’re doing is criticizing users for enjoying it.

On “Crystal Prisons”, Rights, and the Reality of Competing Values

A couple of days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation released a manifesto on the future of computing, claiming that companies that offer closed computing systems (like Apple and Microsoft) are violating mobile user’s fundamental rights.  I use the term rights here because they use it at the end of the piece in the section “toward a bill of rights for mobile computer owners” and employ phrases like “deprived of liberty.”  The basic thrust of the argument is that all computing devices should be open, meaning that users should be able to add or modify the software and hardware in any way they see fit.  The piece is not long, and is worthwhile reading.

It has generated some pretty thoughtful critical responses within the Apple-using blogosphere.  I won’t go so far as Peter Cohen at the Loop and title this post “The EFF can suck it“, but I do think the EFF’s material is both poorly framed and poorly argued. As is probably the case with all manifestos, they ignore a host of reasonable principles and perspectives in order to try to motivate the masses.



As a followup to a previous post, no, Rupert, affecting an air of faux innocence does not count as a valid argumentation style in the adult world.

On the Meaning of Magic

People who like to slag on Apple regularly complain about their use of the term “magical” to describe the iPad.  For instance:

I’ll tell you what is magical. Harry Potter, unicorns and sawing women in half are magical. Making a computer or a bloody Mac takes no magic at all, it takes silicon and factories, and workers, and sweat, and designers, and marketing people.

Seems to me that Apple doesn’t mean that kind of magic.  Rather, Apple is referencing Arthur C. Clarke’s widely known third law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

So, Apple is really making a claim about how advanced their tech is, not about its supernatural powers.  Actually, they probably meant it the way Gregory Benford restated it in Foundations End:

Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

FWIW, it’s not such a jump to substitute “religion” for “magic”. . .

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