Rule 34

Yes, that rule 34. I thoroughly enjoy Charles Stross’ ability (and confidence) to extrapolate the near future consequences of today’s technology trends. This ability makes for a wonderfully fast-paced novel that, while light on plot, is filled with delicious and delightful references to geek culture. From 3D printers to AI run amuck, Rule 34 offers an intense glimpse at a future ruled by technology without the typical boring and tedious exposition: if you’re not up to date on modern geek culture, fully 75% of the references will be lost on you. And while the plot, overall, feels like a watered-down version of a classic Tom Clancy international crime syndicate / espionage thriller, on the whole Rule 34 is quite a good read.


John Gruber linked to this piece critiquing Microsoft’s new future vision video:

Why Microsoft’s Vision Of The Future Is Dead On Arrival
What “future of” tech/design videos need is a little less Minority Report and a little more Alien. Director Ridley Scott famously told his production designers to make Alien’s spaceship and costumes look roughed-up, slightly messy, and above all, lived in. Otherwise, it just isn’t believable enough to see yourself in–which is a design problem that both horror movies and corporate promos need to solve. Microsoft’s film is probably going viral as we speak, but imagine how much more reach it would have if it dared to depict a guy stuck in a meeting that sucked, or using his smartphone in an airport that was full of noisy assholes and long lines, or searching his touchscreen-enabled smart refrigerator for a quick meal because his kids are bouncing off the walls and he’s bone-tired from a long day at work?

And while there are many things worth criticizing in Microsoft’s video, a future that is too pristine is not one of them. The video isn’t a movie, it’s a sales pitch and it exemplifies the purest form of advertising: the selling of an idea—the idea that Microsoft is a forward-looking company that intends to build tomorrow’s technology. The film needs to depict a perfect future because that’s the future that Microsoft wants its customers to yearn for. To suggest that they should have made that future rougher is to suggest that Apple should include iPhones with cracked screens in its commercials, or the frustration of having no cell service.

Movies require realism to be believed. Products need idealism to be desired.