Sufficiently Advanced

Well, now, how do I follow that introduction from John, here in his arena with the spotlight on? Best stick with the original plan.


What do I mean by “Incantations”?

Well, it’s about this: I believe in magic. I believe magic is happening right now, and that you are a part of it. See, I’m typing these words and, at some future point in time from where I’m sitting now, you are reading them. And two amazing things are happening. I am sending the thoughts that are currently passing through my brain into the future and, even more miraculously, into your brain.

We do this every day, but it doesn’t make it any less fantastic. Sure, it’s not always perfect. In fact, it hardly ever is. We misspeak. We misunderstand. Information and nuance gets lost or mangled in the transmission, and the worst part of the whole transaction is that it’s so hard to tell the ways in which we’ve fallen short. We may never really know the full extent of our failure, or how to repair it. I’ve spent most of my conscious life fascinated by how we use language and most of my working life in search of ways to wield that tool to best effect.

I started the quest in trade publishing — an industry that takes the words of millions of hopeful scribes, winnows them down, polishes them up, and in the end, produces these magnificent artifacts called books. Whether you think publishers are any good at any part of this process of selecting, editing, designing, printing, and distributing books; whether you think they have their priorities straight; whether you think they are likely to survive the next decade, year, or season — and I have my own opinions — I still believe the overall endeavor is a worthy one. I learned so very much in that milieu, including the fact that, in the end, Big Trade Publishing isn’t my game.

Instead my journey has taken me into the field of technical documentation for computer software (with a push in that direction from one John Sundman, we should note). Sure, it’s a different world. We have source code repositories instead of bookshelves. Web sites backed by hard drives instead of shopfronts supplied by warehouses. But all this — intelligently arranging ones and zeros to a particular purpose — is its own realm of magic, just like artfully arranging words in sequence. And at the core, my part in this new world is the same as it always was. I may be documenting APIs, but really I’m working on brain-to-brain interfaces, implanting information into people’s heads in the most effective way possible.

So what I plan to write about here is technology and publishing, language and code. I want to practice a little magic and telepathy. I aim to put thoughts into your head for your consideration. Whether you’re ultimately convinced by them or not, I hope to at least reshape or augment existing thoughts that you’re already carrying around with you. I also hope you’ll do the same, and use this complex system that enables communication between you and me to put thoughts in my head that weren’t there before, or to turn the kaleidoscope in my brain a notch. Truthfully … I want this all to be a little mystical.

My posts probably won’t be terribly timely. They may not always be deep. But I hope that, from time to time, you will find them interesting. I have so much in my head that I want to pour through the ether into yours. And so:

Hello, Wetmachine world. How do you do?

R/C Bugs!

Let’s say you want a radio-controlled flying insect (and really, who doesn’t?) Sure, you could go out and get a Wowee Dragonfly. But that’s made of plastic, and is really just a radio-controlled plane with flapping wings. Booooring! Instead, you could get yourself a rhinoceros beetle, stick electrodes in its brain and presto! Radio controlled flying insects real enough to frighten any annoying little sister.

Link your brain to the brain of megacorporation, inc

Via Slashdot, more happy news about neuromarketing (kissing cousin of neuroeconomics), that is, reading your brain to see how you respond to advertising and what you’re thinking about when you decide to buy or not buy any old thing.

Yesterday in the Boston Globe (too lazy to find link) there was a story about law enforcement passively collecting DNA without a warrant by following around suspects and, for example, picking up discarded cigarette butts.

Not hard to imagine marrying these two trends. On the other hand I’m just a technoparanoid.

Will the real Monty Meekman please stand up?

I only heard about this guy after my book was written, so he’s really not the model for Monty Meekman, the mad-scientist cartoon-villain of Acts of the Apostles. However it is odd (creepy?) that everything he does seems to have been done first by Monty.

And oddly enough I find a lot of what he has to say very compelling. Maybe I should check my brain frequencies. . . maybe I’m just one more happy Feynman Nine customer?

word for the day: neuroeconomics

I first heard the term neuroeconomics in a review of Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics by Paul W. Glimcher in the journal Acumen . (Another review can be found at My interest piqued by this new (to me) turn of phrase, a-Googling I did go, and turned up, a blog run by Kevin McCabe, who runs the Behavioral and Neuroeconomics laboratory at George Mason University.

Like the pure psychoanalysts who shuddered to find their theories applied to advertising, I find myself discomfited at seeing my own interest in how the brain works specifically applied to matters of money.