Unhappy fortune! By my brotherhood,
The letter was not nice but full of charge,
Of dear import, and the neglecting it
May do much danger.
- Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 5 Scene 1
The idea for a startup surely begins long before incorporation. Darwin CX was formed on November 22, 2017, yet my personal journey to co-found it began two decades and two regrets earlier. Co-founders each have their own origin story. This one is mine, which I share now on the eve of the company being acquired.
Dead letters are messages that, for whatever reason, don’t reach their intended destination — a tragic symbol of failed communication and disconnection. Postal systems have dedicated dead letter rooms to process undeliverable mail. Many of Shakespeare’s plays pivot on a dead letter, the most famous being the ill-fated one that led to tragedy in Romeo and Juliet. Friar John was unable to deliver the letter because (all too familiar to us in the time of Covid) he was quarantined at home due to the plague. Since my early reading days, these missed connections have drawn my attention — a fifth business often off to the side and out of sight — yet critical to the outcome. …
Is the problem money? That seems hard to believe when we have the money to wage endless wars in the Middle East and repeatedly bail out incumbent banks, airlines, and carmakers. The federal government just passed a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package in two weeks! Is the problem capitalism? I’m with Nicholas Stern when he says that capitalism is how we take care of people we don’t know — all of these fields are highly lucrative already and should be prime stomping grounds for capitalist investment, good both for the investor and the customers who are served. Is the problem technical competence? …
Rather than regarding technology as an external force or temptation that we have to struggle against, I propose thinking about the alliances that we form with technology. This alliance begins when we acquire or access something, perhaps a new device, service, or data, and evolves as the technology challenges us and we challenge it. We bring the technology into social situations it wasn’t designed for. We draw on it to negotiate the limitations that we see in ourselves. In exploring new applications for it, we find new perspectives on ourselves and our social worlds….
For readers who work in technology development, perhaps these examples will inspire designs that reflect how people see themselves over time, or how they construct the significant relational and emotional themes in their lives. Too often tech designs focus on discrete tasks rather than taking into account the intricate, evolving self that each user brings to those tasks. …
But the deeper reason that technology so often disappoints and betrays us is that it promises to make easy things that, by their intrinsic nature, have to be hard.
Tweeting and trolling are easy. Mastering the arts of conversation and measured debate is hard. Texting is easy. Writing a proper letter is hard. Looking stuff up on Google is easy. Knowing what to search for in the first place is hard. Having a thousand friends on Facebook is easy. Maintaining six or seven close adult friendships over the space of many years is hard. Swiping right on Tinder is easy. Finding love – and staying in it – is hard.
How Plato Foresaw Facebook’s Folly via NY Times
We do not face a simple choice of digital or analog. That is the false logic of the binary code that computers are programmed with, which ignores the complexity of life in the real world. Instead, we are faced with a decision of how to strike the right balance between the two. If we keep that in mind, we are taking the first step toward a healthy relationship with all technology, and, most important, one another.
David Sax is the author of “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter”
we will have even more vivid exchange of information between people, but we will sacrifice freedom. Many of us will wake up to the tragedy of this tradeoff only once it is reality
It is traditional in statements like this Translator’s Note to bewail one’s own inadequacy when trying to be faithful to the original. Like many contemporary translation theorists, I believe that we need to rethink the terms in which we talk about translation. My translation is, like all translations, an entirely different text from the original poem. Translation always, necessarily, involves interpretation; there is no such thing as a translation that provides anything like a transparent window through which a reader can see the original. The gendered metaphor of the “faithful” translation, whose worth is always secondary to that of a male-authored original, acquires a particular edge in the context of a translation by a woman of The Odyssey, a poem that is deeply invested in female fidelity and male dominance. I have taken very seriously the task of understanding the language of the original text as deeply as I can, and working through what Homer may have meant in archaic and classical Greece. I have also taken seriously the task of creating a new and coherent English text, which conveys something of that understanding but operates within an entirely different cultural context. …
CIX conference bills itself as:
a leading technology conference where investors, innovative companies, founders and facilitators converge to learn, network, and do deals
This was my first time attending. I’d attend again. Not only on account of the quality of the participants and content, but also the welcoming and supportive atmosphere.
For some reason I was immediately reminded of older Toronto tech conferences from ten or more years ago — for example, the then-exciting mesh conference (current ones might still be exciting but I haven’t attended in years) that had the tagline “Canada’s web conference.” What stands out, in contrast, is how Toronto’s startup tech industry has matured. …
And yet McPhee’s work is not melancholy, macabre, sad or defeatist. It is full of life. Learning, for him, is a way of loving the world, savoring it, before it’s gone. In the grand cosmology of John McPhee, all the earth’s facts touch one another — all its regions, creatures and eras. Its absences and presences. Fish, trucks, atoms, bears, whiskey, grass, rocks, lacrosse, weird prehistoric oysters, grandchildren and Pangea. Every part of time touches every other part of time. You just have to find the right structure.
The Mind of John McPhee — NY Times, Sep 28, 2017
Despite all the hype and money around AI these days, what practical options exist for non-tech companies with established software teams? Setting aside the convincing argument that sometime in the near future all companies will be tech companies, in the here and now non-tech companies remain and so do the necessary tradeoffs — like having to choose between Facebook’s popular React library for building user interfaces and the resurgent AI subfield of Machine Learning.