The envy-less life

Reading this article on envy from the NY Times, combined with my regular catch-ups on Sacha Chua’s blog, has been very good for keeping my envy in check.

I have a mental list of priorities that I’m happy with – a house deposit, a wedding and a trip overseas, all of which are pretty suburban and traditional, though I expect the execution of the last two will be a bit off the beaten track. Readings like this help to keep things in perspective and remind me that I’m pretty well off, all things considered. It’s a useful thing to remember.


Return of the Luddites?

I’m trying out a new way of posting. While I post on here most days, I’ll often give up meatier posts in favour of sleep and a quick interesting link. This is fine for a few days, but after a while it starts dragging down the quality of my blog.

Instead of posting this gorgeous video of a marmot disrupting research into glacier formation, I’m using this post to have a quick poke at a topic that’s caught my eye, with the intention of straightening out my thinking and getting comments to improve my research for a later post.

The inspiration behind all of this is a video Jack sent me – which I’ve not yet seen, but intend to watch before the follow-up post. I’ll trust you to kindly overlook any of these early thoughts if they’re also covered in the video.

The video promises a look at a topic that’s been lingering on the edge of my awareness recently: the impact of technology on our economic systems. Specifically, I’m interested in how it will affect the employment system, and how it will affect the political system. I’m thinking about it in an Australian context but expecting to extrapolate to and from other mostly rich, mostly western countries where it seems relevant.

It seems we’re heading for a future where work is more likely to be automated, both for physical jobs (e.g. with robots) and more information based jobs (e.g. with big data). People will still be needed in the system, but they will be a smaller part of it.* Taking that as a given – and yes, it’s a big one – there seem to be two extremes for the economic implications:

  1. High unemployment, a shift to a haves-and-have-nots economy.
  2. A new economic structure which redefines our understanding of what’s required for payment/basic living expenses.

Of course, the implications of either of these changes wouldn’t be limited to economics. My guess is that the first point above would lead to rebellion – a literal resurgence of the Luddites.

From Wikipedia:

 The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work.

I’m less sure of what to predict for the second point. One friend suggested cottage industries could be the future of labour. There would be an employer/employee divide, but it would be far more granular, and much less divided. The idea of a base state-paid wage that’s been lingering in certain circles could also make sense in this scenario.

For now, I’m planning to step away from this question to do more research and thinking. While I do, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts. Do you think your grandchildren’s children will have a job in the current sense of the word? How do you think work in the future will…work?


**Yep, these are some sweeping generalisations. This is very much the testing-an-idea post, not the publishing-with-research-and-a-considered-theory post.

PSA: Location history on Google

I’ve been out enjoying the movies with my partner tonight, so this post is more informative than thoughtful.

If you use an Android phone or use Google services on your phone, take a look at If you’re not comfortable with location tracking, this is something you might want to turn off. Google’s never been secretive about it – and nor should they; there are some great services that come from location data – but it’s worth thinking about whether those services are something you’re happy to have in exchange for giving away data like this.

And no, turning it off won’t break Google Maps. 😉


Serious laughs

Last week, after having my evening loudly and repeatedly interrupted by my partner laughing, I asked him what he was watching. John Oliver.

John Oliver talking dramatically

John Oliver in a recent ‘Last Week Tonight’ episode on payday loans. Via the Last Week Tonight channel on Youtube.

Oliver’s a reporter who’s also a fantastic comedian. Unlike a lot of news-based comedians, his interest is in getting the information across with some humour to help it hit hard. If you haven’t seen him at work before, take a look at his payday loans takedown to see what he does so well:

If you’re already familiar, check out Salon’s fantastic review of Oliver’s work. The author pins exactly why Oliver’s great, and he’ll send you in the direction of some great episodes along the way.

Technology! It’s awesome!

In a shared geek-out moment earlier today, I told a colleague I’d link her to this awesome video of a self-folding robot that shifts from a flat piece of material to a robot which then walks off screen:

Then I realised my fiancee and some other friends had been sharing fabulous tech videos, and that anyone who cared about self-folding robots would probably be interested in the ‘walking’ gyroscope cube:

And the possibilities created by applying hyperlapse/self-steadying video tech to 3D and virtual reality tech (the video ‘only’ shows the hyperlapse tech – my partner and I were adding in the possibilities that could come from combining hyperlapse with 3D for some awesome augmented reality effects)

And finally, on a semi-related note, my partner pointed out that bionic technology’s also taking flying leaps forwards over the last few years.

So tonight’s a reminder that we’re living in the future, and that there’s a lot of exciting tech future still to come!

A few bits of paper…

With a few bits of paper, some scissors and some time, I can make some awesome things.

Give Eric Standley a few bits of paper, something to cut with (lasers, in this case!) and some time, and he makes this:

Ornate window-style art made from layered paper

Ornate window-style art made with cut paper


I especially like the way he brings together some of my favourite aspects of Eastern and Western art into something that – because of the laser cutting – is extraordinarily modern.

Ornate window-style ornamentation made of cut paper

The one below is a personal favourite – my mind conjures the blue threads in the middle into fibre optic cables, completely changing the meaning of the image.




An ornate, window-style ornamentation made from layered paper


This really makes me think again about what’s possible with my art if I think about the bigger picture.