We decided to escape to a movie theater with filtered air last night. Saw Blade Runner 2049.

Gorgeous cinematography, but isn’t it time to stop envisioning a dystopian future where there are naked Barbie-shaped women everywhere you look? The male gaze is strong with this one…

At least be equal-opportunity with your objectification. This goes for the female characters, the female holograms, even the female freaking statuary. But why not come up with something more original and nuanced instead?

Yes, there was no shortage of female characters played by good actresses (especially Robin Wright), but finally they all seemed so static and relentlessly focused on the central male character.

And then there’s the gratuitous violence, the magical appearance of flying cars whenever you need them, and a grinding plot that I lost interest in just when I was supposed to be most interested, at the Big Plot Twist, with soooo much movie still to come…

C’mon Hollywood, you can tell stories better than this.

Check out this article in The Atlantic: The Coming Software Apocalypse.

It’s a must-read, although I’m not convinced there is a solution here. We keep pushing the boundaries of complexity because one of our society’s fundamental values is not just innovation and iteration but proliferation. We seem to expect software quality to be maintained by a Darwinian survival of the fittest. That said, how would we regulate software, and who would do it? How do we decide, “this software is good for our society, and this software isn’t”?

The article doesn’t attempt to address these ethical questions. Instead, it focuses on the practical, discussing a movement to step away from code that advocates for allowing the developer to work more directly with ideas and requirements — opening the world of development to a wider range of people, such as subject matter experts with a direct understanding of the problems they are trying to solve (i.e. doctors creating medical systems, lawyers creating legal systems, etc).

As it turns out, the platform that I use to create applications, FileMaker, has been part of this movement, and I’ve enjoyed working with it for precisely this reason. Along the way, I’ve seen it wrestle over time with the same contradictions, becoming more code-like and less transparent. Likewise, the applications we’re creating with it have become more complex — or are often used for middleware in connection with traditionally coded systems — with the result that requirements become harder to trace. Nonetheless, it’s worth acknowledging as part of the movement towards more effortless development tools.

I agree with the article that the next generation of these tools will be fundamentally important. However, I’m pessimistic that they will be sufficient to solve the fundamental problem of humans designing systems that are vastly more complex than we can manage. For all of our sakes, I hope that I’m wrong, and I strongly support any effort to address this issue.

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Here’s a lyric I wrote today — this one makes me think of Malvina Reynolds. With thanks to Bev and Gary for the inspiration…

She: “Ole Ernie was right. Different company, same song. Sixteen Tons.”

He: “Before long, the biggest employer EVERYWHERE will be Amazon warehouses.”

She: “Nah. Did you watch David Pogue on CBS Sunday morning? Everything will be robotics.”

—–

Everyone Works for Walmart

Everyone works for Walmart,
but soon the day will come
when Amazon will take their place
to pay our small income.

Everyone works for Walmart,
but soon the day will dawn
when robots build and pack and ship,
and our employment’s done.

Everyone works for Walmart,
but comes the day – I know –
when we will sell our very selves
to earn a little dough.

Everyone works for Walmart,
or else for government,
though lately they’ve been merging,
so is it tax, or rent?

 

In this video, Toni Morrison asks me and other white people: “What are you without racism? Are you any good?”

It’s true — so much of the flexibility and fluidity of my life — back and forth between the arts and tech — has been founded on the privilege I enjoy. People have believed in me and taken chances on me because I have certain gifts, yes, but so do lots of other people in whom they are not always recognized or encouraged. Being a white man has helped me convince the decision-makers (and myself) that of course I’m smart, of course I’ll succeed, that I’m worth the risk, the salary, the arrangement, the accommodations.

And the sense of standing on shaky foundations is part of that experience. Likewise the generational success of my family, all the upwards striving that I’ve benefited from, has also been interpenetrated with advantage. I’m deeply proud of my family and myself, we are all very hard workers, but I’m under no illusions that we have succeeded on a level playing field.

How does that affect me and many other white people unconsciously? It makes us defensive, unwilling to listen, and vulnerable to dangerous politicians who exploit this unease for political gain.

I’m so grateful for being gay, for not being especially masculine or male-identified, for my own experiences of violence and endangerment, because it gives me a glimpse outside my privilege, a way in, a reminder to listen at the very moment when I want to react defensively and protect my cherished sense of self.