Benjamin Bratton: “What’s Wrong with TED Talks?”

Stumbled across a talk by Benjamin Bratton that shares an interesting perspective on TED. To me it’s also a stimulating comment on the increasing bubble of design-thinking, placebo-innovation and increasing shallowness of social-media.

“Perhaps the pinnacle of placebo politics and innovation was featured at TEDx San Diego in 2011. You’re familiar I assume with Kony2012, the social media campaign to stop war crimes in central Africa? So what happened here? Evangelical surfer bro goes to help kids in Africa. He makes a campy video explaining genocide to the cast of Glee. The world finds his public epiphany to be shallow to the point of self-delusion. The complex geopolitics of central Africa are left undisturbed. Kony’s still there. The end.

You see, when inspiration becomes manipulation, inspiration becomes obfuscation. If you are not cynical you should be sceptical. You should be as sceptical of placebo politics as you are placebo medicine.”


I found this particular part of his speech to be very much to the point:

“The potential for these technologies are both wonderful and horrifying at the same time, and to make them serve good futures, design as “innovation” just isn’t a strong enough idea by itself. We need to talk more about design as “immunisation,” actively preventing certain potential “innovations” that we do not want from happening.”


I really would like to see the field of design (rapid-prototyping, visual storytelling, …) to be used as a tool to evaluate technological possibilities. Rather than being used as an instrument to manipulate and to beautify technology without questioning its range of application.



Janken Robot beat humans 100% of the time.

From our “Skynet has become self-aware” folder, the University of Tokyo has posted a new video about it’s Janken robot (Janken is the Japanese version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and in their culture it is taken a bit more seriously). They first posted about their robot about a year ago, but a new video touting a much increased speed (around one millisecond?) in recognizing and reacting to the opposing human players choice. With this incredible ability to recognize nearly instantly, what other applications could a robot like this be used for? Read more about the robot from popular Science here.


Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s transmissions from space

Couple of cool facts about astronaut Chris Hadfield, the commander of the International Space Station who’s been Tweeting, Reddit-ing, and YouTube-ing from space:

1) The idea to go behind the scenes with social media was hatched 3 years ago at the Hadfield family dinner table — the Hadfields were trying to figure out how to generate interest for the Canadian Space Agency, which is facing major budget cuts. Hadfield wanted is “to help people connect the real side of what an astronaut’s life is – not just the glamour and science, but also the day-to-day activities.”

2) Hadfield does the posting and responding himself, but Hadfield’s son, Evan, is his unpaid assistant, doing most of the maintenance work: “I make it so that he can simply float up to the computer and post without wasting any of his valuable time.” (I love his Twitter bio: “Internet janitor”) Evan also fed his dad tips about what was going on down on Earth, so he could snap photos.

3) When he gets back: “He’s gonna land on Earth, he’s probably gonna vomit on himself, and then he’s going to pass out. That’s what happens when you come back from space.”

I love this quote from Canada’s first man in space, Marc Garneau, who said he wished he’d had social media during his flights:

“You need that feeling that you haven’t been abandoned up there. You need to feel that there are a whole bunch of people on the ground that are watching over you,” he said. “I think the connection is much stronger now because [Hadfield] has all these people who are tweeting to him and he’s tweeting to them.”

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