The final 24 hours of Flash's death clock seem like a good occasion to think about the non-linear nature of art-making tool development. I suppose I'm a technological determinist, and the larger forces that hashed out browser standards--nurturing Flash for a time, and then abruptly extinguishing it--don't seem all that historically different from, for example, the 1979 global silver shortage, which by suddenly raising the price of film stock greatly accelerated the shift to video.
12/31/2020, 8:08 PM
It's convenient for once that you spread out over multiple links, so I can grab one sub-thread for the tangent on technological determinism. I pushed back on the idea recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25383946#25403205. I'm curious to hear if I'm strawmanning my opposition, or any other reactions you have.
01/01/2021, 3:56 AM
Maybe not strawmanning, but certainly not addressing the fact that there's human agency acting behind each act of technical "will"
01/01/2021, 6:11 AM
It sounds like you're saying what I'm saying.
01/03/2021, 6:37 AM
Yeah I think limiting technological determinism to the Singularitarians is a bit unfair to a more secular interpretation, like what I'd subscribe to. I'd simply say that when we design technologies our early choices constrain our later choices. In this case Internet Explorer thwarted web standards for about a decade, creating a Flash-shaped space awaiting the right combination of random factors. (Which turned out to be pretty random indeed--Flash being the team-up of a prodigy who would ship three historically-important graphics apps before the age of thirty and an Olympic pistol shooter with high tech literacy and a lot of investment income.)
The way I see it, the Singularitarians (or "Fedorovists," as they're deliciously called in the Quantum Thief books, where they're the primary antagonists and the solar system's major religion)...engage with some good thought experiments but are trying to apply them to the present day centuries or maybe millennia too early.