One of the documentaries I would like to see made. Donate on Kickstarter.

Yeah, I’m a sometimes football fan. If there is a next season and if Apple TV ever offered NFL Sunday Ticket, that is how I would spend my Sundays.

Important Progress in Equal Rights for LGBT

Today brings great news regarding the slow but steady march toward equal rights for all LGBT citizens. In expected but still wonderful news, Hawaii has become the seventh state to authorize civil unions (three states that previously enacted civil union laws now allow gay marriages). There are now 13 states and one district that allow same-sex marriages or offer partnerships with comparable rights and responsibilities to opposite-sex marriages.

In more surprising news, the White House has declared the “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional and the Department of Justice will no longer defend Section 3 of the law. This progress comes on top of the recent expansion of hospital visitation rights to same sex couples and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and it bodes well for the various legal battles that will eventually bring the issue to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The following states (and district) have taken the appropriate steps forward to put this insane era of discrimination behind us:

Gay Marriages (5 + 1 district):

  • Connecticut
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Washington, D.C.

Civil Unions (4):

  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Vermont

Domestic Partnerships with similar rights to marriage (4):

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

Domestic Partnerships with some of the rights of marriage (4):

  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Wisconsin

Recognize Gay Marriages (3):

  • Maryland
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

Image source: AppleInsider – “Inside subscription content: Apple iPad vs Google One vs Amazon Kindlepage 3 table.

This fanstastic graphic from AppleInsider summarizes the various subscription plans now offered for Apple’s iOS App Store, Google’s Android store, and and Amazon’s Kindle store. The Apple plan looks downright generous in this comparison! This begs the question: why are developers and digital media companies in an uproar?

Apple’s Subscription Gamble

Apple announced their digital media subscription service for the iOS App Store today and reaction has been all over the place, though for certain classes of people it has been overwhelmingly negative. Developers and publishers especially are not happy with the service requirements.

For digital media like streaming video from Netflix, Hulu Plus; streaming music from Pandora; and ebooks from Amazon’s Kindle Store, customers currently purchase subscriptions and digital media on the providers’ websites. Then they are able to view the digital media using the providers’ free iOS apps. With this announcement, digital media providers can continue to offer media in this manner, but in addition they are now required to add an in-app subscription feature to their apps, one that will make use of iTunes own payment service. The customer has a choice: pay for the digital media inside the app or pay for it on the provider’s website. The digital media provider has a choice: pay Apple 30% if the customer pays for the digital media inside the app, or pay Apple 0% if the customer pays for it on the provider’s website.

Apple positioned their take as payment for bringing new customers to the digital media provider. “We have the platform,” Apple seems to be saying, “and we have the customers. How about 30% for bringing you a new paying customer?” It would have been strange if Apple had not wanted a cut of in-app subscriptions, because they have always taken a cut of in-app purchases. What Apple is really saying, a bit deviously perhaps, is go ahead and set your platform against our platform. Let’s see who brings in new paying customers.

Apple has taking a calculated risk, one which they cannot lose. If their assumptions about platforms, digital media, and customers are wrong, then a quick policy change will put the entire ugly affair behind them. If their assumptions are correct then Apple stands to gain both a financial windfall and a new level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

I’m not sure how long this video I found on YouTube will be up, but it is a fascinating watch! I’m struggling to understand my own reaction to it. On the one hand, this is every geek’s dream, a historic moment in artificial intelligence. On the other hand, it is frankly quite frightening. Even when Watson gets the wrong answer, the three possible answers it has ranked at the bottom of the screen seem to illuminate its thought process. It is clear that this technology will spread quickly and thoroughly over the next several years, improving and shrinking as it does. Will our mobile devices circa 2020 be a conversational agent tied into a sensor network, supporting our every whim? Before I watched this episode of Jeopardy I was hopeful. Now I am stunned, worried, and wondering if we should have been more careful about what we wished for…

h+ Mafia? No.

What did Sarah Lacy of TechCrunch find when she took a look “Inside the DNA of the Facebook Mafia”? There is the same kind of “in the family” interactions between the various companies started by ex-Facebook employees as there are for the other technology mafia since the 1990s, but in addition there seems to be a shared world view and technology perspective. The Facebook Mafia does not just share DNA; it appears Mark Zuckerberg has been cloned multiple times!

Recently I have been thinking a lot about h+ and what impact it did or did not have. For those of you who don’t know, several friends and I started a transhumanist club at the University of Arizona in 2006. We grew quickly. I also took over a club in Phoenix and rebranded it as h+ Phoenix. For nearly three years the two clubs met regularly in their respective locations. I often traveled from Tucson to Phoenix for the monthly h+ Phoenix meetings.

Today these clubs are all but defunct; h+ Tucson has tried to restart a few times but we have not been able to reach the same threshold of members and enthusiasm we did back in 2006. Many of the members of h+ Tucson and h+ Phoenix have now migrated to the Bay Area or other destinations to continue educations, start companies, and otherwise participate in the emerging technologies revolution. Could these members be considered a h+ Mafia?

The answer is clearly “No”. The attributes Lacy outlines in her article do not apply to the former members of h+. While a few of them work together, there has been little entrepreneurial interaction beyond a flurry of activity soon after the diaspora began. The level of support between projects is not what you see in true technology mafia.

While transhumanists share enthusiasm for using technology to improve the human condition, this turns out not to be the kind of world view and technology perspective that would lead to the kinds of interactions between former members of an organization that Lacy lists. Thinking back to our meetings, there were clearly different world views in play. Although we were ostensibly sharing the same interests, our approaches to technology were in fact very, very different. Facebook benefited from a group of young software engineers who developed a passion and approach to technology you see reflected in Jumo, Asana, Quora, Path, and the other companies formed by Facebook alumni. The various projects by former h+ members are very different in their approach.

The members of h+ were not all software engineers. They were a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds with different skill sets. The debates we had were not about software, but about things like consciousness, the right technologies to support, whether only an elite could or should benefit from these technologies, and others. Outside of the club and working on various transhumanist-related projects, a very few members found they could work together, but many others found they could not. There was a lot of drama heard on the grapevine over that first year when members started leaving h+ and taking on their own projects. Today, you find most of the members working on separate projects, with some friendly contact between former members but nothing like the family activity of a technology mafia.

There have been technology mafias from within the transhumanist community. Look no further than Immortality Institute. Several of the co-founders and leaders have gone on to important new projects, but in addition, they often support each other with funding, leadership, and other interactions that are every bit as impressive as the “in the family” activities of the Facebook or Paypal Mafias. Although the wider ImmInst community was very diverse in thought, the leaders of ImmInst tended to be on the same wavelength, and this has continued to play out in their post-ImmInst activities.

I am not suggesting that because they do not represent a h+ Mafia the former members of h+ are failures. In fact, they are unquestionably very successful! I am also not suggesting that we were not a family. At our height, the other members of h+ were about the only family I could tolerate! I am simply observing that the particular attributes that lead to technology mafias were not present in the h+ clubs, for some understandable reasons. The impact we had on transhumanism, and the world, is mostly still to be written, but it will not be as a mafia.