The Cloudworker’s Creed

In which we offer up a lyrically-hyperlinked (and determinedly purple) paean to the Future of Work. Even as economic storm clouds gather, a grimly pragmatic worker archetype is floating in on that other sort of cloud, which just came off beta status. Advance apologies to readers on a low-fat diet. Sometimes I just want to cook adjective-loaded long sentences.

The telecommuter is dead; meet the cloudworker (I made up the term for a contest). Commuting being an artifact of the work-life style of the Organization Man, the term telecommuter absolutely deserves to be retired in favor of one that captures the richness of what is actually going on. The cloudworker is the prototypical information worker of tomorrow. He overachieves or coasts remotely, collaborates or backstabs virtually, and delivers his gold or garbage to a shifting long-tail micro-market defined only by his own talents or lack thereof. The cloudworker manages personal microbrand equity and network social capital rather than a career. Over a lifetime, through recessions and bubbles, he navigates fluidly back and forth between traditional paycheck employment, slash-work and full, untethered-to-health-insurance free agency.



To paraphrase William Gibson, the cloudworker is already here; he is just unevenly distributed in the workforce.

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Some Pointers to Thinking Styles

Okay, I couldn’t resist that bad pun in the title. I was idly wondering today, while taking my evening stroll to the coffee shop, about one of the most powerful visual icons in our world  — the arrow. It is simple, yet supremely expressive. Take a look at this quiver full of twisty arrows I made up, to represent thinking styles. I had some more, but they wouldn’t all fit in this graphic, so if I collect enough more, I’ll make up a part two. And to think we invented the physical artifact merely to kill.

Some pointers to thinking styles, feel free to use, with attribution.

Some pointers to thinking styles, feel free to use, with attribution.

On Japan as a Robot-Loving Nation

I suppose I am not your typical blogger in one way: I don’t blog about news items that grab my attention, because I am rarely happy with my first-order immediate reaction to the news. It often takes me years before I consciously “get” why a piece of news grabbed my attention. For instance, I have had this snippet saved in my email for a couple of years now:

…Japan’s robot love goes farther than respect for function, and deeper than mere pragmatism can explain. Shinto, Japan’s homegrown religion, is an animist faith. The Japanese embrace of robots is a logical extension of ancient beliefs that all things, living and nonliving, organic and inorganic, can possess a transcendent spirit. In Japanese tradition, humanity has never been reserved for humans. Is it any wonder that Japan is welcoming the cyborg future with open arms?

From: “ASIAN POP: Robot Nation” by Jeff Yang, SF Gate Thursday, August 25, 2005

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The UnAha! Experience

Imagine that there is a mystery closed curve about the origin. Allow two parallel lines to approach the origin from diametrically opposed directions, and have them stop where they first become tangent to the mystery curve. Suppose you do this from all pairs of directions from (0,π) to (π,0), and find that the lines stop the same distance apart everywhere. What is the mystery curve? (Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about mathematics!) [Read more…]

The Blue Tunnel

I have had this little picture-story in my mind for several months now. It is the sort of thing that gets less clear the more you say about it, so here it is, with no further explanation.

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Creative Destruction: Portrait of an Idea

The phrase creative destruction has resonated with me since I first heard it, and since then, it has been an organizing magnet in my mind for a variety of ideas. I was reminded of the concept again this weekend while reading William Duggan’s Strategic Intuition, which mentioned Joseph Schumpeter as a source of inspiration. Visually, I associate the phrase most with Escher’s etching, Liberation, which shows a triangular tessellation transforming into a flock of birds. As the eye travels up the etching, the beauty of the original pattern must be destroyed in order that the new pattern may emerge

Escher Liberation

(All M.C. Escher works (c) 2008 The M.C. Escher Company – the Netherlands. All rights reserved. Used by permission. ):

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Sapir-Whorf, Lakoff, Metaphor and Thought

“What is thought?” is a question that is foundational by any reasonable measure. The best short answer I have found so far has been “thought is conceptual metaphor,” and it is one of the enduring regrets of my life that it took me so long to encounter this answer. An undergraduate friend (hi there Max!) introduced me to George Lakoff and the notion he introduced, conceptual metaphor, just as I was finishing up my PhD, and it radically altered my thinking (and my thinking about thinking, a.k.a philosophy) from that point on. I can only wonder how different my life would have been if I’d read Metaphors We Live By as an undergraduate. So here is a discursive introduction to these ideas.

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Meditation on Disequilibrium in Nature

The idea of stability is a central organizing concept in mathematics and control theory. Lately I have been pondering a more basic idea: equilibrium, which economists prefer to work with. Looking at some fallen trees this weekend, a point I had appreciated in the abstract hit me in a very tangible form: both stability and equilibrium are intellectual fictions. Here is the sight which sparked this train of thought:

Trees 1

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Whales are Trees

Would you say this object — I present two views — is animal, vegetable or mineral?

Baleen 1 Baleen 2

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Where is I?

I kicked off my writing on consciousness with a post on my overall framing of the problem. Now, by way of warm-up, let’s explore a problem that is confusing and interesting, but not completely mysterious, which I call the problem of indexical extent. The indexical problem is this: assume somebody explains consciousness satisfactorily, and even the existence of specific conscious points of view. Follow-up question: Why are particular conscious points of view associated with particular conscious beings? In particular, why is this particular conscious point of view associated with me? That’s still too hard, so let’s start with a simpler question: “Where is I?” This is the problem of indexical extent.

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