[FoRK] summary of recent important developments (ultra-compressed, random)

Kragen Javier Sitaker kragen at canonical.org
Sun Mar 16 21:41:45 PDT 2014

I wrote this for a friend, but I thought a wider audience might find it
interesting.  It's focused almost entirely on technical topics.

- The transition to BaaS is the realization what we were hoping KnowNow would
  be in 2000, at least in weeks whose numbers were congruent to 2 modulo 5; we
  just didn't know how to tell people about it.  
- Self-certifying names as used in Bitcoin, BitTorrent, Git, Tor hidden
  services, and apparently now Urbit have gone mainstream.
- Fastly has redefined what a CDN is, and might conceivably work to make origin
  servers on home networks feasible again.  (I may be biased.)
- TimBL's turned to the DRM dark side; see his Reddit interview for evidence.  
- Rust and Golang seem to be pretty hot, but Clojure is hotter.  
- The transition of marketed energy to photovoltaic started happening in
  earnest in 2013 and will be complete in the mid-2020s, which could result in
  a bigger (log-scale) increase in marketed energy consumption than the
  Industrial Revolution, since the solar energy resource is four orders of
  magnitude bigger than current world marketed energy consumption.
- There's an explosion of beta-quality time-series database management systems
  coming out of the DevOps movement or buzzword from a couple of years back.
- John McAfee claims to have uncovered a massive operation to get Hizbullah
  agents fake Belizean passports to get them into the US.
- Abrash claims judder-free VR (and presumably AR) is finally about to happen
  because of new breakthrough displays.  I bet Jeri Ellsworth can tell you if
  he's full of shit.
- Tick-to-trade times in HFT have fallen into the single-digit microsecond
  range, and HFT people are doing things like userspace NIC drivers in order to
  stay in the game.  That playing field is due for some serious consolidation
  this year.
- The free software movement has died.
- Due to Bitcoin and Snowden, computer security became more than a PR issue,
  providing some hope that it will become possible to provide it within the
  economic system, but not much.  The recent GnuTLS bug, which survived almost
  ten years of scrutiny by the proverbial "many eyes", suggests that Benkler's
  commons-based peer production is not currently capable of providing it
  either.  That leaves firms, which is to say, planned economies.
- Free-software stenography-machine input method Plover provides 350wpm input
  on a <US$100 gaming keyboard.
- The drug cartels are successfully subverting the government in significant
  parts of Argentina, among other places, but do not yet have killer drones,
  just submarines.
- The internal reaction to Snowden within 5-Eyes security agencies seems to be
  in keeping with Assange's prediction about "conspiracies", and will probably
  substantially weaken nation-states relative to non-state actors.
- Even here in Buenos Aires, they're replacing perfectly good mercury HID lamps
  with panels of 98 white LEDs.
- Motesharrei et al.'s "minimal model" aka "HANDY" Seldonishly calculates that
  we are barreling headlong toward a Tainter-style societal collapse, but that
  this is not inevitable.  Sadly, their paper seems to include no attempt to
  quantitatively calibrate the model to fit known historical collapse events,
  let alone an expiration date for our current society.
- A few years after Node took event-driven programming mainstream for non-UI
  code, the Twisted tools for making it intellectually manageable are going
  mainstream after borrowing the name "promise".
- Misoprostol has made safe first-trimester abortions very difficult to
  prohibit in practice.
- New steels are lighter than aluminum, but that probably won't matter once
  electricity becomes cheap in the mid-2020s.
- The antibiotics regulatory outlook remains grim; magainins are still illegal
  worldwide.  Together with rising prevalence of community-acuired MRSA, this
  is a serious peril.
- 1980s-India-style or current-Venezuela-style forex controls, under the excuse
  of preventing capital flight, dropped Argentina's legal exports by over 95%
  in under two years, if I'm reading the newspaper right.
- Chas Emerick is doing a replicated, decentralized data store with a global
  namespace and reactive Datalog as the interface.
- There's still no decent text chat system.
- OKCupid added "relationship type: non-monogamous" and Facebook added dozens
  of "custom" genders this month.  Geek feminism, if that's what that is, is
  getting things done.
- ARM shipped 1.5 CPUs per living human being last year, including about 0.0005
  Raspberry Pis.  Most of the CPUs have wireless.  Munchkins have become real.
- Gene sequencing is using FM-indexes in production.
- Obviously machine learning is now the hot career topic; not just latent
  semantic indexing, but far beyond.

But you probably already knew that.  How about you?  What have you been finding
interesting that I should read up on?


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