He is the Law

killer_robot.jpgWhile we continue to arm the robots at an alarming rate, the real transition of power and control is far more subtle and insidious. Humanity is ceding power to the machines, but not at gunpoint. Rather, we are relinquishing our will to the machines through the kinds of bureaucratic machinery Max Weber and Terry Gilliam would have a hard time imagining.

I am talking about the reification of bureaucracy in the form of software – the rules that we all live by are being carved into stone, or more accurately, etched in silicon. Code == Law?

Some industries have already made this transition. From the sympathetic bartenders unable to extend happy hour a moment past 7pm, to the tele-tellers who inform the customer that “the system” will not allow them to exercise any judgment or compassion, some systems are already being governed by the machines. But this is just the start.

In the corporate world, IBM is banking on the tight relationship between software and processes. I recently attended a talk presented by their VP of Services, Stu Feldman, and he relayed an anecdote about certain contracts in the financial sector which are no longer governed by legal documents. The final word on maturation and vesting is expressed in a crufty old C program… Considering some of these deals are worth billions, the impact is suddenly more significant than an overpriced cocktail or an unwaied late fee.

Judge_Dredd.jpg

The starkest example of this trend to date, is the recent announcement by the chinese government that software issue judgments in criminal cases. While they justify this system on the grounds that it will help eliminate the effects of corruption and bribery, reality’s reassemblance to pulp science fiction is growing by the day.

One Python Per Child

Originally published on theploneblog.org

The $100 laptop project has chosen Python as the primary development language for The Laptop.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an olpc developer board, and have spent a little time learning about the platform and project.

While there are a few issues I have with the project, it is really an thrilling moment in educational technology and after holding the hardware in my own hands I actually believe this vision might truly manifest.

The main reason I am writing about this in the Plone blog is I have learned that the olpc’s application development language of choice is Python!

Sheckitout.

While Plone itself is probably not well suited for the laptop itself — The Laptop’s hardware characteristics are closer to a pda w/ a big screen than a MacBook Pro¬† (plone-on-a-stick? maybe it could ship on a thumbnail drive), it is easy to imagine communities of practice emerging around this platform. Places where educators and students alike can share tips and tricks, strategies and pitfalls. Who will be their dotmac?

Admittedly, these devices are being built to operate unconnected to the Internet, communicating with each other through ad-hoc mesh networks (presence will be a very low level primitive in this environment, and all applications will have access to it), there may still be a role for a server w/in the network.

I don’t know exactly how Plone fits into the larger OLPC strategy, but I get the sense that with all the momentum and capital around this project, if Plone gets there lots of people will see it. And many of them may be the next generation of Python/Plone developers.

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