(2010-10-03) Winer Computer Science Gap

Dave Winer says the Tech Crunch-Disrupt doesn't involve anyone doing actual Computer Science, and even university hackathons have the same problem. Somehow they have fixated on turning the internet into a game (Real World Game). The hamsters, you and me, are rewarded for jumping through certain hoops. We enjoy playing this game so we buy things to indicate our pleasure... Instead I'd like to see, at a university hackathon, young computer science students get up and present to their teachers some new computer science. Some new use of graph theory. Or an old one re-applied to a modern world. We used to do that, when I was a comp sci grad student in the 1970s. I think we got way too caught up in the commercialism. (DotCom) I Commented: While Tech Crunch is obviously its own little non-representative sample, it's possible that people coming to hackathons don't necessarily want to get rich, but simply be sustainably self-employed. Because they don't want to end up working for Google or SAP or NYU.

Jolie O Dell goes further, considering most Start Up-s to be BreadAndCircus games. Many of the apps we have nowadays — the successful ones, at least — revolve around game mechanics, addiction, self-reference, and narcissism. Even apps I use and actually like quite a lot fall into this category. FourSquare, Daily Booth, Twitter, and Form Spring are examples of apps that, while they could hypothetically be used to solve larger problems, are primarily used because of the four factors... Lest you think I am being too critical, let’s put this into perspective by detailing what I mean when I say that socialization, commerce and entertainment are not real problems. Here’s a problem: Many Americans can’t afford medical care. Here’s another problem: Many Americans can’t afford a decent education, and many parts of our public school system suck. Here’s another, even more pressing problem: Many Americans are homeless. Many can’t afford to eat. While people are sleeping in cardboard boxes, you can’t sell me on “getting together with friends” as a legitimate fucking problem. (Shades of Umair Haque.)

  • That "the successful ones, at least" bit weakens the whole argument.

  • Generative apps/platforms like some of her examples can be used for good or banal purposes. You could think of the banal as subsidizing the good.

  • I'm not sure how many of these problems are amenable to technical solutions, esp as attacked by a resource-poor Start Up.


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