(2022-03-12) Sloan Super Sweet Spots

Robin Sloan: Super sweet spots. Here is a demonstration of William Blake’s innovative printing process. If you have ever wondered what I mean when I use the term “media inventor”, this is your answer, definitively. Blake was totally vertically integrated!

I watched a six-part documentary series on the history of China, and one of the things that stuck out was the tranquility and appeal of life during the Song Dynasty

I always appreciate these identifications of times and places where it was pretty great to be a human. The Bay Area in the year zero; Rome in the second century; China circa 1200, maybe? (flourishing, Scenes, Collaborations, Inventions, And Progress)

All of these claims can be debated, of course. The point is just to think about what it means to live a good human life, and to resist “the arrow of progress points forward!” on one hand and “agriculture ruined everything!” on the other. Identifying these super sweet spots in history doesn’t, for me, feel valedictory; rather, I find them destabilizing! Cause for humility.

Here’s a fun exchange from an oral history with Butler Lampson, a founding member of Xerox PARC:
Alan Kay: But I wish that you had been at CERN on a sabbatical when [the Web was being born].
Butler Lampson: I probably would have been a disaster.
Kay: I don’t know. But I think you would have made a slightly better …
Lampson: No. No. No. No. No. No. What Tim Berners-Lee did was perfect. My view about the web is that it’s the great failure of computer systems research. Why did computer systems researchers not invent the web? And I can tell you the answer. It’s because it’s too simple.
(Worse is Better)*

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