Customarily, on this day we go for a walk by the sea. This year “we” was just me, because Post-Covid. I have pictures; subdued pictures, it was that sort of day. Herewith a few of those, and year-end ramblings on optimism, AI/ML, cameras, and social media.
Optimism? · The climate catastrophe is gonna get worse before it starts getting better. But I see rays of light that might illuminate 2024. I really don’t think the Americans are going to elect That Guy again. I think unemployment will stay low and worker power will increase correspondingly. I think there’s a significant chance we get a vaccine that actually stops Covid transmission, as opposed to today’s, which mostly just moderate its effects (still important of course). I think the health problems in my immediate family will improve a bit — Lauren is showing early signs of recovery from Post-Covid.
Did I mention the climate catastrophe? I hope our political leaders come to their senses, get out from under the Carbon Hegemony, and do the necessary things that will necessarily bankrupt much of the Petroleum sector. If they don’t, I think it near-inevitable that some of those defending the planet’s future will discard their commitment to non-violence. There is nothing people won’t do to protect their children.
Weirdly, and assuming that our species’ self-inflicted climate-disaster injuries aren’t fatal, there is an upside. This situation falsifies the central premise of Late Capitalism: That continued unending growth is essential, or even desirable. Particularly in the inevitable case where declining birthrates become pervasively global and there are fewer people each year needing goods and services.
Put another way: Jeff Bezos can blow off “Day 2” as much as he wants. But the Day-1 growth-at-all-costs dogma isn’t sustainable or even survivable. Day 2 is inevitable, and we need to learn how to make it good.
AI/ML · I’ve spent my working life in software, and AI seems to be the only thing anyone wants to talk about. I’m not smart enough to know where this tech ends up fitting in. Also, I’m arrogant: I don’t think anyone else is smart enough either. It’s painfully obvious that we’re in the midst of a bubble; just watch the VC froth. A lot of that money is going to the same place as the billions they gave to the crypto-bros.
I do have a recommendation: Assuming you’re busy and have a lot of input, don’t waste time reading “future of AI” predictions. Nobody knows.
Photography · When I went down to the sea, I took a Fujifilm X-Cam with the Samyang 135mm/F2 bolted on, and of course my Pixel. All but one of these pictures are Fuji/Samyang. This is my chance to opine, once again, that the best way to use a camera that’s not a phone is to strap a difficult and opinionated lens on it then follow where it leads.
I’m not that optimistic about the future of “real” cameras. When you watch the reviews from passionate camera-philes like Chris and Jordan over at Petapixel, you realize that, to the extent that newer cameras are better, the improvement is at the margins; for example, shooting elite athletes at a distance. All modern cameras take great pictures, most times. This notably includes the one in your phone; but its lens is the opposite of difficult.
2023 saw two real steps forward in camera technology: C2PA and global shutter. Global shutter is cool but of interest to only a few, and C2PA’s impact is strictly on the structure of belief; the technology itself is boring. Neither will help you get a better cat picture.
Social media · Most of my 2023 hours were filled by family health issues, my expert-witness gig with Uncle Sam, and what comes after Twitter. On the latter, I know only one thing for sure: That privately-owned centralized social media has not worked, will not work, can not work. Decentralized federation is the only sane path forward and we are right now making that up as we go along. Am I crazy to think that few things matter more than the forces that shape the broader human conversation?
I know that if you’ve been reading me at all, you’ve heard this enough, but forgive me, it’s too late to stop now: I think the member-owned social-media co-op we’re building at CoSocial offers a plausible glimpse of a resilient, fun, billionaire-proof social-media future. I’m an old guy but I’m as excited as a kid about this path forward.
This space · 2024 will be this blog’s 21st year of operation. No month has had fewer than three pieces and my hope is to do as well or better going forward. Not writing feels like not breathing.
During the latter half of 2023, I produced two large legal submissions in connection with my Uncle-Sam gig, well over 400 pages in total. They are stuffed full of confidential information and will be read by only a small handful of people, then forgotten. That makes me sad, but producing them was still fun.
Back in 2018, I wrote enough Song of the Day pieces to fill a half-year’s days, and enjoyed it a lot. Most of the material was old; I was mining my own personal musical journey. Nothing wrong with that.
But these last few years, I’ve been listening to lots of new music and, once Uncle Sam has settled down, I’ll play a variation: Music of the Day. Most of it will be new-ish or at least new to me. And up front, I confess that most of that is driven by YouTube Music guessing what Tim might like. So don’t let anyone tell you I’m against AI in the general case.
Happy 2024, and good luck! · We’re going to need it.