How and why to embrace the power of ignorance
Mike's List 254: Hand grenade keyboards, virtual sneakers, cat backpacks, dog-like robots and more!
While many people know all about consumer products, reality TV stars and pop music, 20% of Americans can't name a single branch of government. 70% can't name a single living scientist. And half of Americans can't name a single Supreme Court Justice.
In the 20th Century and before, knowledge was rare and hard to get. If you didn't read books, seek out information and actively learn, you simply didn't have knowledge. You were generally ignorant.
The absence of good information was no information.
We live in a different world now.
Now, social media, advertising and ubiquitous media push information at us from every direction. It's not information that serves us. It serves the pushers. Just showing up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok means that the information starts flowing. Browsing the web gives you not only what you're searching for, but advertising galore. Same with TV. Driving down the street exposes you to an ever growing amount of advertising content.
Our motivations for seeking knowledge are being hacked in an increasingly asymmetrical battle over our attention. Billions of dollars per year are being poured into science and engineering designed to exploit our brains to make us crave the next nugget of useless content. Year after year, the machines get better at using us. We're the targets of a global effort to grab our attention, and we're often not even aware that it's happening. Even on TV, news has been replaced with polarizing, grand-standing talking heads who grab attention by vilifying those "other people," leading viewers to see politics as good guys vs. bad guys and have no useful information about policy or platform.
Today, the absence of good information results in you learning bad information automatically and by default.
If we do nothing, our heads will be filled with junk content. The amount of time we spend being spoon-fed garbage information will grow. That's why so many people today know all about the TikTok "influencer" of the moment, but can't find China on a map.
We live in a theoretical information utopia. We can read just about any book, take any of thousands of university courses from Harvard and MIT and others, learn how to do anything on YouTube, use Google Search to find out just about anything.
A million years of ignorance caused by the scarcity of information is over. Now, the main barrier to good knowledge is a media and advertising landscape that overwhelms us and consumes our time and attention with bad knowledge.
It's time to realize that blocking junk content, avoiding the algorithms that seek to hook you, is something of an art and a skill to cultivate.
In other words, we have to cultivate ignorance on a wide range of pointless subjects in order to be knowledgeable about useful and interesting subjects.
So how do we remain ignorant of useless information?
Mike’s List of Brilliantly Bad Ideas
2. Hand-grenade keyboards
Some maker maniac named Dan Bostian created an alternative keyboard that looks like a hand grenade. It has basic keys you can map to the characters of your choice. The design requires you to pull the grenade’s pin and lift the lever to switch on the keyboard. He even provided detailed instructions on Github so you can build your own. Good luck with airport security.
2. Sneakers that don’t exist for sale
An "NFT-based fashion brand" called CryptoKickers, which claims to design "Footwear for the New World," signed NBA basketball player Wilson Chandler to the first-ever "virtual shoe deal." The partnership yesterday "released" 21 pairs of "Wilson Chandler 1s" virtual sneakers that you can buy for around $44 a pair. Even before the NBA tie-in, CryptoKickers sold more than 300 pairs of virtual shoes at prices exceeding $3,000. My God, this is dumb.
3. Cat backpacks
A wool felt product company in Japan called Cat Production Pico is freaking everyone out with these super realistic-looking cat backpacks. Why, Japan? Why?
4. Robots that act like dogs
Robot scientists at Aachen University in Germany working have discovered a better approach than making robots act like humans. They make them act like puppies. In a recent paper, the researchers programmed a robot arm to communicate five states to the human user, including 1) greetings; 2) prompting the user to take part; 3) waiting for a command; 4) an "error condition"; 5) shutting down. They did this by copying the body language of dog puppies. As a result, they found, people both recognized the gestures and also preferred them over more abstract gestures. Let’s hope they don’t teach the robots to pee on the carpet.
Mike’s List of Shameless Self Promotion
Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:
All about attack surface management (and how to achieve it)
Why security pros can’t ignore big data monopolies
What is good cybersecurity governance in health care?
Spending on IoT devices can help cut IT costs
Why Amazon’s home robot sounds like a terrible idea
What you need to know about the new world of social media
A primer on Agile collaboration
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