Emergence – Steven Johnson

Wow, note to self: never write a book about the internet, the near future, or any kind of technological speculation. You just can’t ever predict what will or won’t happen.

On that note this book from 2001, didn’t age very well. Some of it’s predictions never came true, while other things heralded as the the next big thing have already come and gone.

But those are just unfortunate side-effects of writing about technology. The subject matter is still just as fascinating today as it was 10 years ago, and it seems it still hasn’t been explored and exploited enough, even though scientists have been studying the emergence phenomenon for years.

In science some headway has been made in understanding the self-assembly and self-organization of some biological systems. But in the tech sector, we are only now seriously beginning to use the logic of emergence for things like neural nets, pattern recognition, face tracking and learning networks.

The full title is Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. And the author does a reasonably good, thought not very deep, job on the first two or three points, but it’s the last part where too much speculation makes the book more of a sociological artifact on how people perceived the future of tech 10 years ago, than giving any real insight into software and technology. Thought as I said some of the broader implications of emergence are only now gaining wide adoption and watching little dots on a screen self-assemble without any explicit instructions to do so, is just as amazing today as it was then.

This book has been on my to read list for a while. Guess I should have gotten to it earlier.

Indie Game: The Movie

Wow. So so so good. I left the theater inspired. As documentaries go, this one is quite good. Quite a lot more drama, and life journey/development than one might expect from a film following a bunch of developers around. You’d think there would be a bunch of shots of a stack of coke cans, while a dirty bearded hunched-over guy stares at a screen. There is some of that, but really it’s much more about the personal journeys these guys go through while trying to follow their passion in the face of quite a few obstacles. Many of them quite a bit more dramatic than you would expect from some guys just making a game.

I guess you just forget or are ignorant of just how much blood, sweat and tears goes into something like this. And just how many people or circumstances out there are against you. But what is amazing is that in spite of all that they succeed! It is a documentary so not all is well and good, but overall their journeys are inspiring.

The film is 94 minutes long, and that may seem like a lot for a documentary for some people, but I really wished it was longer, not because the arc of the story felt unfinished, it did, but because I wished they had time to follow more people. Each of the teams they follow has such a unique story to tell, that I just wanted more. Fortunately the website has more footage, they did film more people they just didn’t make the theatrical release. And they will soon be selling a DVD, and a special edition DVD with even more content. So I might just get my wish.

Get more info, including when and where the film will be playing on their website – www.indiegamethemovie.com

Oh, and another thing. The whole thing is a kickstarter project. Which just makes the whole thing that much more awesome. I wish I had known about it when they were collecting $$, I would have contributed.


“It’s an unexpectedly expansive view for New York. New Yorkers don’t sentimentalize, though. They simply note the sight with appropriately jaded detachment.”

Sodium Dreams