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    This whole meditation is excellent, and this is something I both didn’t know, and is extremely relevant for everyone in our industry, especially those of use who are highly skilled:

    There are those who say that denying the rights of surveillance capitalists and other trillion-dollar multinationals to their (pie minus tiny slice that trickles down to us) is modern-day Luddism.

    It’s a better analogy than they realise. Luddites, and contemporary protestors, were not anti-technology (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-the-luddites-really-fought-against-264412/) Many were technologists, skilled machine workers at the forefront of the industrial revolution. What they protested against was the use of machines to circumvent labour laws and to produce low-quality goods that were not reflective of their crafts. The gig economies, zero-hours contracts, and engagement drivers of their day.

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      I’m reminded of this quote from Isaac Asimov:

      It is a mistake,” he said, “ to suppose that the public wants the environment protected or their lives saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will fight for such ends. What the public wants is their own individual comfort. We know that well enough from our experience in the environmental crisis of the twentieth century. Once it was well known that cigarettes increased the incidence of lung cancer, the obvious remedy was to stop smoking, but the desired remedy was a cigarette that did not cause cancer. When it became clear that the internal-combustion engine was polluting the atmosphere dangerously, the obvious remedy was to abandon such engines, and the desired remedy was to develop non-polluting engines.

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        “Bicycle for the mind” was not a promise. It was a marketing phrase to sell computers.

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              Hah, nice.

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              It is none the less an evocative metaphor, and not entirely bullshit either: early personal computers were much more like bicycles. Bicycles require your participation: you can’t just sit there, you have to pedal. Once you have obtained one, you don’t need to keep buying fuel, just occasional lubricant. Bicycle components are largely standardized and “user-serviceable” with a handful of standard tools. I have put many good bikes together from quality used parts scrounged from local shops. It’s fairly easy to learn how to build and maintain bicycles, especially relative to automobiles. If you’re attentive, the machine itself will teach you.

              But, bicycles are a relatively mature technology that has evolved through the 19th and 20th centuries. For example, the now stereotypical diamond frame was originally called the “safety” bicycle, as it didn’t pitch the rider headfirst as easily as the “ordinary” high-wheelers. And when thinking of bicycles as urban infrastructure, especially in the US, one must face the history of political influence and propaganda wielded by the automobile (and petroleum) industry.

              I think that there are more interesting parallels between transportation and computing than will fit in a blog post, let alone a Lobsters comment.

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              The comment form on the site doesn’t seem to work, so here’s what I would have commented if I could:

              A brief correction:

              The phrase ‘bicycle for the mind’ doesn’t come from 1990, but was actually said by Alan Kay in a lecture in 1981 or 1982 according to folklore.org; ‘bicycle’ was one of the proposed release names for the Macintosh because of this (although they ended up releasing it under its code name in the end) after Raskin left the project and Jobs took over. The phrase ‘bicycle for the mind’ was used a lot in internal Macintosh-related marketing-type materials because of this. (It seems to be an extension of Kay’s usual set of examples of how tool use influences thinking, but as far as I can tell he didn’t use that exact metaphor elsewhere.)

              As you suggested looking back to 1990, I suggested (for basically the same reason) looking back to around 1976 & looking at the kinds of ideas floating around at PARC. (We can go back even earlier & look at what ARC was doing in the 1960s: Engelbart is at least as responsible for the development & promotion of the idea of computer-as-mind-amplifier as Kay is, hence the name of his group.)

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                If you mean this story on folklore, it still says it’s a Steve Jobs quote. I accept that it puts the date to pre-1984, but don’t believe my thesis changes: we don’t want to give people 1982 or 1981 computers and say “this is better, you have to think harder” any more than we would for 1990 computers.

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                  I was thinking of this one but I seem to have misremembered how specific it was about the ‘bicycle’ metaphor. (It seems clear one way or another that the meat of the metaphor comes from PARC, even if Jobs came up with the ultimate form. It’s unclear whether it came from Kay’s lecture here or if Raskin brought it over at the project’s genesis.)

                  The reason it’s worth pointing at a PARC origin is that the smalltalk machines present ways in which computers can be mind-amplifiers, & comparing smalltalk environments to the Macintosh is very instructive as a result (from the perspective of somebody interested in UI & user empowerment).