Never Let Me Go, Design Expo Meeting

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I woke up kind of early (for a Sunday). 11am-ish. But didn’t really get moving until about 1pm. Went down to Cosi for a Ceasar salad and read the first chapter of Never Let Me Go, the new Kazuo Ishiguro book my dad gave me while I was in Austin. I don’t really know much about the book at this point — which is how I want it — but fifteen pages in it’s surreally off-kilter. In a touching way. Donors and carers. A mysterious world-renowned boarding school. A boy who cracks up crying and screaming at the slightest provocation. So far so good.

Anyway, one of the fascinating things about the novel is the book jacket. It’s a blurry, slightly yellowed (almost Poloroidish) photograph of a you girl sitting in the scrambled green of a wild, grassy meadow. She looks over her shoulder back at the earth with an ambiguous expression. The cover feels like a Boards of Canada album cover — probably part of the attraction. Especially in conjunction with the title, which has a kind of striking simple power to it.

Here’s the weird thing. Connecting this to Boards of Canada and other thoughts… It feels like a photograph of the future. I don’t think it’s supposed to be, but the photo — like the better Boards of Canada tracks — strike me oddly because they feel like reminiscences about the future, which in a twisting way seem like they could be almost as touching as reminiscences about the past… Blurry, somewhat unfocused echoes rippling backwards through time. The future inside the present. Etc.

Hard to explain, I think. But, anyway. Free-associations.

So after reading the start of this book over a Caesar salad and a rootbeer, I went down to ITP for my 3pm Design Expo group meeting with Dan Albritton, Tikva Morowati, Steven Jackson, and Ran Tao. Our assignment: brainstorm three applications that would be useful in a world in the near future of near ubiquitous data transmission and small physical tech. At least, that’s how I convinced the group to look at the problem. “Imagine you can get data from anywhere to anywhere. Perfect 100%. And imagine you needed no device to do this — it just came to you (or left you) in some mysterious way.” Telepathy came up. It’s like telepathy. Which fits with the Ray Kurzweil gem: “Any technology suitably powerful is indistinguishable from magic.”

This is a thought technique I’m becoming used to using: Everything we do and use has certain limitations. What if they didn’t exist? What does that lead to. Interesting stuff, often, and a bit easier for me to feel comfortable working with since I know I’m not prepared to do much of the grunt work making the bandwidth of the network effectively infinite or making the network effectively ubiquitous. More technical minds have to conquer those.

This meeting lasted until after 8pm. A five-hour meeting. But really good. Good discussion.

Came home, cranked out some updates to Skillbot and chatted with Ilteris about it. Got him signed up and trying it out.

Now I lay across my bed, typing. Watching Cheers reruns. Kevin looks like he’s about to go to bed, so I guess I’ll have to turn off the TV… Shucks.