Mar 15, 2020
Mu: The first 6 years

Over the last few months I've written up in one place the entire argument for—and comprehensive description of—what I've been working on since 2014. It will be published in the proceedings of the Convivial Computing Salon. From the call for submissions:

In Tools for Conviviality [1973], Ivan Illich said, “I choose the term ‘conviviality’ to designate the opposite of industrial productivity… Tools foster conviviality to the extent to which they can be easily used, by anybody, as often or as seldom as desired, for the accomplishment of a purpose chosen by the user… People need new tools to work with rather than tools that work ‘for’ them.”

We were promised bicycles for the mind, but we got aircraft carriers instead. We believe Illich’s critique of the damage to society from technology escalation offers a fresh perspective from which to discuss the pathologies of modern software development, and to seek better alternatives.

An inspiring theme. My response: “Bicycles for the mind have to be see-through.” Get it? When I look over at my bicycle I can see right through its frame. I can take in at a glance how the mechanism works, how the pedals connect up with the wheels, and how the wheels connect up with the brakes. And yet, when we try to build bicycles for the mind, we resort to “hiding” and “abstraction”. I think this analogy has a lot more power than we credit, a lot more wisdom to impart if we only let it in. I think conviviality requires tools with exposed mechanisms that reward curiosity.

I've been trying to falsify this hypothesis for 6 years. There are still large gaps to investigate, but so far it's holding up. Read on → [pdf; 25 pages]

Comments gratefully appreciated. Please send them to me by any method of your choice and I'll include them here.

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