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In reply to: Tech issues: The myth of inevitable technological progress - Vox

Technologists’ desire to make a parallel to evolution is flawed at its very foundation. Evolution is driven by random mutation — mistakes, not plans. (And while some inventions may indeed be the result of mishaps, the decision of a company to patent, produce, and market those inventions is not.) Evolution doesn’t have meetings about the market, the environment, the customer base. Evolution doesn’t patent things or do focus groups. Evolution doesn’t spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress to ensure that its plans go unfettered.

Bandai cracked the wearable tech code in 1996

Also, what do you call more than one Tamagotchi? Tamagotchis, Tamagotchi, Tamagotchus, Tamagotchya?

This is a response to an article from The Next Webs, What designers need to make wearable tech exciting again,” which is itself sort of a response to two articles, one on The Verge, and another in Forbes.


Were Tamagotchis wearable tech?

I think so, and I’d argue they got this whole wearable tech thing right! Wearable technology isn’t necessarily about sensors and personal metrics, and the term wearable” could be a misnomer. Maybe it isn’t about the technology being wearable, rather it is about its being unobtrusive enough to carry with you everywhere you go—it is about having a relationship with the tech—it is about devices that listen.

Whereas responsive” web design is the new standard, maybe responsive” technology is a better term than wearable technology. By responsivity, however, I mean something more like listening.” A responsive website can refactor to the device on which it is being rendered. A responsive website responds to the device on which it is displayed—wearable tech responds, or listens to the person who is wearing or using it…and does so in a manner tailored specifically to that person. Tamagotchi(s?) did this upside down by forcing their users to respond to their, the Tamagotchi’s, specific, seemingly unique, needs, and wishes. Perhaps fitness tracking wearables aren’t the end-all-be-all of wearable tech because they don’t do anything new? Folks have been exercising, and even charting their exercise for a lot longer than iPhones, touch screens, Bluetooth, and sensors have been around. The experience of exercising is one that isn’t dependent on, or even that enhanced, or enchanted by wearable technology. I think the key to wearable tech is in generating new experiences, or creating new relationships. That being the case, Bandai cracked the wearable tech code with Tamagotchi. So, what do designers need to make wearables exciting again? Designers need to look to Teddy Bears, action figures, dolls, and security blankets when designing wearable technology. They need to look at toys and those other objects that people, be they children or adult, form relationships with. Because most adults aren’t as freely able to connect with, and imaginatively animate inanimate objects as are children, designers need to create devices that form the relationship with their users…their people. When relationships are formed with a device, even if that device isn’t the most useful thing in the world (i.e. a Tamagotchi), people will be willing, and happy to carry or even wear that device wherever they go.

I originally posted this on Medium, May 19th 2014. It is a wee bit dated, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Tamagotchi lately, and thought it was time to liberate the piece from Medium.

Learning Luesday, Blockchain

Learning Luesday, wherein I set out to learn something new on a Tuesday, or thereabouts.

What the heck is blockchain…the blockchain…a blockchain!?

I first encountered the concept of a blockchain in 2013 or 14 when I started to fool around with Bitcoin and when I met a fellow involved with Common Accord on an airplane. I’ve since been well-aware of blockchain as a…design paradigm?…fad?…phenomenon?…tech-term? but haven’t ever really actually delved into what it is or how it works.

Here I go!

Firstly, blockchain ≠ bitcoin. Bitcoin uses a blockchain.

Blockchain is to Bitcoin, what the internet is to email. A big electronic system, on top of which you can build applications. A blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records.

While there is no reason that I can find why a blockchain couldn’t be used as a general datastore, blockchains are most useful as transaction databases, or ledgers because they maintain a full copy of every transaction/update ever to take place on the chain.

A blockchain is comprised of many blocks, and a block is roughly equivalent to a record in a database. At a bare minimum, each block contains some data, a timestamp, a hash, and a previous hash.

The first block in the chain is sometimes called the genesis block. The genesis block is the only block in the chain that doesn’t directly reference any other blocks because it doesn’t contain a previous hash. There is a whole rabbit hole here about genesis blocks, but for the time being I’m going to stick with they’re special” and move on.

So far I’ve groked more or less everything I’ve learned because it has mapped pretty well to my existing understanding of various datastores. Now, however, I’m wadding into territory unknown 👻

ʎɥdɐɹboʇdʎɹɔ and timestamps

Whereas one typically writes data to a database on an as needed basis, and each new entry takes up a new row, new data is written to a block on a blockchain in timed intervals, e.g. a block is created, and for 10 minutes all data posted to the blockchain is written to that block, after 10 minutes a new block is created, and the previous one closed.”

In someone else’s words: When a digital transaction is carried out, it is grouped together in a cryptographically protected block with other transactions that have occurred in the last 10 minutes and sent out to the entire network.”

Once a block is closed, members of the network are able to validate the transaction. The transaction is validated by solving (decrypting) what is ostensibly a difficult math problem. This is called proof of work. Only after it is validated is a block timestamped, assigned a hash, and added to the blockchain. The hash assigned to a validated block is then used to create the next block and the process starts over again.

Wait? But how is the next block created using the previous hash?

…I’m obviously no expert yet, but I feel like I have a (slightly) deeper understanding of what the heck the blockchain is.