Since starting my sideline in journalism I’ve written everything from conflict-zone reportage (a regularly mortared airbase in Iraq, a cocaine lab deep in the Colombian jungle, a Doctors Without Borders mission in Port-au-Prince’s slums, a journey outside the peacekeeper perimeter in eastern Congo) to tech-industry analysis in the style of Dr. Seuss. These days I mostly write about AI.
- Extropia’s Children
An epic seven-part series about the remarkable journey from an 1990s mailing list to the bleeding edge of AI tech culture today.
- How DALL-E Actually Works, plain English, no math
It’s important people understand how AI works. I mean, to the extent that anyone does.
- Language is our latent space
And latent space is Plato’s Cave.
- We Need To Talk About Deep Delving
Things have gotten kind of crazy in mining lately.
- All Aboard the Metaverse: Is the New Digital Frontier Unstoppable?
The Walrus, December 2021.
- Ursula Le Guin Taught Me Everything I Knew Was Wrong
The Walrus, January 2018.
- Chatbot Fail
The Walrus, April 2016.
- We’re All Going To Be Rich
Reader’s Digest, March 2010.
- Free Delivery: birth in the Americas’ poorest country
The Walrus, May 2008.
- In the Shadow of Doom
The Walrus, May 2006. About a killer lake in Central Africa.
- Wiring the War Zone
Wired, May 2005. I spent a week in Iraq researching two cipherpunks who travelled there after the war to reconnect the country to the Internet. A 4,000-word expansion of the piece, Blood, Bullets, Bombs and Bandwidth, found a readership on Slashdot.
- Magic Leap’s $2.6 billion bait and switc
May 2020: The mystery of Magic Leap’s rise and fall.
- What happens if a pandemic hits?
Feb 2020: I bury the lede, a declaration that a pandemic is coming — one of the earliest such in any publication.
- The infrastructural humiliation of America
Feb 2019: American infrastructure is a pathetic shambles.
- JIRA is an antipattern
Dec 2018: Very controversial and widely read among software engineers.
- At what point do we admit that geoengineering is an option?
Oct 2018: We do nobody any favors by pretending otherwise.
- Personal privacy vs. public security
May 2018: Privacy at scale, and that the latter is crucial to public security.
- Where have all the pilots gone?
Apr 2018: A meditation on dreams of flight.
- After the end of the startup era
Oct 2017: Another controversial and widely read piece, in which I argue the startup era is ending because the next suite of emerging technologies is far more suited to large, capital-intensive companies.
- Technology, complexity, anxiety, catastrophe
Sep 2017: How our new ubiquitous interconnectivity is not good for our souls, written in the second person present tense.
- Seven things I have learned about writing software
Aug 2017: The distillation of insights from my day job.
- Facebook is broken
Jun 2017: Because its focus on maximizing engagement leads to destructive second-order effects.
Jul 2016: The way in which our world is partitioned is arbitrary and we shouldn’t expect it to continue forever.
- This war on math is still bullshit
Mar 2016: Law enforcement’s attempts to compromise end-to-end encryption are ignorant and counterproductive.
- Why Bitcoin Matters
Jan 2016: Why magical Internet money beloved by sociopathic libertarians is, in fact, both important and good.
- I Do Not Want Your Stupid App
Oct 2015: Channeling Dr. Seuss to express universal frustration.
- Beware The Pretty People
Feb 2015: Tech has become a finishing school for the American upper classes, who take on the trappings of subversiveness while remaining fundamentally conformist.
- This Industry Is Still Completely Ridiculous
Jan 2015: Look, the mid-teens were a very strange time.
- Dear Clients, Please Stop: Ten Ways Founders Sabotage Themselves
Jun 2014: Don’t make the old boring mistakes. Make new and interesting ones.
- Enter The Blockchain: How Bitcoin Can Turn The Cloud Inside Out
Mar 2014: The decentralizing power of blockchain technology.
- This Industry Is Completely Ridiculous. Let’s Hope It Stays That Way
Mar 2014: A celebration of the tech industry’s Dadaist, subversive weirdness, and hope for its continuation.
- Such DFW. Very Orwell. So Doge. Wow.
Jan 2014: Language on the Internet, David Foster Wallace, and how both language and the nature of trust online is changing. An especially prescient piece, if I do say so myself.
- It’s A Wonderful Life, For A Few Of Us
Dec 2013: While Bay Area techies live in a new Belle Epoque, the rest of the world joins the precariat, and this tension will turn into a backlash.
- This Is Where The Magic Happens
Jun 2011: Reportage from Mombasa, Kenya, re the miracle of the physical Internet.
- Make.Money.Slow: The Bitcoin Experiment
May 2011: I write about Bitcoin for the first time, and am skeptical but also optimistic.
- Why The New Guy Can’t Code
May 2011: The many ways in which the tech industry’s interview processes are broken, and some alternatives.
- What’s wrong with Africa. Included in the textbook Canadian Content.
- Can A Video Game Make You Cry? Basically a paean to GTA IV.
- Fury, absurdity, sorcery: Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
- Time Travel Times Two: Jack Finney’s Time and Again
- Magic realism: not fantasy. Sorry.
- SF gems from the literary ghetto
- Burning With Desire. Black Rock City: a testbed for the real world?
- One Laptop Per Child: What Went Wrong. 1. It was a bad idea to begin with. 2. The XO laptop is a piece of crap.
- Big Brother Is Watching Them. OK? In which I reflect on being mugged.
- Better Dying Through Chemistry. How to ruin entire nations.
- The newly graphic novelist.
- The great book giveaway.
- Apocalypse Soon: the future of reading. Included n the classic Canadian textbook The Act of Writing.
- Genocide in L.A. isn’t really about genocide in L.A.
- But Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About What You Can Do For Me. Explains how not to write, and why NaNoWriMo is for suckers.