MIT Media Lab Colloquium Wednesday 5 May @ 4:30 PM
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 95 13:53:51 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: MIT Media Lab Colloquium Wednesday 5 May @ 4:30 PM
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
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Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 15:43:57 -0700
MEDIA LAB COLLOQUIUM
Wednesday 3 May 1995
4:30 - 6:00 PM
Refreshments 4:15 PM
MIT Bldg E15
20 Ames Street
Hunter S. Negroponte
President, Boozenhookers, Inc.
Founder of MIRED Magazine
GENERATION OF BITS
Tales of shame and degradation in the Big Idea Lab
Too Many Bits
The other day I was thanking my good friend Former President Bush
(or ``George'' as I call him) for pulling some strings to get my
brother out of that Iran-Contra mess, and he asked me if I knew any
hot technologies he could sink his Presidential Pension into. In my
opinion, the smart money is on filters. It's getting so you can't
read Usenet without seeing that ``Dave Jordan'' Ponzi letter
followed by forty replies from dickless wannabes threatening to
mail-bomb the poster's sysadmin for the ``innapropriate post.'' Of
course, I personally have my staff of Elegant British Women pre-edit
my .newsrc for me (God how I envy the British), but that option is
not open to the unwired masses outside the Media Lab.
One way to eliminate the blather while keeping the First Amendment
intact is to create active ``Filter Agents,'' as I like to call
them, that presort my Netnews articles and eliminate the tiresome
pseudo-commercial posts. Can you imagine what the net's raw content
will look like when all the half-literate morons in the U.S. can
publish any text that their tiny minds ooze? The very thought makes
me want to refill my glass with the '56 Chateau Lafite. America's
Intelligentsia will need some serious Digital Butlers guarding our
Offramp on the Digital Highway's Mailing Lists (damn metaphors) when
this comes to pass.
The Big Lie
Media Lab critics (there have been a few) have occasionally
questioned the practical application of our work. Well, have you
heard about the Holographic Television? No longer a device found
only in the back of comic books, we've actually made this sucker
work. An honest-to-god motion-picture hologram, produced in the
Media Lab basement on a 2000 pound holography table by computers,
lasers and mirrors spinning at 30,000 RPM. It's real! It works! Life
Magazine even came in to photograph it in action (of course, they
had to fill the room with smoke so the lasers would show up on
film). Practical application? Sure, it requires a 2000 pound
air-suspended rock table and a Connection Machine II to run, but
hell, everyone knows the price of computing power and 2000 pound
rock tables is cut in half every year. My point, however, is more
mundane: we have created a demo literally from smoke and mirrors,
and the Corporate World bought it. Even my good friend Penn (or
``Penn,'' as I call him) Jillette would be proud.
In fact, I'm a few points up on Penn. You may have heard of the
Interactive Narrative work that is proceeding in the lab. Folks,
I'll be honest with you for a moment. I know as well as you do that
it's a stinking load of horseshit. Roger Ebert said ``Six thousand
years ago sitting around a campfire a storyteller could have stopped
at any time and asked his audience how they wanted the story to come
out. But he didn't because that would have ruined the story.'' You
think Hollywood would have learned this lesson from the monster
``success'' that Clue, the Movie enjoyed several years ago. But no!
I've repackaged the ``Choose your own Adventure'' novels of
childhood as Digital Information SuperHighway Yadda Yadda crap, and
again, they bought it! Sony right this minute is building an
interactive movie theater, with buttons the audience can push to
amuse themselves as the story progresses. Dance for me, Corporate
America! I'm SHIT-HOT!
Why, just the other day I listened to a member of my staff explain
to potential sponsors that we had spent \$US 4,000,000 of Japanese
sponsor dollars to construct a widescreen version of ``I Love Lucy''
from the original source. And HE SAID IT WITH A STRAIGHT FACE! CAN
YOU FUCKING BELIEVE THAT? Boy, I bet those Nips wish they had their
money back now! Earthquake? No, we can't do much to rebuild your
city, but we SURE AS HELL can give you a 1.66:1 cut of Lucy to fit
all those busted HDTVs of yours! HA HA HA!
A Sucker Born
Last week I was off the coast of Greece on my yacht ``Nippo-bux'' (I
put the ``raft'' in ``graft,'' as I always say) with my close
personal friend Al (``Al'') Gore. He asked me ``Nick--er, Hunter,
how do you do it? You maintain a research staff of, in the words of
Albert Meyer [an underfunded Course VI professor], `Science Fiction
Charlatans,' yet you never fail to rake in monster sponsor bucks? I
could fund Hillary's socialized medicine boondoggle in an instant if
I had that kind of fiscal pull.''
I told him that it's merely a matter of understanding our sponsor's
needs. Our sponsors are represented by middle-aged middle-managers
who need three things: Booze, good hotels, and hookers. Keep 'em
busy with free trips and the slick dog and pony shows, provide them
with pre-written notes for their upper-managment, and the money will
keep rolling in.
Do I worry that one day some sponsor will wake up and say ``Wait a
minute--what the hell did I do last night? Did I shell out a million
bucks to fund a LEGO Chair in the Media Lab? Tequila!'' Over the
years I've learned not to care. I could pull the cigar out of W.C.
Field's mouth and sell it back to him at a profit. And he'd thank me
for the deal. I'm that goddamn good.
By the way, if you enjoyed this article, you can read it again in my
upcoming book: Being Gonzo -- Life on the Digital Information
SuperHighway Fast Lane. Buy one now.
Next week: Nicholas Negroponte and Michael Hawley (X-Consortium Asst
Prof Of Comp Sci & Media Tech) elaborate on their open letter to Newt
Gingrich in the May 1995 issue of WIRED:
"Dear Newt, ... Alvin and Heidi Toffler are dandy advisors; good for
you for listening to them! ... The Library of Congress is a giant
dumpster full of atoms ... "
© 1995 Peter Langston