Aaron Swartz and the Year of Invisible Computing


By Yonatan Gordon

During the articles I wrote about Aaron shortly after his passing, I came up with the term “open source idealism” as a signpost to keep in mind when I think of him. Although I’ve written many things since then, and many before, I still consider those two articles to be the two most personally moving ones I’ve ever written.

It’s not because I almost didn’t write them (which is true), but that the pain and anguish I felt at the time came as if out of nowhere. It was obvious that there was some soul connection, which till day, I can’t fully explain. He felt like family, the family I never knew that I had.

As we are approaching the one year mark, instead of writing more about the past, I thought it would be most fitting to write about the continuation of his dream. He was clearly a young man who was living ahead of his time; and whether people realize it yet today, in the not-too-distant future this will become more clear.

I summed up 2013 in technology as a Year of Leaping. Not just because the Leap Motion hand gesture device came out, but because “leaping” was the most prized commodity this past year. So much so that it led to the person who marketed the “leap” the most, Elon Musk, to be named businessperson of the year by Fortune Magazine.

But in recent weeks we’ve already started to transition over to a new level. We are no longer satisfied with leaping from one product to the next, but we have begun leaping from the product altogether! As I began to explain when speaking about Elon Musk’s “first principles” thinking, of Amazon’s drone delivery, the attraction begin and ends with the idea. Whether the actual product gets developed (i.e., whether drones fly the skies) is secondary to the idea being presented. Amazon is saying that they care about this concept called “instantaneous delivery” whether the FAA allows it or not. So too, when Musk rolls out the latest Telsa Motors electric car model, he shows that he cares for the environment, sustainable energy, etc… even if the market segment today is still much smaller than gasoline-operated cars.

There is a recent article from the BBC entitled “Why computers of the next digital age will be invisible” about how the next generation of computing devices will be hidden from one’s line of vision. But along the lines of Musk’s “first principles” thinking (or for those familiar, Simon Sinek’s “why”), we can already go a “generation beyond” this BBC article and say that technology itself is outdated. (This is something I explained in “Hebrew Letters and the Future of Language,” about how packets of information are best communicated telepathically through the Hebrew Letters, than they are using internet lines.)

What then will 2014 bring in technology? We are already beginning to see it.

It used to be for Steve Jobs to get people to show up to his speeches, he had to hold the latest product in hand. But now, the media is showing up to cover stories like the Amazon Drone, long before the launch date (if it even happens at all). But while Simon Sinek speaks about how every company needs to hold tight to that vision or dream behind what they do, we are beginning to transition past the dependency on the product entirely. According to his “why, how, what” model … What happens if a company never gets to the “what” (e.g., the product) but only the why?

With these thoughts in mind, I am calling 2014 the Year of Invisibility. Implicit in the word “invisibility” is the revelation of a deeper layer of vision. There are two ways to approach the changes that we are now experiencing:

1) Either we are beginning to view technology as something we need to make hidden (to the extent that we even begin to bypass it. The Prophet says that in the times before Mashiach, the thirst will not be for material things, but for the knowledge of God. It’s not the products, but the knowledge behind the products.

2) We are beginning to see the world itself as the manifestation of a Divine programming language. The story is told how at the end of his life, Rabbi Shneur Zalman looked up at the ceiling and said he no longer saw the beam, but the Divine nothingness that creates it.

Those who are familiar with Aaron’s life, can find the parallels between the above text, and the ideals he devoted his life for. In our search for an “open internet,” we are beginning to open ourselves to a world of possibilities beyond the internet that we have helped develop.

Aaron Swartz

Photo: Top: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131204-why-computers-will-be-invisible, Middle: Wikipedia, Bottom: NYmag.


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