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The Wired Magazine curse strikes again

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Following in the illustrious footsteps of Enron, Vivendi Universal / Vizzavi and Iridium. The DARPA Grand Challenge fell victim to the curse of the eight-page spread in Wired Magazine.

What is the Grand Challenge?

The Grand Challenge was a way of DARPA (America’s military think-tank who supported the development of the graphical user interface for computers, the development of packet networks and the ARPAnet (the Internet’s granddaddy)) to get ideas on the best way to develop driverless vehicles (ensuring that the Private Lynch fiasco could not happen again).

What went wrong?

An assortment of vehicles were going to navigate without human help from Bakersfield to Las Vegas. The event was feted as a true geek sporting event by intelligent techie site IT Conversations.

Unfortunately the vehicles underperformed with the best only managing to get seven miles down the road. Hopefully the lessons learned will be worth the considerable resources thrown at the problem.

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Are we too complex?

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Are we too complex is a post that I originally wrote on the now defunct Alwayson Network regarding the thoughts of Dan Geer on complexity in technology.

Dan’s ideas are interesting because they make sense to the man in the street. For instance the more complex you make something, the more likely it is to go wrong. This makes sense whether it is a sophisticated mechanical device or a piece of software. I looped his thinking into my own because I believe there is a ‘sweet spot’ for technology sophistication and usability Videoplus remote controls, pre-Symbian Nokia phones, Palm Vx and the iPod occupy the sweet spot. Most PC software and operating systems probably don’t.

Dan points out that our ability to use computers as individuals is not increasing as the same rate as computing power and storage. For the past seven years I surfed the web. listened to music and churned out documents on behalf of my clients. The only difference is now that I use a more powerful Unix based workstation laptop (my Apple iBook) to do the same thing. What’s the point? I am not more efficient or effective.