On technology and vulnerability


in Films and movies, Geek stuff, Security

The first episode of James Burke’s Connections is very thought provoking. It demonstrates the inescapable downside of Adam Smith‘s pin factory: while an assembly line can produce far more pins than individual artisans, each of the assembly line workers becomes unable to produce anything without the industrial network that supports their work.

See this prior entry on Burke’s series

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

tristan October 20, 2007 at 11:00 pm

It’s an excellent episode. Do you agree with Jared Diamond’s claim that farming was the worst invention we ever came up with?

Milan October 20, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Start four minutes and forty seconds into the episode, for maximum effect. The first phrase you should hear is:

“New York City, like all the other major high density population centres scattered across the Earth, is a technology island.”

Milan October 20, 2007 at 11:24 pm

Actually, for maximum impact:

Start with Part 3, at 2:37.

Milan October 21, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Do you agree with Jared Diamond’s claim that farming was the worst invention we ever came up with?

I don’t know if this is a question that can really be answered. Agriculture was the first enormous fork in human history. The sheer degree of difference between our world and one where it does not exist make it impossibly difficult to come up with a comparison. Without agriculture, we would be more like chimpanzees than like the present form of humanity.

Kerrie October 21, 2007 at 9:46 pm

-are you sure we wouldn’t be more like hunter-gatherer societies that exist today?

Anyways, Connections ROCKS MY WORLD. OMG, I should download some episodes.

Litty November 5, 2007 at 11:50 am

All three Connections documentaries are available in their entirety as DVD box sets.

Connections, Vol. 3
Connections, Vol. 2

Sounds like a good thing to buy, no?

. April 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm

April 21, 2008

This week in the magazine, Nick Paumgarten writes about the lives of elevators, and tells the story of Nicholas White, who was trapped in an elevator in New York City’s McGraw-Hill building for forty-one hours. Here is a condensed look at White’s ordeal, as captured by the building’s security cameras.

Milan February 22, 2009 at 9:20 pm

The original link in this post:


no longer works. Here is an updated one:


I changed the link in the original entry to reflect the new location.

. June 13, 2009 at 10:50 am

Immaculate Telegraphy

Could humans at any point in history, given the right information, construct an electronic communication network? To test this hypothesis, Substitute Materials will attempt to build a functional electric battery and telegraph switch from materials found in the wilderness, using no modern tools except information from the internet. The telegraph will be a first step towards an ahistorical internet.

Full-scale construction of the artifacts is currently underway in Mineral county, Montana.

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