Cory Doctorow’s Keynote Address at SIGGRAPH 2011

Cory Doctorow was a keynote speaker at SIGGRAPH 2011, the annual conference on computer graphics, and one I’d like to attend someday. As you might expect, he talked about copyright, because hey, that’s his thing. And as he says, the stakes have never been higher.

We copy as often as we breathe; whenever we talk about moving digital information about, we’re actually copying it. In his presentation, he tries to answer these questions: What do we want make copyright do? How do we make copyright do that?

In the presentation, he lists what he calls “Doctorow’s Laws” of copyright:

  • Doctorow’s First Law: Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and they won’t give you the key, they didn’t put the lock there for your benefit.
  • Doctorow’s Second Law: Fame won’t guarantee fortune, but no one got rich by being obscure. (Cory cites Tim O’Reilly for this one)
  • Doctorow’s Third Law: Information doesn’t want to be free; people do.

It’s a worthwhile watch, especially if you’re a frequent user of digital devices and media (which I suspect most readers of this blog are).


Catching Cory Doctorow’s “For the Win” Book Launch Tonight

for the win

Once again, my friend and former co-worker (I worked at his startup, OpenCola, during “The Bubble”) Cory Doctorow is holding the Canadian launch of his latest novel, For the Win.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb about the book:

In the virtual future, you must organize to survive

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of “General Robotwalla.” In Shenzen, heart of China’s industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power—including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister’s people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once—a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

Imbued with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new generation.

The event takes place tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Merril Collection of the Lillian H. Smith building (a.k.a. “The Library”) at 239 College Street, just east of Spadina. Perhaps a post-launch visit to Caplansky’s is in order.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Cory Doctorow’s “Makers” Launch Tonight


My friend (and former officemate!) Cory Doctorow is launching his latest novel, Makers, tonight at the Toronto Public Library at 239 College Street (east of Spadina). The fun happens in the Merrill Collection room, located on the third floor at 7 p.m. tonight. Cory will be doing a reading, taking questions and signing books. There will be books for sale at the event courtesy of our local science fiction and fantasy bookstore, Bakka Phoenix.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb about the book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, a major novel of the booms, busts, and further booms in store for America

Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it.

Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work’s glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester’s 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s.

Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry’s friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the ‘fatkins’ treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo.

Then things get really interesting.

It should be noted that while 3-D printers of the sort in Cory’s novel are still the stuff of science fiction, simpler versions exist today. In fact, at the Hacklab, where I spend many a working day, we’ve got a MakerBot Industries “Cupcake” 3-D printer that can “print” plastic objects.

Here’s what the Cupcake looks like:


A computer connected to the Cupcake controls it. The big loop of plastic to the upper left of the machine is the material from which objects are printed. Here’s a closer look at its internals:


We have a small gallery of objects that were created using the Cupcake:


If you’d like one of your own, the fine folks at Makerbot Industries would be more than happy to sell you a kit.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


I Missed this Morning’s PDC Keynote…

…but I have a very good excuse. I was still in mid-flight from Toronto to L.A. because I attended Cory Doctorow’s wedding last night. It was a little bit magic show, a little bit Alice in Wonderland, a little bit steampunk and a lot of fun. Here’s a photo from last night:

Danny O'Brien, Cory Doctorow and Joey deVilla, in costume at Cory's Wedding

I’ll post more on the wedding sometime this week at my personal blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.