One of the most talked-about startups came out of the shadows this week, as The Venice Project revealed itself to the world as Joost. The company invited The Reg to its West End offices for a demonstration and a chat with CEO Fredrik de Wahl.
Joost is an interactive, IP-based TV software system from the people who brought you Kazaa and Skype, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, considerably richer after the $2.6bn purchase of the telephony start-up by eBay.
The parallels with the founders’ earlier projects are hard to miss. Joost is P2P PC software; it’s free to download and use and requires no special hardware; it’s based on proprietary software; and the technology is cooler than the business case.
The most striking similarity, however, is that it challenges incumbents’ delivery systems. What Kazaa did to music distribution and Skype did to telephony, Joost wants to do for TV.
Continue reading “Joost – the new, new TV thing”
BBC TV’s venerable science flagship, Horizon, has had a rough ride as it tries to gain a new audience. It’s been accused of “dumbing down”. That’s nothing new – it’s a criticism often leveled at it during its 42 year life.
But instead of re-examing its approach, the series’ producers have taken the bold step of abandoning science altogether. This week’s film, “Human v2.0”, could have been made for the Bravo Channel by the Church of Scientology. The subject at hand – augmenting the brain with machinery – was potentially promising, and the underlying question – “what makes a human?” – is as fascinating as ever. Nor is the field short of distinguished scientists, such as Roger Penrose, or philosophers, such as Mary Midgley, who’ve made strong contributions.
Yet Horizon unearthed four cranks who believed that thanks to computers, mankind was on the verge of transcending the physical altogether, and creating “God” like machines.
“To those in the know,” intoned the narrator, “this moment has a name.” (We warned you it was cult-like, but it gets worse).
It’s not hard to find cranks – the BBC could just as readily have found advocates of the view that the earth rests on a ring of turtles – and in science, yesterday’s heresy often becomes today’s orthodoxy. But it gets there through a well-established rigorous process – not through unsupported assertions, confusions, and errors a five-year old could unpick.
Continue reading “With Horizon, the BBC abandons science”