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James Smith

Building a better future out of code

The Best of 2014

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I’ve seen a few personal reviews of 2014 around the net, so I thought I’d write one to get back into the writing habit. Here are my favourite things from the last year:


“Figure It Out” by Royal Blood

You simply cannot argue with this track, it’s brilliant. The guitar bit at the end is quite simply one of the most rockingest things ever. After hearing it on the radio just once, I bought my album of the year…


“Royal Blood” by Royal Blood

Just the best bit of guitar-based music I’ve heard in ages. Amazing riffs, raw power. It’s impossible to play this too loud; if it’s too loud, you’re too old.


Guardians of the Galaxy

I don’t get to the cinema much, and I missed loads this year I wanted to see, but Guardians was just so much fun. I absolutely loved it. What Marvel are doing with their cinematic universe is nothing short of amazing, really, though I imagine we’ll all be sick of superheroes by the end of it.


“Rebooting Democracy” by Manuel Arriaga

A fantastic tour of things that could fix our democratic systems, and which are already working elsewhere in the world. Inspiring, and well worth a read. Concise, too; no Piketty-sized tomes here. Future Perfect by Steve Johnson was a close second - you should read that too.


Seriously? Some of the other roundup articles I read had restaurants of the year. I have children; I barely remember what restaurants are like without soft play areas in them.


Rosetta/Philae at Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P)

Landing a probe on a comet was an incredible achievement. It’s a brilliant reminder that when humanity aspires to greatness, we are an amazing species that can do anything, and that our future will be incredible if we can only get there.

Political Moment

Estonia offering e-residency over the Internet

I think we might look back at this as a pivotal moment in the evolution of the nation state. I love how Estonia are creating a truly modern digital country. I’d read the hell out of a book all about it, if only someone would write one.


“I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”, by Tom Stuart

OK, a transcript of a talk rather than an article:

I’ve come to realise that the point at which you reach actual adulthood and freedom is when you realise that everyone is just making up life as they go along, and proceeding in the same kind of accidental random walk as you are. I find that very very freeing, personally. Nobody else has a plan either, so they’ve got no right to look down on any of yours. Anyone who looks like they know what’s going on is just putting on a facade.


Elon Musk

Tough competition here, with many other worthy people doing amazing things, but Musk’s opening of the Tesla patents tips him over the top for me. He’s fixing the future with electric vehicles and space travel, and sharing his knowledge with the world. Inspiring stuff.

So, come on 2015, how you going to beat that lot? Bring it.


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