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A radical dream for making techno utopias a reality CUPERTINO Calif. -- Balaji Srinivasan opened his Y Combinator startup school talk with a joke: Is the US the Microsoft of nations? The question was received warmly by the crowd of more than 1,700 and did in fact have a logical conclusion: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, were exactly what Bill Gates feared when he said in 1998 that two people in a garage working on something new was Microsoft's biggest threat. What ties those two seams together? The idea of techno-utopian spaces -- new countries even -- that could operate beyond the bureaucracy and inefficiency of government. It's a decision that hinges on exiting the current system, as Srinivasan terms it from the realm of political science, instead of using one's voice to reform from within, the very way Page and Brin decided to found their search giant instead of seek out ways in which the then-current tech titans could solve new problems.Related stories:Reddit co-founders reunite at HipmunkTwitter patches flaw that ran rampantFacebook buys photo service DivvyshotCalling his radical-sounding proposal "Silicon Valley's Ultimate Exit," Srinivasan thinks that these limitless spaces, popularly postulated by Page at this year's Google I/O, are already being created, thanks to technology and a desire to exit. Ultimately, the Stanford lecturer and co-founder of Counsyl, a genetics startup, thinks Silicon Valley could lead the charge in exiting en masse because, eventually, "they are going to try and blame the economy on Silicon Valley.""We didn't securitize mortgages, order bailouts, start wars, or refuse to write movies or articles on this until too late," read one of Srinivasan's slides on where the blame lies and what the real problems are that are holding technology back. Srinivasan sees exiting happening all the time, thanks to the Internet. "Simply going on Reddit instead of watching television is a version of opting out," he said. Elsewhere, new industries are simultaneously disrupting existing ones while also exiting the system entirely, he says. With 3D printing, regulation is being turned into DRM. With quantified self, medicine is going mobile. With Bitcoin, capital control becomes packet filtering. All of these examples, Srinivasan says, are ways in which technology is allowing people to exit current systems like physical product production and distribution; personal health; and finance in favor of spaces of their own creation. "The best part is this, the people who think this is weird, the people who sneer at the frontier, who hate technology, won't follow you there," he said. "We need to run the experiment, to show what a society run by Silicon Valley looks like without affecting anyone who wants to live under the Paper Belt," he added, using the term "paper belt" to refer to the environments currently governed by pre-existing systems like the US government. It sounds crazy, and it kind of is. Srinivasan even went so far as to point out -- perhaps with a bit of tongue-in-cheekiness -- that Silicon Valley, including the up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the Y Combinator crowd, must design these processes for exit peacefully, as combating current systems like the US government would result in violent failure. "We need to build opt-in society, outside the US, run by technology," Srinivasan said, often reading from the slides he presented onstage with an authoritarian tone. But his words had an air of forced evangelism, much in the way a professor often probes students on the merit of wild ideas by taking on the persona of a radical who truly believes in them.And as a Stanford lecturer teaching a MOOC, or massive open online course, through the school's partnership with Coursera, on this very subject, Srinivasan is very much presenting the idea as a way to open it up to skepticism and analysis. Still, Srinivasan thinks Peter Thiel's proposed floating tech incubator and Elon Musk's plans for a Mars colony are good starts. "Silicon valley itself is shaped by exit," he said definitively, halfway through the presentation. By the time he finished, a slide showing an artist's rendition of what a techno-utopia might look like if it were blossoming in the ocean off the coast of what could only be Northern California evoked his vision nicely. But it still looked eerily like the floating space station in Neill Blomkamp's dystopian commentary Elysium.A smoother experience all around in Yosemite Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite is coming this fall, and in the past few weeks I've already written about the new Spotlight search features, Mail Drop and Markup, and new Notifications features in the latest version of Apple's operating system. This week, for the fourth and final installment of my series on Yosemite, I'm taking a closer look at the redesigned interface.Unlike the OS's new features, the redesign won't change how you work, but it will change the look and feel of your Mac for the better.Why design mattersIt's no secret that a redesigned operating system can be a big deal for regular users. Windows 8 is a prime example -- remember how the new Start menu with its live tiles made headlines andthrew people for a loop? Yosemite's new look isn't quite as drastic, but it's still a change.Though Yosemite isn't a huge change, it's still the most significant face-lift to Mac OS X since the OS launched as a beta in September, 2000. Similar to the way iOS changed from iOS 6 to iOS 7, in Yosemite the rounded, candy-coated icons and skeuomorphic design elements that have long been part of OS X are now gone. But, while Yosemite has a different look, it won't change the way you use your Mac. Instead Yosemite makes it feel both modern and more efficient, and it's an improvement over previous versions.New iconsYosemite's new flatter icon styles in the Dock are similar to what you have in iOS 7, but they're not an exact copy. There are still enough differences between the two to give Apple's desktop and mobile devices a unique feel of their own.Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNETIn the image above, you can see just how the reflections and 3D elements are gone in Yosemite, replaced by flatter icons that mostly resemble iOS 7, but with minor differences. As an example, in iOS 7 your Safari icon is a blue compass inside of a white background, while Yosemite eliminates the background color, leaving the compass icon by itself. It's not big difference, but it's enough to differentiate the mobile experience from the desktop.Apple made them slightly different but still very recognizable, so even with the changes, you'll still use your Mac just like you did before.Translucent windows and toolbarsAnother change is how application windows hint at the content behind them. Apple told me it is to give your desktop more depth, and while I don't quite see that as the result, it definitely looks better.Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNETIn the above image, you can see the way Mavericks shows the search result for a series of red images as you're used to. But in Yosemite, the top toolbar shows the color of the content behind it.You'll also notice that the Safari top toolbar has been streamlined to concentrate more on the content of the Web page you're viewing, without losing the features you get from Mavericks. This smaller toolbar design change is true throughout Yosemite, which Apple says is to keep the interface out of the way while you browse the Web, talk on Facetime, or chat using Messages.Switching to full screen and backAnother minor change is in the way you interact with application windows. Mac OS X Lion introduced full screen apps that would maximize to the edges of your screen. A button in the upper right lets you toggle between full-screen apps and regular windows, while the red, yellow, and green buttons in the upper left, respectively, let you close, minimize (with zoom effects), and resize a window.Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNETApple has made just a small change here, but it makes more sense. In Yosemite, the arrows in the upper right have been removed, changing the green button in the upper left into your full-screen toggle. This is obviously nothing spectacular, but having a separate button for switching to full screen made little sense, so it's nice that you can interact with windows from one area.New day view in CalendarKeeping with the theme of retooling elements you already know is the new Day view in the Calendar app. In this next example, you get all the same information in Mavericks, but it's done in a much more sensible way in Yosemite.Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNETYou'll notice from the upper image from Mavericks that I've highlighted an event, which brings up a small pop-up with all the information for the event and map so I can get directions. But in Yosemite, the Day view makes all of this information part of the same (translucent) window.Again, we're not talking about anything groundbreaking here, just a smarter way to display the information Yosemite offers, like everything else I've talked about here.Not truly necessary, but cool nonethelessAre translucent application windows going to change the way you work? Certainly not. Nor will thinner toolbars, or flatter icons, or a retooled Today view. But all of these minor changes transform your Mac to make it feel more modern as you go about your daily business.I already talked about the major feature changes and new additions in my previous posts linked at the beginning of this article, but -- to some extent -- Apple's light-handed design approach is one of the most important new features. The reason is that Mac OS X Yosemite is not going to confuse you or send you searching for features you remember from previous versions of Mac OS X -- they're all right there. It's just that Apple thought of ways to make things easier, while bringing the Mac OS X interface design into the modern era with a new look and overall feel.