“Everything Exists. Nothing is Impossible”: An Interview with Tale of Tales

art, game, ToT, tale of tales, religion, narrative, games

we’ve always said that games are more like cathedrals than they are like movies. It’s a narrative environment, an environment that immerses you in a story, in a time. It’s a time machine. It’s made over hundreds of years.


The ABC of Accelerationist Blockchain Critique

art, bitcoin, accelerationism, Schellingcoins, Etherium, Rob Myers, value, critisism, Marx, Capitali

Schellingcoins are designed to address external, quantitative phenomena. Opinions regarding cultural works are personal and qualitative, and spontaneous reactions to cultural works are even more so. This is different from the commonly expressed quantitative values that the SchellingCoin proposal requires. To adapt SchellingCoins to cultural criticism we must adopt the methods of collective intelligence and the digital humanities and use some tricks to turn personal opinion into cultural appraisal.


Oddly enough, it is a consumer-oriented culture that is concerned about authors and labels of authenticity. Manuscript culture…

“Oddly enough, it is a consumer-oriented culture that is concerned about authors and labels of authenticity. Manuscript culture was producer-oriented, almost entirely a do-it-yourself culture, and naturally looked to the relevance and usability of items rather than their sources.”

The Gutenberg Galaxy - The Making of Typographic Man, Marshall McLuhan (1962)

A Scientist Is Growing Asparagus In Meteorites to Prepare Us for Space Farming

terraforming, plants, ecology, astrobiology, astroecology

“People have been talking about terraforming, but what I’m trying to do is give some concrete evidence that it’s possible to do this, that it’s possible to grow in extraterrestrial materials,” Michael Mautner, a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher and one of the world’s only “astroecologists” told me. “What I’ve found is that a range of microorganisms—bacteria, fungi, and even asparagus and potato plants—can survive with the nutrients that are in extraterrestrial materials.”


Open-Source Agriculture: The Sprouting Of A New Food Movement?

open source, agriculture, open sauces, seed bank, OSSI, seeds

Inspired by the open-source software movement, the Open Source Seed Initiative has quietly spent the last two years developing a cache of seeds that they released to the world at a launch event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May. With names like “Sovereign” (a carrot variety) and “Midnight Lightning” (a zucchini), they packaged together 37 varieties of 14 crops attached to a pledge: Open-source seeds must stay freely available for use by all–no intellectual property rights can be claimed to the seeds or derivatives bred from them.


Cranks. Nuts. and Screwball

CIA, psyops, advice, history, cranks, nuts, screwballs, The Fox, 163

In any intelligence agency it is important to keep track of crank contacts, not only to improve protection but also to assure continuity of control and analysis. Centralization of records in CIA’s Office of Security permits quick identification of phonies and time-wasters. Professional security officers know how to handle the off-beat approach, and others would do well to rely on the professionals when they receive an irrational letter or find themselves face to face with an apparently unbalanced stranger.


The future is now (and here’s how we’re planning to catch up)

foresight, futures, ffab, future fabulators, UNDP, open futures, crowdsourcing

“There’s no shortage of guidelines these days on how to ‘prepare for the future.’ […] foresight engines are pulling in thousands of citizens to re-imagine the future of governance, cities, and peacebuilding. They’re generating over 1,800 paths out of poverty and through the Good Judgment Project, 3,000 regular citizens are making forecasts on a range of issues – from political developments in North Korea to Venezuelan gas subsidies.”


Brilliant sequencing


There’s no doubt that Masahisa Fukase’s book Ravens (aka Solitude of Ravens, aka Karasu) is one of the greatest photobooks of all time. It was voted the most influencial photobook of the last 25 years in a poll conducted by the British Journal of Photography.


It’s also my personal favorite. I return to it again and again for its images, its sequencing, its thinking, its meaning.



But there’s one sequence of images in particular that represents one of the greatest associative leaps in photography. Abstracting these five photographs from the whole doesn’t do the passage justice, but at least doing so points to this moment of photographic inspiration which, for me, is a touchstone for photographic sequencing, and which hopefully every photographer gets to see in book form at some time.

Fukase, prior to this passage, has shown a significant number of images of ravens, close-up and at a distance, in all sorts of contexts. Then, along comes this disruption:






The knowledge that Fukase started Ravens at the point of deep depression over the failure of his marriage is valuable here. The book is a  symphony of visual and intellectual movement—this is just one of its greatest turns.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of Fukase’s death, after having lain in a coma since 1992, the year he fell down a flight of stairs.

(via douglaslowell)

Europe Faces Green Power Curbs to Stop Grids Overloading

EU, energy, supply, dumb grid, renewable energy, bloomberg

Europe’s drive toward a power system based on renewable energy has gone so far that output will probably need to be cut within months because of oversupply. Network operators are likely to curb solar and wind generation at times of low demand to prevent overloading the region’s 188,000 miles (302,557 kilometers) of power lines, Entso-e, the grid association in Brussels, said last month. Renewable output is poised to almost double to 18 percent by 2020, according to Energy Brainpool GmbH & Co. KG, a consulting firm in Berlin.


Two ways to work for nothing

GEOFF SHULLENBERGER, work, bullshit jobs, doing nothing, labour, morality, art

For Graeber, bullshit jobs carry with them a moral imperative: “If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person.” But the flipside of that logic seems to be: if you actually like doing x activity, if it is valuable, meaningful, and carries intrinsic rewards for you, it is wrong for you to expect to be paid (well) for it; you should give it freely, even (especially) if by doing so you are allowing others to profit. In other words, we’ll make a living from you doing what you love (for free), but we’ll keep you in check by making sure you have to make a living doing what you hate.


David Graeber Interview

jobs, labor, david graeber, graeber, society, politics, work, economics, unions, socialism, anarcho-

Well, we can talk about the decline of the union movement, but it runs deeper. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the great divisions between anarcho-syndicalist unions, and socialist unions, was that the latter were always asking for higher wages, and the anarchists were asking for less hours. That’s why the anarchists were so entangled in struggles for the eight-hour day. It’s as if the socialists were essentially buying into the notion that work is a virtue, and consumerism is good, but it should all be managed democratically, while the anarchists were saying, no, the whole deal—that we work more and more for more and more stuff—is rotten from the get-go.


We need a pony. And the moon on a stick. By next Thursday.

machine learning, sarcasism, sarcasm, POTUS, errorism, Sarcasm Complete, SS, Loudly Laughing Felines

Of course, we in the real world know that shaved apes like us never saw a system we didn’t want to game. So in the event that sarcasm detectors ever get a false positive rate of less than 99% (or a false negative rate of less than 1%) I predict that everybody will start deploying sarcasm as a standard conversational gambit on the internet. Trolling the secret service will become a competitive sport […] Al Qaida terrrrst training camps will hold tutorials on metonymy, aggressive irony, cynical detachment, and sarcasm as a camouflage tactic for suicide bombers. Post-modernist pranks will draw down the full might of law enforcement by mistake, while actual death threats go encoded as LOLCat macros. Any attempt to algorithmically detect sarcasm will fail because sarcasm is self-referential and the awareness that a sarcasm detector may be in use will change the intent behind the message.


Put Away Your Tinfoil Hat: Security in Context

security, privacy, contextula security, tactical tech

Over the course of the last three years leading panels and strategy sessions at the Allied Media Conference, and informed by the work of the Tactical Tech Collective—we’ve learned that conversations about safety and security are most successful when they are grounded in discussion about what we envision, know, and practice. The following set of questions offer a starting point for grassroots organizers interested in applying a contextual security framework to their organizing.


German villagers build own broadband network

BBNG, network, internet, infrastructure

For now, however, it is only the village of Löwenstedt that has succeeded in mobilising the solidarity of its inhabitants to build a high-speed Internet network. Other villages have been slower and found it more difficult to follow Löwenstedt’s lead. “At least 68 percent of households in a village have to promise to subscribe to the fibre-optic network before we start work,” said BBNG chief Ute Gabriel-Boucsein.


A letter from the Social Search frontier: Good news, Bad news

social search, search, small world, mobilisation, recruiting, crowdsourcing, greifing, sabotage, net

Our empirical and theoretical findings have cautionary implications for the future of social search, and crowdsourcing in general. Social search is surprisingly efficient, cheap, easy to implement, and multi-functional across aplications. But there are also surprises in the amount of evildoing that the social searchers will stumble upon while recruiting.


“You don’t get there by acculturating. Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a…

“You don’t get there by acculturating. Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish. If you want to woo the muse of the odd, don’t read Shakespeare. Read Webster’s revenge plays. Don’t read Homer and Aristotle. Read Herodotus where he’s off talking about Egyptian women having public sex with goats. If you want to read about myth don’t read Joseph Campbell, read about convulsive religion, read about voodoo and the Millerites and the Munster Anabaptists. There are hundreds of years of extremities, there are vast legacies of mutants. There have always been geeks. There will always be geeks. Become the apotheosis of geek. Learn who your spiritual ancestors were. You didn’t come here from nowhere. There are reasons why you’re here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable or uncomfortable or dangerous.”

Bruce Sterling

Credit ratings agencies just realized that climate change is a threat to the world economy

climate change, insurance, market forces, capital, credit, S&P, SEP

Over the past week or so, one of the most prominent credit agencies, Standard & Poor’s, has, in a series of reports, attempted to quantify the financial impact of climate change. The company looked at the impact of changing weather patterns on various industries, including utilities and insurance.


My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment

bacteria, health, hygiene, microbiome, biome

In the last few years, the microbiome (sometimes referred to as “the second genome”) has become a focus for the health conscious and for scientists alike. Studies like the Human Microbiome Project, a national enterprise to sequence bacterial DNA taken from 242 healthy Americans, have tagged 19 of our phyla (groupings of bacteria), each with thousands of distinct species. As Michael Pollan wrote in this magazine last year: “As a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota… . Whether any cures emerge from the exploration of the second genome, the implications of what has already been learned — for our sense of self, for our definition of health and for our attitude toward bacteria in general — are difficult to overstate.”


The Dystopia Tracker

Welcome to the Dystopia Tracker. Our goal is to document, with your help, all the predictions in literature, film or games that have been made for the future and what has become reality already. You can browse predictions by topic or search for a specific title. We also invite you to contribute your own content. Add predictions that are missing, add realisations for predictions that have become reality in some way, or help translating existing content.

The Dystopia Tracker

A Timeline of Webdriver Torso


A Timeline of Webdriver Torso

Webdriver Torso is a YouTube account that uploads a new video (like the one above) on to the internet every 20 seconds. And every video is more or less the same: red and blue rectangles jumping on a white screen, with a soundtrack of different test tones.

Webdriver’s YouTube channel has uploaded almost 80,000 of these videos, and no one has any real clue what they are. There are, of course, lots of theories. What follows is a timeline of the Webdriver Torso mystery.

March 7, 2013

Webdriver Torso YouTube channel is launched. There is no activity on the channel for months, until…

August 14, 2013

…the first video on Webdriver is uploaded. It is called 0.455442373793, but the video is only viewable in France, and users have to pay 2 Euro to watch it. The video is a short clip from the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Sept 23, 2013

Webdriver Torso starts uploading approximately 400 videos a day. Every video is an 11-second long slideshow depicting a red and a blue rectangle in random arrangements with electronic tones. At the bottom left-hand corner of the video there is a slide number from 0-9 and the text caption “aqua.flv”. (Does this have anything to do with Aqua Teen Hunger Force?)

Oct 09, 2013

Webdriver Torso uploads the only videothat is different from the others. It is called 00014, and is of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. At the end of the video whoever is holding the camera pans down to the balcony they are standing on. The viewer can briefly see what looks like a laptop open on a browser, with something like Facebook open.

Various internet people have concluded that the video must have been shot from the balcony of a hotel. This person on Reddit thinks that the video must have been shot from the Pullman Hotel. Webdriver interacts with this video on YouTube, leaving the one line comment, “Matei is highly intelligent.” Who the hell is Matei?

Feb 7, 2014

WIREDpublishes an article about the art of finding obscure YouTube videos. In the process they find one of Webdriver’s videos and link to it on their website, and ask their readers to comment with any theories as to what it might be.

Three days later, Dan Lo Bianco comments on the WIRED website that he thinks Webdriver is “probably the modern equivalent of number stations - probably involved in cryptographic communication but no way to know for sure and bound to be surrounded in rumour and conspiracy theory.”

April 23, 2014

Brendan O’Connor writes an article for the Daily Dot about Webdriver called ‘Is this mysterious YouTube channel trying to contact aliens?’ O’Connor suggests that the videos might be generated using Selenium,a tool used “for automating Web applications for testing purposes, but it is certainly not limited to just that.” One of the tools Selenium offers is something called WebDriver. “WebDriver is a tool for writing automated tests of websites,” reads the WebDriver FAQ. “It aims to mimic the behavior of a real user, and as such interacts with the HTML of the application.”

However, Selenium denies having anything to do with Webdriver Torso, and state that it is more likely that the videos are trying to make contact with aliens.

April 25, 2014

Boing Boingcatch on to the idea that Webdriver might be a number station. Basically, a number station is a type of shortsignal radio station that broadcasts lists of numbers or incomprehensible Morse code messages. Number stations were used during the cold war to communicate secret messages between spies.

May 2, 2014

The Guardian claims to have the solution to the Webdriver mystery, reporting thatIsaul Vargas, a New York-based software tester, recognised the videos from a conference on automation that he attended 1 year earlier.  “Considering the volume of videos and the fact they use YouTube, it tells me that this is a large company testing their video encoding software and measuring how Youtube compresses the videos,” Vargas told the Guardian.

This theory is quickly shut down after Vargas tracks down the people who gave the presentation at the conference, a British company called YouView. They explain that some of the videos in their presentation were similar to Webdriver’s though not identical.

That same day, the Webdriver Torso account displays some strange behaviour, Liking one of its own videos, suggesting some type of unpredictable human control over the presumably automated uploads.

May 8, 2014

Internet activity around Webdriver Torso peaks as bloggers and Redditors compile their own theories about what it is, ranging from alien contact to machine sentience.

A comprehensive blog post by an Italian blogger claims (and provides a good amount of evidence) that the Google office in Zurich is responsible for the video uploads, and that they are a part of an ongoing project looking into 3D video uploads on YouTube.

After posting this expose, his blog gets peak traffic from Switzerland. Google Zurich and YouTube refuse to comment.

May 15, 2014

When “Webdriver Torso” is typed into the search bar in YouTube, the screen is transformed into red and blue rectangles. (I tried it, and it still works). The Italian blogger takes this for corroborating evidence that his theory is true.

Although, a more likely explanation is thatthis redesign of the YouTube layout to imitate the Webdriver Torso aesthetic just signifies that Google are aware of the now popular channel and the theories surrounding it.

Brief Analysis

Ockham’s Razor is a philosophical tool that says, “the most likely explanation is probably true.” If I were to use Ockham’s Razor on Webdriver, I would probably conclude that Google (or some other big tech company) are using YouTube to test some new way of automating uploads/experimenting with data management.

But this is a deferral of the more mysterious question: What is the intention of the people who are uploading these videos? Why are they doing it? To what end?

Webdriver instinctively looks freaky, maybe sinister. But if Google is behind it, it suddenly becomes normal, easier to swallow, even though we still don’t understand what the technology is or what it’s trying to do. Postulating Google as the answer for a mysterious digital phenomenon ties up all the loose ends without actually tying up any of them.

If we don’t know why Google are making these videos, and they haven’t admitted it, then why shouldn’t I still believe that they are made by aliens?

My answer is aliens. I want it to be aliens. Or sentient computers.