Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)

typography, spacing, s p a c in g, punctuation, readability, history

Typographers seem eager to dismiss wider spaces as some sort of fad, either something ugly that originated with typewriters, or some sort of Victorian excess that lasted for a few brief decades and quickly petered out. But this is simply not the case. As we will explore presently, the large space following a period was an established convention for English-language publishers (and many others in Europe) in the 1700s, if not before, and it did not truly begin to fade completely until around 1950.

http://www.heracliteanriver.com/?p=324

Kafka, Kerouac, and Wozniak had one advantage over us: they worked on machines that did not readily do more than one thing at a…

“Kafka, Kerouac, and Wozniak had one advantage over us: they worked on machines that did not readily do more than one thing at a time, easily yielding to our conflicting desires. And, while distraction was surely available—say, by reading the newspaper, or chatting with friends—there was a crucial difference. Today’s machines don’t just allow distraction; they promote it. The Web calls us constantly, like a carnival barker, and the machines, instead of keeping us on task, make it easy to get drawn in—and even add their own distractions to the mix. In short: we have built a generation of “distraction machines” that make great feats of concentrated effort harder instead of easier.”

The Problem With Multitasking : The New Yorker (viaphotographsonthebrain)

Our Newfound Fear of Risk

Schneier, risk, security, reductionism, perception

Some of this fear results from imperfect risk perception. We’re bad at accurately assessing risk; we tend to exaggerate spectacular, strange, and rare events, and downplay ordinary, familiar, and common ones. This leads us to believe that violence against police, school shootings, and terrorist attacks are more common and more deadly than they actually are – and that the costs, dangers, and risks of a militarized police, a school system without flexibility, and a surveillance state without privacy are less than they really are.

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/our_newfound_fe.html

Relearn

relearn, constant, OSP, workshop, pedagogy, pattern, free software, design

By and large, graphic design students bring a laptop to school, and create their work using digital software tools. This hard- and software represent a technological and cultural heritage that is seldomly questioned, and a potential that goes unexploited. Using free and open source software and engaging in its culture provides an alternative by making a design practice possible with a more intimate and experimental relation to its toolbox. Beyond the implications for design practice, the culture of free and open source software challenges traditional education paradigms because knowledge is exchanged outside institutional borders, and participants move between roles easily (teacher, student, developer, user). Following from their series of workshops and Print Parties, OSP proposes a summer school experiment. A first try to move across the conventional school model towards a space where the relationship to learning is mediated by graphical software.

http://relearn.be/

Does it Scale?

Adrian Hon, scale, occupy, 2011, politics, business, media

We’ve treated ’scale’ like an unalloyed good for so long that it seems peculiar to question it. There are plenty of reasons for wanting to scale businesses and services up to make more things for more people in more areas; perhaps the strongest is that things usually get cheaper and quicker to provide. The problem is that scale has a cost, and that’s being unable to respond to the wants and needs of unique individuals. Theoretically, that’s not a problem in a free market, but of course, we don’t have a free market, and we certainly don’t have a free market when it comes to politics and media.

http://mssv.net/2011/11/20/does-it-scale/

Radical Buddhism and the Paradox of Acceptance

Buddhism, Zizek, critique, mindfulness, Marx

Although his critique of Buddhism is somewhat uninformed, Zizek does offer, in his own way, a good insight into the danger of misunderstanding Buddhist practice and the techniques of mindfulness altogether. What fascinates me is that his critique parallels – in the language of cultural theory – the personal wariness that most beginning meditators have about the practice of meditation, especially regarding 1) how mindfulness actually works, 2) what acceptance really means, and 3) how genuine transformation comes about.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ethan-nichtern/radical-buddhism_b_671972.html

Agamben Notes

Agamben, human, animal, ecology, anthropocence

Agamben argues that the boundary which separates the human and the animal is at best a tenuous one. As such, what he means by ‘the open’ is that moment during which the human is reconciled with the animal in the state of what Heidegger terms ‘profound boredom’. Against the backdrop of the ‘anthropological machine’ that produces an anthropocentric history of being, Agamben advances the thesis that the human and the animal are essentially indistinguishable, despite the discursive production of these figures as distinct entities. As a result, the discursive production of the human becomes politicised (what Agamben refers to as ‘bios’, the political life of the human or ‘qualified life’) and it is set in contrast to the anthropocentric definition of nonhuman life as worthless and disposable (as ‘zoe’ or ‘bare-life’)

http://technepoiesis12.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/agamben-notes/

A Russian enigma

radio, number stations, russian, UVB-76

The radio signal that occupies 4625 kHz has reportedly been broadcasting since the late 1970s. The earliest known recording of it is dated 1982. Ever since curious owners of shortwave radios first discovered the signal, it has broadcast a repeating buzzing noise. Every few years, the buzzer stops, and a Russian voice reads a mixture of numbers and Russian names. A typical message came hours before Christmas day, 1997: “Ya UVB-76, Ya UVB-76. 180 08 BROMAL 74 27 99 14. Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 7 4 2 7 9 9 1 4”

http://www.kernelmag.com/features/report/4716/a-russian-enigma/

I’m Thinking. Please. Be Quiet.

NYT, silence, noise, monotasking, concentration, attention, Schopenhauer

From the vantage point of our own auditory world, with its jets, jackhammers, HVAC systems, truck traffic, cellphones, horns, decibel-bloated restaurants and gyms on acoustical steroids, Schopenhauer’s mid-19th century complaints sound almost quaint. His biggest gripe of all was the “infernal cracking” of coachmen’s whips. (If you think a snapping line of rawhide’s a problem, buddy, try the Rumbler Siren.) But if noise did shatter thought in the past, has more noise in more places further diffused our cognitive activity?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/opinion/sunday/im-thinking-please-be-quiet.html?pagewanted=2&_r=5&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130825&pagewanted=all&

They Know Much More Than You Think

NSA, sureveillance, privacy, power, authortarianism

During the past decade, the NSA has secretly worked to gain access to virtually all communications entering, leaving, or going through the country. A key reason, according to the draft of a top secret NSA inspector general’s report leaked by Snowden, is that approximately one third of all international telephone calls in the world enter, leave, or transit the United States. “Most international telephone calls are routed through a small number of switches or ‘chokepoints’ in the international telephone switching system en route to their final destination,” says the report. “The United States is a major crossroads for international switched telephone traffic.” At the same time, according to the 2009 report, virtually all Internet communications in the world pass through the US. For example, the report notes that during 2002, less than one percent of worldwide Internet bandwidth—i.e., the international link between the Internet and computers—“was between two regions that did not include the United States.”

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/aug/15/nsa-they-know-much-more-you-think/?pagination=false

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

graeber, capital, work, bullshit jobs, cabinet makers frying fish, prodcutivity, capitalism, power

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

http://www.strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

Frontiers, Fringe and Farmification

Lisa Ma, futurism, design, protoyping, speculative design, futures

Speculative design generates proposals that, rather than problem solving for our current state, which is much of the focus of traditional design, look to digest the large, complex and ambiguous issues related to our futures. It uses rigorous research to first understand and then rewire different information, experts and emerging technologies to turn these complexities into understandable narratives that allow a kind of design for debate. The outcomes intentionally trigger a user to go beyond traditional need, solution, and consumption, and to question, consider, and speculate. In this way changes and findings that would normally seem irrelevant or overwhelming are teased out into scenarios, objects and services. This is achieved by breaking down unfathomable issues and making them more emotionally approachable. The results are ‘cultural prototypes’ in a way.

http://www.digital-development-debates.org/issues/11-youth/education-employment/frontiers-fringe-and-farmification/

The End Of The World Isn’t As Likely As Humans Fighting Back

EOTWAWKI, futurism, foresight, scenarios, apocalypse, dystopia

Dystopias make for boring futurism. While it’s certainly true that one can tell a compelling dramatic story about the end of the world, as a mechanism of foresight, apocaphilia is trite at best, counter-productive at worst. Yet world-ending scenarios are easy to find, especially coming from advocates for various social-economic-global changes. As one of those advocates, I’m well aware of the need to avoid taking the easy route of wearing a figurative sign reading The End Is Nigh. We want people to take the risks we describe seriously, so there is an understandable temptation to stretch a challenging forecast to its horrific extremes–but ultimately, it’s a bad idea.

http://www.fastcoexist.com/1682109/the-end-of-the-world-isnt-as-likely-as-humans-fighting-back

Secret NSA Documents Show How the US Spies on Europe and the UN

UN, NSA, US, surveillance, EU

The classified documents, which SPIEGEL has seen, demonstrate how systematically the Americans target other countries and institutions like the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna and the UN. They show how the NSA infiltrated the Europeans’ internal computer network between New York and Washington, used US embassies abroad to intercept communications and eavesdropped on video conferences of UN diplomats. The surveillance is intensive and well-organized – and it has little or nothing to do with counter-terrorism.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/secret-nsa-documents-show-how-the-us-spies-on-europe-and-the-un-a–918625.html

Defeated

TSA, terrorism, authortarianism, opt-out, convenience

This is how we lose our rights. Not overnight in one fell swoop, but gradually, after getting worn down again and again, and after hundreds of mini-panic-attacks, and with ever-ratcheting procedural changes that effectively invalidate the assurances and safeguards that we’re given. I give up. The terrorists have won. I’m sad and I’m angry, but the perpetual wearing-down works. I won’t be opting out again.

http://orenhazi.com/defeated.html

Giant Robotic Mining Trucks Love the Australian Desert

automation, robots, mining, pilbara, australia

In the dusty red earth of Western Australia, robot trucks haul iron ore. The trucks themselves weigh about 500 tons when loaded — they are truly massive. They operate more or less on their own, navigating mining roads connecting the sprawling Pilbara iron mines with a guidance system provided by global positioning satellites, radars and lasers. It’s part of $13 billion mining operation by Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining firms.

https://medium.com/war-is-boring/bed4b2b5a70a

Justice in a “Nation of Laws”: The Manning verdict

al jazeera, manning, freedom, security, espionage, terrorism, corruption, justice, corporatism

When Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was thirteen, the US government announced it had launched “Operation Infinite Justice”. Operation Infinite Justice sought to punish the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks, destroy Al Qaeda, and end the reign of the Taliban. Operation Infinite Justice was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom” after protests from Islamic scholars, who argued that God, not the US government, was the arbiter of justice. But freedom, it seemed, was something the United States could give and take away. When Manning was fourteen, the Bush administration announced that detainees in Guantanamo did not deserve protection under the Geneva conventions and that torture was justified. When Manning was fifteen, the US invaded Iraq in response to fabricated reports that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. When Manning was sixteen, US soldiers tortured and sodomised prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. When Manning was seventeen, a movement emerged to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes. Nothing really came of it. When Manning was nineteen, she joined the army.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/08/2013823123822366392.html

Concluding Unscientific Posthuman to the Singularitarian Fragments – an Agalmic-Pathetic-Dialectic; a Mimic-Extropic Discourse

stross, review, digression, accelerando, singularity, sci fi, crooked timber

In honor of Manfred Mancx, Charles Stross’ venture altruist/seagull/submissive/catspaw/posthuman protagonist in Accelerando – who tries to patent six impossible things before breakfast, or something like that – here are a couple of possibilities to start things out.

http://crookedtimber.org/2009/01/27/concluding-unscientific-posthuman-to-the-singularitarian-fragments-an-agalmic-pathetic-dialectic-a-mimic-extropic-discourse/

The Kalman Filter

kalman filter, notes, estimation

The Kalman Filter provides an efficient recursive estimator for the unobserved state of a linear discrete time dynamical system in the presence of measurement error. Kalman (1960) first introduced the method in the Engineering literature, but it can be understood in the context of Bayesian inference.

http://jblevins.org/notes/kalman

Unfathomable Vs Contextual Knowhow

firstmileeconomics:

This photo perfectly illustrates for me how Abstractable knowhow of the 20th century is designed to be detachable from its situation and how Contextual knowhow operates with a fundamentally different logic, economy and effectiveness -  born from embedded intelligence, agency and action. 

image

Since procrastination is a message from our natural willpower via low motivation, the cure is changing the environment, or one’s…

“Since procrastination is a message from our natural willpower via low motivation, the cure is changing the environment, or one’s profession, by selecting one in which one does not have to fight one’s impulses. Few can grasp the logical consequence that, instead, one should lead a life in which procrastination is good, as a naturalistic-risk-based form of decision making….Using my ecological reasoning, someone who procrastinates is not irrational; it is his environment that is irrational. And the psychologist or economist calling him irrational is the one who is beyond irrational.”

Antifragile" Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Cypherpunk rising: WikiLeaks, encryption, and the coming surveillance dystopia

R.U.Sirius, cypherpunks, happy mutants, Mondo 2000, 1990s, cryptoanarchy

At the time, Jude and I were contracted to write a novel titled How to Mutate and Take Over the World. I wanted the fiction to contain the truth. I wanted to tell people how creative hackers could do it — mutate and take over the world — by the end of the decade. Not knowing many of those details ourselves, we threw down a challenge on various hacker boards and in the places where extropians gathered to share their superhuman fantasies. “Take on a character,” we said, “and let that character mutate and/or take over.” The results were vague and unsatisfying. These early transhumanists didn’t actually know how to mutate, and the hackers couldn’t actually take over the world. It seemed that we were asking for too much too soon.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/7/4036040/cypherpunks-julian-assange-wikileaks-encryption-surveillance-dystopia

We come from the future

Le Monde, Sci Fi, Africa, afrofuturism, crisis, future

To paraphrase the Senegalese philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne: on a continent where attempts to improve humanity’s lot are in crisis, meaning comes from the future. A group of young African artists, black and white grandchildren of the independence generation, have started a cultural revolution by moving into science fiction, until recently the preserve of western imaginations. The “invisible men” of the 3D Fiction collective, linked online and through pan-African magazines, are exploring “the possibilities of shared writing on the future”, and say “the future described in a [sci-fi] story engenders a new present, which challenges our own”

http://mondediplo.com/2013/06/13scifi

The problem with algorithms: magnifying misbehaviour

algorithm, automation, amplification, prejudice, medicine

For one British university, what began as a time-saving exercise ended in disgrace when a computer model set up to streamline its admissions process exposed - and then exacerbated - gender and racial discrimination. As detailed here in the British Medical Journal, staff at St George’s Hospital Medical School decided to write an algorithm that would automate the first round of its admissions process. The formulae used historical patterns in the characteristics of candidates whose applications were traditionally rejected to filter out new candidates whose profiles matched those of the least successful applicants. By 1979 the list of candidates selected by the algorithms was a 90-95% match for those chosen by the selection panel, and in 1982 it was decided that the whole initial stage of the admissions process would be handled by the model. Candidates were assigned a score without their applications having passed a single human pair of eyes, and this score was used to determine whether or not they would be interviewed. Quite aside from the obvious concerns that a student would have upon finding out a computer was rejecting their application, a more disturbing discovery was made. The admissions data that was used to define the model’s outputs showed bias against females and people with non-European-looking names.

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/aug/14/problem-with-algorithms-magnifying-misbehaviour

John Hagel: Getting Stronger through Stress

Taleb, Hagel, Black Swan, Antifragility, system thinking, design, adaptive systems

In thinking about system design, it’s important to avoid the temptation to develop detailed top down blueprints for systems. Taleb observes that “if about everything top-down fragilizes and blocks antifragility and growth, everything bottom-up thrives under the right amount of stress and disorder.” Nevertheless, there are certain design principles that emerge from Taleb’s work that can help reduce the fragility of the systems we design.

http://edgeperspectives.typepad.com/edge_perspectives/2013/04/getting-stronger-through-stress-making-black-swans-work-for-you.html

As Weaver correctly remarked: the word information relates not so much to what you do say, as to what you could say. The…

“As Weaver correctly remarked: the word information relates not so much to what you do say, as to what you could say. The mathematical theory of communication deals with the carriers of information, symbols and signals, not with information itself. That is, information is the measure of your freedom of choice when you select a message.”

Floridi, Luciano.Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. (viacarvalhais)