Binding Chaos

politics, governance, power, control, oligarchy, anarchy, democracy

If there was ever a need for political representation or a paternalistic and opaque authority it has been removed by technology. Every political system we have tried has proven incapable of protecting human rights and dignity. Every political system we have tried has devolved into oligarchy. To effect the change we require immediately, to give individuals control and responsibility, to bring regional systems under regional governance, allow global collaboration and protect the heritage of future generations, we need a new political model.

on Nicolescu’s Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity

Nicolescu, transdisciplinarity, philosophy, education, knowledge

Transdisciplinarity “concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline,” and its aim is the unity of knowledge together with the unity of our being: “Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the unity of knowledge.” (44) Nicolescu points out the danger of self-destruction caused by modernism and increased technologization and offers alternative ways of approaching them, using a transdisciplinary approach that propels us beyond the either/or thinking that gave rise to the antagonisms that produced the problems in the first place. The logic of the included middle permits “this duality [to be] transgressed by the open unity that encompasses both the universe and the human being.” (56). Thus, approaching problems in a transdisciplinary way enables one to move beyond dichotomized thinking, into the space that lies beyond.

Space-Born Jellyfish Hate Life On Earth

space, jellyfish, gravity, perception

A warning for future space colonizers: Babies born in space might not ever figure out how to deal with gravity. Jellyfish babies, at least, have to deal with massive vertigo on Earth after spending their first few days in space. NASA first started sending jellyfish to space aboard the Columbia space shuttle during the early ‘90s to test how space flight would affect their development. As cool as being an astronaut baby sounds, the jellies didn’t develop the same gravity-sensing capabilities as their Earthly relatives.

What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?

Ian Bogost, evil, google, morality, ethics, progress, engineering, silicon valley, narcissism

Famous though the slogan might be, its meaning has never been clear. In the 2004 IPO letter, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin clarify that Google will be “a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.” But what counts as “good things,” and who constitutes “the world?” The slogan’s significance has likely changed over time, but today it seems clear that we’re misunderstanding what “evil” means to the company. For today’s Google, evil isn’t tied to malevolence or moral corruption, the customary senses of the term. Rather, it’s better to understand Google’s sense of evil as the disruption of its brand of (computational) progress.

The Future of Europe

Soros, Europe, uncertainty, prediction, understanding, fragility, feedback, interference, economics

By contrast I emphasize the role of misconceptions, misinterpretations and a sheer lack of understanding in shaping the course of events. I focus on the process of change rather than on the eventual outcome. The process involves reflexive feedback loops between the objective and subjective aspects of reality. Fallibility insures that the two aspects are never identical. That is where my framework differs from mainstream economics.

Ecce Animal

art, design, cocaine, diddo, ecce animal, skull

Ecce Animal

Dimension 12 x 18 x 22 cm
Compression molded Cocaine (street sourced) and Gelatin.

“The analysis started with the preparation of the 100% Cocaine standard and sample solution. An amount of standard was dissolved in a mobile phase followed by a series of trial runs to calibrate and identify the HPLC method that gave adequate separation of the standard. After several trail runs the preferred mobile phase consisted of 20% Acetonitrile, 80% water and contained 0,1% Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA).”

Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging….

Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging. I call it algorithmic accountability reporting. At its core it’s really about reverse engineering—articulating the specifications of a system through a rigorous examination drawing on domain knowledge, observation, and deduction to unearth a model of how that system works.

As interest grows in understanding the broader impacts of algorithms, this kind of accountability reporting is already happening in some newsrooms, as well as in academic circles. At the Wall Street Journal a team of reporters probed e-commerce platforms to identify instances of potential price discrimination in dynamic and personalized online pricing. By polling different websites they were able to spot several, such as, that were adjusting prices dynamically based on the location of the person visiting the site. At the Daily Beast, reporter Michael Keller dove into the iPhone spelling correction feature to help surface patterns of censorship and see which words, like “abortion,” the phone wouldn’t correct if they were misspelled. In my own investigation for Slate, I traced the contours of the editorial criteria embedded in search engine autocomplete algorithms. By collecting hundreds of autocompletions for queries relating to sex and violence I was able to ascertain which terms Google and Bing were blocking or censoring, uncovering mistakes in how these algorithms apply their editorial criteria.

All of these stories share a more or less common method. Algorithms are essentially black boxes, exposing an input and output without betraying any of their inner organs. You can’t see what’s going on inside directly, but if you vary the inputs in enough different ways and pay close attention to the outputs, you can start piecing together some likeness for how the algorithm transforms each input into an output. The black box starts to divulge some secrets.

Rage Against the Algorithms - Nicholas Diakopoulos - The Atlantic (vianew-aesthetic)

The Viridian Years

viridian, green, design, bruce sterling, landline, obsolesence

On October 14, 1998, science fiction author Bruce Sterling stood on the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and announced his plans for the new millennium. Y2K was going to come and go, he predicted, and then in early January, journalists were going to be desperate for novelty. A new millennium needed new ideas and as a noted science fiction author, he expected they’d be ringing his phone off the hook (phones were on hooks back then — in 1998, everyone still had a landline)

TED talks are lying to you

salon, creativity, business, Peenemünde

And yet nobody wanted to add Peenemünde, where the Germans developed the V-2 rocket during the 1940s, to the glorious list of creative hothouses that includes Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence, Belle Époque Paris and latter-day Austin, Texas. How much easier to tell us, one more time, how jazz bands work, how someone came up with the idea for the Slinky, or what shade of paint, when applied to the walls of your office, is most conducive to originality

Robin Friend | on Tumblr - Formations


Robin Friend | on Tumblr - Formations

The shaft of light streaming though the crack reminds me of a Baroque painting. The challenge of creating a photograph in complete darkness in a mine is a testing experience. Ropes, harnesses and inflatable dinghies are needed and very long exposures with the help of a hand held torch were used to make this particular image.

Why Microsoft Word Must Die

stross, MS, microsoft word, rant, writing, typesetting, broken by design, LCD

I hate Microsoft Word. I want Microsoft Word to die. I hate Microsoft Word with a burn­ing, fiery pas­sion. I hate Microsoft Word the way Win­ston Smith hated Big Brother. Our rea­sons are, alarm­ingly, not dissimilar.… Microsoft Word is a tyrant of the imag­i­na­tion, a petty, unimag­i­na­tive, incon­sis­tent dic­ta­tor that is ill-suited to any cre­ative writer’s use. Worse: it is a near-monopolist, hav­ing nearly 80 per­cent of the word pro­cess­ing field to itself. Such dom­i­nance has bru­tal­ized the minds of soft­ware devel­op­ers to such an extent that few can imag­ine a word pro­cess­ing tool other than as a shal­low imi­ta­tion of the Red­mond Behe­moth. So what’s wrong with it?

Storyboard 75: The big book of narrative

narrative, storytelling, journalism, writing, archive, stories

Since the first stirrings of the Nieman Foundation’s narrative writing program nearly 20 years ago, the staff has tended a treasure trove of resource material devoted to excellence in journalistic storytelling. Much of that material went online first via the Nieman Narrative Digest and, in 2009, here at Nieman Storyboard. Storyboard 75 represents some of the most popular posts* from our archive so far.–75-the-big-book-of-narrative/

Every time I met eyes with someone wearing this non-object, I felt paranoid and exposed, and not only because I was stoned at a…

“Every time I met eyes with someone wearing this non-object, I felt paranoid and exposed, and not only because I was stoned at a large party. I’ve been stoned at plenty of large parties, but this was the first large party at which people were wearing glasses with which they could photograph me just by looking at me and tapping the sides of their heads. And yet at the same time, I felt strangely unseen, because though the wearer of these glass-less glasses might appear to be looking right at me, they might also be looking at their email, or a live-stream from someone else’s Google Glass of a different party, somewhere else.”

Emily Weinstein, » The Goog {superlefty} (viaphotographsonthebrain)

When does a physical system compute?

arxiv, computation, unconventional computing, physical systems, computing

Computing is a high-level process of a physical system. Recent interest in non-standard computing systems, including quantum and biological computers, has brought this physical basis of computing to the forefront. There has been, however, no consensus on how to tell if a given physical system is acting as a computer or not; leading to confusion over novel computational devices, and even claims that every physical event is a computation. In this paper we introduce a formal framework that can be used to determine whether or not a physical system is performing a computation. We demonstrate how the abstract computational level interacts with the physical device level, drawing the comparison with the use of mathematical models to represent physical objects in experimental science. This powerful formulation allows a precise description of the similarities between experiments, computation, simulation, and technology.

Prediction markets

prediction, prediction markets, gwern, decisions

Writing down precise predictions is like spaced repetition: it’s brutal to do because it is almost a paradigmatic long-term activity, being wrong is physically unpleasant, and it requires 2 skills, formulating precise predictions and then actually predicting. (For spaced repetition, writing good flashcards and then actually regularly reviewing.) There are lots of exercises to try to (calibrate yourself using trivia questions obscure historical events, geography, etc.), but they only take you so far; it’s the real world near term and long term predictions that give you the most food for thought, and those require a year or three at minimum.

Yet photography has always been more subjective than we assume, each picture a result of a series of decisions—where to stand,…

“Yet photography has always been more subjective than we assume, each picture a result of a series of decisions—where to stand, what lens to use, what to leave in and what to leave out of the frame. Does manipulating photographs with camera app filters make them less true? Google Street View, whose cameras take images all over the world, is now used by art photographers who sit at their computers and curate eye-catching frames to claim as their own. With surveillance cameras blanketing urban centers, have we progressed to the point where cameras don’t need photographers and photographers don’t even need cameras?”

James Estrin, The Visual Village

Rain. Forest. It seems like we’re conditioned to dream of beaches, sea and sun… but in my perfect dream place there’s always a…


Rain. Forest. It seems like we’re conditioned to dream of beaches, sea and sun… but in my perfect dream place there’s always a forest in there somewhere. And mountains. And fields. And lakes. Big lakes. Anything actually, as long as my friends & loved ones are close. And the rain is ok once in a while but not too often, obviously. I like mostly sun. But rain smells so good in a forest…

FAQ | BürgerEnergie Berlin

energy, cooperative, BürgerEnergie Berlin, deprivatization, infrastructure

Im zukünftigen Energiesystem werden die Stromverteilnetze eine zentrale Rolle spielen. Wenn der Umstieg auf Erneuerbare Energien gelingen soll, muss das Berliner Stromnetz schon heute darauf ausgerichtet werden. Außerdem erwirtschaften Stromnetze Millionengewinne. Diese sollen der Energiewende und den Bürgern zugute kommen und in der Region wirksam werden. Berlin gewinnt mit dem Stromnetz in Bürgerhand eine wertvolle Anlage der Daseinsvorsorge und der regionalen Wertschöpfung. Mit dem Kauf unseres Stromnetzes treiben wir die Demokratisierung der Energielandschaft voran, damit wir Bürgerinnen und Bürger über die zukünftige Energieversorgung mitentscheiden können.

ESC: Zone

extrastatecraft, the zone, EPZ, SEZ, economics, trade, TAZ

The next generations of zone, as they incubated in China’s Special Economic Zones or in Middle Eastern city-states essentially swallowed the whole of the city and rendered urbanism as service industry. China’s experiment with the market was so successful that it has generated its own global urban networks of zone trading centers. For Dubai, reawakened by oil for a new chapter in global trade, the zone is a fresh form of entrepôt not unlike those in ancient episodes. No longer in the shadow of the global city as financial center (New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo) the zone has now quickly overtaken it, offering a wilder more hyperbolic form that mixes off-shore financial districts, logistics parks, manufacturing facilities, educational campuses or technology villages. The zone has become the world city and the glittering mimic of Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. Ranging from spaces of a few hectares to conurbations that are hundreds of square kilometers, the scores of zone variants—each a newly minted cocktail of urban aspiration.

Archiving URLs

gwern, archive, link rot, digital archiving, digital decay

Given my interest in long term content and extensive linking, link rot is an issue of deep concern to me. I need backups not just for my files1, but for the web pages I read and use - they’re all part of my exomind. It’s not much good to have an extensive essay on some topic where half the links are dead and the reader can neither verify my claims nor get context for my claims.

How Mechanical Turkers Crowdsourced a Huge Lexicon of Links Between Words and Emotion | MIT Technology Review, via @hugovk


How Mechanical Turkers Crowdsourced a Huge Lexicon of Links Between Words and Emotion | MIT Technology Review, via @hugovk

“Today, Saif Mohammad and Peter Turney at the National Research Council Canada in Ottawa unveil a huge database of words and their associated emotions and polarity, which they have assembled quickly and inexpensively using Amazon’s crowdsourcing Mechanical Turk website. They say this crowdsourcing mechanism makes it possible to increase the size and quality of the database quickly and easily. Most psychologists believe that there are essentially six basic emotions– joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise– or at most eight if you include trust and anticipation. So the task of any word-emotion lexicon is to determine how strongly a word is associated with each of these emotions.”

Designed Conflict Territories- Tobias Revell


Designed Conflict Territories- Tobias Revell

The thing we have to consider is who and what we are protesting against. I won’t regurgitate the stacktivism or infrastructure fictions ideas. Chances are, that if you’re here, you know them already but there’s a general idea that the very shape of global geopolitics has changed in the last 20 years or so and the people in charge are not who we thought they were. To re-word a great Dylan Moran gag: While we were talking, Google very, very gradually built a future around us. (Please replace Google with whatever or whoever you like to satisfy your own biases.) The point stands that the entities constructing and steering our futures, or what they often like to call the future - with all the baggage of powerlessness and inevitability that that wording brings - aren’t states, and they work on a completely different geopolitical strata: There is no town square for Google.

When Edward Snowden leaked the details of the PRISM program to the world press, he wasn’t revealing anything. We already knew, at some very fundamental level that a vast apparatus existed to observe and harvest us and our ‘data’. Whether through decades of dystopic training or the simple maths of adding ruthless western capitalism and it’s history of paranoia to enabling technology we knew that these things were happening. I wrote some time ago about the fact that the rebalance of power enacted by the PRISM revelations is different to what is easily read - they forced us to react. Snowden issued a call for action, and the world failed to respond. I now have a term for this retreating reaction - shocked acquiescence. When faced with something so large and unfathomable as PRISM or climate change, the most common reaction is to accept or pretend it’s not happening and move on.

So why this response? ‘There’s no town square for Google’ wasn’t just a tweetable bite. We have no space in which we can protest, in which we can occupy and configure a conflict besides or in front of the thing we wish to protest and air our grievances against. For both the new geopolitics and the threat of climate change, there is no common language, no common space, no commons.

Read the full essay.

The majority of internet traffic to Central and South America flows through a single building in Miami, known as the Network…

“The majority of internet traffic to Central and South America flows through a single building in Miami, known as the Network Access Point of the Americas. Bypassing that route with a new cable would require years of work and billions of dollars, and likely would have little effect on NSA surveillance, Soghoian says. The US already has a nuclear submarine explicitly dedicated to tapping undersea internet cables, and has proven its ability to hack into the computer networks of foreign governments.”

Cutting the cord: Brazil’s bold plan to combat the NSA | The Verge (vianew-aesthetic)

Railroad tracks trigger something inside me. Something about that urge to start travelling and find something I don’t even know…


Railroad tracks trigger something inside me. Something about that urge to start travelling and find something I don’t even know yet I’m looking for. And there’s always that little danger involved, because no matter how sure I am that there’s no train coming right this instant, I always feel a little nervous stopping on the tracks and taking a moment. Actually, I like to take moments, and it seems to me that people do it less and less often nowadays, rushing by. And then a friendly passer-by snaps me out of my moment, asking if all is ok. Geniunely. Friendly passers-by always make me smile and comfort me that the world is not lost just yet. (photo for @burndiary )

Man sues Registry after license mistakenly revoked - The Boston Globe


Man sues Registry after license mistakenly revoked - The Boston Globe

“John H. Gass hadn’t had a traffic ticket in years, so the Natick resident was surprised this spring when he received a letter from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles informing him to cease driving because his license had been revoked. I was shocked,’’ Gass said in a recent interview. “As far as I was concerned, I had done nothing wrong.’’ After frantic calls and a hearing with Registry officials, Gass learned the problem: An antiterrorism computerized facial recognition system that scans a database of millions of state driver’s license images had picked his as a possible fraud.”

via Penal code: The coming world of trial by algorithm - tech - 06 September 2013 - New Scientist

Weird T-Shirts Designed To Confuse Facebook’s Auto-Tagging

machine readable, realface, glamoflage, facebook, Simone C. Niquille

Niquille dreamed up the shirts as part of her master’s thesis in graphic design at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. FaceValue, as the thesis is titled, imagines new design solutions for the near-future, mining the ripe intersection of privacy, pattern recognition and biometrics. The shirts, custom-printed for around $65, are one of three such imaginings–a tongue-halfway-in-cheek tool for pushing back against the emerging trends of ubiquitous, computer-aided recognition. Covered in distorted faces of celebrity impersonators, they’re designed to keep Facebook’s algorithms guessing about what–or more accurately who–they’re looking at.–253221

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a…

“In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything — telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Frank Church on NBC, 1975.

Global Currency

USD, US, UK, Bretton Woods, Monetary Policy, deception, debt, 1944

The dollar became world key currency some 65 years ago. To be precise: during the night of July 13th and 14th, 1944. For it was during that night that the US, and even today this fact is still hardly known, clandestinely changed the wording in the documents of the Bretton Woods conference. When the conference members – stemming from 44 nations – finally signed the Agreement, they had no clue, that the US had amended the word “gold” with “and US-dollar”. It was in this manner – which the UK later described as “pure deception” – that the US-dollar became the world key currency and the US a superpower. This deception is more than just tragic: for without it the current crisis could not have developed, since the enormous disequilibrium between the US and the rest of the world which has lead into this crisis was only possible due to the special role of the US-dollar.

“I think 500 years is a reasonable span for a course to try to locate for the students, so that they can locate themselves in…

“I think 500 years is a reasonable span for a course to try to locate for the students, so that they can locate themselves in this arc. Courses that don’t have a 500 year arc, that aren’t teaching what it is that they are teaching in terms of a 500 year context are probably too shallow. And I think this can be just as true for very practical courses – you know, is there a way to teach a ‘how to hack a website’ workshop, or how to build an android app, with a 500 year arc of understanding what that means. How did we arrive at the possibility of asking this question and even proposing this skill.”

Benjamin Bratton in’Ambivalent Remarks on Computation, Political Geography, Pedagogy

“In order to be successful in the design of this legacy codebase for the generations to come we have to be willing to assign…

“In order to be successful in the design of this legacy codebase for the generations to come we have to be willing to assign students things that are as of today illegal – with the presumption that it is the things that exits outside the legal structures will form the base of the constitutional structures to come”

Benjamin Bratton in’Ambivalent Remarks on Computation, Political Geography, Pedagogy

The Value of Talking About Values

climate, climate science, politics, values

The data does tell us that climate change is happening. It does tell us that this change is linked to human behavior. It does tell us something about how certain levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases will impact our lives. And it does give us guidelines about how much we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and by when, in order to avoid negative consequences. What climate science doesn’t do is tell us how to value the different policies to reduce emissions, or how to deal with unintended consequences of those policies so we get the most benefits for the least harm.

FBI seizes underground drug market Silk Road

Silk Road, FBI, prohibition, crime, TOR, capitalism

It appears the Federal Bureau of Investigation has finally cracked down on Silk Road, the underground marketplace where users could buy cocaine, heroin, meth, and more using the virtual currency Bitcoin. Journalist Brian Krebs has just published a purported copy of a complaint filed in the Southern District of New York against Ross Ulbricht, who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the site and the handle Dread Pirate Roberts. Ulbricht is being charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. The site, which is only accessible through the anonymizing Tor network, has been pulled and replaced with an FBI notice. The Silk Road forums are still operating, suggesting they were hosted on a different server.