Time’s Inverted Index (Ftrain.com)

time, history, digital, archives, mairix, search, stories, context

I was biasing the results by using full-text search to explore my email. I would look for the things I found interesting that day—searching on terms like “Google” or “literature” or “e-reader”—and see a chronological list of exactly what I said about those very terms. The pattern-seeking engine in my brain would fire on all cylinders and make a story of the searches, creating an unintentional email-chrestomathy, a greatest-hits collection of ideas I’d had around a single word or phrase. The results seemed weirdly definitive. I thought I was doing history in a mirror, but because the emails were pure matches for key terms, devoid of all but a little context, I fell for the historical fallacy


The human microbiome: Me, myself, us

microbiome, health, bacteria, human, biology, personal ecosystem, human ecosystem

A healthy adult human harbours some 100 trillion bacteria in his gut alone. That is ten times as many bacterial cells as he has cells descended from the sperm and egg of his parents. These bugs, moreover, are diverse. Egg and sperm provide about 23,000 different genes. The microbiome, as the body’s commensal bacteria are collectively known, is reckoned to have around 3m. Admittedly, many of those millions are variations on common themes, but equally many are not, and even the number of those that are adds something to the body’s genetic mix.


Book Review: Against Security

book, review, security, security theatre, fear, perception, schneier

A lot of psychological research has tried to make sense out of security, fear, risk, and safety. But however fascinating the academic literature is, it often misses the broader social dynamics. New York University’s Harvey Molotch helpfully brings a sociologist’s perspective to the subject in his new book Against Security.


Algorithmic book writing

algorothms, books, publishing, online, long tail, compiling, scale, book machine

Philip M. Parker, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD Business School, has had a side project for over 10 years. He’s created a computer system that can write books about specific subjects in about 20 minutes. The patented algorithm has so far generated hundreds of thousands of books. In fact, Amazon lists over 100,000 books attributed to Parker, and over 700,000 works listed for his company, ICON Group International, Inc. This doesn’t include the private works, such as internal reports, created for companies or licensing of the system itself through a separate entity called EdgeMaven Media.


Review: Dark Mountain, Issue 3

dark mountain, review, book, dougald hine, paul kingsnorth, ecocentrism

Importantly, this is not simply a theoretical argument: it’s a debate that has divided the green movement cleanly in two. On the one hand are what Doug Tomkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit, calls “the tech-optimists” – those who believe, in the words of the Dark Mountian manifesto, that “the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’”. And, on the other, those who see wholesale systems collapse as a necessary step on the path of change. Tomkins, who, along with his wife Kris, abandoned his career in business and dedicated his life to buying up and protecting wild land across Latin America, describes wind turbines, for example, as “the icon of techno-industrial culture”. He goes on to observe: “The way of thinking that would create those windmills is the way of thinking that caused climate change in the first place.”



degrowth, economics, ecology, entropy, critisism, consumerism

Degrowth (in French: décroissance, in Spanish: decrecimiento, in Italian: decrescita) is a political, economic, and social movement based on ecological economics, anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the downscaling of production and consumption—the contraction of economies—as overconsumption lies at the root of long term environmental issues and social inequalities. Key to the concept of degrowth is that reducing consumption does not require individual martyring and a decrease in well-being. Rather, ‘degrowthists’ aim to maximize happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means—sharing work, consuming less, while devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community


Photography’s Third Act

photography, dustin curtis, communication, experimentation, art, documentation, photos, treehouse, n

When personal photography was first becoming popular, it was mostly used for experimentation and artistic expression, like portraiture. Over time, as costs decreased and fidelity increased, photos gained a second function: they became a system for people to store their memories. And only very recently have we begun to experience the third major function of photography, and I think it’s far more important than the other two: photos for individual communication.


What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?

Jaron Lanier, lynch mob, digital maoism, facebook, google, VR

And so it is with Jaron Lanier and the ideology he helped create, Web 2.0 futurism, digital utopianism, which he now calls “digital Maoism,” indicting “internet intellectuals,” accusing giants like Facebook and Google of being “spy agencies.” Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to “social catastrophe.”



IPCC, UN, COP18, climate change, fail, antipatterns, negotiations, multilaterism, UNFCC, kyoto proto

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, took place from 26 November to 8 December 2012. It included the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). The conference also included meetings by five subsidiary bodies: the thirty-seventh sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 37) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 37), the second part of the seventeenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 17), the second part of the fifteenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA 15) and the second part of the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 1).


The “Drinking Coffee and Stealing Wifi” 2012 World Tour

design fiction, design, curating, collection, cooper hewitt, design museum, aaronland, artisinal int

We think the War of Terror has not only reshaped our very notion of service design methodologies but also pioneered new and challenging experience design paradigms. We have been in extensive negotiations with the United States government to secure the necessary rights to create rich and engaging user experiences in the museum to support this most important of contemporary design interventions. Okay, not really. But as design fictions go it’s a great way to explain to people why I chose to come at work at a design museum.


Automated Trading Championship 2012

trading, aglorithmic trading, forex, bots, contest, automated trading, 2012

13 weeks of persistent and exciting struggle in the Automated Trading Championship 2012 are over and the winners already can celebrate their victory! All Expert Advisors have been stopped and it is time to announce the final results. For many weeks, we have covered the course of the competition events publishing interesting articles, statistical reports and exciting interviews with the most successful developers in “News” section. Someone has managed to earn fame among thousands of traders, while someone has ended in a fiasco but received invaluable experience and knowledge. We congratulate everyone on the completion of the ATC 2012 and honor the winners!


The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket

magic, adam green, Apollo Robbins, pickpocket, theatre, improv, entertainment, theft, perception

Robbins, who is thirty-eight and lives in Las Vegas, is a peculiar variety-arts hybrid, known in the trade as a theatrical pickpocket. Among his peers, he is widely considered the best in the world at what he does, which is taking things from people’s jackets, pants, purses, wrists, fingers, and necks, then returning them in amusing and mind-boggling ways. Robbins works smoothly and invisibly, with a diffident charm that belies his talent for larceny.


Another flash crash happened 2 days ago – 20/12/12. Aggressive algo to blame. From Nanex:


Another flash crash happened 2 days ago - 20/12/12. Aggressive algo to blame. From Nanex:

“On December 20, 2012, there was an Event in the EMini futures at 20:18:40 ET. The data exhibits many hallmarks of a HFT (High Frequency Trader) market maker absorbing sell orders up to their limit, and then turning around and dumping those contracts as fast as possible. Exactly what happened in the Flash Crash on May 6, 2010… Only in this case, the original seller appears to be much more aggressive than Waddell & Reed’s algorithm. The drop came in 2 seconds, and halted trading for 10 seconds. The flash crash halted eMini trading for just 5 seconds.”

Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching

interruption, work, stress, multitasking, focus, flow, creativity

I argue that when people are switching contexts every 10 and half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way people can achieve flow. When I write a research article, it takes me a couple of hours before I can even begin to think creatively. If I was switching every 10 and half minutes, there’s just no way I’d be able to think deeply about what I’m doing. This is really bad for innovation. When you’re on the treadmill like this, it’s just not possible to achieve flow.


State of the World 2013 - Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky

bruce sterling, sterling, 2012, 2013, Jon Lebkowsky, The WELL, year in review, state of the world, t

Welcome to the 2013 edition of the Bruce Sterling/Jon Lebkowsky State of the World conversation/rantfest. Bruce and Jon, old friends and rambunctious digerati, have made this annual mess every year of the 21st century; this year’s model should be particularly interesting, given the current hyperactive state of the world and the abundance of available conceptual lenses.


The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools


The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools

In medieval England, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools - a riotous banquet where the central idea seems always to have been a brief social revolution in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant appointed to oversee these Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness, wild partying and general licentiousness.

The appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. 

In the medieval version young people chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, and give themselves such names as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools.

The parody often tipped dangerously towards the profane, the ceremonies mocking the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building. As a result, the Feast and the almost blasphemous extravagances were constantly the object of condemnations of the medieval Church, until it was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431.

[Image Source: Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 22nd

Edelweiss Pirates

The first Edelweißpiraten appeared in the late 1930s in western Germany, comprising mostly young people between 14 and 18. Individual groups were closely associated with different regions but identifiable by a common style of dress with their own edelweiss badge and by their opposition to what they saw as the paramilitary nature of the Hitler Youth.[1] Subgroups of the Edelweißpiraten included the Navajos, centred on Cologne, the Kittelbach Pirates of Oberhausen and Düsseldorf, and the Roving Dudes of Essen.[2] According to one Nazi official in 1941, “Every child knows who the Kittelbach Pirates are. They are everywhere; there are more of them than there are Hitler Youth… They beat up the patrols… They never take no for an answer.”


Centralization vs. Decentralization: Two Centuries of Authority in Design

Smári McCarthy, design, society, architecture, authority, turing, general purpose computing, Turing

First, I’m going to tell you a bit about the war on general purpose computing. Then, we’ll talk about 19th century terrorism. Then a bit about urbanization and industrialization, before moving on to some weird ideas about languages. At the end, with any luck, it’ll all be interwoven quite nicely.


calendar, maya, 2012, time, date, timekeeping, BCE, CE

Joseph T. Goodman successfully deciphered the complicated system of the Maya calendar. He published his results in 1897, describing a “Long Count” system of a “count of days” based on several units or periods of increasingly larger size: the k'in (1 day), winal (20 days), tun (360 days), k'atun (7200 days), and bak'tun (144,000 days). The ancient Maya kept track of time using this system, which was combined with additional counts of 260 days (the tzolk'in) and 365 days (the haab) to produce Long Count dates. Goodman believed there was also a larger “Great Cycle” of 13 bak'tuns (1,872,000 days) and determined that the start of the present Great Cycle was on 4 Ajaw 8 Cumk'u (that is 13 bak'tunob, 0 k'atunob, 0 tunob, 0 winalob, and 0 k'inob, followed by counts on the tzolk'in and haab). Later scholarship showed that this was a sacred “Creation” date for the ancient Maya, who referred to it in their mythology as a kind of “birth” of the present world. The Gregorian equivalent of this date is August 11, 3114 BCE. The next day was, with each day clicking another unit in the count. According to scholars who support Goodman’s idea of a 13-bak'tun Great Cycle, the current period will conclude on 4 Ajaw 3 K'ank'in, the Gregorian equivalent of which is December 21, 2012 (or possibly December 23, or yet something else…)


60 years since the great smog of London

On Friday 5 December 1952, a thick yellow smog brought the capital to a standstill for four days and is estimated to have killed more than 4,000 people. London’s air may appear much cleaner today, but is still dangerously polluted. The coal pollution that caused the infamous ‘pea soupers’ has been replaced by invisible pollution – mainly from traffic fumes – resulting in 13,000 early deaths each year in the UK and 4,300 in London