The greatest impact of climate chaos is the end of predictable decision-making landscapes—the loss of the ability to plan…

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Sort by Controversial: training machine learning to sow irreparable divisions


Scott Alexander continues to delight with his works of short, sharp science fiction (previously): this time, it’s “Sort by Controversial,” a teachnolovecraftian story of training a machine learning system to recognize (and then produce) “controversial” stories by exploiting Reddit’s “sort by controversial” feature to obtain training data.

Alexander’s mcguffin is something called “Shiri’s Scissor,” a machine learning system that produces polarizing statements whose deceptive obvious rightness (or, alternately, wrongness) pits people against one another so violently that once you’ve been scissored, your peace is forever fractured.

It’s a lovely tale in the tradition of Lexicon and Snow Crash, turning on the use of algorithms to locate “spells” whose utterances destroy our ability to think clearly – and as such, it’s a wonderful metaphor for the engagement-maximized political climate we find ourselves imprisoned by.

A Sound You Can’t Unhear (and What It Says About Your Brain)

audio, perception, audio-illusion, sound, jibberish, pattern, noise

She starts with a clip that’s been digitally altered to sound like jibberish. On first listen, to my ears, it was entirely meaningless. Next, Das plays the original, unaltered clip: a woman’s voice saying, “The Constitution Center is at the next stop.” Then we hear the jibberish clip again, and woven inside what had sounded like nonsense, we hear “The Constitution Center is at the next stop.” The point is: When our brains know what to expect to hear, they do, even if, in reality, it is impossible. Not one person could decipher that clip without knowing what they were hearing, but with the prompt, it’s impossible not to hear the message in the jibberish. This is a wonderful audio illusion.


No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime

biology, hagfish, ocean, sime, materials, slime

Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously. They slime when attacked or simply when stressed. On July 14, 2017, a truck full of hagfish overturned on an Oregon highway. The animals were destined for South Korea, where they are eaten as a delicacy, but instead, they were strewn across a stretch of Highway 101, covering the road (and at least one unfortunate car) in slime. Typically, a hagfish will release less than a teaspoon of gunk from the 100 or so slime glands that line its flanks. And in less than half a second, that little amount will expand by 10,000 times—enough to fill a sizable bucket. Reach in, and every move of your hand will drag the water with it.


State-of-the-art climate model shows how we can solve crisis

climate, mitigation, LDF, IPCC, UTS, SR15, energy, 2019

We are already seeing the devastating consequences of global warming, with ever-rising sea levels, extreme storms, prolonged droughts and intensified bushfires. Now, after two years of research and modelling, scientists have come up with a groundbreaking new framework for achieving – and even beating – the target of limiting warming to 1.5°C. The research by leading scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the German Aerospace Center and the University of Melbourne, has been funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) as part of its new One Earth initiative. This model is the first to achieve the required negative emissions through natural climate solutions, including the restoration of degraded forests and other lands, along with a transition to 100% renewable energy by mid-century.


There’s really only 4 ways to connect with someone of a culture/ideology you hate at an intellectual level (none guaranteed): 1….

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Hi, I’m the #Arctic #cryosphere portal. You may know me from my greatest hits “I’m losing around 60,000 km2 of sea ice a year*”,…

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Australian Government to provide $6.7 million for a replica of Captain Cook’s ship to “re-enact” a 39-stop circumnavigation that…

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Both outright doom & doing more of the same are grounded in maintaining a sense of comfort, but the future is uncomfortable….

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you, oxygen-breathing intellectual: for the first time, in the Anthropocene, an organism is transforming its own planetary…

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"It is possible that intelligence in the wrong kind of species was foreordained to be a fatal combination for the biosphere,…

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sound, silence, acoustic-ecology, field-recording, listening, noise-pollution, Gordon-Hempton, Emerg

Hempton went on to make a vocation of listening. He discovered that the use of a microphone turned him into a better listener, because he learned to take his cue from that tool, which didn’t judge the relative value of the different sounds it was absorbing. Having always in the past striven to listen for the “important” sounds, Hempton stopped trying to prioritize based on his own limited perspective and discovered the majesty of the uncurated soundscape. In beginning to hear without privileging certain sounds over others, he found that every place on earth has a unique sonic character. But, intriguingly, Hempton defines his different experiences of geographically specific auditory signatures as experiences of silence, which he calls the “poetics of space.”


Japan’s robot hotel lays off half the robots after they created more work for humans

Japan, Robots, hotel, 2019, strange, labour, employment

It turns out that even robots are having a tough time holding down a job. Japan’s Henn-na “Strange” Hotel has laid off half its 243 robots after they created more problems than they could solve […] One of the layoffs included a doll-shaped assistant in each hotel room called Churi. Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa can answer questions about local businesses’ opening and closing times, but Churi couldn’t. When hotel guests asked Churi “What time does the theme park open?” it didn’t have a good answer. That was a problem because Churi was supposed to help ameliorate the Strange Hotel’s staff shortage by substituting in for human workers.


Peter Moosgaard - Interview about the Postdigital #vaporfolk


1. What fascinates you about the historical Cargo Cults and how has their translation to the present come about?

I am fascinated by the unsolvability, the eternal approachability of these phenomena. Since no one in the world can say what what “real faith” is. Do anthropologists learn more about their own methods of observation in this investigation of cultures? Are tourists and anthropologists deceived by the natives by getting their own pre-conception of exoticism? Has the observation of the cults contributed to the emergence of the same cults, or are the indigenous practices to be considered original? The chicken became the egg, so to speak: oppositions between observer /performer, technology /magic, facts /fiction lack a solid basis when approaching the cargo cults. They show an amazing approach towards the unknown, an “otherness”. It is neither rejected nor adopted, it is re-formulated under the circumstances of their own beliefsystem. Nothing else than what art and science is doing.

The other component is over-identification: the rejection and criticism of present ideology, techno-capitalism so to speak, has always been an integral part of the system itself. One is tempted to say the rejection of ideology today only consolidates its supremacy. Therefore, I find it exciting to take a system more seriously than it takes itself. This would mean to accept Prince Philip not as an alien king but as a local deity. To feed only from McDonalds, to bring public animal sacrifices to popstars, and always quite literally do what the boss tells you to do. Overidentification is an interesting way of dealing with capitalist schizophrenia. If the art world asks for commercial products then give them “cargo” a thousand times. If an artist should always repeat the same, then make a sacred rite, a perfected loop.

2. What promises do digital technologies make today? What is our “Cargo”?

My professor at the time said the Internet was the biggest death-suppression project in human history. So when we understand communication as an “maneuver against loneliness towards death”, all publishing, tracking and posting is a bulwark against death. The men who always need a GoPro, are afraid to forget. The promise of immortality by “going down in history” was virtually democratized by digital technologies - now to “enter the cloud”. Of course, digital technologies are used for practical purposes, but you can´t explain it as a global phenomenon that way … In the networking of all communications, an old hermetic dream is reflected: The technology follows a collective longing and not primarily its everyday use. I think the “cargo”, that is the divine freight that digital technologies promise, is the fulfillment of connectedness as an artificial concept. The promise to be able to transcend a group as rituals or political movements do. One could summarize this gnostic dream with the phrase “to be of one mind”. We want to live in an imperishable picture-world. The VR and AR is a logical consequence to this.

3. With “Digital Natives” it has been felt for some time that the enthusiasm for technology is subsiding. Especially in the metropolitan milieus one can observe a regular retreat into the analogue / manufacture. Is this a kind of counter-movement or good content for Instagram?

It is a form of counter-movement, however apolitical and “idiotic” in the original sense of the word. The problem with the first screen generation is that you can avoid problems at first. You can escape pain and trouble if you only live on the Internet. Everything goes as fast as it can be used. Nevertheless, on a real journey through Europe, people have died before and new ones were born. When one identifies with systems of such speed, one becomes nervous, frustrated, and therefore it seems now beneficial to identify with slow processes: with growth and decline of nature, manual production, material transformations which take time, etc. One has to notice that the speed of light is only applicable on mental processes. Here the gnositic dream, the dominance of information over matter, comes to its pre-set limits. These trends contribute to mental health, sadly they equal a balance to the “rest”, that is a neo-liberal agenda. However, this is not a public stance against techno-solutionism and boyish innovation mythology. I would find it more exciting this counterculture to devote itself to the physical as a re-finding of the real. It is therefore a new way of thinking that there can be no “back to nature”. Nature has always been a construct, which is why you can speak of “reanimation of the real. Matter is Mother

4. Your blog is often mentioned in connection with the “post-digital” art scene. The work that is formed by this concept is very different in form and design. What connects “postdigital” art and what attitude is expressed in it?

It’s about the radicality to see the bigger picture. After the digital has turned from a tool into a total environment, it will also be invisible (similar to a fish as the last to describe the water). There I found it exciting to create a speculative future ( - for example after a violent solar wind - in which information is erased, every electronic device remains disfunctional. Bruce Sterling also later proposed to consider this present through an Atemporality.

This postdigital speculation shows us a life in which everything material, all things mechanical remain the same, only information is gone. How would people react? Would you keep the gestures and rituals of the digital out of habit? Linking the forest, show photos to strangers in the street, adore broken devices as totems? As postdigital I would coin the “already internalized technology”. If the signs and grammar of a technology have already translated into flesh and blood. As something which is not external to humans and therefore cannot be rejected. In this case, the postdigital is a speculation, even if one were to abandon all things Hi-Tech, one would have already internalized all the varieties of the digital.

In general, I would say the postdigital is more of a condition than an art form or some intermedia practice. Crossing the virtual to ultimately return to the material world. But everything has changed with this crossing: thinking, contemplation, values ​​- reality is no longer the same. I call it Xenorealism, which is when after years on the Internet you turn the head from the screen: you recognizes the things, but nothing looks the same anymore. In my practice, this shift is expressed, because if you decide to work with tangible, primitive materials as a “digital native”, this is something quite different from “Arte Povera”. The reasons are of significance. To summerize, a state of postdigital can also create new ways of accessing human behavior: cooking, walking, building, gathering, etc. These practices are not new, but are now performed for other reasons. When my grandmother used to boil juices, it was tautological, it was exactly what it was. When you start to make juices today, spiritual things are resonating: this is independent, artisanal, cleansing, local, for your soul and direct experience, etc. What was once everyday routine is discovered today as a ritual. Work from earlier times are re-emerging and perceived as semi-spiritual practices.

5. What are the prospects for these projects in regard to the relationship between man and technology?

The utopia has already been formulated, anchored firmly in the collective psyche. Humanity wants to be in augmented reality! And also meld with its components, the myth of cyborgs as “superhuman” and genetic improvement is already running. (See Critical Art Ensemble) But I am hoping that there is a counter-movement to this “propaganda of innovation” and of Eurocentric techno-solutionism. A desire for technology, which is not just self-optimization and escapism for the white man. I think there is currently a perspective on the Anthropocene emerging, an age in which humanity comprehends his role on the planet merely as a geological factor. For example, technologies that work in choreography with organic life. It could possibly be a new global imaginary (NGI), a global utopia, if you will, which is drastically different from today’s. For this, artists and designers are needed, art as propaganda for this new concept of globality.

Interview: Daniel Bogart, MSD Münster School of Design (DE)

“Work, Aristotle insisted, in no sense makes you a better person; in fact, it makes you a worse one, since it takes up so much…

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‘Stand alone complexes’ are an interesting idea and seem especially relevant these days; surprising to look through Google/G…

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“The famous Marber grid is one of the foundation stones of Penguin mythology, a design so clever that it is still studied half…

design, book design, Penguin, Marber grid

“The famous Marber grid is one of the foundation stones of Penguin mythology, a design so clever that it is still studied half a century after it was made.Romek Marber was a well-trained Polish designer working in London. He had done two covers for Penguin when the new art director Germano Facetti invited him and two other Penguin illustrators, John Sewell and Derk Birdsall, to propose a design grid for the crime imprint. Marber won. His approach was very methodical, reflecting his interest in symmetry and proportion“

In this Overview, large rock formations are shown rising above the desert landscape in Northeastern Arizona, USA. This region is…


In this Overview, large rock formations are shown rising above the desert landscape in Northeastern Arizona, USA. This region is arid, largely void of greenery, and characterized by hills, mesas, buttes, cliffs and canyons. This particular outcrop is about 12.5 miles (20 km) due east of the Navajo National Monument, which contains the well-preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan People.


36°53'37.6"N, 109°57'57.0"W

Source imagery: DigitalGlobe

Climate change policy can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to the policies that work.


This article written by David Roberts at Vox is interesting, but it’s kind of long, and most likely will appeal primarily to policy wonks and energy nerds. It summarizes a book with the title, “ Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy,” written by Hal Harvey, and also describes a climate/energy policy tool called the “energy policy simulator.” David Roberts also interviews the book author, included in this article.

Some of the infographics are worth a peek. Excerpt from the article:

Climate change is such a large and sprawling problem — there are so many forces involved, so many decision makers at so many levels — that solving it can seem hopelessly complex. There are so many options available to policymakers, each with their own fierce constituencies. Where to begin? Which clean-energy policies actually work?

That is the question Hal Harvey, long-time energy analyst and CEO of the energy policy firm Energy Innovation, set out to answer with a new tool.

The tool is the Energy Policy Simulator, which allows anyone to choose a package of energy policies and immediately see the impact on carbon emissions and other pollutants. (It’s like a video game for energy nerds.) It’s based on a model that attempts to replicate the physical economy, with detailed information about real-world assets.

Using that tool, Harvey and his team narrowed in on the policies that work, the places they work best, and the best way to design them. Their conclusions are summarized in a new book, Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy. It’s a compact but detailed how-to guide for developing energy policies that have real impact. (A fairly extensive miniature version of the book is online here, if you want to flip through.)

The results are oddly heartening, or at least clarifying.

For instance: The top 20 carbon emitting countries in the world are responsible for 80 percent of global emissions. Just seven countries emit more than a gigaton annually.

Here is a graph from the book showing, in light blue, the total emissions currently projected for 2050 (it includes the effects of current policies). The colored squares are the sectors where additional policy-driven efforts can reduce emissions enough through 2050 to offer a 50 percent chance of avoiding more than 2 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise. (That is, you will recall, the commonly agreed international target, though many advocate shooting lower, for 1.5 degrees.)

Climate change policy can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to the policies that work.

We’ve mapped every ship in the Arctic & Bering Strait over 7 years… by far the biggest vector dataset I’ve ever worked with. …

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My essay on Crapularity Aesthetics is out: - Why “contemporary art” is not what its name literally means,…

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This week the Smithsonian Museum unveiled a portrait of Henrietta Lacks whose cells were taken from her body without her…

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“It is with great sadness that V2_ has to announce the passing of Alex Adriaansens, long-time director of V2_Lab for the…

Alex Adriaansens, 2018, RIP, V2, unstable media, media art

“It is with great sadness that V2_ has to announce the passing of Alex Adriaansens, long-time director of V2_Lab for the Unstable Media. Alex died on 30 December 2018, after several years of struggling with cancer.            

For over thirty-five years, Alex was active in the field of art and technology, as an initiator, an organiser, and as an advisor. His influence on many of us was enormous. He projected an amazing, passionate engagement with art and with the ways in which new technologies impact society. Perhaps even more importantly, he was one of the most gentle, friendly and optimistic people I can think of. This optimism, coupled with a clear vision and a strong sense of urgency for what needs to be done, fuelled his work and put the V2_Organisation, and many of the projects that Alex was involved in, among the most influential initiatives in new media art since the 1980s. Now he leaves behind his wife, Angelica, and will be missed immensely by many others, as a friend and colleague, mentor, and as one of the guiding spirits of a whole international scene.”

Explainer: How ‘Shared Socioeconomic Pathways’ explore future climate change

climate, IPCC, AR5, AR6, SSP, SRES, climate-policy, policy, foresight, futures, pathways, 2018

Over the past few years, an international team of climate scientists, economists and energy systems modellers have built a range of new “pathways” that examine how global society, demographics and economics might change over the next century. They are collectively known as the “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways” (SSPs). These SSPs are now being used as important inputs for the latest climate models, feeding into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth assessment report due to be published in 2020-21. They are also being used to explore how societal choices will affect greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, how the climate goals of the Paris Agreement could be met. The new SSPs offer five pathways that the world could take. Compared to previous scenarios, these offer a broader view of a “business as usual” world without future climate policy, with global warming in 2100 ranging from a low of 3.1C to a high of 5.1C above pre-industrial levels.


A mud pot is moving across California, and no one knows why

mud, geology, california, salton-sea, 2018

Currently located just north of Niland, the mud pot is moving toward Union Pacific Railroad tracks and giving engineers there a headache. A well dug to depressurize the source of the gas had no effect. Steel walls driven 80 feet into the ground were also nonchalantly circumvented; the mud pot simply ducked under them and continued its freakishly linear path of destruction. “No one has seen a moving mud pot before,” says David Lynch, a consulting physicist who has long studied the area’s geothermal features. Mud pots and mud volcanoes also generally don’t emit much water, but this one is extremely vigorous, producing somewhere around 40,000 gallons of water a day. Lynch and other experts have taken to calling it a “mud spring.”


The Mystery of the Havana Syndrome

Havana-Syndrome, Cuba, CIA, sonic-weapons, sound, brain-damage, 2016, 2017, 2018

Between December 30, 2016, and February 9, 2017, at least three C.I.A. officers working under diplomatic cover in Cuba had reported troubling sensations that seemed to leave serious injuries. When the agency sent reinforcements to Havana, at least two of them were afflicted as well. All the victims described being bombarded by waves of pressure in their heads. Unlike Lee, though, the C.I.A. officers said that they heard loud sounds, similar to cicadas, which seemed to follow them from one room to another. But when they opened an outside door the sounds abruptly stopped. Some of the victims said that it felt as if they were standing in an invisible beam of energy.


Aggregated knowledge from a small number of debates outperforms the wisdom of large crowds

consensus, decision-making, forecasting, wisdom-of-crowds, arxiv

he aggregation of many independent estimates can outperform the most accurate individual judgment. This centenarian finding, popularly known as the wisdom of crowds, has been applied to problems ranging from the diagnosis of cancer to financial forecasting. It is widely believed that social influence undermines collective wisdom by reducing the diversity of opinions within the crowd. Here, we show that if a large crowd is structured in small independent groups, deliberation and social influence within groups improve the crowd’s collective accuracy. We asked a live crowd (N=5180) to respond to general-knowledge questions (e.g., what is the height of the Eiffel Tower?). Participants first answered individually, then deliberated and made consensus decisions in groups of five, and finally provided revised individual estimates. We found that averaging consensus decisions was substantially more accurate than aggregating the initial independent opinions. Remarkably, combining as few as four consensus choices outperformed the wisdom of thousands of individuals.


The Very Slow Movie Player

VSMP, slow-media, film, perception, seeing, Bryan-Boyer

Most displays are looking to play things faster. We’ve got movies at 60 frames per second, and gaming displays that run at 144 fps. But what about moving in the other direction? [Bryan Boyer] wanted to try this out, so he built the VSMP, or Very Slow Movie Player. It’s a neat device that plays back a movie at about 24 fph (frames per hour) on an e-ink display to demonstrate something that [Bryan] calls Slow Seeing, which, he says “helps you see yourself against the smear of time.” A traditional epic-length movie is now going to run you greater than 8,000 hours of viewing.


Belgians chose the names of 28 streets and the results are pretty creative

brussels, belgium, street-names, naming, René-Magritte, 2018

One street is named after a type of traditional spiced cookie (Passage du Speculoos). Another is named after a cheese and endive dish—one of Belgium’s national dishes (Passage du Chicon). Another street, Ceci n’est pas une rue, bears the title “This is not a street”—a nod to one of Belgian artist René Magritte’s most famous surrealist paintings. Others are more romantic in nature, including the Chemin d’Un Monde Meilleur—path to a better world.


I still think a lot about this tweet: Given the news that immediate fossil-fuel phase-out would be…

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At #saf19, filmmakers & researchers Sasha Litvintseva and Beny Wagner introduce their long-term project Universal Syntax, which…

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The artists in Fabulous Monsters include Dinh Q. Le, Ang Song Ming, Zeng Fanzhi, Ronald Ventura, Jia Aili, Jason Wee, Hyun Soo…

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"So, what is this idea(l) of proximity and “clean” sounds about? Isn’t a recording as much about the distance and its space as…

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’The Anti-Locust Research Centre (ALRC) was set up in London, United Kingdom, by the Colonial Office in 1945, with the aim of…

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New paper out based on a massive sample (n = 355,358) finds that screens explain less than 0.4% of depression AND shows why…

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’How do you learn to ‘experience’ Bigfoot, to ‘see’ traces of Bigfoot, to accomplish the evidential practices of Bigfooting when…

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The current World Magnetic Model (released in 2015, meant to last until 2020) has slipped so far against reality that an early…

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“like most technologies, machine learning is neutral” should be a sentence that, when uttered, disqualifies you from all…

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‘The Orkney electron gives me hope that the future can be otherwise, that there is another way of being and living that is not…

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“With the rise of so-called new materialism, it is perhaps necessary to simultaneously call into being a new idealism, no longer…

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In the immortal words (may he rest in peace) of Kurt Vonnegut: "God made mud. God got lonesome. So God said to some of the mud,…

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Unpopular opinion: Trying to “understand” art necessarily impoverishes it. Understanding is just modeling, i.e. simplifying…

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And the CHI anarchism paper IS. IN. AND. DONE. I don’t know if my favourite bit is the talmud quote, the conclusion, the…

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Arizona: People are violently attacking driverless cars from Google/Alphabet’s Waymo


People like this guy waving his gun at a driverless Waymo van in Arizona are attacking self-driving vehicles with rocks, knives, and *their own cars*, sending a message to tech companies like Waymo, which is owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company). That message is, please go experiment with artificial intelligence in somebody else’s neighborhood.

In the video above, a pissed off guy in Chandler, Arizona waves his gun at a passing Waymo van.

He got in trouble for it, but man, I can empathize.

By the way, the image was captured by surveillance cameras on the Waymo van, provided to the police, and sort of proving the dude’s point.

There have been accidents in the area involving the autonomous vans.

The New York Times reports on the tire-slashing of a driverless vehicle that once happily roamed the streets of Chandler, which isn’t far from Phoenix.  There have been 21 violent attacks on driverless cars there in the last few years.

Waymo started testing self-driving vehicles in Chandler in 2016.

Waymo did not ask the human residents if they were cool with it.

They’re not cool with it.

’How do we know that only one geometry is relevant to the complex happenings of nature? Perhaps a three-dimensional geometry is…

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A fifth of Earth’s geologic history is missing. One theory: “colossal crustal consumption” by glacial erosion during ’Snowball…

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