No but seriously, Fuck Minimalism



Minimalism lied to you. 

Minimalism told you that the past was monochrome. That the height of ancient fashion was a plain white robe, that the Enlightenment was the most important art movement of the eighteenth century, that Victorians wore nothing but plain black, white and brown. It told you that Japanese art was its inspiration but stripped away every beautiful detail.

Minimalism told you that the functional must be unadorned. That simplicity is elegance. That plainness is clean. It told you that ornament is clutter. That trim is only used to hide mistakes. It tells you that beautiful things collect dust, that intricacy is dirty. 

Minimalism told you your cultural heritage is tacky. It told you vibrant African prints clash. It told you intricate Islamic tiling is fussy. It told you beautiful European embroidery is quaint and old fashioned. 

Minimalism told you to limit your vocabulary. It called clever wordplay purple prose. It told you clarity was in short, dull sentences. 

Minimalism told you that masculinity is expressed in dull simplicity. It gendered the ornate. 

Minimalism told you that nature is only expressed in simple lines. That certain colours shouldn’t appear together. 

The truth is, minimalism lied. It’s an ugly 20th century fad that has long overstayed its welcome. It endures for two reasons. 1: It’s easy to mass produce. Flat pack furniture is cheap and easy. Tailoring printed fabrics and adding well-placed trim takes effort. Designing architecture that’s more than just boxes takes time. 2: It allows boring white men to erase the importance of POC, women, and their own heritage in the history of art and design. It keeps influence in the hands of the few and devalues the work of thousands of skilled people.

So fuck minimalism. Embrace ornament. Wear as many accessories as you want. Decorate the space you inhabit. Perform theatre in beautiful places, not in dark boxes. Support artisans and craftspeople. Use the words you found in thesauruses and old literature. Celebrate real history. Make the most of modern synthetic dyes and use colour in everything you can. Enjoy beautiful things. 

Less was never more.

The best, pithy argument against minimalism I’ve seen. 

cc two recent longer-form pieces from Twitter friend Kyle Chayka:

Walking Tables: a strandbeest for your dining room


Wouter Scheublin’s 2006 design for a Walking Table echoes Theo Jansen’s iconic Strandbeest: the complex mechanical linkages on the legs allow the table to walk when it’s given a moderately firm shove.

Scheublin made 8 of them, and, judging from their conspicuous absence from his store, it’s a good bet that they’ve sold out in the intervening decade.

Regardless, it’s the second example of the genre that, until now, I believed to be a Jansen-ish one-off, and thus holds out the promise for whole phyla of walking furniture and objects.

In 2013, Boston09 – an engineering student – published an open hardware remake of the table; having reviewed the project, I’m now wondering about e.g. drinks cabinets, tea trolleys, and, of course, chairs.

Entanglement | Project Hieroglyph


People confronting the destructive effects of climate change in their own corners of the world – from biogeochemists to retirees and children in rural India – support one another through Million Eyes, an experimental network that connects people virtually at critical moments when they need inspiration and support.

Entanglement | Project Hieroglyph

Wat moet een mens geloven? Postsecularisme voor beginners


Zo geloofde men dat het zou gaan: het geloof zou verdwijnen, de secularisering van de samenleving zou zich onherroepelijk doorzetten. Dat moest wel: de verlichting bevrijdde de mensheid uit de kerkelijke ketenen, Nietzsche verklaarde God dood, wetenschap legde de wereld uit, kunst werd heilig verklaard. Maar zo ging het niet. Net na 9/11 verklaarde Jürgen Habermas onze tijd ‘postseculier’. We geloven dus weer in geloven, klinkt het. Een aftocht naar denkbeelden van voor de verlichting of de volgende stap in een intercultureel denkend humanisme?

Wat moet een mens geloven? Postsecularisme voor beginners

The future of Mars will be 3D-printed in the Mojave Desert Growing up in Jakarta’s polluted slums, Vera Mulyani loved building…


The future of Mars will be 3D-printed in the Mojave Desert

Growing up in Jakarta’s polluted slums, Vera Mulyani loved building things. As a child, she dreamed of becoming an architect. More than two decades later, Mulyani is a self-proclaimed “Marschitect,” and spends her time brainstorming how human life might be sustained on the red planet.

Welcome to AirSpace

culture, architecture, homogeneity, airspace, generic-city, non-space, technology, geography, famili

We could call this strange geography created by technology “AirSpace.” It’s the realm of coffee shops, bars, startup offices, and co-live / work spaces that share the same hallmarks everywhere you go: a profusion of symbols of comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furniture. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wood. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Fast internet. The homogeneity of these spaces means that traveling between them is frictionless, a value that Silicon Valley prizes and cultural influencers like Schwarzmann take advantage of. Changing places can be as painless as reloading a website. You might not even realize you’re not where you started. It’s possible to travel all around the world and never leave AirSpace, and some people don’t. Well-off travelers like Kevin Lynch, an ad executive who lived in Hong Kong Airbnbs for three years, are abandoning permanent houses for digital nomadism. Itinerant entrepreneurs, floating on venture capital, might head to a Bali accelerator for six months as easily as going to the grocery store. AirSpace is their home. As the geography of AirSpace spreads, so does a certain sameness.


Miller’s Law in the Archipelago of Weird

culture, filter-bubble, filter, autism, allism, Archipelago, shared-experience, inside-baseball, tec

Pariser defined a filter bubble as a personal ecosystem of information catered by algorithms. What this definition obscures, however, is that algorithm is nothing more than a fancy term for process, derived from the name of a 9th-century Persian mathematician. In every single one of those handwringing articles you see about “Are Algorithms Running Our Lives?”, you can safely replace “algorithm” with “process.” Do processes run our lives? Consider how many processes you ran through today on your way to taking out your phone or settling in at your computer, and you tell me. Taking a shower is a process. Making coffee is a process. Riding the bus and driving a car are processes. For that matter, so are the interactions you have with other people, whether you recognize those interactions as processes or not. Other people curate the information that they present to you just as you curate the information you present to them. The only novel purpose that “algorithms” in the handwringing-article sense serve is to remove the constraint of physical distance from the problem of who can curate information for whom. Whether online or in meatspace, there is still some process that filters what information you receive. The only salient difference is the extent to which you can control that process. “But don’t Facebook’s and Twitter’s algorithms limit what information I see?” Yes, and so do the choices you make in friends. The fact that your friends cater the information that ends up in your filter bubble means that your choices in who to listen to determine whether you’re a Mainlander or an Archipelagian, which inside baseball means something to you and which doesn’t. If your filter bubble contains no outliers, where do you expect to learn that outliers exist, much less what their lives are like? If your goal is to make existing spaces more welcoming to the mainstream, what effect do you think that has on outliers? Especially when only the mainstream gets a say? If your goal is, instead, inclusivity of both mainstream and outlier populations, what actions do you think you could take to learn more about outliers and the Chesterton’s fences they rely on?


Categorizing Posts on Tumblr



Millions of posts are published on Tumblr everyday. Understanding the topical structure of this massive collection of data is a fundamental step to connect users with the content they love, as well as to answer important philosophical questions, such as “cats vs. dogs: who rules on social networks?”

As first step in this direction, we recently developed a post-categorization workflow that aims at associating posts with broad-interest categories, where the list of categories is defined by Tumblr’s on-boarding topics.


Posts are heterogeneous in form (video, images, audio, text) and consists of semi-structured data (e.g. a textual post has a title and a body, but the actual textual content is un-structured). Luckily enough, our users do a great job at summarizing the content of their posts with tags. As the distribution below shows, more than 50% of the posts are published with at least one tag.


However, tags define micro-interest segments that are too fine-grained for our goal. Hence, we editorially aggregate tags into semantically coherent topics: our on-boarding categories.

We also compute a score that represents the strength of the affiliation (tag, topic), which is based on approximate string matching and semantic relationships.

Given this input, we can compute a score for each pair (post,topic) as:



  • w(f,t) is the score (tag,topic), or zero if the pair (f,t) does not belong in the dictionary W.
  • tag-features(p) contains features extracted from the tags associated to the post: raw tag, “normalized” tag, n-grams.
  • q(f,p) is a weight [0,1] that takes into account the source of the feature (f) in the post (p).

The drawback of this approach is that relies heavily on the dictionary W, which is far from being complete.

To address this issue we exploit another source of data: RelatedTags, an index that provides a list of similar tags by exploiting co-occurence patterns. For each pair (tag,topic) in W, we propagate the affiliation with the topic to its top related tags, smoothing the affiliation score w to reflect the fact these entries (tag,topic) could be noisy.


This computation is followed by filtering phase to remove entries (post,topic) with a low confidence score. Finally, the category with the highest score is associated to the post.



This unsupervised approach to post categorization runs daily on posts created the day before. The next step is to assess the alignment between the predicted category and the most appropriate one.


The results of an editorial evaluation show that the our framework is able to identify in most cases a relevant category, but it also highlights some limitations, such as a limited robustness to polysemy.

We are currently looking into improving the overall performances by exploiting NLP techniques for word embedding and by integrating the extraction and analysis of visual features into the processing pipeline.

Some fun with data

What is the distribution of posts published on Tumblr? Which categories drive more engagements? To analyze these and other questions we analyze the categorized posts over a period of 30 days.

Almost 7% of categorized posts belong to Fashion, with Art as runner up.


The category that drives more engagements is Television, which accounts for over 8% of the reblogs on categorized posts.


However, normalizing by the number of posts published, the category with the highest average of engagements per post isGif Art, followed by Astrology.


Last but not least, here are the stats you all have been waiting for!! Cats are winning on Tumblr… for now…


An insight into how Tumblr works

Meet Moxie Marlinspike, the Anarchist Bringing Encryption to All of Us

encryption, privacy, security, Moxie, Wired, technology, anarchism, USA

Over the past several years, Marlinspike has quietly positioned himself at the front lines of a quarter-century-long war between advocates of encryption and law enforcement. Since the first strong encryption tools became publicly available in the early ’90s, the government has warned of the threat posed by “going dark”—that such software would cripple American police departments and intelligence agencies, allowing terrorists and organized criminals to operate with impunity. In 1993 it unsuccessfully tried to implement a backdoor system called the Clipper Chip to get around encryption. In 2013, Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed that the NSA had secretly sabotaged a widely used crypto standard in the mid- 2000s and that since 2007 the agency had been ingesting a smorgasbord of tech firms’ data with and without their cooperation. Apple’s battle with the FBI over Farook’s iPhone destroyed any pretense of a truce.


We Should All Have Something To Hide

Moxie, privacy, technology, law, democracy, anarchism, culture, Society

Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship? The cornerstone of liberal democracy is the notion that free speech allows us to create a marketplace of ideas, from which we can use the political process to collectively choose the society we want. Most critiques of this system tend to focus on the ways in which this marketplace of ideas isn’t totally free, such as the ways in which some actors have substantially more influence over what information is distributed than others. The more fundamental problem, however, is that living in an existing social structure creates a specific set of desires and motivations in a way that merely talking about other social structures never can. The world we live in influences not just what we think, but how we think, in a way that a discourse about other ideas isn’t able to. Any teenager can tell you that life’s most meaningful experiences aren’t the ones you necessarily desired, but the ones that actually transformed your very sense of what you desire. We can only desire based on what we know. It is our present experience of what we are and are not able to do that largely determines our sense for what is possible.


How to protect the world’s largest living thing? Build it a border wall


Pando is a clonal colony of a single male quaking aspen that has been genetically confirmed to be a massive single organism connected at the roots. (Photo: J Zapell/Wiki Commons)

First off, the description of this batch of aspens is amazing. It has a name, “Pando.” (Pando in Latin means “I spread.”) The individual trees are not separate organisms. While each tree you see is, in fact, a tree, all these trees share a common root system, making the forest a single, living organism. It lives in Utah. It spreads over 106 acres. According to this article, it’s the largest single organism in the world. How old is it? Scientists don’t know. Estimates range from 2,000 to 1 million years old.


Sadly, this magnificent organism is dying. An influx of hungry deer and cattle, which eat Pando’s young stems, is playing a large part in its demise, but climate change-induced drought, insects and disease aren’t helping either.

But Rogers and his colleagues aren’t content to stand idly by. They are testing out a simple and unexpected but, so far, effective conservation plan, by building a border fence around a 7-hectare section of the grove.

Rogers’ plan also involved attempting to stimulate tree growth by burning vegetation, clearing juniper bushes growing among the trees, and cutting mature aspens, methods that have been shown to promote new sprouts in the past. But it was the border wall that has proven to be the single most effective way to protect Pando. After three years, the part of Pando inside the fence contained more than eight times as many stems per hectare as an unfenced area.

The reason fencing is so effective is that it keeps out grazing animals, the most damaging of which are introduced cattle.

How to protect the world’s largest living thing? Build it a border wall

“What’s that?” says the friend. “That,” I say, “is the future of food.” She sips it and makes a face. “Is it supposed to taste…

food, fuel, huel, future of food, meathook futures, synthetic, solutionism

“What’s that?” says the friend. “That,” I say, “is the future of food.” She sips it and makes a face. “Is it supposed to taste like that?” It’s a good question. It claims to be vanilla flavour but it’s like no vanilla I’ve ever tasted – cloying, artificial, incredibly sweet. The texture is of a thin suspension of powdered grit in water. And then there’s the aftertaste, which manages to be both sweet and bitter and lingers unpleasantly on the roof of the mouth for several minutes.

Huel, a contraction of “human fuel”, is the latest in a long line of products that are tapping into the idea that food is old fashioned, inconvenient and boring, and there’s a more hi-tech, whizz-bang way of delivering the same nutrients more efficiently.

Chernobyl site could become a solar farm


Does this mean no more monster movies to be filmed at Chernobyl?


The Ukraine government is currently seeking investors to build a solar farm in the Chernobyl wasteland. The exclusion zone, 1,000 square miles in size, is off-limits to all but guards and workers, but it does get plenty of sun.

“The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy,” Ukraine’s environment minister, Ostap Semerak, told Bloomberg. “We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants.”

Ukrainian officials say that a number of U.S. and Canadian companies are interested in investing. Developers plan to start installing solar panels on the site before the end of the year.

Chernobyl site could become a solar farm

The Dangerous ‘Illusion of Certainty’ | RED TEAM JOURNAL


  • Misapplied scope I: The red team considered a subsystem but applied the insights from the subsystem to the whole system.
  • Misapplied scope II>: The red team considered a system but failed to account for the system’s interfaces to other systems.
  • Misaligned skills: The red team’s skills exceeded the likely adversary’s by an order of magnitude. The findings and recommendations failed to account for the gap.
  • Cultural blinders/blunders: The red team failed to remove their Western/American glasses. Not only did they fail to intuit the effects of their worldview, they didn’t even consider that another worldview might exist. (This is a common one.)
  • Tool fetish: The red team was so enamored with their red teaming toolkit that they failed to see how each tool both revealed and concealed.
  • Method fetish: The red team was so enamored with their method that they failed to see how the method embodied a single decision method at the expense of others.
  • Rationality fetish: The red team stressed standards of normative thinking without accounting for real-world heuristics. (This can be dangerous when attempting to simulate any real-world adversary other than the Mad Logician.)
  • Arrogance: This is the bane of all good red teaming, and I’ve seen it far too often. I can’t speak much for red teams in other countries, but in my opinion it’s the standout issue among many American red teams. It can lead them to engage in all the issues mentioned previously while simultaneously asserting the awe-inspiring goodness of their red teaming efforts. (And yes, it can even lead them to assert that red teaming only reduces uncertainty and never adds to it.)
  • Hybrids: Any or all of these issues can combine to multiply the effects of uncertainty.

The Dangerous ‘Illusion of Certainty’ | RED TEAM JOURNAL

Australia is to shift its longitude and latitude to address a gap between local co-ordinates and those from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).


Local co-ordinates, used to produce maps and measurements, and global ones differ by more than 1m.

The body responsible for the change said it would help the development of self-driving cars, which need accurate location data to navigate.

Australia moves about 7cm north annually because of tectonic movements.

Modern satellite systems provide location data based on global lines of longitude and latitude, which do not move even if the continents on Earth shift.

The Geocentric Datum of Australia, the country’s local co-ordinate system, was last updated in 1994. Since then, Australia has moved about 1.5 metres north.

So on 1 January 2017, the country’s local co-ordinates will also be shifted further north - by 1.8m.

The over-correction means Australia’s local co-ordinates and the Earth’s global co-ordinates will align in 2020.

A local group of Masons is trying to reshape the way that California Freemasons conduct themselves in accordance with their…

“A local group of Masons is trying to reshape the way that California Freemasons conduct themselves in accordance with their obligations. Brethren from Beneficent Lodge No. 4 in Burbank have announced their official intention to petition the Grand Lodge of California to include Wheaton’s Law–an axiom coined by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame that admonishes others “not to be a dick”–in the obligations found within the Masonic ritual.”

Local Masons Petition Grand Lodge to Add Wheaton’s Law to Masonic Ritual 

This just made my day.


Soylent CEO’s shipping container home is a ‘middle finger’ to LA, locals say

Soylent, community, minimalism, sustainability, solutionism, LA, USA

After apparently abolishing the need for food with a meal-substitute drink, which spawned a $100m startup, Rob Rhinehart had another epiphany: plonk a shipping container on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. The red metal hulk would be his home, an eco-abode with solar panels and panoramic views that would set a new benchmark in hip, minimalist living. The 27-year-old CEO and founder of Soylent bought a patch of scrub in an area known as Flat Top to begin an “experiment in sustainable living” early this year. It has not gone well.


Inside the London megaport you didn’t know existed

shipping, logistics, infrastructure, London-Gateway, UK, port, docks

Welcome to DP World London Gateway, the latest international trophy of the oil-rich emirate of Dubai, and one of the biggest privately funded infrastructure projects the UK has ever seen. It is a gargantuan undertaking (on the scale of Crossrail, Terminal 5 or HS2) that’s projected to have a bigger economic impact than the Olympics – but you might not even know it was happening. The port has been up and running for almost two years, with two of its six berths now complete and a third well on the way. But, unlike the daily controversy of runways and commuter trains, the cumbersome business of how 90% of our goods reach us from all over the world doesn’t tend to impinge on the public psyche. Satnav certainly hasn’t caught up. As we drive out to the sprawling sandy landscape, the blue dot floats out into the Thames, from whose depths this new quayside has been summoned. Over 30 million tonnes of silt was dredged to make this artificial land mass, which extends 400m beyond the original shoreline, a process that saw the largest migration of animals in Europe – with 320,000 newts, water voles and adders relocated to a new nature reserve nearby. The sheer scale is impossible to comprehend from the ground: the facility is twice the size of the City of London.


Tom Vanderbilt Explains Why We Could Predict Self-Driving Cars, But Not Women in the Workplace

futurism, culture, change, futures, myopia, history, technology, chronocentrism, zepplins, urbanism

People in the innovation-obsessed present tend to overstate the impact of technology not only in the future, but also the present. We tend to imagine we are living in a world that could scarcely have been imagined a few decades ago. It is not uncommon to read assertions like: “Someone would have been unable at the beginning of the 20th century to even dream of what transportation would look like a half a century later.” And yet zeppelins were flying in 1900; a year before, in New York City, the first pedestrian had already been killed by an automobile. Was the notion of air travel, or the thought that the car was going to change life on the street, really so beyond envisioning—or is it merely the chauvinism of the present, peering with faint condescension at our hopelessly primitive predecessors? The historian Lawrence Samuel has called social progress the “Achilles heel” of futurism. He argues that people forget the injunction of the historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee: Ideas, not technology, have driven the biggest historical changes. When technology changes people, it is often not in the ways one might expect: Mobile technology, for example, did not augur the “death of distance,” but actually strengthened the power of urbanism. The washing machine freed women from labor, and, as the social psychologists Nina Hansen and Tom Postmes note, could have sparked a revolution in gender roles and relations. But, “instead of fueling feminism,” they write, “technology adoption (at least in the first instance) enabled the emergence of the new role of housewife: middle-class women did not take advantage of the freed-up time … to rebel against structures or even to capitalize on their independence.” Instead, the authors argue, the women simply assumed the jobs once held by their servants.


Identity squatting and spy training. A conversation with Simon Farid

wmmna, Simon-Farid, identity, art, politics, identity-bureau, squatting, occupy, Mark-Stone, surveil

Simon Farid is a visual artist interested in the relationship between administrative identity and the body it purports to codify and represent. In practice, this means that the artist is ‘squatting’ identities that have been constructed by other people for surveillance, marketing or institutional purposes and then discarded. Farid notoriously ‘inhabited’ the identity of an undercover police officer and the one of a politician who moonlighted as a web marketing guru. The first identity was the one discarded by Mark Kennedy, an undercover Metropolitan Police officer who spent almost 8 years pretending to be an environmental activist called Mark Stone. To settle into the life of what the UK calls a “domestic extremist,” Stone traveled under a fake passport and used a driving licence and bank cards bearing his borrowed name. But once Kennedy’s cover was blown however, Stone was nothing but an empty shell. That’s when Farid steps in. The artist reactivated Stone’s email address, started collecting library and store cards, opened a bank account and amassed a number of other identity articles under the name of Mark Stone. By doing so, Farid effectively ‘occupied’ the identity that the police officer had abandoned.


The Mysterious Tool-Making Culture Shared by Crows and Humans

crows, tools, tool-use, making, makers, learning, education

Crows aren’t born knowing how to make these tools; they teach the technique to their young. And they can improvise, too. In one lab experiment, a crow bent the end of a wire using the edge of a glass as a cantilever. It used the hooked wire to retreive another stick, which was long enough to reach some food it wanted. So it used one tool to make another tool — and then used that tool to grab still another tool.


No Time - The New Yorker

Keynes, busyness, technology, Capitalism, economics, growth, leisure, doing-nothing, freedom, 15-hou

According to Keynes, the nineteenth century had unleashed such a torrent of technological innovation—“electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production”—that further growth was inevitable. The size of the global economy, he forecast, would increase sevenfold in the following century, and this, in concert with ever greater “technical improvements,” would usher in the fifteen-hour week. To Keynes, the coming age of abundance, while welcome, would pose a new and in some ways even bigger challenge. With so little need for labor, people would have to figure out what to do with themselves: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won.” The example offered by the idle rich was, he observed, “very depressing”; most of them had “failed disastrously” to find satisfying pastimes.


Tomtown - Interconnected

ambient-awareness, community, culture, online, matt-webb

Almost a decade ago, there was a florescence of ambient awareness. Because the web was small, we used websites to share our activity in a way that would be overwhelming now… but back then, provided social peripheral vision, creating a sense of togetherness, no matter where we were. […] The web is busy now. No bad thing. But much too busy to have a single place to gather my friends around photos, another around status updates, etc. I used to have one community online, and now I’ve got a hundred. And while I can shard them by app (business on LinkedIn, family on Facebook, my global village on Twitter), it’s a lot of effort to maintain that. And it doesn’t make any sense.


Your Relative’s DNA Could Turn You Into a Suspect

law, privacy, DNA, forensics, crime, false-positives, familial-DNA, Wired

But the well-publicized success stories obscure the fact that familial DNA searches can generate more noise than signal. “Anyone who knows the science understands that there’s a high rate of false positives,” says Erin Murphy, a New York University law professor and the author of Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA. The searches, after all, look for DNA profiles that are similar to the perpetrator’s but by no means identical, a scattershot approach that yields many fruitless leads, and for limited benefit. In the United Kingdom, a 2014 study found that just 17 percent of familial DNA searches “resulted in the identification of a relative of the true offender.”


Enso is a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Enso is perhaps the the most common subject…


Enso is a Japanese word meaning “circle” and a concept strongly associated with Zen. Enso is perhaps the the most common subject of Japanese calligraphy, symbolizing no beginning and no end, the visible and the invisible, absolute fullness in emptiness, simplicity, completeness, perfect harmony, enlightenment, the oneness of life, cyclical nature of existence and it is also an “expression of the moment”. It is believed by many that the character of the artist is fully exposed in how he paints Enso, and that only one who is mentally and spiritually whole can paint a true Enso.

Solar-Powered Plane Completes Historic Trip Around the World



Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, finished its historic trip around the world, which started back in March 2015. The plane landed in Abu Dhabi early Tuesday. Solar Impulse traveled around the world, breaking the journey down into 17 legs, spending a total of 23 days in the air. The plane, powered by 17,000 solar cells, traveled 42,000 kilometers (about 26,100 miles) in a little more than a year. Its trip across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to Seville, Spain, alone took approximately 90 hours to complete, traveling at 140 km/h (about 87 mph). The plane’s longest trip was from Japan to Hawaii, which lasted almost five days.

Solar Impulse successfully lands in Abu Dhabi with Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr

Solar-Powered Plane Completes Historic Trip Around the World

The Artist-in-Consultance: Welcome to the New Management

Arts, consulting, management, residencies, corporatism, disruption, research

Another artist-in-consultance model that, importantly, did not take place in California, managed to fluctuate between all three outcomes. As Claire Bishop wrote, this project seriously put forth the idea “that art can cause both business and art to re-evaluate their priorities,” or precisely what I mean by dismantling.5 This was the UK’s Artist Placement Group, or APG, founded by the artists Barbara Steveni and John Latham in 1966 and active until 1989. Calling itself an “artist consultancy,” a “network consultancy,” or a “research organization,” APG arranged “placements” for artists within both public and private organizations for limited contract periods.6 Including the British Steel Corporation, the Ocean Fleets shipping company, and the Department of the Environment, selected host organizations allowed the artist to essentially roam free within their confines according to agreed-upon terms of service (rendered in remarkably authentic bureaucratic language in a huge volume of correspondence mostly written by Steveni, which is a body of artwork in itself). The projects ranged from art education, on-site installations, public outreach, and creative uses of technology to, in some cases, direct critical reflection on company management and policy. Many of these collaborations dead-ended or became as superfluous or antagonistic as the above-mentioned projects. But a critical mass of them proved challenging, fruitful, and even tangibly beneficial to humans within and without the company. The success can be chalked up to the role, as carefully defined by APG, of the artist working in nonart contexts. Latham coined the term “Incidental Person” (IP) to account for this role.


Adaptation is change with purpose. Writers wrestle with it. Artists embrace it. Designers craft it. Survival depends on it. In a…

“Adaptation is change with purpose. Writers wrestle with it. Artists embrace it. Designers craft it. Survival depends on it. In a time of unprecedented technological advancement, how we change (and what we change) has ever broader implications and meaning. Whether translating ideas from one medium to another, morphing old infrastructures into new platforms, or reinventing entire careers, adaptation is the choice between what becomes the future and what remains the past.”

Christopher Simmons, Chair of the AIGA Design Conference 2016 (viainthenoosphere)

Presuming there is no etymological connection, it’s curious how similar “Xiāngbālā” (the Chinese word for “Shambhala”) and…

“Presuming there is no etymological connection, it’s curious how similar“Xiāngbālā” (the Chinese word for“Shambhala”) and“Xibalba” (the Mayan word for the underworld) sound. Especially as the kingdom of Shambhala is also supposed to be situated within a hollow Earth. And why would the people of Shambhala– a pre-Vedic, sun worshipping, Alti-Himalayan shamanist population, by multiple ancient accounts– retreat into the hollow Earth anyway?”

Wayne Chambliss

Think of it like another framing of the Tofflers’ old “future shock” saw, perhaps. Future shock was the notion that the future…

futures, novelty, future shock

“Think of it like another framing of the Tofflers’ old “future shock” saw, perhaps. Future shock was the notion that the future would come on so fast that some people would not be able to adapt, and would live in a continual state of psychological trauma.  I think the Tofflers were wrong, in that we’re a highly adaptive species who can handle any torrent of novelty, event and innovation, but the price to pay is that, shit, it gets tiring.”

Warren Ellis

The Rise of the Internet ‘Mitigators’

technology, internet, civil-society, social-impact, mitigators, promotors, CCC, ORG, Mozilla, Wikipe

The first camp contains those organizations which are primarily concerned with mitigating harmful consequences of modern technologies. The second camp contains organizations that exist to try to solve problems and promote welfare through methods that use digital technologies. I’ll call these two camps the ‘mitigators’ and the ‘promoters.’ There are a lot of good organizations and familiar names in both camps. The most famous in the mitigators would be the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but there’s also the Chaos Computer Club, the Open Rights Group, and the red-hot new research institute Data & Society. In the promoters camp the biggest name would undoubtedly be the Wikimedia Foundation, followed by Mozilla, and then a thousand other organizations


Systems fiction: a novel way to think about the present

literature, systems-fiction, fiction, writing

Weirdly enough, science fiction is not the best lens through which to examine science fiction. In the 80s, critic Tom LeClair came up with an alternative category for all the weird literary novels that veered into speculative territory: the systems novel. These books pick apart how the systems that keep society chugging along work: politics, economics, sex and gender dynamics, science, ideologies – all can be explored through fiction, especially experimental fiction. LeClair applied this tag specifically to Don DeLillo, but it can be expanded more widely: think Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan and Umberto Eco, among others. That may seem like an eclectic bunch to unite under one banner, but the systems novel is ultimately a space for ambitious thinkers, the ones who want to weave complex thoughts into a tastier parcel than some impenetrable academic tome.


Research Blog: Wide & Deep Learning: Better Together with TensorFlow

deep-learning, wide-learning, machine-learning, generalisation, learning, classification

The human brain is a sophisticated learning machine, forming rules by memorizing everyday events (“sparrows can fly” and “pigeons can fly”) and generalizing those learnings to apply to things we haven’t seen before (“animals with wings can fly”). Perhaps more powerfully, memorization also allows us to further refine our generalized rules with exceptions (“penguins can’t fly”). As we were exploring how to advance machine intelligence, we asked ourselves the question—can we teach computers to learn like humans do, by combining the power of memorization and generalization? It’s not an easy question to answer, but by jointly training a wide linear model (for memorization) alongside a deep neural network (for generalization), one can combine the strengths of both to bring us one step closer. At Google, we call it Wide & Deep Learning. It’s useful for generic large-scale regression and classification problems with sparse inputs (categorical features with a large number of possible feature values), such as recommender systems, search, and ranking problems.


How to Write a History of Writing Software

history, software, writing, computing, technolgy

Five years ago, Matthew Kirschenbaum, an English professor at the University of Maryland, realized that no one seemed to know who wrote the first novel with the help of a word processor. He’s just published the fruit of his efforts: Track Changes, the first book-length story of word processing. It is more than a history of high art. Kirschenbaum follows how writers of popular and genre fiction adopted the technology long before vaunted novelists did. He determines how their writing habits and financial powers changed once they moved from typewriter to computing. And he details the unsettled ways that the computer first entered the home. (When he first bought a computer, for example, the science-fiction legend Isaac Asimov wasn’t sure whether it should go in the living room or the study.)


Why Networks Are States That Need Democratic Government

P2P, deliberation, policy, politics, blockchain, ETH, XBT, BTC, power, distributed-systems, decentra

One of the governance problems of blockchains, related to the fundamental error of decentralization theater, is the failure to build deliberative institutions on top of the “parliament of miners.” Voting by proof of work is great, especially if the majority is well above 51%, and can demonstrate its strength without an actual hashing race. It’s a good way to finalize decisions. But not a good way to make them. But blockchain governance would be considerably improved if the miners actually had a formal way to delegate their power to a structured institution that represented them. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum have foundations and/or core teams, but authority in these institutions isn’t tied in any way to actual mining power. Informal politics fills this void with personality cults and eloquent blogposts, all hoping to create collective agreement among the actual voting miners. History shows this is not a great way to run a railroad. Misalignment between a fundamental power, like the miners, and a group purporting to represent them, like the foundations, is inherently dangerous.


The people trying to save democracy from itself

democracy, ideas, scale, politics, DIP, G1000, G20, charisma, leadership

These are difficult days for democracy. European nations struggle to elect governments on low turnouts. Populists wielding half-truths go from strength to strength. Facts are a devalued currency, personalities never more important. People use ballot boxes to bloody the noses of the political elite. Young people are particularly jaded. Late adopters such as Russia and Turkey are turning their backs. In its original sense, rule by the people, democracy seems to be in retreat. Perhaps because of this, or in spite of it, experiments in new manifestations of democracy are proliferating. And some may offer a more tangible experience for ordinary people than the remote, mundane exercise of voting for a stranger once every four or five years.


Zapping Their Brains at Home

neuroscience, neurohacking, brain, brain-hacking, DIY, tDCS, ethics, research, exeperiment

As neuroscientists continue to conduct brain stimulation experiments, publish results in journals and hold conferences, the D.I.Y. practitioners have remained quiet downstream listeners, blogging about scientists’ experiments, posting unrestricted versions of journal articles and linking to videos of conference talks. Some practitioners create their own manuals and guides based on published papers. The growth of D.I.Y. brain stimulation stems in part from a larger frustration with the exclusionary institutions of modern medicine, such as the exorbitant price of pharmaceuticals and the glacial pace at which new therapies trickle down to patients. For people without an institutional affiliation, even reading a journal article can be prohibitively expensive. The open letter this month is about safety. But it is also a recognition that these D.I.Y. practitioners are here to stay, at least for the time being. While the letter does not condone, neither does it condemn. It sticks to the facts and eschews paternalistic tones in favor of measured ones. The letter is the first instance I’m aware of in which scientists have directly addressed these D.I.Y. users. Though not quite an olive branch, it is a commendable step forward, one that demonstrates an awareness of a community of scientifically involved citizens.


Neuroscientists’ Open Letter To DIY Brain Hackers

neuroscience, tDCS, brain-hacking, neurohacking, ethics, experiment, review

We now know that if you take the same subject and do tDCS with exactly the same settings on different days, they can have very different responses. We know there’s a huge amount that can actually change what effect tDCS has. What you’re doing at the time tDCS is administered, or before tDCS is administered, has an effect. There are so many different things that can have an effect – your age, your gender, your hormones, whether you drank coffee that morning, whether you’ve had exposure to brain stimulation previously, your baseline neurotransmitter level — all of this stuff can affect what tDCS does to your brain. And some of those things vary on a day-to-day basis.


The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a…

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

H.P. Lovecraft

An Open Letter Concerning Do-It-Yourself Users of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

neurohacking, tDCS, ethics, experimentation, medecine

“As clinicians and scientists who study noninvasive brain stimulation, we share a common interest with do-it-yourself (DIY) users, namely administering transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to improve brain function. Evidence suggests that DIY users reference the scientific literature to guide their use of tDCS, including published ethical and safety standards. However, as discussed at a recent Institute of Medicine Workshop, there is much about noninvasive brain stimulation in general, and tDCS in particular, that remains unknown. Whereas some risks, such as burns to the skin and complications resulting from electrical equipment failures, are well recognized, other problematic issues may not be immediately apparent. We perceive an ethical obligation to draw the attention of both professionals and DIY users to some of these issues”

  • Stimulation affects more of the brain than a user may think
  • Stimulation interacts with ongoing brain activity, so what a user does during tDCS changes tDCS effects
  • Enhancement of some cognitive abilities may come at the cost of others
  • Changes in brain activity (intended or not) may last longer than a user may think
  • Small differences in tDCS parameters can have a big effect
  • tDCS effects are highly variable across different people
  • The risk/benefit ratio is different for treating diseases versus enhancing function

Smart Swarms vs. Big Funding: how to build a 100 million dollars project as a swarm of grassroots organizations

Edgeryders, funding, collaboration, ecosystems, solutionism, MacArthur-Foundation, 100&Change

Are global solutions impossible? Not at all. But global solutions are not composed of standardised identical units; they are ecosystems, organic mosaics of local solutions. For example, nature has a robust global solution to growing forests. It is not a single very large tree that covers 30% of the planet’s surface. It is not a single species of tree cloned in tens of billions of units across the whole globe. It is diversity: local adaptation, commensalism, some competition. A forest on the Mediterranean coast occupies the same ecological niche as one in Siberia, but the two consist of entirely different species, and are very different along almost any other dimension. Nature gets there by evolution: try many things, more or less at random (variation); then weed out those who do not work (natural selection); iterate.


Google Cuts Its Giant Electricity Bill With DeepMind-Powered AI

Google, AI, DeepMind, energy, electricity, machine-learning

In recent months, the Alphabet Inc. unit put a DeepMind AI system in control of parts of its data centers to reduce power consumption by manipulating computer servers and related equipment like cooling systems. It uses a similar technique to DeepMind software that taught itself to play Atari video games, Hassabis said in an interview at a recent AI conference in New York. The system cut power usage in the data centers by several percentage points, “which is a huge saving in terms of cost but, also, great for the environment,” he said. The savings translate into a 15 percent improvement in power usage efficiency, or PUE, Google said in a statement. PUE measures how much electricity Google uses for its computers, versus the supporting infrastructure like cooling systems.