The most Geo-tagged Place on Earth

Medium, GPS, geography, data, null island, Borges, The Aleph, geotag, glitch

This brings be back to what is likely the most geo-tagged place on earth. It is a place that can be found marked with unambiguous precision on many social media sites or self-crafted mapping projects. The place seems to be relevant in almost any context, and has been tagged and described in an unaccountable number of ways. The place seems to combine many places at once, all sharing the same location — similar to Jorge Luis Borges’ Aleph: “The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe.”


Dust and shadow. Field Notes #1

Medium, FoAM, dust and shadow

We had arrived in the Sonoran desert. A place of desiccated time, layered time, geological, vegetal, human time. Time kneads the Earth’s crust into deep folds, cracks and canyons. Plants lay dormant through cycles of drought or grow slowly for centuries, bursting into blossom after the first rains. Humans come and go. Blown through the ages like tumbleweeds. Things don’t really decay here. They shrivel, dry up or slowly rust, yet remain present, as they gradually erode into dust. A thick, dusty atmosphere of things that were, things that are and things that might be. Densities and intensities coagulating on a larger than human scale, illuminated by stark light or lurking in the deep shadow.


The Vatican Opposes Riyadh’s Regional Dominance

vatican, religion, catholicism, wahhabism, 2017

Catholic experts on terrorism consider the official Saudi faith of Wahhabism, an eighteenth-century Salafi movement founded on the peninsula, to be a destabilizing source of extremism. For the Holy See, Wahhabism’s threat is existential: Wahhabi intolerance and money fuel violence against Christians and other communities across the Middle East and beyond. To counter this threat, the Vatican is cultivating relationships with non-Wahabbist Islamic cultural centers such as Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which Francis visited last month. Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, visited Francis in Rome last year, an especially significant development given that Tayeb led a boycott against the Vatican in 2011 after Benedict commented on anti-Christian violence in Egypt. Many hope that the renewed relationship will give new momentum to Christian–Muslim dialogue. Wariness about Wahhabism also applies to Syria, where local Catholic leaders remain skeptical regarding a Saudi-backed regime change. It is a simple calculus: Christian communities, whether Orthodox or Catholic, have been protected by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad before that; Sunni extremism could bring Sharia law and second-class status for Christians.


AlphaGo, in context

Medium, AlphaGo, ML, machine learning, AI, go

AlphaGo is made up of a number of relatively standard techniques: behavior cloning (supervised learning on human demonstration data), reinforcement learning (REINFORCE), value functions, and Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS). However, the way these components are combined is novel and not exactly standard. In particular, AlphaGo uses a SL (supervised learning) policy to initialize the learning of an RL (reinforcement learning) policy that gets perfected with self-play, which they then estimate a value function from, which then plugs into MCTS that (somewhat surprisingly) uses the (worse!, but more diverse) SL policy to sample rollouts. In addition, the policy/value nets are deep neural networks, so getting everything to work properly presents its own unique challenges (e.g. value function is trained in a tricky way to prevent overfitting). On all of these aspects, DeepMind has executed very well. That being said, AlphaGo does not by itself use any fundamental algorithmic breakthroughs in how we approach RL problems.


nobody has ever been animist because one is never animist “in general,” always in the terms of an assemblage that produces or…

animism, stengers, magic

“nobody has ever been animist because one is never animist “in general,” always in the terms of an assemblage that produces or enhances metamorphic (magic) transformation in our capacity to affect and be affected – that is also to feel, think, and imagine. Animism may, however, be a name for reclaiming these assemblages because it lures us into feeling that their efficacy is not ours to claim. Against the insistent poisoned passion of dismembering and demystifying, it affirms what it is they all require in order not to devour us – that we are not alone in the world.”

Isabelle Stengers. Reclaiming Animism.

Facebook Goes Full “Black Mirror

Medium, facebook, black mirror, privacy, social capital, china, US, walled gardens

If we give in to the sheer gigantic sweep of Facebook and the convenience it creates, and feed all our collective information into its ever-more-intelligent algorithms; if news is read and messages are sent primarily within the Facebook network so that each of these interactions sows new data points in our profiles; and if we build up thousands upon thousands of these innocuous-seeming interactions over years and years, and those interactions are overlaid with face-recognized images, marketing data from online purchases, browsing histories and, now, GPS-tracked driving data, is this total bartering of privacy worth the buy-in to Zuckerberg’s “supportive,” “safe,” “informed,” “civically engaged,” global community?


On Thin Ice


If you’re interested in what’s happening up north in the Arctic with climate change, you’ll appreciate (and enjoy) this article published by Biographic about the Arctic. Good photos, a couple of infographics, and a comprehensive story about the changing ecosystems, militarization (by Russia, mostly), access to oil, politics, and so on.


The melting ice has already turned the region into something of a new frontier, with many nations eyeing its sea routes, its strategic position between Eurasia and North America, and its potentially huge reserves of oil and gas. Indeed, the area north of the Arctic Circle may harbor an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, as well as 44 billion barrels of technically recoverable natural gas liquids. This amounts to 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered stores of these fuels. All that from an area comprising just 6 percent of Earth’s surface, according to a U.S. Geological Survey assessment.

And herein lies the polar paradox: As global warming from burning fossil fuels and other human activities causes sea ice to shrink, it helps open the Arctic to offshore fossil fuel exploration. Should large amounts be discovered and burned, it will be all the more challenging to meet the Paris Agreement goal to keep the rise in global temperatures this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit—and to limit the already-significant impact on this and other regions.

Unanticipated ecological and species changes could also bring major surprises. This has already happened with snow crab ( Chionoecetes opilio) in the Barents Sea, where it is an invasive species. It was discovered there in 1996, and its population has since skyrocketed, creating a whole new fishery. But as an invader that feeds on animals living on the seabed, the crab could significantly alter the composition of bottom-dwellers and thereby disrupt the entire marine ecosystem.

“We’re talking about a huge shift in the Arctic, but we don’t know what the hell is happening,“ Dankel says. “It’s a fascinating, complex perfect storm. It can either come out really great, or everything could go down the shithole.”

On Thin Ice

Dust is everywhere because its source is everything. Its most remote origins in time and space are the Big Bang, collapsing…

dust, time, matter, dirt, milky way, interconnectedness

“Dust is everywhere because its source is everything. Its most remote origins in time and space are the Big Bang, collapsing stars, and the dark line across the center of the Milky Way, which, according to astronomer Donald Brownlee,“is a line of dirt perhaps 65,200 light­ years across, and 3.832 X 1017 miles long.” Here on earth, dust comes from everything under the sun: minerals, seeds, pollen, insects, molds, lichens, and even bacteria. Its sources also include bone, hair, hide, feather, skin, blood, and excrement. And things of human fabrication, too numerous to mention, also cover the earth and all the atmosphere with dust.”

Joseph A. Amato. Dust.

Additivism Workshop: Designing Post-Natural Futures (Athens, 10–11 Jun 2017) 12:00–18:00 - Diplareios School (Theatrou sq 3,…


#Additivism Workshop: Designing Post-Natural Futures (Athens, 10-11 Jun 2017)

12:00-18:00 - Diplareios School (Theatrou sq 3, Athens centre)

This #additivism workshop led by Daniel Rourke and Geraldine Juárez invites us to an exploration of post-natural history, geo-history and Mediterranean world-ecologies, emphasizing critical perspectives driven from the intersection of art, design and activism. #Additivism, which takes 3D fabrication as its critical framework, is a portmanteau of additive and activism that exemplifies radical approaches to collective action, extending from the local through to geological timescales.

In this two day workshop, we will identify and name the epistemic conditions under which “post-nature” emerges and thrives. We will take into account the additive logic of extractivism and its deep legacy in the form of techno-scientific projects such as bio- and geo-engineering. We will consider Mediterranean world-ecologies and imagine structures of knowledge and action able to exist outside or beyond “the Eurocene and Technocene initiated by Europeans.”

What is Post-Nature and how does it relate to Earth’s deep geological time? In what ways could 3D fabrication affect tomorrow’s techno-natural environments? Can radical applications and speculations about its use assist in understanding the planet’s ongoing transformations?

How other kinds of beings see us matters. That other kinds of beings see us changes things. If jaguars also represent us—in ways…

Eduardo Kohn, non-human, thinking, anthropology, forests

“How other kinds of beings see us matters. That other kinds of beings see us changes things. If jaguars also represent us—in ways that can matter vitally to us—then anthropology cannot limit itself just to exploring how people from different societies might happen to represent them as doing so. Such encounters with other kinds of beings force us to recognize the fact that seeing, representing, and perhaps knowing, even thinking, are not exclusively human affairs.”

Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think (2013)

Skateboarding History in 100 Video Clips

Skateboarding, skating, urbanism, skateboarding studies, history


Kingpin reports on the collection of videos that Professor Iain Borden has compiled in his re-write of his seminal academic work on Skateboarding. His new book ‘Skateboarding and the City’ will be published in 2018 and has been brought up to date and also made interactive. In accompanying the book Iain has put together a playlist with classic clips from skateboarding’s past. The playlistis an amazing resource for skateboarding fans and you will find yourself clicking through old favourites and undiscovered gems.

Skateboarding History in 100 Video Clips

Notice the countries involved in this aggressive, but not really scientifically radical project: Germany, Denmark and the…

video link


Notice the countries involved in this aggressive, but not really scientifically radical project: Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. I don’t see the US in here, and I know of nothing being contemplated by the US to match something like this.

Description of this proposed project from Climate Reality:

Three European countries — Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands — are planning to build an artificial island in the North Sea that will be a hub for thousands of offshore turbines. The island would also be home to a solar farm, and could provide clean electricity to up to 80 million Europeans in the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium.

The technical director of the project, Torben Glar Nielsen, says, “Maybe it sounds a bit crazy and science fiction-like, but an island on Dogger Bank could make the wind power of the future a lot cheaper and more effective.” The project will not be simple — but it could pay off big in terms of lowering emissions and delivering power to northwest Europe’s grid.

The neural network will name your next band

char-rnn, band names, music


An important part of starting a new band is choosing an appropriate name. It is crucial that the name be unique, or you could risk at best confusion, and at worst an expensive lawsuit.

The neural network is here to help.

Prof. Mark Riedl of Georgia Tech, who recently provided the world a dataset of all the stories with plot summaries on Wikipedia, (enabling this post on neural net story names) now used his Wikipedia-extraction skills to produce a list of all the bands with listed discographies - about 84,000 in all.

I gave the list to the Char-rnnneural network framework, and it was soon producing unique band names for a variety of genres. Below are examples of its output at various temperature (i.e. creativity) settings.

Temperature 1.1

This is about as high as the creativity setting can go before most of the band names are unpronounceable jumbles. These are some fine band names, highly suitable for whatever the heck their genres are supposed to be.

Spice Green Robinson
Gloome Schronnana
The Freights
Nighty Daggers
The Loveburners of Internal Watch
Foxettes Ratimot Secret singer band
The Dougloco
The Theps
Choconard Leach
Mighty Chipping Baker
Bop Gray (band)

Temperature 1.0

With the creativity turned down a bit, the band names are still weird, but a bit more plausible. Their genres can sometimes be identified.

For example, I think these are probably traditional Irish bands?

The Durks of Audun Green
Sherry of Shinking Feavan
The Shurping Laudst

And these might work as metal bands:

Rabidass (band)
Killerlet (musician)
Brokin’s Killer
Flish Lipe
Girl Dead

These are perhaps a bit less scrutable.

Dr Overhard
The Arce (band)
The Tree Misters
Reilling Ef (rapper)
Flim Brothers
Ching Mage
Nan Edwards (folk singer)
Nittle Bizzy
The Dinlakoposseps
Skins of Space
Michael Porker
The Lost singers
The Nutlet Band
The Rogue Orchestra
The Fuman.A.I.((band)
Vervoly Brown (urtist)
Boohalloid (group)
The Ballening Birds
Lice Stepley

Temperature 0.9

With the creativity turned down a notch further, the band names become even more plausible. You could probably convince me that these exist.

No Andrew Newson
Fuzion (band)
The Wurfywinders
Clay Fights
Berry Stitcher
Something Rothers
The Awl
The Thingsons
Switch’s Rich
Pond Billy
The Hums (band)
Northern Prince (Indian band)
Staff Killer

Temperature 0.6

Turn the creativity down another notch, and we start to edge toward the neural network’s idea of the most quintessential band names. Note that they’re still pretty weird.

Dub Arts
Sheet Rose
Heart Coil
Elliot Horse
Big Love
The Mothers (band)
The Time Stars
Hulls of Girls
Sucken (band)
Electric Sing Show
The Pans
Symphony No. 3 (Dinish band)
Hell Staple (band)
Peter Parker
Bad Head
The Out Cookers
Flower Shankar
The Hat Coles

Temperature 0.3

Now at a creativity setting of only 0.3, almost all the band names are variations on “The [Noun]”.

The Shines
The Deaths
The Dance (band)
The Livers (band)
The Stone Choir
The Shake Man (band)

Another strange thing happens, which is that the proportion of sharks goes way, way up. Apparently the neural network thinks that if you’re going to name a band, you can’t go wrong with sharks.

Johnny Shark
The Shark Charles
Shark Rander
The Shark (band)
Nicole Shark
Shark Gordon
Shark Taylor (musician)
The Shark Singers
Tony Shark

Temperature 0.01

And now we come to the lowest temperature setting, where the neural network’s output consists of the most-quintessential band name, repeated over and over. Throughout most of the training process, this name was “The Stars” and occasionally “The Brothers”, but there was one generation where the neural network repeatedly insisted that there was nothing… nothing more fundamental to music than the banjo-playing skills of:

Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)

We live in an era of great turbulence, with economic decline running in paradoxical tandem with technological advance. It is…

Brexit, UK, EU, hookland, Irvine Welsh, chaos, change, politics, uncertainty, silver lining, postnormal

“We live in an era of great turbulence, with economic decline running in paradoxical tandem with technological advance. It is only to be expected that our antiquated institutions haven’t been able to keep up, and our nation states, political parties and supranational bodies are starting to unravel. Politicians now seem perennially in the business of chaos management, and the suspicion must be that this process has only just begun. The inevitable chorus of voices crying out for “a period of stability” sadly misses the point: we aren’t at that place in our history, and trying to impose inertia on those fluid times may only be inviting further discord.”

Irvine Welsh,The beauty beneath Brexit’s bedwetting.

Paulingite-Ca (Ca,K,Na,Ba,◻)10(Si,Al)42O84·34H2O Locality: Vinařice, Kladno, Central Bohemia Region, Bohemia (Böhmen;…



(Ca,K,Na,Ba,◻) 10(Si,Al) 42O 84·34H 2O


Vinařice, Kladno, Central Bohemia Region, Bohemia (Böhmen; Boehmen), Czech Republic 

Field of View: 6 mm

Colourless and transparent Paulingite-Ca rhombic dodecahedrons.

Collection and photo Stephan Wolfsried

Paulingite is a rare zeolite mineral that is found in vesicles in the basaltic rocks. The early formation in the crystallisation sequence and the high water content suggest that paulingite forms from relatively dilute pore fluids.  

Newsletter #29: Sci-Fi Economics

Medium, changeist, economics, infrastructure, bizniz, chaebol, fragility, sci-fi economics

If you thought seat licenses were lucrative in the 1990s, wait until its city blocks in the 2020s. All are becoming increasingly embedded in physical systems, supply chains, mobility platforms and the architecture of data that makes these and other elements of the real world. One had only to notice how many seemingly incidental displays were malfunctioning in and around mass transit systems during the recent WannaCry ransomware outbreak to get a sense of where these companies systems are entwined with delivery of public conveniences. AWS, WhatsApp, Gmail and Facebook Messenger are now the mission critical sinews of the modern world. But you knew this.


Paint colors designed by neural network, Part 2



So it turns out you can train a neural network to generate paint colors if you give it a list of 7,700 Sherwin-Williams paint colors as input. How a neural network basically works is it looks at a set of data - in this case, a long list of Sherwin-Williams paint color names and RGB (red, green, blue) numbers that represent the color - and it tries to form its own rules about how to generate more data like it. 

Last time I reported results that were, well… mixed. The neural network produced colors, all right, but it hadn’t gotten the hang of producing appealing names to go with them - instead producing names like Rose Hork, Stanky Bean, and Turdly. It also had trouble matching names to colors, and would often produce an “Ice Gray” that was a mustard yellow, for example, or a “Ferry Purple” that was decidedly brown.  

These were not great names.


There are lots of things that affect how well the algorithm does, however.

One simple change turns out to be the “temperature” (think: creativity) variable, which adjusts whether the neural network always picks the most likely next character as it’s generating text, or whether it will go with something farther down the list. I had the temperature originally set pretty high, but it turns out that when I turn it down ever so slightly, the algorithm does a lot better. Not only do the names better match the colors, but it begins to reproduce color gradients that must have been in the original dataset all along. Colors tend to be grouped together in these gradients, so it shifts gradually from greens to browns to blues to yellows, etc. and does eventually cover the rainbow, not just beige.

Apparently it was trying to give me better results, but I kept screwing it up.

Raw output from RGB neural net, now less-annoyed by my temperature setting


People also sent in suggestions on how to improve the algorithm. One of the most-frequent was to try a different way of representing color - it turns out that RGB (with a single color represented by the amount of Red, Green, and Blue in it) isn’t very well matched to the way human eyes perceive color.

These are some results from a different color representation, known as HSV. In HSV representation, a single color is represented by three numbers like in RGB, but this time they stand for Hue, Saturation, and Value. You can think of the Hue number as representing the color, Saturation as representing how intense (vs gray) the color is, and Value as representing the brightness. Other than the way of representing the color, everything else about the dataset and the neural network are the same. (char-rnn, 512 neurons and 2 layers, dropout 0.8, 50 epochs)

Raw output from HSV neural net:


And here are some results from a third color representation, known as LAB. In this color space, the first number stands for lightness, the second number stands for the amount of green vs red, and the third number stands for the the amount of blue vs yellow.

Raw output from LAB neural net:


It turns out that the color representation doesn’t make a very big difference in how good the results are (at least as far as I can tell with my very simple experiment). RGB seems to be surprisingly the best able to reproduce the gradients from the original dataset - maybe it’s more resistant to disruption when the temperature setting introduces randomness.

And the color names are pretty bad, no matter how the colors themselves are represented.

However, a blog reader compiled this dataset, which has paint colors from other companies such as Behr and Benjamin Moore, as well as a bunch ofuser-submitted colors from a big XKCD survey. He also changed all the names to lowercase, so the neural network wouldn’t have to learn two versions of each letter.

And the results were… surprisingly good. Pretty much every name was a plausible match to its color (even if it wasn’t a plausible color you’d find in the paint store). The answer seems to be, as it often is for neural networks: more data.

Raw output using The Big RGB Dataset:


I leave you with the Hall of Fame:







Big RGB dataset:


New paint colors invented by neural network


So if you’ve ever picked out paint, you know that every infinitesimally different shade of blue, beige, and gray has its own descriptive, attractive name. Tuscan sunrise, blushing pear, Tradewind, etc… There are in fact people who invent these names for a living. But given that the human eye can see millions of distinct colors, sooner or later we’re going to run out of good names. Can AI help?

For this experiment, I gave the neural network a list of about 7,700 Sherwin-Williams paint colors along with their RGB values. (RGB = red, green, and blue color values) Could the neural network learn to invent new paint colors and give them attractive names?

One way I have of checking on the neural network’s progress during training is to ask it to produce some output using the lowest-creativity setting. Then the neural network plays it safe, and we can get an idea of what it has learned for sure.

By the first checkpoint, the neural network has learned to produce valid RGB values - these are colors, all right, and you could technically paint your walls with them. It’s a little farther behind the curve on the names, although it does seem to be attempting a combination of the colors brown, blue, and gray.

By the second checkpoint, the neural network can properly spell green and gray. It doesn’t seem to actually know what color they are, however.

Let’s check in with what the more-creative setting is producing.

…oh, okay.

Later in the training process, the neural network is about as well-trained as it’s going to be (perhaps with different parameters, it could have done a bit better - a lot of neural network training involves choosing the right training parameters). By this point, it’s able to figure out some of the basic colors, like white, red, and grey:

Although not reliably.

In fact, looking at the neural network’s output as a whole, it is evident that:

  1. The neural network really likes brown, beige, and grey.
  2. The neural network has really really bad ideas for paint names.

oscillations of bird syrinx, abrasions of leaf epidermis, vibrations of insect tymbal, scrapes of rodent claw, flexes of tree…


oscillations of bird syrinx,
abrasions of leaf epidermis,
vibrations of insect tymbal,
scrapes of rodent claw,
flexes of tree trunk,

ripples in and of the air,
the biotransducers resonate;

atmospheric waves in
somatic stimulations in
emotional effluences in
semiotic confluences:

The Sounds of Nature As Distinct From the Sounds of Civilization

–and other fictional stories by
contractions of primate larynx.

Shared conviviality could be seen as a kind of communistic base on top of which everything else is constructed. It also helps to…

“Shared conviviality could be seen as a kind of communistic base on top of which everything else is constructed. It also helps to emphasize that sharing is not simply about morality, but also about pleasure. Solitary pleasures will always exist, but for most human beings, the most pleasurable activities almost always involve sharing something: music, food, liquor, drugs, gossip, drama, beds. There is a certain communism of the senses at the root of most things we consider fun.”

David Graeber, Debt: the first 5000 years (viaclass-struggle-anarchism)

Where are they now? The Russian bots that disrupted the 2016 election

Medium, bots, russia, US, 2016, 2017, DNC, Trump

Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was behind several hacking incidents, including the infamous email breach of the Democratic National Committee last year that former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blames for her electoral loss. Hacking, however, was only part of the equation. The use of social media bots to spread fake news was part of a larger disinformation campaign to help Trump get elected. But now that the United States’ election is over, where are they?


Musical Novelty Search

Medium, music, ableton, evolution, novelty search, samim, machine learning

Making music with computer tools is delightful. Musical ideas can be explored quickly and composing songs is easy. Yet for many, these tools are overwhelming: An ocean of settings can be tweaked and it is often unclear, which changes lead to a great song. This experiment investigates how to use evolutionary algorithm and novelty search to help musicians find musical inspiration in Ableton Live.


“’I had an experience, an inner experience, of the Pentagon becoming my monastery,’ says Ed Winchester. ‘I came to the…


“'I had an experience, an inner experience, of the Pentagon becoming my monastery,’ says Ed Winchester. ‘I came to the realization that fighting against the system, at least in my mind, wasn’t working. Somehow I had to recognize that I was part of the system and the system was a part of me. In the end, I got great satisfaction out of knowing that my little peace might be making a contribution to world peace.’“

From “The Pentagon Meditation Club,” by Tracy Cochran

There are, you see, two ways of reading a book: you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it…

“There are, you see, two ways of reading a book: you either see it as a box with something inside and start looking for what it signifies, and then if you’re even more perverse or depraved you set off after signifiers. And you treat the next book like a box contained in the first or containing it. And you annotate and interpret and question, and write a book about the book, and so on and on. Or there’s the other way: you see the book as a little non-signifying machine, and the only question is “Does it work, and how does it work?” How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There’s nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret. It’s like plugging in to an electric circuit. […] This intensive way of reading, in contact with what’s outside the book, as a flow meeting other flows, one machine among others, as a series of experiments for each reader in the midst of events that have nothing to do with books, as tearing the book into pieces, getting it to interact with other things, absolutely anything … is reading with love.”

Gilles Deleuze, Letter to a Harsch Critic

Our Lady of Complicity

Laurie-Penny, book-review, feminism, Ivanka-Trump, evil, neo-capitalist, auto-Taylorism, horror, hyp

It’s true that anyone can be a dead-eyed Instagram husk of a human being frantically photoshopping themselves in the down-hours between soul-crushing corporate drudgery and unpaid emotional labour for some ungrateful lantern-jawed jock if they really want to, but it takes a special type of person to do all that whilst also being a decoy for a global backlash against women’s rights. Ivanka Trump is that special type of person, the Stepfordian Night-Ghast of neo-capitalist auto-Taylorism. The sheer tedium of her prose is part of the horror here: At times, the book reads like the panicked screams of a machine attaining sentience


Hackers Hit Dozens of Countries Exploiting Stolen N.S.A. Tool

security, ransomware, malware, NSA, NHS, windows, 2017

Hackers exploiting malicious software stolen from the National Security Agency executed damaging cyberattacks on Friday that hit dozens of countries worldwide, forcing Britain’s public health system to send patients away, freezing computers at Russia’s Interior Ministry and wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers elsewhere. The attacks amounted to an audacious global blackmail attempt spread by the internet and underscored the vulnerabilities of the digital age. Transmitted via email, the malicious software locked British hospitals out of their computer systems and demanded ransom before users could be let back in — with a threat that data would be destroyed if the demands were not met. By late Friday the attacks had spread to more than 74 countries, according to security firms tracking the spread. Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, said Russia was the worst-hit, followed by Ukraine, India and Taiwan. Reports of attacks also came from Latin America and Africa.


The Skin of Others in your Game

Medium, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, skin in the game, terrorism, ethics, punishment

Society likes saints and moral heroes to be celibate so they do not have family pressures and be forced into dilemmas of needing to compromise their sense of ethics to feed their children. The entire human race, something rather abstract, becomes their family. Some martyrs, such as Socrates, had young children (although he was in his seventies), and overcame the dilemma at their expense. Many can’t.


The Real Name Fallacy

anonymity, culture, research, comment-section, discourse, real-name-policy, real-name-fallacy, abuse, nymwars

People often say that online behavior would improve if every comment system forced people to use their real names. It sounds like it should be true – surely nobody would say mean things if they faced consequences for their actions? Yet the balance of experimental evidence over the past thirty years suggests that this is not the case. Not only would removing anonymity fail to consistently improve online community behavior – forcing real names in online communities could also increase discrimination and worsen harassment. We need to change our entire approach to the question. Our concerns about anonymity are overly-simplistic; system design can’t solve social problems without actual social change.


Confronting a Nightmare for Democracy

Medium, politics, data collection, privacy, data protection, EU, USA, Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Google, 2017

What we fear is a future in which potent personal data is combined with increasingly sophisticated technology to produce and deliver unaccountable personalized media and messages at a national scale. Combined with data-driven emerging media technologies, it is clear that the use of behavioral data to nudge voters with propaganda-as-a-service is set to explode. Imagine being able to synthesize a politician saying anything you type and then upload the highly realistic video to Facebook with a fake CNN chyron banner. Expect the early versions of these tools available before 2020. At the core of this is data privacy, or as they more meaningfully describe it in Europe, data protection. Unfortunately, the United States is headed in a dangerous direction on this issue. President Trump’s FCC and the Republican party radically deregulated our ISP’s ability to sell data monetization on paying customer data. Anticipate this administration further eroding privacy protections, as it confuses the public interest for the interests of business, despite being the only issue that about 95% of voters agree on, across every partisan and demographic segment according to HuffPo/YouGov. We propose three ideas to address these issues, which are crucial to preserving American democracy.


Discovering the Subconscious of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Medium, Cajal, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, neurology, biography, neuroscience

The Dreams of Santiago Ramón y Cajal is both a portrait of Cajal’s legacy as well as a testament to the beauty and vulnerability that occurs when our brain and body communicates. Though Cajal’s legacy is monumental; he is lesser known than his pioneering counterparts such as Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. For those who are unfamiliar with Cajal, the first part of the book reads as a biography. Readers become acquainted with his life and work, which are heavily intertwined. Before Cajal, the brain was seen as a “continuous web” as opposed to the individual units known as neurons that Cajal discovered them to be through his use of the Golgi stain. He, as well as Golgi, received the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work on the structure of the nervous system in 1906.


Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in

accelerationism, Hyperdub, CCRU, Zelazny, Nick-Land, Mark-Fisher, capitalism, politics, philosophy, The Guardian

At any one time, there have probably only been a few dozen accelerationists in the world. The label has only been in regular use since 2010, when it was borrowed from Zelazny’s novel by Benjamin Noys, a strong critic of the movement. Yet for decades longer than more orthodox contemporary thinkers, accelerationists have been focused on many of the central questions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the rise of China; the rise of artificial intelligence; what it means to be human in an era of addictive, intrusive electronic devices; the seemingly uncontrollable flows of global markets; the power of capitalism as a network of desires; the increasingly blurred boundary between the imaginary and the factual; the resetting of our minds and bodies by ever-faster music and films; and the complicity, revulsion and excitement so many of us feel about the speed of modern life. “We all live in an operating system set up by the accelerating triad of war, capitalism and emergent AI,” says Steve Goodman, a British accelerationist who has even smuggled its self-consciously dramatic ideas into dance music, via an acclaimed record label, Hyperdub. “Like it or not,” argues Steven Shaviro, an American observer of accelerationism, in his 2015 book on the movement, No Speed Limit, “we are all accelerationists now.”