Maybe Castor and Pollux are a better analogy than Narcissus for computational infatuation: These twins had only one share of…

“Maybe Castor and Pollux are a better analogy than Narcissus for computational infatuation: These twins had only one share of immortality between them and spent eternity trading places in Heaven and Hades, each foresworn to be apart from the other but unwilling to accept absolute separation. They share elation and anguish in equal measure but never together—the constancy of change becomes its own uncanny medium joining the two.”

Michael Thomsen, “Gemini Haptics,” Real Life magazine

How to Break Open the Web: a report on the first Decentralized Web Summit


June’s Decentralized Web Summit at San Francisco’s Internet Archive was a ground-breaking, three-day combination of workshops, lectures, demos and a hackathon, all aimed at figuring out how to restore the decentralized character of the early internet – and keep it that way.

In a long, thoughtful report on the event, Dan Gillmor and Kevin Marks write insightfully about the forces massed on both sides of this movement, and where it might all end up.

The Google codebase [as of January 2015] includes approximately one billion files and has a history of approximately 35 million…

google, versioning, software, ACM, data

The Google codebase [as of January 2015] includes approximately one billion files and has a history of approximately 35 million commits spanning Google’s entire 18-year existence. The repository contains 86TB [Total size of uncompressed content, excluding release branches] of data, including approximately two billion lines of code in nine million unique source files. The total number of files also includes source files copied into release branches, files that are deleted at the latest revision, configuration files, documentation, and supporting data files.

Google’s codebase is shared by more than 25,000 Google software developers from dozens of offices in countries around the world. On a typical workday, they commit 16,000 changes to the codebase, and another 24,000 changes are committed by automated systems. Each day the repository serves billions of file read requests, with approximately 800,000 queries per second during peak traffic and an average of approximately 500,000 queries per second each workday. Most of this traffic originates from Google’s distributed build-and-test systems

That is the situation to which evolution adapts organisms. And that, therefore, is the lifestyle in which the Earth’s biosphere…

“That is the situation to which evolution adapts organisms. And that, therefore, is the lifestyle in which the Earth’s biosphere ‘seems adapted’ to sustaining them. The biosphere only ever achieves stability – and only temporarily at that – by continually neglecting, harming, disabling and killing individuals. Hence the metaphor of a spaceship or a life-support system, is quite perverse: when humans design a life-support system, they design it to provide the maximum possible comfort, safety and longevity for its users within the available resources; the biosphere has no such priorities.
Nor is the biosphere a great preserver of species. In addition to being notoriously cruel to individuals, evolution involves continual extinctions of entire species. The average rate of extinction since the beginning of life on Earth has been about ten species per year (the number is known only very approximately), becoming much higher during the relatively brief periods that palaeontologists call ‘mass extinction events’.”

Deutsch, David.The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World. London: Allen Lane, 2011. (viacarvalhais)

One thing that you immediately notice when you set out to study the cultures that flourished around the Mediterranean a couple…

religion, ritual

“One thing that you immediately notice when you set out to study the cultures that flourished around the Mediterranean a couple thousand years ago is that none of them – not the Egyptians, not the Greeks, not the Etruscans and none of their neighbors either – had a word in any of those languages for what we today consider religion. They had a very rich religious vocabulary, but it would have been incomprehensible to them if a person had said, “I am a ___.” Religion was merely part of a broader spectrum of culture and concerned primarily with what a person did not who they were or what they believed, a fact which is reflected in their vocabulary. To use the Greeks as an example, the word that is most often suggested as an analogue for our “religion” was eusebeia. Literally this means “good or proper reverence; piety, loyalty” or as one ancient Greek commentator remarked, “that portion of justice which is concerned with divine matters and giving to the gods their due.” Another commonly found term was threskeia which means “conducting religious ceremonies, worship.” Other words are therapon “divine tendance or service”, proskynesis “inclining towards; bowing, intense respect or devotion” and by extension any dedicated act expressing powerful religious sentiment, nomos “custom, tradition, law” and so on and so forth. A related concept was deisidaimonia “fear of spirits”, which had largely negative connotations suggesting superstitious, extravagant or foreign types of worship. All of these, as you can see, were primarily concerned with actions.”

Sannion (viatheheadlesshashasheen)

There are three constituents of a shadow: umbra, penumbra, antumbra. I hold my hand between the lamp and the desk’s surface. The…

shadow, light, absence

“There are three constituents of a shadow: umbra, penumbra, antumbra. I hold my hand between the lamp and the desk’s surface. The darkest place, where my hand blocks the direct rays of electric light, is the umbra – latin for shadow. The penumbra (almost, nearly, shadow) is the partial occlusion of light, where the darkness is less severe, seen in this case, emanating briefly from the edges of the umbra, from my dark finger tips. The antumbra is something that cannot be described.”

Hugh Fulham-McQuillan

The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of “jaywalking”

history, roads, cars, walking, public, public-space, crime, shame, lobbying, culture

“In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers’ job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them,” says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. “But under the new model, streets became a place for cars — and as a pedestrian, it’s your fault if you get hit.” One of the keys to this shift was the creation of the crime of jaywalking.


As sites for more-than-human dramas, landscapes are radical tools for decentering human hubris. Landscapes are not backdrops for…

landscape, mushrooms, matsutake

“As sites for more-than-human dramas, landscapes are radical tools for decentering human hubris. Landscapes are not backdrops for historical action: they are themselves active. Watching landscapes in formation shows humans joining other living beings in shaping worlds. Matsutake and pine don’t just grow in forests; they make forests. Matsutake forests are gatherings that build and transform landscape”

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. The Mushroom at the End of the World.

What It Is Like to Like

taste, aesthetics, internet, media, books, review, change, advertising

Vanderbilt’s premise is: “We are strangers to our tastes.” He doesn’t mean that we don’t really like what we say we like. He means that we don’t know why. Our intuition that tastes are intuitive, that they are just “our tastes,” and spring from our own personal genome, has been disproved repeatedly by psychologists and market researchers. But where tastes do come from is extremely difficult to pin down. Taste is not congenital: we don’t inherit it. And it’s not consistent. We come to like things we thought we hated (or actually did hate), and we are very poor predictors of what we are likely to like in the future.


Electron-Eating Microbes Found In Odd Places

biology, electricity, lithoautotrophs, rock-eaters, bacteria

The electricity-eating microbes that the researchers were hunting for belong to a larger class of organisms that scientists are only beginning to understand. They inhabit largely uncharted worlds: the bubbling cauldrons of deep sea vents; mineral-rich veins deep beneath the planet’s surface; ocean sediments just a few inches below the deep seafloor. The microbes represent a segment of life that has been largely ignored, in part because their strange habitats make them incredibly difficult to grow in the lab.


NATO Secretary General: “Climate change is also a security threat”


Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg sat down for an interview with POLITICO Europe. When asked what NATO is doing to address the risks of climate change, he responded by asserting that climate change is in fact a security risk, and an issue to consider in the context of conflict prevention, peace and stability.

He also noted that NATO does not have the luxury of choosing the challenges it faces, and has to work to adaptto the changing security environment. Indeed, the challenges that NATO faces are serious and climate change, particularly if not adequately addressed by NATO member states, could very well multiply those challenges and ultimately challenge the NATO mission. However, though the Secretary General appreciated the risks of climate change to NATO’s security landscape, he unfortunately stopped short of describing it as a priority of his.

From the interview:

Alice Stollmeyer: “Last year head of the UN Climate Summit in Paris NATO has stated that climate change poses significant threat multipliers and I was wondering could you tell us what NATO is doing to address this and how to, amid all the other crisis, to keep the climate security threats on the agenda?”

Secretary General Stoltenberg: “First of all, I think it is very important to underline what you just said and that is climate change is also a security threat because it can really change also the conditions for where people live, create new migrant and refugee crises and scarce resources, water, can fuel new conflicts. So climate change is also about preventing conflicts and creating more stability and prosperity, which is good for peace and stability.

Second, NATO is addressing how we can also address, how we can contribute. NATO is not the first responder to climate change. We are a military alliance, but partly everything that can make also military vehicles, military equipment more energy efficient will be good both for the environment but also for the sustainability of the armed forces. So energy efficiency, less energy dependence of the armed forces is good for both the armed forces as armed forces and for the environment. And that’s actually the thing we can do as an alliance. We are also sharing this information with allies, trying to increase their focus and understanding of this, but of course the most important things that can be done with climate change is more related to energy, to ministers of the environment, to other areas than defense.” (57:18 min mark)

NATO Secretary General: “Climate change is also a security threat”

This graphic on ‘How food connects all the SDGs’ from the Stockholm Resilience Centre uses the centre’s ‘wedding cake’ model-…


This graphic on ‘How food connects all the SDGs’ from the Stockholm Resilience Centre uses the centre’s ‘wedding cake’ model- whereby economic and social factors are conceptualised as interconnected to, and embedded within, the biosphere- to indicate that the Sustainable Development Goals are all linked to the issue of sustainable food. (Click here for a high-res version of the graphic.)

I’ve been thinking about how other development issues interconnect and link the SDGs together- such as waste, transport and public health- in other posts:

- ‘The woman who loves garbage’: resource efficiency to gender equality

- ‘The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems’: Qhubeka and the SDGs

The interconnection of the environment and public health: 4 stories from the BBC’s ‘Health Check’

World’s oldest beer brought back to life, scientists claim

Beer, brewing, revival, resurection, 1790s, 1990, 2016, shipwreck

A group of Australian scientists claim they have pulled off a world first by reviving the yeast of a 220-year-old beer salvaged from a shipwreck. A detailed DNA analysis of the yeasts was undertaken to find out if the yeasts were present because of contamination. The brewer’s yeast brettanomyces was found. It is not used in modern commercial brewing, but was used everywhere in old-style brewing. Also present was the brewer’s yeast Saccharomyces, but not like it had ever been seen before. The yeast was a hybrid that sat closest on the family tree to Trappist ale, made by monks in Belgium.


New research: Abbott and Turnbull the worst economic managers since Menzies

Guardian, Australia, economics, performance, GDP, jobs, growth, correlation, bizniz

A report by the Australia Institute to be released today titled “Jobs and Growth … And a Few Hard Numbers” shows that there is little correlation between economic performance and either political party. The report, which examines the economic performance of Australia under every prime minister since Menzies, also found that the “business friendliness” of a government does not appear to have much impact either.


Philosophy and Psychedelic Phenomenology

Peter, Sjöstedt-H, psychedelic, phenomenology, philosophy, prohibition, taboos

Due to the general legal prohibition and modern cultural taboo against psychoactive chemicals, the academic discipline of Philosophy has left a potentially bounteous field of enquiry virtually unharvested. The aim of this text is to introduce readers to an unimaginable universe of cognition to which ingestion of such molecules will open the portal. This universe can modify and augment Philosophy itself: psychedelic phenomenology is fuel for Philosophy.


The instant exploitation of this attack is part of a more general trend of exploiting liberal social issues to glorify agendas…

“The instant exploitation of this attack is part of a more general trend of exploiting liberal social issues to glorify agendas of militarism, tribal conflicts, and aggressive foreign policies. Decorate the GCHQ headquarters or the Tel Aviv city hall with the LGBT’s rainbow flag colors and suddenly mass surveillance and decadeslong military occupation seem pretty and liberal. Choose militaristic U.S. presidents who represent social milestones of race and gender and suddenly their militarism seems to liberals to be more tolerable and even inspiring. Pretend that the war on Afghanistan is about feminism, and aggression toward Iran is about protecting LGBTs, and watch liberals melt with appreciation. Disguise anti-Muslim animus as pro-LGBT activism and one can quickly expand support for a neocon mentality and agenda into large sectors of Western liberalism.”

Stop Exploiting LGBT Issues to Demonize Islam and Justify Anti-Muslim Policies (viastml)

The Philosophy of Organism

Peter, Sjöstedt-H, Philosophy, process, Whitehead, organic-realism

The philosophy of organism is a form of process philosophy. This type of philosophy seeks to overcome the problems in the traditional metaphysical options of dualism, materialism, and idealism. From the perspective of process philosophy, the error of dualism is to take mind and matter to be fundamentally distinct; the error of materialism is to fall for this first error then omit mind as fundamental; the error of idealism is also to fall for the first error then to omit matter as fundamental. The philosophy of organism seeks to resolve these issues by fusing the concepts of mind and matter, thereby creating an ‘organic realism’ as Whitehead also named his philosophy.


Wild flower blooms again after 30,000 years on ice

Nature, biology, botany, flower, revival, deextinction

During the Ice Age, Earth’s northern reaches were covered by chilly, arid grasslands roamed by mammoths, woolly rhinoceros and long-horned bison. That ecosystem, known by palaeontologists as the mammoth steppe, vanished about 13,000 years ago. It has no modern counterpart. Yet one of its plants has reportedly been resurrected by a team of scientists who tapped a treasure trove of fruits and seeds, buried some 30,000 years ago by ground squirrels and preserved in the permafrost (S. Yashina et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA; 2012). The plant would be by far the most ancient ever revived; the previous record holder was a date palm grown from seeds roughly 2,000 years old.


The Moscow Rules Still Rule


The full list of all 40 Moscow Rules.

1. Assume nothing. 2. Technology will always let you down. 3. Murphy is right. 4. Never go against your gut. 5. Always listen to your gut; it is your operational antennae. 6. Everyone is potentially under opposition control. 7. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone. Use your gut. 8. Go with the flow; use the terrain. 9. Take the natural break of traffic. 10. Maintain a natural pace. 11. Establish a distinctive and dynamic profile and pattern. 12. Stay consistent over time. 13. Vary your pattern and stay within your profile. 14. Be non threatening: keep them relaxed; mesmerize! 15. Lull them into a sense of complacency. 16. Know the opposition and their terrain intimately. 17. Build in opportunity but use it sparingly. 18. Don’t harass the opposition. 19. Make sure they can anticipate your destination. 20. Pick the time and place for action. 21. Any operation can be aborted; if it feels wrong, then it is wrong. 22. Keep your options open. 23. If your gut says to act, overwhelm their senses. 24. Use misdirection, illusion, and deception. 25. Hide small operative motions in larger non threatening motions. 26. Float like a butterfly; sting like bee. 27. When free, In Obscura, immediately change direction and leave the area. 28. Break your trail and blend into the local scene. 29. Execute a surveillance detection run designed to draw them out over time. 30. Once is an accident; twice is a coincidence; three times is an enemy action. (taken from Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger) 31. Avoid static lookouts; stay away from chokepoints where they can reacquire you. 32. Select a meeting site so you can overlook the scene. 33. Keep any asset separated from you by time and distance until it is time. 34. If the asset has surveillance, then the operation has gone bad. 35. Only approach the site when you are sure it is clean. 36. After the meeting or act is done, “close the loop” at a logical cover destination. 37. Be aware of surveillance’s time tolerance so they aren’t forced to raise an alert. 38. If an alert is issued, they must pay a price and so must you. 39. Let them believe they lost you; act innocent. 40. There is no limit to a human being’s ability to rationalize the truth.

The Moscow Rules Still Rule

Open access: All human knowledge is there—so why can’t everybody access it?

OA, openaccess, knowledge, enclosure, publishing, libraries, technology, culture

Imagine, for a moment, if it were possible to provide access not just to those books, but to all knowledge for everyone, everywhere—the ultimate realisation of Panizzi’s dream. In fact, we don’t have to imagine: it is possible today, thanks to the combined technologies of digital texts and the Internet. The former means that we can make as many copies of a work as we want, for vanishingly small cost; the latter provides a way to provide those copies to anyone with an Internet connection. The global rise of low-cost smartphones means that group will soon include even the poorest members of society in every country. That is to say, we have the technical means to share all knowledge, and yet we are nowhere near providing everyone with the ability to indulge their learned curiosity


SLOWAVE – An Exploration on Sleep + Society

culture, ideas, sleep, slowave, dreams, lifehacks, optimisation, industry, work, life, art

Our anxiety about sleep underscores some uncomfortable realities about the present. How is it that an essential biological function has had to fight so hard to be recognized as, well, essential? When we look back on our lives, the third we spend recharging registers as an opportunity cost, something to be overcome. But what if the on/off binary that we understand consciousness through was the wrong lens to use on sleep? Can we reject the awake/asleep binary, and plot sleeping and dreaming on an expanded spectrum of consciousness? Sleep isn’t death–it’s something else entirely. The future of sleep won’t be its absence, it will be a new class of people leveraging its creative potential. Slowave is the response to this realization


What are megaslumps, and how do they threaten our planet?


My note before I post the rest of this: none of this stuff that is happening “on the planet” is threatening “to the planet.” The planet will tool along, happy as shit, doing what planets do, even though it will be and look different than it did 2,000 years ago. It will continue to wink and nod to its friends and neighbors Mars and Venus and not give a damn about what lives on it. What this stuff means is that these changes are threats to us, us humans. Maybe if we started thinking about fucking ourselves over and quit phrasing our worries about screwing the planet, we can more acutely focus on the real problem, and start coming up with answers quicker than a bunny.

As permafrost melts, a Swiss cheese-like landscape forms in the Arctic. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson/Wiki Commons)


Massive “slumps” are forming like a pox across the Northern Hemisphere — deep craters that appear like gateways to the underworld — and they could represent an ominous sign of what’s to come, reports The Independent.

The largest of these so-called megaslumps is Batagaika crater in Siberia, a kilometer-long crevasse that’s 90 meters deep. The unusual chasm appears almost as if the land is turning itself inside out. Even more frightening, it’s widening by up to 20 meters a year, slowly encroaching upon the landscape like a living thing.

The cause of these eerie sinkholes is melting permafrost — the frozen soil and rock that makes up the bulk of the Arctic landscape. As our planet continues to warm, the permafrost thaws and the Earth loosens and slumps. This process not only disfigures the terrain, but it also releases dangerous greenhouse gases into the air that had otherwise been trapped by the frozen ground’s grip.

The release of greenhouse gases — most notably, methane — from melting permafrost is what is known as a climate feedback loop. As the planet warms, more permafrost melts and more greenhouse gases get released into the atmosphere, which leads to more warming and even more thawing, and so on. Once a process like this gets triggered, it becomes very difficult to stop. This is one reason that researchers warn that megaslumps like the Batagaika crater represent major threats to our planet’s climate. They’re an omen, a symptom, of a larger underlying disease.

What are megaslumps, and how do they threaten our planet?

Weird jet stream behavior could be making Greenland’s melting even worse, scientists say


Extreme melting in Greenland’s ice sheet last summer was linked to warm air delivered by the wandering jet stream (seen here), which has been linked to extreme warming in the Arctic. Credit: NASA


A group of scientists found that Greenland had shown much more unusual melting in its colder northern stretches than in the warmer south, and that this had occurred because of very strange behavior in the atmosphere above it. During the month of July, an atmospheric phenomenon called a “cutoff high” — a region of high pressure that stayed relatively immobile over the ice sheet, bringing with it sustained sunny conditions — lingered for many days and produced unusual warmth at the surface and record melting for northwest Greenland.

A cutoff high “describes this atmospheric high pressure system that detaches from the jet stream, in this case, and then basically sits there, it’s almost like living by itself,” said Marco Tedesco, the lead author of the study just published in Nature Communications, and a researcher with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.

The high was accompanied, in this case, by a northward departure of the mid-latitude jet stream — a stream of air in the northern hemisphere that can travel in a more or less wavy route as it progresses from west to east — that set a record for its northward extent, the study found.

“I think we can start to connect these dots and say that increasing loss of Arctic sea ice is leading to more blocking patterns, which are contributing to the increasing surface melt on Greenland,” said Jennifer Francis, the Rutgers University Arctic expert whose ideas about Arctic melting distorting the jet stream have ignited one of the biggest ongoing debates in climate science, and who is familiar with the new study by Tedesco and his colleagues. “Of course, this is bad news for sea-level rise and maybe also for the ocean circulation as the extra meltwater appears to be partially responsible for the ‘Cool Blob’ south of Iceland.”

Weird jet stream behavior could be making Greenland’s melting even worse, scientists say