Word of the day: “nefelibata” –– literally a “cloud-walker”; that is, a daydreamer, one who wanders lost in thought or wonder…

IFTTT, Twitter, RobGMacfarlane

(via http://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1147384730876350466)

Regarding this “plant forests!” thing: I’m going to plug Joe Mercer’s @RCAarchitecture ADS1 thesis project from 2017/18 which…

IFTTT, Twitter, entschwindet

(via http://twitter.com/entschwindet/status/1147103869777956864)

Shit, just realized I operate with an unconscious 2x2 in how I engage with people online. X-axis: harmless to dangerous, Y-axis,…

IFTTT, Twitter, vgr

(via http://twitter.com/vgr/status/1147226504532598784)

“First of all, I am a real Minimalist, because I don’t do very much. I know some minimalists who call themselves minimalist, but…

IFTTT, Twitter, SamuelAndreyev

(via http://twitter.com/SamuelAndreyev/status/1146431633010110464)

I introduced a remarkable person (Ai Weiwei) to a remarkable tree (the Great Oriental Plane Tree) this afternoon….

IFTTT, Twitter, RobGMacfarlane

(via http://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1146836203062382593)

sound nerds: there’s a new auditory illusion. if you replace a repeating texture with white noise, your ear hallucinates the…

IFTTT, Twitter, kcimc

(via http://twitter.com/kcimc/status/1146478287864000512)

The sense of time I have as a millennial is so weird… 1970: About 30 years ago 1980: About 20 years ago 1990: About 10 years…

IFTTT, Twitter, quartzen

(via http://twitter.com/quartzen/status/1146121134179532800)

In this Overview, the San Juan River is shown meandering through southeastern Utah, not far from Goosenecks State Park. It is a…


In this Overview, the San Juan River is shown meandering through southeastern Utah, not far from Goosenecks State Park. It is a major tributary of the Colorado River and provides drainage to the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. The San Juan is one of the muddiest rivers in North America, carrying an average of 25 million U.S. tons of silt and sediment each year.

Instagram: https://bit.ly/2xstqxP

37.206203°, -109.995573°

Source imagery: Maxar Technologies

Ever notice how the humanities and social sciences are expected to understand scientific research method but scientists don’t…

IFTTT, Twitter, annegalloway

(via http://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/1145836643116412929)

Biologists analyzed 150 samples from across the U.K. and concluded that British knotweed was all a clone of that original plant,…

IFTTT, Twitter, annaridler

(via http://twitter.com/annaridler/status/1145740767077502976)

vns matrix archive is finally live. coded by the brilliant @francesdath the slime archive has taken over a year to build and has…

IFTTT, Twitter, AnomiePrecious

(via http://twitter.com/AnomiePrecious/status/1145842699578142720)

There are 20,000 TOTAL Customs & Border Patrol agents in the US. 9,500 - almost HALF that number - are in a racist & sexually…

IFTTT, Twitter, AOC

(via http://twitter.com/AOC/status/1145738027270115328)

People sometimes ask how’d you deal with corporations w/out a state. W/out a state & its legal structure there are no…

IFTTT, Twitter, davidgraeber

(via http://twitter.com/davidgraeber/status/1145365204219379717)

A few years back, I followed @archillect, because I like cool images. After a bit I started to wonder why it had a seeming…

IFTTT, Twitter, vuzhmusic

(via http://twitter.com/vuzhmusic/status/1145076717800820736)

AIs named by AIs


Neural networks can be good at naming things, I’ve discovered. Recently I’ve been experimenting with a neural network called GPT-2, which OpenAI trained on a huge chunk of the internet. Thanks to a colab notebook implementation by Max Woolf, I’m able to fine-tune it on specific lists of data - cat names, for example. Drawing on its prior knowledge of how words tend to be used, GPT-2 can sometimes suggest new words and phrases that it thinks it’s seen in similar context to the words from my fine-tuning dataset. (It’ll also sometimes launch into Harry Potter fan fiction or conspiracy theories, since it saw a LOT of those online.)

One thing I’ve noticed GPT-2 doing is coming up with names that sound strangely like the names of self-aware AI spaceships in Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels. In the science fiction series, the ships choose their own names according to a sort of quirky sense of humor. The humans in the books may not appreciate the names, but there’s nothing they can do about them:

Hand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again
Zero Credibility
Fixed Grin
Charming But Irrational
So Much For Subtlety
Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall

Now compare some of the effects pedals GPT-2 came up with:

Dangerous But Not Unbearably So
Disastrously Varied Mental Model
Dazzling So Beautiful Yet So Terrifying
Am I really that Transhuman
Love and Sex Are A Mercy Clause

 And some of the cat names:

Give Me A Reason
Thou Shalt
Warning Signs
Kill All Humans

Did GPT-2 somehow have a built-in tendency to produce names that sounded like self-aware spaceships? How would it do if it was actually trained specifically on Culture ships?

A reader named Kelly sent me a list of 236 of Iain M. Banks’s Culture ship names from Wikipedia, and I trained the 345 million-parameter version of GPT-2 on them. As it turns out, I had to stop the training after just a few seconds (6 iterations) because GPT-2 was already beginning to memorize the entire list (can’t blame it; as far as it was concerned, memorizing the entire list was a perfect solution to the task I was asking for).

And yes. The answer is yes, naming science fiction AIs is something this real-life AI can do astonishingly well. I’ve selected some of the best to show you. First, there are the names that are clearly warship AIs:

Not Disquieting At All
Surprise Surprise
And That’s That!
New Arrangement
I Told You So
Spoiler Alert
Bonus Points!
Collateral Damage
Friendly Head Crusher
Scruffy And Determined
Race To The Bottom

And there are the sassy AIs:

Absently Tilting To One Side
A Small Note Of Disrespect
Third Letter of The Week
Well Done and Thank You
Just As Bad As Your Florist
What Exactly Is It With You?
Let Me Just Post This
Protip: Don’t Ask
Beyond Despair
Way Too Personal
Sobering Reality Check
Charming (Except For The Dogs)

The names of these AIs are even more inscrutable than usual. To me, this makes them much scarier than the warships.

Hot Pie
Lightly Curled Round The Wrist
Color Gold Normally Comes With Silence
8 Angry Doughnut Feelings
Mini Cactus Cake Fight
Happy to Groom Any Animals You Want
Stuffy Waffles With Egg On Top
Pickles And Harpsichord
Just As Likely To Still Be Intergalactic Jellyfish
Someone Did Save Your Best Cookie By Post-Apocalyptic Means

At least it does sound like some of these AIs will be appeased by snacks.

Bonus content: more AI names, including a few anachronisms (“Leonard Nimoy for President” for example)

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the…


“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen… We must dare to invent the future.””

Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, 1983 - 1987.

50 lost words from the Oxford English Dictionary


acnestis (n.): on an animal, the point of the back that lies between the shoulders and the lower back, which cannot be reached to be scratched

advesperate (v.): to approach evening

aerumnous (adj.): full of trouble [‘practically begging to be reintroduced to our vocabulary’, Shea notes]

backfriend (n.): a fake friend; a secret enemy

benedicence (n.): benevolence in speech

cellarhood (n.): the state of being a cellar (cf. tableity)

cimicine (adj.): smelling like bugs

constult (v.): to act stupidly together

dactylodeiktous (adj.) pointed at with a finger

discountenancer (n.): one who discourages with cold looks

elozable (adj.): readily influenced by flattery

epizeuxis (n.): the repetition of a word with vehemence and emphasis

fard (v.): to paint the face with cosmetics, so as to hide blemishes [‘I suspect there is a reason no one ever gets up from the table and says, “Excuse me while I go to the ladies’ room and fard.”’]

felicificability (n.): capacity for happiness

gound (n.): the gunk that collects in the corners of the eyes [‘the type of word I was unaware that I didn’t know, and yet it still felt like a relief when I discovered it’]

grinagog (n.): a person who is constantly grinning

hamartia (n.): the flaw that precipitates the destruction of a tragic hero

happify (v.): to make happy [this one gives me a happy, as they said in Buffy]

heterophemize (v.): to say something different from what you mean to say

impluvious (adj.): ‘wet with rain’ (Thomas Blount, Glossographia, 1656)

insordescent (adj.): growing in filthiness

jentacular (adj.): of or pertaining to breakfast

kankedort (n.): an awkward situation or affair

latibulate (v.): to hide oneself in a corner

letabund (adj.): filled with joy

malesuete (adj.): accustomed to poor habits

misdelight (n.): pleasure in something wrong

nefandous (adj.): too odious to be spoken of

neighbourize (v.): to be or act neighbourly

obganiate (v.): to annoy by repeating over and over and over and over

occasionet (n.): a minor occasion

petecure (n.): modest cooking; cooking on a small scale [‘Very few people eat in an epicurean fashion, yet many of them know what the word epicure means. A great many people eat in a simple fashion, and yet no one knows the word for this.’]

postvide (v.): to make plans for an event only after it has occurred [the antonym of provide, which originally meant ‘exercise foresight; make provision for the future’, per OED]

psithurism (n.): the whispering of leaves moved by the wind

quag (v.): to shake (said of something that is soft or flabby)

remord (n.): a touch of remorse; (v.) to remember with regret [‘when utilized as a verb, remord seems as though it can instantly render poetic any decision made in the past and subsequently regretted’]

residentarian (n.): a person who is given to remaining at table

scringe (v.): to shrug the back or shoulders from cold

scrouge (v.): to inconvenience or discomfort a person by pressing against him or her or by standing too close

subtrist (adj.): slightly sad

sympatetic (n.): a companion one walks with [‘Discoveries like this one are what make reading the OED from cover to cover worthwhile.’]

tacenda (n.): things not to be mentioned; matters that are passed over in silence

unbepissed (adj.): not having been urinated on [‘Is it possible that at some time there was such a profusion of things that had been urinated on that there was a pressing need to distinguish those that had not?’]

undisonant (adj.): making the sound of waves

vicambulist (n.): one who walks about in the streets

vulpeculated (pa. pple.): robbed by a fox

well-woulder (n.): a conditional well-wisher

xenium (n.): a gift given to a guest

yesterneve (n.): yesterday evening

zyxt (v.): to see [‘It is the second-person singular indicative present form of the verb “to see” in the Kentish dialect and has obviously not been in common use for some time.’]

Ammon Shea (because)

Why EU Regions are Redrawing Their Borders

EU, Europa, politics, local, regions, CEMR-CCRE, AER, COR, Euroregion, EGLEG, regional-development

This regional breakdown is what the EU uses to distribute its “catch-up funds,” which is used to fund a subset of a country’s projects in transportation infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, as well as development of small firms, investments in a low-carbon economy, environmental projects, and training and education. The least developed regions get a bigger share of the 50 billion euros distributed annually and, as a result, have to cofund less of total project costs. More developed regions receive less money and pay more toward project costs. Yet how does the EU decide whether a region is less developed? Where are the lines drawn?

via https://pudding.cool/2019/04/eu-regions/

Tobias Revell - Five Problems with Speculative Design (Pensee, Germinal, 227)

Tobias-Revell, SCD, design, speculative-design, futures, climate-change, 2019

We don’t have a good speculative design for planetary-change. The operating model of the business-design pipeline is exploiting the planet at one end and users at the other. The idea that these might in fact be the same thing would mean admitting that an operational focus on individual users and discrete time windows was ineffective design. And large sprawling change over massive time windows and shifting human/non-human interactions does not conform to the way in which revenue is reported. Again, this isn’t the fault of speculative design; designers need to eat. But, under these conditions we can’t to look at it as a catch-all solution for planetary collapse.

via http://blog.tobiasrevell.com/2019/04/five-problems-with-speculative-design.html

We Have to Save the Planet. So I’m Donating $1 Billion

NYT, Hansjörg-Wyss, climate, environment, philanthropy, 2019

Every one of us — citizens, philanthropists, business and government leaders — should be troubled by the enormous gap between how little of our natural world is currently protected and how much should be protected. It is a gap that we must urgently narrow, before our human footprint consumes the earth’s remaining wild places. For my part, I have decided to donate $1 billion over the next decade to help accelerate land and ocean conservation efforts around the world, with the goal of protecting 30 percent of the planet’s surface by 2030. This money will support locally led conservation efforts around the world, push for increased global targets for land and ocean protection, seek to raise public awareness about the importance of this effort, and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach our target. I believe this ambitious goal is achievable because I’ve seen what can be accomplished.

via https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/opinion/earth-biodiversity-conservation-billion-dollars.html

Ribbonfarm Top 10 by word count@vgr 1,155,543@sarahdoingthing 154,958@KevinSimler 32,895*@davidmanheim 27,940@TaylorPearsonMe…

IFTTT, Twitter, ribbonfarm

(via http://twitter.com/ribbonfarm/status/1120755555855785984)

Though a bit idiosyncratic, the shortest definition of intellectual I’ll sign on to is “magical thinker” (ht @bhudgeons for…

IFTTT, Twitter, vgr

(via http://twitter.com/vgr/status/1120425930277707784)

Zuck turned American classrooms into nonconsensual laboratories for his pet educational theories, and now they’re rebelling


Summit Learning is a nonprofit, high-tech “customized learning” group funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s family charity; under the program, students are equipped with high-surveillance Chromebooks and work on their own “at their own pace” and call on teachers to act as “mentors” when they get stuck.

It’s a high-tech version of student-led education, where a high teacher-to-pupil ratio allows students to pursue self-directed education based on their own proclivities and interests, and mentor one another. But in the Zuck version, students work alone in front of screens, in social isolation, taking automated quizzes to assess their progress.

Many students and parents find this incredibly invasive and frustrating. Students with special needs – exactly the group that you’d expect to benefit most from “customized learning” – find the systems especially troublesome, and for students with screen-triggered epilepsy, the systems are pure torture.

The result is rebellion, with parents withdrawing students from school altogether, or demanding that alternative accommodations be made for them; students in Brooklyn have staged mass walkouts to protest the systems; other districts have canceled the program in the face of student protests, and one University of Pennsylvania study found that 70% of students opposed the program.

US education has been the plaything of billionaires since the GW Bush era, when “accountability” measures like No Child Left Behind began to starve the neediest schools while reorienting education around preparation for high-stakes testing, all thanks to wealthy right-wing ideologues who insisted that education could be improved by “running it like a business.”

Then came the charter schools, which directly integrated for-profit businesses in providing tax-funded education, supported by a coalition that welded together parents’ whose public schools had been so starved that they had degraded beyond hope; religious fanatics who wanted publicly funded parochial education that omitted sexual health, evolution and other evidence-based curriculum; and wealthy people who wanted to opt their kids into racially and class-segregated environments.

Fucking with education is now the sport of oligarchs: witness the Gates’ Foundation’s $775 million “Big Data” boondoggle to the Sacklers’ ploughing of their bloody opioid epidemic money into anti-public education campaigns and the Koch and Walton families’ work to discredit teachers’ unions; and then there’s the queen of the education slayers, the heiress dilletante Betsy DeVos, an unqualified religious fanatic who is, incredibly, in charge of the nation’s public schools, which she wants to defund from primary to postsecondary, though she will earmark funds to arm teachers with assault rifles.

Zuckerberg and Chan fit quite neatly into that rogue’s gallery: using their money to elevate their evidence-free pet theories into educational policy that other peoples’ kids have to test out in publicly funded laboratories.


I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into…

IFTTT, Twitter, mackenzief

(via http://twitter.com/mackenzief/status/1118509708673998848)

We need 2 categories 1) #Dravidian pantheism 4 sudra&dalit pagans who reject #Brahmin 2)#Hindu 4 all twice born. All texts…

IFTTT, Twitter, Teloogoo

(via http://twitter.com/Teloogoo/status/1119678086528761861)

Idea: doomsday clock that runs on kairos rather than chronos. Every tick-tock is a semantically marked up real-world event that…

IFTTT, Twitter, vgr

(via http://twitter.com/vgr/status/1119398836626051072)