The only ‘realities’ (plural) that we actually experience and can talk meaningfully about are perceived realities, experienced…

“The only‘realities’ (plural) that we actually experience and can
talk meaningfully about are perceived realities, experienced
realities, existential realities– realities involving ourselves as
editors– and they are all relative to the observer, fluctuating,
evolving, capable of being magnified and enriched, moving from low
resolution to hi-fi, and do not fit together like the pieces of a
jig-saw into one single Reality with a capital R. Rather, they cast
illumination upon one another by contrast, like the paintings in a
large museum, or the different symphonic styles of Haydn, Mozart,
Beethoven, and Mahler.”

Robert Anton Wilson

The Death of the Magician - Liu Cixin

Medium, liu cixin, fiction, ottoman

His sense of time was very accurate: The tremor came the moment he expected it, a powerful, violent quake that seemed to originate from deep within the earth. The vibrating silver candelabra hummed, and a wisp of dust that had sat on top of the Great Palace for perhaps a thousand years fell down and drifted into the candle flames, where the motes exploded in tiny sparks.


Inbox Autopilot

Medium, Klint Finley, fiction, automation, saas, email, work

It was puzzling. I remembered the suggestion that they were outsourcing the email responses to call centers in the Philippines, but these emails were coming from someone not only familiar with construction administration, but with this specific project. That meant the only possible explanation was that they had some artificial intelligence software learn the project inside out by reading my email and automatically generating responses.


Fascism and The Historical Irony of Facebook’s “Fake News” Problem

Medium, Fascism, fact, fake news, post truth, history, Mussolini, Trump, Facebook, filter bubble

I don’t know how we rehabilitate science and fact. Some large subset of our population believes that climate change is a hoax. For them, the fake is completely real. When you look the mid-20th century, you see Germany leaving facts behind too. Citizens cease to debate the German economy, and instead put their faith in a charismatic leader. In the US now there is a large population that can’t understand what’s happening to them politically, economically or culturally. Today, people can’t understand why abortion is legal. They can’t understand why gay marriage is legal. They can’t understand where the factories have gone. It’s the turn from fact that makes fascism possible. If they turn away from reasoning altogether, they can turn toward feeling like part of a body following a charismatic leader.


How We Broke Democracy (But Not in the Way You Think)

Medium, opinion, truth, post-truth, facebook, filter bubble, democracy, compromise

Since we feel uncomfortable when we’re exposed to media that pushes back on our perspective (like that weird political uncle you see at a family reunion), we usually end up avoiding it. It requires a lot of effort to change opinions, and generally it feels gross to have difficult chats with people that don’t agree with us. So, we politely decline the opportunity to become their friend, buy their product, read their magazine, or watch their show. We insulate ourselves in these ‘information ghettos’ not because we mean to, but because it’s just easier.


Inequality and Skin in the Game

Medium, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, inequality, static, dynamic

You do not create dynamic equality just by raising the level of those at the bottom, but rather by making the rich rotate –or by forcing people to incur the possibility of creating an opening. The way to make society more equal is by forcing (through skin in the game) the rich to be subjected to the risk of exiting from the one percent

Dynamic equality assumes Markov chain with no absorbing states

Our condition here is stronger than mere income mobility. Mobility means that someone can become rich. The no absorbing barrier condition means that someone who is rich should never be certain to stay rich.

Dynamic equality is what restores ergodicity, making time and ensemble probabilities substitutable


The architecture of intolerance: From Wahhabism to Le Corbusier and back again

Medium, Architecture, Le Corbusier, Wahhabism, extremism, religion, polytheism, heterodoxy

Comparing Le Corbusier to the Wahhabi attitude towards ‘heterodox’ architecture one must, in my opinion, pay particular attention to Le Corbusier’s attitude towards the house. In a secular society, there is no more sacred place that the house. And this is precisely why Le Corbusier is attacking the house: he is a religious fanatic. People want their houses to reflect their individual personalities and connect them with the history of their communities. For Le Corbusier this is the equivalent of the Wahhabis’ shirk — the heretical polytheism of the ‘household gods’.


Algorithmic Transparency


Algorithmic transparency is a necessary prerequisite for a democratic society. Traditionally democratic societies have been based upon the rule of law. In order for this to be possible, the law had to be transparent. Any citizen had to be able to have access to the laws of the land, be able to read and hopefully understand them. While the legal profession exists to help people with this comprehension, there is still a general principle that any individual could, if they so choose, represent themselves in a court of law.

Algorithms similarly need to be accessible to every person. Obviously there will be an industry that exists to ensure that this access is coherent and reasonable, but just as with the law, algorithms need to serve the people, rather than the other way around.


Story Thought and System Thought

Medium, system thinking, story thinking, narrative, psychology, design

Many disputes reflect differences in how people think as much as in what they think about a particular issue. We can’t always persuade one another simply by expressing our positions, introducing information, and counting “pros” and “cons.” Instead, our disagreements often start upstream, so to speak, as we and others diverge in which modes of thinking we consider legitimate. Frameworks for understanding these modes can help us to translate between them, the “story thought” vs. “system thought” framework.


Introducing Factmata — Artificial intelligence for automated fact-checking

Medium, facts, post-truth, AI, machine learning, fact checking

Over the course of the next few months, we will be launching a prototype of the research already completed in statistical fact checking and claim detection. So far, our work has been in identifying claims in text by the named entities they contain, what economic statistics those claims are about, and verifying if they are “fact-checkable”. At the moment, we can only check claims that can be validated by known statistical databases — we built our system on Freebase (an fact database that came out of Wikipedia’s knowledge graph), and will be migrating it to new databases such as EUROSTAT and the World Bank Databank.


Art In the Age of Obsolescence

Medium, art, media art, restoration, Dumb Type, Teiji Furuhashi, Lovers, MoMA

time-based media art installations do not truly exist until they are installed and, thus, these works must be exhibited — or “exercised” — with a certain degree of regularity. This is a concept first championed in the conservation field over a decade ago, by Pip Laurenson of Tate. Lovers, by Japanese media artist Teiji Furuhashi (1960–1995), is an excellent example of this. What follows is the story of how our team rescued this important example of early-1990s Japanese media art from a crumbling foundation of obsolete technologies (MS-DOS and LaserDisc, for starters) and ensured that it will live on so that generations long into the future are able to discover and enjoy it.


Why time management is ruining our lives

productivity, work, time, procrastination, inbox-zero

The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster. Two years after his Google talk, Mann released a rambling and slightly manic online video in which he announced that he had signed a contract for an Inbox Zero book. But his career as a productivity guru had begun to stir an inner conflict. “I started making pretty good money from it” – from speaking and consulting – “but I also started to feel terrible,” he told me earlier this year. “This topic of productivity induces the worst kind of procrastination, because it feels like you’re doing work, but I was producing stuff that had the express purpose of saying to people, ‘Look, come and see how to do your work, rather than doing your work!’” The book missed its publication date. Fans started asking questions. Then, after two more years, Mann published a self-lacerating essay in which he abruptly announced that he was jettisoning the project. It was the 3,000-word howl of a man who had suddenly grasped the irony of missing morning after morning with his three-year-old daughter because he was “typing bullshit that I hoped would please my book editor” about how to use time well. He was guilty, he declared, of “abandoning [my] priorities to write about priorities … I’ve unintentionally ignored my own counsel to never let your hard work fuck up the good things.” He hinted that he might write a different kind of book instead – a book about stuff that really mattered – but it never appeared. “I’m mostly out of the productivity racket these days,” Mann told me. “If you’re just using efficiency to jam more and more stuff into your day … well, how would you ever know that that’s working?”


Joseph Breitenbach - Fragrance of a Rose, 1945. In the 1940s, photographer Josef Breitenbach and botanist René Devaux managed to…


Joseph Breitenbach - Fragrance of a Rose, 1945.

In the 1940s, photographer Josef Breitenbach and botanist René Devaux managed to take photographs of the molecules of odours. French botanist came to the conclusion that smell is composed of minute particles of matter. Being matter it is capable of being photographed. Breitenbach’s method is secret, but he went so far as to say it involves suspending the object above a dish of mercury. The particles of matter that make up the characteristic odour of the object then diffuse themselves into a monomolecular layer one ten-millionth of an inch thick. In photographs all smells resemble bluish-white smoke but have different shapes. 

The Three Languages You Need to Take a Project from Dreams to Reality


The corners of the triangle stand for three different languages which a project is likely to need, which you are likely to need as one of the people carrying a project. By distinguishing these languages and the needs that they serve, certain kinds of confusion may be avoided.

The Inward language is the way that those at the heart of a project make sense of what they are doing, the way of seeing the world that makes it possible. It may be a complex model of how things are and how they could be; it may be entirely intuitive and largely unspoken. It is a creative, living language. Over time, it comes to include the shorthand expressions and the charged words that build up among a group of people working together to bring about or sustain something that matters to them deeply.

The Upward language is the language of power and resources: the language of funding applications, the language of those who are in a position to intepret regulations and impose or remove obstacles. It is not a reflective or a curious language, it is a language of busy people who make decisions without having time to immerse themselves in the realities their decisions will affect. It is an impoverished language and when you have to describe what you are doing in its terms, you will feel that something is missing. You need a guide who is initiated into the relevant version of this language, who knows which words currently act as keys to which doors, what you have to say to have a decent chance of the gatekeepers letting you through. Yet even inside these institutions, you are dealing with human beings, so if you can allow glimpses of what matters about your project to show through the filter of keywords, it may just make a difference.

The Outward language is the language in which people who meet your project at ground level, in the course of their everyday lives, start to talk about it. It’s the language in which you can explain it to your mum, or to someone you just met in the pub, and realise that they get it — not that they have understood everything about what you’re doing, but that something here makes sense and sounds good. This is not about how your project works, it’s about what it does. In the corporate world, money is spent on people who are good at spinning words to create an Outward language for a product or a service or an organisation — much of advertising and public relations is about this — but the results usually have a synthetic aftertaste. You may get advice to try to imitate these publicity processes, but this is probably best ignored.


ALPHA observes light spectrum of antimatter for first time

antimatter, ALPHA, physics, light, spectral, antihydrogen

Today’s ALPHA result is the first observation of a spectral line in an antihydrogen atom, allowing the light spectrum of matter and antimatter to be compared for the first time. Within experimental limits, the result shows no difference compared to the equivalent spectral line in hydrogen. This is consistent with the Standard Model of particle physics, the theory that best describes particles and the forces at work between them, which predicts that hydrogen and antihydrogen should have identical spectroscopic characteristics. ALPHA is a unique experiment at CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator facility, able to produce antihydrogen atoms and hold them in a specially-designed magnetic trap, manipulating antiatoms a few at a time. Trapping antihydrogen atoms allows them to be studied using lasers or other radiation sources.


Why Brussels is not the new Berlin

brussels, berlin, art, scene, fashion, cycles

Brussels is a city for those who have patience, time and imagination. It is for those who question the increasingly frenetic pace of urban life and work. It is for those who appreciate understatement and refuse homogenising labels and manufactured “hip” concepts. Perhaps, however, what keeps Brussels attractive is its latent sense of expectancy, the promise of a perpetual becoming which is never fulfilled.


Breaking things is easy

machine-learning, security, modeling, model, data, ML, 2016

Until a few years ago, machine learning algorithms simply did not work very well on many meaningful tasks like recognizing objects or translation. Thus, when a machine learning algorithm failed to do the right thing, this was the rule, rather than the exception. Today, machine learning algorithms have advanced to the next stage of development: when presented with naturally occurring inputs, they can outperform humans. Machine learning has not yet reached true human-level performance, because when confronted by even a trivial adversary, most machine learning algorithms fail dramatically. In other words, we have reached the point where machine learning works, but may easily be broken.


Emacs for Data Science

emacs, programming, text-editor, open-science, data

A modern data scientist often has to work on multiple platforms with multiple languages. Some projects may be in R, others in Python. Or perhaps you have to work on a cluster with no gui. Or maybe you need to write papers with latex. You can do all that with Emacs and customize it to do whatever you like. I won’t lie though. The learning curve can be steep, but I think the investment is worth it.


Deleuze’s Becoming-Molecular

Medium, deluxe, philosophy, verbing

So, how do we think beyond the maps with their static regions (being)? A hook Deleuze uses in The Logic of Sense is to get us thinking of verbs as primary. Verbs are often seen as less substantial than nouns, or adjectives, because their mapping is more chaotic (if you’ve studied a foreign language you will know this oh-so-well). He transforms the proposition “The tree is green” to “The tree greens”. He argues that greening is more fundamental than green (referring to an unfurling event from which we derive the static theme “green”), and that making this shift makes certain metaphysical problems about objects and their properties become less problematic. By A Thousand Plateaus we’ve gotten to “a-treeing greens”. That is, we are turning static “beings” (regions on the map with their properties allocated by definitions that demarcate their edge points), to “becomings” “doings”, “transpirings”, the molecules squiggly shifting under the molar territories on the map.


Will Populism Kill Your Jetpack?

Populism could most alter innovation when it comes to the executive and administrative state—which, in the United States, it just came to control. Stretching back to the Clinton years, there has been a carefully choreographed interplay between pro-Silicon Valley administrations, emerging tech behemoths, and new billionaires. That relationship has now been disrupted. The attention, budget, and expertise that was directed at a light-touch management of innovation—creating conditions for the market itself to make “the new”—will now likely be tied up in re-paving the old.

Where does that leave us? The outcome of this redirection may be a near-future for the West that essentially re-entrenches crony capitalism, where big construction projects replace Big Data as an engine for exacerbating inequality. Will Elon Musk let SpaceX’s serve as a military enabler in low-Earth orbit in order to keep Tesla going? Do Amazon, Google, and Apple join Thiel’s Palantir in providing explicit products for the Department of Homeland Security? Or do the tech oligarchs gang together to provide their own counter-infrastructure? If so, whom do they serve?


Notation as a Tool of Thought

notation, programming, maths, mathematics, thought, thinking, Language

Mathematical notation provides perhaps the best-known and best-developed example of language used consciously as a tool of thought. Recognition of the important role of notation in mathematics is clear from the quotations from mathematicians given in Cajori’s A History of Mathematical Notations [2, pp.332,331]. Nevertheless, mathematical notation has serious deficiencies. In particular, it lacks universality, and must be interpreted differently according to the topic, according to the author, and even according to the immediate context. Programming languages, because they were designed for the purpose of directing computers, offer important advantages as tools of thought. Not only are they universal (general-purpose), but they are also executable and unambiguous. Executability makes it possible to use computers to perform extensive experiments on ideas expressed in a programming language, and the lack of ambiguity makes possible precise thought experiments. In other respects, however, most programming languages are decidedly inferior to mathematical notation and are little used as tools of thought in ways that would be considered significant by, say, an applied mathematician.


The Low Prices and Green Outlook of Germany’s Locomore Train

transport, train, DB, Locomore, mobility, travel

A rail company with a small-scale, experimental approach like this is possible thanks to German rail reforms in the 1990s that separated rail transit companies, who run train services, from railway infrastructure companies, who own rails. This has opened up Germany’s market to some competition between smaller companies such as Transdev and Deutsche Bahn, though the latter still dominates. The relationship between Locomore and DB is close but somewhat uneasy. Deutsche Bahn will not sell Locomore tickets from station ticket booths, making them available only online. What’s more, the project was apparently too unusual-sounding for most conventional investors, so Locomore has relied on crowdfunding to get its start-up capital. So far over €640,000 has been raised, and the amount is still rising. This alone sounds like a rather low investment threshold to start a new train line, but a Locomore representative wasn’t available to comment on what this sum covers and whether other funding sources are being used. (We’ll update when we learn more.) Germany is nonetheless going through an interesting period of small-scale rail innovation that’s worth paying attention to. Locomore’s current service is just the first of three more planned for 2018, to Cologne, Munich, and the Baltic vacation island of Rügen. Meanwhile the world’s first ever hydrogen-powered passenger train is coming this month. It also won’t replace Germany’s currently dominant model, but provides a small-scale and invaluable alternative.


Stunning Photos Show Huge Crack in Antarctic Ice Shelf

antarctic, Larsen C, cracks, cracked



NASA has just released new aerial photographs that show, close-up, an immense, 70-mile long rift in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica. The breach is 300 feet wide and one-third of a mile deep. As it grows, an iceberg the size of Delaware will break off.

When the dark of the Southern Hemisphere winter lifted in August, scientists were shocked to see that the rift in the ice had grown nearly 14 miles. “The growth of this rift likely indicates that the portion of the ice shelf downstream of the rift is no longer holding back any grounded ice,” said Joe MacGregor, IceBridge deputy project scientist and glaciologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Ice shelves ride on water and are fed by glaciers and continental ice streams. Cracks and calving are normal, and the loss of a portion of an ice shelf will not contribute to sea level rise as it is already afloat on the ocean. However, an ice shelf such as Larsen C holds back land ice, acting as a buttress. When a shelf disintegrates, the glaciers behind it can flow out to sea, which will directly increase sea level.

Long-term satellite observations show that Antarctic glaciers are rapidly retreating. In West Antarctica, they are losing 23 feet of elevation per year. As they slip away, they add up to 150 billion tons of water to the ocean, raising seas by about a tenth of an inch annually.

In November, Antarctic air temperatures were 3.6 - 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. Antarctic sea ice set a new record low, as did the Arctic. Antarctic sea ice was a staggering 699,000 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average. “Antarctic sea ice really went down the rabbit hole this time,” said Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet could collapse entirely within the next 100 years.

Stunning Photos Show Huge Crack in Antarctic Ice Shelf

New map reveals shattering effect of roads on nature



A global map of the ecological value of roadless areas. The index values indicated in blue highlight areas that are especially large and well connected and/or notably rich in biodiversity. The red areas are completely roaded: covered by roads and 1km buffers alongside either sides of the road. Photograph: P Ibisch et al/Science


Rampant road building has shattered the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments, most of which are too tiny to support significant wildlife, a new study has revealed.

The researchers warn roadless areas are disappearing and that urgent action is needed to protect these last wildernesses, which help provide vital natural services to humanity such as clean water and air.

The impact of roads extends far beyond the roads themselves, the scientists said, by enabling forest destruction, pollution, the splintering of animal populations and the introduction of deadly pests. New roads also pave the way to further exploitation by humans, such as poaching or mining, and new infrastructure.

An international team of researchers analysed open-access maps of 36m km of road and found that over half of the 600,000 fragments of land in between roads are very small – less than 1km2.

A mere 7% are bigger than 100km2, equivalent to a square area just 10km by 10km. Furthermore, only a third of the roadless areas were truly wild, with the rest affected by farming or people.

The last remaining large roadless areas are rainforests in the Amazon and Indonesia and the tundra and forests in the north of Russia and Canada. Virtually all of western Europe, the eastern US and Japan have no areas at all that are unaffected by roads. The scientists considered that land up to a kilometre on each side of a road was affected, which they believe is a conservative estimate.

New map reveals shattering effect of roads on nature

Rocket AI: 2016’s Most Notorious AI Launch and the Problem with AI Hype – The Mission


Article by Riva-Melissa Tez lays out the issues of hype with Artificial Intelligence and startups, and includes an account of how a fake startup business became a meme:

… The M&A market for AI in 2015 saw 33 acquisitions, of which the average team size was seven. It’s now common for savvy AI researchers to create a company purely to be acquired, knowing that the right buzzwords will attract VCs, and that eventually a corporation will pay for the team. Top machine learning researchers have become the most coveted of all the Pokémon. The tech press celebrates companies with no product, contributing no novel technology, at over-inflated valuations …

Turns out anyone can make a multi-million dollar company in 30 minutes … in a spanish mansion found on AirBnB and a website editor. ‘Temporally Recurrent Optimal Learning’ is a combination of buzzwords we put together to spell out TROL(L) that were conjured up over breakfast. If we hadn’t put significant effort into making sure people realized it was a joke, Rocket AI would be in the press right now.

More Here

Rocket AI: 2016’s Most Notorious AI Launch and the Problem with AI Hype – The Mission

NASA Produces First 3D Animation of Global Carbon Emissions




The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. space agency, has released an “eye-popping” three-dimensional animation showing carbon dioxide emissions moving through the Earth’s atmosphere over the course of a year.

It says the 3-D visualization is “one of the most realistic views yet” of the “complex patterns in which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, decreases and moves around the globe.”

The data used to produce the visualization was collected by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite from September 2014 to September 2015. The data was then modeled and visualized by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Carbon Brief: Specifically, what questions are you hoping it will help to answer?

Dr. Lesley E. Ott [a carbon cycle scientist at Goddard’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office]: The main goal of OCO-2 and most carbon cycle modeling is to better understand the processes that control carbon sources and sinks. About 50 percent of human emissions are absorbed by plants on land and in the oceans, but scientists don’t have a good understanding of how or even where this is happening. We start by running the model with a ‘first guess’ of sources and sinks, and the data assimilation allows us to quantify how and where the model differs from the observations. Eventually, we’ll be able to use these techniques to create more accurate maps of source and sinks, and from there we can improve climate models to better predict changes in the natural carbon cycle. This analysis product is something of a mid-point. We still have a lot of work left to do to understand the carbon cycle more fully, but developing these modeling and data assimilation tools is an important advance that will help us get where we need to be.

NASA Produces First 3D Animation of Global Carbon Emissions