Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you also should not be afraid of…

Haruki Murakami, boundaries, freedom, importance

“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you also should not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries. What’s really important in life is always the things that are secondary.”

Haruki Murakami

The Crap Futures Manifesto: A Preamble


It has been almost a year since we started this modest venture, with the aim of casting a critical eye on corporate dreams and emerging technologies.

To mark the occasion, we’ve been issuing a series of design challenges on Twitter. We thought we might gather some of these challenges into a proper manifesto, a statement of principles. (Manifestos are back in vogue, thanks in no small part to the internet and the ridiculous state of the world.) But how to write a manifesto? Where do you begin?


According to F. T. Marinetti, the leader of Italian Futurism and arguably the greatest manifesto writer of all time, the key ingredients of any manifesto are violence and precision. Manifestos must take no prisoners, they must be bold and direct like the advertisements they imitate. From ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism’ in 1909 to the ‘Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine’ in 1930, Marinetti and his comrades wrote hundreds of manifestos across all subjects.

The problem with the Futurists was that they believed too much in the future. As Marinetti himself put it: ‘Contrary to established practice, we Futurists disregard the example and cautiousness of tradition so that, at all costs, we can invent something new, even though it may be judged by all as madness.’

This single-mindedness is what made the Futurists exciting, but it was also their greatest weakness. They lacked any sort of critical distance, to the point that they became cheerleaders not only for Suffragism (good) but also for war and Fascism (bad), as well as industrial waste, library closures, and other downsides of modernity. Their rivals in London, the Vorticists led by Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound (who called on artists to ‘make it new’ - but not that new), mocked this reverent attitude to technology. They called it  ‘automobilism’, after the leading technology of the pre-war era:

AUTOMOBILISM (Marinetteism) bores us. We don’t want to go about making a hullo-bulloo about motor cars, any more than about knives and forks, elephants or gas-pipes.

Elephants are VERY BIG. Motor cars go quickly.


Also wary of technology and progress were the Dadaists, led by another great manifesto writer, Tristan Tzara. Operating during the carnage of the First World War, Dada came out as ‘definitely against the future’, even calling for the ‘abolition of the future’. Tzara brought an ironic and self-critical gaze to the manifesto’s masculinist posturing, so that while the 1918 manifesto begins with a Marinettian definition:

To put out a manifesto you must want: ABC

to fulminate against 1, 2, 3

to fly into a rage and sharpen your wings to conquer and disseminate little abcs and big abcs, to sign, shout, swear, to organize prose into a form of absolute and irrefutable evidence

It proceeds to tear it all down:

I write a manifesto and I want nothing … and in principle I am against manifestos, as I am also against principles.

Because by 1918 all beliefs were suspect, spent. Everything was bled of meaning.

Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes lies the perfect manifesto: at once direct and assertive, critical and self-aware, not taking itself or the future too seriously while being, beneath it all, deadly serious.

That is basically what Crap Futures is aiming for: a manifesto to mark our first anniversary that is neither too dogmatic nor too ironic. God knows the world has enough of both.

So what do we stand for? Stay tuned to find out. As Valerie Solanas told reporters outside the 13th Precinct in New York on June 3, 1968 after she’d shot Andy Warhol: ‘ Read my manifesto and it will tell you what I am.


F. T. Marinetti; Marinetti’s automobile accident, 1908; Valerie Solanas being taken from court to jail, 1968.

The Universal Right to Capital Income

Yanis-Varoufakis, UBI, UBD, citizens-dividend, economics, labour, politics, capital

So how should society be compensated? Taxation is the wrong answer. Corporations pay taxes in exchange for services the state provides them, not for capital injections that must yield dividends. There is thus a strong case that the commons have a right to a share of the capital stock, and associated dividends, reflecting society’s investment in corporations’ capital. And, because it is impossible to calculate the size of state and social capital crystalized in any firm, we can decide how much of its capital stock the public should own only by means of a political mechanism. A simple policy would be to enact legislation requiring that a percentage of capital stock (shares) from every initial public offering (IPO) be channeled into a Commons Capital Depository, with the associated dividends funding a universal basic dividend (UBD). This UBD should, and can be, entirely independent of welfare payments, unemployment insurance, and so forth, thus ameliorating the concern that it would replace the welfare state, which embodies the concept of reciprocity between waged workers and the unemployed. Fear of machines that can liberate us from drudgery is a symptom of a timid and divided society. The Luddites are among the most misunderstood historical actors. Their vandalism of machinery was a protest not against automation, but against social arrangements that deprived them of life prospects in the face of technological innovation. Our societies must embrace the rise of the machines, but ensure that they contribute to shared prosperity by granting every citizen property rights over them, yielding a UBD.

via https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/basic-income-funded-by-capital-income-by-yanis-varoufakis–2016–10

Digital Life aims to make a 3D scan of every animal species on Earth The Beastcam is made up of 10 fixed arms with three Canon…


Digital Life aims to make a 3D scan of every animal species on Earth

The Beastcam is made up of 10 fixed arms with three Canon G16 cameras attached to each one, and a platform in the middle for the subject to sit on, or where that’s not possible, a more portable, handheld version can be passed over the animal to take the shot. All of the cameras take photos of the animal simultaneously, before off-the-shelf software stitches them together into a 3D model.

Watching airplane contrails overhead, you may have noticed them transform into a daisy chain of distorted rings. This is an…


Watching airplane contrails overhead, you may have noticed them transform into a daisy chain of distorted rings. This is an effect known as the Crow instability. The contrails themselves are the airplane’s wingtip vortices, made visible by water vapor condensed out of the engine exhaust. These two initially parallel vortex lines spin in opposite directions. A slight crosswind can disturb the initially straight lines, causing them to become wavy. This waviness increases over time until the vortex lines almost touch. Then the vortices pinch off and reconnect into a line of vortex rings that slowly dissipate. Be sure to check out the full-resolution version of this animation for maximum effect. (Image credit: J. Hertzberg, source)

History of the ellipsis


A couple recent articles about the history of the ellipsis, drawing on the new book Ellipsis in English Literature: Signs of Omission by Anne Toner, which I have not read yet but looks interesting.

From the Guardian:

“There is no play printed before Kyffin’s Andria and listed in WW Greg’s Bibliography of English Printed Drama that marks unfinished sentences in this way. This is not to say that these were the first ellipses in English print. There are appearances of the mark earlier in the 1580s. Henry Woudhuysen has identified dashes in letters printed in 1580 and 1585, where in both cases the mark occurs as part of an informal, conversational style.”

But drama was “especially important” in the evolution of the ellipsis, according to Toner, being the literary form “that is connected in the most concentrated way with speech as it is spoken”. And after its appearance in the 1588 Andria, the punctuation mark quickly caught on. […]

Embraced by writers from Percy Shelley to Virginia Woolf, it was in the novel that the ellipsis “proliferated most spectacularly”, according to Toner. She points to Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad’s use of ellipses more than 400 times in their 1901 novel The Inheritors. Ford said that the writers were aiming to capture “the sort of indefiniteness that is characteristic of all human conversations, and particularly of all English conversations, that are almost always conducted entirely by means of allusions and unfinished sentences”.

From Slate:

In medieval manuscripts, we find a mark—sometimes called subpuncting or underdotting—that is used to indicate the omission of a word or phrase, usually when that word or phrase has been copied erroneously. This omission mark involves placing a series of dots under the word that is to be omitted. The image below shows an erroneous word, blotted out and subpuncted:

In this paper, we demonstrated techniques for generating accessories in the form of eyeglass frames that, when printed and worn,…

face recognition, FDS, machine-learning, ML, DNN, peturbation, adversarial networks, Invisibility with the use of accessories, adversarial images

In this paper, we demonstrated techniques for generating accessories in the form of eyeglass frames that, when printed and worn, can effectively fool state-of-the-art face-recognition systems. Our research builds on recent research in fooling machine-learning classifiers by perturbing inputs in an adversarial way, but does so with attention to two novel goals: the perturbations must be physically realizable and inconspicuous. We showed that our eyeglass frames enabled subjects to both dodge recognition and to impersonate others. We believe that our demonstration of techniques to realize these goals through printed eyeglass frames is both novel and important, and should inform future deliberations on the extent to which ML can be trusted in adversarial settings. Finally, we extended our work in two additional directions, first, to so-called black-box FRSs that can be queried but for which the internals are not known, and, second, to defeat state-of-the-art face detection systems.


“Works for me!”


In the “real world” and the “tech world”, the core problems are still cultural, political and socioeconomic. The bugs in our societies are ones that get patched across generations and governments, the end result of the status quo colliding with new ways of doing, urgent social movements and broad anxieties. While we are more connected with the world, the bonds we once shared in our villages and public squares have broken down. Speaking of our neighbors is often less of an expression of shared community than judgment and speculation of those who happen to be on the other side of social divides we’d rather not cross

via https://medium.com/@nickf4rr/works-for-me–80aa169f2ff0

Robot Shellfish May Tell Us About Climate Change’s Impact on Marine Species



Out in a bed of mussels, off the Monterey coast in California in a space exposed at low tide, a handful of green LEDs blink, indicating the location of a cohort of robomussels.

The little black data loggers, formed from polyester resin, have been precisely engineered by Brian Helmuth and his lab at Northeastern University to mimic the mussels already living there, a few of which researchers plucked out to make space for the fake ones. They’re here for a study of climate change, and, more precisely, its effect on one of the most important species found in the ocean.

Helmuth, a climate scientist, has been the driving force behind more than 70 of these plots, scattered across the globe, over the last 18 years. They’ve been logging information, in 10-minute intervals, on the temperature not of the air or water, but of the actual bodies of the Mytilus californianus mussels that live there. This gives a much more accurate picture of how climate change is affecting the species than the temperature of its surroundings could.

The mussels, which biologists call an “engineering species,” drive biodiversity and create habitat for other animals, says Helmuth, and so the scope of his research extends beyond the state of the intertidal ecosystems where the mussels live and to the way we understand the impacts of climate change on species, and how, and where, mussel farmers put their farms.

Robot Shellfish May Tell Us About Climate Change’s Impact on Marine Species

Earth gets a surge of new ocean sanctuaries


Read the article if you’re interested in more detail about some of the new marine refuges described in this excerpt, and others. Excerpt:

Earth is on the brink of a sea change. Its oceans are still mostly wild, without the obvious human footprint often seen on land, but they’re also increasingly plagued by man-made dangers such as climate change, overfishing and plastic.

Yet despite our inertia on many terrestrial issues like air pollution or deforestation, we’re actually building some momentum for saving the seas. It’s just a drop in the bucket so far, but the recent pace of ocean protection is promising nonetheless.

The latest big marine refuge was created Oct. 28, 2016, when 24 countries and the European Union struck a deal to protect 600,000 square miles of Antarctica’s Ross Sea. That’s about twice the size of Texas, and makes this the largest nature preserve on Earth. The move bans commercial fishing to protect a rich array of marine life.

Beyond Antarctica, the past few years have brought a surge of new marine sanctuaries to other parts of the world, including sprawling reserves near New Caledonia and Hawaii that each cover about 500,000 square miles. The nations of Gabon, Kiribati and Palau have all made waves with huge new refuges off their coasts, and the U.K. recently approved a 322,000 square-mile reserve around the Pitcairn Islands. Conservationists are now working to string together an array of protected areas to create the 30,000-island Pacific Oceanscape.

In September 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama also unveiled the first marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will protect 4,913 square miles of marine ecosystems off the coast of New England from commercial activity and development. According to the White House, this includes “three underwater canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and four underwater mountains known as ‘seamounts’ that are biodiversity hotspots and home to many rare and endangered species.”

Along with another recent expansion of a U.S. marine monument (see below), world leaders have protected nearly 2 million square miles of ocean so far in 2016. That’s a sizable increase from the previous record of 730,000 square miles protected in 2015.

Earth gets a surge of new ocean sanctuaries

Negative capability: The Posture of Systems Thinking(ers)


Perhaps the ambiguity of the term, and what it might imply for navigating complexity with a spirit of openness and creativity, is what makes it so tantalizing and intriguing to those of us who deal with the unpredictability of socio-technical change and the vagaries of human relations. Negative capability, as it’s been widely interpreted, suggests a uniquely human capacity for living with and tolerating ambiguity and paradox and opens a space for counterintuitive non-action. So, what is this capability that is negative and yet a source of ‘tolerance’, ‘openness’, acceptance of mystery, uncertainty and doubt. Is it a skill, a gift, an ability or something altogether different?

via https://medium.com/@wolfenden.dave/negative-capability-the-posture-of-systems-thinking-ers-e48f13b7096

In the middle ages, migration, vagabondage, and the rise of crimes against property were part of the resistance to…

“In the middle ages, migration, vagabondage, and the rise of crimes against property were part of the resistance to impoverishment and dispossession; these phenomena now took on massive proportions. Everywhere–if we give credit to the complaints of contemporary authorities–vagabonds were swarming, changing cities, crossing borders, sleeping in the haystacks or crowding at the gates of towns–a vast humanity involved in a diaspora of its own, that for decades escaped the authorities’ control. A massive reclamation and reappropriation of the stolen communal wealth was underway. In pursuit of social discipline, an attack was launched against all forms of collective sociality and sexuality including sports, games, dances, ale-wakes, festivals, and other group-rituals that had been a source of boding and solidarity among workers. What was at stake was the desocialization or decollectivization of the reproduction of the work-force, as well as the attempt to impose a more productive use of leisure time. The physical enclosure operated by land privatization and the hedging of the commons was amplified by a process of social enclosure, the reproduction of workers shifting from the open field to the home, from the community to the family, from the public space, to the private.”

Sylvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch (viacatalytic-chamber)

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops



An extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.

Canada and Western Europe grow different varieties of rapeseed (canola), but Canadian farmers have adopted genetically modified seed, while European farmers have not. Still, the long-term yield trend for both areas is up:

In the last three decades, corn yields in Western Europe have largely kept pace with those in the United States.

Meanwhile, in the last decade sugar beet yields in Western Europe have increased more sharply than those in the United States.

G.M.O.s Were Supposed to Lessen Pesticide Use. Manufacturers also said that genetically modified crops would reduce the need for pesticides. In France, where G.M.O.s are not permitted, pesticide use has significantly declined.

But in the United States, while the use of insect- and fungus-killing chemicals has declined, farmers are using even more weed killers.

Much of the growth in the use of weed killers has come in Monsanto’s Roundup, in which the active ingredient is glyphosate.

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops

Postcapitalism [in Amsterdam]


Lecture delivered at De Balie, 25 October 2016
We’re living through the most exciting period of technological innovation for at least 200 years — and the worst ten years of economic history since the 1930s. The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, put it starkly in March at the G20:
“The global economy risks becoming trapped in a low growth, low inflation, low interest rate equilibrium.”
The only thing to disagree with there is the word equilibrium. Economic crisis spilled over into social crisis; now we have a crisis of multilateral institutions

via https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/postcapitalism-in-amsterdam–3d8848a9f275

Blade Runner: anatomy of a classic


Reaching back four decades into the past to help imagine a future four decades hence, the film’s visual reference points include Edward Hopper’s iconic 1942 painting Nighthawks, Miss Havisham’s clutter-strewn bedroom in David Lean’s classic Dickens adaptation Great Expectations, and Joan Crawford’s vampish outfits in Mildred Pierce. The film’s rousing score by Vangelis throbs with strident analogue electronica, but also lonely jazz saxophones and bluesy echoes from the past. Blade Runner is saturated in melancholy, overshadowed by death and peopled by ghosts. Visually and sonically, it is awash with hauntological whispers.

via https://medium.com/british-film-institute/blade-runner-anatomy-of-a-classic–7a0732cc8315

These Photographs From Space Show What Humans Have Done to the Earth



Space travelers have struggled to explain exactly what it is about seeing the planet as a pale blue dot that evokes this feeling. Yet artists, filmmakers and other Earth-bound creatives have been inspired by what the astronauts can share. Author Benjamin Grant, who just released a book, Overview: A New Perspective of Earth, that draws on the rich photographic resources collected by satellites, is the latest person striving to convey the feeling.

Here are a few of the photos:

Gemasolar Thermasolar Plant, 37.560755°, –5.331908° This image captures the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain. The solar concentrator contains 2,650 heliostat mirrors that focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through a 140-metre-tall (460-foot) central tower. The molten salt then circulates from the tower to a storage tank, where it is used to produce steam and generate electricity. In total, the facility displaces approximately 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. (All images in this gallery are reprinted with permission from Overview by Benjamin Grant, copyright © 2016. Published by Amphoto Books, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Images © 2016 by DigitalGlobe, Inc.)

Iron Ore Mine Tailings Pond, 46.407676°, –87.530954° Tailings are the waste and by-products generated by mining operations. The tailings seen here were pumped into the Gribbens Basin, next to the Empire and Tilden Iron Ore Mines in Negaunee, Michigan, USA. Once the materials are pumped into the pond, they are mixed with water to create a sloppy form of mud known as slurry. The slurry is then pumped through magnetic separation chambers to extract usable ore and increase the mine’s total output. For a sense of scale, this Overview shows approximately 2.5 square kilometres (1 square mile) of the basin.

Arlit Uranium Mine, 18.748570°, 7.308219° The Arlit Uranium Mine is located in Arlit, Niger. French nuclear power generation, as well as the French nuclear weapons programme, are both dependent on the uranium that is extracted from the mine—more than 3,400 tonnes per year.

These Photographs From Space Show What Humans Have Done to the Earth

New images of complex microbiome environments visualized by Berkeley Metagenomics Lab and Stamen Design.


It’s easy to think that we’ve discovered most of the species on the planet. In fact, the booming field of metagenomics is using big data to help scientists better understand new and vast unexplored regions of the natural world: the microbiome. In the last few years, the price of genetic sequencing has plummeted to the point where scientists can now study ecosystems in their entirety, not just the parts of it that they already know how to identify.
This new way of working relies on the visualization of truly enormous sets of interrelated data about organisms that often are new to science.
The Banfield Lab at Berkeley recently collaborated with Stamen to bring this data to life, using advanced data interaction and interactive visualizations to make it easier to understand these vast new landscapes of genetic diversity.

via https://hi.stamen.com/uc-berkeley-metagenomics-lab-releases-new-images-of-complex-microbiome-environment-discovered-a80000770c93

The caption is made to constrain the photograph into a single state rather than open it up to amplification. If a photograph is…

photography, 1000 words, caption, aboutness

“The caption is made to constrain the photograph into a single state rather than open it up to amplification. If a photograph is said to be a worth a thousand words, very few of those words generally come to mind after a caption tells the reader what the photo is supposed to be about.”

After Photography

Fred Ritchin