The War on Cash

banking, economics, cash

The shadow economy is not just ‘poor’ people. It’s potentially anybody who hasn’t internalised the correct state-corporate narrative of normality, and anyone seeking a lifestyle outside of the mainstream. The future presented by self-styled innovation gurus has no scope for flexible, unpredictable or invisible people. They represent analogue backwardness. The future is a world of endless consumer choice built upon an inescapable digital uniformity of automated rules, a matrix outside which you can neither exist nor think. Back in Amsterdam I hang out with Ancilla van de Leest of the Netherlands Pirate Party. She only visits establishments that accept cash, true to her political belief in individual privacy from prying eyes. It would be wrong to assume, however, that Ancilla’s primary concern involves surveillance by a Big Brother-style bogeyman. It’s true that your spending patterns reveal much about how you actually live, and the privacy implications of having these recorded in searchable database format are only starting to be uncovered. We know that targeted individual surveillance of payments occurs by the likes of the FBI and NSA, but routinised mass surveillance could become a norm. Imagine automatic flagging systems triggered by anyone engaging in a combination of transactions deemed subversive. Tax authorities are bound to be building systems to flag discrepancies between your spending patterns and your declared profits. It’s also true that at London fintech gatherings the excited visions of cashless society now occasionally come with a disclaimer that we should think about the power granted to those who control the system. Not only can payments intermediaries see every time you buy access to a porn site, but they have the ability to censor your transactions, like Visa, PayPal and MasterCard attempting to choke WikiLeaks by refusing to process people’s donations. We could imagine some harsh sci-fi scenario in which a theocratic regime issues decrees to payments processors to block anyone buying books deemed sexually deviant. Such decrees could be automatically enforced via code, with subroutines remotely triggering smart locks to place the offending miscreant under house arrest while automatically deducting a fine from their account.


Using a ‘ball and cup’ analogy to explain the transition of the earth system from the Holocene Epoch to a new Anthropocene…

climate change, Anthropocene, Holocene


Using a ‘ball and cup’ analogy to explain the transition of the earth system from the Holocene Epoch to a new Anthropocene Epoch- from ‘Stratigraphic and Earth System approaches to defining the Anthropocene’ by Will Steffen et al.

This is a useful tool to counter arguments that attribute climate change concerns to natural variability in the Earth’s climate, rather than taking into account human driven contributions from man-made carbon emissions. 

Our planet shifts within the ‘cup’ of the current geological age from natural climatic and biosphere variability (marked by the broken green ‘Holocene envelope of natural variability’ line). Additional drivers from early agriculture and the onset of the industrial revolution have pushed the planet to a state, that while beyond the limits of natural variability, has still been relatively stable and which the natural controls (negative feedbacks) of the planet have been able to (generally) dampen (indicated by the red line of the ‘Holocene basin of attraction’).

However, and linked to significant shifts in the nature, rate and magnitude of human and technological development occurring since around 1950 (known as the ‘Great Acceleration’), the Earth is being pushed beyond these limits- and outwith the Holocene boundaries, and potentially into a new geological age (ie the Anthropocene).

Visualizing the Crisis

Medium, design, crisis, finance, economics, politics, infoviz

When we started to think of a possible topic for this year’s Information Design course at IUAV, Venice (after exploring the world’s technology and networks in two consecutive editions of an illustrated Atlas of the Contemporary) we realised that in trying to understand how — and if — this crisis would have unfolded, there was a great potential for design to help illuminate this conjuncture. Given the increasing importance of economical data and the financial landscape over our lives, the lab was then established as an ongoing, real-time workshop in data-visualisation, which would track and explain the crisis that the analysts predicted for 2016. Its purpose was to better understand the broader network of causes and implications which every financial turmoil exists within, providing context to economic reports, and looking at the socio-political framework of news stories. From a design perspective, the intention was to develop new ways for visualizing financial news, in order to move from the rather bi-dimensional and dispassionate language of bar and pie charts, into a richer territory made up of maps, cartograms, illustrations and diagrams.


As Hannah Arendt argued decades ago, political efficacy requires concerted action, or praxis — so what kinds of action does…

“As Hannah Arendt argued decades ago, political efficacy requires concerted action, or praxis — so what kinds of action does infrastructural literacy beget? Scott admits that it’s “hard, maybe even impossible, to know exactly if, when, and how critical thinking will translate into action, or take some tangible form.””

Infrastructural Tourism (viaiamdanw)

July was ‘absolutely’ Earth’s hottest month ever recorded NOAA and NASA data reveal the Earth’s temperature reached its…


July was ‘absolutely’ Earth’s hottest month ever recorded

NOAA and NASA data reveal the Earth’s temperature reached its highest point in 136 years of record-keeping during July.

“July 2016 was absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began,” tweeted Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is responsible for temperature measurements.

It was the 15th straight month of recording-breaking temperatures in NOAA’s analysis and 10th-straight in NASA’s, passing the previous hottest Julys by substantial margins.

“It’s a little alarming to me that we’re going through these records like nothing this year,” said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

“Each month just gives another data point that makes the evidence stronger that we’re changing the climate,” added Simon Donner, professor of climatology at the University of British Columbia.

July is usually the hottest month of the year, as it coincides with the peak of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. But this July was more than 1.5 degrees above average in both NOAA and NASA’s analyses.

“July 2016 was the 379th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average,” NOAA said.

Aricle: WaPo

The Field of Mind

Medium, mind, Eris, L. Ron Hubbard, J. R. Bob Dobbs

One evening L. Ron Hubbard and Bob Dobbs were discussing the Secret of Power over a joint and a bottle of cognac. (Or perhaps it was Alan Watts and Bob Wilson…Let’s just say it was Hubbard and Dobbs for now). As Hubbard took a long deep draw from the spliff of fine Lebanese boo Dobbs asked him, “But what even is the mind, Ron? Clearly it’s not inside the brain, you and I have personally opened up enough of those to know that much. Clearly the mind is something immaterial. But what exactly is it?”


Alaska Native Village Votes to Relocate

Medium, climate change, relocation, alaska, inuit

The coastal village of Shishmaref, Alaska, voted Tuedsay to relocate due to climate change-induced rising sea levels, according to city council secretary Donna Burr. The community is home to about 600 people, most of whom are Inupiat Inuit, and welcomed votes from tribal and non-tribal residents alike. This isn’t the first time the village has voted to relocate. In 2002, residents chose to leave for the mainland, but a lack of federal funds made that impossible. The U.S. Department of the Interior has made $8 million available for all tribes seeking relocation — that’s far short of the estimated $200 million the village needs to move.


If Correlation Doesn’t Imply Causation, Then What Does?

Medium, logic, statistics, correlation, causation, causality

We’ve all heard in school that “correlation does not imply causation,” but what does imply causation?! The gold standard for establishing cause and effect is a double-blind controlled trial (or the AB test equivalent). If you’re working with a system on which you can’t perform experiments, is all hope for scientific progress lost? Can we ever understand systems that we have limited or no control over? This would be a very bleak state of affairs, and fortunately there has been progress in answering these questions in the negative! So what is causality good for? Anytime you decide to take an action, in a business context or otherwise, you’re making some assumptions about how the world operates. That is, you’re making assumptions about the causal effects of possible actions.


The meaning of trust in the age of Airbnb

trust, economics, community, collaboration, culture, prosperity

Since Germany is one of the most successful economies in the world and Bavaria is one of the most successful economies in Germany, the thought did cross my mind that trust might be one of the secrets of economic success. Steve Knack, an economist at the World Bank with a long-standing interest in trust, once told me that if one takes a broad enough view of trust, “it would explain basically all the difference between the per capita income of the United States and Somalia”. In other words, without trust — and its vital complement, trustworthiness — there is no prospect of economic development. Simple activities become arduous in a low-trust society. How can you be sure you won’t be robbed on the way to the corner store? Hire a bodyguard? (Can you trust him?) The watered-down milk is in a locked fridge. As for something more complex like arranging a mortgage, forget about it. Prosperity not only requires trust, it also encourages it. Why bother to steal when you are already comfortable?


The spatial implications of chronophotography—which visually shatters the passage of time into a series of discrete moments…

photography, time, chronophotography

“The spatial implications of chronophotography—which visually shatters the passage of time into a series of discrete moments extracted from an event-sequence of otherwise unfixed length and duration—leads to a reference, in a text on Chard’s website, to the fact that criminologists, physicists, and even paranormal investigators all also began to use “the emerging potential of photography to further their research.” In the process, those researchers “developed new sorts of architecture particular to the demands and opportunities of the medium and the way they were using [them]. There are many research institutions that display the emergence of a new architecture with very little typological precedent.””

Time, Photography, and Spatial Devices (viaiamdanw)

Blockchain: Overview, Technology, Application Areas and Use Cases

blockchain, finance, introduction, overview

Everyone is talking about blockchain, the new technology in the FinTech Industry. The concept of blockchain has energized the financial services industry globally. The concept has already brought a disruption in the financial industry. LTP brings to you the overview, technology, application areas and use cases of blockchain.


Startups vs. Systems: Why Doing Good with Tech is Hard

Medium, systems, technology, social, social-enterprise

It’s not easy to make social change with technology. There’s excitement around bringing “innovation” to social problems, which usually means bringing in ideas from the technology industry. But societies are more than software, and social enterprise doesn’t have the same economics as startups.


Monetizing Your Attention: Introducing Persona Attention Bonds

Medium, attention, monetization, markets, capitalism, economics

Recently, I’ve been thinking of ways to collect some different form of value, besides money or just another token. One of the more interesting ideas is that in age of abundance, our time and thus attention is the most valuable asset. Maciej Olpinksi has written about the attention economy in relation to blockchain tech and similarly inspired me to think about ways to monetize that.


Speed vs. Accuracy: When is Correlation Enough? When Do You Need Causation?

Medium, speed, accuracy, correlation, risk, causality, heuristics, uncertainty

Often, we need fast answers with limited resources. We have to make judgements in a world full of uncertainty. We can’t measure everything. We can’t run all the experiments we’d like. You may not have the resources to model a product or the impact of a decision. How do you find a balance between finding fast answers and finding correct answers? How do you minimize uncertainty with limited resources?


Vote of a Lifetime: Alaskan Town Decides Whether to Stay or Go in Face of Climate Change


Nine villages, mostly in western Alaska, have been identified by the Army Corps of Engineers to be at imminent risk because of erosion and rising seas, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

All have been recommended to relocate.

Between 200 and 300 villages will be at similar risk in the coming decades, according to the Corps.

The native village of Newtok, 370 miles south of Shishmaref, is the first to have agreed to move to a new location. The move will be funded by state and federal funds, according to Maria Gonoa, a spokesperson for HUD. A complete overwash of Newtok is predicted to hit as early as next year, Gonoa added.

As threatening as the climate impacts are, the cultural impact of leaving the village was also hard to think about, Eningowuk said.

“At my age, I hope to not relocate from here,” Eningowuk said.

Eningowuk said their lifestyle—dependent on the sea—would have to change if they went to the mainland.

Vote of a Lifetime: Alaskan Town Decides Whether to Stay or Go in Face of Climate Change

What is customarily called ‘reality’ has no more consistency than a montage. Starting from this observation, one may view…

“What is customarily called ‘reality’ has no more consistency than a montage. Starting from this observation, one may view artistic practice as a kind of software permitting action to be performed on communal reality in order to produce alternative versions of the same. That is, contemporary art post-produces social reality: by formal means, it illuminates the montages constituting it – which are formal, too. Thus, one of the essential elements of contemporary art’s political programme is that of bringing the world into a precarious state – in other words, constantly affirming the transitory and circumstantial nature of the institutions that structure social life, the rules governing individual and collective behaviour. After all, the ideological apparatuses of capitalism proclaim the very opposite. They declare the political and economic framework in which we are living to be immutable and definitive: a scenario in which the décor and props undergo perpetual (and superficial) transformation – but nothing else changes. The central political task of contemporary art does not involve denouncing any current ‘political’ fact in particular. Instead, the point is to bring precarity to mind: to keep the notion alive that intervention in the world is possible, to propagate the creative potential of human existence in all its forms. It is because social reality constitutes an artifact through and through that we can imagine changing it. Art exposes the world’s non-definitive character. It dislocates, disassembles and hands things over to disorder and poetry. By producing representations and counter-models that underscore the intrinsic fragility of the standing order, art bears the standard of a political project that is much more efficient (in the sense of generating concrete effects) and much more ambitious (inasmuch as it concerns all aspects of political reality) than it would be if it simply relayed a watchword or ideology.”

From The Exform by Nicolas Bourriaud (Verso 2016). (viajuhavantzelfde)

Kilns for firing and making bricks are scattered across the landscape in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost all bricks in the country are…


Kilns for firing and making bricks are scattered across the landscape in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost all bricks in the country are made using a 150-year-old process where soil is mixed with water, formed into bricks using wooden molds, left to dry in the sun, and then burned in these orange, traditional kilns. As the widespread use of old kilns has hampered air quality in the country, local groups and the government have been working hard to increase the use of “clean” brick kilns with more sustainable technology.

23.7675749, 90.318299


Flip of a single molecular switch makes an old brain young The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature…



Flip of a single molecular switch makes an old brain young

The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature neuronal connections that allow the brain to bridge the gap between adolescent impressionability and adult stability. Now Yale School of Medicine researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse.

Scientists have long known that the young and old brains are very different. Adolescent brains are more malleable or plastic, which allows them to learn languages more quickly than adults and speeds recovery from brain injuries. The comparative rigidity of the adult brain results in part from the function of a single gene that slows the rapid change in synaptic connections between neurons.

By monitoring the synapses in living mice over weeks and months, Yale researchers have identified the key genetic switch for brain maturation a study released March 6 in the journal Neuron. The Nogo Receptor 1 gene is required to suppress high levels of plasticity in the adolescent brain and create the relatively quiescent levels of plasticity in adulthood.  In mice without this gene, juvenile levels of brain plasticity persist throughout adulthood. When researchers blocked the function of this gene in old mice, they reset the old brain to adolescent levels of plasticity.

“These are the molecules the brain needs for the transition from adolescence to adulthood,” said Dr. Stephen Strittmatter. Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology, Professor of Neurobiology and senior author of the paper. “It suggests we can turn back the clock in the adult brain and recover from trauma the way kids recover.”

Rehabilitation after brain injuries like strokes requires that patients re-learn tasks such as moving a hand. Researchers found that adult mice lacking Nogo Receptor recovered from injury as quickly as adolescent mice and mastered new, complex motor tasks more quickly than adults with the receptor.

“This raises the potential that manipulating Nogo Receptor in humans might accelerate and magnify rehabilitation after brain injuries like strokes,” said Feras Akbik, Yale doctoral student who is first author of the study.

Researchers also showed that Nogo Receptor slows loss of memories.  Mice without Nogo receptor lost stressful memories more quickly, suggesting that manipulating the receptor could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We know a lot about the early development of the brain,” Strittmatter said, “But we know amazingly little about what happens in the brain during late adolescence.”

There are at least 7,102 known languages alive in the world today. Twenty-three of these languages are a mother tongue for more…

language, infographic, rosetta, Alberto Lucas López

There are at least 7,102 known languages alive in the world today. Twenty-three of these languages are a mother tongue for more than 50 million people. The 23 languages make up the native tongue of 4.1 billion people. We represent each language within black borders and then provide the numbers of native speakers (in millions) by country. The colour of these countries shows how languages have taken root in many different regions

The Terrifying JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn’t

terror, panic, confusion, hysteria, crowd-control, JFK, airport, mob, fear, stampede

There was no “they.” There was not even a “he,” no armed person turning on a crowd. But what happened at JFK last night was, in every respect but the violence, a mass shooting. The fact that there was no attack at the center of it was both the weirdest and the scariest part — that an institution whose size and location and budget should make it a fortress, in a country that has spent 15 years focused compulsively on securing its airports, in a city with a terrifyingly competent anti-terror police unit, could be transformed into a scene of utter bedlam, stretching out from all eight terminals across the tarmac and onto the adjacent highways, by the whisper of a threat. Within minutes, the whole apparatus of the airport and its crowd-control mechanisms had collapsed into total disarray. When the thousands of us who had been racing away from shooters finally managed to catch our breath, long after midnight, the idea that the airport could ever manage a crowd, let alone a hysterical one, looked ridiculous. The fact that there had been, actually, nothing to panic about was an enormous relief, of course. But it made things all the more eerie the next morning, when we woke up feeling like survivors of a ghost trauma, a minor local-news story. For several hours, we were in the flood of panic and chaos of an ongoing act of terror. There’s no other way to describe it. That it was an overreaction almost doesn’t matter; in fact, that is how terrorism works.


Hacker ‘Phineas Fisher’ Speaks on Camera for the First Time—Through a Puppet

FinFisher, Hacking-Team, Phineas-Fisher, surveillance, hacks, interview, puppet

just a few weeks after his hack, I asked him if he wanted to do an interview with some colleagues from VICE Canada, who were working on a documentary on the growing market of cyber mercenaries, companies that sell hacking and spying tools to police and intelligence agencies all over the world. After some back and forth, Phineas Fisher agreed—with one strange condition. “I’ll do a video interview if you get kermit the frog (or a homemade non-trademark violating puppet) and a voice actor to read lines I type in chat,” Phineas Fisher told me. And so, our friends in Canada got a homemade puppet and chatted with Phineas Fisher in his first-ever extended interview.


Registering the Unseen: The Weird Science of A. Vaino

nooscope, science, bureaucracy, Russia, invention

The piece about “nooscope” — whoever wrote it — has nothing to do with science, says Kirill Martynov, a philosophy professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It is not even clear to which area of expertise we can attribute it. Basically, it’s nonsense. In terms of Russian language, the words in it make sense, but in terms of science — they don’t,” Martynov told The Moscow Times.

The article lacks many of the formal characteristics of a piece of scientific work: like coherence, connectivity and the facts being attributed to sources. “Instead, the article uses semi-mystical terms and facts that cannot be verified or proved,” the philosophy professor says. “For example, it says that ’nooscope’ has 50 patents, but there is no attribution to any of them.”

This falls into a trend called “aboriginal science,” according to Martynov. “In aboriginal science people imitate scientific activity, using platforms that have nothing to do with international science, but are convenient for achieving their goals,” he says.

So far, at least, there has been no explanation.

Earlier on Monday BBC Russia reached out to one of Vaino’s co-authors, Viktor Sarayev, and asked about the “nooscope.”

“[Isaac] Newton invented the telescope, [Antonie van] Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope, and we invented the nooscope — a device of the material Internet that scans transactions between people, things and money,” Sarayev wrote back to the BBC. He declined to give more details about the device.


Full of complicated terms, schemes and graphs, the article reveals a “nooscope,” a device designed in Russia five years ago,…

Vaino, nooscope, biosphere, Russia, academia, bureaucracy

Full of complicated terms, schemes and graphs, the article reveals a “nooscope,” a device designed in Russia five years ago, that will help “study the collective conscience of mankind” and “register, among other things, [things that] can’t be seen.” The device apparently consists of a network of “spatial scanners,” designated to monitor and register changes in the “biosphere.”

“[Isaac] Newton invented the telescope, [Antonie van] Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope, and we invented the nooscope — a device of the material Internet that scans transactions between people, things and money,” Sarayev declined to give more details about the device.

On ‘heterodox’ macroeconomics

Medium, economics, macroeconomics, hetrodox economics

The term ‘heterodox economics’ is a difficult one. I dislike it and resisted adopting it for some time: I would much rather be ‘an economist’ than ‘a heterodox economist’. But it is clear that unless you accept — pretty much without criticism — the assumptions and methodology of the mainstream, you will not be accepted as ‘an economist’. This was not the case when Joan Robinson debated with Solow and Samuelson, or Kaldor debated with Hayek. But it is the case today.


The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Medium, complexity, preference, intolerance, contagion, dispersal, Taleb

The best example I know that gives insights into the functioning of a complex system is with the following situation. It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority.


400-year-old Greenland shark is oldest vertebrate animal

shark, greenland, arctic, biology, longevity

Grey, plump and growing to lengths of around five metres, the Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest carnivores. With a reported growth rate of less than one centimetre a year, they were already thought to be long-lived creatures, but just how long they lived for was something of a mystery. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success.” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1000 years.”


Making another, perhaps more important observation, buildings, and even whole cities, have become infrastructural technologies….

“Making another, perhaps more important observation, buildings, and even whole cities, have become infrastructural technologies. From the fields of repeatable suburban houses and traffic-engineered highways of the mid 20th century to the malls, resorts, golf courses and big-box stores of contemporary culture, repeatable formulas make most of the space in the world. These buildings are not singularly crafted enclosures, but reproducible products — spatial products. The discipline of architecture is only responsible for a trickle of the world’s spaces while a fire hose blasts out the rest. A familiar confetti of brightly coloured boxes nestled in black asphalt and bright green grass tells elaborate stories about Starbucks coffee, Beard Papa cream puffs and Arnold Palmer golf communities. This all too visible cartoon of abstract logics shapes most of the space in which we are swimming. Now not only small communities and resorts but also entire world cities are constructed according to a formula, usually a formula that replicates Shenzhen or Dubai anywhere in the world.”

Keller Easterling, The Action is the Form, Victor Hugo’s TED Talk (viainthenoosphere)

InsideClimate News: In Corporate March to Clean Energy, Utilities Not Required


Some of the companies purchasing renewable energy directly include Google, WalMart, Amazon, 3M, Microsoft, Home Depot, Procter and Gamble, Yahoo, Equinix, IKEA and Bloomberg. GM has recently entered the direct purchase parade.


A curious thing happened while U.S. utilities were focusing on cheap fracked gas, expensive nuclear power, what to do about coal, and how to fight  renewable energy models that threatened their bottom line.

Some of the nation’s largest corporations decided not to wait for utilities and took their interest in renewable energy into their own hands. They bought their own clean power. And they bought it directly from the companies that produced it. No utility middleman needed.

This clean power revolt, led by some of the biggest corporate energy consumers, is the latest threat to the power purchase and delivery system that’s been in place since Thomas Edison invented it.

Could this be what gets utilities’ attention and forces them to consider clean energy as the future instead of the enemy? Will it ultimately lead to the greening of all of America’s power?

InsideClimate News: In Corporate March to Clean Energy, Utilities Not Required

PSY 607: Everything is fucked: The syllabus

academia, research, science, everything-is-fucked, EIFAWAGTD

What does it mean, in science, for something to be fucked? Fucked needs to mean more than that something is complicated or must be undertaken with thought and care, as that would be trivially true of everything in science. In this class we will go a step further and say that something is fucked if it presents hard conceptual challenges to which implementable, real-world solutions for working scientists are either not available or routinely ignored in practice.


Better incentives, Better science

Medium, science, publishing, academia, OSF, replication, replicability

Science takes place in a Madisonian system, where competing forces push us from all directions. The good guys don’t always win. The powerful guys push hard. The direction science moves depends on the sum of the forces on it. A well meaning push in the right direction doesn’t always end up moving science that way. The reliability project and the open science foundation have recently come into a bit of power and public influence. So far, they’ve pushed for greater reliability and more careful methods. But they’ve yet to ask “Why are scientists using poor methods?”, “What are the forces that drive reliability down?”, and “Why were past methods more reliable?” The surge in retraction is relatively new. There wasn’t an OSF in 1957, and yet, somehow my grandfather was able to publish a reliable effect.


Is the Oil Industry Dying?

Medium, energy, peak-oil, oil, economics, climate

Talking about “peak oil” can feel very last decade. In fact, the question is still current. Petroleum markets are so glutted and prices are so low that most industry commenters think any worry about future oil supplies is pointless. The glut and price dip, however, are hardly indications of a healthy industry; instead, they are symptoms of an increasing inability to match production cost, supply, and demand in a way that’s profitable for producers but affordable for society. Is this what peak oil looks like?


Forget Skynet: AI is already making things terrible for people who aren’t rich white dudes


Kate Crawford (previously) takes to the New York Times’s editorial page to ask why rich white guys act like the big risk of machine-learning systems is that they’ll evolve into Skynet-like apex-predators that subjugate the human race, when there are already rampant problems with machine learning:algorithmic racist sentencing, algorithmic, racist and sexist discrimination,algorithmic harassment, algorithmic hiring bias, algorithmic terrorist watchlisting, algorithmic racist policing, and a host of other algorithmic cruelties and nonsense, each one imbued with unassailable objectivity thanks to its mathematical underpinnings.

Focusing our energies on hypothetical science fiction disasters from machine learning means taking the spotlight off of the real-world, here-and-now ways that software isn’t just eating the world – it’s also shitting all over it.

Introducing Quil: A Practical Quantum Instruction Set Architecture

Medium, computing, quil, programming

In our work developing and understanding these near term applications we’ve developed a framework to help us work with the algorithms concretely. Today the Software and Applications team at Rigetti is excited to share the description of this work in our whitepaper [A Practical Quantum Instruction Set Architecture]. We have focused on a simple model that is compatible with the types of devices that are likely to be available first.


2,000-Year-Old Scrolls Inscribed With Ancient Curses Uncovered in Serbia

archeology, religion, text, languages, curses, gods, demons, Baal, Yahweh, Thobarabau, Seneseilam, S

Archaeologists working in Serbia have discovered tiny parchments of gold and silver inscribed with what appears to be a series of ancient curses. The curse tablets were found alongside human skeletons at an excavation site at the foot of a coal-fired power station in Kostolac in northeastern Serbia. Archaeologists led by Miomir Korać are currently scouring the area in preparation for further construction at the site, which was once home to the ancient Roman city of Viminacium. One of the newly discovered scrolls contains text written in ancient Aramaic, and not Greek. That presents a mystery to the scientists, but it’s also an important clue. The researchers have identified several demons associated with the territory of what is today Syria, including Baal, Yahweh, Thobarabau, Seneseilam, and Sesengenfaranges. Invoking the powers of both Baal and Yahweh on a single tablet is unprecedented.


The Root of Thought: What Do Glial Cells Do?

neuroscience, neurology, consciousness, creativity, thought, glia, astrocytes

LEHRER: You suggest that glia and their calcium waves might play a role in creativity. Could you explain? KOOB: This idea stems from dreams, sensory deprivation and day dreaming. Without input from our senses through neurons, how is it that we have such vivid thoughts? How is it that when we are deep in thought we seemingly shut off everything in the environment around us? In this theory, neurons are tied to our muscular action and external senses. We know astrocytes monitor neurons for this information. Similarly, they can induce neurons to fire. Therefore, astrocytes modulate neuron behavior. This could mean that calcium waves in astrocytes are our thinking mind. Neuronal activity without astrocyte processing is a simple reflex; anything more complicated might require astrocyte processing. The fact that humans have the most abundant and largest astrocytes of any animal and we are capable of creativity and imagination also lends credence to this speculation. Calcium is also released randomly and without stimulation from astrocytes’ internal stores in small bursts called ‘puffs.’ These random puffs can lead to waves. It is possible that the seemingly random thoughts during dreams and sensory deprivation experience could be calcium puffs becoming waves in our astrocytes. Basically, it is obvious that astrocytes are involved in brain processing in the cortex, but the main questions are, do our thoughts and imagination stem from astrocytes working together with neurons, or are our thoughts and imagination solely the domain of astrocytes? Maybe the role of neurons is to support astrocytes.


Now is a really good time to buy a helicopter

helicopters, economics, drones, markets, commodities

A slump in oil, gas and other commodity prices over the past two years has left lower helicopter prices in its wake. In economies like Brazil’s, which are heavily reliant on volatile commodities prices, demand for corporate use copters has grown soft. And while companies that extract natural resources often rely on choppers to survey prospective mines and oilfields, they’ve recently been warming to drones, which can be less expensive. “The civil and parapublic [helicopter] market still looks pretty awful,” Thomas Enders, chief executive of Airbus Group, said during an earnings call last month. Airbus produces about a quarter of the world’s rotorcrafts, according to Forecast International, an aerospace-market research firm. Helicopters generally hold their value much better than cars. The latest downturn is notable because rotorcraft production has declined—an important gauge of demand, since producers often have buyers lined up when the parts come together on the factory floor. Global rotorcraft production will likely total just 1,050 in 2016, which would be the fewest in at least a decade, according to Forecast International.


As social media centralized, blogging’s core infrastructure has withered


When “social media” meant “blogs,” there were many tools, services and protocols that comprised an infrastructure for federated, open, loosely joined interaction: the rise of the social giants has killed off much of this infrastructure, all but erasing it from our memories.

Anil Dash compares the services and tools available in the new centralized web, and the new advantages of centralization, and also the lost functionality that disappeared with independent blogging. It must be said that some of these tools were already in critical condition as centralization took off, killed by the spam and other parasitic infestations that are endemic to complex, open ecosystems.

How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell

geography, GPS, mapping, MR, VR, AR, kansas, US, glitch, GIS, bugs, design

For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat. As any geography nerd knows, the precise center of the United States is in northern Kansas, near the Nebraska border. Technically, the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the center spot are 39°50′N 98°35′W. In digital maps, that number is an ugly one: 39.8333333,-98.585522. So back in 2002, when MaxMind was first choosing the default point on its digital map for the center of the U.S., it decided to clean up the measurements and go with a simpler, nearby latitude and longitude: 38°N 97°W or 38.0000,-97.0000. As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000. Which happens to be in the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s house.


The Ethereum fork: emergence of a social framework for consensus.

Ethereum, ETH, blockchain, consensus, politics, governance

The [Ethereum] hard fork has provided an example of social consensus overriding machine consensus. This effectively places machine consensus, and therefore immutability (in it’s technical sense) as subordinate to social consensus. Whilst this has been cited by some as an about-turn from all that blockchain stands for, I see it as the opposite, an evolution beyond fundamental ideals toward a more pragmatic understanding of reality in which we recognise and leverage all the value blockchain architecture can offer, but retain (as do all blockchain communities) a measure of power over the underlying ‘hard rules’.