It all began simply enough. I’d just read one of those ubiquitous Internet lists called “21 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone…

It all began simply enough. I’d just read one of those ubiquitous Internet lists called “21 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do.” One of them was this: I could ask Siri, “What planes are above me right now?” and Siri would bark back, “Checking my sources.” Almost instantly there was a list of actual flights — numbers, altitudes, angles — above my head.

I happened to be doing this when Gus was nearby. “Why would anyone need to know what planes are flying above your head?” I muttered. Gus replied without looking up: “So you know who you’re waving at, Mommy.”

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: “Hey! Why don’t you ask Siri?”

It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. “So it can visit its friends,” he said.

How One Boy With Autism Became BFF With Apple’s Siri (viafuckyeahisitthecultureyet)

Swiss Public Prosecutor seizes and seals work by !Mediengruppe Bitnik

!Mediengruppe Bitnik, Dark Net, shopping, online shopping, Agora, art, crime, intention, software

What does it mean for a society, when there are robots which act autonomously? Who is liable, when a robot breaks the law on its own initiative? These were some of the main questions the work Random Darknet Shopper posed. Global questions, which will now be negotiated locally. On the morning of January 12, the day after the three-month exhibition was closed, the public prosecutor’s office of St. Gallen seized and sealed our work. It seems, the purpose of the confiscation is to impede an endangerment of third parties through the drugs exhibited by destroying them. This is what we know at present. We believe that the confiscation is an unjustified intervention into freedom of art. We’d also like to thank Kunst Halle St. Gallen for their ongoing support and the wonderful collaboration. Furthermore, we are convinced, that it is an objective of art to shed light on the fringes of society and to pose fundamental contemporary questions.

https://wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.bitnik.org/r/2015–01–15-statement/

75k Futures by Gunnar Green & Bernhard Hopfengärtner

algopop:

75k Futures by Gunnar Green & Bernhard Hopfengärtner

Named after the source of a flash crash of the American stock market in May 2010, caused by 75,000 algorithmically traded futures, 75,000 Futures is a book illustrating algorithms in action, with data sourced from the HFT research firm Nanex. The book explores a typology of algorithmic actors, whose motives and strategies must be reversed-engineered from market behaviour, exposing a systems aesthetic of structured logic backed up by an ambiguous rationality.

The founders of Fairphone said from the word go that creating a totally fair phone would be a monumental task, because of the…

The founders of Fairphone said from the word go that creating a totally fair phone would be a monumental task, because of the labyrinth of suppliers and companies involved. So far, only two of the minerals in the phone – tin and tantalum – come from conflict-free validated mines.

Fairphone believe the only way to make a phone genuinely fair is through trying to incrementally produce one and to keep adjusting it while putting pressure on the supply chain. Its website shows behind the scenes of its journey, and it should be commended for trying to change the status quo.

Fairphone review: ethics trumps everything else | Technology | The Guardian (viaiamdanw)

Once you adopt skepticism toward the algorithmic- and the data-divine, you can no longer construe any computational system as…

Once you adopt skepticism toward the algorithmic- and the data-divine, you can no longer construe any computational system as merely algorithmic. Think about Google Maps, for example. It’s not just mapping software running via computer—it also involves geographical information systems, geolocation satellites and transponders, human-driven automobiles, roof-mounted panoramic optical recording systems, international recording and privacy law, physical- and data-network routing systems, and web/mobile presentational apparatuses. That’s not algorithmic culture—it’s just, well, culture.

If algorithms aren’t gods, what are they instead? Like metaphors, algorithms are simplifications, or distortions. They are caricatures. They take a complex system from the world and abstract it into processes that capture some of that system’s logic and discard others. And they couple to other processes, machines, and materials that carry out the extra-computational part of their work.

The Cathedral of Computation - Ian Bogost (viaalgopop)

Fifteen seconds before the transfer, the bluish-green LEDs turn yellow and a voice tells you autopilot will be turned off. Ten…

“Fifteen seconds before the transfer, the bluish-green LEDs turn yellow and a voice tells you autopilot will be turned off. Ten seconds before the transfer, the LEDs turn red and the steering wheel extends to meet you. If you fail to respond, the car activates its hazard lights and slows to a stop, moving to the shoulder if possible.”

I Rode 500 Miles in a Self-Driving Car and Saw the Future. It’s Delightfully Dull | WIRED (viaiamdanw)

Charlie Hebdo: Understanding is the least we owe the dead

charlie hebdo, je suis ahmed, je suis charlie, complexity, polarisation, war, jihad, understanding

The war will go on until it doesn’t, until it runs out of fuel and the historians take over, arguing about who or what won. I no longer expect to see an end in my lifetime. It will take a generation, and many enormous geopolitical shifts, before the wheels of this juggernaut shudder to a halt. Until there are no more self-dramatising young men who prefer the abstraction of death to living a meaningful life, until there are no more wealthy pious bigots to fund them, until there are no more disenfranchised migrants pressed against the border fence and no more hard-faced “realists” eager to turn the war dial up to 11, this will go on and we will have to live through it.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/08/charlie-hedbo-collusion-terror-jihadi-twisted-logic

On the future of the U.S., or of Western civilization in general, I tend to be quite pessimistic. Perhaps that is simply because…

On the future of the U.S., or of Western civilization in general, I tend to be quite pessimistic. Perhaps that is simply because “collapse” is what I do. As an archaeologist, I have excavated single trenches, just a few meters deep, in which you can see stratigraphic levels of several civilizations. We find layers of artifacts and evidence indicating periods of great prosperity, but always separated by levels of burned earth, ash and artifacts that reflect the epochs of social disintegration, chaos and tragedy that seem to conclude the achievements and aspirations of every society.

With that caveat about my gloomy perspective, I would say that today I see most of the symptoms of societies on the brink of collapse, not just in the U.S., but in the tightly interconnected societies of Western civilization – now essentially world civilization.

With apologies to the green movement, “sustainability” is a myth. History and archaeology show that societies are always moving to the edge of crisis, “falling forward” through growth, but then responding (often successfully) to the problems created. What we can hope for is that with a somewhat more controlled level of growth, and with longer-term preparations for change, we can keep responding to the inevitable smaller crises, as they arise, and continue to postpone until later and later the (perhaps ultimately inevitable) end of our civilization.

The real Indiana Jones on why Western civilization is a bubble (viafuckyeahdarkextropian)

Manichaeism

religion, history, gnosticism, dualism, gnostic, world religions, shadow

Manichaeism was a major Gnostic religion that was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani (c. 216–276 AD) in the Sasanian Empire. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light whence it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian gnostic and religious movements.

Manichaeism thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity in the competition to replace classical paganism. Manichaeism survived longer in the East than in the West, and it appears to have finally faded away after the 14th century in southern China, contemporary to the decline in China of the Church of the East. While most of Mani’s original writings have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived.

Until discoveries in the 1900s of original sources, the only sources for Manichaeism were descriptions and quotations from non-Manichaean authors, either Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Zoroastrian. While often criticizing Manichaeism, they also quoted directly from Manichaean scriptures. This enabled Isaac de Beausobre, writing in the 18th century, to create a comprehensive work on Manichaeism, relying solely on anti-Manichaean sources.

(via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manichaeism )

Hackers can’t “solve” Surveillance

hackers, surveillance, economics, californian ideology, silicon valley, solutionism, culture, ventur

Since libertarian ideology is often at odds with social solutions, holding private enterprise as an ideal and viewing private provisioning as best, the solutions presented are often pushing more entrepreneurship and voluntarism and ever more responsibilization. We just need a new start-up, or some new code, or some magical new business model! This is what Evgeny Morozov calls Solutionism, the belief that all difficulties have benign solutions, often of a technocratic nature. Morozov provides an example “when a Silicon Valley company tries to solve the problem of obesity by building a smart fork that will tell you that you’re eating too quickly, this […] puts the onus for reform on the individual.”

http://www.dmytri.info/hackers-cant-solve-surveillance/

«Charlie» vivra

Libération, Charlie Hebdo, Charlie, religion, journalism, terrorism

Quant à nous, journalistes, amis des journalistes assassinés, nous continuerons. Avec un peu moins de cœur à l’ouvrage, sans doute, pour quelque temps, mais avec une résolution plus forte. Nous savons que cette profession est parfois dangereuse. C’était jusqu’à présent le lot des reporters qui partent nous informer sur les pays en guerre. Il en meurt des dizaines chaque année. Maintenant on veut porter la guerre jusque dans nos salles de rédaction. Nous ne ferons pas la guerre. Nous ne sommes pas des soldats. Mais nous défendrons notre savoir-faire et notre vocation : aider le lecteur à se sentir citoyen. Ce n’est pas grand-chose mais c’est quelque chose. Avec une certitude mieux ancrée : maintenant, nous savons pourquoi nous faisons ce métier.

http://www.liberation.fr/societe/2015/01/07/charlie-vivra_1175771

Among the Disrupted

NYT, technology, humanism, religion, posthumanism, singularity, metrics, quantifiction, humanities

Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined. By now we are familiar enough with the magnitude of the changes in all the spheres of our existence to move beyond the futuristic rhapsodies that characterize much of the literature on the subject. We can no longer roll over and celebrate and shop. Every phone in every pocket contains a “picture of ourselves,” and we must ascertain what that picture is and whether we should wish to resist it. Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/books/review/among-the-disrupted.html?_r=1