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Over the past week or so, one of the most prominent credit agencies, Standard & Poor’s, has, in a series of reports, attempted to quantify the financial impact of climate change. The company looked at the impact of changing weather patterns on various industries, including utilities and insurance.
In the last few years, the microbiome (sometimes referred to as “the second genome”) has become a focus for the health conscious and for scientists alike. Studies like the Human Microbiome Project, a national enterprise to sequence bacterial DNA taken from 242 healthy Americans, have tagged 19 of our phyla (groupings of bacteria), each with thousands of distinct species. As Michael Pollan wrote in this magazine last year: “As a civilization, we’ve just spent the better part of a century doing our unwitting best to wreck the human-associated microbiota… . Whether any cures emerge from the exploration of the second genome, the implications of what has already been learned — for our sense of self, for our definition of health and for our attitude toward bacteria in general — are difficult to overstate.”
Welcome to the Dystopia Tracker. Our goal is to document, with your help, all the predictions in literature, film or games that have been made for the future and what has become reality already. You can browse predictions by topic or search for a specific title. We also invite you to contribute your own content. Add predictions that are missing, add realisations for predictions that have become reality in some way, or help translating existing content.
A Timeline of Webdriver Torso
Webdriver Torso is a YouTube account that uploads a new video (like the one above) on to the internet every 20 seconds. And every video is more or less the same: red and blue rectangles jumping on a white screen, with a soundtrack of different test tones.
Webdriver’s YouTube channel has uploaded almost 80,000 of these videos, and no one has any real clue what they are. There are, of course, lots of theories. What follows is a timeline of the Webdriver Torso mystery.
March 7, 2013
Webdriver Torso YouTube channel is launched. There is no activity on the channel for months, until…
August 14, 2013
…the first video on Webdriver is uploaded. It is called 0.455442373793, but the video is only viewable in France, and users have to pay 2 Euro to watch it. The video is a short clip from the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Sept 23, 2013
Webdriver Torso starts uploading approximately 400 videos a day. Every video is an 11-second long slideshow depicting a red and a blue rectangle in random arrangements with electronic tones. At the bottom left-hand corner of the video there is a slide number from 0-9 and the text caption “aqua.flv”. (Does this have anything to do with Aqua Teen Hunger Force?)
Oct 09, 2013
Webdriver Torso uploads the only videothat is different from the others. It is called 00014, and is of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. At the end of the video whoever is holding the camera pans down to the balcony they are standing on. The viewer can briefly see what looks like a laptop open on a browser, with something like Facebook open.
Various internet people have concluded that the video must have been shot from the balcony of a hotel. This person on Reddit thinks that the video must have been shot from the Pullman Hotel. Webdriver interacts with this video on YouTube, leaving the one line comment, “Matei is highly intelligent.” Who the hell is Matei?
Feb 7, 2014
WIREDpublishes an article about the art of finding obscure YouTube videos. In the process they find one of Webdriver’s videos and link to it on their website, and ask their readers to comment with any theories as to what it might be.
Three days later, Dan Lo Bianco comments on the WIRED website that he thinks Webdriver is “probably the modern equivalent of number stations - probably involved in cryptographic communication but no way to know for sure and bound to be surrounded in rumour and conspiracy theory.”
April 23, 2014
Brendan O’Connor writes an article for the Daily Dot about Webdriver called ‘Is this mysterious YouTube channel trying to contact aliens?’ O’Connor suggests that the videos might be generated using Selenium,a tool used “for automating Web applications for testing purposes, but it is certainly not limited to just that.” One of the tools Selenium offers is something called WebDriver. “WebDriver is a tool for writing automated tests of websites,” reads the WebDriver FAQ. “It aims to mimic the behavior of a real user, and as such interacts with the HTML of the application.”
However, Selenium denies having anything to do with Webdriver Torso, and state that it is more likely that the videos are trying to make contact with aliens.
April 25, 2014
Boing Boingcatch on to the idea that Webdriver might be a number station. Basically, a number station is a type of shortsignal radio station that broadcasts lists of numbers or incomprehensible Morse code messages. Number stations were used during the cold war to communicate secret messages between spies.
May 2, 2014
The Guardian claims to have the solution to the Webdriver mystery, reporting thatIsaul Vargas, a New York-based software tester, recognised the videos from a conference on automation that he attended 1 year earlier. “Considering the volume of videos and the fact they use YouTube, it tells me that this is a large company testing their video encoding software and measuring how Youtube compresses the videos,” Vargas told the Guardian.
This theory is quickly shut down after Vargas tracks down the people who gave the presentation at the conference, a British company called YouView. They explain that some of the videos in their presentation were similar to Webdriver’s though not identical.
That same day, the Webdriver Torso account displays some strange behaviour, Liking one of its own videos, suggesting some type of unpredictable human control over the presumably automated uploads.
May 8, 2014
Internet activity around Webdriver Torso peaks as bloggers and Redditors compile their own theories about what it is, ranging from alien contact to machine sentience.
A comprehensive blog post by an Italian blogger claims (and provides a good amount of evidence) that the Google office in Zurich is responsible for the video uploads, and that they are a part of an ongoing project looking into 3D video uploads on YouTube.
After posting this expose, his blog gets peak traffic from Switzerland. Google Zurich and YouTube refuse to comment.
May 15, 2014
When “Webdriver Torso” is typed into the search bar in YouTube, the screen is transformed into red and blue rectangles. (I tried it, and it still works). The Italian blogger takes this for corroborating evidence that his theory is true.
Although, a more likely explanation is thatthis redesign of the YouTube layout to imitate the Webdriver Torso aesthetic just signifies that Google are aware of the now popular channel and the theories surrounding it.
Ockham’s Razor is a philosophical tool that says, “the most likely explanation is probably true.” If I were to use Ockham’s Razor on Webdriver, I would probably conclude that Google (or some other big tech company) are using YouTube to test some new way of automating uploads/experimenting with data management.
But this is a deferral of the more mysterious question: What is the intention of the people who are uploading these videos? Why are they doing it? To what end?
Webdriver instinctively looks freaky, maybe sinister. But if Google is behind it, it suddenly becomes normal, easier to swallow, even though we still don’t understand what the technology is or what it’s trying to do. Postulating Google as the answer for a mysterious digital phenomenon ties up all the loose ends without actually tying up any of them.
If we don’t know why Google are making these videos, and they haven’t admitted it, then why shouldn’t I still believe that they are made by aliens?
My answer is aliens. I want it to be aliens. Or sentient computers.
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Eno Henze - Tomorrow will be like today
Eno Henze - Stammheimzellen
Overwhelmed is a book about time pressure and modern life. It is a deeply reported and researched, honest and often hilarious journey from feeling that, as one character in the book said, time is like a “rabid lunatic” running naked and screaming as your life flies past you, to understanding the historical and cultural roots of the overwhelm, how worrying about all there is to do and the pressure of feeling like we’re never have enough time to do it all, or do it well, is “contaminating” our experience of time, how time pressure and stress is resculpting our brains and shaping our workplaces, our relationships and squeezing the space that the Greeks said was the point of living a Good Life: that elusive moment of peace called leisure.
According to Keynes, the nineteenth century had unleashed such a torrent of technological innovation—“electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production”—that further growth was inevitable. The size of the global economy, he forecast, would increase sevenfold in the following century, and this, in concert with ever greater “technical improvements,” would usher in the fifteen-hour week. To Keynes, the coming age of abundance, while welcome, would pose a new and in some ways even bigger challenge. With so little need for labor, people would have to figure out what to do with themselves: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won.” The example offered by the idle rich was, he observed, “very depressing”
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Facebook and Google seem very powerful, but they live about a week from total ruin all the time. They know the cost of leaving social networks individually is high, but en masse, becomes next to nothing. Windows could be replaced with something better written. The US government would fall to a general revolt in a matter of days. It wouldn’t take a total defection or a general revolt to change everything, because corporations and governments would rather bend to demands than die. These entities do everything they can get away with — but we’ve forgotten that we’re the ones that are letting them get away with things.
Microwaved corn on the cob (via Clayton Cubitt on Instagram: http://ift.tt/1oBKTdX)
“Robots can be said to have their own culture precisely because they don’t need to copy our sociologisms in order to be social, although what they do in their own social realm may not easily map on to things we do in our social realm.”
Antarctica’s ice loss by europeanspaceagency (via http://flic.kr/p/nof84Q )
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Dave Gray’s sketch of the difference between generalists and specialists
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The Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF), Version 2.0 is the overarching, comprehensive framework and conceptual model enabling the development of architectures…
“Take some time with that graphic. After a while you realize that this image could be used anywhere in any paper or presentation and make perfect sense. This is a graphic that defines a way of describing anything that has ever existed and everything that has ever happened, in any situation. The United States Military is operating at a conceptual level beyond every other school of thought except perhaps academic philosophy, because it has a much larger budget.”
The theory of food pairing inspires little faith but when moving away from culinary applications perhaps it can be used to differentiate cuisines and cooking styles. How Chinese is Jamie Oliver? How similar are Mexican and Indian cuisines? How do French and Indian cooking differ? How unique is Rene Redzepi? The aim is to find a way to reveal the inner structure and logic of a cuisine, if such a thing exists, by comparing the way a cuisine or a cook combines ingredients with other cuisines and cooks.
It was from the RAND study that the false rumor started claiming that the ARPANET was somehow related to building a network resistant to nuclear war. This was never true of the ARPANET, only the unrelated RAND study on secure voice considered nuclear war. However, the later work on Internetting did emphasize robustness and survivability, including the capability to withstand losses of large portions of the underlying networks.
*Electric light for the early adopter
#18 - 燒 ~~ by Colourful Life (Teresa) (via http://flic.kr/p/nBW622 )
For scholarly publishing, the secret sauce - the essential thing - is a mechanism for review. Even open archives like arXiv.org have review in the sense of only letting people who are endorsed by an existing community post, but here we’ll assume that we’re doing something more like traditional academic publishing - reviewing something called a paper (it could actually be code, or a figure, or a paragraph but let’s stick to papers as that’s easier to think about). Peer review at present is something that belongs to a journal; it’s a set of rules and procedures, written and enforced by an editorial board and supported by a lot of email and some fairly wonky software.
Biologists study how organisms evolve and adapt to their environments. In the Genre Evolution Project, we approach literature in a similar way. We study literature as a living thing, able to adapt to society’s desires and able to influence those desires. Currently, we are tracking the evolution of pulp science fiction short stories published between 1926 and 1999. Just as a biologist might ask the question, “How does a preference for mating with red-eyed males effect eye color distribution in seven generations of fruit flies?” the GEP might ask, “How does the increasing representation of women as authors of science fiction affect the treatment of medicine in the 1960s and beyond?”
By administering mild electric currents to the brain, neuroscientists from Frankfurt University have successfully induced self-awareness in sleeping volunteers. Amazingly, the technique could be used to help people take better control of their dreams. But it’s also a discovery that’s offering critical insights into the very nature of consciousness itself. Gamma waves have been linked to consciousness before — a process called gamma coherence — but this is the first time scientists have used it to coax self-awareness during the dream cycle.
This project explores cli-fi—fiction about climate change—in order to understand and categorize fictional scenarios about the future, and the role of human actors in those scenarios. This project uses digital methods to gather data from Amazon and Google Books, in conjuction with manual classification, in order to understand the current zeitgeist of climate change in fiction. Mainstream discourse suggests that the cli-fi genre aims to humanize the apocalyptic scenarios associated with climate change, and make relatable their potential outcomes:
“The intriguing question is whether different sleep cultures encourage different patterns of spiritual and supernatural experience. That half-aware, drowsy state is a time when dreams commingle with awareness. People are more likely to have experiences of the impossible then.”
“Is it too much to hope that a system of education may some day be devised, which shall give results, in terms of human development, commensurate with the time, money, energy and devotion expended? In such a system of education it may be that mescaline or some other chemical substance may play a part by making it possible for young people to “taste and see” what they have learned about at second hand…in the writings of the religious, or the works of poets, painters and musicians.”
–Aldous Huxley (Horowitz& Palmer, 1999)
B by Vasilikos Lukas (via http://flic.kr/p/mHGHrX )
Hong Kong, ICC 103, This Is My Home by Edas Wong (via http://flic.kr/p/cXPkdU )
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Oleg Abramov on EVA - photo by Angelo Vermeulen by University of Hawai‘i at Manoa (via http://flic.kr/p/fto5fe )
Internet Machine by Ti.mo (via http://flic.kr/p/njcbDN )
Mars on Earth by europeanspaceagency (via http://flic.kr/p/nAPVrN )
In the popular imagination, artists tend to exist either at the pinnacle of fame and luxury or in the depths of penury and obscurity — rarely in the middle, where most of the rest of us toil and dream. They are subject to admiration, envy, resentment and contempt, but it is odd how seldom their efforts are understood as work. Yes, it’s taken for granted that creating is hard, but also that it’s somehow fundamentally unserious. Schoolchildren may be encouraged (at least rhetorically) to pursue their passions and cultivate their talents, but as they grow up, they are warned away from artistic careers. This attitude, always an annoyance, is becoming a danger to the health of creativity itself. It may seem strange to say so, since we live at a time of cultural abundance and flowering amateurism, when the tools of creativity seem to be available to anyone with a laptop. But the elevation of the amateur over the professional trivializes artistic accomplishment and helps to undermine the alre
If there is a single word to describe Google, it is „absolute.” The Britannica defines absolutism as a system in which „the ruling power is not subject to regularized challenge or check by any other agency.” In ordinary affairs, absolutism is a moral attitude in which values and principles are regarded as unchallengeable and universal. There is no relativism, context-dependence, or openness to change.
“The conventional world puts a veil over your eyes, it’s a matter of taking it off during your time as a photographer.”
Bruno Sanguinetti and pals at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have worked out how to generate random numbers on an ordinary smartphone using genuine quantum processes. And they say their new technique can produce random numbers at the rate of 1 megabit per second, more than enough for most security applications.
In some ways, all 2D maps of Earth are interrupted at some point, even if it’s just along the antimeridian at 180°. Interruptions are often in areas of less interest e.g. oceans for a land-focused map.
The antipode of its centre, 45°N, 85°E, is a point in Asia which is approximately the furthest from any ocean.
The stereographic projection places this point at infinity. Thus we can conveniently use Asia’s shoreline as the boundary for the whole map.
Chinese science fiction was born at the turn of the 20th century, when the Qing Dynasty was teetering on the edge of ruin. At the time, Chinese intellectuals were entranced by and curious about Western science and technology, and thought of such knowledge as the only hope for saving the nation from poverty, weakness, and general backwardness. Many works popularizing and speculating about science were published, including works of science fiction. One of the leaders of the failed Hundred Days’ Reform (June 11-September 21, 1898), the renowned scholar Liang Qichao, wrote a science fiction story called “A Chronicle of the Future of New China.” In it, he imagined a Shanghai World’s Fair—a vision that would not become true until 2010.
Photos are lies because art is a lie. Art is artifice. Art makes things as they are not—occasionally in the service of greater truths […] To get a “true” photo, you need to remove artifice. This means removing art. Art’s opposite is bulk surveillance. Drones, CCTV, ultra-fast-ultra-high-res DSLR, our fingers stroking our iPhones or tapping at Google Glass. Omnipresent cameras suction up reality without curation. We’re at the finest time in history to see stars, or anyone, photographed looking like hell.
–Maciej Ceglowski, ‘Our Comrade the Electron’ (2014)
“‘In China, authorities employ an index of the sales of pickled mustard tubers (a food favored by its working class) to track … migrant workers’”
–Cory Dillow, ‘How Waffle House Became A Disaster Indicator For FEMA’ (2013)
Herbert Strässer - Abstract figure, ca. 1954
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Venuz White - Cosmic Love
“If the first wave provided a machine for fighting misery, and the second wave a machine for fighting boredom, what we now need is a machine for fighting anxiety – and this is something we do not yet have. If we see from within anxiety, we haven’t yet performed the “reversal of perspective” as the Situationists called it – seeing from the standpoint of desire instead of power. Today’s main forms of resistance still arise from the struggle against boredom, and, since boredom’s replacement by anxiety, have ceased to be effective.”
Australian military and intelligence personnel involved in controversial US drone targeting operations could face crimes against humanity charges, according to former prime minister Malcolm Fraser. Mr Fraser, Liberal prime minister from 1975–83, said Australians working at the US-run Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap - which reportedly plays a key role in locating drone targets - do not have the same legal protection as their US counterparts. “The greater danger is the use to which Pine Gap is now put,” Mr Fraser told RN Breakfast. “Initially Pine Gap was collecting information - it was, if you like, listening in. "It’s now targeting weapons systems. It’s also very much involved in the targeting of drones. "The purposes for which drones are used are going to be outlawed at some point by international agreement, and the Americans might believe that Americans involved in those programs are given legal cover under the War Powers Resolution passed after 9/11. ”[It] gives totally unlimited power, no geographic limits, no time limits, using any means available or that might become available to an American president to do so. “But that resolution gives no legal cover to Australians operating out of Pine Gap who are complicit in finding, identifying, locating the so-called target.”
Australian military and intelligence personnel involved in controversial US drone targeting operations could face crimes against humanity charges, according to former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
Mr Fraser, Liberal prime minister from 1975–83, said Australians working at the US-run Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap - which reportedly plays a key role in locating drone targets - do not have the same legal protection as their US counterparts.
“The greater danger is the use to which Pine Gap is now put,” Mr Fraser told RN Breakfast.
“Initially Pine Gap was collecting information - it was, if you like, listening in.
"It’s now targeting weapons systems. It’s also very much involved in the targeting of drones.
"The purposes for which drones are used are going to be outlawed at some point by international agreement, and the Americans might believe that Americans involved in those programs are given legal cover under the War Powers Resolution passed after 9/11.
”[It] gives totally unlimited power, no geographic limits, no time limits, using any means available or that might become available to an American president to do so.
“But that resolution gives no legal cover to Australians operating out of Pine Gap who are complicit in finding, identifying, locating the so-called target.””
Dream Machine makers Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville, photographed by Herman Leonard, Paris 1960
“If you think of history as something defined by the laws of physics, and the discovery of gas and oil wealth as a sort of event horizon from which there is no going back … what’s happened is a wormhole stargate mindfuck.”
What’s striking about a lot of art currently coming out of the Middle East, and the Gulf states in particular, is its relative lack of interest in tradition, reverence, continuity – all values that the west foists on other cultures. In her 2012 memoir The Girl Who Fell To Earth, Qatar-born film-maker Sophia Al-Maria, who has collaborated with Al Qadiri in the past, elaborates on her “Gulf futurism” theory: “If you think of history as something defined by the laws of physics, and the discovery of gas and oil wealth as a sort of event horizon from which there is no going back … what’s happened is a wormhole stargate mindfuck.”
The scale and intensity of the warp-speed modernisation programmes in so many Gulf states – their steel-and-glass citadels under baking hot suns, their labour camps full of imported labourers from Asia – are perhaps better chronicled by science fiction, video games and HD entertainment than by more traditional forms of journalism or sociology. “There’s been a generational quantum leap in Kuwait,” says Al Qadiri. “The houses are not made of mud any more, but of concrete. People don’t sleep on the roofs of their houses. There’s AC.
“One would say, “I’d really like to start a business with you one day,” but for a while it was just a way to communicate warmth and trust.”
Telerobotic robot hand by europeanspaceagency (via http://flic.kr/p/naYoQ4 )
*Old people, in big cities, unable to see the sky for the urban glare
Enter the EyeWire project, an online game that recruits volunteers to map out those cellular contours within a mouse’s retina. The game was created and launched in December 2012 by a team led by H. Sebastian Seung, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Players navigate their way through the retina one 4.5-micrometer tissue block at a time, coloring the branches of neurons along the way. Most of the effort gets done in massive online competitions between players vying to map out the most volume. (Watch a video of a player walking through a tissue block here.) By last week, the 120,000 EyeWire players had completed 2.3 million blocks. That may sound like a lot, but it is less than 2% of the retina.
Rhinehart removed the Soylent. In the formula that he and his teammates have settled on, the major food groups are all accounted for: the lipids come from canola oil; the carbohydrates from maltodextrin and oat flour; and the protein from rice. To that, they’ve added fish oil (for omega-3s; vegans can substitute flaxseed oil), and doses of various vitamins and minerals: magnesium, calcium, electrolytes. Rhinehart is reluctant to associate Soylent with any flavor, so for now it just contains a small amount of sucralose, to mask the taste of the vitamins. That seems to fit his belief that Soylent should be a utility. “I think the best technology is the one that disappears,” he said. “Water doesn’t have a lot of taste or flavor, and it’s the world’s most popular beverage.” He hoisted the pitcher of yellowish-beige liquid. “Everything your body needs,” he said. “Do you want to try some?”
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