An Eschatological Taxonomy

futurism, end of the world, extinction, apocophillia, collapse, disaster, taxonomy

What do we mean when we talk about the “end of the world?” It’s a term that get thrown around a bit too often among a variety of futurist-types, whether talking about global warming, nanofabrication, or non-friendly artificial intelligence. “Existential risks” is the lingo-du jour, referring to the broad panoply of processes, technologies and events that put our existence at risk. But, still, what does that mean? The destruction of the Earth? The end of humankind? A “Mad Max” world of leather-clad warriors, feral kids, and armed fashion models? All are frightening and horrific, but some are moreso than others. How do we tell them apart?

http://www.openthefuture.com/2006/12/an_eschatological_taxonomy.html

The Challenge of Photography

photography, time, ostranenie, defamiliarization, art, perception

Photography does not lend itself to defamiliarization easily, thus making it the unlikeliest of all art forms. As it happens, the challenge plays out on both sides of the process, for photographers and viewers. What happened to be in front of a camera lens can be found depicted in the resulting photograph. However, given the process itself and its myriad of choices, the photograph is little more than a manipulated two-dimensional representation of what previously existed in four dimensions (three spatial, one – often forgotten – time).

http://cphmag.com/challenge/

How far should we trust scientific models?

models, science, economics, climate, modelling, simulation

One way to appreciate the virtues of climate models is to compare them with a field where mirages are pretty much the standard product: economics. The computer models that economists operate have to use equations that represent human behaviour, among other things, and by common consent, they do it amazingly badly. Climate modellers, all using the same agreed equations from physics, are reluctant to consider economic models as models at all. Economists, it seems, can just decide to use whatever equations they prefer.

http://aeon.co/magazine/world-views/should-we-trust-scientific-models-to-tell-us-what-to-do/

The challenge of crafting policy for DIY brain stimulation

tDCS, brain stimulation, neurology, ethics, DIY.pubmed

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a simple means of brain stimulation, possesses a trifecta of appealing features: it is relatively safe, relatively inexpensive and relatively effective. It is also relatively easy to obtain a device and the do-it-yourself (DIY) community has become galvanised by reports that tDCS can be used as an all-purpose cognitive enhancer. We provide practical recommendations designed to guide balanced discourse, propagate norms of safe use and stimulate dialogue between the DIY community and regulatory authorities. We call on all stakeholders-regulators, scientists and the DIY community-to share in crafting policy proposals that ensure public safety while supporting DIY innovation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23733050

DIY scientists should not trade creativity for funding

DIY, DIYBio, research, science, industry, academia, non-market-forces

In contrast to academia or industry where knowledge and the market are the main driving forces, DIY biologists’ motivations are broad – entrepreneurs are looking for low-cost and open technologies, artists for new sources of inspiration and materials, scientists for a laid-back creative environment and enthusiasts simply for accessible instrumentation and expertise to satisfy their curiosity. The latter are given an opportunity that few traditional institutions provide, making biological research accessible to the lay public. Even though the mission of DIYbio communities is hard to define without a case-by-case analysis, their potential to benefit society should not be in doubt.

https://theconversation.com/diy-scientists-should-not-trade-creativity-for-funding–21143

What costs more than space exploration? Astrology.

costsmorethanspace:

What costs more than space exploration? Astrology.

According to research done by Telefono Antiplagio, described by the TelegraphAndas “an Italian voluntary service that helps the victims of con artists,” and the European Consumer Organisation, Italian citizens spent a total of €6 billion on magic and occult services—primarily astrology—in 2010.

As reported by Space News, the budget for the Italian Space Agency in 2010 was about €700 million. That sum included the €385 million Italy contributed to the European Space Agency that year for all kinds of activities, including the training of Italian astronauts Luca Parmitano, Samantha Cristoforetti, and Paolo Nespoli. A large part of the remaining funding went to development of the Vega launch vehicle.

Many thanks to reader  Mark Booth, who suggested the astrology aspect and provided a good source.

(Photo: “Personification of Astrology” by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, and official portrait of Luca Parmitano.)

A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Doge. Wow.

much lingusit, very grmmer, wow, doge, memes, grammar, second generation internet language

The second factor that goes into doge is the general principle of internet language these days that the more overwhelmed with emotions you are, the less sensical your sentence structure gets, which I’ve described elsewhere as “stylized verbal incoherence mirroring emotional incoherence” and which leads us to expressions like “feels,” “I can’t even/I’ve lost the ability to can,” and “because reasons.” Contrast this with first-generation internet language, demonstrated by LOLcat or 1337speak, and in general characterized by abbreviations containing numbers and single letters, often in caps (C U L8R), smilies containing noses, and words containing deliberate misspellings. We’ve now moved on: broadly speaking, second-generation internet language plays with grammar instead of spelling. If you’re a doomsayer, the innovative syntax is one more thing to throw up your hands about, but compared to a decade or two ago, the spelling has gotten shockingly conventional.

http://the-toast.net/2014/02/06/linguist-explains-grammar-doge-wow/

ICE/ISEE–3 to return to an Earth no longer capable of speaking to it

space, spacecraft, ICE, ISSE-3, 1970s, technology, obsolesence, protocols, radio, Deep Space Network

Communication involves speaking, listening and understanding what we hear. One of the main technical challenges the ISEE-3/ICE project has faced is determining whether we can speak, listen, and understand the spacecraft and whether the spacecraft can do the same for us. Several months of digging through old technical documents has led a group of NASA engineers to believe they will indeed be able to understand the stream of data coming from the spacecraft. NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) can listen to the spacecraft, a test in 2008 proved that it was possible to pick up the transmitter carrier signal, but can we speak to the spacecraft? Can we tell the spacecraft to turn back on its thrusters and science instruments after decades of silence and perform the intricate ballet needed to send it back to where it can again monitor the Sun? The answer to that question appears to be no.

http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2014/02070836-isee–3.html

Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods

Lebbeus Woods, architecture, radical reconstruction, architecture fiction

Lebbeus Woods is one of the first architects I knew by name – not Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe, but Lebbeus Woods – and it was Woods’s own technically baroque sketches and models, of buildings that could very well be machines (and vice versa), that gave me an early glimpse of what architecture could really be about. Woods’s work is the exclamation point at the end of a sentence proclaiming that the architectural imagination, freed from constraints of finance and buildability, should be uncompromising, always. One should imagine entirely new structures, spaces without walls, radically reconstructing the outermost possibilities of the built environment. If need be, we should re-think the very planet we stand on.

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com.au/2007/10/without-walls-interview-with-lebbeus.html

Seeing as a Service

changeist, AR, augmentation, perception, place, google, enclosure

We know that applications such as Google Maps, Google Earth and StreetView already acquiesce to regulations that require obscuration of government installations, private companies’ facilities in some cases, some brands, and private citizens faces and number plates—even as it works hard to decipher items like house numbers. In other words, technology is used to differentiate what we can see and not see, depending on the legal or ethical (or otherwise) standards of a particular place. For the most part, Google Maps, Google Earth and StreetView are forms of augmented reality. They digitally render reality with forms of markup, of contextual data, which adds to our perception of places. Except in the cases of blur, pixelation and, it could be argued, accidental presentation of various kinds of render ghosts—people and things only partly captured or partly presented, artifacts of digital accident or persistent memory. Some kind of determination is made that there are things present in reality that we can’t or shouldn’t see.

https://medium.com/futures-exchange/403771297f5f

Looking the Future in the Eyes

changeist, glass, google glass, mediation, AR, advertising, augmentation, scott smith

More completely, they’re all mostly addressing their headgear with a sunny “OK Glass.” We are in the middle of a strange five-minute demo of Google’s already iconic head-mounted computing device, Glass, and the sensation is not one of empowerment, but of awkward disorientation mixed with racing curiousity. Five minutes, give or take. How to see the future in five minutes? For some, it’s trying to find pizza or barbecue. For others, it’s attempting to video someone else. For most, it’s a slightly zombifying experience, turning slowly, staring just above the horizon, or squinting at a clock floating in front of one eye. Some are talking to their Glass, giving it short commands. Others, like me, are finding the noise level of 50-odd people all muttering to the metal on their heads falling short of the promise, the magic.

https://medium.com/weird-future/de38d5a136ac

On the Difference between Binary Prediction and True Exposure with Implications for Forecasting Tournaments and Decision Making

Taleb, Tetlock, prediction, exposure, decision theory, probability, Predictions, Risk, Decision, Jud

There are serious differences between predictions, bets, and exposures that have a yes/no type of payoff, the “binaries”, and those that have varying payoffs, which we call the “vanilla”. Real world exposures tend to belong to the vanilla category, and are poorly captured by binaries. Vanilla exposures are sensitive to Black Swan effects, model errors, and prediction problems, while the binaries are largely immune to them. The binaries are mathematically tractable, while the vanilla are much less so. Hedging vanilla exposures with binary bets can be disastrous – and because of the human tendency to engage in attribute substitution when confronted by difficult questions, decision-makers and researchers often confuse the vanilla for the binary.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2284964

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and…

“I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say“look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says“I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is… I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

Richard P. Feynman

The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every…

“The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.”

The surprising psychology of how sticking to plans actually hinders success and happiness (viaexplore-blog)

Flipping the corruption myth

corruption, finance, banking, capital, tax havens, world bank, tax avoidance

According to the World Bank, corruption in the form of bribery and theft by government officials, the main target of the UN Convention, costs developing countries between $20bn and $40bn each year. That’s a lot of money. But it’s an extremely small proportion - only about 3 percent - of the total illicit flows that leak out of public coffers. Tax avoidance, on the other hand, accounts for more than $900bn each year, money that multinational corporations steal from developing countries through practices such as trade mispricing. This enormous outflow of wealth is facilitated by a shadowy financial system that includes tax havens, paper companies, anonymous accounts, and fake foundations, with the City of London at the very heart of it. Over 30 percent of global foreign direct investment is booked through tax havens, which now collectively hide one-sixth of the world’s total private wealth. This is a massive - indeed, fundamental - cause of poverty in the developing world, yet it does not register in the mainstream definition of corruption, absent from the UN Convention, and rarely, if ever, appears on the agenda of international development organisations.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/flipping-corruption-myth–201412094213280135.html

The drug revolution that no one can stop

psychedelics, experimentation, drugs, drug policy, prohibition, medium

Many of those who design drugs do so merely to push the boundaries: these “psychonauts” as they are sometimes known, are early adopters of new drugs. Some share their knowledge freely and collaboratively; some are intensely geeky; some are pretentious and elitist chemical grandstanders, eager to be the first to try and document any new drug. Many psychonauts are extremely cautious, and fastidious in dosing and documenting a drug’s effects. Others still are reckless risk-takers—people who will try anything for a kick. One user I spoke to enjoyed his experiences with mushrooms so much that he began to seek out all the new hallucinogens he could find. He is a passionate advocate for psychedelics: “In life, you’re battling through the undergrowth and every so often it’s good to climb a tall tree to get your bearings. This is what psychedelics do for me.”

https://medium.com/matter/19f753fb15e0

How Music Hijacks Our Perception of Time

time, perception, music, neurophysiology

The human brain, we have learned, adjusts and recalibrates temporal perception. Our ability to encode and decode sequential information, to integrate and segregate simultaneous signals, is fundamental to human survival. It allows us to find our place in, and navigate, our physical world. But music also demonstrates that time perception is inherently subjective—and an integral part of our lives. “For the time element in music is single,” wrote Thomas Mann in his novel, The Magic Mountain. “Into a section of mortal time music pours itself, thereby inexpressibly enhancing and ennobling what it fills.”

http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/how-music-hijacks-our-perception-of-time

The Quantum Mechanics of Fate

retrocausality, time, past, presetn, future, QM, physics, spacetime, arrow of time

As with so much else in quantum mechanics, this concept of retrocausality is limited in scope. Only in certain circumstances can we see the future influence the past. Although individual particle processes can move backward or forward in time, the universe as a whole is skewed in the forward direction, because its past endpoint was highly ordered, and its future endpoint is highly disordered. Our mortality is this asymmetry in microcosm.

http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/the-quantum-mechanics-of-fate

mycophone_emergence

mycophone, radio mycelium, myceliu, fungus, radio, sythnesis

Mycophone_emergence is an invitation for you to become the explorer of the force of technology, to enter the realm where biological and non biological are no longer anything else but a type of material that technology as dynamic force deals with and manipulates through the hands of human beings. By opening the Mycophone_emergence, a ‘biohacked’ music box, you can explore a new kind of biotech organism that makes sounds like many biological organisms do and if you pet it on its hairy mycelia fur it’s voice changes, it could be said that it starts to purr. As any other biological being it needs maintenance to exist and care to live to its highest potential.

http://mycophone.wordpress.com/mycophone_emergence/

Goodbye, Cameras

photography, technology, networked, metadata, perception, analogue, digital

In the same way that the transition from film to digital is now taken for granted, the shift from cameras to networked devices with lenses should be obvious. While we’ve long obsessed over the size of the film and image sensors, today we mainly view photos on networked screens—often tiny ones, regardless of how the image was captured—and networked photography provides access to forms of data that go beyond pixels. This information, like location, weather, or even radiation levels, can transform an otherwise innocuous photo of an empty field near Fukushima into an entirely different object. If you begin considering emerging self-metrics that measure, for example, your routes through cities, fitness level, social status, and state of mind (think Foursquare, Nike+, Facebook, and Twitter), you realize that there is a compelling universe of information waiting to be pinned to the back of each image. Once you start thinking of a photograph in those holistic terms, the data quality of stand-alone cameras, no matter how vast their bounty of pixels, seems strangely impoverished. They no longer capture the whole picture.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/12/goodbye-cameras.html

Is our tech making the world too complex?

Samuel Arbesman, technology, complexity, interconnectedness, algorithm, complication, machine ecolog

For centuries, humans have been creating ever-more complicated systems, from the machines we live with to the informational systems and laws that keep our global civilisation stitched together. Technology continues its fantastic pace of accelerating complexity — offering efficiencies and benefits that previous generations could not have imagined — but with this increasing sophistication and interconnectedness come complicated and messy effects that we can’t always anticipate. It’s one thing to recognise that technology continues to grow more complex, making the task of the experts who build and maintain our systems more complicated still, but it’s quite another to recognise that many of these systems are actually no longer completely understandable. We now live in a world filled with incomprehensible glitches and bugs. When we find a bug in a video game, it’s intriguing, but when we are surprised by the very infrastructure of our society, that should give us pause.

http://aeon.co/magazine/world-views/is-technology-making-the-world-too-complex/