Posts tagged 2018

An AI Lie Detector Is Going to Start Questioning Travelers in the EU

EU, borders, ML, AI, EC, migration, 2018

In Hungary, Latvia, and Greece, travelers will be given an automated lie-detection test—by an animated AI border agent. The system, called iBorderCtrl, is part of a six-month pilot led by the Hungarian National Police at four different border crossing points. “We’re employing existing and proven technologies—as well as novel ones—to empower border agents to increase the accuracy and efficiency of border checks,” project coordinator George Boultadakis of European Dynamics in Luxembourg told the European Commission. “iBorderCtrl’s system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.”

via https://gizmodo.com/an-ai-lie-detector-is-going-to-start-questioning-travel–1830126881

MDMA Makes Octopuses Want to Mingle, Too

MDMA, octopus, empathy, 2018, entactogen, cephalopods, Edsinger

Eric Edsinger is an octopus researcher at the University of Chicago who recently helped sequence the genome of Octopus bimaculoides—the California two-spot octopus. Like most octopuses, this color-changing cephalopod is asocial, meaning it likes to be alone most of the time, unless it’s trying to mate. But when given MDMA, a drug well known for boosting emotional empathy and prosocial behavior in humans (i.e. making you really, really want to fraternize), these octopuses also seemed to want to hang out with each other, even if they weren’t trying to find a mate.

via http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2018/07/26/octopuses-mdma-molly-social/

Russian trolls ‘spreading discord’ over vaccine safety

news, politics, antivax, disinfo, disinformation, Russia, USA, trolls, vaccines, herd-immunity, 2018

Bots and Russian trolls spread misinformation about vaccines on Twitter to sow division and distribute malicious content before and during the American presidential election, according to a new study. Scientists at George Washington University, in Washington DC, made the discovery while trying to improve social media communications for public health workers, researchers said. Instead, they found trolls and bots skewing online debate and upending consensus about vaccine safety. The study discovered several accounts, now known to belong to the same Russian trolls who interfered in the US election, as well as marketing and malware bots, tweeting about vaccines. Russian trolls played both sides, the researchers said, tweeting pro- and anti-vaccine content in a politically charged context. “These trolls seem to be using vaccination as a wedge issue, promoting discord in American society,” Mark Dredze, a team member and professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins, which was also involved in the study, said.

via https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/23/russian-trolls-spread-vaccine-misinformation-on-twitter

The Billionaire Yogi Behind Modi’s Rise

NYT, Ramdev, Modi, BJP, India, power, spirituality, nationalism, corruption, religion, 2018

Ramdev has been compared to Billy Graham, the Southern Baptist firebrand who advised several American presidents and energized the Christian right. The parallel makes some sense: Ramdev has been a prominent voice on the Hindu right, and his tacit endorsement during the landmark 2014 campaign helped bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power. He appeared alongside Modi on several occasions, singing the leader’s praises and urging Indians to turn out for him. Ramdev has called Modi “a close friend,” and the prime minister publicly lauds Patanjali’s array of ayurvedic products — medicines, cosmetics and foodstuffs. Although Modi campaigned heavily on promises to reform India’s economy and fight corruption, there were frequent dog whistles to the Hindu nationalist base, some of them coordinated with Ramdev. A month before Modi’s landslide victory, a trust controlled by Ramdev released a video in which senior leaders of Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.), including the current ministers of foreign affairs, internal security, finance and transportation, appeared alongside him with a signed document setting out nine pledges. These included the protection of cows — animals held sacred in Hinduism — and a broad call for Hindu nationalist reforms of the government, the courts, cultural institutions and education. After Modi won, Ramdev claimed to have “prepared the ground for the big political changes that occurred.”

via https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/26/magazine/the-billionaire-yogi-behind-modis-rise.html

Flying Blind into the Anthropocene

Anthropocene, venkat, extreme-weather, instrument, instrumentation, flying-blind, environment, 2018

Through a mix of design and accident, we’ve created a novel environment that is at once strongly shaped by human behaviors and highly opaque to normal human sensory modalities. But we haven’t instrumented this environment well enough to make up for our sensory deficits. Worse, we seem to collectively lack the instrument rating to fly this civilizational airplane. So we are flying blind into the anthropocene, without the appropriate instrument rating, on a wing and a prayer.

via https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2018/08/23/flying-blind-into-the-anthropocene/

Everything you need to know about Europe’s new copyright directive

EU, Europe, copyright, internet, linx-tax, censorship, copyfight, 2018, upload-filter

Yesterday, the European Parliament approved amendments to the controversial Copyright Directive, a piece of legislation intended to update copyright for the internet age. Few pieces of legislation have polarized Europe this much in recent years. Critics said the vote heralded the death of the internet, while supporters congratulated themselves for saving the livelihoods of starving artists and giving US tech giants a poke in the eye.

via https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/13/17854158/eu-copyright-directive-article–13–11-internet-censorship-google

Why can’t more than four people have a conversation at once?

qz, psychology, conversation, group-size, 2018, research

There’s evidence that this four-person limit on conversations has been in place for about as long as humans have been having chatting with one another. Shakespeare rarely allowed more than four speaking characters in any scene; ensemble films rarely have more than four actors interacting at once. But why do we max out at four?

via https://qz.com/work/1388086/why-cant-more-than-four-people-have-a-conversation-at-once/

Legal Crisis or Trust in Automation?

law, AI, ML, domain-knowledge, decision-making, automation, 2018

Some of these skilled lawyers did question whether their profession could ever entirely trust automation to make skilled legal decisions. For a small number, they suggested they would be sticking to “reliable” manual processes for the immediate future. However, most of the participants stressed that high-volume and low-risk contracts took up too much of their time, and felt it was incumbent on lawyers to automate work when, and where, possible. For them, the study was also a simple, practical demonstration of a not-so-scary AI future. However, lawyers also stressed that undue weight should not be put on legal AI alone. One participant, Justin Brown, stressed that humans must use new technology alongside their lawyerly instincts. He says: “Either working alone is inferior to the combination of both.”

via https://hackernoon.com/20-top-lawyers-were-beaten-by-legal-ai-here-are-their-surprising-responses–5dafdf25554d

Hayao Miyazaki’s Cursed Worlds

Miyazaki, anime, Japan, Mononoke, Ghibli, cursed, animism, 1997, 2018

At its most fundamental level the movie asks: Can we live ethically in a cursed world? And if so, how? Princess Mononoke offers two related possible solutions. The first is simply to “Live!” (Ikiro!), the catchphrase emblazoned on the movie posters and uttered by the movie’s protagonist, Ashitaka, to the desperate wolf princess San as she struggles to deal with her fear and resentment of humanity. In context, it tells us we cannot give up, no matter what, a message that Miyazaki felt imperative in the emotionally apathetic landscape of nineties Japan. The second is “to see with eyes unclouded”—a challenge, as the movie presents both bloodthirsty beast attacks and relentless human industrialization, and asks us to observe all sides with clarity and objectivity.

via https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/10/22/hayao-miyazakis-cursed-worlds/#.W9d-Z_kVKTA.twitter

“We spent an entire Saturday choreographing [this] one shot,” said creator and executive producer David Holstein. “We brought…

behind the scenes, kidding, Michel Gondry, filmmaking, production, David Holstein, 2018

video link

“We spent an entire Saturday choreographing [this] one shot,” said creator and executive producer David Holstein. “We brought it down from three minutes to a minute and 42 seconds. It involved 50 crew members, a special built set with walls that flipped, and it’s just this continuous shot of a woman over five years going from drug addict to better person.”

https://www.indiewire.com/2018/09/kidding-jim-carrey-michel-gondry-behind-the-scenes-1202007830/

“A plastic washing-up bottle that is at least 47 years old has been found washed up on a beach in the UK with its lettering and…

plastic, ocean plastics, UK, pollution, history, plastic bottle, 2018

“A plastic washing-up bottle that is at least 47 years old has been found washed up on a beach in the UK with its lettering and messaging still clear, prompting warnings about the enduring problem of plastic waste.“

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/plastic-bottle-washes-up-looking-almost-new-after-nearly-50-years-at-sea

I’m on the moderation team of a different academically-focused subreddit, and we have similar policies. Our subreddit is large…

academia, reddit, moderation, hate speech, free speech, trolls, 2018, metafilter, civil discourse

I’m on the moderation team of a different academically-focused subreddit, and we have similar policies. Our subreddit is large and doesn’t attract nearly as much Nazi propoganda, but we do get plenty of people who stubbornly refuse to engage with facts - sometimes because they’re replaced facts with racist or sexist prejudices, or even alt-right conspiracy theories. We often ban those ones. We no longer even wait until they’re real trouble on our subreddit; we’ll look at their user history and ban them based on past comments elsewhere.

I used to feel uncomfortable with this. I value free debate and inquiry highly, and it seemed contrary to it. But they aren’t interested in free debate or inquiry; on an academic subreddit, they don’t care what can actually be supported with facts and argument so long as it disagrees with their personal prejudices or political beliefs. All they do is drag the level of discussion down. And allowing them to post their bullshit just lends credibility to their views, because they’re being debated on an academic forum.


I’m a lot less uncomfortable with it now.

Kutsuwamushi

Russian Special Forces Are Turning to Paganism, Church Warns

church, state, Russia, paganism, military, sport, russian-orthodox, religion, 2018

Russia’s athletes and military personnel are increasingly turning to ancient pagan beliefs, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has warned. The Orthodox church, a strong conservative force closely allied to the Kremlin, has expanded its presence in the Russian military with specially trained priests who are attached to individual units. The patriarch’s words are the latest volley in the church’s long battle against paganism, a tribal pre-Orthodox belief system.

via https://themoscowtimes.com/news/Russian-Special-Forces-Are-Turning-to-Paganism-Church-Warns–61729

First helicopter drops of cane toad sausages prompt design tweakStinky sausages made of cane toad flesh have been scattered from…

cane-toad, sausages, Australia, environment, management, invasive-species, 2018, taste-aversion

First helicopter drops of cane toad sausages prompt design tweak

Stinky sausages made of cane toad flesh have been scattered from helicopters in a wide-scale trial that researchers hope will give native animals a fighting chance. The sausages were air-dropped across a remote Kimberley cattle station just ahead of the cane toad frontline. They were developed as part of a taste aversion program to try to prevent native species like quolls from being killed by the toxic toads.

via http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-16/toad-sausages-dropped-from-helicopters/9857520

Antarctica loses three trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years

ocean, Anthropocene, Antarctica, ice, sea-level-rise, climate, climate-change, 2018, 1992

Glaciologists usually talk of three distinct regions because they behave slightly differently from each other. In West Antarctica, which is dominated by those marine-terminating glaciers, the assessed losses have climbed from 53 billion to 159 billion tonnes per year over the full period from 1992 to 2017. On the Antarctic Peninsula, the finger of land that points up to South America, the losses have risen from seven billion to 33 billion tonnes annually. This is largely, say scientists, because the floating ice platforms sitting in front of some glaciers have collapsed, allowing the ice behind to flow faster. East Antarctica, the greater part of the continent, is the only region to have shown some growth. Much of this region essentially sits out of the ocean and collects its snows over time and is not subject to the same melting forces seen elsewhere. But the gains are likely quite small, running at about five billion tonnes per year. And the Imbie team stresses that the growth cannot counterbalance what is happening in the West and on the Peninsula. Indeed, it is probable that an unusually big dump of snow in the East just before the last assessment in 2012 made Antarctica as a whole look less negative than the reality. Globally, sea levels are rising by about 3mm a year. This figure is driven by several factors, including the expansion of the oceans as they warm. But what is clear from the latest Imbie assessment is that Antarctica is becoming a significant player. “A three-fold increase now puts Antarctica in the frame as one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise,” said Prof Shepherd, who is affiliated to Leeds University, UK. “The last time we looked at the polar ice sheets, Greenland was the dominant contributor. That’s no longer the case.” In total, Antarctica has shed some 2.7 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, corresponding to an increase in global sea level of more than 7.5mm.

via https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment–44470208

What Is Plant-Thinking?: Botany’s Copernican Revolution

botany, plant-thinking, Michael-Marder, philosophy, plants, LARB, 2018

The intelligence of plants is not merely a shadow of human knowing, and their behavior is not a rudimentary form of human conduct. After all, unlike animal and humans, for whom behavior is most often associated with physical movement, plants behave by changing their states, both morphologically and physiologically. An honest approach to the capacities of plants thus requires a simultaneous acknowledgement of the similarities and differences between them and other living beings. In scientific circles, there is certainly no consensus on the implications of new research data drawn from the behavior of plant cells, tissues, and communities. On the one hand, the opponents of the Copernican Revolution in botany claim that the data do nothing but exemplify what has been known all along about plant plasticity and adaptability. This is the position expressed in the open letter to the journal Trends in Plant Science, signed in 2007 by 36 plant scientists who deemed the extrapolations of plant neurobiology “questionable.” On the other hand, we have the investigations of kin recognition in plants by Richard Karban and Kaori Shiojiri; of plant intelligence by Anthony Trewavas; of plant bioacoustics by Stefano Mancuso and Monica Gagliano; of the sensitivity of root apices as brain-like “command centers” by František Baluška and Dieter Volkmann; of plant learning and communication by Ariel Novoplansky; and of plant senses by Daniel Chamowitz, among many others. Their peer-reviewed research findings no longer fit within the scientific framework where plants are studied as objects, rather than living organisms. Leaving aside the provocative analogies they suggest between plants and animals, doesn’t the drastic change in approach (from plants as objects to plants as subjects) amount to a veritable Copernican Revolution, or Kuhnian paradigm shift, in botany?

via https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/what-is-plant-thinking-botanys-copernican-revolution/#!

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

climate, diet, environment, vegan, Agriculture, deforestation, meat, dairy, food, 2018

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet. The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife. The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.

via https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

Google Removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Clause From Its Code of Conduct

google, alphabet, code-of-conduct, dont-be-evil, evil, Corporatism, 2018

Google’s unofficial motto has long been the simple phrase “don’t be evil.” But that’s over, according to the code of conduct that Google distributes to its employees. The phrase was removed sometime in late April or early May, archives hosted by the Wayback Machine show. “Don’t be evil” has been part of the company’s corporate code of conduct since 2000. When Google was reorganized under a new parent company, Alphabet, in 2015, Alphabet assumed a slightly adjusted version of the motto, “do the right thing.” However, Google retained its original “don’t be evil” language until the past several weeks. The phrase has been deeply incorporated into Google’s company culture—so much so that a version of the phrase has served as the wifi password on the shuttles that Google uses to ferry its employees to its Mountain View headquarters, sources told Gizmodo.

via https://gizmodo.com/google-removes-nearly-all-mentions-of-dont-be-evil-from–1826153393

Chinese filmmaker stuns Cannes Film Festival with documentary revealing horrors of Mao’s gulags Clocking in at more than eight…

film, Wang-Bing, dead-souls, china, cannes, Mao, re-education, 1957, 2018

Chinese filmmaker stuns Cannes Film Festival with documentary revealing horrors of Mao’s gulags


Clocking in at more than eight hours, Wang Bing’s latest outing, Dead Souls, is probably one of the longest films to have taken a bow at the Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered on Wednesday, in two parts, with an hour-long intermission in between. The work’s length is, in a way, a reflection of Wang’s own odyssey in completing the documentary. Based on interviews and footage he gathered over 13 years, Dead Souls recon­structs the pain and suffering of those condemned to “re-education” – a euphemism for hard labour – in a gulag in northwestern China at the start of Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign, in 1957.

via http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/arts-music/article/2145299/chinese-filmmaker-stuns-cannes-film-festival

‘Transparency’ Is the Mother of Fake News

NYT, fake-news, transparency, free-speech, politics, oppression, 2018

At first glance the bias in favor of unlimited speech and information seems perfectly reasonable and even unassailable. What arguments could be brought against it? An answer to that question has been offered in recent years by a small, but growing, number of critics. In a 2009 essay in The New Republic titled “Against Transparency,” the law professor Lawrence Lessig (known as an apostle of openness), asked, as I just have, “How could anyone be against transparency?” Lessig responds to his own question by quoting a trio of authors who in their book “Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency” observe that by itself information doesn’t do anything; its effects depend on the motives of those who make use of it, and raw information (that is, data) cannot distinguish between benign and malign appropriations of itself. Misunderstanding and manipulation are always more than possible, and there is no way to assure that “new information is used to further public objectives.” Another way to put this is to say that information, data and the unbounded flow of more and more speech can be politicized — it can, that is, be woven into a narrative that constricts rather than expands the area of free, rational choice. When that happens — and it will happen often — transparency and the unbounded flow of speech become instruments in the production of the very inequalities (economic, political, educational) that the gospel of openness promises to remove. And the more this gospel is preached and believed, the more that the answer to everything is assumed to be data uncorrupted by interests and motives, the easier it will be for interest and motives to operate under transparency’s cover.

via https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/07/opinion/transparency-fake-news.html

Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers

literature, review, interview, LARB, Richard-Powers, overstory, trees, HPI, nature, 2018

One of our great errors in thinking — another aspect of that unfortunate idea of human exceptionalism that makes it so hard for us to be at home in this world — is that the natural and the man-made are distinct entities. Like all other parts of the branching experiment, we make and are made by the living environment, and we have done so since before we were us. Without the forests of the Santa Cruz mountains, there would be no Silicon Valley. But Silicon Valley will make or unmake the forests of the future. No nature story, no account of environmental struggle would be complete without bringing on-stage all the human technologies that are to us what the invention of flowers and nuts and chlorophyll and mycorrhizal networks are to the forest superorganism. Just as the emergence of tree intelligence forever changed the planet, so the emergence of consciousness (which long predated humans) forever changed the nature of evolution. Cultural transmission is orders of magnitude faster than genetic transmission, and digital transmission has accelerated the speed of culture a hundredfold or more. We may soon seem, to our artificial intelligence offspring, as motionless and insentient as trees seem to us. And here we live, trying to make a home between our predecessors and our descendants.

via https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/heres-to-unsuicide-an-interview-with-richard-powers/

What It’s Like to Be a Bot

phenomenology, AI, bots, bats, perception, consciousness, Damien-Williams, 2018

Our notions of what it means to have a mind have too often been governed by assumptions about what it means to be human. But there is no necessary logical connection between the two. There is often an assumption that a digital mind will either be, or aspire to be, like our own. We can see this at play in artificial beings from Pinocchio to the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL to Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But a machine mind won’t be a human-like mind — at least not precisely, and not intentionally. Machines are developing a separate kind of interaction and interrelation with the world, which means they will develop new and different kinds of minds, minds to which human beings cannot have direct access. A human being will never know exactly what it’s like to be a bot, because we do not inhabit their modes of interaction.

via http://reallifemag.com/what-its-like-to-be-a-bot/

Beach Sloth reviews Farmers Manual

music, review, beach sloth, farmersmanual, farmers manual, extreme computer music, committed to the most abnormal of sonic explorations, noise, electronics, GSM, glitch, 2003, 2012, 2001, 2018

Farmers Manual – Mobile FM (AM)

“Done with the utmost of improvised, joyous spirit the two pieces seem to be restrained by absolutely nothing. This total freedom results in something that becomes completely and deeply compelling, a true joy to behold.”

“Employing a greater deal of noise and chaos, Farmers Manual ratchet up the tension to unfathomable degrees while layers veer right into pure cacophony. Distortion layers on top of itself, resulting in an ornate series of patterns. By the latter half Farmers Manual only lets the distortion and noise take over, with any trace of humanity fully scrubbed out.”

http://www.beachsloth.com/farmers-manual-mobile-fm-am.html

Farmers Manual – Sonderzeichenmassaker

“Always ready for a spot of fun, Farmers Manual ensures that they destroy everything in their path. The tension they employ throughout results in a surprisingly great deal of joy, the way they allow everything to burst forth in a tremendous almost flowering of sound. Very much in the noise realm of things, they make sure that the song’s unpredictability allows for a few jump scares, while they increase the volume into uncomfortable degrees. Outright amazing, they prove exactly how to allow sound to completely lose it while documenting the results.“

“Something particularly unique to Farmers Manual, they never make a grand entrance. Their emphasis relies on a steady patience, one that allows a stream of consciousness approach to songwriting, or textural exploration. It feels quite natural what they do, allowing their sound to speak for itself. Over the course of the piece this proves to be true for they take a light touch the sound, only gently nudging it when absolutely necessary. For the most part, it is the sound that does most of the work, growing with an unrealized kind of potential. About halfway through the piece the pulsing rhythm starts to truly assert itself, allowing for a great deal of madness right on the periphery to gain considerable clout. When the piece becomes unruly, it truly becomes all-encompassing, offering no escape from the onslaught.”

http://www.beachsloth.com/farmers-manual-sonderzeichenmassaker.html

Farmers Manual – Stat = Conjecture Pirayune Snart

“Is Farmers Manual, after years of relaxing at art exhibits, finally about to become normal? Considering this particular piece’s main description is“farmersmanual dropped some bluish green squares on the floor” the answer is thankfully no. One of the more unique and sorely missed groups of extreme computer musicians, there is something quite intense about what they do. Rhythms are mangled, textures warped, and any discernible reference point to actual genres a mere accident.”

“Jagged little edges and crackles introduce the piece. From there the tiny textures have a near-funk like element to them. Noise emerges until it virtually collapses upon itself.“

“With “Stat = Conjecture Pirayune Snart ” Farmers Manual prove they are the oddity of all oddities, a group that remains committed to the most abnormal of sonic explorations.”

http://www.beachsloth.com/farmers-manual-stat-conjecture-pirayune-snart.html

All the meaningful things Kim Jong-un will eat when he meets with South Korea’s president

korea, menu, gastronomy, diplomacy, food, 2018

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets with his South Korean counterpart this week to talk peace on the peninsula, he’ll also be getting a history lesson in inter-Korean relations as told through gastronomy. As the leaders prepare to meet on April 27 at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Seoul’s presidential Blue House today (April 24) released the menu for the post-summit dinner. The ingredients used represent meaning to those attending the summit, and also honor those who have worked to reunify the Koreas in some way, according to the Blue House

via https://qz.com/1260289/all-the-meaningful-things-kim-jong-un-will-eat-when-he-meets-with-south-koreas-president/

How letting Mother Nature reclaim prime farmland produced results

rewilding, ecology, UK, Knepp, farmland, biodiversity, 2018

Cuckoos, spotted flycatchers, fieldfares, hobbies, woodlarks, skylarks, lapwings, house sparrows, lesser spotted woodpeckers, yellowhammers, woodcock, red kites, sparrowhawks, peregrine falcons, all five types of British owl, the first ravens at Knepp in the past 100 years — the list goes on and on. The speed at which all these species — and many more — have appeared has astonished observers, particularly as our intensively farmed land was, biologically speaking, in dire condition in 2001, at the start of the project. The key to Knepp’s extraordinary success? It’s about surrendering all preconceptions, and simply observing what happens. By contrast, conventional conservation tends to be about targets and control, and often involves micro-managing a habitat for the perceived benefit of several chosen species.

via http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article–5640191/How-letting-Mother-Nature-reclaim-prime-farmland-produced-breathtaking-results.html

Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers

richard-powers, ecology, trees, culture, nature, books, overstory, 2018

One of our great errors in thinking — another aspect of that unfortunate idea of human exceptionalism that makes it so hard for us to be at home in this world — is that the natural and the man-made are distinct entities. Like all other parts of the branching experiment, we make and are made by the living environment, and we have done so since before we were us. Without the forests of the Santa Cruz mountains, there would be no Silicon Valley. But Silicon Valley will make or unmake the forests of the future. No nature story, no account of environmental struggle would be complete without bringing on-stage all the human technologies that are to us what the invention of flowers and nuts and chlorophyll and mycorrhizal networks are to the forest superorganism. Just as the emergence of tree intelligence forever changed the planet, so the emergence of consciousness (which long predated humans) forever changed the nature of evolution. Cultural transmission is orders of magnitude faster than genetic transmission, and digital transmission has accelerated the speed of culture a hundredfold or more. We may soon seem, to our artificial intelligence offspring, as motionless and insentient as trees seem to us. And here we live, trying to make a home between our predecessors and our descendants.

via https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/heres-to-unsuicide-an-interview-with-richard-powers/#!

Ecological awareness just means being aware that things happen on a bewildering variety of scales all at once, and that what…

timothy morton, ecology, ecological awareness, hyperobjects, scale, art, 2018

“Ecological awareness just means being aware that things happen on a bewildering variety of scales all at once, and that what that looks like on one scale is very different on another scale. What looks like a boiling kettle to my human eyes looks very different from an electron’s point of view: suddenly finding that you’ve teleported to a higher orbit isn’t the same as the smooth, chattery-sounding phenomenon we call boiling. And once you become aware of the idea that there are all these extra scales, you begin to notice that some scales are so big or so small (that also includes “long lasting” or “fleeting” too) that all we can mostly do is report and observe—or, if you like, undergo or endure.”

Timothy Morton,Will All Artists Please Come to a White Courtesy Telephone

This Army of AI Robots Will Feed the World

Bloomberg, food, LettuceBot, automation, AI, robotics, Agriculture, 2018

Heraud researched the scourges of agriculture: hypoxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Baltic Sea, the colony collapse of bees, soil degradation, and human health problems from allergies to cancers. “Everything tied back to the blind, rampant, broadcast spraying of chemicals,” Heraud says. He and Redden figured they could teach machines to differentiate between crops and weeds, then eliminate the weeds mechanically or with targeted doses of nontoxic substances. The two first considered hot foam, laser beams, electric currents, and boiling water. They’d market the robot to organic farmers, who spend heavily on chemical-free weeding methods including mechanical tillage, which can be both fuel-intensive and damaging to soil. After months of research, they faced a disappointing truth: There was no way around herbicides. “Turns out zapping weeds with electricity or hot liquid requires far more time and energy than chemicals—and it isn’t guaranteed to work,” Heraud says. Those methods might eliminate the visible part of a weed, but not the root. And pulling weeds with mechanical pincers is a far more time-intensive task for a robot than delivering microsquirts of poison. Their challenge became applying the chemicals with precision.

via https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018–01–11/this-army-of-ai-robots-will-feed-the-world