Thursday, May 30, 2013

Crowdsourcing Redemption

aka Zizek's Charity

redemption, via

"Charity has become a basic constituent of our economy", our cultural capitalism.

It brings the two dimensions together into one and the same thing, so that the very act of consumerism contains its opposite.

Starbucks very blatantly reminds you; it's not what you're buying, but what you're buying into.

First as Tragedy Then as Farce, Slavoj Zizek, 2009
RSA Animate version [flv]

"...the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it."

Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.

Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism, 1891

and now...

Researchers present causal evidence on how markets affect moral values
May 10, 2013

Prof. Dr. Armin Falk from the University of Bonn and Prof. Dr. Nora Szech from the University of Bamberg, both economists, have shown in an experiment that markets erode moral concerns. In comparison to non-market decisions, moral standards are significantly lower if people participate in markets.

[link to the full article to read about how researchers killed lots of rats to support their idea]

Morals and Markets
Armin Falk and Nora Szech
Science 10 May 2013: 
Vol. 340 no. 6133 pp. 707-711 
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231566

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Mulmudi Hemant Kumar, Nanyang Technological University (First Place)

This lush bouquet is actually a false-color image of nanoflowers made from zinc-doped tin oxide. As structures, nanoflowers offer an enormous amount of surface area packed into a very small space, and could be useful in solar cells and batteries.

Castle Ruins Over a Field of Nanotubes
Julien Schweicher, University of California, San Francisco

What looks like the wreckage of an interplanetary war is actually a scanning electron microscope image of a titanium dioxide nanotubular layer, after exposure to a buffered oxide etch solution.

Tetraaniline in Full Bloom
Yue Wang, University of California, Los Angeles (First Place)

Be glad you can't smell this flower. It's made from thin sheets of aniline, a compound that smells like rotten fish. In this false-color image, the aggregated sheets in the upper right corner form a cluster looks like a flower, while other flexible sheets looks more like stems and leaves. These shapes combine high surface area with electrical conductivity, making this material ideal for organic supercapacitors and sensors.

Science as Art: Nanoscale Materials Imitate Everything From Flowers to Frost
Nadia Drake 04.15.13
Images courtesy of the Materials Research Society Science as Art Competition and Mulmudi Hemant Kumar, Nanyang Technological University.

Reverse Engineering

Moore's Law predicts life originated billions of years before Earth
Robert T. Gonzalez, 04.18.13
A new study co-authored by a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health concludes that life originated elsewhere in the Universe around 9.8 billion years ago – roughly five-billion years before the Earth was even formed.

Life Before Earth
NIH geneticist Alexei A. Sharov and theoretical biologist Richard Gordon
(Submitted 28 Mar 2013) [link]

...origin of life can be estimated by examining genetic complexity through the lens of Moore's Law and backtracking to some point of temporal origin.

"Genome complexity reaches zero, which corresponds to just one base pair, at time ca. 9.7 billion years ago... ±2.5 billion years."

Earth is on the order of just 4.5-billion years old. Ipso facto, say the researchers, life originated somewhere besides Earth, evolving not on a geologic time scale, but a cosmic one.

One thing that worries me about this paper is that it makes no effort, as far as I can tell, to distinguish between complexity and progress, an important distinction that many people fail to recognize.

Another issue: the idea that the complexity of life on Earth has increased at the same rate throughout history is highly suspect. little consensus there is on what complexity actually is.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On Crowdsourcing


Ford challenges developers to create efficiency app
Alisa Priddle, March 29, 2013 

[...seems to be more about Ford using its consumers to do 'real-world' research and development, using Apple and Google products which the consumers themselves also pay for, of course...I call that freesearch]

Ford is offering up to $50,000 to developers who deliver hardware or software that helps drivers understand the effect of the elements and driving habits on their fuel economy.

"We need to help customers understand the concept of personal fuel economy, based on their own individualized experiences, and give them tools to see, learn and act upon all the information available to know what to expect, how to improve, and even offer guidance in their shopping process," Farley said.

The announcement follows consumer complaints, class action lawsuits and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigation into the gap between mileage posted on new vehicle stickers and what drivers claim they are getting.

BONUS [see "real-world"]
Ford has said it is working with the EPA and discussing whether the government tests need to be revised to better reflect real-world conditions.

Mimetic Pedagogy

Teachers' gestures boost math learning
March 29, 2013

co-authored by Kimberly Fenn, Michigan State University, assistant professor of psychology

Teachers in the United States tend to use gestures less than teachers in other countries.

Half of the students were shown videos of an instructor teaching math problems using only speech. The others were shown videos of the instructor teaching the same problems using both speech and gestures.

Students who learned from the gesture videos performed better on a test given immediately afterward than those who learned from the speech-only video. Another test was given 24 hours later, and the gesture students actually showed improvement in their performance while the speech-only students did not.

Fenn noted that U.S. students lag behind those in many other Western countries in math and have a particularly hard time mastering equivalence problems in early grades. "So if we can help them grasp this foundational knowledge earlier," she said, "it will help them as they learn algebra and higher levels of mathematics."

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Scientists 'read dreams' using brain scans
Rebecca Morelle, BBC World, 4 April 2013

glow in the dark transparent brain_Kwanghun Chung et al

Brain activity correlated with the images that people saw in their dreams
60% accuracy

The team used MRI scans to monitor three people as they slept.

Just as the volunteers started to fall asleep inside the scanners, they were woken up and asked to recount what they had seen.

Each image mentioned, from bronze statues to keys and ice picks, was noted, no matter how surreal.

This was repeated more than 200 times for each participant.

The researchers used the results to build a database, where they grouped together objects into similar visual categories. For example, hotel, house and building were grouped together as "structures".

The scientists then scanned the volunteers again, but this time, while they were awake and looking at images on a computer screen.

With this, they were able to see the specific patterns of brain activity that correlated with the visual imagery.

Weird Computers

Magnetic Superatoms
Xinxing Zhang, et al. ©2013 American Chemical Society

Slime Computation
On creativity of slime mould
Andrew Adamatzky, Rachel Armstrong, Jeff Jonesa, Yukio-Pegio Gunji
International Journal of General Systems
Volume 42, Issue 5, 2013

"The great appeal of non-traditional computing is that I can connect the un-connectable and link the un-linkable," said Andy Adamatzky, director of the Unconventional Computing Center at the University of the West of England. He's made computers from electrified liquid crystals, chemical goo and colliding particles, but is best known for his work with Physarum, the lowly slime mold.

Amoeba-like creatures that live in decaying logs and leaves, slime molds are, at different points in their lives, single-celled organisms or part of slug-like protoplasmic blobs made from the fusion of millions of individual cells. The latter form is assumed when slime molds search for food. In the process they perform surprisingly complicated feats of navigation and geometric problem-solving.

Slime molds are especially adept at finding solutions to tricky network problems, such as finding efficient designs for Spain's motorways and the Tokyo rail system. Adamatzky and colleagues plan to take this one step further: Their Physarum chip will be "a distributed biomorphic computing device built and operated by slime mold," they wrote in the project description.

"A living network of protoplasmic tubes acts as an active non-linear transducer of information, while templates of tubes coated with conductor act as fast information channels," describe the researchers. "Combined with conventional electronic components in a hybrid chip, Physarum networks will radically improve the performance of digital and analog circuits."

Slime Mold

Crystal Calculations
Computing with Liquid Crystal Fingers: Models of geometric and logical computation
Andrew Adamatzky, Stephen Kitson, Ben De Lacy Costello, Mario Ariosto Matranga, Daniel Younger

For decades, scientists who study strange materials known as complex fluids, which switch easily between different phases of matter, have been fascinated by the extraordinary geometries formed by liquid crystals at different temperatures and pressures.

Those geometries are stored information, and the interaction of crystals a form of computation. By running an electric current through a thin film (above) of liquid crystals, researchers led by Adamatzky were able to perform basic computational math and logic.

Frozen Light
Creation of Long-Term Coherent Optical Memory via Controlled Nonlinear Interactions in Bose-Einstein Condensates
Rui Zhang, Sean R. Garner, Lene Vestergaard Hau 
Department of Physics and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
Physical Review Letters – 4 December 2009 - Volume 103, Issue 23

If quantum computers running on entangled photons are still far-off, there's another, non-quantum possibility for light-based computing. Clouds of ultra-cold atoms, frozen to temperatures just above absolute zero -- the point at which all motion ceases -- might be used to slow and control light, harnessing it inside an optical computer chip.

Computers Made Out of DNA, Slime and Other Strange Stuff
Brandon Keim 04.02.13

Quantum Thought and Quantum Smearing

AKA Superposition

Schwenk Theodor (1962) Sensitive Chaos. Rudolf Steiner Press, London
Gutzwiller, M.C. (1992). Quantum chaos. Sci. Am. 266, 78 - 84

Is Quantum Mechanics Controlling Your Thoughts?
Mark Anderson, Discover Magazine, January 13, 2009
Science's weirdest realm may be responsible for photosynthesis, our sense of smell, and even consciousness itself.

Graham Fleming and his colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley and at Washington University in St. Louis

...photosynthesis [more energy-conversion efficient than anything created by man] appears to derive its ferocious efficiency not from the familiar physical laws that govern the visible world but from the seemingly exotic rules of quantum mechanics, the physics of the subatomic world. Somehow, in every green plant or photosynthetic bacterium, the two disparate realms of physics not only meet but mesh harmoniously. Welcome to the strange new world of quantum biology.

Quantum mechanics holds that any given particle has a chance of being in a whole range of locations and, in a sense, occupies all those places at once. Until a scientist measures the system, a particle exists in its multitude of locations. But at the time of measurement, the particle has to “choose” just a single spot. At that point, quantum physicists say, probability narrows to a single outcome and the wave function “collapses,” sending ripples of certainty through space-time. Imposing certainty on one particle could alter the characteristics of any others it has been connected with, even if those particles are now light-years away. experiments keep finding quan­­tum processes at play in biological systems, says Christopher Altman, a researcher at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in the Netherlands. With the advent of powerful new tools like femtosecond (10-15 second) lasers and nanoscale-precision positioning, life’s quantum dance is finally coming into view.


Hydrogen Atom Orbitals

To unearth the [photosynthesizing] bacteria’s inner workings, the researchers [Fleming et. al.] zapped the connective proteins with multiple ultrafast laser pulses. Over a span of femto­seconds, they followed the light energy through the scaffolding to the cellular reaction centers where energy conversion takes place.

Then came the revelation: Instead of haphazardly moving from one connective channel to the next, as might be seen in classical physics, energy traveled in several directions at the same time. The researchers theorized that only when the energy had reached the end of the series of connections could an efficient pathway retroactively be found. At that point, the quantum process collapsed, and the electrons’ energy followed that single, most effective path.

Electrons moving through a leaf or a green sulfur bacterial bloom are effectively performing a quantum “random walk”—a sort of primitive quantum computation—to seek out the optimum transmission route for the solar energy they carry. “We have shown that this quantum random-walk stuff really exists,” Fleming says.


...just throwing this out there; how many people haven't repeatedly experienced the phenomenon of precognitive dreams? Could your brain really be running quantum smear simulations of every possible reality, and sometimes finding a real good match that pushes itself to dream-awareness enough to remember it upon waking? Because when you think of typical precog-dreams, they actually could have been predicted if given enough time to run lots of possible simulations...time...


Uncovering quantum secret in photosynthesis, 20 Jun 2013

Watch the process of photosynthesis closely enough – at the femto-scale – and it appears there are little packets of energy simultaneously "trying" all of the possible paths to get where they need to go, and then settling on the most efficient.

In an article published in the journal Science, researchers from ICFO- Institute of Photonic Sciences, in collaboration with biochemists from the University of Glasgow, have been able to show for the first time at ambient conditions that the quantum mechanisms of energy transfer make photosynthesis more robust in the face of environmental influences.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

With Wormholes or Without

Searching for the Quantum Origins of Space and Time
Renate Loll, Utrecht University's Institute for Theoretical Physics
Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, May 5, 2010

Renate Loll is interested in spacetime and quantum gravity on the Planck scale. She invents a universe that runs on Planck-scale building blocks. If she designs the universe such that she -disallows- wormholes, it scales up to resemble the familiar, classical world we know. As soon as she allows wormholes, however, that universe simply makes little wormholes everywhere - every available piece of quantum fluctuating spacetime will make a wormhole with itself, and as you feed  the universe more and more spacetime, it just makes more and more a big knot of wormholes all connecting to eachother. The "universe which is allowed to have wormholes" never grows, and every place is just one step from every other, and that creates a universe with a very large number of dimensions.

spacetime with wormholes
(as opposed to without)

That is all.

see her mindwarping wormhole simulation around 45minutes: [video]

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Julian Jaynes’s Software Archaeology

Daniel Dennet, speaking on Julian Jaynes, ~1984

main server,, [link]
[source]Tree MapsGDMAP tool

Now, I take Jaynes to be making a similarly exciting and striking move with regard to consciousness. To put it really somewhat paradoxically  you can’t have consciousness until you have the concept of consciousness. In fact he has a more subtle theory than that, but that’s the basic shape of the move.

These aren’t the only two phenomena, morality and consciousness, that work this way. Another one that Jaynes mentions is history, and at first one thinks. “Here’s another use-mention error!” At one point in the book Jaynes suggests that history was invented or discovered just a few years before Herodotus, and one starts to object that of course there was history long before there were historians, but then one realizes that in a sense Jaynes is right. Is there a history of lions and antelopes? Just as many years have passed for them as for us, and things have happened to them, but it is very different. Their passage of time has not been conditioned by their recognition of the transition, it has not been conditioned and tuned and modulated by any reflective consideration of that very process. So history itself, our having histories, is in part a function of our recognizing that very fact. Other phenomena in this category are obvious: you can’t have baseball before you have the concept of baseball, you can t have money before you have the concept of money.

archaeology software

I have used up as much time as I should use, but I am going to say a few more words. If you want to pursue the interesting idea that consciousness postdates the arrival of a certain set of concepts, then of course you have to have in your conceptual armamentarium the idea that concepts themselves can be preconscious, that concepts do not require consciousness. Many have
held that there is no such thing as the unconscious wielding of concepts, but Jaynes’ account of the origins of consciousness depends on the claim that an elaboration of a conceptual scheme under certain social and environmental pressures was the precondition for the emergence of consciousness as we know it. This is, to my mind, the most important claim that Jaynes makes in his book. As he puts it, “The bee has a concept of the flower,” but not a conscious concept. We
have a very salient theoretical role for something which we might as well call concepts, but if you
don’t like it we can call them schmoncepts, concept-like things that you don’t have to be conscious to have.

For instance, computers have them. They are not conscious—yet—but they have lots of concepts,...


archaeology software

The underlying hardware of the brain is just the same now as it was thousands of years ago (or it may be just the same), but what had to happen was that the environment had to be such as to encourage the development, the emergence, of certain concepts, certain software, which then set in motion some sort of chain reaction. Jaynes is saying that when the right concepts settled into place in the preconscious minds” of our ancestors, there was a sort of explosion. like the explosion in computer science that happens when you invent something like LISP. Suddenly you discover a new logical space. where you get the sorts of different behaviors, the sorts of new powers, the sorts of new problems that we recognize as having the flavor of human consciousness.

Of course, if that is what Jaynes’ theory really is, it is no wonder he has to be bold in his interpretation of the tangible evidence, because this isn't just archaeology he is doing: this is software archaeology, and software doesn't leave much of a fossil record. Software, after all, is just concepts. It is abstract and yet, of course, once it is embodied it has very real effects. So if you want to find a record of major “software” changes in archaeological history, what are you going to have to look at? You are going to have to look at the “printouts,” but they are very indirect. You are going to have to look at texts, and you are going to have to look at the pottery shards and figurines as Jaynes does, because that is the only of course, maybe the traces are just gone, maybe the “fossil record” is simply not good enough. Jaynes’ idea is that for us to be the way we are now, there has to have been a revolution— almost certainly not an organic revolution, but a software revolution—in the organization of our information processing system, and that has to have come after language. That, I think, is an absolutely wonderful idea, and if Jaynes is completely wrong in the details, that is a darn shame,
but something like what he proposes has to be right; and we can start looking around for better modules to put in the place of the modules that he has already given us.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Recombinant Memetics and Narrative Networks

Structural Forces
Macdonald Educational (A Unit For Teachers), published for the Schools Council by MacDonald Educational Ltd., London, 1972-1973

Recombinant Memetics
This one's quite speculative, and it's technically speaking still in the proto-science phase. But it'll only be a matter of time before scientists get a better handle on the human noosphere (the collective body of all human information) and how the proliferation of information within it impacts upon virtually all aspects of human life.

Similar to recombinant DNA (in which different genetic sequences are brought together to create something new), recombinant memetics is the study of how memes (ideas that spread from person to person) can be adjusted and merged with other memes and memeplexes (a cohesive collection of memes, like a religion) for beneficial or ‘socially therapeutic' purposes (such as combating the spread of radical and violent ideologies). This is similar to the idea of 'memetic engineering' — which philosopher Daniel Dennett suggested could be used to maintain cultural health. Or what DARPA is currently doing via their ‘narrative control' program.
11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About, George Dvorsky 27 Feb2013

The Narrative of a Japanese by Joseph Heco [link]

How to Tell a Story
Mark Twain once tried to distinguish between the storyteller’s art and tales that a machine could generate:
To string incongruities and absurdities together in a wandering and sometimes purposeless way, and seem innocently unaware that they are absurdities, is the basis of the American art, if my position is correct. Another feature is the slurring of the point. A third is the dropping of a studied remark apparently without knowing it, as if one were thinking aloud. The fourth and last is the pause.

The pause is an exceedingly important feature in any kind of story, and a frequently recurring feature, too. It is a dainty thing, and delicate, and also uncertain and treacherous; for it must be exactly the right length--no more and no less--or it fails of its purpose and makes trouble. If the pause is too short the impressive point is passed, and [and if too long] the audience have had time to divine that a surprise is intended--and then you can't surprise them, of course.
Mark Twain [source]

tadar via Urban Ticks 11.05.2009

Darpa Wants to Master the Science of Propaganda

Darpa is asking scientists to “take narratives and make them quantitatively analyzable in a rigorous, transparent and repeatable fashion.”

The program is called “Narrative Networks.” By understanding how stories have shaped your mind, the Pentagon hopes to sniff out who has fallen prey to dangerous ideas, a neuroscience researcher involved in the project tells Danger Room.

In the first 18-month phase of the program, the Pentagon wants researchers to study how stories infiltrate social networks and alter our brain circuits.

Once scientists have perfected the science of how stories affect our neurochemistry, they will develop tools to “detect narrative influence.” These tools will enable “prevention of negative behavioral outcomes … and generation of positive behavioral outcomes, such as building trust.”

When the project enters into a second 18-month phase, it’ll use the research gathered to build “optimized prototype technologies in the form of documents, software, hardware and devices”.

In fact, it’s calling for devices that detect the influence of stories in unseen ways. “Efforts that rely solely on standoff/non-invasive/non-detectable sensors are highly encouraged,” [beyond micro-facial feature analysis, dilation of blood vessels/ pupils].

Request for proposal, clipped [source]

 DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals in the areas of (1) quantitative analysis of narratives, (2) understanding the effects narratives have on human psychology and its affiliated neurobiology, and (3) modeling, simulating, and sensing-especially in stand-off modalities.

Motivation: Narratives exert a powerful influence on human thoughts and behavior. They consolidate memory, shape emotions, cue heuristics and biases in judgment, influence in-group/out-group distinctions, and may affect the fundamental contents of personal identity.
Story Diagram

One: Narrative Analysis. Ascertaining exactly what function stories enact, and by what mechanisms they do so… […] This goal serves to ascertain who is telling stories to whom and for what purpose, and to discover latent indicators of the spread and influence of narrative tropes in structures such as social networks, traditional and social media, and in conversation.

1. Develop new, and extend existing narrative theories. …nature of stories, including, but not limited to, a list of necessary and sufficient conditions that help distinguish narrative stimuli from other stimuli. …kinematics and dynamics of story ontology. …structure and function of narratives, including identifying and discussing aspects of narratives that are universal versus aspects that vary considerably across cultural or social contexts.

2. …role of narrative in security contexts. …role and extent stories play in influencing political violence. …political radicalization and how they can influence a person or group’s choice of means (such as indiscriminant violence) to achieve political ends. …influence bystanders-to-conflict in terms of shaping their attitudes and perceptions. …shape the process of negotiation, especially between key stakeholders. …relationship between narratives and the mechanisms that generate and reinforce psychiatric or clinical conditions. …impact of narratives on attitudes and perceptions.

3. …quantitatively analyzable in a rigorous, transparent and repeatable fashion. …establish a framework for the scientific study of the psychological and neurobiological impact of stories on people. …how stories propagate in a system so as to influence behavior. Identify temporal and spatial dimensions of narratives in different media...

Narrative Power: Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles - edited by L. Timmel Duchamp, with an introduction by Eileen Gunn, 2010
Two: Narrative Neurobiology. Since the brain is the proximate cause of our actions, stories have a direct impact on the neurobiological processes of both the senders and receivers of narratives. …explanations of salient narrative psychological phenomena such as engagement, transportation, immersion, and synchronization are highly encouraged.

1. Assay narrative effects on our basic neurochemistry. Determine if narratives uniquely modulate human hormone or neurotransmitter production. […] Determine the manner in which narrative effects change during ontogeny and/or due to socio-economic and other environmental conditions.

2. …impact on the neurobiology of memory, learning and identity. […] Explore the differential influence of stories on neurotransmitter systems as compared to other environmental stimuli. Determine how stories impact the neurobiology of important identity-related judgments, such as whom you consider to be a member of your in-group and whom you count as an out-group member.

3. …neurobiology of emotions. Identify impacted neurobiological emotions…

4. …neurobiology of moral judgment. …neural mechanism or mechanisms by which narratives affect judgments about moral guilt and innocence, or the moral permissibility and/or impermissibility of certain actions.

5. …brain mechanisms related to social cognition. Determine how narratives differentially affect the neurobiological basis of theory of mind and judgments of the mental states of others. Identify and explore how stories influence neural mechanisms responsible for the generation and sustainment of collective action or group behavior. [MTD] Determine if and by what mechanisms stories uniquely synchronize or sustain the neural mechanisms of shared attention, collaboration, joint problem-solving and trust.

Narrative Structure [of Sucker Punch, the movie]
Three: Narrative Models, Simulations and Sensors. …understand others, detect narrative influence, and predict responses. …enable prevention of negative behavioral outcomes… …predict and quantify how and why our behavior changes as a result of narrative interaction.

1. …modeling and simulating influence. Baseline against existing models of the influence process to determine the best extant methods of understanding and forecasting influence. …consideration of narrative-driven mental and neurobiological states and the variables which influence them. …capturing the transition from changes in beliefs, desires and attitudes to actions. [MTD]

2. […] Identify whether existing influence models can be improved by the addition of a narrative “layer.” …ontology and transition states of this layer. Validate and verify the model in at least one potentially iterable testable domain (such as forecasting the success of advertising, movies, public relations campaigns or reception of disaster relief interventions).

3. Develop non-standard and novel sensor suites keyed to the variables and processes identified in new or improved influence models. Baseline against current technologies for detecting and measuring indirect indicators of neural activity (such as capillary dilation, galvanic skin response, eye pupil dilation, gaze direction, micro-facial feature analysis, etc.), and against current standoff technologies for more direct detection and measurement (such as sensing neurobiological compounds). […]


Racter: Writing Robots
Meme Wars

The Meme Wars Instruction Manual May Be Written By Robots

In light of the text presented here, I can't help but think about this story on using SocialBots to manipulate people online...we are in for one confusing future.

E-mail use model appears to follow "Clash of Civilizations" prediction
Bob Yirka, March 8, 2013

Researchers at Stanford University have built a model based on the frequency of e-mail interactions between groups of users of Yahoo! e-mail throughout the world. Their results appear to adhere to societal boundaries as described by Samuel Huntington's 1992 book "The Clash of Civilizations."

Huntington famously suggested in his book that the primary axis of global conflict was no longer ideological or economic but cultural and religious, and that this division would characterize the "battle lines of the future."

Their model is based on over ten million e-mail messages sent from Yahoo! users the world over. To show the degree of interaction between groups, the team used nodes and lines between them—the more transactions between groups, the closer they appear together on the model. To form geographic areas, the team compared IP numbers attached to messages with the location noted in a user's profile, using only those that coincided.

The resulting color-coded graphic model offers near instant visual clues regarding groups bound together by culture and perhaps religion. Perhaps more importantly it also shows boundaries, which State and his team claim, resemble the model first proposed by Huntington. Western nodes are clustered to form a single group with just a few outliers, for example, as are others such as those deemed Islamic, or South American.

The model doesn't hint at tensions between groups of course, but does seem to indicate that groups tend to communicate more via e-mail with others in their same group than they do with others from other groups, --even if they share a physical border.--
More information: The Mesh of Civilizations and International Email Flows, arXiv:1303.0045 [cs.SI]

The Mesh of Civilizations and International Email Flows, arXiv:1303.0045 [cs.SI]

Your favorite blogger could one day be a computer
a start up company that has developed computer software capable of generating articles that read as though they were written by a living, breathing person.

The technology works by taking data — like sports statistics and company financial reports — and turning it into convincingly human-sounding news articles. According to Kris Hammond, one of Narrative Science's founders, the key concept behind the software is composition; "this is not just taking data and spilling it over into text," Hammond said.

The New York Times' Steve Lohr explains how the software might "compose" an article about a recent sporting event:

The Narrative Science software can make inferences based on the historical data it collects and the sequence and outcomes of past games. To generate story "angles," explains Mr. Hammond of Narrative Science, the software learns concepts for articles like "individual effort," "team effort," "come from behind," "back and forth," "season high," "player's streak" and "rankings for team." Then the software decides what element is most important for that game, and it becomes the lead of the article, he said. The data also determines vocabulary selection. A lopsided score may well be termed a "rout" rather than a "win."

[a commentor on io9 points out that the algorithm works well within subjects that have high statistical significance, like sports and finance; whereas it might be less impressive at deconstructing the layers of authenticity found in Banksi's Exit Through the Gift Shop.]

Racter: Writing Robots
March 7, 2013
September 14, 2012
Recombinant Memetics and Narrative Networks


Ross Andersen – Humanity's Deep Future
interviewing Daniel Dewey of the Future of Humanity Institute
Aeon  Magazine, March, 2013

Trumpeter Republic F-105D Thunderchief_1-32 scale

Veritable Telepathy
...a thudding arrival from space, whose aftermath rained exterminating fire on the dinosaurs. The ecological niche for mammals swelled in the wake of this catastrophe, and so did mammal brains. A subset of those brains eventually learned to shape rocks into tools, and sounds into symbols, which they used to pass thoughts between one another.

On Artificial Intelligence
An AI might want to do certain things with matter in order to achieve a goal, things like building giant computers, or other large-scale engineering projects. Those things might involve intermediary steps, like tearing apart the Earth to make huge solar panels. A superintelligence might not take our interests into consideration in those situations, just like we don’t take root systems or ant colonies into account when we go to construct a building.