Friday, August 18, 2017


Zipf's law, top ten most favorite thing on Network Address. New theory ---

Unzipping Zipf's Law: Solution to a century-old linguistic problem
Aug 2017,

Sander Lestrade, a linguist at Radboud University in The Netherlands, proposes a new solution to this notorious problem in PLOS ONE.

...shows that Zipf's law can be explained by the interaction between the structure of sentences (syntax) and the meaning of words (semantics) in a text.

"In the English language, but also in Dutch, there are only three articles, and tens of thousands of nouns," Lestrade explains. "Since you use an article before almost every noun, articles occur way more often than nouns." But that is not enough to explain Zipf's law. "Within the nouns, you also find big differences. The word 'thing', for example, is much more common than 'submarine', and thus can be used more frequently. But in order to actually occur frequently, a word should not be too general either. If you multiply the differences in meaning within word classes, with the need for every word class, you find a magnificent Zipfian distribution. And this distribution only differs a little from the Zipfian ideal, just like natural language does.


The most frequent word in a language, or in a book, or whatever, will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, etc.

(straight from wikipedia, I mean it's all numbers anyway, right?)

For example, in the The Brown University Standard Corpus of Present-Day American English, the word "the" is the most frequently occurring word, and by itself accounts for nearly 7% of all word occurrences (69,971 out of slightly over 1 million). True to Zipf's Law, the second-place word "of" accounts for slightly over 3.5% of words (36,411 occurrences), followed by "and" (28,852). Only 135 vocabulary items are needed to account for half the Brown Corpus.

The same relationship occurs in many other rankings unrelated to language, such as the population ranks of cities in various countries, corporation sizes, income rankings, and so on.'s_law

*Zipf's law is referenced in Science Fiction author Robert J. Sawyer's www.wake, when the main character is searching for intelligent life on the web.


There's some other laws meta-physical, like Benford's Law:

In this distribution, the number 1 occurs as the first digit about 30% of the time, while larger numbers occur in that position less frequently, with larger numbers occurring less often: 9 as the first digit less than 5% of the time. This distribution of first digits is the same as the widths of gridlines on a logarithmic scale.

other meta-phys laws etc.

Network Address, 2012

Laws Meta-Physical
Network Address, 2013

Physicists eye neural fly data, find formula for Zipf's law
August 2014,

mathematical models, which demonstrate how Zipf's law naturally arises when a sufficient number of units react to a hidden variable in a system.

"If a system has some hidden variable, and many units, such as 40 or 50 neurons, are adapted and responding to the variable, then Zipf's law will kick in."

"We showed mathematically that the system becomes Zipfian when you're recording the activity of many units, such as neurons, and all of the units are responding to the same variable".

Ilya Nemenman, biophysicist at Emory University and co-author

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eyes on the Street

Computer 'anthropologists' study global fashion
Aug 2017,

What is the world wearing?

These scientists are using a deep learning object recognition program to discover visual patterns in clothing and fashion across millions of images of people worldwide and over a period of many years. They detected attributes like color, sleeve length, presence of glasses or hats, etc. (They end up filtering for only waist up photos). They ask questions such as, "How is the frequency of scarf use in the US changing over time?" or "For a given city, such as Los Angeles, what styles are most characteristic of that city."

The objective of this research is ultimately to "provide a look into cultural, social and economic factors that shape societies and provides insights into civilization."

Dashed lines mark Labor Day. Who said Americans don't like conformity?

via Cornell University: StreetStyle: Exploring world-wide clothing styles from millions of photos. arXiv.

I imagined that stuff like this is already happening all over the place, in all kinds of other fields, and being integrated into global policy decisions and bottom-line business calls alike. But, this is not the case; this is still just the beginning. One thing I caught from this, some digital era common sense - Google Trends results for "scarves" peak right before they do on Instagram, because, presumably, people are searching for the thing, then they buy it, then they take pictures of themselves wearing it.

Post Script
These are the real people, not the algorithms, that analyze and predict the world of fashion:
Color Conspirators, Network Address

Monday, August 7, 2017

Believability Likability Falliblity

Why humans find faulty robots more likeable
Aug 2017,

If you've never watched the robots from Boston Dynamics get pushed over while they try to stand, you really should. (just search robot fail videos). If you've never thought, aw man, I feel really bad for that guy, then you should watch definitely watch it. Because you know, one day when a real robot-looking robot is taking care of your feeble parents, or you, you're gonna want to like that robot. And as it turns out, watching something struggle, whether it's a robot or a bug, or ^this kid trying eat cereal, when you watch someone mess up, it makes you like them more.

Says science:

"...participants took a significantly stronger liking to the faulty robot than the robot that interacted flawlessly." ... This finding confirms the Pratfall Effect, which states that people's attractiveness increases when they make a mistake," says Nicole Mirnig, PhD candidate at the Center for Human-Computer Interaction, University of Salzburg, Austria.

Source document:
Nicole Mirnig et al, To Err Is Robot: How Humans Assess and Act toward an Erroneous Social Robot, Frontiers in Robotics and AI (2017). DOI: 10.3389/frobt.2017.00021

Deanonymity Reanonymity

It is easy to expose users' secret web habits, say researchers
July 2017, BBC News

"Two German researchers say they have exposed the porn-browsing habits of a judge, a cyber-crime investigation and the drug preferences of a politician." -BBC

This isn't news. (So why am I writing about it?)

Despite what you might think, there is really no such thing as anonymous data, that is, when you have enough data.

Four data points is all it takes to identify or de-anonymize anonymous data, and this goes back to 2006. In other words, if I were to take a bunch of people and assign them serial numbers instead of their names and track every website they went to, all I would need is four websites from one particular serial number, and I would be able to identify who that individual is.

We forget so easily, but over ten years ago, AOL released a bunch of search data, and then took it back down the same day. They realized that you could pretty easily, no, very easily identify, or re-identify the people behind the search data. Then there was a competition to prove it, done on Netflix users, then Twitter users. Now, ten years later, we have already forgotten. Or perhpas, a tech writer at BBC is just looking for clicks. Or maybe he's just tyring to remind us.

There is no privacy on the internet.

On a positive note, your mom was right, you are special and unique and there's nobody else in the world exactly like you (and that's why it's so easy to re-identify your anonymized self).

AOL subscribers sue over data leak
Ars Technica, 2006

AOL Proudly Releases Massive Amounts of Private Data
Tech Crunch, 2006

How hard is it to 'de-anonymize' cellphone data?
MIT News, 2013

Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility.
Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, César A. Hidalgo, Michel Verleysen & Vincent D. Blondel. Scientific Reports 3, Article number: 1376 (2013). doi:10.1038/srep01376

The official paper:
Paul Ohm. Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization. UCLA Law Review, Vol. 57, p. 1701, 2010
U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 9-12.

image credit: link

Monday, July 31, 2017

Chatbots Start Speaking Their Own Language and It's not Esperanto

Facebook Shuts AI System After Bots Start Speaking Their Own Language, Defy Human Instructions
July 2017, Hindustan Times

Don't even get 'em started. As I tear through Kim Stanley Robinson's Auroroa, a hard science fiction novel about a starfleet trying to colonize the Tau Ceti system where the ship itself, due to its quantum-computer-powered artificial intelligence system, becomes conscsious, I read this headline.

I'm not surprised, nobody is surprised, that these chatbots, these intelligentities, have surpassed our ability to decode what the f they're doing. Deep learning neural networks, for example, are unintelligible to us (correct this, I read a paper recently about some folks successful in figuring out how to read the hidden programs developed by these learning networks). Computers, ultimately, speak a language of computation, 1's and 0's. So it should be no surprise that, given a complex task of negotiating mock global diplomacy matters, these systems tack at a better way for working with each other.

Still, it is symbolic. And only to humans do symbolic things matter. Maybe there's a reason for that; maybe this is the beginning. That distance between now and the inevitable transition to the post-human world keeps getting shorter.

Post Script
It Begins: Bots are learning to chat in their own language
July 2017, Cade Metz, WIRED

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Musical Memetics

Genetic Data Tools Reveal How Pop Music Evolved In The US
The Physics arXiv Blog, 2015. link
Source document:
The Evolution of Popular Music: USA 1960–2010, 2015. link

I was into this article anyway, because it puts art and science together. Perhaps predictable for some - rap eventually takes over, dance music peaked in the 90's, country is NOT making a comeback (depends how they classify this, is there such a thing as 'new' country?).

But at the end, memetics rears its multi-headed head. Because the authors of this study used genetics-data analysis tools to do all this. Listen to all this memetalk:

"Musicians copy, repeat and modify song styles they like, this leads to a clear pattern of evolution over time. So it should come as no surprise that techniques developed for the analysis of genetic data should work on music data as well. “The selective forces acting upon new songs are at least partly captured by their rise and fall through the ranks of the charts,” they say."

Holy Bread

Salvador Dalí, Crucifixion (Corpus_Hypercubus), 1954

Dali wears bread on his head, 1958
Say What?
Vatican outlaws gluten-free bread for Holy Communion
July 2017, BBC

Bread used to celebrate the Eucharist during Roman Catholic Mass must not be gluten-free - although it may be made from genetically modified organisms, the Vatican has ruled.

In a letter to bishops, Cardinal Robert Sarah said the bread can be low-gluten. But he said there must be enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives.

The new rules are needed because the bread is now sold in supermarkets and on the internet, the cardinal said. [I don't understand; the Vatican sells its own brand of bread?]

Roman Catholics believe bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.

Every once in a while I forget that this is a real thing, like, during this particular ceremony the bread is -really- turned into the body of Christ. Really. Really?

But wait, you're telling me that the same entity that thinks its bread is turning into flesh is also making decisions about the validity of genetically modified organisms. CRISPR vs Christ?

Art and AI

Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (1870) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (1950)

When A Machine Learning Algorithm Studied Fine Art Paintings, It Saw Things Art Historians Had Never Noticed
The Physics arXiv Blog via Medium, Aug 2014
Source document: Toward Automated Discovery of Artistic Influence

There's some stirring in the dusty world of art history, with the rise of encultured robots threatening human livelihoods. A promising young algorithm is set upon the world, fed with centuries of art imagery, design principles, and historical documentation. Our little algorithm then grows up and learns how to identify patterns in the art world better than its teacher.

In the two compared images above, this little art-historian algo recognized similar compositional patterns that had never been seen before - a hidden Norman Rockwell, see above.

First of all, as an art history major in college, I look at all the compared/related images discovered by the AI, and I am not so impressed. Maybe the general concept is what fails to impress me. When you follow the art world long enough you get to know something about how influence works, and about the power that one thing can have on an artist's work. And I say that there is no such thing as one thing.

The nature of the artist is to take the world at large, a fuck-tonnery of pre-filtered miasma, and to make sense, or at least to fight with it in a way that leaves a record of the battle, and for the benefit of humankind. To say that one painting influenced another because they have similar stylistic elements or design principles is kind of silly. I do understand that subconscious influence has its way with the creative process. But that refers to life as well as art. The new style checker cab, or Triangle shirtwaists, or bubble tea or middle-hipster Americana folk music or The Beatles or African masks or even syphilis could influence an artists' work.
Charge of the Lancers - Umberto Boccioni - 1915
Take ^Futurism, for example. It is inspired by, among other things, the fragmentation of society, be it from national upheaval circa the World Wars, or from the way the landscape looks while riding a speeding train which propelled people faster past the countryside than they had ever moved before. How does an algorithm find that?

I heard Picasso's mistress Françoise Gilot, in her bio of Pable Picasso, say some of his lobster paintings were a response to her hard-shelled personality which came to a head prior to their separation. Algorithms can see that? Nah man.

I know someone can come on here and argue with me, successfully, that artists do influence each other in simple visual ways, and at times, the visual connections can supplement a lack of historical data surrounding their work. But still, there is a need for socio-biographical data in all this, and I wonder if our little algo could be even better trained.

Now, all this having been said, I just finished watching this: Davos talk about the future of artificial intelligence, with IBM CEO Ginni Rommetti. She says that the goal of IBM's artificial intelligence (Watson, by the way, in case you forgot) is to extend human faculties, not replace them. According to her premonitions, the art historian is not doomed, rather it will be enriched and extended by our algorithmic overlords.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Robots Have Feelings Too

aka In Other News Suicide is Funny Again

A robot kills itself, and everyone thinks it's funny:
Robot 'drowns' in fountain mishap
July 2017, BBC

This headline above was pretty tame. But otherwise, take your pick, I'll go with my local radio news station, WNYC 93.9 FM. Today on the six o'clock headlines they quip - "Turns out his first day on the job was too much for this robot..."

I thought suicide was a big deal. And what's up with the whole bullying thing? And don't even get me started on how they already assumed the thing's gender.

Very often when I think about the way people treat eachother, this quote by Carl Sagan comes to mind:
"It’s a little unfair, I think, to criticize a person for not sharing the enlightenment of a later epoch, but it is also profoundly saddening that such prejudices were so extremely pervasive. The question raises nagging uncertainties about which of the conventional truths of our own age will be considered unforgivable bigotry by the next."
Broca’s Brain, Carl Sagan, 1974-1979, p11

And I wonder when, if ever, we are living through such a prejudice in 'our own age'. When such a situation as this arises, how can you resist but to extrapolate? One day, far in the future, will we ridicule the newswriters of today for having no sympathy for this poor intelligentity?

But seriously, it seems pretty irresponsible to be poking fun at someone for committing suicide.

Obviously, a robot isn't "someone" and it didn't "commit suicide," but when it is portrayed that way in the headlines, I'll bet that's what it looks like to a young person, for example, or perhaps a person with mental illness. They hear that someone, or something, has killed itself, and they see that everyone thinks it's a joke.

Image source: Robot is Dead, Waldemar-Kazak, 2017

Friday, July 7, 2017

Try Not to Think

Study finds hackers could use brainwaves to steal passwords
Jul 2017,

It's been a while since I tested that EPOC Emotiv headset. It definitely worked, and that was over 5 years ago. Turns out that some people are really using it to play games, although I'm not sure how true this is.

It reads your brainwaves via electrical signal receivers that simply touch your head. Yes, there is electricity running through your brain, And yes that energy carries a signal that can be decoded and translated. Unfortunately, it's very limited. It can decipher up vs down, or left vs right, or any one thing vs another, but only if you trained it that way. You sit there and give it a baseline, you let the headset read your brain while you're thinking of "nothing" (def not as easy as it sounds). Then you train it to read anything other than nothing, and codes that as a command. If you want two commands, then you have to try and give it two very different patterns of thinking, so it can tell the difference, otherwise, it only knows on/off, thinking/not-thinking. Maybe the thing has come a long way and people really can use it to play games that require more than just one button.

Anyway, surprise surprise, it looks like you may be compromising the security of your own thoughts when you put on this brain reader; who knew?!

from the article:

"The team found that, after a user entered 200 characters, algorithms within the malicious software program could make educated guesses about new characters the user entered by monitoring the EEG data recorded. The algorithm was able to shorten the odds of a hacker's guessing a four-digit numerical PIN from one in 10,000 to one in 20 and increased the chance of guessing a six-letter password from about 500,000 to roughly one in 500."

image source:
photograph by Brad Miller, neurons in the cerebral cortex of a 6-day old rat, 40x magnification, 1996 Nikon Photomicrography Competition

Post Script
Trepanation is when you drill a hole into someone's head because that's where the problem is. 

Some nice illustrations about trepanation, by Scultetus

Crystals are the Future

No seriously, they are, especially these piezoelectric kinds. I clipped some things from this article just to keep us abreast.

LA crystals turn cars into energy source
July 2017, BBC News

"Piezoelectricity is not new technology - one of the most common applications is electric cigarette lighters which use piezoelectric crystals to create a flame. The electric lighters for barbecues use the same technology.

"Piezoelectric crystals generate an electrical charge when compressed and scientists estimate that if they were positioned on a 10-mile stretch of highway they could generate enough electricity to power the city of Burbank, which has a population of more than 100,000.

"Since 2009, all the displays at the East Japan Railway Company's Tokyo station have been powered by people walking on floor tiles that utilise piezoelectricity.

"And start-up PaveGen has put similar technology beneath the floor of a football pitch in one of Rio de Janeiro's most notorious favelas to offer night-time floodlights powered by footsteps. It means children can play at night rather than hang out in gangs."

image source
Karl Deckart, Salt Crystals 10x magnification, 1996 Nikon Photomicrography Competition

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Natural vs Artificial

So if we enslave mountains of bacteria to be forcefed glucose while we reap their colorful shit, is that natural or artificial?

Four strains of bacteria work together to produce pigment for food and cosmetics industry
Jul 2017,

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have shown that four strains of E. coli bacteria working together can convert sugar into the natural red anthocyanin pigment found in strawberries, opening the door to economical natural colors for industrial applications.

"We feed the bacteria glucose and they do the rest."
-Mattheos Koffas, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer, and member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

image credits: Air bubbles formed from melted ascorbic acid (vitamin C) crystals (50x), Marek Miś, 2016 Nikon Small World Micrography Competition

To Shape the Future

Crystal balls over here

Predicting the future with the wisdom of crowds
Jun 2017,

Don Moore and a team of researchers found a new way to improve that outcome by training ordinary people to make more confident and accurate predictions over time as superforecasters.

The team, working on The Good Judgment Project, had the perfect opportunity to test its future-predicting methods during a four-year government-funded geopolitical forecasting tournament sponsored by the United States Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. The tournament, which began in 2011, aimed to improve geopolitical forecasting and intelligence analysis by tapping the wisdom of the crowd. Moore's team proved so successful in the first years of the competition that it bumped the other four teams from a national competition, becoming the only funded project left in the competition.

The study differs from previous research in overconfidence in forecasting because it examines accuracy in forecasting over time, using a huge and unique data set gathered during the tournament. That data included 494,552 forecasts by 2,860 forecasters who predicted the outcomes of hundreds of events.

The Wisdom of Crowds
James Surowiecki, 2004

Swarm A.I. Correctly Predicts the Kentucky Derby, Accurately Picking all Four Horses of the Superfecta at 540 to 1 Odds
Yahoo Finance, April 2016

The Chinese Flesh Engine
BBC 2014


This kind of thing always reminds me of a passage from Levy-Bruhl's Primitive Mentality - the indigenous people he writes about are perplexed at the ability of the white scientists to "predict" a lunar eclipse.

They live in a timeless world. Hence, for example, an omen doesn’t just reveal what will happen, it is evidence that it is already happening.

They ask of the whites – how could you predict it (a lunar eclipse) if it was not you who caused it?

I have also found, among some folks who have less of a functioning prefrontal cortex if you know what I'm saying will tend to blame the person who predicts the situation as if they caused it. Take for example, an angsty adolescent - you tell them not to do something because of some probable result (don't smoke pot in the high school bathroom because you'll probably get caught) they will blame you as if your prediction actually caused the outcome. Some of us are no different from Levy-Bruhl's "primitives".

Primitive Mentality, Lucien Levy-Bruhl, 1923, trans 1966

Primitive Mentality
Network Address 2012

Monday, July 3, 2017

So Easy a Caveman Could Do It

I would like to take a moment here to mourn the passing of an opportunity, and one that may not come again for too long. We are talking here about the Geico Caveman, debuted in 2004ish, gone within a few years, and never to be seen again, except by those who have that strong sense of maintaining cultural posterity.

I really believe that, to this day, the Geico Caveman stunt is the most culturally sophisticated thing ever produced by American consumerist society (slight hyperbole). And so, for those who didn't catch it the first time around: The Geico Caveman had nothing to do with Geico car insurance; he was created simply as a funny character, and a preposterous idea, to help you remember Geico the next time you think you should be saving money on your car insurance.

Really there were a bunch of cavemen, still living in modern society, and they were pissed because of Geico's temporary tagline, "so easy even a caveman could do it [use the Geico website to sign up for car insurance]". The cavemen were offended because the ad implies that they're stupid, but they're humans just like everyone else, so why should they be singled out?? They were pissed and demanded an apology in successive commercials. They even got their own tv show, a sitcom, I think it lasted like one episode.

It was created as a stab at the current state of political correctness. I should remind folks this was happening at the same time Queer Eye for the Straight Guy came out (no pun, well maybe a little pun), a tv show about gay guys helping straight guys to comb their hair and brush their teeth. This is also the same time the word 'metrosexual' entered the mainstream lexicon, referring to a straight man who takes on the visual aesthetics of a gay man, but without the homophobia. This was also the same time the NJ Governor Jim McGreevy came out, as gay, and which led to the phrase "no homo", as in "yo I really like that new tattoo on your inner thigh bro, no homo".

So yes, there we were, in a heightened state of social awareness, at least in regards to sexuality. The tide is turning, it might actually be ok to be gay, or god forbid, black (US first black president isn't elected for another 4 years).

But then what happened. It's now 2017 and it's not even ok to be a woman anymore for f sake.

All I'm saying is, that caveman may have been our way out. You can make fun of cavemen all you want! They're stupid, they're hairy, they smell, they went extinct for christ's sake; they are inferior! They are the only thing we can make fun of that is enough 'like us' to make it hurt, but are enough -not- like us to make it feel good when we make fun of them. I really think the caveman should be adopted as the pan-cultural hate symbol. People can't not hate; they have to hate something. White people gonna hate black people, straight people gay people, rich people poor people, society is gonna subconsciously hate women, but openly hate men, we can't not hate. So why can't we all just hate cavemen? It shows how stupid we are to hate on people in the first place, and it doesn't hurt anybody, because CAVEMEN ARE ALREADY EXTINCT.

I thought the caveman was our way out, an escape hatch from our incessant need to find difference between 'us and them'. We dropped the ball. Maybe we'll get a second chance. BUT we better hurry up, before we Jurassic-Park an actual caveman, and then we'll never be able to make fun of them again!

Post Script:
Why are there no cavewomen?

Post Post Script:
Check out this movie about one kind of caveman showing another kind of caveman how to make fire. Nobody speaks English, yet they all have names with anglicized spellings (according to the credits at the end). And fyi, Rae Dawn Chong was one hot cavewoman.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Psychedelic Time Lapse

Any story about LSD experiments from the 50's is urban legend by now and should be taken with a grain of salt, or a microgram, as it were. There's the video of the dosed soldiers climbing trees and wrapping themselves in the field-telephone cord, that's a good one, and it's on video, so I guess that's less legend and more real.

Here is a series of pictures that was supposedly done by an artist after taking a dose of LSD. Maybe they were done by dozens of artists over the course of many years and even by different scientists, and only the best were chosen to narrate this story. Maybe the whole thing is made up! Who cares!?


1.  --  0 hr 20 min
Patient chooses to start drawing with charcoal. The subject of the experiment reports - 'Condition normal... no effect from the drug yet'.

2.  --  1 hr 30 min
The patient seems euphoric. 'I can see you clearly, so clearly. This... you... it's all... I'm having a little trouble controlling this pencil. It seems to want to keep going.'

3.  --  2 hr 30 min
Patient appears very focused on the business of drawing. 'Outlines seem normal, but very vivid - everything is changing colour. My hand must follow the bold sweep of the lines. I feel as if my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that's now active - my hand, my elbow... my tongue'.

4.  --  2 hr 32 min
Patient seems gripped by his pad of paper. 'I'm trying another drawing. The outlines of the model are normal, but now those of my drawing are not. The outline of my hand is going weird too. It's not a very good drawing is it? I give up - I'll try again...'

5.  --  2 hr 35 min
Patient follows quickly with another drawing. 'I'll do a drawing in one flourish... without stopping... one line, no break!' Upon completing the drawing the patient starts laughing, then becomes startled by something on the floor.

6.  --  2 hr 45 min
Patient tries to climb into activity box, and is generally agitated - responds slowly to the suggestion he might like to draw some more. He has become largely non verbal. 'I am... everything is... changed... they're calling... your face... interwoven... who is...' Patient mumbles inaudibly to a tune (sounds like 'Thanks for the memory'). He changes medium to Tempera.

7.  --  4 hr 25 min
Patient retreated to the bunk, spending approximately 2 hours lying, waving his hands in the air. His return to the activity box is sudden and deliberate, changing media to pen and water colour.) 'This will be the best drawing, like the first one, only better. If I'm not careful I'll lose control of my movements, but I won't, because I know. I know' - (this saying is then repeated many times) Patient makes the last half-a-dozen strokes of the drawing while running back and forth across the room.

8.  --  5 hr 45 min
Patient continues to move about the room, intersecting the space in complex variations. It's an hour and a half before he settles down to draw again - he appears over the effects of the drug. 'I can feel my knees again, I think it's starting to wear off. This is a pretty good drawing - this pencil is mighty hard to hold' - (he is holding a crayon).

9.  --  8 hr 0 min
Patient sits on bunk bed. He reports the intoxication has worn off except for the occasional distorting of our faces. We ask for a final drawing which he performs with little enthusiasm. 'I have nothing to say about this last drawing, it is bad and uninteresting, I want to go home now.'


Check out this series, again debatable authenticity, by an artist who developed mental illness, but continued to do cat drawings all his life...

Louis Wain and the Evolution of Schizophrenia
2013, Network Address

Comedy of the Commons

Balinese rice patties

Fractal patterns

Fractal planting patterns yield optimal harvests, without central control
Jun 2017,

Balinese rice farmers make some crazy patterns with their rice fields, but they don't do this on purpose. The rice fields plant themselves in this pattern, using the rice farmers. Just kidding, or not.

These farmers are all part of the same group, using the same resources, that being their rice patties. They plant their rice based on a whole bunch of variables, including the planting patterns of the other farmers who share the patties, and the amount of water flowing down the river. All of these variables are interdependent, such that the farmers in one area may change the amount of water in the river depending on when they plant, which in turn changes when other farmers will plant.

All of this decision-making, however, does not go through a centralized process, and although the farmers are making their own decisions, the final pattern of planted rice fields was not decided by them alone, but by the interaction and feedback of the system as a whole.

from the article:

"What is exciting scientifically is that this is in contrast to the tragedy of the commons, where the global optimum is not reached because everyone is maximizing his individual profit. This is what we are experiencing typically when egoistic people are using a limited resource on the planet, everyone optimizes the individual payoff and never reach an optimum for all," he says.

The scientists find that under these assumptions, the planting patterns become fractal, which is indeed the case as they confirm with satellite imagery. "Fractal patterns are abundant in natural systems but are relatively rare in man-made systems," explains Thurner. These fractal patterns make the system more resilient than it would otherwise be. "The system becomes remarkably stable, again without any planning—stability is the outcome of a remarkably simple but efficient self-organized process. And it happens extremely fast. In reality, it does not even take ten years for the system to reach this state," Thurner says.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Photonic Cognition

Researchers investigate decision-making by physical phenomena
Jun 2017,

The Illusion of Control is a common theme here on Network Address. So every once in a while we see something  about how things inhuman, and things not even alive, are making decisions just like us. This forces us to consider whether "we" make decisions at all.

From the article:

"Decision-making is typically thought of as something done by intelligent living things and, in modern times, computers. But over the past several years, researchers have demonstrated that physical objects such as a metal bar, liquids, and lasers can also "make decisions" by responding to feedback from their environments. And they have shown that, in some cases, physical objects can potentially make decisions faster and more accurately than what both humans and computers are capable of.

"In a new study, a team of researchers from Japan has demonstrated that the ultrafast, chaotic oscillatory dynamics in lasers makes these devices capable of decision making and reinforcement learning, which is one of the major components of machine learning. To the best of the researchers' knowledge, this is the first demonstration of ultrafast photonic decision making or reinforcement learning, and it opens the doors to future research on "photonic intelligence."

"In our demonstration, we utilize the computational power inherent in physical phenomena," coauthor Makoto Naruse at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Tokyo told

[and by the way, when we take this further, like to the inevitable AI overlord conclusion...]

"Such systems provide huge potential for our future intelligence-oriented society. We call such systems 'natural Intelligence' in contrast to artificial intelligence."

"In experiments, the researchers demonstrated that the optimal rate at which laser chaos can make decisions is 1 decision per 50 picoseconds (or about 20 decisions per nanosecond)—a speed that is unachievable by other mechanisms. With this fast speed, decision making based on laser chaos has potential applications in areas such as high-frequency trading, data center infrastructure management, and other high-end uses.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Arts Squabble

Occupy Wall Street, September 2011. Barricades remained for three years following the protests.

Urinating dog joins Wall Street statue row
May 2017, BBC

The Merrill Lynch 'Charging Bull' is the focus of some public/art controversy, after someone put a sculpture of a 'fearless girl' staring-down the bull, and then someone else put a 'pissing pug,' pissing on the girl. A timeline should help:

Stock market crash.

Artist Arturo Di Modica puts the 7,000-pound bronze bull right there in front of the New York Stock Exchange without telling anyone or getting any permission. (That's called guerilla art). Later that day it gets removed by police, placed in an impound lot, but later reinstalled a couple blocks away. The bull was meant to symbolize financial optimism and prosperity.

March 2017
Kristen Visbal puts Fearless Girl right in front ot the Bull. The Girl was commissioned by State Street Global Advisers for a fund on the market that considers itself gender-diverse. The Bull was paid for by Di Modica, the artist himself. The Girl was paid for by a firm. Di Modica calls it a dis to his bull, an act of commerce, not of altruism. She, the Girl, was commissioned to highlight gender inequality, but she was paid for by a firm that trades on the stock exchange.

May 2017
Alex Gardega makes a little dog sculpture, and has it pissing on the girl. He calls the Girl "corporate nonsense."

It's really hard to argue that the statue of the girl has to do with gender inequality when you look at who commissioned it.

Unfortunately, because gender equality IS an issue, lots of people get lots of pissed when the girl gets dissed. Un-further-fortunately, because income inequality and corporate takeover are an even bigger problem than gender inequality, people are more upset that the symbolic girl is getting pissed on by a dog than they are that we as a society are getting pissed on by the entities that constitute the stock market, for example.

It does seem like a cheap trick, the Girl, that is.

But let's not forget that the Bull was already the voodoo doll of the Occupy Wall Street movement back in 2011, such that it was protected by barricades for three years following the protest. It represents the thing that has shaken the moral compass of Western society - corporate greed and power.

Personally, I would really, really, really like to see a bronze barricade placed around that bull.

image source: link

Organs Galore

New lung 'organoids' in a dish mimic features of full-size lung
May 2017,

"Organoids are 3-D structures containing multiple cell types that look and function like a full-sized organ. By reproducing an organ in a dish, researchers hope to develop better models of human diseases, and find new ways of testing drugs and regenerating damaged tissue."

And for making distributed intelligence composite humans that can float in a tank on a spaceship that gets blinked to Proxima Centauri.

image source: link

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Metabolism of the Anthroposphere

We’re looking at a study here, where social network activity is measured, and in turn, used to predict the level of physical damage to a location (due, for example, to a natural weather disaster)

The main conclusion of the study was obtained when the data relating to social network activity was examined alongside data relating to both the levels of aid granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims: there is a correlation between the mean per capita of social network activity and economic damage per capita caused by these disasters in the areas where such activity occurs. In other words, both real and perceived threats, along with the economic effects of physical disasters, are directly observable through the strength and composition of the flow of messages from Twitter.

March 2016,

Image source: link


Other Network Address-ing on sociothermodynamics:

For the etymological origins of the anthropospher:
see Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere

And just in case you thought I made up this term, there is a book by the same title, very informative and an eye-opening read for anyone interested in what humans do:
The Metabolism of the Anthroposphere, 2nd ed. Peter Baccini and Paul H. Brunner. MIT, 2012.

Overview from the publisher’s website:
Over the last several thousand years of human life on Earth, agricultural settlements became urban cores, and these regional settlements became tightly connected through infrastructures transporting people, materials, and information. This global network of urban systems, including ecosystems, is the anthroposphere; the physical flows and stocks of matter and energy within it form its metabolism. This book offers an overview of the metabolism of the anthroposphere, with an emphasis on the design of metabolic systems. It takes a cultural historical perspective, supported with methodology from the natural sciences and engineering. The book will be of interest to scholars and practitioners in the fields of regional development, environmental protection, and material management. It will also be a resource for undergraduate and graduate students in industrial ecology, environmental engineering, and resource management.

The authors describe the characteristics of material stocks and flows of human settlements in space and time; introduce the method of material flow analysis (MFA) for metabolic studies; analyze regional metabolism and the material systems generated by basic activities; and offer four case studies of optimal metabolic system design: phosphorus management, urban mining, waste management, and mobility.

This second edition of an extremely influential book has been substantially revised and greatly expanded. Its new emphasis on design and resource utilization reflects recent debates and scholarship on sustainable development and climate change.


And for the speculative fiction novel about the anthroposphere, see here:
Mass Transference Device, 2012.

In this story, humanity is headed for an end point, like the Big Bang, but in reverse, and for humans only. Humanity can avoid this moment of absolute concentration (or do they only speed its advance) by replacing “themselves” in the world with their self-replicates, and then by themselves going backwards through the trajectory of progress. From that point on, humans “progress backwards”, becoming less and less reliant on technology and approaching the original collective consciousness we were all part of before we became individuals (which is not much different than the anthroposphere concept of our future, as presented in the story, only it would be happening in reverse).

This transition is especially difficult because humans, by approximately the year 2070 will have bred out of themselves the ability to live without their anthropospheric bubble. They need, somehow, to breed back into their race, the ability to live like they used to (in the days of the early 21st century).

It is the written thought of his ancestors that Hassam Flessihfo uses to help him make this backwards transition. Together with his partner he passes on his reformed “genes” to his son Samm Ashcroftt, who in turn becomes the first human born with the ability to survive in complete independence of the anthroposphere.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bottoms Up

Lawmakers sick after drinking raw milk to celebrate legalizing raw milk
Mar 2016, reddit

Sure this is more than a year old, but come on - does this story ever get old?

I don't think I need to explain much, because this headline says it all.

Just a couple notes on public health then. Louis Pasteur is the guy who came up with pasteurization, which is just heating your milk enough to kill the bacteria, especially the bacteria for Listeria, which can kill babies and old folks and people with compromised immune systems.

Homeopathic enthusiasts say that pasteurization kills the good bacteria with the bad, and although that may be true, most people would rather take the chance and just kill the listeria-stuff.

I went to a dairy farm in Pennsylvania this month, to take a tour. You know what's in that raw milk? Puss and blood and bacteria. You know what's even better? Every cow's milk gets poured into the same huge tanker truck to mix with each other.

If you're getting it directly from a cow that you know by name, go ahead and drink it raw. But if you're drinking it from a dairy farm like this one, you might wanna wait til it's been pasteurized.

Further, our host told us that organic dairy farming has a downside in that they aren't allowed to use antibiotics on their cows. Good right? Yes, until the cow gets sick; because cows get sick just like us. The farm I visited does use antibiotics, so if a cow gets sick, as soon as they notice it (using their hi-tech milking monitors they can tell if a cow is sick based on a drop in their milk production) they remove that cow from the group and stop milking it. If you can't use antibiotics, what do you do? You hedge your bets. You leave the cow in the group, to possibly infect other cows; and you keep milking that cow as long as you can, and risk infecting your milk. The other option is to get rid of that cow, like get it off the farm forever, which is a big loss, so why would you do that if you didn't have to.

Finally, our host also mentioned how those who own 50-cow farms all share a tanker delivery truck, but if one of them has a sick cow, and sick milk, he can ruin the whole batch. The batch gets tested and if it has the wrong number of bacteria etc., it gets denied and dumped, and everyone loses out because that one farmer tried to push milk from a cow that could have been removed from the herd while it was administered antibiotics, and then returned later.

Anyway, I don't mean to come down on organic-things, but it is good to know the whole story, especially being that 'organic' has become a selling point, which means you can expect the bad parts of the organic world to be left out of the conversation. And homeopathy, keep it coming, always really good stuff.

Signal to Noise

Updates on the tech front. Devious stuff here.

More Android phones than ever are covertly listening for inaudible sounds in ads
May 2017, Ars Technica

There is a software called SilverPush that uses inaudible sounds embedded into TV commercials to secretly track you. This article says there are about 200 very popular Android apps that use it. (Very popular means downloaded millions of times.)

So your TV (and radio I assume? Wait, nobody listens to the radio anymore, Pandora, Spotify, etc.) emits "beacons," which are supersonic signatures of the commercial, which are then "heard" by this software via the microphone of your phone, but not heard by you.

This allows marketers to track the location of their listeners. Since the TV can't tell them who is listening to the commercials coming out of it, they let your phone do that instead. Now the advertisers who made the commercial can find out if you're near a retailer, for example, or exactly where you are in a department store.

I have to mention here, for folks who don't catch this - the fact that your phone is a -mobile- device has everything to do with its absolutely critical value to consumerism. You might not think it's important, but that data point (your location/time) is worth a lot to advertisers who are trying to understand their market. When you turn off your gps, or do-not-allow an app to access your location data, you're turning off the number one revenue channel for that app (which is why most apps simply won't work without it, or in this case, without accessing your microphone). I'm not trying to get people to disable their locations, or to not use apps that want your location, just saying - you should know how this ecosystem works, because you're a part of it!

This can also be used to push coupons to you when you're near a certian store. Nifty, huh? (?)

Oh, it gets way better, because they also use a cross-tracking application that ties your data with that of every other device around you. You remember those charts explaining what the NSA is doing with your data? It's like that, but for consumerism, not terrorism.

This info comes from a paper published at the 2nd annual IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy.


How Burger King revealed the hackability of voice assistants
May 2017,

"Voice assistants such as Google Home, Apple's Siri and Amazon's Echo devices have always been susceptible to accidental hijack. A Google ad during the Super Bowl that used the phrase "OK, Google" reportedly set off people's devices. And in a January story that briefly turned a family into media celebrities, a woman's 6-year old daughter ordered a dollhouse and sugar cookies simply by asking Amazon's voice assistant Alexa for them."

Friday, June 9, 2017

Color Conspirators

Anybody remember when triangles brainwashed the entire world for like three years? And galaxy print, i.e. indigo-purple-pink.

The people who know what colour you'll like in 2019
Apr 2017, BBC

For those of your who like conspiracy theory, maybe you should know that there are people, in fact entire incorporated business ventures, who's sole purpose is to "offer information on current and future trends in fashion, interior design and lifestyle."

"Know what's next" is the tagline of WGSN, a London-based company. And one aspect of their prescience regards color. And in this linked article above, the woman spotlighted is working on 2019. So yes, there is a global conspiracy to predict and affect the colors you will like years from now.

A couple snips from the article:
Popular colours often reflect what's happening culturally and socially.

The growth of the sharing economy, in which people rent beds, cars and other assets directly from one another, means lighter colours such as pale blues could come into fashion.

"Sharing means lightness, you don't want to be bogged down so you're not looking at a heavy palette." -Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute

Colours such as brown, which a couple of decades ago was linked to the earth and dirt but is now associated with coffee and chocolate, reflects the growth of those industries, she says.

---No idea 'sharing was light-colored' but I do remember the world getting browner for a minute, like the whole back-to-the-earth movement, actually, the one that followed the green movement, when people were feeling all guilty that they couldn't live up to their sustainability expectations, and they decided to make all white things brown, to make it look like they were using shitty detergent. jk. But really, even Starbucks changed their paper cups from white to very, very, off-white.

A "vast movement of grey" began to emerge after the 2008 financial crisis.
-Mark Woodman, a product consultant and a former president of US-based colour forecasting trade body Color Marketing Group

The color purple became more popular circa the 2012 US presidential election, when undecided and neutral states began to be identified as purple by the media.

Further, about the practicality of choosing a color-of-the-year:
"Making sure the colours are easily achievable is critically important" -Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute

---What does she mean by this, "easily achievable?" I reviewed a book on the birth of color in the modern world, called the Color Revolution, which explains how we take for granted that products are colored consistently. For example, when you buy a telephone (haha) you don't think twice that the hard plastic handset and the flexible rubberized cord are the exact same color, but that was really, really hard to do, because all these things are made with different base materials, so the coloring agents interact differently with each of them.

Finally, favorite:
The names are important too. They (Pantone) almost chose "pea soup" as the color for 2017. Settled on "greenery" instead.

And some research for good measure:
ice hockey teams wearing darker-coloured tops were more likely to be penalised for aggressive fouls
-study link

wearing the colour red could increase the probability of winning sporting contests
-study link

Note that ultimately any link between color and behavior is bound to be culture-specific, because colors mean different things in different parts of the world. (And across time as well; don't forget that the pink/blue dichotomy was originally reversed.)


Book Review of The Color Revolution
ReginaLee Blaszczyk, MIT Press 2012

Culture as Learned Probability System
2012, Network Address

Seeing Red
2013, Network Address

Cultural Evolution of Basic Color Terms
2013, Network Address

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Please Hold While We Transfer Your Call

Trump's immigrant crime hotline trolled with calls about aliens and UFOs
May 2017, BBC

On the same day that I read a headline about a hotline that helps women trying to give themselves abortions, I see this one, about an illegal alien hotline that is being trolled by people reporting about actual aliens. Did someone say fake news? How the hell are you supposed to know what's even fake anymore?

So it turns out the abortion hotline, which I thought was a joke meant to draw attention to the lack of women's reproductive services, is real, and it is because - the abortion problem (as a result of lack of reproductive services) is already such a big deal that the hotline is necessary. Yup.

So many women are taking abortions into their own hands that they are dying as a result, and this is an available solution. Right.

But wait, there's more. A real hotline comes out that encourages people to report "criminal aliens" (this is the current terminology used to refer to what used to be called illegal aliens, but I guess now we're trying to specify illegal aliens that have also committed crimes). But like, come on, did you really think the term "criminal aliens" would not be the funniest thing ever to the entire internet? It actually sounds like a joke. Is there nobody up there who's job it is to go - "wait a minute, I know you know what you're talking about, but everyone else is gonna hear "criminal aliens" and just have a field day with this..." Nobody?

Sure enough, the hotline was brought to a standstill by people reciting X-Files episodes and all sorts of jewels from our cultural repository of alien encounters, with criminal aliens, that is.

Anyway, the next time you're reading the news, don't forget, the real news is so much better than the fake stuff.


On the term "aliens" - Prior to 1940ish, the word alien meant foreigner.

Then what happened? HG Wells, that's what. He is the guy who wrote War of the Worlds, the narration of which was broadcast live on the radio, sparking mass hysteria, and ushering in the Little Green Man into the cultural imagination. Since then, the word alien means little green man, not foreigner.

Unfortunately, government moves about as fast as a 20th century spaceship (relatively, this is not very fast, like relative to the speed of light, for example), and so we're still using the word alien to refer to foreigners. Would somebody tell these guys??

see this post from Network Address on where "little green men" come from:

Culture Fail
July 2012, Network Address

It's A Wrap

Premature lambs kept alive in 'plastic bag' womb
April 2017, BBC

When you've got wombs like these, who needs humans?!

So being that humans have a hard time traveling in space, at the speed of light, etc., the way it works is that we put embryos in an artificial womb, complete with artificial moms and artificial breasts with you guessed it artificial milk. Then again, by the time this happens, we won't call any of this "artificial".

image source: Leonardo Da Vinci's study of a fetus in the womb

Who Fakes It Better

aka Fake China vs Fake North Korea

Just when you thought China was King Fake, you realize they aren't the only game in town.

This is pretty much a story about how North Korea does fake even more, but even worse, than China. It's true. Some weapons experts, or historians, or buffs, say that a showcasing parade of North Korea's military has fake weapons meant to look like real weapons that they don't actually have.

This link is to, which is hungry for your potential consumerism, i.e., don't go here if you don't have ad-blockers because it will paralyze your browser.

Catch Em All

There's a lot about fake news and viral memes lately. That is exciting over here, because it's been a central theme at Network Address forever.

But I search the interwebs for a good image to go with this post, I am hit with an opportune eureka moment.

Viruses, memetic infection, etc., I'm looking for a picture of a kid getting vaccinated, or just jabbed with a needle. I knew I would have to contend with tempting distractions from both pro- and anti- vaccination data-bowels (just came up w that one, aka shit-spewing websites). And so, just one, I click on this chart which lists the characteristics of folks who do not vaccinate their kids. And, despite what you would think (unless everyone already knows this), those people tend to be wealthy and educated. I only point this out because it seems counter-intuitive that educated people would do something kinda stupid, like neglect the benefits of lifesaving medical treatment in lieu of the statistically benign chance of getting a totally pathologically-unknown condition of autism.

Anyway, the point is that the whole vaccines-thing is a meme, for sure, and memes are powerful, and they can even kill you. (Dan Dennett so eloquently points out in his talk about Dangerous Memes.) This meme has been spreading among a particular segment of the population. What is it that makes one person susceptible to one meme? How did this thing become a thing? Turns out there are some things happening like this. I want to know about how anti-vaccines became a thing, but in the meantime, we have this --

Apr 2017,

The results don't sound as interesting as the title, but I guess we should be happy nonetheless that these experiments are being done in a lab setting, instead of just observing any available social media data...

And here we have a good look at the effects of a viral campaign, what makes them work or not work; they're looking at the ALS ice bucket challenge, you remember that I'm sure --

Viral charity campaigns have a psychological 'recipe' and all-too-brief lifespan
Feb 2017,

This is just a clip, there's a better explanation in the article:
"Just as a flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, so a rapid social consensus spike reaches an equally rapid saturation point.

"Once the social tipping point of a campaign has passed, momentum can decay quickly and the purpose can get diluted. Once the ALS campaign had reached peak virality, many people were just pouring cold water over their heads without necessarily referencing the charity."
-Dr Sander van der Linden, from Cambridge's Department of Psychology

image source: link

Liquid Crystals

I'm thinking the shapeshifting liquid nitrogen guy from Terminator, but this time it's made of crystals.

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
Apr 2017,

"Liquid crystals fall somewhere in between a liquid and a solid: they are made up of molecules that flow around freely as if they were a liquid but are all oriented in the same direction, as in a solid. Liquid crystals can be found in nature, such as in biological cell membranes. Alternatively, they can be made artificially—such as those found in the liquid crystal displays commonly used in watches, smartphones, televisions, and other items that have display screens."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Semibotic Semibiotic

It's not often you get to see an article about consciousness on the BBC, but you do, it's Dan Dennett getting mega-memetical. (just kidding, that doesn't even make sense, in this context.)

Is consciousness just an illusion?
Apr 2017, BBC

We're not just are robots", he says. "We're robots, made of robots, made of robots".
-Dan Dennett

More Human Than Human

It's Alive

[This image is of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, illustrated by artist Matt Kish.]

New Zealand river first in the world to be given legal human status
March 2017, BBC

["It's no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies." -New Zealand's Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.]