Art, Biology, Cybernetics, ecology, History, music theory, systems theory

communication +1, 3(1): Afterlives of Systems (2014) (pdf)

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“Under the impression of today’s global crisis and the rise of ecological thinking, confronted with smart, ubiquitous technosystems and the impression of interconnectedness, there appears a new urge to excavate the remnants of the past. The articles of this issue suggest that in order to understand present technologies, we need to account the systems thinking that fostered their emergence, and that we cannot gain insight into the afterlives of systems without exploring their technologies.

The nine contributions ask how these debates and affective states survive and live on in today’s discussions of media ecologies, environmentalism, object-oriented philosophies, computer simulations, performative art, and communication technologies. In this sense, they take the renaissance of systems thinking in the late 20th and early 21st Century as an effect of various system crisis and explore new media technologies as stabilizing ‘cures’ against the dystopian future scenarios that emerged after World War II. The articles of this issue suggest that in order to understand present technologies, we need to account the systems thinking that fostered their emergence, and that we cannot gain insight into the afterlives of systems without exploring their technologies.”

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Capitalism, Commons, Economy, Ethics, Media, Social intelligence, Society

Why and how should we build a basic income for everybody?

“What would Heaven on Earth mean in reality? It would mean that each and every person on the planet has access to an an abundant supply of healthy food and clean water. That each and every person has access to luxurious housing and clothing. That we are all safe. That we can all communicate with everyone. That we all have free and open access to education and entertainment. That cutting edge health care is available freely to everyone, and the cutting edge is advancing as rapidly as possible, curing more and more diseases and ailments as fast as we can. And so on. We do that in an environmentally sustainable way. Obviously there would be no wars. Obviously we would have to find safe, compassionate ways to resolve our differences. Obviously we would need for Heaven on Earth to be environmentally sustainable – otherwise we poison the planet and destroy ourselves. What if we made Heaven on Earth our world-wide, species-wide goal?”

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Anthropology, Bacteria, Farming, History, Medicine, Nature, PDF, Society

‘Darwinian Gastronomy: why we use spices’ (1999) Sherman and Billing

“An early attempt to use statistical analysis of cookbooks to reveal deeper patterns about what we eat and why. The paper theorizes that there is an evolutionary benefit to eating spices: “by cleansing food of pathogens before consumption, spice users contribute to the health, longevity and fitness of themselves, their families and their guests.” There is more disease in the tropics and this is also where most spices are added to food, or so the paper seems to argues. Personally I think the argument runs the risk of putting the horse behind the carriage. Spices predominately grow in tropical areas and it makes sense to expect that this is where they eat them most.”

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Anthropology, Biology, Biometrics, Brain, Education, History, Medicine, Neural Networks, Optics, PDF, Science

The Optics of Ibn Al-Haytham, Books I–III: On Direct Vision (c1028-38)

“This is the first English translation of first three out of the 7 volumes of the fundamental work on optics by the medieval Arab scientist Ibn al-Haitham or Alhazen (965–c1039). His book exerted a great influence upon science through Vitelo, Roger Bacon, Peckham and Kepler. Alhazen investigated many particular cases of reflection and refraction, and drew attention to the light-ray’s property of retracing its path when reversed. He was the first to give a detailed description of the human eye and to study binocular vision. Certain ophthalmological terms originated from the Latin translation of Alhazen’s Arabic text, e.g. retina and cornea. The Book of Optics (Kitāb al-Manāẓir, كتاب المناظر) presented experimentally founded arguments against the widely held extramission theory of vision (as held by Euclid in his Optica) and in favour of intromission theory, as supported by thinkers such as Aristotle, the now accepted model that vision takes place by light entering the eye.”

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Anthropology, Archeology, Capitalism, Commons, Economy, History, Society

Mediterranean Containerization

“Over at least the last five millennia, certain commodities have been defining features of Mediterranean economies and have moved around all or part of the region in comparatively large quantities. Olive oil and wine are perhaps the most famous, but to these we can add metals, cereals, salt, textiles, stone, fish products or indeed certain classes of people (tourists, slaves, economic migrants). The massive advantages of maritime travel, in terms of speed and cargo capacity, have long knitted together otherwise quite distant Mediterranean coasts and have encouraged unusual patterns of economic codependence (e.g., Braudel 1972; Broodbank 2013; Horden and Purcell 2000), as well as wider flows into, out of, or through the basin. Even a cursory glance at the physical appearance of Mediterranean trade goods, or the way they are treated in documentary sources, also makes it clear that, for thousands of years, they have been standardized, marked and packaged in ways that adapt them for long-range transactions and position them for certain kinds of producer, distributor and consumer.”

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AI, Algorithm, Automata, Biological Computation, Code, Cybernetics, Deep Learning, Emergence, Man/Machine, Neural Networks, Robots, Science, Social intelligence, Society

Can a robot be too nice?

“Designing artificial entities perfectly groomed to meet our emotional needs has an obvious appeal, like creating the exact right person for a job from thin air. But it’s also not hard to imagine the problems that might arise in a world where we’re constantly dealing with robots calibrated to treat us, on an interpersonal level, exactly the way we want. We might start to prefer the company of robots to that of other, less perfectly optimized humans. We might react against them, hungry for some of the normal friction of human relations. As Lanier worried, we might start to see the lines blur, and become convinced that machines—which in some ways are vastly inferior to us, and in other ways vastly superior—are actually our equals.”

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