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It takes you 500,000 microseconds just to click a mouse. But if you’re a Wall Street algorithm and you’re five microseconds behind, you’re a loser.” ~ Kevin Slavin.

TED video lecture – Kevin Slavin (link) argues that we’re living in a world designed for – and increasingly controlled by – algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can’t understand, with implications we can’t control. Kevin Slavin navigates in the “algoworld“, the expanding space in our lives that’s determined and run by algorithms (link at TED).


Video lecture – In this new RSA Animate, Manuel Lima, senior UX design lead at Microsoft Bing, explores the power of network visualisation to help navigate our complex modern world. Taken from a lecture given by Manuel Lima as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.

Network visualization has experienced a meteoric rise in the last decade, bringing together people from various fields and capturing the interest of individuals across the globe. As the practice continues to shed light on an incredible array of complex issues, it keeps drawing attention back onto itself. Manuel Lima is a Senior UX Design Lead at Microsoft Bing and founder of, and was nominated as ‘one of the 50 most creative and influential minds of 2009’ by Creativity Magazine. He visits the RSA to explore a critical paradigm shift in various areas of knowledge, as we stop relying on hierarchical tree structures and turn instead to networks in order to properly map the inherent complexities of our modern world. The talk will showcase a variety of captivating examples of visualization and also introduce the network topology as a new cultural meme. (from RSA, lecture link).


Coders are now habitat providers for the rest of the world.” ~ Vitorino Ramos, via Twitter, July, 17, 2012 (link).

Video lecture – Casey Reas ( at Eyeo2012 (uploaded 2 days ago on Vimeo): From a visual and conceptual point of view, the tension between order and chaos is a fertile space to explore. For over one hundred years, visual artists have focused on both in isolation and in tandem. As artists started to use software in the 1960s, the nature of this exploration expanded. This presentation features a series of revealing examples, historical research into the topic as developed for Reas‘ upcoming co-authored book “10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10″ (MIT Press, 2012, book link; cover above), and a selection of Casey‘s artwork that relies on the relationship between chance operations and strict rules.

Video – Lynn Hoffman (social worker, link) talks about a shift that has been taking place in our world, a shift that simmered in the background for many years and has recently erupted onto the world stage. This shift is akin to a revolution, and often gives a renewed impetus to contemporary revolutionary movements. The shift is related to what Lynn sees as a move from the system metaphor, with its emphasis on symmetry, order and a return to the same, to the rhizome with its more messy and horizontal plane of endless relations.

Gregory Bateson and the Rhizome Century” is an interdisciplinary event inspired by the vision of family therapy pioneer, Lynn Hoffman. The conference is for anyone who: Appreciates the pressing significance of honoring the complexities of our interrelations with one another, with nature, and also with our technologies; Understands that a primary responsibility for our generation is to move beyond the individualism’s and negations so prominent in Western thought, towards a work that generates sustaining and sustainable webs of relationship. [, Vancouver, Canada, Oct. 2012].

Video – Animaris Gubernare (AG), is one of the most recent Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest‘s ( machine animals. Born in October 2010, AG died out in October 2011. It had two external (rolling) wind stomachs which serve as an anchor against strong winds.

Since 1990, only by using plastic tubes, lemonade bottles and air pistons as logic gates, powered by wind, Theo Jansen has produced some quite incredible machine animals. His creatures are designed to move – and even survive – on their own. In some cases he have recurred to Evolutionary Computation (more) as a mean to optimize their shape in order to longer survive hard storms and salt water. He briefly explains:

“(…) Since 1990 I have been occupied creating new forms of life. Not pollen or seeds but plastic yellow tubes are used as the basic material of this new nature. I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind, so they don’t have to eat. Over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storm and water and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives (…)”, Theo Jansen, in Strandbeest (

But he goes a step further. Not he only develop sensors (for water sensing) as well as a full Brain, a binary step counter made of plastic tubes, which could change his pattern of zeroes, overtime, and adapts. Have a look (minute 6, second 33) … :

Video – Jansen‘s Lecture at TED talks, March 2007 (Monterey, California). Theo Jansen creates kinetic sculptures that walk using wind power (featured in a few previous short sifts), here he explains how he makes them work. Incredibly, he has devised a way to optimize the shape of the machine’s parts and gait using a genetic algorithm running on a PC and has actually made logic gates out of the air pistons making up the machines. His work attests to a truly jaw-dropping intelligence.

Video – The Divided Brain (Oct. 2011) – In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA’s free public events programme. To view the full lecture “The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World“, do jump yourself into another YouTube video.

Fig. – Complex Networks (examples): (a) the Internet, where nodes are routers and edges show physical network connections. (b) an ecosystem (c) professional collaboration networks between doctors; and (d) rail network of Barcelona, where nodes are subway stations and edges represent rail connections. (ANU E Press: Australian University Press)

[…] Social networks are either a) going to morph into storytelling media that provide tools to construct narrative on top of the update stream, or b) are going to stop growing as people seek out a different set of tools that are better for communication and storytelling than social networks, which do a mediocre job at both. Part of where I think social networks need to move is to give people the ability to author stories, and to recruit and notify others that they are part of that story. The best online games make this explicit – you participate precisely because you want to be part of a story. Joining a group isn’t a story. Stories have focal points – beginnings and ends. […], Anthony Townsend, “The Future of Social Networks is Storytelling” (part 2), Feb. 2010 [link].

[…] What about writing should be cherished? Calvino, in a wonderfully simple scheme, devotes one lecture (a memo for his reader) to each of five indispensable literary values. First there is “lightness” (leggerezza), and Calvino cites Lucretius, Ovid, Boccaccio, Cavalcanti, Leopardi, and Kundera–among others, as always–to show what he means: the gravity of existence has to be borne lightly if it is to be borne at all. There must be “quickness,” a deftness in combining action (Mercury) with contemplation (Saturn). Next is “exactitude,” precision and clarity of language. The fourth lecture is on “visibility,” the visual imagination as an instrument for knowing the world and oneself. Then there is a tour de force on “multiplicity,” where Calvino brilliantly describes the eccentrics of literature (Elaubert, Gadda, Musil, Perec, himself) and their attempt to convey the painful but exhilarating infinitude of possibilities open to humankind.

The sixth and final lecture – worked out but unwritten – was to be called “Consistency.” Perhaps surprised at first, we are left to ponder how Calvino would have made that statement, and, as always with him, the pondering leads to more. With this book Calvino gives us the most eloquent, least defensive “defense of literature” scripted in our century – a fitting gift for the next millennium. […], Harvard University Press on the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, (book) Italo Calvino “Six Memos for the next Millenium“. [link]

Video – Awesome choice by Tim Burton. It fits him like a glove. Here is the official Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland teaser trailer (just uploaded yesterday). Alice in Wonderland is directed by visionary director Tim Burton, of everything from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Beetlejuice to Batman to Edward Scissor hands to Mars Attacks to Sleepy Hollow to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Sweeney Todd most recently. This is based on Lewis Carroll’s beloved series of books that were first published in 1865. Disney is bringing Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to both digital 3D and 2D theaters everywhere on March 5th, 2010 early next year (more). Finally, just one personal thought. Soon, Tim Burton’s will stand for cinema, as what Jules Verne represented in literature.

In 1973, under several ongoing works on Co-Evolution and Evolutionary theory, L. van Alen proposed a new hypothesis: the Red Queen effect [1]. According to him, several different species will migth propably undergo and submit themselves to a continuous re-adapation [2,3], being it genetic or synaptic, only to end themselves at the point they started. A kind of arms races between species [4], potentially leading to specialization, as well as evolutionary Punctuated equilibria [5,6].

Van Alen chose the name “Red Queen” in allusion to the romance “Alice in Wonderland”, from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) published in 1865. Over this country (Wonderland) it was usual to run as quick as you could, just to end yourself at the same place. The dialogs between Alice and the Red Queen are sintomatic:

[…] ‘Now! Now!’ cried the Queen. ‘Faster! Faster!’ And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy. The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, ‘You may rest a little, now. Alice looked round her in great surprise. ‘Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!’ ‘Of course it is,’ said the Queen. ‘What would you have it?’. ‘Well, in our country, said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.’ ‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, I see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!‘ […]

Meanwhile, since 2007 (even much earlier!) I have taken Alice into my own arms. In fact, she is not heavy at all. If you feel you should keep running, some should, have a read on “Co-Cognition, Neural Ensembles and Self-Organization“, extended abstract for a seminar talk at ISR – Institute for Systems and Robotics, Technical Univ. of Lisbon (IST), May 31, 2007. Written at Granada University, Spain, 29 May 2007.

[1] van Alen, L. (1973), “A New Evolutionary Law“, Evolutionary Theory, 1, pp. 1-30.
[2] Cliff D., Miller G.F. (1995), “Tracking the Red Queen: Measurements of Adaptive Progress in Co-Evolutionary Simulations“, in F. Moran, A. Moreno, J.J. Merelo and P. Cachon (editors) Advances in Artificial Life: Proceedings of the Third European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL95). Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence 929, Springer- Verlag, pp.200-218.
[3] Cliff D., Miller G.F. (1996), “Co-Evolution of Pursuit and Evasion II: Simulation Methods and Results“. In P. Maes et al. (Eds.), From Animals to Animats IV, Procs. of the Fourth Int. Conf. on Simulation of Adaptive Behaviour, MIT Press, pp. 506-515.
[4] Dawkins R., Krebs J.R. (1979), “Arms Races between and within Species“. In Procs. of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, nº. 205, pp. 489-511.
[5] Eldredge, N., Gould, S. J., “Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism“. In: Models In Paleobiology (Ed. by T. J. M. Schopf), 1972.
[6] Gould, S. J., & Eldredge, N., “Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution reconsidered“. Paleobiology, 3, 115-151, 1977.

Figure – My first Swarm Painting SP0016 (Jan. 2002). This was done attaching the following algorithm into a robotic drawing arm. In order to do it however, pheromone distribution by the overall ant colony were carefully coded into different kinds of colors and several robotic pencils (check “The MC2 Project [Machines of Collective Conscience]“, 2001, and “On the Implicit and on the Artificial“, 2002). On the same year when the computational model appeared (2000) the concept was already extended into photography (check original paper) – using the pheromone distribution as photograms (“Einstein to Map” in the original article along with works like “Kafka to Red Ants” as well as subsequent newspaper articles). Meanwhile, in 2003, I was invited to give an invited talk over these at the 1st Art & Science Symposium in Bilbao (below). Even if I was already aware of Jeffrey Ventrella outstanding work as well as Ezequiel Di Paolo, it was there where we first met physically.

[] Vitorino Ramos, Self-Organizing the Abstract: Canvas as a Swarm Habitat for Collective Memory, Perception and Cooperative Distributed Creativity, in 1st Art & Science Symposium – Models to Know Reality, J. Rekalde, R. Ibáñez and Á. Simó (Eds.), pp. 59, Facultad de Bellas Artes EHU/UPV, Universidad del País Vasco, 11-12 Dec., Bilbao, Spain, 2003.

Many animals can produce very complex intricate architectures that fulfil numerous functional and adaptive requirements (protection from predators, thermal regulation, substrate of social life and reproductive activities, etc). Among them, social insects are capable of generating amazingly complex functional patterns in space and time, although they have limited individual abilities and their behaviour exhibits some degree of randomness. Among all activities by social insects, nest building, cemetery organization and collective sorting, is undoubtedly the most spectacular, as it demonstrates the greatest difference between individual and collective levels. Trying to answer how insects in a colony coordinate their behaviour in order to build these highly complex architectures, scientists assumed a first hypothesis, anthropomorphism, i.e., individual insects were assumed to possess a representation of the global structure to be produced and to make decisions on the basis of that representation. Nest complexity would then result from the complexity of the insect’s behaviour. Insect societies, however, are organized in a way that departs radically from the anthropomorphic model in which there is a direct causal relationship between nest complexity and behavioural complexity. Recent works suggests that a social insect colony is a decentralized system composed of cooperative, autonomous units that are distributed in the environment, exhibit simple probabilistic stimulus-response behaviour, and have only access to local information. According to these studies at least two low-level mechanisms play a role in the building activities of social insects: Self-organization and discrete Stigmergy, being the latter a kind of indirect and environmental synergy. Based on past and present stigmergic models, and on the underlying scientific research on Artificial Ant Systems and Swarm Intelligence, while being systems capable of emerging a form of collective intelligence, perception and Artificial Life, done by Vitorino Ramos, and on further experiences in collaboration with the plastic artist Leonel Moura, we will show results facing the possibility of considering as “art”, as well, the resulting visual expression of these systems. Past experiences under the designation of “Swarm Paintings” conducted in 2001, not only confirmed the possibility of realizing an artificial art (thus non-human), as introduced into the process the questioning of creative migration, specifically from the computer monitors to the canvas via a robotic harm. In more recent self-organized based research we seek to develop and profound the initial ideas by using a swarm of autonomous robots (ARTsBOT project 2002-03), that “live” avoiding the purpose of being merely a simple perpetrator of order streams coming from an external computer, but instead, that actually co-evolve within the canvas space, acting (that is, laying ink) according to simple inner threshold stimulus response functions, reacting simultaneously to the chromatic stimulus present in the canvas environment done by the passage of their team-mates, as well as by the distributed feedback, affecting their future collective behaviour. In parallel, and in what respects to certain types of collective systems, we seek to confirm, in a physically embedded way, that the emergence of order (even as a concept) seems to be found at a lower level of complexity, based on simple and basic interchange of information, and on the local dynamic of parts, who, by self-organizing mechanisms tend to form an lived whole, innovative and adapting, allowing for emergent open-ended creative and distributed production.

Vitorino Ramos at Bairro Alto taken by Joao Bracourt (9/2003)

Back in 2003 I was photographed by João Bracourt, a friend and professional photograph which among other things (web design + painting) travels around the world within big professional surf events (he is right now on it’s way to Indonesia), covering it for main surf magazines. Back then (Sept. 2003) we were enjoying ourselves with a big group late nigth at Bairro Alto, the main bar and restaurant district in Lisbon.

The t-shirt I’m wearing here is from COSI – Complexity in Social Sciences Summer School. One month earlier have been invited among other people to give a lecture in Spain about my work, there at COSI (Baeza, Andaluzia). After all these years the PPT file (Stigmergy as a possible exploratory walk up to collective life-like complexity and behaviour) is still available. As well as those from Gerard Weisbuch (Research Director of the Complex Networks and Cognitive Systems Team within the Statistical Physics Laboratory of the l’Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France) and Rosaria Conte (head of the Division of Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Modelling & Interaction at the Institute of Psychology of the Italian National Research Council), among others. Many other research materials concerning complexity and social sciences are still available at COSI’s 2003 main site.

Vitorino Ramos at Bairro Alto taken by Joao Bracourt (9/2003)

(at Bairro Alto, Lisbon, Sept. 2003 – taken by João Bracourt)

Vitorino Ramos at Bairro Alto taken by Joao Bracourt (9/2003)

(at Bairro Alto, Lisbon, Sept. 2003 – taken by João Bracourt)


[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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