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Oscar Niemeyer  by Ludovic Lent

Photo – Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) photographed by Ludovic Lent for L’Express, France.

First were the thick stone walls, the arches, then the domes and vaults – of the architect, searching out for wider spaces. Now it is concrete-reinforced that gives our imagination flight with its soaring spans and uncommon cantilevers. Concrete, to which architecture is integrated, through which it is able to discard the foregone conclusions of rationalism, with its monotony and repetitious solutions. A concern for beauty, a zest for fantasy, and an ever-present element of surprise bear witness that today’s architecture is not a minor craft bound to straight-edge rules, but an architecture imbued with technology: light, creative and unfettered, seeking out its architectural scene.” ~ Oscar Niemeyer, acceptance speech, Pritzker Architecture Prize (1988).

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Photo – Rover’s Self Portrait (link): this Picasso-like self portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover was taken by its Navigation cameras, located on the now-upright mast. The camera snapped pictures 360-degrees around the rover, while pointing down at the rover deck, up and straight ahead. Those images are shown here in a polar projection. Most of the tiles are thumbnails, or small copies of the full-resolution images that have not been sent back to Earth yet. Two of the tiles are full-resolution. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (August, 9, 2012). [6000 x 4500 full size link].

video – tshirtOS is the world’s first wearable, shareable, programmable t-shirt. A working, digital t-shirt that can be programmed by an iOS app to do whatever you can think of (by CuteCircuit, link).

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 Documentary – Code Rush (www.clickmovement.org/coderush), produced in 2000 and broadcast on PBS, is an inside look at living and working in Silicon Valley at the height of the dot-com era. The film follows a group of Netscape engineers as they pursue at that time a revolutionary venture to save their company – giving away the software recipe for Netscape’s browser in exchange for integrating improvements created by outside software developers.

” (…) code (…) Why is it important for the world? Because it’s the blood of the organism that is our culture, now. It’s what makes everything go.“, Jamie Zawinski, Code Rush, 2000.

The year is early 1998, at the height of dot-com era, and a small team of Netscape code writers frantically works to reconstruct the company’s Internet browser. In doing so they will rewrite the rules of software development by giving away the recipe for its browser in exchange for integrating improvements created by outside unpaid developers.  The fate of the entire company may well rest on their shoulders. Broadcast on PBS, the film capture the human and technological dramas that unfold in the collision between science, engineering, code, and commerce.

Video – Animaris Gubernare (AG), is one of the most recent Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest‘s (strandbeest.com) 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 (strandbeest.com).

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.

Sound/Video – willterminus (YouTube link) says: “I was bored so I wanted to see if I could get free dial up internet so I found that NetZero still has free service so I put in the number and heard the glorious sound of the Dial-up. Remind me of years gone. Unfortunately I was not able to make a connection“.

Video – Finland’s educational system: Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the revolutionary educational system Finland has instituted and the results of that system on the education of their children. Read more about it at: Anu Partanen, “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success“, The Atlantic magazine, US, Dec. 2011.

There is an entire genealogy to be written from the point of view of the challenge posed by insect coordination, by “swarm intelligence.” Again and again, poetic, philosophical, and biological studies ask the same question: how does this “intelligent,” global organization emerge from a myriad of local, “dumb” interactions?” — Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit.

[…] The interest in swarms was intimately connected to the research on emergence and “superorganisms” that arose during the early years of the twentieth century, especially in the 1920s. Even though the author of the notion of superorganisms was the now somewhat discredited writer Herbert Spencer,63 who introduced it in 1898, the idea was fed into contemporary discourse surrounding swarms and emergence through myrmecologist William Morton Wheeler. In 1911 Wheeler had published his classic article “The Ant Colony as an Organism” (in Journal of Morphology), and similar interests continued to be expressed in his subsequent writings. His ideas became well known in the 1990s in discussions concerning artificial life and holistic swarm-like organization. For writers such as Kevin Kelly, mentioned earlier in this chapter, Wheeler’s ideas regarding superorganisms stood as the inspiration for the hype surrounding emergent behavior.64 Yet the actual context of his paper was a lecture given at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole in 1910.65 As Charlotte Sleigh points out, Wheeler saw himself as continuing the work of holistic philosophers, and later, in the 1910s and 1920s, found affinities with Bergson’s philosophy of temporality as well.66 In 1926, when emergence had already been discussed in terms of, for example, emergent evolution, evolutionary naturalism, creative synthesis, organicism, and emergent vitalism, Wheeler noted that this phenomenon seemed to challenge the basic dualisms of determinism versus freedom, mechanism versus vitalism, and the many versus the one.67 An animal phenomenon thus presented a crisis for the fundamental philosophical concepts that did not seem to apply to such a transversal mode of organization, or agencement to use the term that Wheeler coined. It was a challenge to philosophy and simultaneously to the physical, chemical, psychological, and social sciences, a phenomenon that seemed to cut through these seemingly disconnected spheres of reality.

In addition to Wheeler, one of the key writers on emergence – again also for Kelly in his Out of Control 68 – was C. Lloyd Morgan, whose Emergent Evolution (1927) proposed to see evolution in terms of emergent “relatedness”. Drawing on Bergson and Whitehead, Morgan rejected a mechanistic dissecting view that the interactions of entities “whether physical or mental” always resulted only in “mixings” that could be seen beforehand. Instead he proposed that the continuity of the mechanistic relations were supplemented with sudden changes at times. At times reminiscent of Lucretius’s view that there is a basic force, clinamen, that is the active differentiating principle of the world, Morgan focused on how qualitative changes in direction could affect the compositions and aggregates. He was interested in the question of the new and how novelty is possible. In his curious modernization of Spinoza, Morgan argued for the primacy of relations – or “relatedness,” to be accurate.69 Instead of speaking of agencies or activities, which implied a self-enclosed view of interactions, in Emergent Evolution Morgan propagated in a way an ethological view of the world. Entities and organisms are characterized by relatedness, the tendency to relate to their environment and, for example, other organisms. So actually, what emerge are relations:

If it be asked: What is it that you claim to be emergent? the brief reply is: Some new kind of relation. Revert to the atom, the molecule, the thing (e.g. a crystal), the organism, the person. At each ascending step there is a new entity in virtue of some new kind of relation, or set of relations, within it, or, as I phrase it, intrinsic to it. Each exhibits also new ways of acting on, and reacting to, other entities. There are new kinds of extrinsic relatedness“.70

The evolutionary levels of mind, life, and matter are in this scheme intimately related, with the lower levels continuously affording the emergence of so-called higher functions, like those of humans. Different levels of relatedness might not have any understanding of the relations that define other levels of existence, but still these other levels with their relations affect the other levels. Morgan tried, nonetheless, to steer clear of the idealistic notions of humanism that promoted the human mind as representing a superior stage in emergence. His stance was much closer to a certain monism in which mind and matter are continuously in some kind of intimate correspondence whereby even the simplest expressions of life participate in a wider field of relatedness. In Emergent Evolution Morgan described relations as completely concrete. He emphasized that the issue is not only about relations in terms but as much about terms in relation, with concrete situations, or events, stemming from their relations.71 In a way, other views on emergence put similar emphasis on the priority of relations, expressing a kind of radical empiricism in the vein of William James. Drawing on E. G. Spaulding’s 1918 study The New Rationalism, Wheeler noted the unpredictable potentials in connectionism: a connected whole is more than (or at least nor reducible to) its constituent parts, implying the impossibility to find causal determination of aggregates. Whereas existing sciences might be able to recognize and track down certain relationships that they have normalized or standardized, the relations might still produce properties that are beyond those of the initial conditions – and thus also demand a vector of analysis that parts from existing theories – dealing with properties that open up only in relation to themselves (as a “law unto themselves”). 72 Instead, a more complicated mode of development was at hand, in which aggregates, or agencements, simultaneously involved various levels of reality. This also implied that aggregates, emergent orders, have no one direction but are constituted of relations that extend in various directions:

We must also remember that most authors artificially isolate the emergent whole and fail to emphasize the fact that its parts have important relations not only with one another but also with the environment and that these external relations may contribute effectively towards producing both the whole and its novelty“.73 […]

in (passage from), Jussi Parikka, “Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology“, Chapter II – Genesis of Form: Insect Architecture and Swarms, (section) Emergence and Relatedness: A Radical Empiricism – take one, pp. 51-53, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2011.

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

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