Friday, December 30, 2011

WaveFlavours @ Sublime Loop

I've been playing with a simple synthesis technique I'm call WaveFlavours. Listen to some work-in-progress at Sublime Loop. (BTW: for people who are seriously into the Sublime Loop this is hardcore minimalist : 8 mins of the loop unadulterated with other melodies etc.)

SublimeLoop (WaveFlavours) by Mentufacturer

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pen Colours

Found the pen for my old Genius tablet which had been lost (in an unopened box) since we came to London from Brazil in 2008. It's fun to doodle.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

European Stability Mechanism

Not sure how much of a conspiracy theory this is but if it's even half true - and right now it seems horribly plausible - it's another extraordinary coup for disaster capitalism. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Peak Oil Looks Like

Arch Druid :
Thus our civilization has entered what John Kenneth Galbraith called “the twilight of illusion,” the point at which the end of a historical process would be clearly visible if everybody wasn’t so busy finding reasons to look somewhere else. A decade ago, those few of us who were paying attention to peak oil were pointing out that if the peak of global conventional petroleum production arrived before any meaningful steps were taken, the price of oil would rise to previously unimagined heights, crippling the global economy and pushing political systems across the industrial world into a rising spiral of dysfunction and internal conflict. With most grades of oil above $100 a barrel, economies around the world mired in a paper “recovery” worse than most recessions, and the United States and European Union both frozen in political stalemates between regional and cultural blocs with radically irreconcilable agendas, that prophecy has turned out to be pretty much square on the money, but you won’t hear many people mention that these days. 
The point that has to be grasped just now, it seems to me, is that this is what peak oil looks like. Get past the fantasies of sudden collapse on the one hand, and the fantasies of limitless progress on the other, and what you get is what we’re getting—a long ragged slope of rising energy prices, economic contraction, and political failure, punctuated with a crisis here, a local or regional catastrophe there, a war somewhere else—all against a backdrop of disintegrating infrastructure, declining living standards, decreasing access to health care and similar services, and the like, which of course has been happening here in the United States for some years already.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Banks And Social Networks

Major Netocracy coming down!
And in the last year or so, financial institutions have started exploring ways to use data from Facebook, Twitter and other networks to round out an individual borrower’s risk profile—although most entrepreneurs working on the problem say the technology is three to five years away from mainstream adoption.

Update : While we're on the subject of Netocracy, here's Dillow on the irrelevance of politicians. Another symptom of the shift to Netocracy is the decline of the democratic nation state (a classic institution of "Project Man") attacked on all sides by networks. In this case, finance networks. (Look at Dillow even parroting the classic media-vs-state line : that voters have recognised the irrelevance and are bored with politicians.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Siri vs. Women

Violet Blue is very good here :   

But in his post there is something he only hinted at that I want to tease apart to show you why I think the problem with Siri really matters.
Apple’s engineers are clever enough to spend thought, effort and time to make Siri give us funny answers about hiding dead bodies.
But the same workers didn’t spare a single minute to make sure a variety of female sexual healthcare crises and emergencies have a minimum of equal consideration.
That is the thing, in all this mess, that I find most astonishing.
This is a real problem.

Read the whole story.

Monday, December 05, 2011

"Suspected Activists"

Guardian :  

A statement from the Occupy London camp said: "The reference to 'suspected activists' seems to demonstrate a disturbing loss of perspective.
"Activism is not a crime and the desire to participate in democratic decision-making should not be a cause for concern for the police in any free society. 
"An institution that confuses active citizens with criminals and equates al-Qaida with efforts to re-imagine the City is an institution in grave danger of losing its way." 
Asked about the document, the City of London police said their community policing methods had been praised. 
A spokesman added: "City of London police works with the community to deter and detect terrorist activity and crime in the City in a way that has been identified nationally as good practice. 
"We've seen crime linked to protests in recent weeks, notably around groups entering office buildings, and with that in mind we continue to brief key trusted partners on activity linked to protests."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Flight Assembled Architecture


The thing about this is that there's no need for these to be Quadcopters. We could have automated cranes with this level of precision. Giant robot arms spitting bricks like enormous Pez machines, with in-built nozzles cementing them into place.

GrooveShark Playlist

Some people just turned me onto GrooveShark. I wasn't quite sure at first but I found it had a load of music I like, so here's a representative playlist list of the music I'm into right now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Original Pirate Material

 Pirate Utopias
These merchant ships were the engines of the emerging global capitalism, yet the sailors themselves were utterly excluded from the wealth they worked to generate. The decision to ‘turn pirate’ was thus a decision to wrestle back some autonomy, and when they did, life on a ship changed dramatically. Officers were democratically elected. Food was shared equally among men of all rank. When booty was collected the Captain only took two shares where the lowest took one – income differentials that would make modern CEOs faint. Loss of a limb aboard would be met with a payment of around £20,000 in today’s money – an amazing form of early healthcare.
So, far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered such savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates’ ethos.

Dance Music Is Alive!

Good reasons (and links) to think we're in an exciting era in terms of electronic dance music. The "post-step" world.

And no mention of either hauntology or hypnogogic pop / witch-house / chill-wave. (Although as part of the wider electronic landscape they can't really be ignored.)

Banksters' Lies


The Physics of Collapse

Excellent systems model of how complex societies collapse.

Hat-tip : Jean-Luc Delatre

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Facebook And The Evolution Of Social Software

Over on a private group(!) on Facebook, I found myself writing this  :
On the whole, I'm optimistic about "social software" and its capacity to put our cognitive surplus to good use. We still have Wikipedia and Quora and Instructables etc. 
But I think something has changed over the last couple of years. Previously, social software companies were trying to make tools for their users, and advertising was just their funding model. 
Twitter, Google etc. are basically geek companies making things that geeks thought were cool. 
Facebook's - or Zuckerberg's, not sure which - genius is to be a great "learning organisation". It's very fast to pick up and apply good ideas from elsewhere. 
What Facebook has learned over the last few years (from Blackberry, Twitter and Zynga) is how to make the most addictive feed possible for the greatest number of people. 
I don't believe anyone at Facebook ever said "let's make people more passive and stupid". But I do believe that they said, "how can we simplify this so that even the passive and stupid people sign up?" (Which is almost as pessimistically cynical.) 
What they produced was social software that acted like TV. A non-stop stream of gripping events, that are all about surprise, excitement and emotional shocks. (In this sense, the "good" political propaganda from, say, the Occupy movement is no different from TV's symbiosis with the radical movements of the 1960s) 
Instead of putting the cognitive surplus to good use, Facebook just harnesses everyone's surplus to make the wall even more compelling. So that you keep coming back in case anyone you ever knew in your life might have wanted to say something to you or share a picture or a video. 
Google+, while an improvement in some ways, is Google's belated realisation that this is the new reality of social software. Now the weird geek tools (Wave) and me too efforts (Buzz) are being put to rest, and Google is trying to build it's own ultra-compelling feed.

I'll Occupy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why The Violent Suppression Of OWS?

OK, dumb question. Why wouldn't there be a violent reaction to try to extinguish this movement?

Still, Naomi Wolf spells it out clearly :
But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congress people are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Update : The Silence of Obama 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Post Democracy

Aditya Chakrabortty :
Until this weekend, Monti served as an adviser to the world's number one investment bank, Goldman Sachs. As for Papademos, his biggest political intervention before becoming prime minister was to argue against the recent eurozone deal to write off half of Greece's debts – it should, he claimed, be a far smaller discount, so as not to hurt banks. One man was a banker, the other defended their interests, and yet the claim is that they have shed those prejudices in the past few hours.

Positive Money vs. The FT

Positive Money have a good response to a critical comment in the FT that accuses them of naivety.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Painting Robot

This painting robot has THE MOST AWESOME SOUND EVER!

Go watch and listen to the first video. How beautifully amazing is that sound?

How Goldman Sachs Created The Food Crisis

More reasons to hate bankers :-)

Seriously, the inventions of the financial sector have consequences in the real world. The problem is that no-one in the financial sector is responsible for assessing or avoiding negative consequences before launching new products. No one in government has effective oversight or enough power to prevent launches. And once the products are launched and people are making money from them, everyone is very reluctant to give them up. I'm sure there will be plenty of flakes ready to swear that these products are absolutely essential to motivate the production of food, despite the fact that agriculture is around 9000 years old these products have existed for barely a decade.

Here's my suggestion : whenever the financial sector wants to launch a new type of product, it needs to go through a public approval process before it's allowed. (Just like a new medicine.) The approval process should include both academics hired by the government, but also a completely public process where the descriptions, financial models, an dpredictions are published online and any interested party (blogger, economist, freelance mathematical modeller) can comment and raise concerns.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Charanjit Singh

Seumas Milne :
No wonder nationalist anger is growing. And all this to deliver a death spiral of spending cuts and tax increases that are sending Greece ever deeper into slump and debt. It makes no sense. Unless it's understood that it's not the Greek economy that's being rescued, but European and US banks exposed to Greek debt. To protect the rentiers and prevent their own failures from seizing up the European credit system, Greece has undergone the deepest ever fiscal squeeze in a developed state without the possibility of any compensating monetary stimulus or devaluation – because of its euro membership.

What If Greece Exits?

The Guardian is pulling in opinions about what happens if Greece exits the Euro. Fascinating and disturbing.

Here are a couple of thoughts. What would happen if, instead of Greece, Germany unilaterally exited the Euro?

Presumably the value of the Euro would fall, Germany's reinstated Deutsche Mark might rise, it would pay a cost in exports. But, without Germany, perhaps the Eurozone could become more economically homogenous, with policies and devaluing currency more appropriate to its economic status.

A variation, what if the Eurozone was to split itself into two currency blocks? One of wealthier, industrial nations like Germany, France and the Netherlands. The other of the PIIGS and poorer Eastern European nations.  The zone would strive to retain much of its political and economic co-ordination, but the two currencies would be allowed to float against each other, giving a safety valve to tensions between the productivity of different blocks. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pirates And #Occupants

Phil Hunt asks if #Occupy should be forming an alliance with the Pirate Party.

I'd suggest that spontaneous, ad hoc co-operation is probably better for all concerned.

I joined the Pirate Party because I saw Pirates tweeting from and about #occupylsx; plus a couple of posts on the consultation that were sufficient to convince me that Pirates were, generally, well disposed towards #occupy.

The PP should take that as an example of success. It doesn't really need to be more than that. Internet culture is all about loose coupling and simple protocols.

Heart Of Darkness

Monbiot :
It's the dark heart of Britain, the place where democracy goes to die, immensely powerful, equally unaccountable. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where Does Money Come From? (Revisited)

I just came back from the excellent Positive Money conference today and can highly recommend that everyone take a serious look at their site, their analysis and their suggestions.

Here's the basic outline of the Positive Money analysis (which they've undertaken with the help of some economics professors and one guy from the Bank of England).

Q: Where does money come from?

Largely money is created by banks making loans. That is, you ask the bank if you can borrow some money; the bank says yes, and credits your account with the money and their balance-sheet with the asset of your debt to them.

That's it. That's how money is made in the economy. The money the bank lends to you DID NOT have to come from a deposit that someone else made with the bank.

Most people (including economists, bankers and politicians) find this incredibly hard to believe and assume it must be wrong. But no-one can give any other explanation for where money actually comes from. (Well, some is made by, say Quantitative Easing, but that's just small proportion of the total money in the economy.)

Q2 : What restrictions are there on banks creating money this way?

There *used to be* restrictions that said banks could only create some multiplier of the deposits they held.

And you can still read this story on some websites and even economics textbooks. Positive Money's assertion is that various deregulations since the 1970s have effectively removed these constraints. (There are still some, but they're mainly around the "clearing" of different banks' debts to each other. And, as long as all banks are not getting into serious debt with each other, it seems there's no real constraint on how much new money they can create.)

Furthermore, nowadays banks have adopted a sales culture where everyone is incentivated to sell as many loans as possible and, until the crash, this is what banks tried to do.

That's why your bank was always trying to get you to take out a second mortgage to go on holiday or buy a new sofa.

Q3 : So what's the problem?

Well, the first problem is that every pound created this way is "debt money" ie. when the pound is created, the person who receives it receives a debt. Mostly the debt is a pound + interest.

In other words, when money is created by loans, it means debts are also created. And because the debt includes extra interest, the size of debt created is *bigger* than the quantity of money.

So there is always MORE debt in the economy than there is money to repay it.

And that's why most people in the country have such a debt problem. It's not even economically *possible* to pay off all the debt. The money for it doesn't exist. And you can't create more money without creating more debt.

Q4 : Is that the only problem?


The banks like to make loans because they make their income from the interest on loan repayments. But they prefer some kinds of loans to others.

In particular, they prefer *secured* loans. That is, loans which, if you don't repay, they have something to repossess.

So, they don't like lending to businesses with limited liability because if the business goes bust most of money was probably spent on wages and materials anyway, and the capital equipment is probably not worth that much when sold second-hand.

On the other hand, they LOVE lending to individuals to buy houses ie. giving mortgages, because if the individual can't repay, the bank repossesses the house which, normally, has held / increased its value.)

Positive Money estimate that of all the billions of pounds that banks create, only about 8% is lent to businesses that create jobs and produce goods and services in the economy, and the other 92% goes into the mortgage market or other financial products with "known" risk profiles.

And that's why :

a) house prices have increased much faster than wages in recent years (ie. lots of newly created money went into bigger mortgages for more expensive houses) and you can't get on the housing ladder.

b) it's been so hard to finance your usefully productive company (unless you have something to repossess like land or intellectual property)

c) banks bought so many packages of collateralized debt.

In conclusion :

Banks have been given the monopoly on creating money.

There is no oversight.

They have incentives to create as much money (sell as much debt) as they can.

There is always more debt in society than money to repay it.

Because money is created by and in private banks, they choose how it is allocated in the economy.

Because the banks prefer secured loans, the new money goes mainly to places we don't want it to go (ie. to  inflating house prices and speculating on financial products) and doesn't go where we do want it to go (ie. to financing expansion by businesses that create jobs, goods and services.)

Economists, politicians, most bankers themselves, and certainly the general public have no fucking idea that this is how the system works, and most of them can't believe it when you tell them.

Q5 : So what can we do?

Positive Money's recommendation is as follows :

1) Take the power to create money (ie. to loan money that you don't have) away from private banks, and give it to the Bank of England.

2) Because you don't want the Bank of England to print money whenever it suits politicians, give the power to decide **when** to create the money to an independent committee. Probably with some fairly stringent criteria for when they should. Positive Money's own suggestion is that every month when inflation is around 2%, they should authorize the creation of new money. If inflation creeps above 2%, they shouldn't create more that month.

3) Rather than the new money being given to government or banks to allocate it should be given directly to the public in a slightly *progressive* form :

a) as VAT cuts. (Everyone benefits and you stimulate more economic activity)

b) by raising the threshold at which people start to pay income tax. (So the lowest wage earners benefit.)

I have to say, I think this is an absolutely brilliant blend of radicalism and realism. They've spent a lot of time thinking about this. (The analysis / book has taken their team about 18 months to put together, based on about 500 different documents. Apparently they asked the Bank of England for its own training manuals / documentation on how money is created and were told that there is none.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Economic Complexity And Development

This is a rather fascinating talk by Ricardo Hausmann on his measurement of Economic Complexity in terms of "personbytes" and its predictive value.

There's a lot I want to question and challenge. But well worth thinking about.

 The basic idea is to measure the complexity of an economy by looking at both the range of things it exports (the more, the more complex) and the number of other countries who export the same thing (the fewer others per-product, the more complex it's meant to be).

Overall, this statistic is a good predictor of income and future growth. Some papers with his collaborator here.

Actual Examples Of Unintended Consequences

This Quora question is worth a read.

A Decent Standard Of Living

Vinay Gupta :

But there's no way around this: we're at four times consumption in Europe, and something like eight times consumption in America. Can you imagine us cutting our consumption, on average, by 80%? That's what we need to do. Maybe we'll get the Hail Mary pass on Nanosolar or Konarka, I think there's a very good chance we're going to get to the Cheap Energy, Cheap Information future, but even then, it's still going to be about a nine billion person split. I think we can produce a very good hexayurt out of about 100 lbs of paper and thick aluminium foil, all recycled and recyclable. I think the biosand filter and the rocket stove are pretty much ready for prime time technologies for our basic human needs, and the toilets are only a little further behind. And that's a standard of living, that and a cheap Android tablet that's been engineered to last for three decades, that's a standard of living which you can make sense of at nine billion, which is our likely peak population. We're going to hit seven billion right around the time this piece is published, and it's important to think about it in these big number terms, because that's the world we really live in.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Austerity Has Failed

Robert Peston :
"The situation in Greece has taken a turn for the worse, with the economy increasingly adjusting through recession and related wage-price channels, rather than through structural reform-driven increases in productivity". 
Or to put it another way, Greece's austerity programme is succeeding in impoverishing Greek people with little in the way of discernible benefits to the Greek private sector and the capacity of Greece to start earning its way in the world. 
The protesting mob in Athens would probably not dissent from that view.
You think this might be a wake-up call to the ConDem coalition?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Julian Assange vs. Mark Zuckerberg

Who Says Folk Rituals Are Dead?

They're just being radically mashed up with 80s pop trivia and video-game characters. Check out this guy proposing to his girlfriend.

What is it, exactly? It's not folk. It's not pop. It's not kitsch. It's some weird pidgin amalgam.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kubler-Ross and #OccupyWallStreet

Venkatesh Rao writes a barnstormer of an article taking in everything from life-style design to #occupiers to Bruce Sterling's Dark Euphoria.

It is very, very clever. And pretty amusing. And, I'm sure, it's going to be a major meme all over the web for months to come.

Pirate Party

So, I just joined the UK Pirate Party.

I did it for two reasons. First, this month they are having an open consultation, calling for policy suggestions in areas outside the core intellectual property / internet freedom agenda that originally motivated them. Secondly, I saw one of them tweeting from OccupyLSX.

Of course, it's great fun for me to make a bunch of proposals. Here they are if you want to vote / argue for or against them.

Get the money out of politics

Full disclosure of government deals with corporations

Teach entrepreneurial skills in schools

Remove commercial restrictions on suburbia

Mandatory carbon footprint labelling for "big ticket" items

Create a framework for "Traditional Cities" (Yeah, I know, this is a personal obsession, but you know I believe in urbanism as a fundamental quality of life issue.)

A "Personal Investment Allowance"

Mandatory energy / effect labelling for common household appliances

Put the Treasury's models online

More soon when I think of them ... :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why Occupy London Stock Exchange?

Must read article, lots of good stories :

Goldman Sachs wanted to employ London staff through a subsidiary firm in the British Virgin Islands tax haven. In April 2010 Goldman lost a legal action, leaving the government in line to collect £30.8 million plus £10 million in interest. But in a private meeting between Goldman Sachs and the permanent secretary of HM Revenue and Customs, Dave Hartnett, the £10 million in interest was simply waived, in what the Metro described as a, 'sweetheart deal.' Mr Hartnett, Goldman Sachs and HMRC have all declined to comment on the allegations although HMRC has said it 'could not respond to incomplete and therefore fundamentally flawed' accounts of arrangements.

One demand, I think, should be that the minutes of ALL government deals with private corporations should be publicly viewable online.

Scandalous BBC Reporting

Here's a picture of this morning's BBC main page (click to enlarge) :

Notice the absence of any reference to last night's successful continual occupation of Saint Paul's while top billing is given to some princess in Wootton Bassett. (Bleah!)

I went down there to take food to the occupiers, but was kept outside by the police cordon. I hung around with the crowd outside for a few hours while the police

  •  a) forced a line of helmeted riot police through the crowd, up to the back of the steps. Ostensibly to "protect St. Paul's" from damage. Actually to encircle those on the steps. 
  •  b) brought in a number of vicious looking dogs to bark at the occupiers in a scary way. They didn't actually DO anything with the dogs. And clearly they weren't there for purposes of sniffing etc. Just to menace the occupiers. 
  •  c) fairly skilfully (I have to say), started reducing the occupied space. Pushed those of us in the outer ring into the road. Then pushed us all out of the road. I left soon after, as it looked like the police were very much in control of the space. 

Seems, though, that that the occupiers survived the night and the vicar of St. Paul's has asked the police to back off. Now there's a call for donations from anyone who can get down there today.

Here's some video (someone else made) of earlier yesterday :

A Movement in Slow Motion from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Google Turn Evil

Google hand over Wikileaks supporter's gmail to the US government, without a warrant.

It was perhaps inevitable that Google would fall from its ethical aspiration. But the question is, what should I do? I started boycotting Amazon for little more than this : throwing Wikileaks off their servers. But it's not nearly as easy to disengage from Google as it is to stop buying books from Amazon.

I'm heavily entangled with its services. I rely on Gmail, Blogger (where I'm writing this),  Google Calendar, YouTube, Google Application Engine (for Mind Traffic Control), Google search, Google Maps. I have a Google Analytics account and an AdWords account. I was planning to get (and develop for) an Android device at some point. I was just getting into Google Plus. How the hell do I "punish" this creature I've got so symbiotic with?

I can't just cut the knot cleanly. But I hereby announce that I am starting to disengage as and where convenient. And the long term goal will be to reduce my engagement with Google to the same casual occasionality that I deal with other large evil corporations and to attempt to provide them with as little monetary gain as possible.

To start is easy because I have very little monetary interest in Ad Words. I've just removed them from my two "commercial" blogs : Smart Disorganized and Platform Wars. Neither made me any money so it's no loss.

Let's see what I can do next.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Origin of Money

Gosh, I'm doing a lot of internet surfing today. And it's not like I don't have dozens of other things to do ...

Nevertheless, I'm seriously enjoying David Graeber on the origin of money.

The Radical Technology of Christopher Alexander

The Only Useful Innovation

David Leonhardt :
In finance, trading volumes have boomed in recent decades, yet it is unclear how much all the activity has lifted living standards. Paul A. Volcker, the former Fed chairman, has mischievously said that the only useful recent financial innovation was the automated teller machine. Critics like Mr. Volcker argue that much of modern finance amounts to arbitrage, in which technology and globalization have allowed traders to profit from being the first to notice small price differences.

IN the process, Wall Street has captured a growing share of the world’s economic pie — thereby increasing inequality — without doing much to expand the pie. It may even have shrunk the pie, given that a new International Monetary Fund analysis found that higher inequality leads to slower economic growth.

The Great EU Debt Write Off

Read this :

This website presents the results of a simulation conducted by students at ESCP Europe Business School. The aim was to uncover the amount of interlinked debt between Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain, Britain, France, and Germany; and then see what would happen if they attempted to cross cancel obligations.

The results were astounding:
  • The countries can reduce their total debt by 64% through cross cancellation of interlinked debt, taking total debt from 40.47% of GDP to 14.58%
  • Six countries – Ireland, Italy, Spain, Britain, France and Germany – can write off more than 50% of their outstanding debt
  • Three countries - Ireland, Italy, and Germany – can reduce their obligations such that they owe more than €1bn to only 2 other countries
  • Ireland can reduce its debt from almost 130% of GDP to under 20% of GDP
  • France can virtually eliminate its debt – reducing it to just 0.06% of GDP

There Aren’t Any More Rich Countries

Naomi Klein :

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Narcissus Search on Ars Electronica Blog

Great! The Ars Electronica blog has added an article on the Narcissus (anti)-Search Engine that I've been working on with Aharon Amir over the last couple of years.

Narcissus takes the results from a search of a site or database but measures the "popularity" of the results (in our first example, by counting the number of times a result is clicked on). It then deprioritises popular results, pushing them first to the end of the page and then into a limbo where they aren't shown at all for a number of searches.

The idea is to make an artistic comment on the positive feedback loops that operate throughout most of our social media to reward success with further success. In contrast, Narcissus rewards failure and so helps searchers explore the shadows : alternative and disregarded ideas and opinions.

Work in Progress :-)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shooting Banksters In A Barrel

Daniel Davies (d-squared) tries to defend bankers against the accusation that they're responsible for the 2008 crash and continuing world economic crisis.

He doesn't do a particularly good job, but he elicits this great response from "Bloix" :

I’m sure I’m being naive in assuming that Daniel doesn’t already know this and is intentionally ignoring it, but here goes:

1) There was a bubble in housing prices. This means that people bought houses, not to live in, but because they believed that the house they bought would appreciate faster than any other asset they could invest in. The appeal of such appreciation was multiplied many-fold because houses are the easiest and most common investment for ordinary people that supplies large amounts of leverage. The ordinary buyer had no appreciation of the risks of leverage but well-understood its benefits. There was a lot of activity in buying up, flipping, and trading houses that had nothing to do with the need for shelter. This activity made a lot of money for a lot of people – real estate agents, mortgage brokers, inspectors, title insurers, and lenders.

2) Housing prices could not indefinitely go up faster than the rate of inflation because eventually there would not be enough buyers who had the income to qualify for the mortgages needed to on the higher home prices. Therefore, in the absence of “creative” financing, the run-up in housing prices would soon have stabilized and perhaps dropped a bit.

3) Mortgage brokers and lenders therefore created mortgage products that were designed to allow people to buy houses that they could not possibly pay for based on their income – balloon mortgages, teaser rates, interest only loans, even negative amortization.

4) If the mortgage lenders had had to hold the risk of these loans, they would never have made them. But they didn’t, because they could sell the loans to the banksters, who then packaged them in their creative products and sold them off as AAA-rated securities to insurers, pension funds, and the like. After the banksters took their large cut off the top, the money from these investors funded the loans to the ignorant buyers who were put into the creative mortgage products by the petty crooks who worked for the mortgage originators.

5) Without the market in mortgage-backed securities made by the banksters, there would have been no money to fund the creative mortgage products, and thus no possibility of a bubble anywhere near the size of the one that eventually burst. The whole point of the mortage-backed securities market was to keep the bubble inflated. Obviously it couldn’t go on for ever, but it was very, very profitable while it lasted.

6) The banksters either were world-class idiots or they were well-aware that the mortgage-backed securities they were selling to clueless institutional buyers were trash. As we know that they are not idiots, the only possible conclusion is that they were intentionally passing off trash.

People who peddle fake goods are usually considered to be crooks. But banksters who knowingly peddled enormously high-risk securities, while claiming that they were as safe as US treasuries, are walking around with billions of taxpayer dollars in their pockets. They own Congress and the administration. They write the tax code and dominate the Federal Reserve.

After smashing up our retirement accounts, destroying our pension funds, wiping out the savings of millions of people who bought into the rising market, and putting any number of us out of work, they sneer and pontificate and preen and strut their way across the major cities and TV screens and high-end resorts of all the world.

The only justification for the investment banking industry’s existence is that it does a better job of allocating investment capital for productive purposes than any other method of doing so. What we’ve just seen is that, far from allocating capital efficiently, the banksters allocated capital in a grotesquely wasteful manner for year and year, a manner that just happened to put huge amounts of that capital into their own individual pockets while leaving the institutions they worked for at risk of insolvency. And when that risk came to pass, the obscenely rich individuals suffered not at all, while the government bailed out the institutions.

So. Please. I don’t know anything about you personally, and I’m sure that you’re a wonderful fellow who loves dogs and is charming at parties. But the industry you are part of is a force for evil in the world. Everyone who is not dependent on that industry for a living knows it.

Code. Think. Make. Play.

I just iterated once more on my personal homepage.

I rather liked the large-tiles I used for my Goldsmiths Portfolio so I'm experimenting with folding them into my more general web presence. still isn't meant to be a blog. It's a one-shot overview of who am I am, balancing reasonably up-to-date projects with a couple of classics for context, and an extensive list of where else to find me online. Hope that makes sense to new visitors.

Air Swimmers

I must confess, I'm a total sucker for both the idea of these toys and their promotional video.

Basically bringing Festo-style technology to the masses. I believe that this could be an incredible platform for practical semi-autonomous robots. (Tele-presence, roving security cameras, inspection in dangerous environments etc.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Virtues of Government Spending Without Government

John Lanchaster :
Quarterly GDP data don’t, on the whole, tend to make the person studying them laugh out loud. The most recent set, however, are an exception, despite the fact that the general picture is of unrelieved and spreading economic gloom. Instead of the surge of rebounding growth which historically accompanies successful exit from a recession, we have the UK’s disappointing 0.2 per cent growth, the US’s anaemic 0.3 per cent and the glum eurozone average figure of 0.2 per cent. That number includes the surprising and alarming German 0.1 per cent, the desperately poor French 0 per cent and then, wait for it, the agreeably frisky Belgian 0.7 per cent. Why is that, if you’ve been following the story, laugh-aloud funny? Because Belgium doesn’t have a government. Thanks to political stalemate in Brussels, it hasn’t had one for 15 months. No government means none of the stuff all the other governments are doing: no cuts and no ‘austerity’ packages. In the absence of anyone with a mandate to slash and burn, Belgian public sector spending is puttering along much as it always was; hence the continuing growth of their economy. It turns out that from the economic point of view, in the current crisis, no government is better than any government – any existing government.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OvniLounge Album on BandCamp

I decided to do a little experiment with BandCamp. Although most of my music is available for streaming / downloading free via SoundCloud, I've basically run out of space-time there. And BandCamp looks particularly good as a site for promoting and selling music. So I decided I'd make a couple of things available through them.

The first is the original OvniLounge album. This is a set of tracks from around 2006, loosely themed as "lounge music for flying-saucer people". It is lounge, as in background, listening music. I think there are some strong melodies there (to my usual plangent taste). But it's also fairly OVNI (UFO in Portuguese) - in other words, weird and uneasy. It's an extremely COLD album, which despite busy chattering percussion evokes the chill of interstellar space. The beats are "raw from the DAW", untreated FruityLoops of heavy thuds and nervous rattling. Not at all danceable to your average primate. It's kind of IDM, but probably doesn't sound much like your archetypal IDM either. If I have to give some kind of pointer I'd say it's a bit like LFO or some of the interludes in an early Black Dog album, though I'm clearly not worthy of such comparisons.

BandCamp don't host free downloads, so you have to buy, but I'm allowing you to set your own price, starting at $3. If you like it, by all means feel free to signal this by paying more :-)

Tonight I knocked up a quick YouTube video for the first track (cut and pasted out of other YouTube finds, of course).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Blogger

Finally, Google have upped their game with Blogger. Both design and functionality.

Did you notice in the last post on my exhibition that the pictures are now in a gallery when you click on them?

Big Society in Action

So, the UK government no longer feels it necessary to ensure people have enough food, and hands off responsibility to a charity.

This makes me VERY angry indeed. Someone posted that this is "collapse". But it's nothing of the sort. There is not sense whatsoever that the government can't ensure that there's enough food, distributed fairly enough, that no-one goes hungry. It can simply commit money to bulk buy enough food for the UK in the next year if it wanted to.

That it doesn't is a political decision.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pictures From The Exhibition

A couple of pictures from Machine Gardens at the Goldsmiths MFA end-of-year show.

Four Pieces

Green Cogs on a Black Background


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sunlight on Translucent Machines

The sun started shining on some of my Perspex machines and I had to grab the camera. Beautiful.
(All machines will be in the exhibition this week, but sadly none of them will look like these photos under the fluorescent lights)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

RepRap Quality Improvements

Its official, RepRap has now surpassed the commercial Fused deposition modeling 3d printers in machine affordability, price for filiment, and NOW build quality.
According to the RepRap blog.

La Mer Revisited

Gisel is updating her site, and wanted to embed the soundtrack I did for the ballet "La Mer" in 2004. (A remix / transformation of the piece by Debussy)

It's already on SoundCloud but needed some retitling. So that seems like as good an excuse for a revisit as any :-)

Check out Gisel's stunning scenery.

  La Mer by Mentufacturer

Will Hutton on Successful Capitalism

Nice paragaph :

Successful capitalism is an incredibly difficult phenomenon to create and sustain. It depends on entrepreneurial flair, yes, but also on ideas, institutions and processes ranging from great universities to innovative financial organisations that do not always appear spontaneously by the operation of free markets. They sometimes have to be designed by public action. Great businesses and wealth flower in strong societies that equip their entrepreneurs to prosper. The framework which supports this costs money, and it is proper that the rich should contribute proportionally.

Friday, September 09, 2011

RIP Michael Hart

Sad. The Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg has died at the relatively young age of 64. Obituary here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

End of MA Show, September 15th

I'm coming to the end of my MA in Computational Studio Arts at Goldsmiths. 

It's been a lot of fun and I've had the chance to play with a whole stack of things I've wanted to get into for a while, including Physical Computing (Arduino + electronics, 3D printing and other desktop manufacturing technologies, motion tracking etc.)

For a while I was seriously thinking that I may go on to try a PhD in the same area, but I'm tending away from that now. (In which case I have to find something else to do with myself.)

In mean time, here's the joint end-of-year show, just down the road from Kings Cross station in London. Opening night is the 15th September.

Updating My Homepage

I'm updating my homepage

My homepage isn't a blog, but I want to put some kind of marker on it, to indicate what I'm up to at the moment. You can glean that from this blog too, of course, but often where I am is swamped by things I'm thinking about and ranting. will be a view of what I'm doing, stripped of day-to-day chatter. (Although with links to it all on the side.)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

New Blogger UI


Thumbs up to the new Blogger UI. It's about time they revamped it, and I have to say, it's pretty good. Particular win is having analytics built in to the dashboard. OTOH, what sucks is that blank lines in HTML editor don't automatically become paragraph breaks in published text. WTF?

"All Your Pont" Revisited

I'm continuing to update my Goldsmiths portfolio. Added a page for the motion tracking / projection mapping game we did in Paris.

Here's a link to the full portfolio

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Flower Brush Revisited

Flower Brush revisited.

At the beginning of my MA course at Goldsmiths I wrote a little graphics program I'd been thinking about for years. It illustrated a simple principle : painting with multiple dumb agents. Later on, thinking more about patterns and reading about William Morris and wallpaper design I realised that simply by making the brushes "wrap-around" when they went off one side of the canvas I could make far more interesting repeating patterns.

Soon after I'd implemented the change, I found SpoonFlower, which does on-demand printing on fabrics and uploaded a couple of patterns. You can see (and buy) them here.

Anyway, it's nice to be able to go back and find a new twist on an old sketch. There's more promise in the original Flower Brush idea than I've really done justice to, even now. But this feels like a good step forward.
A follow up video showing a crank (turning rotary into reciprocating movement).

Once again, this comes out of my software and is cut on a laser-cutter.

Friday, September 02, 2011

So here's a video of my latest work-in-progress : a piece called "Machine Gardens" for my end of year art exhibition in September. But I also want to take this playful experimentation into "programs-becoming-things" further. I'll keep you all posted.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Templar of Earth

Say only

I understand and accept fully that the human race is harming the natural world by driving species to extinction, releasing long-lived pollutants, changing the climate and poisoning nature.

I understand and accept fully that the human race makes many suffer horribly and die in war, famine, injustice, poverty and oppression, and that we are failing to provide a good life for all of humanity.

I understand and fully accept that my own efforts appear unequal to the task of changing these facts.

I swear by the bones of the earth, the roots of the mountains to always treat those who understand and accept fully these Three Truths with dignity and respect, myself included.

Make a badge or banner, by any means, of this design.

You are now a templar of Earth. Display the symbol as you will.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Re-inflate And Accumulate

Dmitry Orlov :

if the real physical economy is collapsing, unemployment keeps going up, more and more people are excluded from the economy all the time, then that gives you the ability to print money because the two things balance out. So you have this deflationary trend, of the economy collapsing, of property values and various asset prices falling, and at the same time you can re-inflate the economy by printing money. And that money ends up in the pockets of very few people who then use it to buy up physical goods. So that’s really the trend, we see this concentration of paper capital.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Email today from my electricity supplier :

Dear Mr P Jones

You may have heard that we're changing our prices. With reduced quantities of North Sea gas we now buy more energy on the global wholesale market. World events are pushing up these prices and distribution and network charges are also increasing. This is affecting all energy suppliers in the UK. Unfortunately, as a result, we have to increase our prices.

We're sorry to say this increase will affect you and your new prices will come into effect on 1st October 2011. You'll shortly receive a letter with details about the changes to your tariff so you don't need to contact us...

Meanwhile Vinay calls the collapse as "soon".
Geoffrey York :

It’s the hidden factor in the Somalia famine: not just drought and civil war, but the quiet hand of the marketplace in triggering a painful rise in food prices for millions of vulnerable people.

The prices of local food staples in Somalia have soared by up to 240 per cent in the past nine months, exceeding their record highs of 2008 and contributing to a worsening of the humanitarian disaster in the country, the World Bank says in a new report.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An urbanist interlude.

Note, I'm still trying to get my thoughts together to write more on the #londonriots. I seeded this wiki with links to stories that I find interesting. This is just one of many sporadic thoughts.

I just posted an answer to a thread about the London Riots in a discussion group, pointing out that Tottenham has far more unemployed people than job vacancies.

Without wanting to detract from the seriousness of that problem, I just realised something about Tottenham and my own borough of Hackney - they are basically inner suburbs developed at the end of the 19th century and beginning of 20th, mainly for lower middle-class households who worked in the centre of London or in the industrial belt further out.

Over the last 100 years, these boroughs have been infilled with denser and denser housing due to bombing; slum clearance and social housing and, more recently, gentrification. Now old three-storey houses are converted into multiple apartments; social housing is in the form of blocks typically 6-8 storeys high and there are a few taller blocks of 10-20 storeys.

In other words, the number of people has increased by a fair amount. But there is very little new commercial building. The number of traditional shops probably hasn't increased that much. The land is too expensive to build a shopping centre (they're built further out, mainly on ex-industrial land). You wouldn't be allowed to build a factory here. And it's too far out of the commercial centres of London for anyone to want to build offices.

So here's the question. In addition to all the other economic and political problems, does the urban structure of an inner-suburb like Tottenham or Hackney doom it to an imbalance of jobs and people seeking work? How much does the mismatch of residential locations and work locations within a zoned city act as a drag on creating jobs for people?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

So, for those of you who don't know, riots and looting are breaking out around London tonight.

Watch twitter for up-to-date news.

A couple of thoughts :

It's now blatant that this is NOT appearing on the BBC front page. Clearly the media have been told not to report it in case it encourages more people to join in.

Despite this, reports are raging through Twitter.

There may be some sense in which Twitter IS helping spread the meme. People keep posting new hashtags of places where riots may be happening. Other twitterers then dismiss these, but in at least one case, Dalston, people were initially saying there was no riot, but later the shopping centre was attacked.

The Guardian thinks it's being organised.

At the same time, my bet is that it's a "bazaar of violence", as in a number of independent actors only loosely co-ordinated :

- There are presumably some people who want to protest at the police shooting on Thursday, especially as there are doubts over the assumption that it was a criminal who started it by firing at the police.

- Undoubtedly there are people involved in the looting after last night's riots in Tottenham and who realised that they really could just grab a lot of stuff.

- There are kids who probably are pissed off with the government for cutting their EMA.

- Perhaps there are political anarchists.

- And maybe just bored kids looking for excitement.

The question is, has the mob tasted blood? Have dozens, perhaps hundred, of teenagers, brought up in a materialist culture, wanting more than they can afford, just realised that if they go out at night en mass they can just take it?

No doubt this is not an organised political protest with any kind of coherent demand. It's an unfocussed anger, often mixed with selfishness. Does that make it any less of a political phenomena or response to the catastrophic political times we're in?

In one sense, I'll say yes. It certainly is less political. Politics does need goal-directedness, not just raw anger. At the same time, it would be remarkable if this wasn't in some way responding to the continual promises of austerity, depression and future poverty coming from the government and media. For all that the rioters lack the term "indignati".

Of course, it's kind of depressing seeing the reactionary comments on twitter and other social media. People calling for the army to be sent in to deal with the "scum" etc.

Still, it's understandable people are scared. And undoubtedly many innocents have lost jobs, homes or livelihoods in these riots. I'm sorry for them.
Wow! This is poignant. Issues with the co-working space idea.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Paul B Farrell :

Remember Friedman: "Just let the free market set currency exchange rates, he said, and trade deficits will self-correct." Friedman was wrong by trillions.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Now this is pretty weird :

[The] balinghou and jiulinghou cohorts typically have unusually strong bonds with their parents, which manifest themselves in unusual -- one might even say fruitful -- ways. On a typically busy workday, Liu Yuan, 29, an administrative assistant at Lenovo who's an avid player of Happy Garden, the FarmVille of Kaixin001, asks her mother to tend her crops. "She'll grow and harvest vegetables for me," says Liu, who thinks nothing of sharing her login and password with her mom. "When I'm at work, she'll send me a text asking what kind of vegetables." She says that many of her friends ask their mothers to do the same. (What makes this simultaneously perverse and loving in an only-in-China way is that, as youths, many of those moms were working on real farms as forced laborers during the Cultural Revolution.)

Charles Hugh Smith on recreating jobs. US-centric but interesting.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here's a thought, vibing off that previous idea of combining processing and heat generation, I'm answering a Quora question on BitCoin.

Why not a special heater who's heating element is a custom processor designed for bitmining? You create bitcoins as a side effect of heating your room, or boiling your kettle :-)

Update : It's happening.
Read Polly Toynbee against Tory NHS reforms.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I've wondered about this for a while :

in the United States heating uses even more energy (6 percent of the national total, according to the Department of Energy) than servers do (3 percent). If servers doubled as heaters, we’d be getting the same services for half the energy cost.
Here's something I've been up to recently. At an Erasmus get together of computer and game artists in Paris 8, I co-invented and programmed part of this live action, retro-styled video game. (I'm not in the video because I had to leave early, but kudos to the rest of the team who pulled the bits together to make it all work properly and made this awesome video.)

ALL YOUR PONT ARE BELONG TO US // installation 2011 from Tatiana "Iarn" on Vimeo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Michelle Goldberg :

Rarely has the connection between sexual anxiety and right-wing nationalism been made quite so clear. Indeed, Breivik’s hatred of women rivals his hatred of Islam, and is intimately linked to it. Some reports have suggested that during his rampage on Utoya, he targeted the most beautiful girl first. This was about sex even more than religion.
Nice one Aaron Swartz!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Text of the moment : The Occult Technology of Power
Killian Fox :

"Africa is the Silicon Valley of banking. The future of banking is being defined here… It's going to change the world."
Back when discussing Eustonianism (whatever happened to that?) I took issue with their worry that

Terrorism inspired by Islamist ideology is widespread today. It threatens democratic values and the lives and freedoms of people in many countries ... like all terrorism, it is a menace that has to be fought, and not excused.

As it turns out, the threat of Islamist terrorism was much exaggerated .

As the link above explains :

So the danger is big and growing, and Islamists are the source. Right?

Wrong, actually.

The European Union's Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2010 states that in 2009 there were "294 failed, foiled, or successfully executed attacks" in six European countries. This was down almost one-third from the total in 2008 and down by almost one-half from the total in 2007.

So in most of Europe, there was no terrorism. And where there was terrorism, the trend line pointed down.

As for who's responsible, forget Islamists. The overwhelming majority of the attacks- 237 of 294 - were carried out by separatist groups, such as the Basque ETA. A further 40 terrorists schemes were pinned on leftist and/or anarchist terrorists. Rightists were responsible for four attacks. Single-issue groups were behind two attacks, while responsibility for a further 10 was not clear.

Islamists? They were behind a grand total of one attack. Yes, one. Out of 294 attacks. In a population of half a billion people. To put that in perspective, the same number of attacks was committed by the Comité d'Action Viticole, a French group that wants to stop the importation of foreign wine.

We've now just seen what, by anyone's standards, is a major terrorist attack in Europe : 93 killed, another 97 injured. Ie. that's more killed - though fewer injured survivors - than the 7/7 bombings in London. Does that make Anders Breivik's cause - a brand of right-wing paranoid euro-culturalism - a supreme evil? Of course not. Or especially to be worried about? I doubt it. Should it make those who've talked up the clash of civilisations and who bang on about the threat of Europe being overrun by Islamic (and other immigrant) cultures consider their words more carefully? Yes, a bit.

But I remind myself of what I wrote in response to the Eustonians :

But let's continue with the Eustonians beyond values : lives and freedoms are under attack too. It's true, and the bad news is that it's getting worse.

But not because Islamism is especially wicked or powerful. Our safety is diminishing because, as the fourth-generation war people put it, the nation-state has lost the monopoly on violence. All non-state actors, whatever their ideological motivations, are potentially empowered by new technologies and organizational structures, to cause more damage than ever before.

More people allegedly die in gang-warfare in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro than in the Palestinian Intifada. The US confronts a similar rising violence on its Mexican border. These are symptoms of the democratisation of violence, and the shift in loyalties from the nation-state to some other identity-system, whether religious or ethnic or economic.

I don't approve of that thing that the Eustonians label "Islamist terrorism". But I see it for what it is : one among dozens of fundamentalisms, acting as one among dozens of malign networks. You could scour "Islamism" from the earth, and tomorrow the same problems would be with us under another label : an uncertain world where the dispossessed search for identity and self-assertion through membership of gangs and tribes with excessively anti-liberal ideologies. Such gangs must have an anti-liberal ideology, because notions of them-and-us, sinners-and-saved, infidel-and-martyr are the basic principle holding them together in the first place. If your sense of self depends on your membership of a gang. And the main organizing principle of the gang is that members are good and non-members are bad, then inevitably liberal values of tolerance and egalitarianism are out of the window.

I'd sign a manifesto that recognised this; that recognised that violent terrorism is the hallmark of all repressive fundamentalisms. And that the proper response is to build benign networks of participation and discover new identities based on shared projects and activities : membership of alt.currencies or gifting circles, free-software projects and blogrolls; quilting circles and book-clubs; theatre, music, dance and a million other things humans do together to express who they are. This, and only this, do I consider to be a serious attempt to fight "terror". :-)

I stand by this. (Even the slightly silly rhetorical flourish at the end.) Even though there are some slight differences. Breivik may not have had much of a network (though that remains an open question at time of writing. He was certainly on the fringes of Euro-paranoid discussion circles.) He seems to have been economically well off (but then again so was Bin Laden) It's not clear whether he has been searching for identity and self-assertion though he clearly was worried that some kind of European identity was under threat.

Still, despite the differences, I think my model still stands. Terrorism is cultural insecurity + technological empowerment. We don't want to lose the technological empowerment, so we must lose the cultural insecurity.
Andrew Rawnsley :

This prime minister needs to take particular care in his relationships because the politics of "personal connection" have always been important to David Cameron, right from the beginning of his career. In his early 20s, he landed a job in the Conservative research department thanks in part to an intervention by a patron in the royal household. His inner circle is packed with people with whom he went to school or university or first met in his youth. Mutual histories and backgrounds are a much more important bonding agent at the Cameron court than ideology.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Festo just keep on being insanely brilliant!

Interesting Mechanical Turk questions and surveys.

From Russ Hammond

If you had an unlimited budget, what are some interesting crowdsourcing questions you would post on Mechanical Turk?

I like this one : I would pay the workers to ask their neighbor about a (small?) problem the worker can solve, and pay the worker to solve it. And then see what was the problem, and how it was fixed.

If one could observe all transactions on the Amazon Mechanical Turk marketplace, what would would be some of the most interesting things to know?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Now this is awesome!

Solar sintering. (Desert, sand, sunlight, Fresnel lens, solar cells, 3D "printing")

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bloody hell! You want to know where the next generation of improvised hi-tech weapons are coming from? Look at what hackers are doing in war-zones!

Yeah, this looks fun.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Very interesting talk by Dmitry Orlov
Boing Boing :

An Apple patent describes a system for allowing venue owners to override compliant cameras. The patent describes using an infrared signal that compliant cameras would detect; in the presence of this signal, the device would not allow its owner to activate its record function. It is intended for use at live events and galleries and museums, and it will be a tremendous boon to policemen who shoot unarmed subway riders, despotic armies putting down revolutions as well as anyone else who is breaking the law or exercising coercive power.

This is part of an increasing trend to designing hardware and software that allows remote parties to override the instructions of the owners and users of devices. This trend, coupled with the increasing degree to which devices are privy to our secrets, our sensitive information, and even our biological functions, worries me an awful lot.