intertwingularity

Internet of Things StatusThis was my new years prediction this year (sorry for the typo). Then on January 4, 2013 the MIT Technology Review published a blog post announcing the same thing (I would like to point out that I beat them to it by 3 days…).

The Internet of Things is not an entirely new concept. The term was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton in 1999. It is basically the idea that all of your things (home, car, appliances, memex devices, etc…) will be “connected” via the  internet. The will then “talk” to one another independent of human interaction.

If you go to the grocery store, for example, your refrigerator could compile a list that know you are out of milk and running low on ketchup. This idea could obviously go a lot further down the line of automation. The food could be collected and delivered to your house automatically in specifically designed refrigerated driverless cars and left on your porch (or in something akin to a P.O. box in the city) in secure refrigerated units like the milkman from days of yore (only with a cooler paint job).

There are advantages well beyond a simple time savings for the consumer. There would no longer have to be ridiculous expanses of parking lots which generate a tremendous amount of heat gain and could be better utilized as green spaces. The environmental cost of transporting food to homes could be reduced by optimizing delivery routes. The stores could more appropriately stock foods with real time inventory and tracking of consumer demands over time reducing the need for excessive preservatives. There could be dynamic pricing in lieu of sales. I am sure the list could go on (but I don’t know enough about grocery stores). The grocery stores could potentially be constructed vertically since they would no longer require total human accessibility.

In theory this could lead to more awareness of food origin because it could be tracked and even have the travel distance from farm listed for consumers to make informed decisions about their food. Hopefully developing an open grocery platform would prevent the “McDonaldization” of the market.

Everything will be connected whether it is grocery stores, lists, and consumers or doctors, medical, pharmacists, and patients.

This concept goes wonderfully with the idea of interwingularity. The term coined by Ted Nelson in his book Computer Lib/Dream Machines in which he says

EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no “subjects” at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly.

We have seen this concept manifesting in the increase of “interdisciplinary” or “cross-disciplinary” majors at colleges and universities. Virginia Tech has developed an Integrated Science Curriculum which, it seems, is acknowledging this reality of our world (though it is only interdisciplinary within the sciences). They are recognizing the world is not as segregated as the labels we love to give to things.

We have taken much of the world apart in the last few decades, defining and distinguishing constituent parts. After we take the world apart

we must begin to put it back together. Putting it back together is the way we learn how the parts interact. Just like ants are individually very unintelligent, together they are able to accomplish highly complex tasks.

 

 

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feedback loops

Why do we share things?

Are you doing this for feedback?

Are you?! ARE YOU?!

Yes, well, yes with hesitation…

But you did it and you are getting feedback.

Why do we do things?

Are you doing this for feedback?

What is gained by recording things to share them with others?

I spent more time documenting myself building the sandcastle than building the sand castle, he said.

David’s video was not a recording of a finished sand castle. It was a recording of the making of a sand castle.

What is the power of making? The power of play?

The author selects what they too wish to remember (or do they?)

The author selects what they believe will be forgotten (or perhaps missed by others)

What is the warm fuzzy feeling deep in your gulliver?

Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now.

How did you do that?

 ’You caught the glass before it hit the floor.  You teleported it back into your hand.’
‘Look, buster,’ she said grimly, ‘quit kidding yourself.  They’re watching all the time.  They play little tricks like that.  Anything for a laugh.’

Who did you make this for?

Are you doing this for feedback?

Did you make it for yourself?

Yes, well, yes with hesitation…

Why are you here?

I guess I’m here for feedback.

Why did Einstein publish his findings?

Are you doing this for feedback?

Are you?! ARE YOU?!

Why did the other David say?

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
― Henry David Thoreau

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losing oneself in a simulated world

I had an odd experience whilst playing Skyrim.

I had always been interested in playing this particular game. I started at the beginning of the game and began the main quest. As I went along I found that there were various people I had to find and talk to in the game. When I got into a small hamlet I was walking around and talking to various people. Then, just to see what happened, I shot a little girl in the face with my bow and arrow. This was my chance to let the tigers out of the cage.

Her parents/entire village were understandably pissed. It turned out that her parents were actually the people that I was supposed to talk to in order to continue the quest. Luckily I had an autosave point that was not too far back in the past so I went back in time (time travel is real!) and started the section over. I was more careful about where I pointed my bow and arrow this time.

At this point something strange happened. I was just laughing about shooting the girl in the game. She is not “real” and the consequence of killing her in the game was trivial to me because I knew I could just go back to the save point. My friend said something I was not expecting. He said, “I dunno, I feel bad when I kill people in the games.” 

Pretty much sums up my reaction.

I mean they are just virtual people, right? RIGHT?

*flashback to Sherry Turkle*

In this kind of play children have to learn to put themselves in the place of another person, to imagine what is going on inside someone else’s head. There are no rules, there is empathy. There are no dice to roll, there is understanding, recognition, negotiation, and confrontation with others.

She is talking, not about video games, but about

the open-ended role playing that children offer each other when one says “You be the Mommy and I’ll be the Daddy.”

Interestingly, Skyrim was allegedly the most played game of 2011. Also of interest is its genre, RPG or role playing game.

In Skyrim you can play the main quest or you can just wander around the world, looking for things to do. You can hunt and climb things, even get a significant other if you would like. You can do whatever would would like and play whichever role you wish.

All children play variations of the cops 'n' robbers / cowboys 'n' indians games

It is fantasy play that adults are allowed to engage in.

There are studies that suggest imaginary play has an important role in cognitive development.

The research reviewed by Berk, Mann & Ogan, (2006) and Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer (2009) suggest that make-believe games are forerunners of the important capacity for forms of self-regulation including reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy. When children use toys to  introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy (Hughes, 1999).

This is, of course, just an anecdotal story, but it would be interesting to study the role of RPGs on adult development of empathy, aggression, gratification, self-regulation, and civility. The virtual playground that video games can provide is an interesting sort of place that has not existed for very long.

 

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me droogies

Twitter is a wonderful thing. I know many detractors complain that there are so many people on twitter that it is impossible to say anything meaningful, but that simply is not true. I have proof now that people really do care!

I, a lowly twitter peasant, managed to make meaningful contact with intelligent life through twitter! It is a small joy which I would like to share with you. This was my original tweet

@ProfZeki is one of the founding scientists in the field of neuroaesthetics. It is a topic I find wildly interesting. I just thought I would tweet at him for fun, not really expecting a response, much less actually expecting him to read my naive blog post. But then…

and

It had worked, he actually read it, a leading scientist in a field I am fantastically fascinated by  read my idea (and thought it was “very interesting” +10pts) and then got back to me and let me know. This interaction would not have taken place without twitter. I am positive Semir Zeki would never have found and read my blog on his own and I would never have received awesome feedback. I also would never have known about his research without wikipedia and google which allowed me to take my crazy thoughts about the brain and identify them with real things other people are studying. Thank you interwebz, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

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medium

Throughout the course of Memex to Youtube: Learning Nets I have always considered medium in the sense of communication which is defined by wikipedia as

Media (singular medium) are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data. It is often referred to as synonymous with mass media or news media, but may refer to a single medium used to communicate any data for any purpose.

and it had never occurred to me to contemplate the word in a more general sense. What does it mean for something to not just be a medium, but to be medium. We use medium to describe a state which is between two extremes such as medium loud or quiet, medium full or empty, medium soft or hard. It is an average between the two extremes.

It is a line of best fit which allows to convey a fictional state of middle. It is merely a convenient and descriptive approximation of some particular state. When considered in relation to communication this definition becomes quite interesting. It means that the medium is in the middle, not only as the tool of communication but also as a descriptor of the  information/data/sound/feeling/emotion being communicated.

This connection emerged from a discussion of the nature of intuition. Intuition is the ephemeral sense or idea that occurs in a composer/artist/architect/human as the result of a non-rationally/non-linear thought process. So in order to communicate this state it must be rationalized/formalized into a symbolic carrier/medium. The intuitive sense is then distorted and molded into the shape of the medium the human (thinker) is most adept at (be that poetry, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, what have you) in order to most accurately approximate their own sensation and convey it to other humans.

The receiving human, however, must absorb the message encoded in a particular medium and then recreates the sense derived from the closest approximation of the creator.

When describing this thought in the forum on monday I used a poet/poetry analogy.

The poet has an intuition which is ephemeral/in the mind and wants to share it. Thus they must rationalize/formalize the intuition into a poem. The poem is only an approximation of the initial intuition as a result of converting it into these symbols we call words. The words are limiting because they carry certain connotations and conceptual foundations which are not all encompassing. The reader/hearer of a poem then only experiences the poet’s best approximation (a middle or medium guess/formalization). A good poet is simply better at approximating their thoughts than a bad poet.

In this same line of thought it could be argued that what we call “abstract art” is the least conceptually abstract art ever created.

It draws on shared human senses to convey most accurately the intuition of the painter, in this case Mark Rothko. Perhaps it is the shared experience of sunset or the globally observed connotations of red, but to even attempt to explain or define the painting is to put it in a formalized box, an approximation of my own. It must be experienced.

 

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emergence

I have, over the course of the recent year, become obsessed with emergence.

In philosophysystems theoryscience, and artemergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems.

Complex systems are everywhere. They manifest in the form of ecology, neurology, sociology, the web, the list goes on an on.

Complex systems which are emergent simply occur. As a global culture we have abandoned (and must continue to abolish) top down systems and instead enable conditions for emergent behavior to occur. Our planet has worked in an emergent way for billions of years. Humans have flipped the equation and attempted to systematically organize the world for administrative purposes. This has proven an unsustainable approach. Monarchies have tried and invariably failed. Our school system is highly restrictive and does not encourage emergent learning behaviors. The American experiment is, I believe, a testament to the enabling power of emergent environments. The “American Dream” is a cliche set of ideals but I believe it should instead be viewed as the dream of people in societies where emergent behavior and innovation is stifled or simply not possible due to any number of political or social restraints.

The question is how can we leverage our knowledge of existing emergent systems to develop new ones which continue to work for us as we manipulate our environment (which we will inevitably continue to do) in the future? Pursuit of the development of emergent design is already brewing in the realms of art and architecture as well as in computer science, and biology (forgive me if I forgot some fields).

I leave the question open as to how we move forward because the very act of suggesting possibilities may begin to limit the imagination.

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a bicycle for our minds

I was watching a recent(ish) rediscovered interview with Steve Jobs called Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview and thought I should share it with you. It is on netflix and other places scattered around the web. You should definitely watch the whole thing, but if you need more convincing here is an amazing clip.

The computer is the bicycle of the mind. It is still evolving. Bikes went from

to

and

in roughly 120 years. The personal computer has gone from

the Apple I in 1976  to

in 37 years. And this is just the outside.

The computer is obviously much more than a bike. Once you go down the rabbit hole, things can get very odd. It is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

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Processing

@romanmars produces a beautiful podcast titled 99% Invisible which is where I first heard of the Feltron Annual Report.

The Feltron Annual Report is produced by this guy

Nicolas Felton. It is a chronicling of the data that make up his life. Everything from bowel movements to birthdays are recorded and documented in his wonderfully fantic Annual Reports.

AR 2012

I was absolutely fascinated with the reports, not only because of their obsessive level of detail, but also because of their graphics. The are phenomenal visualizations of complex data and they are all produced using Processing, which is, “An open source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions.”

I decided that it was something that I wanted to learn to use (and will continue to learn to use despite what I am about to say).

Enter Bret Victor aka @worrydream who looks something like this, but older (because pictures are always of us from when we were younger, unless they are photoshopped in which case all sense of reality flies out the window {unless you are a photoshopper for the Chinese Government})

He wrote an article/novella/gives talks on Learnable Programming in which he disapproves of (to put it gently) the methods and execution of Programming because it fails in some very important areas. He says that a programming environment

 should allow the learner to:

  • read the vocabulary— what do these words mean?
  • follow the flow— what happens when?
  • see the state— what is the computer thinking?
  • create by reacting— start somewhere, then sculpt
  • create by abstracting— start concrete, then generalize

The language should provide:

  • identity and metaphor— how can I relate the computer’s world to my own?
  • decomposition— how do I break down my thoughts into mind-sized pieces?
  • recomposition— how do I glue pieces together?
  • readability— what do these words mean?

These features are essential to any programming environment, but they illustrate an underlying design principle central to understanding the concept of programming. The idea is to fix the elements of a programming environment which hinder the groking of thinking like a programmer.

I realized that the reason I have always had difficulty whenever attempting to learn to program, even in high-level, (theoretically) straightforward languages is not due to a lack of understanding of applications I could potentially build, but a lack of understanding of the words and syntax which are typically hidden away in a manual somewhere and not particularly accessible or intuitive.

Bret Victor proposes a myriad of (simple seeming) alterations to programs similar to Processing where the actions performed by the computer “instantly” can be stepped through at an understandable pace. This facilitates deeper and much more immediate/direct understanding of what the computer is actually doing rather than jumping from A to Z and leaving the actions that theoretically occurred between B and Y up to the imagination. He also suggests that variables, words, and values are explained in-line when they are hovered over which enables much more rapid feedback on what different things actually do instead of requiring a manual (who really reads manuals anyways?)

That being said, it seems as though I don’t have (m)any options at the moment which employ Bret’s brilliant suggestions so I shall carry on learning Processing so that one day I may be able to creepily catalogue my own life, or just make some dope digitally processed art.

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thinking about thinking

 

The computer is a tool that can augment metacognition. Seymour Papert says,

“The intellectual environments offered to children by today’s cultures are poor in opportunities to bring their thinking about thinking into the open…Programming the Turtle [programming environment] starts by making one reflect on how one does oneself what one would like the Turtle to do…as children move on, they program the computer to make more complex decisions and find themselves engaged in reflecting on more complex aspects of their own thinking.”

If schools are tools developed to augment thinking then why was I never taught to think about how I think. I did take a psychology AP course, but that was more about how people act and why they act rather than how they think and why they think. It addresses the question of what thought looks like rather than what it is.

Wikipedia says this about thought.

Thought generally refers to any mental or intellectual activity involving an individual’s subjective consciousness. It can refer either to the act of thinking or the resulting ideas or arrangements of ideas. Similar concepts include cognitionsentience,consciousness, and imagination.[1] Because thought underlies almost all human actions and interactions, understanding its physical and metaphysical origins, processes, and effects has been a longstanding goal of many academic disciplines including, among others, biology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology.

Programming enables us to examine the origins of thought processes by placing us on top of the refrigerator to gain a new perspective. The potential exists to examine our own development of cognition by examining the development of thinking computers.

The Turing test is the standard which sets the bar for comparable human performance in conversation with a computer. No computer has successfully completed it, but they get closer every year to meeting the benchmark. To surpass the benchmark it is required that we simulate cognition in a digital environment, not just by creating a program that responds mechanically but also responds to context and the nuances of language. This means we must truly know what it means to think. The coders are slowly revealing how we think, systematically, as we endeavour to create a computer that can think about our questions and not just search a database for an answer, but truly respond.

Turing Test

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The Wild World Wide Web of Wikipedia Weasel Words

(aren’t titles fun?) I wish you could link in titles but that would be oddly disorienting so go here to see the definition of weasel words.

File:Ouroboros.png
The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end.

I thought I would begin with the meaning of life.

Life (cf. biota) is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not,[1][2] either because such functions have ceased (death), or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate.

Problem solved! Right? No? That sort of tells you what it looks like, but not what is actually there. It doesn’t answer the question of what it means to be alive.

What does to be mean?

“To be” redirects here. For the song, see To Be. For the Shakespeare quotation, see To be, or not to be. For the philosophical concept, see being. For the similar word, see Tobe.

In linguistics, a copula (plural: copulas or copulae) is a word used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate (a subject complement), such as the word is in the sentence “The sky is blue.” The word copula derives from the Latin noun for a “link” or “tie” that connects two different things.[1]

Thank you, very helpful.

Lets try at the universe. I am very curious about what the universe is, why it exists, and how life fits into it.

The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of existence,[1][2][3][4] including planetsstarsgalaxies, the contents of intergalactic space, and all matter and energy.[5][6] The broadest definition of universe is that it is simply everything, while a narrower definition is that the universe is limited to what can be observed.[dubious – discuss] Similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature.

“The totality of existence” so everything is the universe? Why is everything? What is everything?

Everything (or every thing), is all that exists; the opposite of nothing, or its complement. The totality of things relevant to some subject matter. Without expressed or implied limits, it may refer to anything. The Universe is often defined as everything that exists. It may refer to an anthropocentric worldview,[1] or the sum of human experience, history, and the human condition in general.

So everything is also anything. It is all the general and specific at once. That certainly seems weasely to me.

Isn’t it strange? Only when you know the question will you know what the answer means. How do we find the question?

By the way, what is Earth?

Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System’s four terrestrial planets. It is sometimes referred to as the world or the Blue Planet.

Just for snakes and galoshes here are two more definitions.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. Perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most successful book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor – of which no Earthman had ever heard of. More popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-Three More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid‘s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong,Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway? It’s already supplanted the Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for two important reasons. First, it’s slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON’T PANIC printed in large friendly letters on its cover. – The Guide

Wikipedia (Listeni/ˌwɪkɨˈpdiə/ or Listeni/ˌwɪkiˈpdiə/ wik-i-pee-dee-ə) is a collaboratively editedmultilingualfree Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 26 million articles, over 4.2 million in the English Wikipedia alone, are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,[3] and it has about 100,000 active contributors.[4][5] As of April 2013, there are editions of Wikipedia in 286 languages. It has become the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet,[6][7][8][9][10] ranking sixth globally among all websites on Alexa and having an estimated 365 million readers worldwide.[6][11]  – Wikipedia

 

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