Good history and context of Chile’s experiment in social cybernetics in the 1960s:
In the early 1970s the scale of Beer’s proposed network was unprecedented. One of the largest computer networks of the day was a mere fifteen machines in the US, the military progenitor to the Internet known as ARPANET. Beer was suggesting a network with hundreds or thousands of endpoints. Moreover, the computational complexity of his concept eclipsed even that of the Apollo moon missions, which were still ongoing at that time. After a few hours of conversation President Allende responded to the audacious proposition: Chile must indeed become the world’s first cybernetic government, for the good of the people. Work was to start straight away.
The Verge did a short documentary, and a piece of long form, participatory journalism, on the DIY transhumanist/bodyhacker/grinder/whatever movement:
The boys from Grindhouse Wetwares both sucked down Parliament menthols the whole time we talked. There was no irony for them in dreaming of the possibilities for one’s body and willfully destroying it. “For me, the end game is my brain and spinal column in a jar, and a robot body out in the world doing my bidding,” said Sarver. “I would really prefer not to have to rely on an inefficient four-valve pump that sends liquid through these fragile hoses. Fuck cheetahs. I want to punch through walls.”
Flesh and blood are easily shed in grinder circles, at least theoretically speaking. “People recoil from the idea of tampering inside the body,” said Tim. “I am lost when it comes to people’s unhealthy connections to your body. This is just a decaying lump of flesh that gets old, it’s leaking fluid all the time, it’s obscene to think this is me. I am my ideas and the sum of my experiences.” As far as the biohackers are concerned, we are the best argument against intelligent design.
Neither man has any illusions about how fringe biohacking is now. But technology marches on. “People say nobody is going to want to get surgery for this stuff,” admits Cannon. But he believes that will change. “They will or they will be left behind. They have no choice. It’s going to be weird and uncomfortable and scary. But you can do that, or you can become obsolete.”
In what amounts to a fairly shocking reminder of how quickly our technologies are advancing and how deeply our lives are being woven with networked computation, security researchers have recently reported successes in remotely compromising and controlling two different medical implant devices . Such implanted devices are becoming more and more common, implemented with wireless communications both across components and outward to monitors that allow doctors to non-invasively make changes to their settings. Until only recently, this technology was mostly confined to advanced labs but it is now moving steadily into our bodies. As these procedures become more common, researchers are now considering the security implications of wiring human anatomy directly into the web of ubiquitous computation and networked communications.
Barnaby Jack, a researcher at McAfee, was investigating how the wireless protocols between implants and their remote controllers opened up potential vulnerabilities to 3rd party attacks. Working with instrumented insulin pumps he found he could compromise any pump within a 300-foot range. “We can make that pump dispense its entire 300 unit reservoir of insulin and we can do that without requiring its ID number”, he noted, adding that making the device empty its entire cartridge into a host’s bloodstream would cause “deep trouble”. Previously, independent security researcher Jerome Radcliff, a diabetic and insulin pump recipient himself, showed a crowd at the 2011 Black Hat Security Conference how he could wirelessly hack into his own pump to obtain its profile, then alter it in a way that would modify his prescription when sent back to the device.
PlanIT is building a city in Portugal as a test of its “Urban OS” concept, hoping to sell “instant cities” in China and Inida in the future.
“It’s a bit of a bloodbath really,” says Lewis, who began studying it while still at Microsoft. “They’re using techniques older than God. All of the technology is being used on the design end. No one can look into the future and ask ‘If I put better glass into this building, what does that do for energy efficiency down the road?’ You have developers building to do a quick flip, and eventually the building becomes so inefficient and so expensive to fix they have to knock it down. There’s no process and no lifecycle management. The industry is fragmented and the consolidation that’s happened everywhere else hasn’t happened here.”
A Harvard Business School case study (pdf) published earlier this year echoed this view. Despite being a $4.6 trillion global industry, construction firms have had little incentive to integrate, consolidate, or otherwise become more productive. While non-farming industries have made productivity gains averaging 80% since the 1960s, the construction industry has become 20% less productive over that span. “Studies suggested that up to 75% of construction activities typically added no value,” the authors noted.
I thought I’d posted about this before, but I haven’t:
SoundBite detects noise using a microphone placed in the ear connected to a transmitter in a behind-the-ear (BTE) device. The BTE transmits to an in-the-mouth (ITM) device that sends small sound waves through the jaw to the cochlea. There is no surgery needed, and both the BTE and ITM are easily removed to be charged inductively. Sonitus Medical is still preparing the SoundBite for eventual FDA trials for single sided, and (eventually) other forms of deafness. Check out more photos after the break.
There are other hearing aid devices that utilize bone conduction. Most, however, use a titanium pin drilled into the jaw bone (or skull) to transmit sound to the cochlea. SoundBite seems to be the first non-surgical, non-invasive, easily removable device.
Reality is boring. Waiting in line at the DMV suck. Real life takes time. Digital life is more instantaneous. In real life, the time and space between goals and accomplishments is often large. For some, it is physically impossible to achieve certain things, like purchasing a Ferrari or rising above middle management in their career path. Online gaming, especially sites like Farmville step in to take care of that void. Whereas one doesn’t have the money, time or room for a real garden, Farmville provides one without the back aching labor. All reality is replaced by small icons, and time is compressed so that goals and accomplishments are right next to one another. Everything has a point value and a reward. When real life takes so long to reward someone, online gaming is often a better and more enjoyable alternative.
In the future, hybrid reality, or life which is both a game and real, might blot out the mild dystopia that we all live in. Or it will make us more intolerable of the space between reality. And for those who spend a lot of time in reality, Foursquare is a good add-on for making the mundane exciting. To be crass, one might say that Foursquare is kind of like dogs pissing on fire hydrants and having other dogs come along and sniff them to see who’s been there. The dog with the most potent urine is mayor of the fire hydrant.
There may be a literal truth underlying the common-sense intuition that happiness and sadness are contagious.
A new study on the spread of emotions through social networks shows that these feelings circulate in patterns analogous to what’s seen from epidemiological models of disease.
Earlier studies raised the possibility, but had not mapped social networks against actual disease models.
“This is the first time this contagion has been measured in the way we think about traditional infectious disease,” said biophysicist Alison Hill of Harvard University. [...]
Happiness proved less social than sadness. Each happy friend increased an individual’s chances of personal happiness by 11 percent, while just one sad friend was needed to double an individual’s chance of becoming unhappy.
Fascinating article on the history of AA and some research on why, even though it doesn’t usually work, it does occasionally work.
Here’s an interesting social-cybernetic insight:
To begin with, there is evidence that a big part of AA’s effectiveness may have nothing to do with the actual steps. It may derive from something more fundamental: the power of the group. Psychologists have long known that one of the best ways to change human behavior is to gather people with similar problems into groups, rather than treat them individually. The first to note this phenomenon was Joseph Pratt, a Boston physician who started organizing weekly meetings of tubercular patients in 1905. These groups were intended to teach members better health habits, but Pratt quickly realized they were also effective at lifting emotional spirits, by giving patients the chance to share their tales of hardship. (“In a common disease, they have a bond,” he would later observe.) More than 70 years later, after a review of nearly 200 articles on group therapy, a pair of Stanford University researchers pinpointed why the approach works so well: “Members find the group to be a compelling emotional experience; they develop close bonds with the other members and are deeply influenced by their acceptance and feedback.”
The article covers AA’s effectiveness briefly, and finds that studies of its effectiveness are inconclusive. I’ve posted before about one study that found 12-step programs no more or less effective than other treatment programs.
I have absolutely zero problem with people using religion or whatever else works to improve their lives and get over the devastating effects of addiction, court mandated 12 step programs are clearly a breach of the seperation of church and state. (And There’s evidence to suggest that mandating treatment doesn’t work anyway.)
OK, so the headline is exaggerated, but this is extremely interesting:
A British scientist says he is the first man in the world to become infected with a computer virus.
Dr Mark Gasson from the University of Reading contaminated a computer chip which was then inserted into his hand.
The device, which enables him to pass through security doors and activate his mobile phone, is a sophisticated version of ID chips used to tag pets.
In trials, Dr Gasson showed that the chip was able to pass on the computer virus to external control systems.
If other implanted chips had then connected to the system they too would have been corrupted, he said.
Dr Gasson admits that the test is a proof of principle but he thinks it has important implications for a future where medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants become more sophisticated, and risk being contaminated by other human implants.
Obliquity describes the process of achieving objectives indirectly, such as the financial success that comes from a real commitment to business. And obliquity is ubiquitous – it can even be applied to happiness. It has long been suspected that the happiest people are not those who pursue it directly. John Stuart Mill was the strongest exponent of utilitarianism, the notion that the goal of mankind was the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. Yet towards the end of his (far from happy) life, Mill found that ‘this end was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness – on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.’
Surely obliquity goes against everything we’ve been taught? Isn’t it true that you must do better if you set out to maximise something – happiness, wealth, profit – than if you don’t? Surprisingly, the answer is no. Life is too complex and uncertain for us to be able to predict and follow the most direct perceived route to success. Our knowledge is always imperfect, and events are influenced by the unpredictability of other people and organisations. Instead, our objectives are best achieved by a more meandering approach that enables us to adapt our strategy to changing situations. And we learn about the nature of our objectives and the means of achieving them through a process of experiment and discovery.