The Long Now Foundation 01/03/2013 23:00
Tuesday February 19, 02013 – San Francisco
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Desktop manufacturing changes world – a summary by Stewart Brand
Were now entering the third industrial revolution, Anderson said. The first one, which began with the spinning jenny in 1776, doubled the human life span and set population soaring. From the demographic perspective, “its as if nothing happened before the Industrial Revolution.”
The next revolution was digital. Formerly industrial processes like printing were democratized with desktop publishing. The “cognitive surplus” of formerly passive consumers was released into an endless variety of personal creativity. Then distribution was democratized by the Web, which is “scale agnostic and credentials agnostic.” Anyone can potentially reach 7 billion people.
The third revolution is digital manufacturing, which combines the gains of the first two revolutions. Factory robots, which anyone can hire, have become general purpose and extremely fast. They allow “lights-out manufacturing,” that goes all night and all weekend.
“This will reverse the arrow of globalization,” Anderson said. “The centuries of quest for cheaper labor is over. Labor arbitrage no longer drives trade.” The advantages of speed and flexibility give the advantage to “locavore” manufacturing because “Closer is faster.” Innovation is released from the dead weight of large-batch commitments. Designers now can sit next to the robots building their designs and make adjustments in real time.
Thus the Makers Movement. Since 2006, Maker Faires, Hackerspaces, and TechShops (equipped with laser cutters, 3D printers, and CAD design software) have proliferated in the US and around the world. Anderson said he got chills when, with the free CAD program Autodesk 123D, he finished designing an object and moused up to click the button that used to say “Print.” This one said “Make.” A 3D printer commenced building his design.
Playing with Minecraft, “kids are becoming fluent in polygons.” With programs like 123D Catch you can take a series of photos with your iPhone of any object, and the software will create a computer model of it. “There is no copyright on physical stuff,” Anderson pointed out. The slogan that liberated music was “Rip. Mix. Burn.” The new slogan is “Rip. Mod. Make.”
I asked Anderson, “But isnt this Makers thing kind of trivial, just trailing-edge innovation?” “Thats why its so powerful,” Anderson said. “Remember how trivial the first personal computers seemed?”
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The Long Now Foundation 01/03/2013 15:49
The Institute is headed by Nick Bostrom, a scholar of philosophy, physics, computational neuroscience, and mathematical logic. Aeon Magazine’s Ross Anderson recently spoke with Bostrom and several other researchers at the Institute to ask what kinds of risks we should really be taking seriously:
The risks that keep Bostrom up at night are those for which there are no geological case studies, and no human track record of survival. These risks arise from human technology, a force capable of introducing entirely new phenomena into the world.
Studying risk of any kind leads inevitably to questions of statistics and probability – things human intuition is generally very very bad at comprehending. Fortunately, what nature did not give us, we can still nurture in ourselves. Bostrom is relentless is his mathematical and logical approach to the probability of different possibilities and the utility they afford the human race. Depicting his utilitarian approach, Anderson paraphrases Bostroms explanation for why studying existential risk is so valuable:
We might be 7 billion strong, but we are also a fire hose of future lives, that extinction would choke off forever. The casualties of human extinction would include not only the corpses of the final generation, but also all of our potential descendants, a number that could reach into the trillions.
Read: Omens by Ross Anderson
The Long Now Foundation 28/02/2013 15:36
In a recent conversation with Edge, Stanford Psychologist and former SALT speaker Lera Boroditsky explores intriguing and still controversial questions about the relationship between the language we speak, and the way we think about the world.
Weaving her thoughts together with examples from a variety of different languages, Boroditsky shows us that languages differ in the kind of contextual information they prioritize. Hebrew assigns everything in the world a gender, whereas Finnish does not. Russian verbs specify when an event took place, while Indonesian verbs are timeless. And where English sentences can be vague about the causality of an event, Japanese tends to be much more explicit about who did what. In other words, language shapes the things we notice about our environment.
Think about it this way. We have 7,000 languages. Each of these languages encompasses a world-view, encompasses the ideas and predispositions and cognitive tools developed by thousands of years of people in that culture. Each one of those languages offers a whole encapsulated universe. So we have 7,000 parallel universes, some of them are quite similar to one another, and others are a lot more different.
This does not mean that language dictates what we do and do not experience about our world speakers of Finnish are still able to recognize the difference between men and women, and Indonesians know whether something happened in the past or the present. But it does mean that language is more than simply a way to convey meaning. In prioritizing certain pieces of information over others, language adds a certain color to our universe. In other words, meaning emerges from the fabric of language itself:
Those interconnections between words are not simply the webbing on top of an otherwise pure logical knowledge system. Rather, in fact, meaning exists in the way that we use words; the patterns of word use create the system of meaning. Theres no getting away from language in getting to complex meanings.
Exploring a new language, then, is truly a way to explore new worlds and to celebrate the flexibility and the ingenuity of the human mind.
The fact that were able to take so many different perspectives and create such an incredibly diverse set of ways of looking at the world, that is something first to be celebrated, but also something to learn from: flexibility and diversity are at the very heart of what makes us human and what makes us so smart. I think the more we understand how people are able to take all these different perspectives, and able to change the way they think, the better well understand the nature of being human.
BLDGBLOG 28/02/2013 12:56[Image: A Starfish site, like a pyromaniac's version of Archigram, via the St. Margaret's Community Website; view larger].
A few other things that will probably come up this evening at the Architectural Association, in the context of the British Exploratory Land Archive project, are the so-called "Starfish sites" of World War II Britain. Starfish sites "were large-scale night-time decoys created during The Blitz to simulate burning British cities."
[Image: A Starfish site burning, via the St. Margaret's Community Website; view larger].
Their nickname, "Starfish," comes from the initials they were given by their designer, Colonel John Turner, for "Special Fire" sites or "SF."
As English Heritage explains, in their list of "airfield bombing decoys," these misleading proto-cities were "operated by lighting a series of controlled fires during an air raid to replicate an urban area targeted by bombs." They would thus be set ablaze to lead German pilots further astray, as the bombers would, at least in theory, fly several miles off-course to obliterate nothing but empty fields camouflaged as urban cores.
They were like optical distant cousins of the camouflaged factories of Southern California during World War II.
Being in a hotel without my books, and thus relying entirely on the infallible historical resource of Wikipedia for the following quotation, the Starfish sites "consisted of elaborate light arrays and fires, controlled from a nearby bunker, laid out to simulate a fire-bombed town. By the end of the war there were 237 decoys protecting 81 towns and cities around the country."
[Image: Zooming-in on the Starfish site, seen above; image via the St. Margaret's Community Website].
The specific system of visual camouflage used at the sites consisted of various special effects, including "fire baskets," "glow boxes," reflecting pools, and long trenches that could be set alight in a controlled sequence so as to replicate the streets and buildings of particular towns1:1 urban models built almost entirely with light.
In fact, in some cases, these dissimulating light shows for visiting Germans were subtractively augmented, we might say, with entire lakes being "drained during the war to prevent them being used as navigational aids by enemy aircraft."
Operational "instructions" for turning onthat is, setting ablaze"Minor Starfish sites" can be read, courtesy of the Arborfield Local History Society, where we also learn how such sites were meant to be decommissioned after the war. Disconcertingly, despite the presence of literally tons of "explosive boiling oil" and other highly flammable liquid fuel, often simply lying about in open trenches, we read that "sites should be de-requisitioned and cleared of obstructions quickly in order to hand the land back to agriculture etc., as soon as possible."
The remarkable photos posted heredepicting a kind of pyromaniac's version of Archigram, a temporary circus of flame bolted together from scaffoldingcome from the St. Margaret's Community Website, where a bit more information is available.
In any case, if you're around London this evening, Starfish sites, aerial archaeology, and many other noteworthy features of the British landscape will be mentionedalbeit in passingduring our lecture at the Architectural Association. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood...
(Thanks to Laura Allen for first pointing me to Starfish sites).
BLDGBLOG 28/02/2013 12:10[Image: Photo: The "cemetery and church at Teampull Eion, Isle of Lewis," courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland].
One of many things I was excited to discover while working on the British Exploratory Land Archive project, and while getting ready for tonight's lecture at the Architectural Association, is the "Scotland's Landscapes" collection of aerial archaeology photographs from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
[Image: (top) The "remains of White Castle Fort"; (bottom) the "remains of the Northshield Rings." Photos courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland].
"As the glaciers of the last Ice Age receded," we read, "Scotland's earliest ancestors ventured northwards, exploring a wild, fertile territory. Nomadic hunter-gatherers at first, they made the decision to stay for goodto farm and to build. From that moment on, people began to write their story firmly into the fabric of the landscape." Indeed, today, "every inch of Scotlandwhether remote hilltop, fertile floodplain, or storm-lashed coastlinehas been shaped, changed and moulded by its people."
[Image: Photo: The (modernday) "Fife Earth Project at St. Ninian's Open Cast Site," courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland].
Quoting at length:
The landscapes they lived on were remarkable in their diversity. Vast forests of pine and birch ran through one of the worlds oldest mountain rangesonce as high as the Himalayas but over millennia scoured and compressed by sheets of ice a mile thick. On hundreds of islands around a saw-edged coastline, communities flourished, linked to each other and the wider world by the sea, the transport superhighway of ancient times.Many of the resulting settlements have the appearance of inland islands, isolated shapes and ringed perimeters still visible from the air.
[Image: Photo: The "remains of the lazy beds and enclosures at Muidhe on the Isle of Skye," courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland].
In any case, here are some of the photosjust a random selection of eye-candy for a Thursday afternoon.
[Images: Aerial view of Lochindorb Castle, courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland].
Meanwhile, these and many other photos are available in a new book by James Crawford, called Scotland's Landscapes: The National Collection of Aerial Photography, and you can see more online here.
The Long Now Foundation 27/02/2013 15:17
But lest the idea of an archive should call to mind anything stuffy or rigid, the project involves much more than preservation alone. Epler hopes to revive computer art by translating it into a contemporary programming language, and thereby making it available for others to learn from and use in their own creative pursuits. (This isn’t storage – it’s “movage.”)
Furthermore, the archaeological endeavor of deciphering the obsolescent code in which works of digital art were written invites us to learn something about the history of computer languages. As such, Epler hopes that the ReCode project will generate awareness of the historical and cultural context in which computer art is created. In a blog post on Wireds web page, Epler writes:
this project aims to start a larger discussion about the transitory nature of not only our work but also the languages and platforms on which we create it. Can we see a common conceptual thread through these pieces that speaks to the digital art practice as a whole over decades? Or will our work always be limited by our machines? I feel these discussions are necessary to push through the Tumblr-era of digital art works and into one that legitimizes itself through critical reflection and historical grounding.
If youre interested in getting involved, Epler invites you to join in on the process of translation. Heres a guide to get you started.
The Long Now Foundation 26/02/2013 20:39
The Long Now Foundations monthly
George Dyson on “‘No Time Is There — The Digital Universe and Why Things Appear To Be Speeding Up”
Tuesday March 19, 02013 at 7:30pm Herbst Theatre on Van Ness Ave. San Francisco, California
Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! & General Tickets $15
About this Seminar:
When thinking about the future, it is easy to forget to look behind you. Enter George Dyson, an historian among futurists, who does deep research into the history of computing to understand the trends that will bring us into the future.
One of his persistent themes is taking the digital universe metaphor seriously. When we turned on the first computers, we created a computational universe, a universe that is now growing by 5 trillion bits of storage per second. This universe is not merely expanding–it is exploding, and we need to understand computer time as well as we understand human time.
This talk is in partnership with General Assembly and we would like to extend a special welcome to their members.
The Long Now Foundation 26/02/2013 16:00
The Basalt Public Library in western Colorado has recently started lending seeds out to members. The members borrow the seeds with their library card, grow the plants, and harvest the best fruits seeds to give back to the library. The library gets better seeds back, while the members get to enjoy most of the harvest and learn more about the embodied art of gardening in the process.
Saving seeds itself is not a new idea–it is an ancient practice that goes back to the invention of agriculture. But combining a seed bank with the modern library is a novel answer to the threat of digital irrelevance, and one that can help preserve the thousands of endangered heirloom varieties that we have cultivated over civilization’s history.
As books and other media start to make the cloud their permanent home, libraries inevitably face the question of how to stay relevant in the future. Part of the answer will probably always be free access to information resources, but the trend seems to suggest that this will become far less pertinent with the proliferation of ebooks, online classes, book-scanning projects, and general free digitalized information.
It is easy to forget that libraries are some ways, very radical institutions. Its true, you have to be quiet, but the idea that everyone should have access to as much information as possible is a beautiful and powerful concept. When one considers that seeds and the DNA they contain are one of the original information storage devices, it’s almost hard to understand why libraries haven’t always included seeds.
The Long Now Foundation 25/02/2013 17:30
Where molecular and conservation biology meet, a new scientific field is emerging: De-extinction. Scientific and technological advances are making the prospect of reviving extinct species a realistic goal.
Revive & Restore is a project of The Long Now Foundation that seeks ecological enrichment through extinct species revival.
A private meeting last fall, jointly organized with the National Geographic Society, brought various practitioners in this burgeoning field together to discuss challenges, long-term goals, best practices, and ethics. As an outcome of that private meeting, the NGS offered to host a public forum to further explore the science of de-extinction and promote dialog on the ethical issues surrounding it.
Along with a brand new website designed and built by Benjamin Keating and Matthew Brown, Revive & Restore is unveiling plans for its first public forum to be held in partnership with the National Geographic Society on Friday March 15th:
an independently organized TED event at Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, DC.
Featuring Carl Zimmer, George Church, Revive & Restores own Ben Novak and 22 other speakers, it will be a daylong extravaganza of de-extinction science, art and ethics.
On the TEDxDeExtinction website, you can learn more about the event, buy tickets to attend in person, or sign up to host a livestream viewing party. Keep up with announcements related to the event on Twitter and Facebook.
Prior to TEDxDeExtinction, on Wednesday 2/27/13, Revive & Restore (and Long Now) co-founder Stewart Brand will appear at TED to give a talk on the increasing feasibility of bringing back extinct species.
BLDGBLOG 25/02/2013 09:04[Image: Photo by Mark Smout of a photo by Mark Smout, for the British Exploratory Land Archive].
I'm delighted to say that work originally produced for the British Pavilion at last summer's Venice Biennale will go on display this week at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London, beginning tomorrow, 26 February.
This will include, among many other projects, from studies of so-called "new socialist villages" in China to floating buildings in Amsterdam, to name but a few, the British Exploratory Land Archive (BELA) for which BLDGBLOG collaborated with architects Smout Allen in proposing a British version of the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Los Angeles. BELA would thus survey, catalog, explore, tour, document, and archive in one location the huge variety of sites in Britain altered by and used by human beings, from industrial sites to deserted medieval villages, slag heaps to submarine bases, smuggler's hideouts to traffic-simulation grounds. A few of these sites have already been documented in massive photographs now mounted at the RIBA, also featuring architectural instruments designed specifically for the BELA project and assembled over the summer in Hackney.
[Image: From the British Exploratory Land Archive].
However, if you're curious to know more and you happen to be in London on Thursday, 28 February, consider stopping by the Architectural Association to hear Smout Allen and I speak in more detail about the project. That talk is free and open the public, and it kicks off at 6pm; I believe architect Liam Young will be introducing things. Meanwhile, the aforementioned study of floating architecture in Amsterdam will be presented by its collaborative teamdRMMat the RIBA on Tuesday night, 26 February, so make your calendars for that, as well (and check out the full calendar of related talks here).
The RIBA is at 66 Portland Place and the AA is in Bedford Square.