Archives for What’s Being Born

Take Control of Life


Prevail

The world is changing and we all know it. Technology is taking over our lives. We are constantly buried in our smartphones, tablets and other technological devices that take our attention off of the real world. Prevailproject.org has the main goal of bringing us all together and collect the early warning signs that the future is being taken over by something we cannot control and that the fate of human nature is hanging in the balance. They believe that technology is ruining the society, which they may be right. They believe that there are three scenarios that include heaven, hell and prevail. In heaven, their inventions will conquer pain, suffering and stupidity. In Hell, their creators will wipe out the human race or life as we know it and prevail which argues that the first two are technodeterministic. On their website, you can see that there are blogs that you can read and different types of resources for their readers. They want everyone to know that the human race will continue to prevail, shape their own futures until their own demise, rather than being the end result of powerful technology. At this rate, technology is definitely growing at a rapid pace and the world as we know it will be forever changed and overrun by the ever-expanding technological advances. Yes, this may be great for medical advances, but as for society, it is a lost cause. 
The Prevail Project homepage

What Hasn't Changed
We see change every day, whether it is at home, school or work. One thing that we can say that never seems to change is the locksmith service. They seem to keep the same traditions that they always have. Let's take a look at what a locksmith really does and what effect they have on society. The locksmith service has been around for centuries, unlike cell phones and social media. Locksmiths started out using only their hands to make their locks and keys. Now, they may have a machine and power tools, but that is about it. There are no real technological advances that have been made in the locksmith industry. Yes, they use machines to make their keys, but they still have to use their hands and general knowledge to change a lock or install a security system. They still rely on their hands to do most of the work, unlike a cell phone or tablet. Today, we can just tell our cell phone where we want to go and it will give us directions. Locksmiths still need to use physical strength to help those in need. If someone needs a lock keyed, they call their locksmith and they come to help them out. Not only will they come to you 24/7, but they will do whatever they need to do before they have to replace something and charge you even more than you wanted. Unlike other businesses, locksmiths have a passion for what they do. They aren't out promoting their business on social media websites like other big businesses. They take pride in their work and do not let technology get in their way of what they are really meant for. What kind of technology is going to help someone who is locked out of their house? None, that is why the locksmith still exists. If you are looking for a good locksmith, check out  www.locksmiths-search.com. You will find all the locksmiths in your area and you can go from there whenever you may need one.

Technology is rapidly advancing and we all know it and there is nothing we can do to slow it down. The people who created Prevailproject.org want us to know that we do not have to bow down to technology and let it take over our lives. We should not give in to the technology and shape our own future that does not include the new technology. Our world is being transformed and in order to keep up, we need to intent our own futures, not the future that technology is making for us. 

 

The Center for Science and the Imagination

Gentle Readers,

For the past year, Arizona State University and best-selling science-fiction author Neal Stephenson have been working together on a plan to use science-fiction to reignite America’s ability to undertake major infrastructure projects.  You can see Neal and ASU President Michael Crow talking about this at Google’s SolveforX event, and it’s finally come to fruition with the beta launch of the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination.  This is some very cool stuff, since Science Fiction is Technology Assessment for the Rest of Us, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

I’ll let the Center’s director Ed Finn speak for himself.

Dear All,

I’d like to update you on the latest news about the proposed Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.

Hieroglyph Site Beta Launch

The beta launch of http://hieroglyph.asu.edu/ starts this evening with an announcement by Neal Stephenson at the EG Conference in Monterey, CA. The site is a collaboration between ASU and Stephenson’s Hieroglyph group. It will bring together science fiction writers, scientists, engineers, technologists, and the general public to think big and explore radical ideas through collaborative projects.

As early supporters of ASU’s partnership with Hieroglyph I encourage you to create a user account, explore the site’s Discussion Forums and Wiki, and share the site with anyone who might be interested in the project. If you are interested in actively contributing to the site collaborations, please let me know and I will make sure your user account has contributor-level access.

The site will continue to evolve over the coming weeks and months, and we will be making our own formal announcement about the Center for Science and the Imagination and Hieroglyph later this spring. During this beta phase, please share your feedback about the project and website on the Hieroglyph forums or with me directly.
Food for Thought/Interesting News
Here are a few recent articles exploring issues related to the Center’s mission that you might enjoy.
Putting Science in the Movies: A Conversation with Contagion’s Scott Z. Burns, Ed Finn, Slate
NASA Invests In Satellites That Beam Power Down to Earth, Rebecca Boyle, Popular Science
The Space Craze That Gripped Russia Nearly 100 Years Ago, Adam Mann, Wired

Thanks as ever for your support.

Best,

Ed

Drone Swarm

They’re everywhere! Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have done some amazing work with formation flying drones (make sure to check out the obstacle avoidance at the end).

Smarter flying robots are going to be a vital part of the future. They’re getting cheaper and more capable every day, and not everybody needs a multi-million dollar intercontinental spy to take out terrorists. The founders of the Genocide Intervention Network suggest that drones could be used by activists to record and prevent crimes against humanity and the environment. The Guardian reports that the UK drone industry is lobbying for special airspaces and colors to designate drones serving in the public interest. And futurist and security expert John Robb has been running a great series on how swarming drones are unstoppable by any weapon other than more drone swarm,s and that drones represent a new tool for diplomatic policy, “comply or die.”

What’s in store for the future of drones? I don’t know, but for politicians, police, and the paparazzi, drones are just too useful to give up. Keep watching the skies!

Mayor Bloomberg Will Learn How To Write Code In 2012

We all make New Year’s Resolutions, but Mayor Bloomberg is going beyond the standard promise to eat better and exercise more. As reported by TPM.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been increasingly vocal about his love for all things tech over the past few years, but now he’s taking it a whole new level. On Thursday, Bloomberg (the real one) tweeted that his new year’s resolution was to learn how to write code using the handy, free, game-like online courses offered by New York’s own Codecademy.

“My New Year’s resolution is to learn to code with Codecademy in 2012! Join me. http://codeyear.com/ #codeyear,” Bloomberg tweeted, instantly moving the hashtag #Codeyear into the top trending terms on Twitter in the New York City area.

I think this is a fascinating project. Computers have moved from big complex machines to a ubiquitous part of our environment. Basic computer skills, like installing programs, using anti-virus software, and setting up a wireless network, are the oil change and handy-man repairs of the 21st century. But going beyond user-friendly interfaces and delving into code, language, syntax, and math means developing whole new ways of thinking. Politicians are frequently derided for having no practical skills-there are only a handful of scientists in Congress, compared to a horde of engineers-,but getting involved with technology is a important part of understanding and becoming comfortable with technology.

Governments today clearly fear the potential of the internet to create chaos more than they value it’s ability to foster creativity. In the US, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act remains a crude attempt to force 19th century standards of intellectual property onto 21st century technology, while privacy protections for emails don’t extend to anything stored on the Cloud (sorry gmail). France can cut a person’s internet access after 3 attempts at privacy, while the UN argues that Internet access should be a basic human right. And this doesn’t even scratch the kind of censorship and surveillance that authoritarian nations like China and Iran are involved in. The whole legal environment is adding up to what Cory Doctorow calls “A war on general purpose computing.”

I’m not an uncritical internet evangelist, but free systems are better than closed systems. Compare all the innovation, growth, and energy around the American ARPAnet with the close (and now-defunct) French Minitel. Hopefully, more computer savvy politicians will also be more computer friendly politicians.

A Year In Prevail

What a year it’s been! Starting with the little things, the Prevail Project itself has been active for about a year, running in stealth mode for most of that time. But we launched (and I invite you to check out our amazing featured guest posts). But anything that we’ve done is small potatoes compared to the changes that happened in the world.

A year ago, professional intelligence analysts thought that Belgium was more likely to experience political turmoil than Egypt. Then the Arab Spring happened, and ordinary people rose up and overthrew governments across the region. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, dictators fell like dominoes. In Bahrain, protesters were crushed with overwhelming force, and in Syria the battle rages on. Just compare Foreign Policy’s top 100 global thinkers in 2011 and 2009, and you can see the kind of change that nobody foresaw. The Arab Spring was echoed by protests worldwide, most notably the Occupy movement in the United States, anti-austerity riots in Greece, and the first mass protests in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. This is the kind of people power that hasn’t been seen since 1968, and possible even since 1848, years which shook the old order.

If networks and bottom-up ideas had a banner year in 2011, centralized institutions managed not to fall apart completely. Congress’s brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling dropped America’s credit rating from AAA to AA, not that financial markets have appeared to notice. The European Union could’t come to a decision on the Greek debt crisis, casting the very future of the EU into doubt. And in Durban, the IPCC agreed to come to an agreement about global carbon emissions in 2015, with binding limits coming into effect in 2020. It’s been a lousy year for experts and elites, and if you know of any centralized decision-making bodies that haven’t made complete fools of themselves recently, I’d love to hear about them.

The only group that came out worse than experts were authoritarian leaders. Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt were forced out of office by popular revolutions. Qaddafi was shot by rebel forces. Kim Jong Il died. And after 3 terms, Silvo Berluscion was forced to resign under a cloud of corruption and scandal. If I were a colorful authoritarian leader, I’d be watching my back.

As for what happens next in the world, who knows? The Arab Spring could quite possibly lead to another round of dictators or theocrats. Some vital cog in the global economic system could come undone, with catastrophic results. But personally, I’m hopefully. The refrain of the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe, whether economic wizards or brutal dictators, has always been “There is no alternative.” If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned from 2011, it’s that there are lots of alternatives. 2011 was a year to dream and deconstruct. 2012 will be a year to learn and grow.

Whatever happens, we’re living in interesting times. And the Prevail Project is here to nurture a human future.

The Robot Census

Robert Carr at the New Geography has a fascinating article on the growth of industrial robots, and the people keeping an eye over the phenomenon. In brief, in some industries 1 in 10 workers are a robot. Last year, 1 in 50 soldiers in Afghanistan were robotic.

How are we to evaluate our true workforce? It’s left to the statistical department of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) to keep track of them, where they are born and where they eventually work. To measure the impact of these immigrants on local populations, the IFR uses a metric called Robot Density. Simply it is the number of multipurpose industrial robots per 10,000 persons employed in manufacturing industry whether automotive, electronic or generally. The IFR found the worldwide average industrial robot density of the 45 countries it surveys is about 50 robots. The bottom 21 countries have less than a 20-robot density.

However, in 2010, the most automated countries were Japan, Republic of Korea, and Germany with densities of 306, 287 and 253 respectively. The fact that all these countries have low human birthrates makes you think a bit. If you take just the auto industry in Japan and Germany the densities rise to 1,436 and 1,130. Number three in the auto industry by the way is Italy with 1,229. What about the good ol’ USA? In 2010, 1,112 industrial robots worked in the auto industry for every 10,000 human workers. We also tend to have more babies.

You see what’s happening here? At 1000, the number of robots equals one-tenth of the (human) workforce.

So what are the consequences, why does the increasing automation of labor matter? Well, you can run much more efficient factories producing more reliable products. But we haven’t figured out what it means for the workforce, or for the last of the old guard industries when most of the new hires don’t speak English (or any other human language, for that matter), don’t sleep, and run on electricity.

Mind-numbing consistency, that’s the ticket. Robots don’t make things better than people do. They simply make things the same, forever. Work turned out on Friday is the same as that turned out on Monday. Moreover, they have other advantages. A robot-populated factory filmed for a documentary in Japan needed to import lighting. The actual factory needed none. Such factories may also dispense with HVAC systems, potted plants and lavatories. You can hear the heavy breathing among the bean-counters!

If the hairs on the back of your neck haven’t perked up by now, we can add a chilling coda. Who do you think is turning out all these robots? That’s right, robots! Under the watchful eyes of their control humans as of now, but later, who knows?

On the occasion of the end of the war in Iraq

By Dr. Richard O’Meara

On December 15, 2011, the last US flag was cased and the War in Iraq was declared over. It is well to remember that since the end of WWII, wars have ended without much fanfare and with a great deal of ambiguity regarding what the idea of victory means. Korea is still in a military truce, Vietnam is now one of America’s largest trading partners, the Gulf War ended in a truce as well, setting up the conditions for a second conflict. Change is inevitable yet the definition of what victory is remains elusive. Those who serve us in ambiguous times are worthy of considerable respect; they constantly show up and do the work even as the rest of us sit idly by. Kudos Iraqi veterans and thank you for your service!

…click here to read more

Tomorrow Is A Mystery, Today Is The Ultimate Gift

The clock is running, my friends. There’s no turning back. The past is done, time waits for no ones, and what the day of tomorrow brings, no one knows. That’s what makes life both scary, and beautiful; you never know what you are going to get, where you will end up next, what will happen to you tomorrow. All you have is the great mystery of the unknown and the pleasure of seeing some superior plan be put to practice. Can you influence your destiny? Can you do something to change the course of the future happenings in your life? The answers to these questions depend on the individuals providing answers to them.

 

Reshaping Your Destiny

Some people will be quick to give you examples of others who changed the destinies of entire countries. Others will have more intimate stories about acquaintances who have managed to change their fate. Is there a difference between fate and destiny? Can any of them be influenced in any way? Destinies are shaped by a combo of conditions and states that have already been established at birth, as well as by other elements that can be changed throughout the course of your life. How many of you believe this theory? Let’s look at some of these factors and special conditions that can determine a person’s fate.

The family a person grows in, the family environment, to be more precise, is one of the most important factors that tends to shape the destiny of a person. The social climate within the country or region one grown in is also an influential element that needs to be taken into account for the determination of one’s destiny. Self-discipline and personal efforts are crucial for establishing the past and direction we are going to be walking on and towards in life. Also, the soul tendencies we all struggle with come to guide our steps. Some refer to these tendencies of the soul as to karma itself. The degree of influence other people can have on us is also able to crayon the future directions of our life.

 

Do You Have What It Takes To Decide Your Destiny?

As you can see, the factors enumerated above are diverse and they come from a wide range of areas. Some are to be already settled and cannot be changed, others are to be edited by our own will and needs. While we couldn’t decide the family we were born in or the social occurrences we grew up or currently live in, there are factors that can in act be altered. You can be the master of each and every decision in your life. Don’t let others influence you and the things you are about to do, unless those persons are truly meaningful for you. Your brain has the tendency to tell you to do things a certain way; and it might be the wrong way. The same could be said about your soul. Sit down and closely analyze everything.

Do you think you need more self discipline, more inner strength, more determination, a higher motivation to do something in particular? The freedom of choice is not an empty concept. Try to put it into practice by checking out the classycasinos , one of the best gambling venues online. Choose one promotion that you feel best suits your needs, then give it a go. Collect the welcome bonus and see if you can use the promo money to your best interest. Be the master of the card or table games you choose to play. If you notice a positive change, you’re on the right path.  

 

Technologies of Unrest

Anybody who’s paying attention will note that these are unsettled times, from the Arab spring, to youth demonstrations in Spain, Israel, and now Occupy Wallstreet. Via Kevin Kelly who cites the New York Times:

Yonatan Levi, 26, called the tent cities that sprang up in Israel “a beautiful anarchy.” There were leaderless discussion circles like Internet chat rooms, governed, he said, by “emoticon” hand gestures like crossed forearms to signal disagreement with the latest speaker, hands held up and wiggling in the air for agreement — the same hand signs used in public assemblies in Spain. There were free lessons and food, based on the Internet conviction that everything should be available without charge.

Now, youth protests movements and this kind of radically egalitarian anti-capitalism aren’t exactly new.  These themes can be traced back through the 60s counter-culture, early 20th century Anarchists like Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, the French Revolution, a bunch of 16th century Christian heresies that were bloodily crushed and on and on.

What’s interesting is that the protesters are turning to explicitly technological metaphors for how their movement operates. These are the first generation of digital natives, and they don’t much like how the “real world” works.  But instead of retreating to their bedrooms and laptops, they’re colonizing  physical reality with internet interactions.

((Not that the internet is necessarily good: maybe it’s turning us into selfish assholes.))

Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations Die, and Life Gets Faster


There’s an old adage that if you can describe a problem mathematically, it’s 80% solved, and if you can’t describe it mathematically, you’re never going to get it right. The second modern risks that the world faces today, climate change, political paralysis, financial collapse, obesity, and anomie all are closely tied together by industrialization and urbanization.  At the same time, the creative and innovative solutions that might help solve these problems also originate in cities and corporations.  In an increasingly urban world, cities and corporations are the keys to the future, and Geoffrey West believes that he has the mathematical tools to understand them.

Dr. West’s credentials are impeccable.  The former director of the Sante Fe institute, he has devoted decades to using the tools of theoretical physics to understand complex systems.  His greatest success has been explaining Kleiber’s law, the relationship between an animal’s mass and metabolism. Metabolic rate scales at the 3/4th power of mass, or in other words, big animals are more energy efficient.  In an influential paper in Science, Dr. West explains this relationship by viewing an organism as a device for transporting energy to all its cells.  Circulatory systems are space-filling fractals in 3-dimensional space, and the laws of fluid mechanics and mathematics dictate that the most efficient fractals result in a metabolic ratio and capillary structure that is observed in mammals, invertebrates, and plants.

Cities are a lot like organisms, in that they can be seen as mechanisms for circulating and distributing energy.  Since 1997 Dr. West and his team have collected a stunning amount of data, showing strange relationships between population and various statistics about cities (New York Times). Infrastructure-roads, electricity grids, gas stations, police officers, carbon footprint, scales by the 0.85 power of population.  Intellectual capital-patents, works of art, and wages, along with negatives like crime and disease, scale by the 1.15 power of population.  What this means is that big cities are both wealthier and more efficient than small cities or rural towns, and that given a city’s population, Geoffrey West can derive with 90% accuracy any other fact about the city. New York is a scaled up San Francisco is a scaled up Des Moines.  It’s all in the numbers.

I don’t doubt the data, or the correlation, but the underlying mechanisms and the usefulness of Dr. West observations are harder to grasp.  Cities, in this model, are made of people and their social networks, and human relationships are far less deterministic than fluid mechanics and circulatory systems. Dunbar’s number, the idea that people can maintain about 150 personal relationships, is closer to a conjecture than a proven scientific fact.  The idea that there are fractal scaling laws in human relationships is even more speculative.

Likewise, if 90% of a given city is just based on population, what about the last 10%, the variations that make New Orleans different from Minneapolis?  The data shows that cities are extraordinarily stable over time; variations persist for decades despite the best efforts of politicians to improve their cities.  The data, as I understand it, doesn’t show that more roads decrease congestion, or if more schools improve education, or any other causal links between policy choices and outcomes.  Management tools have to work on human scales if they are going to be accepted and used.

The second major topic of the lecture was death, and why corporations die while cities appear immortal.  In animals, death is the result of entropy. Metabolic processes create free radicals, which eventually overwhelm cellular repair mechanisms, and cause some vital organ to fail.  Cities, compared to organisms, are incredibly resilient.  They can be sacked, suffer industrial collapse, even get nuked, and still bounce back in a couple of decades.  What Dr. West didn’t elucidate were boundaries and conditions. Animals have well-defined boundaries between the organism and the world, and between alive and dead, while cities are far loser agglomerations.  Is Roman Londinium the same city as British London?  Cities have kept entropy at bay because the global population is continually increasing, and it’s easier for a city to make new citizens than it is for an animal to make new cells.

Corporations are like cities, in that they are agglomerations of humans, but observationally, the data shows that like animals, corporations are sub-linear; larger corporations generate less income per employee.  From this, Dr. West concludes that corporations are bound to die, which I think is an artifact of defining a corporation in terms of its legal charter, rather than the products it makes, the employees who work there, or equipment it uses.  The names on the outside of a building are as relevant to the real business of business as the stripes on a leopard are to the business of a predatory cat.  It’s not the legal labels that matters, but the people, capital, and ideas.  In that sense, the data is totally inadequate to explain corporate behavior.

This project is extremely ambitious, but the sense that I got from the lecture was that of a profoundly misapplied metaphor. Like a 19th century physicist describing the universe as a perfect clockwork mechanism, Dr. West describes the universe in terms of the dominant network technology. There are real insights to be gained, but very real dangers of technocratic arrogance plagues the application of any of these theories. During the Q&A session, there was palpable unease as the political implications of what Dr. West was saying, and the way his theories directly contradict our notions of freedom of action and democratic self-governance.

Rather than collecting and correlating the data that’s available, I’d prefer it if Dr. West used his acumen to develop more rigorous theories of energy and information flow between people and technological artifacts.  If cities truly behave as he says they do, the important lessons for bettering the human condition will be found in more precise theories of human relationships, and the ecology of technology. The macro issues of infrastructure and creativity are important, but what makes cities unique, and what makes living in cities interesting, is the microstructure of where the roads go, where the good restaurants are, and what the creative people talk about. At present, the theory does not even being to explain these qualities.

Crossposted from The Breakthrough Generation Blog

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