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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Sat, Feb 20, 2010  Permanent link

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    ^ "Question 2010" by Katinka Mason

    ({ 172 Responses })


    The most interesting trend in the development of the Internet is not how it is changing people's ways of thinking but how it is adapting to the way that people think.

    - Steven Pinker

    + +

    Hypertext as the death of arcana, or how the click killed curiosity. The depth of the internet is, of course, limitless, a bottomless pit of html that can take us off and away on any number of unexpected byways and diversions. Yet is this expectation of diversion flattening out our experience of the physical world? The days of an internet where every stumble was a moment of true discovery are gone forever, perhaps, as curatorial zeal fast overtakes quiet collectomania as the principle online activity.

    ~ things~

    ^ "History of the Internet" (02009) by Melih Bilgil

    ^ "The Machine is Us/ing Us" by Michael Wesch

    ^ "Internet" by Jordan Clarke

    ^ "Trillions" by MAYA Design

    ^ "The State of The Internet" by JESS3

    ^ "How Green Is Your Internet?" by Patrick Clair

    ({ A People's History of the Internet, (ISOC) Histories of the Internet, Map of the Internet })

    + +

    Jonathan Zittrain: Minds For Sale (1, 2)

    Excerpt: Mechanical Turk and the Danger of Digital Sweatshops

    + +

    The internet is awash with corpses. One of the earliest uses of the website seems to have been as a memorial, whether for people or pets. There are numerous online memorials, from eGraves to do-it-yourself concepts like My Last Email. Even if we suppose that a small percentage of these sites continue to be maintained (just like graves in the real world), the internet will slowly and inexorably become a vast digital mausoleum, littered with husks of memory. Sites like YouTube and MySpace will be awash with dead users.

    ~ more things~
    ~ Millenium People ~

    There are somewhere in the order of 4.2 billion unique Internet addresses (IPs), housed on 44 million servers. These consume about 5% of all the world’s electricity and produce about 2% of all carbon dioxide emissions. This amounts to roughly 80 megatons a year and is similar in output to the emissions of Argentina or the Netherlands.

    It is comprised of about 40 million gigabytes of information, which, in its simplest form, would weigh something in the order of fifty-six millionths of a gram.

    Here the contradiction: the Internet might, theoretically, occupy less space than a single grain of sand, and yet its contribution to global warming is equal to a small country. It is both an immense geographical entity and a miniscule atomic whisper. It exists in a time and place, and yet transcends that to become timeless and aspatial.

    It is an emergent system, where a highly-engineered, yet simple, set of rules has allowed for the creation of a massive network sprawling across the planet. The structure of the Internet is a hub and spoke system, in which information is hoarded at central servers and trickled down to individual IPs, making it, in technological terms, far from democratic.

    + +

    ({ Evan Roth, F.A.T. })

    + +

    Sat, Jan 30, 2010  Permanent link
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    The basics.

    Jerry Coyne's blog
    Wed, Nov 4, 2009  Permanent link
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    via things:

    By committing our memory to Google or the 'cloud' we have inadvertently created a great hunger for the intangible and ephemeral, the scraps and minutae of everyday life that get sucked into the circuitry and instantly forgotten. Already we are lamenting the loss of the unknown landscape as a result of global satellite imagery, gps and mapping. Physical space and the raw quality of still air immobilised by a structure cannot be duplicated or imitated. The 'infrastructural city' is not the labyrinth of chance encounters so celebrated by the Situationists. Our interactions are manufactured and governed...

    How do we reconcile the real city, with its messy unpredictability, with the visionary dreams of the utopians, where everything is connected and complete interaction is taken for granted? The internet does its best to connect the two, but it feels as though the scraps of reality, once processed, scanned and catalogued, lose the very qualities that endear them in the first place. Example: the literal billions of images on flickr are a snapshot of people, places and things defined by a finite number of tags, not the myriad, impossible to reproduce connections that denote reality.

    Perhaps this gap will close, and visual search systems, tags and metadata will evolve to supersede the connections we make instinctively. But ultimately the city is not about searching, but about memory, and how cultural collages trigger, accentuate and erase our rememberance of the past and our perception of the future. The data city of the future will be unnavigable without technology, granted, but as a species we seem to be crying out for help remembering, unable to find things with the arsenal of digital tools and reliant, instead, on other people's recollections. This is why, we'd suggest, that the idea of archives, museums, drawers, corridors, boxes, cellars, warehouses and vaults, modern ruins and scanned ephemera, still hold such fascination, without ever really satisfying our innate desire for things.

    then Millenium People (also via things):

    Contemporary data, being instant and always accessible, is also instantly forgettable. Couple this with declining attention spans (I wonder how many readers even make it to this point) and you arrive at an inescapable conclusion: in the future we will either learn to forge more ephemeral relationships to information (we won't remember, but we won't need to) or we will learn to handle information in a very different way.

    Since, and this is my real point, the future is never merely a prolongation or projection of the conditions of the present, I would definitely consider the latter as more likely. The future is the data city, but it won't be accepted by people as the city of the future. To a certain extent the city has always been a 'data city', the possibility for the exchange of information (and obviously goods and services) is what intitially permitted for fixed settlements. And yet the way that data is handled by the city's citizens changes all the time, and to envisage the city of the future in the digital or informatic terms of today is as redundant as the utopias of the steampunk clique. To extend Things' conclusion – the rise of digital information might be weakening the reasons for the city's existence at all. In this future, the metropolis itself may one day become physically irrelevant.
    Mon, Oct 5, 2009  Permanent link

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    The Rosetta Disk

    Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection.

    The fact of the matter is that the 'real world' is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group ... We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.

    ~ Steven Pinker, Rules of Language ~

    In linguistics, the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (SWH) (also known as the "linguistic relativity hypothesis") postulates a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it. Although known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, it was an underlying axiom of linguist and anthropologist Edward Sapir and his colleague and student Benjamin Whorf.

    ~ + + ~

    Toki Pona

    Toki Pona was created by Sonja Elen Kisa. As a language enthusiast, world traveller, intercultural communicator, explorer of spirituality and consciousness, queer woman, and survivor of depression and anxiety, Sonja was naturally inclined to unify her unique life experiences and perspective into a creative project she could share. The idea of a simple pidgin-like language based on universal human experience slowly evolved in her mind.

    Toki Pona is a minimal language that focuses on the good things in life.
    It has been designed to express the most, using the least.
    The entire language has only 14 basic sounds and 118 words.
    The grammar, although different from English, is very regular and easy to learn.

    ( Learn, Official Site )

    ~ + ~

    And for the more experimentally-minded, see Sonja's...

    Oou: The Insane Language

    Design Goals

    • Make you go out of your mind
    • Produce multiple meanings and weird homonymic insights
    • Alienating, intoxicated effect
    • Go against expected conventions of language yet be fully function as a language
    • Explore the connections between reality and surreality, meaning and nonsense
    • Virtually impossible to understand one another: acts of communication become trippy idea-art
    • Sentence meaning flows with your state of consciousness

    ~ + ~

    Lojban & Loglan

    Lojban symbol

    Lojban is a constructed language. It was originally called Loglan by project founder Dr. James Cooke Brown, who started the language development in 1955. Loglan/Lojban has been built over four decades by dozens of workers and hundreds of supporters, led since 1987 by The Logical Language Group.

    The following are the main features of Lojban:

    • Lojban is designed to be used by people in communication with each other, and possibly in the future with computers.
    • Lojban is designed to be culturally neutral.
    • Lojban grammar is based on the principles of logic.
    • Lojban has an unambiguous grammar.
    • Lojban has phonetic spelling, and unambiguous resolution of sounds into words.
    • Lojban is simple compared to natural languages; it is easy to learn.
    • Lojban's 1300 root words can be easily combined to form a vocabulary of millions of words.
    • Lojban is regular; the rules of the language are without exception.
    • Lojban attempts to remove restrictions on creative and clear thought and communication.
    • Lojban has a variety of uses, ranging from the creative to the scientific, from the theoretical to the practical.

    the structure words of Lojban

    ( Learn, Q&A, The proposed fourth tense of Lojban )

    ~ + ~

    What sets humankind apart from other animals is language. Certainly many species communicate, and some do it in a very sophisticated way...think of wolves and dolphins. The important difference with human language is that it can be written down, allowing us to communicate across time as well as space.

    There is a linguistic theory—known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis—that the structure of a human language sets limits on the thinking of those who speak it; hence a language could even place constraints on the development of the cultures that use it. If this hypothesis is correct, then a language that could lift those constraints, by reducing them to a minimum, ought thereby to release its speakers' minds from their ancient linguistic bonds, and that should have a profound effect, both on individual thinking and on the development of human cultures.

    ~ Alex Leith, What Is Loglan? ~

    Loglan inventor Dr. James Cooke Brown with fellow Loglanists Robert A. McIvor and Alex Leith

    Loglan is a constructed language originally designed for linguistic research, particularly for investigating the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. The language was developed beginning in 1955 by Dr. James Cooke Brown with the goal of making a language so different from natural languages that people learning it would think in a different way if the hypothesis were true. Loglan is the first among, and the main inspiration for, the languages known as logical languages, which also includes Lojban and Ceqli.

    Dr. Brown founded The Loglan Institute to develop the language and other applications of it. He always considered the language an incomplete research project, and although he released many papers about its design, he continued to claim legal restrictions on its use. Because of this, a group of his followers later formed The Logical Language Group to create the language Lojban along the same principles, but with the intention to make it freely available and encourage its use as a real language.

    ( Learn, Official Site )

    ~ + + ~

    [T]he background linguistic system (in other words,grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual's mental activity, for his analysis of impressions, for his synthesis of his mental stock in trade. Formulation of ideas is not an independent process, strictly rational in the old sense, but is part of a particular grammar, and differs, from slightly to greatly, between different grammars. We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds - and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way-an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit. and unstated one, but its terms are absolutely obligatory; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees....

    From this fact proceeds what I have called the 'linguistic relativity principle', which means, in informal terms, that users of markedly different grammars are pointed by their grammars toward different types of observations and different evaluations of externally similar acts of observation, and hence are not equivalent as observers, but must arrive at somewhat different views of the world.

    ~ Steven Pinker, Rules of Language ~

    ~ + ~

    Daniel Everett and the Pirahã

    Tooí and Dan Everett; Taken by Martin Schoeller

    Discovered by phonetic expert Professor Dan Everett of Manchester University in 1977, the Pirahã tribe of Brazil have perhaps the most unusual language among the nearly 6000 found on earth.

    Free from concepts of time, color, or specific quantity, the mind of the Pirahã people appears to have been frozen in time—representing man in a simpler state...

    The language of the Pirahãs is extreme: it is limited to 8 consonants for men, seven for women, and only three vowels. It does not contain concepts for counting or simple arithmetic—Everett notes that the Pirahã convey varying amounts through approximation.

    The crucial thing is that the Pirahã have not borrowed any numbers—and they want to learn to count. They asked me to give them classes in Brazilian numbers, so for eight months I spent an hour every night trying to teach them how to count. And it never got anywhere, except for a few of the children. Some of the children learned to do reasonably well, but as soon as anybody started to perform well, they were sent away from the classes. It was just a fun time to eat popcorn and watch me write things on the board. So I don't think that the fact that they lack numbers is attributable to the linguistic determinism associated with Benjamin Lee Whorf, i.e. that language determines our thought—I don't really think that goes very far. It also doesn't explain their lack of color words, the simplest kinship system that's ever been documented, the lack of recursion, and the lack of quantifiers, and all of these other properties. Gordon has no explanation for the lack of these things, and he will just say, "I have no explanation, that's all a coincidence".

    ~ DE, Recursion And Human Thought: Why The Pirahã Don't Have Numbers

    Perhaps most intriguing, Everett found that the Pirahãs don’t use recursive phrases. In other words, they don’t insert phrases within each other to combine different ideas to form a single sentence. Everett thoroughly tested about 20 Pirahãs, and found that none of them used a recursive clause. According to Everett, the Pirahã only talk and think in terms of direct experience. The kind of referencing that occurs in recursive phrases just isn’t a part of their thinking.

    “[For the Pirahã] sentences…cannot be uttered acceptably in the absence of a particular pair of animals or instructions about a specific animal to a specific hunter. In other words, when such sentences are used, they are describing specific experiences, not generalizing across experiences. It is of course more difficult to say that something does not exist than to show that it does exist, but… in the context of my nearly three decades of regular research on Pirahã, it leads me to the conclusion that there is no strong evidence for the existence of quantifiers in Pirahã,” writes Everett in his 2005 paper for Current Anthropology, ‘Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã.’

    If there were a finite language, because of the lack of recursion, that wouldn't mean that it wasn't spoken by normal humans, nor would it mean that it wasn't a very rich source of communication. But if you lived in an environment in which culture restricted the topics that you talked about, and not only just your general environmental limitations on the topics you talked about, but if there were a value in the culture that said, don't talk about topics that go beyond, say, immediate experience—in other words, don't talk about anything that you haven't seen or that hasn't been told to you by an eyewitness—this would severely limit what you could talk about. If that's the case, then that language might be finite, but it wouldn't be a poor language; it could be a very rich language. The fact that it's finite doesn't mean it's not a very rich language. And if that's the case, then you would look for evidence that this language lacked recursion.

    So in the case of Pirahã, the language I've worked with the longest of the 24 languages I've worked with in the Amazon, for about 30 years, Pirahã doesn't have expressions like "John's brother's house". You can say "John's house", you can say "John's brother", but if you want to say "John's brother's house", you have to say "John has a brother. This brother has a house". They have to say it in separate sentences.

    ~ DE, Recursion And Human Thought: Why The Pirahã Don't Have Numbers

    Bernardo, a Pirahã leader, asks lumberjacks to leave the area. André Toral, 1998

    According to Everett, the deceptively simple language of the Pirahãs is not an indicator of a mental failing— curiously, the tribe sees all other languages to be quite ridiculous. While their language may seem simple from our perspective, Everett says that they just use different means to convey concepts and emotions. He states that the Pirahã have a complex verbal morphology and system of accents that give the language its expressive color.

    “The Pirahã people communicate almost as much by singing, whistling, and humming as they do using consonants and vowels,” he writes.

    Another surprising fact is the absence of myth, ritual, symbolism or any other anthropological characteristic that relates the Pirahãs with other cultures throughout history. For the Pirahã, there does not exist any creator God, or moment of creation; nothing was ever created because it always existed. Their concept and experience of time reduces it to the absolute present. In fact, there are no members of the community interested in tracking the records of grandparents, much less older ancestors. To the Pirahã, once something is outside of direct experience, it ceases to exist. They don’t even seem to have any storytelling.

    ~ Leonardo Vintiñi, Epoch Times Article ~

    ( Recursion Discussion, Further Reading, Pirahã Photos, Multimedia, Daniel Everett )
    Wed, Nov 5, 2008  Permanent link
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    Sometimes the most fascinating books are the ones we cannot read. Here are two illustrated texts which have eluded and confounded those who have sought to decipher them (but then, perhaps that is the point). One is thought to have been written several hundred years ago, whose author is only speculated; the other was written only a few decades ago, whose author is both known and still living.

    The Voynich Manuscript

    The Voynich manuscript is a mysterious illustrated book written in an indecipherable text. It is thought to have been written between 1450 and 1520. The author, script and language of the manuscript remain unknown... Over its recorded existence, the Voynich manuscript has been the object of intense study by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including some top American and British codebreakers of World War II fame (all of whom failed to decrypt a single word). This string of failures has turned the Voynich manuscript into a famous subject of historical cryptology, but it has also given weight to the theory that the book is simply an elaborate hoax — a meaningless sequence of arbitrary symbols.

    ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 )

    ~ + ~

    The Codex Seraphinianus

    The Codex Seraphinianus is a book written and illustrated by the Italian architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, a thus-far undeciphered alphabetic writing.

    Visionary or Hallucinatory Encyclopedia?

    ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 )

    ~ + ~

    ¿ Dig Deeper ?

    undeciphered writing systems
    James Hampton

    ! This was originally inspired by Mr. Blank Dog's Voynich MS post ¡
    Wed, Oct 15, 2008  Permanent link
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    Projekt: 0 - Lonely Sun; found here

    Fascinating visual (and musical) works by Václav Pajkrt! The above image, entitled "Growth of cubic bacteria", took first place in the NVArt: Amazing Creations competition held earlier this year:

    He says his goal was to connect his experience from 3D graphics with some interesting mathematical shapes. Inspiration for his scenes comes from macro-worlds and from fascinating views from scan electron microscope.

    { Artistic, Photographic, Musical }

    via Vandit @ FLYLYF
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    I have always been interested in human individuality and self-expression... The persons presented in my works lack individuality: the eyebrows and the eyelashes are removed, the skin is smoothed... Visually I am inspired by culture of fashion and surrealists. I often shock people. I try to create the my personal aesthetics of the works, I try to combine reality with artificiality.

    ~ Oleg Duryagin ~

    DOU is the portfolio of young Russian photographer Oleg Duryagin. He works mostly on the human figure, and, in particular, the human face. This is the object of meticulous investigation and transformation for Duryagin, since his aim is to question post-human identity. All that is flesh goes through a kind of digital metamorphosis; it is erased, smoothed, and rendered to extreme precision. The finished portraits look very sculptural, non-human, surreal, inanimate, and in many cases, you can see a transparency of the porcelain skin underlining the fragility of every portrait…

    ~ Paintalicious post via Alberto Cerriteño ~

    { Art Limited Portfolio, Aidan Gallery }
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    Human society needs to aspire to an integration of its material, spiritual and ecological elements. Current technologies, processes and means tend to separate these facets rather than connect them. Nature uses the sun's energy to create interdependent systems in which complexity and diversity imply sustainability. In contrast, industrialized society extracts energy for systems designed to reduce natural complexity. The challenge for humanity is to develop human design processes which enable us to remain in the natural context. Almost every phase of the design, manufacturing, and construction processes requires reconsideration. Linear systems of thought, or short-term programs which justify ignorant, indifferent, or arrogant means are not farsighted enough to serve the future of the interaction between humanity and nature. We must employ both current knowledge and ancient wisdom in our efforts to conceive and realize the physical transformation, care and maintenance of the Earth.

    ~ William McDonough [x], The Hanover Principles ~

    Michael Wolf - Hong Kong: The Front Door/The Back Door Image #6

    Over the past few years, many wonderful projects have emerged from talented individuals with a healthy interest in the relationships between humanity, nature, and technology, and ultimately, their implications for the future of this world. People from all aspects of society are becoming increasingly involved in the struggle against global desolation/devastation. Using photography as their primary medium, Chris Jordan, Michael Wolf, and Edward Burtynsky have created works which have left me with a mixture of fascination and concern, awe and disgust. I have attempted to use common threads between their works to illustrate a story about sustainability, consumerism, and civilization, with the United States and China as its main characters.

    I must briefly mention that I was surprised to find that Burtynsky's work has only recently surfaced here, and not in member posts, but in our gallery. I implore those unfamiliar with him to watch Manufactured Landscapes, a wonderful cinematic exploration of his work (and another essential documentary). He is also on the board of directors over at WorldChanging (to which Régine Debatty contributes!) and recently spoke at the Long Now Foundation, proposing a 10,000 year gallery.

    In order to keep my page from becoming more cluttered than it already is, I've decided to separate the rest of this post from my Personal Cargo. Furthermore, I've split what was previously one giant post into a series of posts. Click any of the following links to continue...

    I. Refreshments - The story of stuff
    II. Take - Manufacturing Landscapes
    III. Make - Where does it come from?
    IV. Waste - Where does it go?
    V. Overpopulate - Hong Kong shows us the future
    VI. Build To Destroy - Three Gorges Dam
    VII. Grave & Cradle - What next?
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