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Peter Crnokrak (M)
London, UK
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The Luxury of Protest
The Luxury of Protest is the nom de guerre of London based designer and artist, Peter Crnokrak. Projects are concept driven and utilize design language to communicate meaning in complex systems. The practice is a continual crossover between art, design and new technologies with work that addresses culturally relevant themes including geopolitics, generative aesthetics and the integration of science and art.
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    Engineering the next tech (r)evolution

    how a set of visionary coders are primed to transform the web as we know it

    [by: Stephen Marshall]


    Carlota Perez, Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics, explains that technological revolutions occur when a highly interconnected and interdependent set of systems are disrupted and replaced by a technological evolution in such a way that it has the “capacity to transform profoundly the rest of the economy (and eventually society).”

    The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century is a well-known technological revolution, driven by the innovation of manufacturing processes that enabled production on a mass scale. The Information/Telecommunications revolution of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, resulting from access to the internet and cellular phone technology is also a widely recognized tech revolution with massive societal impact.



    | tech rev 2.0 |

    Through my work with leading data scientists, systems engineers, and code/designers over the last three years, it has become clear that the next major technological paradigm disruption will attack the internet’s social platforms, which have become the dominant expression of personal, and enterprise, identity. These platforms, which were conceived as desktop applications and powered by text-based programming, have been ported into our mobile devices, but not adapted to the vast potential that mobile platforms offer us. Namely, object-based computational platforms which are generated by dynamic data flows and navigable through time and space.

    There are good reasons for this.

    Primary among them: the dominant social networks and search engines have been massively capitalized by investors who need to reap as much as they can from the current text-based set-up and the rich analytics generated about the users who populate them. Platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have created immaculate playgrounds for their users to inhabit and interact within. While the data scientists harvest data via algorithms that observe and categorize each interaction, so they can create highly developed profiles of each individual user.

    The data generated by users on these platforms, and the surgical profiles they generate, is not available to those users. It belongs to the companies, and their paying customers, who use it for the purposes of marketing and other, more nuanced objectives.

    As we know, this data is highly valuable. Monetarily, to the groups who buy access to it. But also intrinsically to the platforms’ inhabitants, who could use it to learn aspects of who they are, and who they are not. Who they aspire to be, and, now with predictive algorithms and big data on millions of other people, paths to achieving those goals. (Our systems architect Peter Crnokrak calls this “deep data” — mostly because big data is such an annoying terminology.)

    Self-knowledge is the essence of human identity, and the next technological revolution will offer unprecedented opportunities for us to know ourselves, and our world, as we never have.

    But not if it is left to the dominant platforms and their market-beholden executives. Because whatever their loftier aspirations, the foundation of their corporate revenue structure is still built on an old business model: “delivering relevant, cost-effective online advertising,” to quote a recent Google annual report. And advertising, with a few exceptions, is not about personal and global transformation. In many ways, they are mutually exclusive.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with advertising. I have worked with, and learned immensely from, some of the most successful ad creatives on the planet. One of our investors in ORA is as high-profile a director as there is in the United States, and he’s a great friend. But one thing we all know, successful marketing depends on a set of conditions to be inherent in the platforms that deliver it. And instilling a deep sense of self-worth, self-understanding, and self-sufficiency is not how we sell things that no one really needs. Even Jerry Seinfeld can be honest about that.

    So, it probably won’t be left to them to initiate this next tech revolution.

    But it doesn’t need to. Because a wave of new technological innovation is upon us. One that will make the user experience of the current social networks feel like this:



    While the new paradigm of social communication and personal identity will look and feel more like this:



    It’s only a matter of time.


    | towards a generative code platform |

    With technological advances in the fields of mobile computing and data processing, and with the introduction of a multi-platform, 3D publishing platform like Unity (with a nod to the geniuses at famo.us), there is now the potential for a new kind of programming to transform the way human beings identify, exhibit, and explore themselves, and the companies, organizations, and nations they populate.

    This is the advent of an evolutionary moment which will be brought on by a new kind of coder/designer. These creative engineers are quietly advancing a stunning new computer language that is best described as object-based, or “generative,” code. And while they are well-known in design and art communities, Silicon Valley technologists and the investor class are almost universally unaware of them.

    What is object-based generative code?

    Put simply, it’s code that dynamically generates and morphs ‘objects’ through a system of inputs which are either controlled by the viewer (directed), or from external sources (passive). So, at its most sophisticated levels, these are programs that animate objects through live data flows; such as sonic beats, heart rhythms, sleep patterns, language in text messages, weather changes, and geo-locational signals. The people who write this code are described as computational designers, or, as I know them: code artists.

    To give you an example of how generative code works: check out the video link below, which is a feature on visionary code artist Reza Ali. In it he demos a generative app he designed that he describes as “interactive (and) audio-reactive.” Check it out.

    The key here is that the dynamic motion and mutations are responding to live audio signals. This is music + code = free-form object mutation.

    Josh Nimoy is another elite computational designer and, in my view, the most visionary of them all. He was hired by director Joe Kosinski to write code that generated special effects for TRON Legacy, considered one of the most stunning achievements in modern GFX. This is a link to an excerpt from his work on that project, called Contour Heart. It’s a morphing sphere, with surface mappings, generated by pure math, and controlled by “sliders” which can be adjusted by the viewer.

    [For more examples of visionary generative code, check out Karsten Schmidt, Marcin Ignac, and the German-based duo, onformative.]

    When I first started presenting generative code systems to VCs and CTOs in Silicon Valley, I was met with blank stares. Curious, but blank. But then I was introduced to a set of Tier 1 engineers, most of whom were at gaming companies, who just nodded their heads and told me this was “inevitable.”

    Over the past 18 months, it’s become crystal clear to me, and those I work with, that the generative code that powers dimensional visualizations from live data is the future of digital identity… and what we now think of as mobile computing.

    Think about it.

    Mobile technology, with its native pinch, push, and drag features, gives us the ability to navigate data systems in an entirely new way. Specifically, through space and time. Why then are we still using what are essentially 2D websites, and lists, to represent human beings, companies, organizations, and nations? Are we not dimensional entities, which exist and generate our data trails through spatial and temporal domains?

    The overarching thesis, then, is simple:

    Dimensional, self-generating objects driven by dynamic individual and enterprise data will allow us to see ourselves, for the first time, as the first astronauts saw Earth from space.

    In the unbiased macro. It’s called the overview effect.




    | unleashing deep data will save the world |

    With advances in the collection, processing, and analysis of data, we have turned a civilizational corner. We can now make sense of a multitudinous system of decisions, and their tethered outcomes, which in the past, were far too complex, and seemingly chaotic, for us to extract any tangible benefit.

    That is huge, in evolutionary terms. You can’t truly change anything, either on an individual, institutional, or global level, unless you can ‘objectify’ (or ‘see’) the entity that needs changing. It’s the cornerstone of all healing and personal transformation programs.

    But this won’t happen if we limit our work to capitalizing and developing those systems that manipulate and control the data flows to return the most banal, and insidious, behavioral insights.

    If we unleash deep data and develop technologies that allow it to signal to us the hidden intelligence in our human, geological, and financial etc. systems, it will bestow a new level of self-awareness and self-knowledge upon our civilization. This means learning to see the hidden messages in the data, instead of writing code that gives us pre-determined outcomes demanded by a myopic market.

    But we also need to develop a set of tools to communicate that intelligence to us. And those will come in the form of generative visualizations: computational objects, environments, and, eventually, worlds, that take complex and seemingly unrelated data flows and aggregate them into what my friend Demian Sellfors, the recently exited founder of Media Temple, calls sense-making technologies.

    Evolutionary, paradigm shifting applications that finally free us from the poison pill of human governance that has kept us in the shadow of our true potential. No longer can decisions — political, economic, medical, military, social — be made based on human whims, caprice, biases, or opinions… but, rather, from the nexus of billions of lines of data which can point us to optimal behaviors.

    Deep data; this is the advent of true AI.

    This could revolutionize the way the World Bank lends money. How medicine is priced and distributed in developing world markets. How we finally get an accurate and up-to-the-minute reporting mechanism on our survival as a species. How is it that we are not already making this the most critical objective of our massively endowed technology sector?

    Because most of its leaders are stuck in rigid economic systems and ossified ways of seeing. Trust me, I know. I spend a lot of time talking to money people (mostly VCs) and technologists who are stuck in the old, text-based paradigm. I don’t blame them, considering the vast amount of capital the major VCs, and the market in general, has invested in text-based social networks and search platforms.

    Like most scientific and technological communities on the verge of paradigm shift, the thought and investment leaders in Silicon Valley have no idea what is coming next. They are too busy trying to benefit from the current paradigm, which they have essentially created. And, as Thomas Kuhn noted in his Theory of Scientific Revolutions:

    Almost always [those] who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.

    And, as we have learned from history, old paradigms die hard.


    | a missionary position |

    [I hope you’ll pardon a bit of biographical context at this point.]

    My work with our team at ORA is about developing a global platform on which data feeds an entirely new way of seeing, understanding, and acting for our selves. We are iterating our initial systems through a few key verticals: gaming (for the League of Legends community) and medical (with one of the world’s largest hospitals). But after that, the sky’s the limit.

    ORA recently graduated from the inaugural class of Data Elite, an Andreessen Horowitz et al. seed-funded accelerator, which is dedicated to identifying and funding the next generation of big data companies. So I have experienced, first-hand, the way personal and enterprise data is being approached by the leading thinkers in this burgeoning sector.

    But even with that pedigree and support, I still feel like Alice in Wonderland when I do my quarterly presentations in Silicon Valley.

    We get a lot of pretty high-profile meetings with well-known investors and VC executives, who almost universally have never heard of generative code. They don’t know what it is, how it works, or that there is even the possibility of mapping live data into dynamic objects. To be fair, I have also sat across the table from some of the most powerful social network data scientists in the Valley and they too could not grasp, nor visualize, a shift away from text-based computing. (Whereas gaming CTOs get it intuitively.)

    Our patent attorney, one of the top firms in the Valley, had never filed a patent for an invention that used generative code. That should tell you something. (ORA filed and received a provisional patent for our HALO product, which maps complex data flows into six ‘vertices’ of what is essentially a 3-D band of light that signals the performance of a person, thing, or entity.)

    Luckily for us, I have been able to find a highly influential group of investors and advisors who get what we’re building, and have backed us through the riskiest stages of our development.



    Ironically, if the mainstream investor class is slow to catch on, the mainstream public is becoming increasingly aware of the kind of future that awaits through generative systems. That’s because the biggest source of funding for these code art projects comes from Hollywood and the motion picture industry. Films like Minority Report, TRON Legacy, and Prometheus have plot lines that prominently feature generative code-driven holograms and UI/UX interfaces. The design departments for these films, which create functioning tech, are budgeted in the tens of millions of dollars. To build us a future that is fantastic and beautiful.

    And imminent. Imagine:

    Cities and countries will no longer be depicted solely by their geographic dimensions, but as dimensional objects, formed by all of the data that is flowing out of them. Companies’ online representations will no longer be 2D websites, but rather explorable worlds woven together by the data of the people, performance metrics, and products that they have been built upon. Doctors will no longer have to double as high-level statisticians to read the reams of graphs and numbers that run off their various tech. Instead, they and their patients will view heart and other bodily system status through actionable, bio-mimicked visualizations.

    But the killer app, for me, of this evolutionary thrust resides in the social networks and digital identity.

    With a new “sky layer” — a data visualization platform which sits atop the social and search realms, powered by generative code — users of Facebook and Twitter will not longer be compartmentalized in some post-Tower of Babel reality in which they are unable to communicate with anyone outside of their linguistic group.

    Instead, they will experience a dimensional realm, coded in a universal, object-based language in which their ‘profiles’ and identities are based on their biographical and moment-to-moment data. [Unlike the current text-based identities, on ORA’s platform this data will be author-protected and migratable at any time by the user.]

    Of this I am sure.

    But for now it’s missionary work. And I have come to learn that simply because some powerful people are not able to grasp an idea doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Enough mutually powerful people are catching on and, thanks to quantum physics, we’re on our way.

    I passionately believe this evolution in computing needs to happen. Human beings must create technologies that harness, alchemize, and output their data so that we can get a view of our world and the impact our moment-to-moment actions have on it.

    Or, as this prophecy predicts, we may not survive the coming century.

    Mon, Dec 15, 2014  Permanent link

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