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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    Re-Be-Coming Human –(2012 an Optimistic Perspective)
    Project: Polytopia
    An ‘all over the place’ somewhat organized selection of that which was interesting and worthwhile noting in 2012. Covering Science, Technology, Poetry, Philosophy, Art, Sustainability and all that inspired, before I enter hiatus*.

    “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

    T.S. Eliot

    Statement of the year:

    "The key realization is that biology is a manufacturing capability. We can have it build the things we want."


    (read why Tom Knight "father of synthetic biology" and founder of Ginkgo BioWorks said so: What’s More Dangerous: Biology or Synthetic Biology?)




    "December 12, 2012

    PASADENA, Calif. — Fifty years ago on a mid-December day, NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft sailed close to the shrouded planet Venus, marking the first time any spacecraft had ever successfully made a close-up study of another planet. The flyby, 36 million miles (58 million kilometers) away from Earth, gave America its first bona fide space "first" after five years in which the Soviet Union led with several space exploration milestones. Designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the successful Mariner 2 spacecraft ushered in a new era of solar system exploration. " (NASA)

    I decided to start this post with the just released NASA celebration of 50 years of space exploration simply because it is a source of inspiration and human endeavor that should make us all proud, as humans, as a civilization, as universal citizens of this planet at this time.

    Yes Curiosity is on Mars roaming and sampling the Martian soil and ‘not’ finding organic molecules, not yet that is.

    “We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater,” said Curiosity scientist Paul Mahaffy” (Slate).

    Still at the same time, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spotted a river system stretching more than 200 miles on Saturn’s moon Titan.

    Is this important?

    Absolutely yes!
    Not the Cassini as such,nor Curiosity, but the very optimism these human endeavors engender.
    Tali Sharot ,who studies why our brains are biased toward optimism has the following to say:

    "Yes, optimism is on one level irrational and can also lead to unwanted outcomes. But the bias also protects and inspires us: It keeps us moving forward, rather than to the nearest high-rise ledge. To make progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative realities, and not just any old reality but a better one; and we need to believe that we can achieve it. "

    (Tali Sharot at BrainPickings)

    There are good people out there!

    It is the end of 2012 and I am a better person. Not because of any particular action that I have done, or performed, but because of a simple realization, not new and yet highly re-invigorating.

    There are good people out there!

    I have often been accused of being an unbridled techno-optimist, utopian and other dream oriented pie in the sky terms of same nature. Let me assure you I am not. That is to say, yes I am an optimist by nature, but a very particular kind of optimist, a critical, skeptical optimist if you like.

    Few years’ back (2008) my colleague Spaceweaver and I created the Pin Yin Shi Shi collection of posts in which we stated:

    “We accept the responsibility of optimism”

    It is now four years later and I can state with full commitment and conviction the statement stands.
    Here then are a few thoughts,musings,new technologies and scientific insights that constitute the backstage of my own optimism bias for 2012.


    "“I never am really satisfied that I understand anything; because, understand it well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand about the many connections and relations which occur to me, how the matter in question was first thought of or arrived at…”

    (thanks for the submission goes to HydrogenPortfolio)

    This post is dedicated to Ada Lovelace (for courage and inspiration), Alan Turing (2012 was Alan Turing year) and the 'Sustainable Energy for All' initiative (2012 was designated as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All by the UN General Assembly in December 2010).


    1.Reality! What a concept!

    “Who trusted God was love indeed
    And love Creation's final law
    Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
    With ravine, shriek'd against his creed”


    The above, from Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850, (the quotation comes in Canto 56) has become one of the most quoted phrases when referring to Nature in general, the main implication being that nature is violent, callous and heartless. It is to a very large extent a statement of the age of Darwin’s new evolutionary theory as much as it is a reflection on Tennyson’s mind in its Victorian mindset.
    Whether we agree with the statement as such, like Richard Dawkins in: The Selfish Gene, we may need to de-emphasize the tendency our minds carry when using such a statement to explain the violence implied by ‘survival of the fittest’. The tendency of course is to reflect upon our lives as if nothing was clearer than ‘nature is red in tooth and claw’, we are part of nature, and hence it is only natural to be as nature, to be ‘red in tooth and claw’.
    This ‘winner takes all’ perspective implied by our nature is wrong of course but that is not the point, the issue at play here is that as long as we will continue to maintain a ‘natural truth’ such as this we cannot hope to attain a different mindset.

    We may do well to remember that language defines our thoughts and as such implies both on our attitudes and behavior. Moreover all the adjectives used in Tennyson’s poem are a product of our mind’s language and thus do not reflect nature as such but the mind of the poet, and of course ours.

    I confess to being a great lover of poetry, and yet in this case I am not in the ‘lovers of Tennyson’ camp, though it appears that queen Victoria was. Though admittedly one of the greatest poets ever, at least by public consensus, it is my view that Tennyson’s phrase ‘red in tooth and claw’ has done us a great disfavor.

    Philosophy has tried repeatedly to offer us different perspectives as to the manner and form by which we might reconcile the apparent dichotomy between the callousness of nature and our very own desire (or at least the belief in the desire) of empathy. Different schools of thought have provided for us a variety of options to, as it were, ‘deal’ with this state of affairs, and yet none seems adequate enough to fit our current needs.

    We need a different poet and a different poem, a different view of nature and our place in it.
    We need a different language and a different vision that does not imply upon our perception of reality.


    The best piece of writing I have come across this year comes from novelist Jay Griffiths in her piece for Aeon Magazine (highly recommended) Forests of the mind:

    "Eros is coursing through the forest. The forest is mewing with its jaguar life. Life is spiralling into poetry. I am in the other world, I thought, at once in the actual forest and in the forests of the mind where the visible world is not denied but augmented."



    (Henri Rousseau (1844–1910) The Dream c1910. Oil on canvas 204.5 x 298.5. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)/Scala Aeon)

    Category: Literature,Poetry,Rogue Philosophy,Techno-Shamanism,Nature,Mythology,Language

    2. A crisis in Humanism?

    “Ever since Descartes argued that there are striking similarities between a man and a clock, humanism has been in a state of crisis. To put it more pointedly, humanism has always been in a state of crisis, ever since it emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a constellation of beliefs that made man rather than God the measure of all things. Thus, since we are arguably witnesses now to the eclipse of the humanist tradition, we might take some comfort (if any is desired) in considering that if we have failed the ideal of humanism, it has also failed us. From the beginning its borders were too porous, its boundaries too ill defined. For even as man turned himself into a god, he increasingly began to resemble a machine. “


    (Stephen Dougherty, Culture in the Disk Drive: Computationalism, Memetics, and the Rise of Posthumanism -. Diacritics, Volume 31, Number 4, Winter 2001, pp. 85-102 (Article)

    If Humanism is to be understood as man becoming the measure of things and not god, we may need to re-assess when reflecting upon the end of humanism not the demise of man, but the demise of the measurement concept.
    In other words, I do not think in any fashion that humanism has been lost or is in crisis, what has changed and is changing continuously is the measurement device.

    Yes, man is no longer the measure of all things, but neither is it the machine.

    The most interesting and innovative thought in this respect in 2012 comes in the guise of onto-cartography from Larval Subjects.

    "..Part of the aim of onto-cartography is to map these complex relations, to draw virtual maps of potential alternatives to existing assemblages, and to trace the imbrications of these planes in social systems."


    Category: Philosophy

    (Note: I am in the process of writing an extended paper about this issue wait for it in 2013)

    3. The Current Cyborgization culture

    A plethora of new articles has recently been in vogue concerning the cyborg and augmentation technologies that are here or almost here.
    Of course we live in a cyborg culture see Amber Case* at CNN reporting from LeWeb:

    “Cyborg anthropology is the study of the interaction between humans and technology, and how technology affects culture. Mobile technology allows one to stand almost anywhere in the world, whisper something, and be heard elsewhere. These devices that live in our pockets need to be fed every night require our frequent attention. In only a few years these devices have become stitched into the fabric of our everyday lives. Phones offer us respite from the boredom of waiting in lines, but they also inhibit us when they run out of batteries. In traditional anthropology, somebody goes to another country, says: "How fascinating these people are! How interesting their tools and their culture are," and then they write a paper, and maybe a few other anthropologists read it, and we think these cultures are very exotic. Cyborg anthropologists step back from the modern world and look at the everyday life and how the people around us are influenced by technology in everyday life.”


    (on answering the question of (CNN) — What exactly is cyborg anthropology?) - For full disclosure I am writing with Amber Case at our conjoined blog at Reality Augmented)



    At the same time (CNN) says that Muse (in the above image) is here — "It's the $199 headband that will allow you to control things using your mind, the makers say."

    "It interacts with content directly with your mind so you can play games that you are able to control with your mind," says the Canadian neuroscientist and entrepreneur.

    Connecting to any device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop via bluetooth, Muse can be worn on the go and includes a "brain fitness suite" app that tracks the state of your brain or can help you de-stress." (for more go to Interaxon-Muse)

    Story of year However goes to :

    "Paralyzed, Moving a Robot With Their Minds" (NYT)

    "Two people who are virtually paralyzed from the neck down have learned to manipulate a robotic arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach out and grab objects. One of them, a woman, was able to retrieve a bottle containing coffee and drink it from a straw — the first time she had served herself since her stroke 15 years earlier, scientists reported on Wednesday. "

    Cathy Hutchinson, one of the study's subjects, uses a robot arm to serve herself a drink, a first for her in 15 years since a stroke.

    Important reads:
    How Far Away Is Mind-Machine Integration?
    Forget voice control or gesture recognition: gadgets may soon link directly to our brains (Scientific American)

    Companies like NeuroSky Inc., and Emotiv Systems are developing consumer-grade headsets that read the brain's electrical signals to control onscreen action.
    (The video games you play with your mind -The Week)

    Category: Augmented Reality, Wearable Technology, Cyborg Anthropology,Brain Machine interfaces

    4. The 3D printing revolution



    "2012 has been a big year for 3-D printing, but the industry has quietly been growing for decades. And the innovations are impressive — for every new plywood-clad 3-D printer kit that makes the rounds on the internet, engineers are developing ways to print titanium parts for jet engines that will change the aerospace industry.

    This week at Euromold, a manufacturing trade show, the companies behind these devices are demonstrating new products and highlighting the novel technologies that will change the way we build things. The 3-D printing industry is on track to be a $3.1 billion business by 2016 and the innovations on display this week show its foundation is growing — both in revenue and in physical print size." (Wired)

    Print me a jet engine :"CONFIRMATION as to how seriously some companies are taking additive manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing, came on November 20th when GE Aviation, part of the world’s biggest manufacturing group, bought a privately owned company called Morris Technologies. " (read it at the Economist)

    Category: Technology,3D printing, Innovation


    5. The Humanoid Robot Kenshiro



    "Researchers at the University of Tokyo are taking bio-inspired robots to new heights with Kenshiro, their new human-like musculoskeletal robot revealed at the Humanoids conference this month. They have added more muscles and more motors to their Kojiro robot from 2010, making Kenshiro’s underlying structure the closest to a human's form so far. See the new body in the picture above" (Spectrum)

    Counter-argument: Why Making Robots Is So Darn Hard

    Category: Robotics,Robots, Automation,Humanoids

    6. Design Technology at the Intersection of Art and Science



    2013 Tech Trends from frog

    "Computers are dissolving in three directions—into the cloud, into the environment, and into our bodies—but as they do so they are reducing or losing altogether what we would traditionally call an “interface.”

    (Apps become invisible - By Executive Creative Director Thomas Sutton, Milan - DesignMind )

    Category: Design,Art,Science,

    7. A First: Organs Tailor-Made With Body’s Own Cells



    "Imitating Nature

    To make an organ, it helps to know how nature does it.

    That is why Philipp Jungebluth, a researcher in Dr. Macchiarini’s lab, had mounted a heart and a pair of lungs inside a glass jar on a workbench and connected them by tubing to another jar containing a detergent-like liquid. The organs, fresh from a sacrificed rat, had slowly turned pale as the detergent dripped through and out of them, carrying away their living cells. After three days the cells were gone, leaving a glistening mass that retained the basic shape of the organs. "


    For more go to the NYT: A First: Organs Tailor-Made With Body’s Own Cells"

    Category: Synthetic Biology,Health,Medicine,

    8. State-of-the-art virtual-reality system is key to medical discovery



    Surgeons from the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences Systems Neurosurgery Department view a simulation of the human brain vasculature and cortical tissue in the CAVE2 Hybrid Reality Environment (credit: Lance Long for Electronic Visualization Laboratory/University of Illinois at Chicago)

    Must watch : CAVE2 (TM) Hybrid Reality Environment

    Go read: State-of-the-art virtual-reality system is key to medical discovery

    Category: Virtual Reality,Science,Neuroscience, Simulation

    9. Notable advances 2012 - Nature Medicine



    "From the microbiome to the microenvironment, certain areas of biomedicine saw fast-paced discovery this year. Here's a rundown of the papers that helped these fields advance quickly in 2012."

    Neuroscience: Netting new autism genes
    Cancer: Environmental issues
    Aging: Calorie-cutting challenge
    Metabolism: Beige is the rage
    Immunotherapy: Co-receptor clampdown
    Virology: Pushing the envelope
    Gastroenterology: Friends, not foes
    Reproduction: Germinating debate

    Must read article from Nature News Medicine

    Category: Science,Medicine,Biology,Neuroscience,Biomedicine,Convergence,

    (Image:The trend of convergence involves the merger of life, physical and engineering sciences.
    Image Credit: Christine Daniloff via Nano.Org)

    10. Life Expectancy Rises Around the World, Study Finds

    "A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a report published on Thursday, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases mostly associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease. "


    Important read at the NYT.

    Category: Mortality,Life expectancy,Society,Civilization

    11. Bionics,Robotics Limbs,Brain Machine interfaces (BMI)

    Brain to Brain Techno-Telepathy? yes

    Read:Father-daughter duo have the world’s first brain-to-brain ‘telepathic’ conversation



    "Mind reading is a scary-enough concept all on its own — but mind writing? It calls to mind the hacker deities of cyber punk novels; skinny, trench-swathed Neos projecting e-thoughts into the skulls of passing civilians. With such basic issues of privacy on the line, it took the trusting relationship between UK scientist Christopher James and his adventurous young daughter to give us our first stab at developing real telepathic, brain-to-brain communication technology."
    (Extremetech)



    "A device that would allow paralyzed people to use their thoughts to move robotic limbs fluidly and realistically is now one step closer to reality.

    A team of scientists from Harvard, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital led by Ziv Williams have found two groups of cells in one area of the monkey brain that allow the animals to remember a sequence of two movements at once. The team was then able to program a computer to interpret those brain patterns, in turn moving a cursor on a screen in the planned sequence. "

    (read it : Discovery)

    12. Big Data - The planetary information nervous system



    "“Mr. Smolan decided to create the book, in part because he believes the big-data phenomenon could have as much of an impact on society as the internet. Indeed, the Internet interactions have contributed much of the data that is collected. Because we’re all affected by big data, Mr. Smolan wants to “get people thinking about it in an informed way.”
    (Adage-Digital)

    "A supernova of new data over the past decade is shaping everyday lives across the planet."
    ('Big data' transforms our lives and lifestyles-USAtoday)

    Important reads on Big Data:

    Peta, Exa, Yotta And Beyond: Big Data Reaches Cosmic Proportions [Infographic]

    Meaning In Numbers: Data Is The New Common Language

    Big data: Mind the gaps (Boston Globe)

    One of the most interesting essays I came across this year that I highly recommend comes from SeekingAlpha: Investing In Science Fiction Tech: Artificial Intelligence the condensed intelligence in this essay is outstanding but more than anything else, it is the fresh approach and insight that makes it both unusual and worthwhile reading. (ht to Matt Cilderman)

    Category: Big Data,Business intelligence,

    Endnote:

    My selection for 'There are good people out there' mentioned above

    1.Architecture for humanity
    2.Playing for change

    and finally

    I leave 2012 with a positive note from "Everybody Technology"

    "Everybody Technology is about creating technology so smart, so simple and so powerful it works for everybody.

    Professor Stephen Hawking has a dream that we create inspiring technology that works for everybody, whatever their ability.

    Watch:Everybody Technology - Stephen Hawking's Dream

    Few words:

    Words like reality and naïve contain vowels in hiatus.
    I am a naïve realist,
    I enter hiatus
    Re-Be-coming Human
    We shall meet again


    -
    And btw NASA says the world will not end : Beyond 2012: Why the World Won't End


    Mon, Dec 17, 2012  Permanent link
    Categories: 2012,optimism,hiatus
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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