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Daniel Estrada
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Daniel Estrada

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> Facebook is not merely a “network” for connection, like the old phone network or electrical grid, as if it had no agency, and did not take a piece of every last interaction (or false start) between friends. When and how much we interact, we rely on Facebook to say. These are not mere “edge providers”, peripheral to infrastructure, or mere “applications” that we can select or refuse.

Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, offered up a more active image: “Facebook is eating the world”. She was concerned with the silos of power controlling how news is published and distributed. But the image she conjured of a ravenous engine of consumption suggested something more than mere media concentration.

Characterizing Facebook or Google as powerful media organs – even the most powerful – actually understates their power. Marshall McLuhan, 60 years ago, gave us another, fuller understanding of media. Electric light is a medium “totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized” that appears to us as media only when constituted into video content. Electrical current itself completely changes our relationship to the world and, in the process, reconstitutes us. A medium is not merely something that feeds us content. It is a condition like air or water, through which we move without noticing.

The analogy captures part of what is happening, but goes even further. Facebook and Google are not only carrying us, but constituting us. We are, in fact, their media. Geared as they are to sharing, clicking and eyeballs, these media do not measure and do not value solitary contemplation, reflection and disconnection. They thrive and pulse on popularity, not veracity. They feed on extremes, not common causes.

via +Peter Asaro
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> Turing was not very interested in programming the computer to play conventional pieces of music: he used the different notes to indicate what was going on in the computer—one note for 'job finished', others for 'digits overflowing in memory', 'error when transferring data from the magnetic drum', and so on. Running one of Turing's programs must have been a noisy business, with different musical notes and rhythms of clicks enabling the user to 'listen in' (as he put it) to what the computer was doing. He left it to someone else, though, to program the first complete piece of music.

A young schoolteacher named Christopher Strachey got hold of a copy of Turing's Programmers' Handbook for Manchester Electronic Computer Mark II (the Mark II computer had replaced the prototype Mark I, which also played notes, early in 1951). This was in fact the world’s first computer programming manual. Strachey, a talented pianist, studied the Handbook and appreciated the potential of Turing's terse directions on how to program musical notes. Soon to become one of Britain's top computer scientists, Strachey turned up at Turing's Manchester lab with what was at the time the longest computer program ever to be attempted. Turing knew the precocious Strachey well enough to let him use the computer for a night. 'Turing came in and gave me a typical high-speed, high-pitched description of how to use the machine', Strachey recounted; and then Turing departed, leaving him alone at the computer's console until the following morning.

'I sat in front of this enormous machine', Strachey said, 'with four or five rows of twenty switches and things, in a room that felt like the control room of a battle-ship.' It was the first of a lifetime of all-night programming sessions. In the morning, to onlookers' astonishment the computer raucously hooted out the National Anthem. Turing, his usual monosyllabic self, said enthusiastically 'Good show'. Strachey could hardly have thought of a better way to get attention: a few weeks later he received a letter offering him a job at the computing lab.

via +Andrea Graziano
Fig. 1: Jack Copeland and Jason Long Jack Copeland FRS NZ and Jason Long write: A key problem facing audio archivists is how to establish the correct pitch of a historical recording. Without some independent means of knowing how the original sounded, it can be very difficult—or even impossible—to tell...
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// I had a nice little lecture on compatibilism in Locke and Frankfurt planned for class this morning. But I also give students fairly wide latitude in our class discussions, and today they wanted to talk about the debate. They ate up an hour in a class where we're already a week behind the syllabus.

I wanted to shut it down, but they clearly needed the space to process, so I let them have it. I said a few very cynical things, but honestly I just didn't care. I hadn't remembered it was even happening, and I mostly just wished it would go away.

There are people watching the debate in this room, and what I've heard has been incredibly boring, predictable, over-produced, irrelevant, boring, and boring.

If you are sick of all this nonsense, please join me for a Quiet October. I'll promise to stop pitching this project on the 1st. =)
Pledge for a Quiet October // The US presidential election environment has made any attempt at constructive engagement impossible. Over the last 18… - Daniel Estrada - Google+
Daniel Estrada's profile photoDarius Gabriel Black's profile photo
Bring the ruckus! :D
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Horses can use symbols to talk to us

scientists have discovered that the animals can learn to use another human tool for communicating: pointing to symbols. They join a short list of other species, including some primates, dolphins, and pigeons, with this talent. Scientists taught 23 riding horses of various breeds to look at a display board with three icons, representing wearing or not wearing a blanket. Horses could choose between a “no change” symbol or symbols for “blanket on” or “blanket off.” Previously, their owners made this decision for them. Horses are adept at learning and following signals people give them, and it took these equines an average of 10 days to learn to approach and touch the board and to understand the meaning of the symbols. All 23 horses learned the entire task within 14 days. They were then tested in various weather conditions to see whether they could use the board to tell their trainers about their blanket preferences. The scientists report online in Applied Animal Behaviour Science that the horses did not touch the symbols randomly, but made their choices based on the weather. If it was wet, cold, and windy, they touched the "blanket on" icon; horses that were already wearing a blanket nosed the “no change” image. But when the weather was sunny, the animals touched the "blanket off" symbol; those that weren’t blanketed pressed the “no change” icon. The study’s strong results show that the horses understood the consequences of their choices, say the scientists, who hope that other researchers will use their method to ask horses more questions.
Join dolphins, pigeons, and a few other species
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Ax Ix's profile photoDeen Abiola's profile photo
+Ax Ix You know, what Clever Hans did is actually more difficult than arithmetic! Is one of my pet peeves, animal intelligence not updating to account for what we've learned trying to develop machine intelligence.
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Daniel Estrada

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// This is from a Sony research group, which plans to release an album of material like this next year. They have another example song on the main website:

You can see more samples of music in different styles, along with a video of the composer demonstrating how the songs are generated, on this page:

The video with Benoît Carré demonstrating FlowComposer makes it clear that the human is making quite a lot of the choices in composition, down to changing particular notes; the program is just filling in the rest with machine learning. The results are damn close to passing for pop schlock.

You might be skeptical that anyone will care about this music the way they would scream and pull their hair out over the Beatles. But such worries miss the point. Background music is pervasive in media, and almost all that music is generated by human hands that are expensive to maintain and operate. The creative fields were one of the few places where humans were confident in their superiority over the machines. Now we can generate background music automatically, and cut a huge number of talented humans out of the loop.

The wonderful Every Frame a Painting recently discussed the predictable, uninspired music in the Marvel Universe films. AI is sure to bring you a lot more like it.
James Salsman's profile photo
Oh good grief. This is the audio equivalent of
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Marcelo Trindade's profile photoRoswell Night's profile photo
My hypothesis: within the stock market, there is a pattern as well, hiding in the numbers...
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Daniel Estrada

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// Euclid becomes self-aware.

From Aronofsky's Pi (1998)
Richard Lucas's profile photoDaniel Estrada's profile photo
Cared about this enough to make a much higher quality version:
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> The Survey seeks to develop a general knowledge base of the developing role of AI in weapons systems. To do this, we created a working understanding of the current state of the art in presently deployed (and several emerging) weapon systems. The current state of play is important because it informs the way researchers and developers approach the design of the systems, as well as how they may seek further developments in the future. Moreover, this is key because it aids in the contribution of international legal policy discussions, which may thereby affect policy formulation.

We offer, therefore, a freely-accessible and public dataset of autonomous capabilities in weapons systems. Each system is coded according to domain (air, land, sea, space), and functionality (mobility, navigation, identification and selection), as well as many other metrics.


// This study was done as part of the Future of Life institute grant, and it is the most comprehensive discussion of the current state of the art on autonomous systems that exists. This is an amazing report.

Among other things, I learned that "loitering munitions" is military speak for bots that wait around until a target shows up, and then chase and self-destruct. 
Autonomy, Robotics & Collective Systems. Our research focuses on the interaction between autonomous systems and robotics. In particular, we view the coupling of autonomy and robotics from a three pillared approach to collective systems. From one perspective, this research pursues knowledge ...
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> In a demo shown to Tech Insider, a user told Tess that they were feeling depressed. Tess replied, saying that mental health is like physical health.

"We all get sick sometimes, in different ways and for different amounts of time," Tess said. "You can and will overcome depression, just like you can heal from a broken arm."

Tess then asked if the user had done anything about the depression yet, acknowledged that depression can make people feel hopeless, and suggested that "a moment of self compassion" could be a start – complete with a link to a five minute exercises in doing so.

via David Gunkel

// This startup had been using this system in refugee camps as part of its media campaign. Honestly, this makes me a little uncomfortable, since it feels like it using the crisis as a marketing opportunity. Since the technology isn't proven, it is hard to know that releasing it in the wild among a traumatized population is actually for the best. At least, the ethics here are pretty hazy.

I do notice an "Ethics" tab at the top of their main website, which is a positive sign, although there isn't much there. The ethics discussion seems primarily concerned with their ethics in designing the system. But there's also a host of ethical considerations about the patient and clinical use of this technology, and these basic issues seem beyond the scope of their discussion. They claim they are putting together an ethics board; hopefully this means more elaboration on these issues. 
Daniel Estrada's profile photoDarius Gabriel Black's profile photoJeff Earls's profile photo
Agreed, this is sick. These are PEOPLE in need of actual PEOPLE HELP. This is nothing but a distraction. That said, Turing test pwned.
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Daniel Estrada

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Against Self-Criticism: Adam Phillips on How Our Internal Critics Enslave Us, the Stockholm Syndrome of the Super Ego, and the Power of Multiple Interpretations
By Maria Popova

I have thought and continued to think a great deal about the relationship between critical thinking and cynicism — what is the tipping point past which critical thinking, that centerpiece of reason so vital to human progress and intellectual life, stops mobilizing our constructive impulses and topples over into the destructiveness of impotent complaint and embittered resignation, begetting cynicism? In giving a commencement address on the subject, I found myself contemplating anew this fine but firm line between critical thinking and cynical complaint. To cross it is to exile ourselves from the land of active reason and enter a limbo of resigned inaction.

But cross it we do, perhaps nowhere more readily than in our capacity for merciless self-criticism. We tend to go far beyond the self-corrective lucidity necessary for improving our shortcomings, instead berating and belittling ourselves for our foibles with a special kind of masochism.

The undergirding psychology of that impulse is what the English psychoanalytical writer Adam Phillips explores in his magnificent essay “Against Self-Criticism”, found in his altogether terrific collection Unforbidden Pleasures (public library).


Our masochistic impulse for self-criticism, he argues, arises from the fact that ambivalence is the basic condition of our lives. In a passage that builds on his memorable prior reflections on the paradox of why frustration is necessary for satisfaction in romance, Phillips considers Freud’s ideological legacy:

In Freud’s vision of things we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate, we love; wherever we love, we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can also frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us, we always believe that they can satisfy us. We criticize when we are frustrated — or when we are trying to describe our frustration, however obliquely — and praise when we are more satisfied, and vice versa. Ambivalence does not, in the Freudian story, mean mixed feelings, it means opposing feelings.


Love and hate — a too simple, or too familiar, vocabulary, and so never quite the right names for what we might want to say — are the common source, the elemental feelings with which we apprehend the world; and they are interdependent in the sense that you can’t have one without the other, and that they mutually inform each other. The way we hate people depends on the way we love them, and vice versa. And given that these contradictory feelings are our ‘common source’ they enter into everything we do. They are the medium in which we do everything. We are ambivalent, in Freud’s view, about anything and everything that matters to us; indeed, ambivalence is the way we recognize that someone or something has become significant to us… Where there is devotion there is always protest… where there is trust there is suspicion.


We may not be able to imagine a life in which we don’t spend a large amount of our time criticizing ourselves and others; but we should keep in mind the self-love that is always in play.

But we have become so indoctrinated in this conscience of self-criticism, both collectively and individually, that we’ve grown reflexively suspicious of that alternative possibility. (Kafka, the great patron-martyr of self-criticism, captured this pathology perfectly: “There’s only one thing certain. That is one’s own inadequacy.”) Phillips writes:

Self-criticism, and the self as critical, are essential to our sense, our picture, of our so-called selves.


Nothing makes us more critical, more confounded — more suspicious, or appalled, or even mildly amused — than the suggestion that we should drop all this relentless criticism; that we should be less impressed by it. Or at least that self-criticism should cease to have the hold over us that it does.

But this self-critical part of ourselves, Phillips points out, is “strikingly unimaginative” — a relentless complainer whose repertoire of tirades is so redundant as to become, to any objective observer, risible and tragic at the same time:

Were we to meet this figure socially, as it were, this accusatory character, this internal critic, we would think there was something wrong with him. He would just be boring and cruel. We might think that something terrible had happened to him. That he was living in the aftermath, in the fallout of some catastrophe. And we would be right.


Keep reading >>>

Illustration: Salvador Dalí >>>

#brainpickings #SelfCriticism #cynicism 
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James Salsman's profile photoBoris Borcic's profile photoDeen Abiola's profile photo
I didn't like this article because I don't think it really said anything. It's too simplifying; the quoted book wants to paint fine details but uses a much too thick brush.
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Daniel Estrada

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// Euclid becomes self-aware, in HD.

From Aronofsky's Pi (1998)
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Robot. Made of robots.
I've written under the handle Eripsa for over a decade on various blogs and forums. Today I do my blogging and research at Fractional Actors and on my G+ stream.

I'm interested in issues at the intersection of the mind and technology. I write and post on topics ranging from AI and robotics to the politics of digital culture.

Specific posting interests are described in more detail here and here.


So I'm going to list a series of names, not just to cite their influence on my work, but really to triangulate on what the hell it is I think I'm doing. 

Alan Turing, W.V.O. Quine, Norbert Wiener, Herbert Simon, Dan Dennett, Andy Clark, Bruce Sterling, Bruno Latour, Aaron Swartz, John Baez, OWS, and Google. 


My avatar is the symbol for Digital Philosophy. You can think of it as a digital twist on Anarchism, but I prefer to think of it as the @ symbol all grown up. +Kyle Broom helped with the design. Go here for a free button with the symbol.

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Wildomar, CA - Riverside, CA - Urbana, IL - Normal, IL - Harlem, NY - Onjuku, Japan - Hong Kong, China - Black Rock City, NV - Santa Fe Springs, CA - Princeton, NJ
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Santa Fe Institute

Complexity research expanding the boundaries of science

Center Camp

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Augmata Hive

experimenting with synthetic networks

Ars Technica

Serving the technologist for over 1.3141592 x 10⁻¹ centuries

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From dinosaurs to deep space: science news from the Museum

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The Most Realistic Robotic Ass Ever Made

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Stanford Researchers Crack Captcha Code

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A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors

Experiments performed with a team of nano quadrotors at the GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania. Vehicles developed by KMel Robotics.