12.20.2009

Smarter Things as Parasite, Host, Concubine and Slave-Master

Several ads from IBM have appeared lately declaring their intent and ability to help build smarter cities, smarter government, smarter health care, all in all a smarter world. The tag line "Lets build a smarter planet" makes the engineer, tinkerer and yes the Utopian in me sing! In one such ad we see an amazing traffic management system in Stockholm that can bill drivers automatically by reading all the cars license plates enabling the enforcement of a new "congestion tax." Whenever someone leaves or enters the city this system knows about it. This new system has made traffic in Stockhom less congested but it gives one pause, it seems a little ominous. But then we are reminded of how many billions of hours we spend in traffic, how many billions we spend on wasted fuel, this is clearly a big savings and clearly a smart thing to do. I cant tell you how much I love the idea of smart technology. Its exactly what we need to do to solve our problems, but there is something deeply insidious about a train of thought like that of these ads. They have so many built in assumptions. After a little reflection I'm amazed at how many more ideas are packed into the silent assumptions of these ads, far more than their glossy, overt messages. I would argue the real power of propaganda is its ability to quietly instill in us these covert, logical basies all wrapped up in seemingly innocuous or unquestionable messages. All the more likely to take hold I suppose...



More technology, smarter things, progress!! Obviously a good thing right? That perspective is valid but certainly not the whole story. What is it that the ad does not ask us to think about? Well... alot. In our technopheliatic daze we usher in the great new threats of the future. IBM is as good a case as any. Both historically and presently they prove to be at this nexus of technology where it can tilt the scales of fate in favor of society or just as easily provide other, less desirable, outcomes. In 2001 Edwin Black extolled of just such dangers in his book "IBM and the Holocost." In a CNET interview he summarized the findings of his extensive research clearly...

"...I finally assembled this dark puzzle that had eluded the 15 million people who have seen this machine in the Holocaust museum. I finally connected the dots. And those dots are that IBM engineered a strategic business alliance and joint planning program with Nazi Germany from the very first moment in 1933 and extending right through the war that endowed the Hitler regime with the technology and the tools it needed to expedite and, in many ways, automate, all six phases of Hitler's war against the Jews. Those six phases are identification, expulsion, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation and ultimately even extermination."
- http://news.cnet.com/2009-1082-269157.html

But that is an extreme case, no? Even if IBM didn't work with the Nazi regime Hitler's minions may have been able to steal or develop a similar technology. This is not to point fingers at IBM nor let them off the hook but to point out this... Many people focus on the actors, the company, the leaders, the governments, the extremists, the consumers but it is not the actors that we should worry about, instead look at the stage itself. We needn't fret that our technology will fall into the wrong hands, because of course it will. Furthermore negative consequences often arise from the best of intentions. Pay then more attention to the opportunities a new technology provides. Often, unbeknownst to us, new technologies enable whole new echelons of power and its abuse, new expanses of capability and deeper chasms of failure, collapse from even greater heights; at every stage enabling those who would bravely or brazenly create a yet newer world...

A brave newer world of what may be great progress for the state of humanity but perhaps equally as likely is a new scale of risk that our beloved progress is simply a more advanced form of devastation we yet fail to recognize. With ever increasing speed and ever broadening horizons we are always behind the steepening curve of the unpredictability wrought by "progress". By the time we realize all the bounty this new fertile land could provide its too late, someone already planted the magic beans and climbed up into the clouds waking a giant. Any moment now it could come down and eat us all for dinner. The industrial revolution spurred on by fossil fuels presents a text-book example. By the time we realized the dangers of filling our atmosphere with millions of years worth of the sequestered carbon we had unlocked from the earths crust the planet had already been put into a positive feedback loop of global warming. What no one wants to talk about is that we do not know if we will be able stop it even if serious action is taken on a global scale. This essentially means all the "progress" for society brought on by the industrial revolution may have simply been a hastening of our demise. The industrial revolution happened and can not be reversed, so we are left to mange its outcomes. It is a matter of pride that we control and manage things, that we are not pushed around by them. but what looks looks like control from one perspective may look like a side effect from another. We now have multiple technological revolutions happening in sync. Information technology, bio-technology, nano-technology, each of which could individually transform our world in ways that are impossible to predict, but together they feed of each others technological capability growing like a tiny, artificial black-hole with an advancing event horizon which we may become enveloped by never again to look down upon and imagine our control there of.

Smarter things lead to what end? Ever more, smarter, things? Things may be the product but there are other by-products. Soon the people are unencumbered with toil, memory tasks, intellect, learning, creating, thinking.... they become dumber and the things become more important than the people that make and use them. Now so many people depend upon our techno-sphere that nobody really owns these things. The makers don't have a product without the vast user base and community of third party service providers and integrators. Its a flourishing ecology but to serve what purpose? These systems are vast ontologies of interdependent electro-flora and digital fauna. They depend upon legions to keep them going. Whole swaths of the worlds people do nothing more than attend to theses systems' every need. We are immersed in and subsumed by an authentically new world of our own making. Now the products of our genius and labor are simply its accoutrema, to it perhaps, a utility service like electricity.

Lets not forget these things do not have souls. But notice how the more we live for our things the more we disembody ourselves and put us in them and the more we become hollow and robotic. Our guts in its guts, its brains taking over for ours all the waking hours of the day, leaving a more robotic yet living organism behind. Imagine if we took all the cloud computing hardware and all the PCs and Macs, all the television sets and Play Stations, purge them from society, put them on ships like the trash we used to dump in the oceans. God the massive barges of iPods and keyboards alone would boggle the mind... We could take them all and set them adrift off the southern coast of Japan. Dump em in, let them sink to the vast depths of the Marianas Trench and they would be just as content there at the bottom of the ocean. But not us... the effect of the purge on our sense of purpose, progress, identity, power, culture, history, our very existence, would be seismic. Technological progress, scientific progress... progress towards what? There is only an impenetrable fog before us there is no goal only a dream of what lies beyond. We put one foot in front of the other because our bodies were not made to stand still for too long and with each step we tell ourselves we are closer to the edge of that dark fog, each step another tick in the clockwork that will tell us at the zero hour weather all of this was either a noble journey or death-march.

There is no stopping this new progress only the illusion of managing it.

8.09.2009

Fresh Air from Three Plants

Source: Kamal Meattle on how to grow fresh air



Areca Palm
(Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
Removes c02 converts to oxygen
need 4 shoulder high per person
wipe leaves once a day in deli once a week in cleaner cities
preferably grows in hydroponics
take outdoors every 3-4 months

Mother-in-law's Tongue
(Sansevieria trifasciata)
converts co2 to oxygen at night
6-8 waist high per person

Money Plant
(Epipremnum aureum)
removes formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals
preferably grows in hydroponics

In a 50000 sq ft building provides fresh air for 300 people using 1200 plants.

1.18.2009

Problems in Thinking

Problems in Scientific Thinking.

1: Theory influences observations.

2: The observer changes the observed.

3: Observational tools or systems construct results.


Problems in Pseudoscientific Thinking.

4: Anecdotes do not make science.

5: The use of scientific jargon does not make science.

6: Bold statements do not make claims true.
The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinarily well tested it must be.

7: Heresy does not equal correctness.

8: Burden of Proof: Outsiders must prove their position; insiders take their facts as a given with no need to question their validity.

9: Rumors don’t equal reality.

10: The unexplained is not inexplicable.

11: Failures get rationalized.

12: After the fact reasoning, Correlation does not mean causation.

13: Coincidence does not prove something.
Coincidence rarely takes into account the actual statistics or probability of the event happening nor does it relate how many times it didn't happen before under the circumstances.

14: Representativeness: We must analyze and see unusual events in the larger context to see how well they represent their class of phenomena.


Problems in Logical Thinking.

15: Emotive words and fake analogies
Words and false stories used to create an emotional response rather than one of logical thinking are tools of rhetoric.

16: Ad Ignorantium
The false notions that “if it can’t be proven it must be false” and “if it can’t be disproven it must be true.”

17: Ad Hominem and Tu Quoque literally “to the man” and “you also”
These fallacies redirect thinking onto the person holding or presenting the idea. A judgment of the thinker is used to say something about the idea itself though this does not prove or disprove anything.

18: Hasty generalization
Prejudice, conclusions are drawn before facts warrant it.

19: Over reliance on authorities
We often automatically trust the judgments of someone who, for whatever reason, we feel are authorities. We must examine the evidence.

20: Either-or
This is the creation of a dichotomy relationship. The false thinking is that if one is wrong the other must be right. Things are framed in a way so that your thinking is limited and black and white. With this kind of thinking, once one thing is disproven you are expected to come to the false conclusion that the other MUST be correct. The truth is that there must be POSITVE EVEDENCE for that which is proven, not just negative or disproving evidence against opposing theories.

21: Circular reasoning (Fallacy of redundancy, begging the question or tautology)
A claim is merely a restatement of one of its premises. Here is a simple Example: “Is there a God?”…. “Yes, because the Bible says so”….. “Is the Bible correct?”… “Yes because it was inspired by God.” So in this limited line of reasoning God is because God is.

22: Reductis ad absurdum and the slippery slope
Reductis ad absurdum” - carrying on an argument to it’s logical end, so reducing it to an absurd conclusion. We are then expected to be sure that if an arguments consequences are absurd it must be false, but this is not true. “The slippery slope” - The construction of a scenario that leads to an end to prove something about earlier events. Here is a simple example: “Ice-cream makes you fat, this leads to obesity, this can cause death.” Conclusion - “Don’t eat Ice-cream, it kills.”


Psychological Problems in Thinking.

23: Effort, inadequacies, and the need for certainty, control and simplicity: Most of us, most of the time want nice, neat answers and control of our environment. This can radically oversimplify and interfere with critical thinking. We commonly, don’t accept things that discredit our vested interests and want to think we know how things are. This increases with traditional education.

24: Problem solving inadequacies: In tests when people must chose a right answer to a problem, after being told particular guesses are right or wrong they….
A. Immediately form a hypothesis and look only for examples to conform to it.
B. Do not seek evidence to disprove their hypothesis.
C. Are very slow to change the hypothesis even when blatantly incorrect.
D. adopt overly simplified hypotheses if the information is too complex
E. If there is no solution, if the problem is a trick and right and wrong is given at random, they form hypotheses about coincidental relationships in the observed. Causality is always final.

We must make an effort to overcome these inadequacies in solving problems.

25: Ideological immunity or the Planck Problem: In science and in general life we all resist a paradigm shift of any kind. The more educated, the stronger the supposition that what and all that we know is correct. The lower the IQ, the less likely to welcome new ideas and to be open-to or accept them. The higher the IQ, the more we think we “know” the answer and are less likely to change our minds.


Note:

Spinoza’s Dictum “ I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions but to understand them.”

Derived from the book “Why People Believe Strange Things” by Michael Schermer

A Monologue On Authorship, Motivation, Persuasion And The Meaning Of Life

Do we all need a battle? Or should I state it the way I originally had thought, “we all need a battle.” First thought, best thought, but my inner skeptic won’t allow such blanket statements as they assuredly are as false for any individual as they are universal as singular statements. But alas this scantly qualified idea now offers itself up to evaluation as being the stepping off point for this, my first official diatribe. Some may call it a lecture or a speech but I prefer diatribe so as not to conceal the single minded, selfishness even downright slothenly greed that is involved in such a spectacle as you see before you. A deserved description because of the amount of effort tendered to contrive and prepare for such a moment as I now successfully bring to fruition as well as the dialectical conscious/subconscious drive that kept it going as well as the final outcome the very sinister outcome.

If you don’t all know what I’m talking about let me be more plain. It is this position, the role I’m gladly playing and the suspension of disbelief that happens in the most poorly written and performed plays. IT is this, authority I speak of. The moment the pen clicks forth, out steps the shiny ball of flowing truth and as I roll this device across the page it mystically grants me powers beyond those of mortal men and women. Oh yes Virginia the pen is mightier than the sword. The truth shadowed by the truism is that it is rarely as honest a power. For the authority of the sword requires that its user affirm their own inevitability in risking ones life, thus skillful execution is the rule of the day. Hence the performance of such battle is one of reverence and respect, honesty. In battle authority is attributed to the one who has spilt the most blood. The pen though in many ways a close analog is certainly distinct in that one scarcely risks their existence, with the act of authorship, thus facing ones own mortality but rather inversely reinforces ones own egoistic drive for historical prominence as we wish to make our mark on the world. The metaphorical pen wields more power than the metaphorical sword but does it do it with any honor? There is only deceit and this is not to say we should all be killing each other because peace agreements are contrivances of authority that are deceitful and so on and such nonsense, but to say that there is relative honesty, truth yes even honor in a life and death battle as opposed to the hidden battles waged by the contrivances of the authoritative everywhere. And to be clear on this it is this authority that creates almost all the mass suffering and war that we all desperately protest. War and suffering are merely the hideous outcomes of already fought and won battles that happen behind the scenes yet right in front of us. And no the point is not to lament that we are a race of defrauded and exploited, ravaged by authority taken and authority granted but merely to point out that we are gladly unaware of this. The authority granted by my current position though most would dispute it is naturally granted to others, an issue of persona, I concede is at the forefront as grantor of power but what is a personage but a character in a performance. “all the world is a stage and we are but actors in upon it” The idea we want to create in the minds of others the very power we want to wield is dealt in blows of contrivancy and of utmost contrivancy is the projection of our characters the roles we take on to get what we want. We project them upon others and of course as the actor of all these various roles we contrive for ourselves the image of a performer.

What does all this with authority have to do with that questionable stepping off point, we all need a battle? Patience, patience your mind may be supple and like clay ready for the molding or hard and like a chunk of coal waiting in the dark to be set afire but the anxious may miss the truth that lies beneath. So for the moment a breather of sorts a meaningless waste of time to clear all that hot energy ready to shape or set afire, relaxing it just enough to let in the critical light.

A pizza delivery man, set forth on a mission of utmost importance speeds up to the first building on his list. He stops, takes a drink of water and puts on his, shades. Walking up to the door of the building with his large, red pizza box insulator he enters, finds the correct address and rings the apartment. In a moment a man comes down, they exchange food for money and just as they were about to part ways the delivery man bluntly asks of his pizza recipient “don’t you hate this boring meaningless existence?” and although there was already one glued to the top of the pizza box he hands him an extra coupon sheet. The man looks at him with an anxious, quizzical gaze, thanks him for the pizza and leaves to go eat, and maybe watch the rest of survivor. Someone is almost giddy when handed their delightfully delicious pizza all they can think about is stuffing themselves, and here comes this almost morbid denial of not only that little joy but it all. It’s the same with all the rest of his stops. He delivers the pizza to young, old, men, women, joyful, depressed, they laugh at him as if it is a joke then see he is serious, they grimace, sometimes they think for a moment and berate him and rarely if ever respond with anything but a closer to such an awkward moment. But as rude and strange as it was there were people, many average everyday people that would hear about this and call Corner Pizza in hopes that they may get the mysterious delivery guy but it was the “extra coupons” that were actually the clincher of the whole deal, the coupons had the same deals on them but they also had one other thing, a number in the corner a special number that always changed. And if you were to call the number…? Well you would get an anonymous answering service and you could leave a message, for whom you don’t know, maybe the pizza guy, maybe god, who knows but there it was. And did they leave messages? If they did it was a test of initiation and a few were called back with a riddle to solve, solve the riddle and you get a free pizza, the pizza isn’t the motivation however it’s the chase, the mysterious game. Surely there is something else. The delivery guy gives you a new message and a new number asks you a question and you move to the next level something like that? Well there is nothing else just that, just enough to whet the appetite for the game to continue but it certainly doesn’t, it is just a meaningless waste of time, except for the few who get a free pizza. And if there were anything to it, I would lie to you about that anyway.

Now back to that matter of the battle we all need. It is a place in the mind of every person on earth that wonders cynically “is this it? Is this all there is to life?” what a rip off it is to them, to us. Isn’t it? You realize there is no God there probably are no real ghosts or monsters, aliens or magic. No real deep dark secrets, it’s all the stuff of boring or otherwise tragic lives; and the ones we are so interested in, famous people, let’s face it that’s just our projection of a fairytale. They all have something much less than the perfect lives we all dream of. So this thing a great battle, something to die for, Nelson Mandela had it, Brave Heart had it, Jesus had it, and Ripley had it in Aliens. We need something to awaken that primordial vigor that gets totally dulled in our everyday lives. But do we really need such a thing?

To be a hero that is it, that is the ultimate. It’s the Walter Middy syndrome and I believe it affects every one of us disaffected disconnected people of our blind consumerism driven, work centered around the paycheck existence. I say yes,whole heartedly,we do need a real battle to fight, if life is worth dieing for then its worth living for. We have to have such a thing to validate the meaning and the dignity we are all together denied of in this age of internet and delivery pizza and hyper real special effects. I say take up the cause and take up arms with your fellow freedom fighters. But remember this, one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist, and surely all that stands against you will try to place you in the side of evil and call for your demise. If you dare take up the call and stand against them surely you will face the onslaught of the hordes of goliath-like infantry and god-like authorities and invisible forces to tear you down. I warn you now; it is the noblest of causes but the most staggering of odds the most trying of quests. But take up the call and you and your fellow warriors will see the day when truth triumphs over lies and good smashes the throne of evil. This will be the moment when long into the future men will still say “This was our finest hour!” Go forth now and remember that a dream is nothing if it is not acted upon and that your dream can change the world forever.

1.04.2009

My Photography and Other Artwork

Take a look at some of my photography and artwork at andrewluetgers.com.

I am not actively perusing photography for the moment but when I was this is what I came up with. There are two portfolios there, the other consists of works I produced during my Light Color and Design classes at Pratt Intitute, when I was experimenting with various materials placed on the surface of a scanner.

11.28.2008

technics #1

Ok so the idea of the blog is to share all the cool technical/creative/artistic/scientific things that I think are interesting. Things like: Legos (lego technics inspired this blog), JavaScript development, Xplanet, maps, Paremetric shape drawing, photography, Game Theory for social network design, DIY projects, books like Paolo Soleri's "Arcology", Paul Ormerod's "Why Most Things Fail", Edward Tufte's series on Information Design, etc, etc, etc.... I doubt anyone will read this, but if you do please post a comment.