Posts Tagged 'tech'

First Chess then Jeopardy

The IBM-built supercomputer ‘Watson’ defeated champion jeopardists Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at their own game – then again Watson was built specifically for knowledge-crunching button-pressing the game requires.  In a questionably historic victory, Watson has prevailed at scrounging a database/memory for obscure information and “pressing” a button, the latter of which it could do in “as little as 10 milliseconds” reports the New York Times. John Markoff goes on in the Times coverage of the IBM media spectacle to describe potential applications for this technology – such as aiding doctors during surgery. IBM team-leader David Ferrucci does my work for me by describing the underlying origin of such brainy ambitions:

“People ask me if this is HAL,” he said, referring to the computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “HAL’s not the focus; the focus is on the computer on ‘Star Trek,’ where you have this intelligent information seek dialogue, where you can ask follow-up questions and the computer can look at all the evidence and tries to ask follow-up questions. That’s very cool.”

In a companion article Dylan Loeb McClain points out the obvious predecessor to Watson and how Deep Blue’s own victory (chess this time), has been slowly deflated as time and technology plod along. “14 years later” McClain writes, “chess programs running on an average desktop computer can play better than Deep Blue”. Technological dreams may become real, but seldom the way we expect them to.

Postscript: does Jeopardy even count without Trebeck?

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Grinding

grinding definition

Posted over at IO9, we’ve got a brief case-study on a DIY cyborg named  Lepht Anonym. Through somewhat scary homebrew self-surgery, Anonym has implanted herself with a number of super-sensual devices – including magnets that let her sense electromagnetic fields (!) and RFID chips that allow a new field of personal computer interaction. Besides working slowly and ambitiously towards the actualization of Post-Human fiction, this story is noteworthy for applying the term “grinding” to this unique brand of self-improvement. As seen above, the word has a vague and widely spread definition ( intransitive verb form courtesy of Merriam Webster ) but it presence in reference to Ms. Anonym piques my interest because of the use of “grinding” in Warren Ellis’ 2007 graphic novel Doktor Sleepless. There, the word also refers to superhuman-improvement through technology and a then-fictional website inspired by the also fictional imminent.sea (hosted on Sealand). Grinding.be is of course now a real website that operates with similar goals to this one except on a greater scale and with more of a pop-media slant.

Anyhow, the Doktor Sleepless website offers the following further definition of  “grinding” as:

people who practice extreme body modification – the term comes from computer gaming, where it refers to unlocking features (or, more commonly, improving one’s character) through repetitive gameplay…

Grinders in Heavenside are seen as a lower tier of society and ignored…

…in New York [and] pretty much everywhere else… the Grinders are viewed as Doktor Sleepless’ private army… Sleepless doesn’t really give them instructions: he merely provides them with tools and broadcasts his cryptic radio shows–stepping back from actual leadership and simply allowing the Grinders to do what they think he might want.

Food for thought, I suppose. Here is Wikipedia on “grinding” in video games – in short: doing mindless repetitive tasks to level-up. The actual grinding.be shares the following (with more at this link) video of Ms. Anonym’s talk at the 27th Chaos Communication Congress (27C3), about which, what?

The CCC or C3 as it is also apparently understood is “die größte europäische Hackervereinigung” (largest european hacking group) and has apparently been having these conference for 27 years. Other events listed on their  schedule include “Tor is Peace, Software Freedom is Slavery, Wikipedia is TruthThe political philosophy of the Internet” and “‘The Concert’ a disconcerting moment for free culture”.

From NYT Magazine

Here’s an ad scanned from last weeks New York Times Magazine, I just couldn’t resist posting it. I mean, really? An ergonomic toothbrush-cleansing egg?

futuristic toothbrush holder

And while not strictly concerned with the visual culture of the futuristic, that same issue did fulfill a bit of Sci-Fi promissory. In Gary Shteyngart’s recent (and fantastic) Super Sad True Love Story,  a near-future New York is littered with government propaganda urging Latino residents to save and for the Chinese to spend – cut to the cover of said NYTM cover:

new york times magazine cover shop cjina shop

And here’s a clip form the book. It’s worth noting that while humorous, Shteyngart’s novel is truly terrifying due to its spot-on depiction of a “post-literate” society in which books are seen as grotesquely uncool and acronyms rule the world’s language.  Language, which is of course online. Playing off of the common fears of today’s world – economic collapse, subservience to technology, growing old – Super Sad True Love Story is such because of its humanism, all the more noteworthy in the face of the vapid world we seem to fear. This sense of cultural collapse, is a driving issue here at Manifest Future, and ironically one of the most original ideas to enter our collective vision of what the future may hold.

super sad true love story

Interfaces

starwars targeting falcon

 

This is pretty awesome.  Someone at mrush.co.uk rendered various computer systems from Star Wars  and Aliens as simple programs. Almost more fascinating that they don’t really do anything, these programs satisfy through recognition and rework your computer to be like those in the movies. Once again, this kind of simulation should be discouraged for limiting the creativity of the real world, but come on, look at that sweet red and yellow  targeting reticule. Check them all out. A great effort that can hopefully be used for some critical art projects, or as suggested by the writer at mrush, for some badass fanfic.

SkyMall Greatest Hits

A trove of products grasping at the image of the futuristic, SkyMall features a truly astounding selection of useless fetish objects that seek to fulfill the need for luxury… for the new. These kinds of goods should seem familiar, as they are what our society is build upon. For a more detailed run-through of consumerist tendencies and their origins, I recommend Stewart and Elizabeth Ewen’s Channels of Desire. But suffice to say that shiny products answering a need we never knew existed are a staple of American (read: global) life. Here, then are a few choice selections from a recent issue of the Mall, which I find best demonstrate the extremes of future-mongering in the consumer industries.

The adds speak to that sort of almost-but-not-quite future glimpsed in childhood toys or on the backs of cereal boxes. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on white and blue with smooth contours. It seems particularly fitting that the publication resides in the sky, only accessible from the already luxurious and high-tech experience of flying. Literally above the realm of every-day experience, the time spent reading SkyMall places them physically closer to the stars – the ubiquitous symbol for technological progress and social betterment – in a broken leftover from Cold-war era political bamboozling.

uv light wand

 

feng shui gadget

 

futuristic bowl machine

 

authentic tea brewer bullshit

 

wheel skates

MASDAR

just look at the little guy...

More future cars! Spotted in The New York Times last week, the “carbon-neutral” city of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, has been infested with subterranean driverless cars. The city is apparently raised  23 feet off the ground to catch the desert breeze, and to make room for the local network of robot cars. Ostensibly little different than a subway, the very private personal transports took their design – it seems –  from well, every clean Utopian Sci Fi film ever made. Norman Foster, lead designer for Foster & Partners, who helmed the UAE’s new eco-mecca is supposedly a “lifelong tech buff who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller” – so that explains a few things.

Nicolai Ourorrsof from NYT explains:

But Mr. Foster’s most radical move was the way he dealt with one of the most vexing urban design challenges of the past century: what to do with the car. Not only did he close Masdar entirely to combustion-engine vehicles, he buried their replacement — his network of electric cars — underneath the city. Then, to further reinforce the purity of his vision, he located almost all of the heavy-duty service functions — a 54-acre photovoltaic field and incineration and water treatment plants — outside the city.

The result, Mr. Foster acknowledged, feels a bit like Disneyland. “Disneyland is attractive because all the service is below ground,” he said. “We do the same here — it is literally a walled city. Traditional cars are stopped at the edges.”

Driving from downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 miles away, you follow a narrow road past an oil refinery and through desolate patches of desert before reaching the blank concrete wall of Masdar and find the city looming overhead. (Mr. Foster plans to camouflage the periphery behind fountains and flora.) From there a road tunnels through the base to a garage just underneath the city’s edge.

Stepping out of this space into one of the “Personal Rapid Transit” stations brings to mind the sets designed by Harry Lange for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You are in a large, dark hall facing a row of white, pod-shaped cars lined up in rectangular glass bays. (The cars’ design was based on Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for a compact urban vehicle, the D-45, which helps explain their softly contoured, timelessly futuristic silhouettes.) Daylight spills down a rough concrete wall behind them, hinting at the life above” [emphasis added].

The first 13 cars of a proposed fleet of hundreds were being tested the day I visited, but as soon as the system is up, within a few weeks, a user will be able to step into a car and choose a destination on an LCD screen. The car will then silently pull into traffic, seeming to drive itself. (There are no cables or rails.)

 the fleet in stationCheck the diagram and slideshow for more.


More Propaganda from Intel

Intell Add - August 2010

Online Slang. College life. Textbooks. The cool kids have a robot.


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