thinking is dangerous

Arendt V


Automation is the most recent stage in this development, which indeed "illuminates the whole history of mechanism." It certainly will remain the culminating point of the modern development, even if the atomic age and a technology based upon nuclear discoveries puts a rather rapid end to it. The first instruments of nuclear technology, the various types of atom bombs, which, if released in sufficient and not even very great quantities, could destroy all organic life on earth, present sufficient evidence for the enormous scale on which such a change might take place. Here it would no longer be a question of unchaining and letting loose elementary natural processes, but of handling on the earth and in everyday life energies and forces such as occur only outside the earth, in the universe; this is already done, but only in the research laboratories of the nuclear physicist. If present technology consists of channeling forces into the world of the human artifice, future technology may yet consist of channeling the universal forces of the cosmos around us into the nature of the earth. It remains to be seen whether these future techniques will transform the household of nature as we have known it since the beginning of our world to the same extent or even more than the present technology has changed the very worldliness of the human artifice.
18:36 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Arendt IV


As is so frequently the case with historical developments, it seems as though the actual implications of technology, that is, of the replacement of tools and implements with machinery, have come to light only in its last stage, with the advent of automation. For our purposes it may be useful to recall, however briefly, the main stages of modern technology's development since the beginning of the modern age. The first stage, the invention of the steam engine, which led into the industrial revolution, was still characterized by an imitation of natural processes and the use of natural forces for human purposes, which did not differ in principle from the old use of water and wind power. Not the principle of the steam engine was new but rather the discovery and use of the coal mines to feed it. The natural machine tools of this early stage reflect this imitation of naturally known processes; they too, imitate and put to more powerful use the natural activities of the human hand. But today we are told that "the greatest pitfall to avoid is the assumption that the design aim is reproduction of the hand movements of the operator or laborer"

The next stage is chiefly characterized by the use of electricity, and, indeed, electricity still determines the present stage of technical development. This stage can no longer be described in terms of gigantic enlargement and continuation of the old arts and crafts, and it is only to this world that the categories of homo faber, to whom every instrument is a means to achieve a prescribed end, no longer apply. For here we no longer use material as nature yields it to us, killing natural processes or interrupting or imitating them. In all these instances, we changed and denaturalized nature for our own worldly ends, so that the human world or artifice on one hand and nature on the other remained two distinctly separate entities. Today we have begun to "create", as it were, that is, to unchain natural processes of our own which would never have happened without us, and instead of carefully surrounding the human artifice with defenses against nature's elementary forces, keeping them as far as possible outside the man-made world, we have channeled these forces, along with their elementary power, into the world itself. The result has been a veritable revolution in the concept of fabrication; manufacturing, which wlways had been "a series of separate steps," has become "a continuous process," the process of the conveyor belt and the assembly line.
16:15 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Arendt III

Continued from yesterday.

The decisive difference between tools and machines is perhaps best illustrated by the apparently endless discussion of whether man should be "adjusted" to the machine or the machines should be adjusted to the "nature" of man. We mentioned in the first chapter the chief reason why such a discussion must be sterile: if the human condition consists in man's being a conditioned being for whom everything, given or man-made, immediately becomes a condition of his further existence, then man "adjusted" himself to an environment of machines the moment he designed them. They certainly have become as inalienable a condition of our existence as tools and implements were in all previous ages. The interest of the discussion, from our point of view, therefore, lies rather in the fact that this question of adjustment could arise at all. There never was any doubt about man's being adjusted or needing special adjustment to the tools he used; one might as well have adjusted him to his hands. The case of the machines is entirely different. Unlike the tools of workmanship, which at every given moment in the work process remain the servants of the hand, the machines demand that the laborer serve them, that he adjust the natural rhythm of his body to their mechanical movement. This, certainly, does not imply that men as such adjust to or become the servants of their machines; but it does mean that, as long as the work at the machine lasts, the mechanical process has replaced the rhythm of the human body. Even the most refined tool remains a servant, unable to guide or to replace the hand. Even the most primitve machine guides the body's labor and eventually replaces it altogether.
14:49 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Arendt II

Continued from yesterday.

If we consider this loss of the faculty to distinguish clearly between means and ends in terms of human behavior, we can say that the free disposition and use of tools for a specific end product is replaced by rhythmic unification of the laboring body with its implement, the movement of laboring itself acting as the unifying force. Labor but not work requires for best results a rhythmically ordered performance and, in so far as many laborers gang together, needs a rhythmic co-ordination of all individual movements(1). In this motion, the tools lose their instrumental character, and the clear distinction between man and his implements, as well as his ends, becomes blurred. What dominates the labor process and all work processes which are performed in the mode of laboring is neither man's purposeful effort nor the product he may desire, but the motion of the labor process itself and the rhythm it imposes upon the laborers. Labor implements are drawn into this rhythm until body and tool swing in the same repetitive movement, that is, until, in the use of machines, which of all implements are best suited to the performance of the animal laborans, it is no longer the body's movement that determines the implement's movemement but the machine's movement which enforced the movements of the body. The point is that nothing can be mechanized more easily and less artificially than the rhythm of the labor process, which in its turn corresponds to the equally automatic repetitive rhythm of the life process and its metabolism with nature. Precisely because the animal laborans does not use tools and instruments in order to build a world but in order to ease the labors of its own life process, it has lived literally in a world of machines ever since the industrial revolution and the emancipation of labor replaced almost all hand tools with machines which in one way or another supplanted human labor power with the superior power of natural forces.

(1) Karl Buchner's well-known compilation of rhythmic labor songs in 1897 has been followed by a voluminous literature of a more scientific nature. One of the best of these studies (Joseph Schoop, Das deutsche Arbeitslied [1935]) stresses that there exist only labor songs, but no work songs. The songs of the craftsmen are social; they are sung after work. The fact is, of course, that there exists no "natural" rhythm for work. The striking resemblance between the "natural" rhythm inherent in every laboring operation and the rhythm of the machines is sometimes noticed, apart from the repeated complaints about the "artificial" rhythm which the machines impose upon the laborer. Such complaints, characteristically, are relatively rare among the laborers themselves, who, on the contrary, seem to find the same amount of pleasure in repetitive machine work as in other repetitive labor... This confirms observations which were already made in the Ford factories at the beginning of our century. Karl Bucher, who believed that "rhythmic labor is highly spiritual labor" (vergeistig) already stated: "Aufreibend werden nur solche einformigen Arbeiten, die sich nicht rhythmisch gestalten lassen"... For though the speed of machine work undoubtedly is much higher and more repetitive than that of "natural" spontaneous labor, the fact of a rhythmic performance as such makes that machine labor and pre-industrial labor have more in common with each other than either of them has with work...
All these theories appear highly questionable in view of the fact that the workers themselves give an altogether different reason for their preference for repetitive labor. They prefer it because it is mechanical and does not demand attention, so that while performing it they can think of something else. (they can "geistig wegtreten," as Berlin workers formulated it...). this explanation is all the more noteworthy, as it coincides with very early Christian recommendations of the merits of manual labor, which, because it demands less attention, is less likely to interfere with contemplation than other occupations and professions...

The best I could do with the translations:

"Aufreibend werden nur solche einformigen Arbeiten, die sich nicht rhythmisch gestalten lassen" = Exhausting labor will only form where no rhythmic structure is left.

"geistig wegtreten" = mentally step back

Note: Footnote slightly edited from original text to exclude some extraneous scholaraship and references
10:32 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Arendt I

From The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt (1958)

4.20: Work: Instrumentality and Animal Laborans

From the standpoint of homo faber, who relies entirely on the primordial tools of his hands, man is, as Benjamin Franklin said, a "tool-maker". The same instruments, which only lighten the burden and mechanize the labor of the animal laborans, are designed and invented by homo faber for the erection of a world of things, and their fitness and precision are dictated by such "objective" aims as he may wish to invent rather than by subjective needs and wants. Tools and instruments are so intensely worldly objects that we can classify whole civilizations using them as criteria. Nowhere, however, is their worldly character more manifest than where they are used in labor processes, where they are indeed the only tangible things that survive both the labor and the consumption process itself. For the animal laborans, therefore, as it is subject to and constantly occupied with the devouring processes of life, the durability and stability of the world are primarily represented in the tools and instruments it uses, and in a society of laborers, tools are very likely to assume a more than mere instrumental character or function.

The frequent complaints we hear about the perversion of ends and means in modern society, about men becoming the servants of the machines they themselves invented and of being "adapted" to their requirements instead of using them as instruments for human needs and wants, have their roots in the factual situation of laboring. In this situation, where production consists primarily in preparation for consumption, the very distinction between means and ends, so highly characteristic of the activities of homo faber, simply does not make sense, and the instruments which homo faber invented and with which he came to the help of the labor of the animal laborans therefore lose their instrumental character once they are used by it. Within the life process itself, of which laboring remains an integral part and which it never transcends, it is idle to ask questions that presuppose the category of means and end, such as whether men live and consume in order to have strength to labor, or whether they labor in order to have the means of consumption.
21:25 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The Human Condition

I suppose you don't much care about this, but I have a confession. I have very recently become fond of taking a shit in the 4th floor bathroom of Greg Hall. I do it late in the evening after nearly everyone has left, and where I can take my time without interruptions or knockings at the door. It is deeply satisfying, beyond the mere gastrointestinal relief.

Two points to help contextualize this.

The first is that, up until this very year, I never took a shit in a public restroom. Never. I would hold it until it gave me cramps and I felt as if I was going to pass out, but I would hold it just the same. I assume it was some sort of social anxiety disorder, though in nearly all other ways I am rather blase about standard biological functions. The bathroom on the 4th floor, however, is isolated, and HUGE- it is a single room, nearly as big as my first studio apartment, with no interior walls and two plush chairs, and a big, comfortable throne. The toilet paper is cheap industrial 1-ply, which was one of my standard excuses for not using public restrooms, but somehow in this situation it doesn't bother me.

The second point to make is that as a kid in my teens I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I would go in to take a shit and wouldn't come out for hours. I would devour entire Calvin and Hobbes collections in one sitting. In our house, with 2 bathrooms and 7 females, it was extremely hard to get into the bathroom in the first place, so when I got the chance I emptied out my entire body cavity. I should note that this was in my pre-masturbatory youth- this wasn't sexual, it was just alone time, away from the rumbling of the house. I do remember my parents teasing me with jokes I didn't quite get, assuming it wasn't just innocent escapism, but honestly, it was.

In any case, the 4th floor bathroom here in Greg Hall has reawakened this aspect of my youth, and it has proved more than cathartic (yeah, go ahead and intend that pun)- it has proved useful. In the course of these visits I have been flipping through various books I wouldn't have read otherwise, and happened upon Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition, which has an excellent description of technology and its relation to humanity. So for the next few days I will be quoting extensively from passages in the book, specifically in chapter 4: Work.

The chapter begins with section 18 and 19, about the durability of the world and the reification of the artifacts we construct, but I will being with section 20: Instrumentality and Animal Laborans.
19:10 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


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Manuel Presti Winner: Wildlife Photographer of the Year award
10:55 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


La computadora sabe mas que tu.

From Science: Rise of the Forecasting Machines

For almost half a century, human and computer have been vying to predict the weather better. The computer long ago won the race to forecast out to a week and beyond, and human forecasters began giving ground at shorter ranges. Now comes evidence that computer simulations--aided by automatic statistical analysis--can consistently best humans at forecasts longer than 24 hours. The finding heralds an age of prognostication untouched by humans.

In most cases, Mass and Baars argue, human forecasters should spend most of their time on the first 12 hours or so. The rest of their time could be spent making sure the model and MOS are not making any blunders at longer ranges. Michel BĂ©land, a director at the Meteorological Services of Canada in Dorval, Quebec, says that Canadian forecasters have already pulled back. They now primarily focus on severe and high-impact weather expected over the next 18 hours. Beyond that, the machines stand watch.

Discussion questions:

1) Do these mechanized prediction systems have knowledge? I assume that their 'claims' are justified (by the accuracy of the model they use to predict), so this question is, basically: Does the machine make a claim about the weather?

2) Are we justified in treating the system as an authority? I assume that the answer to this question is independent to your answer to the above question.

3) Does the machine understand the weather? I posit that this question reduces to (1) as follows: the machine understands the weather iff it uses the model to make claims about the weather that are more or less accurate. So the system understands the weather insofar as we can interpret the system's behavior as "using the model" and "making claims".
14:17 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The Shakespeare Test

One of the more absurd variations of the Turing Test I've seen:

From the NYT: Beyond Human

In his recent book, "Radical Evolution," Joel Garreau suggests a "Shakespeare test" to determine whether Prozac or cloning or full-immersion virtual reality robs us of our humanity: would the user of these innovations be recognizable to Shakespeare? Houellebecq suggests that the answer is tipping toward No. "Nothing was left now," Daniel25 notes, "of those literary and artistic works that humanity had been so proud of; the themes that gave rise to them had lost all relevance, their emotional power had evaporated."

Discussion questions:

1) Shakespeare? Seriously?
11:08 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Old news

This is certainly old news as far as the internet goes, but I happened upon a /. article on Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Design. The article gives a few interesting quotes that readers here might find relevant.

The first section sets the stage by discussing what exactly a game is. "Games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life." Koster's thesis is, essentially, that games are learning puzzles. In his experience, simple games are created by children to teach themselves useful skills. More formal games have similar goals, but modern games exist almost entirely to provide the elusive substance of fun to the player.

At the end of the midsection, the eternal discussion of games as art makes an appearance. Instead of equivocating, Mr. Koster makes his opinion very clear. "Art, to me, is just taking craft seriously. It's about communication (as I have said many times, in the book and elsewhere). Taking what we do seriously, *even if for frivolous ends,* just leads to better work. Considering what you are doing to be art tends to emphasize high standards, experimentation, expression, thoughtfulness, and discipline -- even if your goal is to make a gag-a-day newspaper strip or macrame hangings for your window."

I find it interesting that Koster takes a definition of games and uses that to build a theory of art, a connection I hadn't previously considered. But I wonder how helpful his definition is; Koster is dealing with the project of designing games, which among other things assumes a method for solving. I suppose I have been attempting to formulate a question about what it is to solve games, and not what games are themselves independent (or at least assuming) a solver.
10:22 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Move over, SUV

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From The Detroit News: Toyota's single-seater electric car resembles armchair on wheels

CHIBA, Japan -- Toyota's single-seat electric car resembles a soft cuddly armchair on three wheels and comes with a virtual "friend" programmed inside that learns the driver's tastes and personality.
"We think it'd be fun if a driver and a car can grow together," says Hideo Miwa, a Toyota designer. "We wanted to treat the car like a living thing."

14:59 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

3 ring circus

You will notice a new manifestation of Server on your left: the tech memeorandum, which I ran across from a Wired article about it and its political sister site. These resources, plus Google Reader, have somewhat overwhelmed me with information, and I haven't devoted any serious time lately to publishing my own material here. Give me another couple of days, though, to try and climb this mountain and see what I can see.

edit: Perhaps I should say a bit more. From the above linked Wired article:

Others have criticized the service as being insular, since the algorithms start looking for stories by relying on a select group of A-list technology and policy bloggers.

But Rivera says that outside sources can quickly become the top item, as demonstrated when a press release from the American Association of Publishers announcing a lawsuit against Google Print instantly became the No. 1 story on Memeorandum.

Memeorandum isn't the only site trying to make sense of the real-time web. Others like digg, reddit, del.icio.us, newsmap and Blogniscient have similar goals, but many of these rely heavily on users voting on or submitting stories.

Memeorandum also has a fan in Nathan Torkington, an O'Reilly Media editor.

"Memeorandum is as much about aggregating reader intelligence as it is about aggregating articles," Torkington said in an e-mail. "It's a great step toward a tool that can turn a flood of grapes into a trickle of fine wine. Google News aggregates the editorial judgment from newspapers, but Memeorandum treats blogs and newspapers equally, which means it's tapped into the collective zeitgeist of the net."

Again, we have a scenario in which machine (algorithmic) evaluation is pit against human evaluation, and the machine ends up being more accurate, comprehensive, and sensitive to what we want from that sort of service.
10:27 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Where is my mind?

I can't believe I forgot about this, but this blog has been up and running for just over a year. To celebrate this joyous occasion, here's a picture of a robot from 10/6/2004:

22:08 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

A coherence theory of the blogosphere

One main criticism of blogs coming from the established MSM is that they rely on the hard work of the journalists and simply exploit that work without directly contributing to its development. I suppose that is a legitimate complaint, and therefore I rarely link to other blogs, opting to use this medium as my own outlet instead of another empty corridor of the Great Internet Echo Chamber*.

However, that comes at something of an expense: the value of the blog is its inter-connectivity, and the amplification of evolving and competing memes constitutes the life-cycle of this great e-cosphere; by removing myself from the stream of evolution I render myself impotent.

But it would be a shame for the greater INTERNET (glory to its name) to be deprived of the first-class puns I churn out like butter (as witnessed by this post), so I have decided to dip my toes into the meme pool.

Behold! Argumentum ad baseball batum:

The Abstract Factory: The only debate on Intelligent Design that is worthy of its subject

*(GIEC, pronounced 'geek')
17:50 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Lying, Responsibility, and the Media

No, I'm not turning this blog into a politifest. But the Plame case (which is about to hit critical mass) raises interesting questions about the freedom of speech that I think are interesting in their own right.

Still, this article is good. From Stratfor: The Importance of the Plame Affair (subscription only). You can read the full article in D&D.

What we do know is this. In the course of events, reporters contacted
two senior officials in the White House -- Rove and Libby. Under the
least-damaging scenario we have heard, the reporters already knew that
Plame had worked as a NOC. Rove and Libby, at this point, were
obligated to say, at the very least, that they could neither confirm
nor deny the report. In fact, their duty would have been quite a bit
more: Their job was to lie like crazy to mislead the reporters. Rove
and Libby had top security clearances and were senior White House
officials. It was their sworn duty, undertaken when they accepted
their security clearance, to build a "bodyguard of lies" -- in
Churchill's phrase -- around the truth concerning U.S. intelligence

Some would argue that if the reporters already knew her identity, the
cat was out of the bag and Rove and Libby did nothing wrong. Others
would argue that if Plame or her husband had publicly stated that she
was a NOC, Rove and Libby were freed from their obligation. But the
fact is that legally and ethically, nothing relieves them of the
obligation to say nothing and attempt to deflect the inquiry. This is
not about Valerie Plame, her husband or Time Magazine. The obligation
exists for the uncounted number of NOCs still out in the field.


The New York Times and Time Magazine have defended not only the
decision to publish Plame's name, but also have defended hiding the
identity of those who told them her name. Their justification is the
First Amendment. We will grant that they had the right to publish
statements concerning Plame's role in U.S. intelligence; we cannot
grant that they had an obligation to publish it. There is a huge gap
between the right to publish and a requirement to publish. The concept
of the public's right to know is a shield that can be used by the
press to hide irresponsibility.
An article on the NOC program
conceivably might have been in the public interest, but it is hard to
imagine how identifying a particular person as part of that program
can be deemed as essential to an informed public.

I dont have any questions, because I don't even know what sorts of questions to ask here. Miller went to jail, as she claims, for journalistic principles. Maybe she had ulterior motives, but the principle she is defending seems to be a virtuous one, lest we dissolve the freedom of speech. And yet, that same freedom is abused in the discolsing of Plame's name. I don't know how to adjudicate these issues, except that I feel strongly that the media should be held responsible for their speech without infringing on their ability to report necessary information to the public. But I dont know if there is any way to support such a position.
13:48 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


Goken: The five wrong views (lit: the five views)

  1. Shinken: the mistaken belief that the self is permanent and abiding.

  2. Henken: the mistaken belief that the self exists eternally after death, or that it is annihiliated

  3. Jaken: mistaken rejection of the workings of cause and effect (ie, karma)

  4. Kenjuken: mistaken attachment to a false view

  5. Kaigonjuken: adherence to a false set of precepts as a means to attain enlightenment

From: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Zen Buddhism, ed. Helen Baroni (2002)
12:43 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Getting to know you

So I ran an informal poll in D&D, mostly because it was a slow day. My set up was way too targeted, but the results are sort of interesting, so I thought I'd share.

Would you give up your anonymity to an artificial system?
Yes 29 16.11%
Yes, but only to a system I trust 60 33.33%
No 77 42.78%
Luddite 14 7.78%

I qualified my question in the following way:

1) I am thinking about cases like Gmail, which reads your mail for content to target advertising and so on. But for the purposes of this thread, lets assume the hypothetical artificial system tracks radically more information about your actions. It reads all your email and tracks your online activity (including chat logs, browsing habits, purchases, etc). Just to make the case more extreme, lets assume this system is part of your cell phone (or some other electronic device people carry around with them everywhere), and also tracks your personal habits- where you go to eat and shop, what you buy, your daily routine, what kinds of media you consume, what kind of girls you are attracted to, and so on. Just assume the technology for tracking this information exists.

2) You are guaranteed that no human will ever see this information. Again, just assume this technology exists and is tamper proof. Your info is encoded in a format totally unreadable by anything but this system. Lets also say that the information is only associated with you indirectly by some complex cryptographic algorithm, so that if anyone were able to hack the system, there would be no way for them to associate the information with your physical body.

3) Assume the way this information can be used is tightly regulated. For the purposes of this thread, lets assume that the only use of this information is for advertisment targeting. It can't be used against you by the government for legal purposes, the information cannot be sold or traded or used by anyone other than this advertising system, and the penalty for trangressions is death of the shareholders of the company and their extended family. In other words, assume there are no economic incentives for abusing this information except for explicit advertising purposes.

It seems to me that we enjoy our right to privacy for two basic reasons: We don't want people to know stuff that we don't want them to know, and we don't want our secrets to be used against us for someone else's advantage. In a sense, the above system is using the information against you, by targeting advertising in order to get you to buy shit you otherwise wouldn't have bought. But assuming that this is the only way the information can be used, are you still protective of your privacy when it is a machine, and not a human, that knows what you are up to?

The following is a representative sample of the responses:

Sterra said:
Sure although I don't think that this is a terribly hypothetical thing or that we really have much choice in the matter.

trimpton said:
I put no, but I must admit I use gmail. I dont exactly trust any profit driven system but I dont use my email for important documents or secrets. Although I must admit google does seem pretty benevolent which just confuses me.

Bass Concert Hall said:
Voted yes. In fact, under the standards Eripsa stated I would be happy to disclose the same to another human being. If the information will never be dissemenated into the larger society or used for anything but advertising I have been forewarned about (assuming that the advertising is private, so that other people can't infer things from the ads I'm sent), then have I really given up my privacy? The information that person has is impotent, because he can't use it against me (except in a manner I've agreed to), and he can't spread it to others who could.

Also, I love big brother, please don't kill me.

mynie said:
No because I am not comfortable with the idea of my existence having little meaning aside from my belonging to certain target markets--even if it is true.

GamingHyena said:
I voted no because, after reading the OP a few times, I don't see any apparent benefit for participating in such a system. Even if no human would see my information, the ability for an artificial system to peer into my daily life simply to direct targeted advertising to me doesn't seem like a goal worthy of my involvement.

They were basically right, the example was a bad one. So I changed it thusly:

What if, instead of advertising, the information was used by a credit card company to determine your credit rate. Again, it isn't used by anyone or anything else, it is simply a tool the system uses to evaluate your reliability and trustworthiness and so on, so it knows how much to safely charge you for borrowing money on credit.

So there is an advantage, if you behave well, to adopting this system, because you might get a better credit rate on average than the normal person.

Would you use such a system?

But by that time the thread was pretty much dead.

What do you think? Specifically, what do you make of the difference in poll numbers between option 1 and 2, given the qualifications I gave?
22:43 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Web 2.0 2.0

Continued discussion from yesterday.

D&D Thread

eazel posted:
I am interested in what implications this has, specifically for marketing research (incidentally, a lot of the business impacts O'Reilly talked about had to do with marketing on the web). Consider the Ralph's Club Card: it tracks your buying habits so that when you check out, you receive a coupon relevant to your purchases. This is being linked to the cash register from a central database that is constantly analyzing trends across products. How much is that data about you worth and to whom? Would Google want a piece of that action to deliver even better targeted ads? Could Google charge extra to it's advertising customers to add analysis based on this new data? How personal is this data and could you legally opt-out of information sharing agreements? Should Congress regulate this information sharing since it probably crosses state lines or should it be left to the individual states to decide?

I wont pretend to understand anything about the business models at work here, but I will say this:

Google's system works by harvesting the activity of its users for information, which it uses to make money. In this way, it doesn't need to charge the user for the service but can still collect on their actions. And only by maintaining this kind of free use service can Google remain the most widely used internet app.

So I don't mind if they team up with Ralph's and monitor my every move in an attempt to sell their wares to me, as long as that process works to maintain quick, easy, and cheap access to the resources of the internet.

Which, as the article explains in detail, is one of the virtues of this reconceptualization of the internet: it looks like they (read: big business) finally appreciate the contributions of the consumers in the market, the dedication and care we put into the things we are passionate for, how responsive we are to a dynamic, interactive medium.
eazel posted:
So as long as it benefits you, meaning more personalization of the, well, "Internet experience," you are fine with giving up anonymity? This is a definite sacrifice, don't you think?

Well, who am I giving up my anonymity to? If my information were just treated as raw data, then I would be just as anonymous as I am now. I don't see the problem with letting Google read my email if it offers a service as useful as gmail. There is, of course, a potential for abuse, but again, these companies already stake their reputation and business on the enthusiastic participation from the consumer; it isn't in their interest to betray that trust. The diagram above talks about 'radical trust'. Mutual trust is a necessary ingredient in any participatory activity.

Readers: See where I am going with this?
12:18 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The internet evolves

Google Reader was revealed during the Web 2.0 conference, and I suppose I should say something about that hot little catchphrase while it is still trendy.

From Tim O'Reilly: What is Web 2.0
(Yes, that O'Reilly. This article is highly recommended if you want to know what to expect from the internet in the next decade.)

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Google, by contrast, began its life as a native web application, never sold or packaged, but delivered as a service, with customers paying, directly or indirectly, for the use of that service. None of the trappings of the old software industry are present. No scheduled software releases, just continuous improvement. No licensing or sale, just usage. No porting to different platforms so that customers can run the software on their own equipment, just a massively scalable collection of commodity PCs running open source operating systems plus homegrown applications and utilities that no one outside the company ever gets to see.

Google's service is not a server--though it is delivered by a massive collection of internet servers--nor a browser--though it is experienced by the user within the browser. Nor does its flagship search service even host the content that it enables users to find. Much like a phone call, which happens not just on the phones at either end of the call, but on the network in between, Google happens in the space between browser and search engine and destination content server, as an enabler or middleman between the user and his or her online experience.

BitTorrent thus demonstrates a key Web 2.0 principle: the service automatically gets better the more people use it. While Akamai must add servers to improve service, every BitTorrent consumer brings his own resources to the party. There's an implicit "architecture of participation", a built-in ethic of cooperation, in which the service acts primarily as an intelligent broker, connecting the edges to each other and harnessing the power of the users themselves.

If an essential part of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence, turning the web into a kind of global brain, the blogosphere is the equivalent of constant mental chatter in the forebrain, the voice we hear in all of our heads. It may not reflect the deep structure of the brain, which is often unconscious, but is instead the equivalent of conscious thought. And as a reflection of conscious thought and attention, the blogosphere has begun to have a powerful effect.


1) Is this a legitimate paradigm shift? Or is it just the next stage of maturation of the internet?

2) For that matter, should this primarily be seen as a reconceptualization of the internet by corporations, or a developmental stage of the internet in its own right?

3) Is Web 2.0 primarily a change in the structure of applications and services on the internet? Or is it better seen as a shift in the way the internet is used? Consider: Google does not need to target a passive audience, but active users of its service.
10:46 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


This is worth watching:

epic 2014

The term "Googlezon" would have never made it out of committee.

Discussion questions:

1) Is internet personalization is a good thing?

2) The short described personalization as a form of isolation. It seems to me that one's sphere of interests will inevitably overlap in a considerable way with other people; one will never be 'closed off'. Does targeting the internet isolate?

3) Is 2014 too soon? Too far away? Consider: Work is already underway for Google Grid.

4) Would Amoogle have been better? It is far less ominous.
02:20 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Google Reads

Google Reader was released in beta last week, amid zero fanfare, and is just mindblowingly awesome.

... yeah. Google is awesome.

edit: It takes a few minutes of configuring, which shouldn't be too difficult if you already use gmail and labels. But it is damn useful. For instance, after about five minutes of messing around, I found Mind Hacks, which is awesome.
01:30 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Goon meet update

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Someone did wear Saucem-o. I feel victorious.

Photoblogging was a bust, as Nath didn't leave her camera around. I got some cellphone pics but nothing worth showing off.

But it was a good night anyway. Details to follow.
04:35 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

Brandon says..

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"I <3 me some nerds!"

Tonight's goonmeet will be supplimented by hard-hitting photoblogging.

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15:42 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


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This is the monster A/V studio at the Beckman institute, Kubrick. Its so top secret it isn't even mentioned on the equipment list. It supposedly has 2 terabytes of storage, and 4 gigs of ram. It is slick as hell. The coming-soon MC Chris concert DVD from the Penny Arcade convention this summer is being edited here, and I got a sneak peak.

Also coming soon: Chinese Room Syndrome on DVD. Order Now.
22:21 :: :: eripsa :: permalink

The Blind Pi!ERROR

Consider the following image:
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This is the sign for a local drinkery and rathskeller, The Blind Pig. Notice the character 'g' on the word 'Pig'. It has been adjusted vertically to fit on the solid wooden beam; if it hung over, the tail of the 'g' would likely snap off for whatever reason (although the door hangs above has been sealed shut). In other words, from all outward appearances, the placement of the 'g' in this situation was based entirely off pragmatic, and not aesthetic, considerations.

Notice also that the placement of the 'g' does not change its syntactic role in the sign. It is not suddenly a capital 'G' due to its placement.

However, consider the following: a computer, designed to read characters off a sign, would come across this character in this sign and might stumble on transcription. The new character encountered does not seem to fit the expected character set. This theoretical computer expects regular (that is, digital) input, and upon encountering a deviation from that input, fails.

Such a computer is obviously impractical, for precisely that reason. But consider this: the characters before 'g' do not all fit the mold of an 'ideal' symbol. There are undoubtedly small variations in the shape and texture of the symbol that, on a more sensitive machine, might likewise produce an unexpected syntax error. Our hypothetical machine, however, is blind to these smaller deviations. Still, there are some structural properties it deems necessary for transcription, and the 'g' in this sign case violates those constraints.

To construct a machine to read signs like this, we might assume that all signs have (more or less) regular font and syntax; the novel placement of the 'g' is not something we expect to encounter, and would require an explicit rule in our machine to cover such cases. In humans, however, no such rule is required, and it is obvious to us that the assumed regularity of signs is but an artifact of the contemporary technological age; 100 years ago encountering such regularity would have been a far more surprising phenomena.

Discussion questions:

1) Suppose we construct machines that can read indefinite variations on syntax regularity- it can read signs of any form and character, including those with novel variations. It can also read nearly any example of handwriting, no matter how sloppy (within limits). I am not suggesting it can read any text and understand its meaning; rather, it simply can transcribe any instance of syntax into regular Times New Roman font. Do we consider this machine intelligent?

2) Suppose we construct another machine that can read any text and understand it completely: it can provide summaries and outlines and critical analyses of anything from Job to Joyce. However, it can only read text in Courier New font size 8, and all texts must be transcribed into that format in order to be read. Furthermore, it is extremely picky about the text itself; any smears, smudges, underlines, creases, or any other deformation of the structural properties of the text renders it totally unreadable to the machine. Do we consider this machine more or less intelligent that the machine described in 1?

3) Which do you consider the more useful machine? Which machine would you rather have? If these seem like separate questions, explain.

4) Is The Blind Pig really a rathskeller, or is it too high brow?
01:03 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


It started off slow and in the background and it itched in a way that I couldn't scratch and I am leaning back in the seat as it wobbles on the uneven sidewalk and this is no good and I get up and take a walk and totter and pace and walk in circles and rush back to the cup on the uneven table and I slow down and totter and walk backwards and Oh, excuse me sir I didn't mean to step on you i just I JUST wanted to GO to the bathroom will you let me in please looking at my watch and he said 15 minutes and the girl he was with said something distracting from the MATTER AT HAND and I said "15 minutes no problemo" and I hung up all business and facts and casual bilingualism and I held the phone tightly and I inquired at the girl standing guard in front of the door that it was just a MOMENT for use of the BATHROOM which I clearly need to USE my good LADY and she looked over and mentioned the Fire Code and she of course had a point. I DO NOT DENY SHE HAD A POINT. So I danced the magic dance and she let me in and I quickly used the facilities and rushed back out and glanced at my glass on the wobbly table, and my watch and it was time.

And the street was lively with clowns and musicians and wanderers and evil and the street crawled with evil and I tripped down the curb and EVIL. I pulled out my phone and turned on the camera and watched the malevolent circus act perform through the comfort of my technology. The cars were blurs of sound and fury and the phone ring shocked me and he called me up to his room and the front door of the small, dirty apartment complex was open and I headed towards the music and his upside down face at the top of the stairs and he yelled 'Hey sup' and I said hey and looked around suspiciously and went into his room.

There sat a group of kids I DID NOT LOOK AT THEIR FACES and they sat there around the glowing box playing Halo and yelling and the sound of Phish was strong in the air and in the middle was a glowing metal cone with the words VOLCANO in bright read letters, and we made our exchange and they yelled and his head bobbed and his hideous girlfriend yelled into her phone I CANT HEAR YOU I CANT HEAR YOU and he filled up a large plastic bag with colorless happiness and I have to go, thanks, man, I'll... what? I, yeah, haha, yeah we'll. Yeah.

And I exited and lit a cigarette and flipped open the cell phone and watched the world through the screen of technology and it was blurry and lagged and I trusted it and it trusted me and i was still in the middle of the street and still lighting my cigarette and no cars were coming and I felt safe.

And I arrived back at my wobbly table that was full now of people with no chairs and I wanted to sit and I had no place to sit and I strolled around and the cool air felt great and the sign above the bar caught my eye and I stared and stared and people looked at me as if to ask me where I was and who I was with and was smiled at them, right to their face and I mumbled and ignored the conversation and let it wash over me like rain water and they talked about philosophers and psychoanalysis and sandwiches and I sat there and looked at the sign and took out the phone and took a picture.
19:13 :: :: eripsa :: permalink


passenger n.
1. A person who travels in a conveyance, such as a car or train, without participating in its operation.
2. Informal. A person who participates only passively in an activity.
3. A wayfarer or traveler.

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16:54 :: :: eripsa :: permalink