Following request for comment, new ideas may invoke defensiveness in some, delightful evaluation in others, and possibly incomprehension requiring eventual rediscovery in yet others. Media is emergent though not yet autonomous. It still takes conscious people to make meaning of change, or to consider relevance and consequence. Automated research may eventually yield familiar forms of presentations, but automated reality may seem comparatively upside-down if information density increases by miniaturization. This would be a new context for adaptation. Perhaps philosophy can reinforce and extend the scale of tech and scope of cultural dependencies, if it can survive inquiry. Predicting business requires betting on future value.
Recent bookmarks. Futurict promotes a sustainability clearinghouse. Academia.edu has a topic researcher directory. NASA astrobiology site. Japan plans a lunar robot. Acquia discusses cloud webservice hosting architecture in video. Amsterdam’s Usabilla supports website testing. Spirent offers cloud testing. Pogoplug adds USB cloud storage. Layar hosts an augmented reality marketplace. Textie.me does ipad messsaging. Dailyplaces produces location-based microblogging. Google living stories is now on wordpress.
Book reviews include:
Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information, Vlatko Vedral, 2010. The news is that a symmetrical pair of processes, the second law of thermodynamics and derived meaning, are enough to generate reality. This bootstraps the existence of information which outweighs matter and energy, while the universe moves to maximize entropy and disorder, and we embody natural laws. That provides a source of ideas which the scientific method, or its analogs in other disciplines, turns into rules of nature. Quantum physics reveals meaning and the other side of the story of creation. The author synthesizes a coherent framework for quantum information science. Landauer’s principle that information is physical, where entropy is proportional to surface area, inspires a combination with Shannon’s information as inverse probability, Boltzmann’s constant, and qubits, to yield randomness at small scales and determinism at large. Twelve chapters explore perspectives of biology, thermodynamics, economics, computer science, sociology, philosophy and quantum physics. Each chapter mixes explanation, observation, anecdotes and humor, and is followed by a summary of the key points. Applications include cryptography, teleportation, climate, diet, segregation and gambling. Literature sources include Popper, Smolin, and Singh. Compare publications by Seth Lloyd, George Johnson, Michael Nielsen and Isaac Chuang, Amir Aczel or Raymond Kurzweil. The challenge is to integrate gravity to quantum physics.
Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, Stewart Brand, 2009 This book ambitiously attempts to capture trends in the areas of climate change, urbanization and biotech. There is a lot of data and requirements for much more. It is wordy and tries to wrap a scientific narrative.around things that hold promise for solving issues. The author is optimistic that new tech will provide alternatives and that human nature will shed romanticism for pragmatism. This is a unique datapoint along the scales that, for other authors, would produce do it yourself instructions, computation engines, cognitive advances, nanomanufacturing, human genetic engineering, martial law, or extinction.. It is rather a wholesome approach that prescribes sober effort to get hard data, especially needed about oceans, so that a feasible bearing can be selected from among these currents amid changing forecasts. Readers are treated to statistics about the “city planet” or unlimited growth and economics which include cell phones, electricity, squatters and crime. Nuclear power has become a commodity at the same time as weapons foreshadow the high cost of failure. The upside of genetically modified crops and foods, microbes, metagenomics, and biofuels is examined. Big nations will figure out solutions and curb their toxic tendencies. The author’s roots in the whole earth catalog revisit conservationism, native American Indians, and the oratory of Jerry Brown. This is an anthropocene age demanding new ethics and politics. There is a lot to criticize and be cautious about, which is also the point since the folklore arguments have become outmoded. The resolve is biased and it makes demands of near-future generations which may have local dissenters. The human eye can discriminate shades the most for the color green so that label may not automatically be a consensus builder. As far as the presentation, the layout could stand some alterations, e.g. to add graphics, swap the multi-page bullets for conciseness, and highlight conclusions amid the alternating pluses and minuses. The author was an originator of notions of planetary consciousness who still knows the players so this may be a brief breath of fresh air for those bogged down by confusing terminology and contradictory innovations.
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi, 2009 The author presents a very detailed rendering of a near-term survivalist future where the biological clock has been conquered and greed drives society. The genre has been termed biopunk and also has touches of steampunk. A corrupt centralized Thai government controls the population. Corporate foodstuffs are genetically modified and licensed, and plague terrorists maintain scarcity levels for demand and prices. Scientists create synthetic animals and people as slaves. The characters are representative of the major functions of each of the sectors who try their best to succeed, and are combined in various ways to heighten the drama. They see each other through blinders that support their own egotistic biases. The author builds up elaborate structures and then destroys them, naturally, in personal spats, and in battle. A belief in reincarnation rationalizes the sacrifices. The story is told in third person omniscient perspective and, at emotionally intense times, has brief first person thoughts in italics. Each of the fifty chapters is a type of cliff-hanger. The cover art is representative of many of the characteristic elements including the big four-tusked megadonts and their mahouts, dirigibles, and green methane lamps. Some of the characters are from previous short stories. The title New Person combines DNA refinement, extraordinary training, robotic obedience, the resignation of a prisoner, jittery movements for identification, and perfect skin with pores too tiny to cool temperature enough. Others are used as soldiers in Vietnam. This is a cynical world where each potential improvement seems to engender constraints that neutralize or outweigh it. Blade Runner had replicants, but they were used off-world and did not survive long. The biology is more normal than Mieville. Brands’ nonfiction Whole Earth has symmetrical biotech, urbanization and climate though it is more optimistic. A setting in America may have had less mysticism, or in India more divergence of best and worst conditions. The earth does not turn into Mars or Venus here, but it does not seem able to return to any recognized conservationist stage either.
The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper On Computability and the Turing Machine, Charles Petzold, 2008. Discusses what can happen when a mathematician attempts to design hardware, actually a mechanical process of proof, yielding a universal virtual machine using notions of finite state and storage, and beginning the field of computer science. This is a tour through mathematical history and a demonstration of how thoughts can be clarified, though details of the existential origins in time of national crisis may be hidden. The subject, one of the most often-cited papers of the century, e.g. impressing Claude Shannon during a meeting prior to his publication about information theory, had ideas which non-mathematicians also sought to understand for potential uses, and which continue to inspire approaches to logical problem-solving. The book author’s style is conversational as if second person directly to the reader. The contents of the original are presented intact with background, biography and blanks filled in enough to translate it to English for the casual reader. There is an extensive bibliography around the scientist and topic.