One of The Interval’s most distinctive features is “Otto”, our chalkboard drawing machine. Otto is a vector drawing machine that was built by Swiss artist Jürg Lehni. In this short video piece by Fusion media, you get to see Otto making a drawing and hear directly from Jürg about his work. To see Otto drawing in person, get tickets to one of our Conversations at The Interval talks on Tuesday nights.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS? WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?
Scientific topics receiving prominent play in newspapers and magazines over the past several years include molecular biology, artificial intelligence, artificial life, chaos theory, massive parallelism, neural nets, the inflationary universe, fractals, complex adaptive systems, superstrings, biodiversity, nanotechnology, the human genome, expert systems, punctuated equilibrium, cellular automata, fuzzy logic, space biospheres, the Gaia hypothesis, virtual reality, cyberspace, and teraflop machines. … Unlike previous intellectual pursuits, the achievements of the third culture are not the marginal disputes of a quarrelsome mandarin class: they will affect the lives of everybody on the planet.
You might think that the above list of topics is a preamble for the Edge Question 2016, but you would be wrong. It was a central point in my essay, ”The Third Culture,” published 25 years ago in TheLos Angeles Times, 1991 (see below). The essay, a manifesto, was a collaborative effort, with input from Stephen Jay Gould, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Jared Diamond, Stuart Kauffman, Nicholas Humphrey, among other distinguished scientists and thinkers. It proclaimed:
The third culture consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.
“The wide appeal of the third-culture thinkers,” I wrote, “is not due solely to their writing ability; what traditionally has been called ‘science’ has today become ‘public culture.’Stewart Brand writes that ‘Science is the only news. When you scan through a newspaper or magazine, all the human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the same sorry cyclic dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness, and even the technology is predictable if you know the science. Human nature doesn’t change much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly.’ We now live in a world in which the rate of change is the biggest change.” Science has thus become a big story, if not the big story: news that will stay news.
This is evident by the continued relevance today of the scientific topics in the 1991 essay that were all in play before the Web, social media, mobile communications, deep learning, big data. Time for an update. …
Via Alexis Madrigal’s TinyLetter, Real Future, DOTS is a Digital Optical Technology System developed by Eastman Kodak in the 01990s, and abandoned in 02002. In 02008, a team of digital imaging experts and former Kodak employees founded Group 47 to buy the DOTS patents and continue development. They succeeded in 2011.
Unlike magnetic and optical storage solutions, which must be protected from data corruption, physical degradation, and environmental damage, DOTS physically encodes data on an archival tape coated in a phase-change alloy. The alloy is resistant to temperature extremes, electromagnetic pulses, and other common environmental hazards (though it is vulnerable to acids—including, apparently, Sprite), while the tape itself is made of archival materials.
Just as importantly, DOTS is also meant to withstand the onset of a digital dark age. The data, which may include words and images as well as digitally encoded information, is transferred to the alloy using a laser, which changes the alloy’s index of refraction. In other words, the blank portions of the tape are shiny, while the data-bearing portions are dull. The result, though written at a microscopic scale, is visible under normal magnification.
Each tape begins with a Rosetta Leader(TM)—a human-readable, microfiche-scale, page that explains the storage format, and includes instructions for building a DOTS reader. According to Group 47 president Rob Hummel, even if there were no way to build the reader, it would be possible to decode the data using nothing more than the instructions in the Rosetta Leader and a camera. “While it would be very tedious,” he says in a video describing the system, “at least it wouldn’t be impossible.”
In tests, DOTS has been shown to remain archival for at least 100 years—short enough, as long-term thinking goes, but far longer than magnetic tape storage or the always-evolving hardware needed to read current digital storage media. As the Group 47 website notes, “Competing technologies (magnetic tape, hard drives) require a complex and expensive system of data migration within five years, as, beyond this, there is an unacceptably high probability of data loss due to catastrophic media and/or data degradation or outright failure.”
The event starts at 6:30, with doors at 6:00pm in the Koret Auditorium of the De Young Museum.
A “Long Conversation” is a relay style speaking event. In this case, it is a 2 hour relay of 10 minute public conversations between 11 pairs of speakers who will be speaking on “100 Years of Robot Art and Science in the Bay Area”. The conversation is part of a larger exhibit honoring the 100 year anniversary of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The participants of this conversation include:
Josette Melchor (Grey Area Foundation for the Arts)
Dorothy R. Santos (writer, curator)
Tim Roseborough (artist, musician, former Kimball Artist-in-Residence)
Terry Winograd (Computer Science department, Stanford Univeristy)
Kal Spelletich (Seeman)
Artist Jenny Odell, who will be providing live images (VJing)
Friday Nights at the de Young are after-hours art happenings that include a mix of live music, dance and theater performances, film screenings, panel discussions, lectures, artist demonstrations, hands-on art activities, and exhibition tours. Local artists conduct drop-in workshops, debut new commissions, display their art in the Kimball Education Gallery, and take part in conversations about the creative process. The café offers a delicious prix-fixe menu and specialty cocktails, and the Hamon Tower observation level is open until 8 pm. Artists-in-Residence, curators, scholars, and arts educators play active roles in making Friday Nights an engaging museum experience.
Current Long Now members, just login on the member site. The stream will begin at 7:15pm Pacific.
Machines of Loving Grace is the first comprehensive study to place [robots] in the context of the cloud-based intelligence
—George Dyson, author of Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe
In recent years, the pace of technological change has accelerated dramatically, posing an ethical quandary. If humans delegate decisions to machines, who will be responsible for the consequences? Drawing on his forty years covering the tech industry, Markoff conducted numerous interviews and extensive research to assemble this history and poise key questions about how we will cohabitate with our robotic creations.
This will be the third time we have live streamed an Interval event. Due to our limited resources, it is not possible to do so for most talks. We do plan to release Interval talks as podcasts and video on the Long Now site (similarly to our Seminar series).
We also plan to stream the talk by Andy Weir author of The Martian which takes place at The Interval on October 27, 02015. Tickets will go on sale for that talk two weeks beforehand and we expect it will sell out quickly.
Long Now is looking for a major sponsor to fund the cost of producing the series to the standard of our Seminar media. We are also seeking a sponsor to support more regular streaming of Interval events. Sponsorship inquiries are welcome.
Much like ants, termites are a testament to the adage that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A single termite is an almost translucent creature, no more than a few millimeters long. But put several thousand of them together, and they become capable of building expansive structures, some reaching up as high as 17 feet.
Moreover, a recent discovery suggests that some termite mounds are not only very tall, but also very old. A joint Belgian-Congolese team of geologists carbon-dated a set of four mounds in the Congo’s Miombo Woods, and found them to be between 680 and 2200 years old. Though the oldest of these had been abandoned centuries ago, the researchers infer from their findings that some species of termites can inhabit one and the same structure for several hundreds of years. This far exceeds the lifespan of any one colony (which matches that of its queen), suggesting that a kind of intergenerational inheritance passes the mound from one queen to the next.
Swarm intelligence, it seems, leads not only to highly organized labor and solid engineering, but also to long-term thinking.
Ask an Expert is a new web series in which, well, experts answer tweeted questions about the future of technology. In this episode, Paul discusses virtual reality, weighs in on the word ‘disrupt’, and considers the possibility of having a wooly mammoth for a pet – with a quick shout-out to Long Now’s Revive & Restore project.
To see more videos in the Ask an Expert series, you can visit this page. And if you have a question of your own, you can tweet it to @singularityu with the hashtag #AskSU.
A sense of perspective is unavoidable from 22,000 miles out. Looking down at Earth from that distance — almost three times farther than the diameter of the planet itself — allows a view of the globe as a massive organic system, pulsing with continuous movement. (NY Times)
Last month, Japan’s new Himawari-8 weather satellite began sending data back to Earth. Launched in late 02014 to help track storm systems and other weather patterns in the Pacific Rim, it looks down on Earth from a geostationary orbit, at about 36,000 kilometers (or 22,000 miles) from the surface.
Its considerable distance from Earth isn’t necessarily surprising; most weather satellites do their work in high earth orbit. But what makes Himawari-8 unique among its colleagues is the fact that it is capable of taking full-color photos of the entire planet. Every day, it sends 144 of these “living portraits” back down to Earth – or one photograph every ten minutes.
With an unprecedentedly high resolution that can visualize features as small as 500 square meters, these images will help scientists better understand the genesis, evolution, and outcome of large-scale weather patterns. But on a broader level, the pictures Himawari-8 sends back can’t help but awaken in us what the Planetary Collective has called the Overview Effect: the combined sense of awe and oneness that seems to come over us all when we see images of the whole Earth, framed by the blackness of space.
The data Himawari-8 produces is meant to help us better grasp the ever-changing, fleeting, and highly localized behavior of the Pacific atmosphere. But it also offers us a reminder to step outside of ourselves and consider the fact that we ultimately inhabit a very small corner of a much larger unit of space and time.
Media innovations drive economic shifts, Saffo began. “We invent new technology and then use it to reinvent ourselves.”
The Industrial/producer Economy: At the beginning of the 20th century the leading scarcity was stuff, and so manufacture was systematized. By 1914 one of Ford’s workers could buy a Model T car with four month’s salary. Production efficiency won the Second World War for the allies. In 1944 the US was producing 8 aircraft carriers a month, a plane every five minutes, and 50 merchant ships a day. The process became so efficient that its success ended the dominance of that economy. That always happens. “Every new abundance creates an adjacent scarcity.“
The Consumer Economy The new scarcity was desire. 1958 brought the first credit card. The CEOs of leading companies shifted from heads of production to heads of marketing. Container ships doubled global trade.
The Creator Economy: In 1971 Herbert Simon predicted, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently.” The new scarcity turned out to be engagement. The mass media television channels that had dominated the Consumer Economy were overwhelmed by personal media–YouTube, eBay, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, Google, Etsy. Hollywood was overwhelmed by video games. (The blockbuster movie “Avatar“ opened in 2009 with a $73 million weekend. The previous month, the game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” sold $310 million in 24 hours.)
Mass participation became the new normal. Stuff is cheap; status comes from creation. Value is created by engagement—from Wikipedia entries to Google queries to Mechanical Turk services to Airbnb to Uber to Kaggle analyses. Burning Man sets the standard of “no spectators.” Makers insist that “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”
Saffo advised recalling four warnings for revolutionaries. 1) There are winners and losers 2) Don’t confuse early results with long-term outcomes. 3) Successful insurgents become over-powerful incumbents 4) Technologies of freedom become technologies of control.
If we want privacy now, we have to pay extra for it. As with our smart phones, we will subscribe to self-driving cars, not own them. With our every move tracked, we are like radio-collared bears. Our jobs are being atomized, with ever more parts taken over by robots. We trade freedom for convenience.
Over the 30 or so years remaining in the Creator Economy, Saffo figures that we will redefine freedom in terms of interdependence, and he closed with Richard Brautigan’s poem about a “cybernetic ecology” where we “are all watched over by machines of loving grace.”
In November 02011 Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, spoke for Long Now. “We are really striving to build The Library of Alexandria version 2,” says Brewster, near the start of his talk, “So that everyone anywhere who is curious to want access can access the world’s knowledge.” He proceeds to assess, one media type at a time what it will take in effort and disk space to get all the books, recorded music, TV, software, web pages, etc. into an online database. The overall message: “Universal access to all knowledge is within our grasp.”
From Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk (in full here):
The Web itself. When the Internet Archive began in 1996, there were just 30 million web pages. Now the Wayback Machine copies every page of every website every two months and makes them time-searchable from its 6-petabyte database of 150 billion pages. It has 500,000 users a day making 6,000 queries a second.
In 02015, less than 4 years later, the Internet Archive’s web archive has grown to over 400 billion pages; and the ever-expanding collections of books, movies, and music have now pushed the total Archive database size over 20 petabytes.
You’ll hear in this talk that Brewster and the Archive’s association with The Long Now Foundation goes way back. In fact the first prototype of the 10,000 Year Clock “bonged” twice to mark the year 02000 in a building shared with the Archive. Long Now continues to partner with the Archive in many ways including on Rosetta Project activities and the Manual for Civilization. And we intend for our partnership to continue for at the very least a few more millennia.
Brewster Kahle is the founder and chairman of the Internet Archive. He earned a B.S. from MIT in 1982, where he studied artificial intelligence with Long Now co-founder Daniel Hillis. Brewster Kahle serves on the boards of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the European Archive, the Television Archive, and the Internet Archive.