Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS)

“Animal world has provided mankind with locomotion over millennia. For example we have used horses and elephants for locomotion in wars and conducting commerce. Birds have been used for sending covert messages, and to detect gases in coal mines, a life-saving technique for coal miners. More recently, olfactory training of bees has been used to locate mines and weapons of mass destruction. The HI-MEMS program is aimed to develop technology that provides more control over insect locomotion, just as saddles and horseshoes are needed for horse locomotion control.

The HI-MEMS program is aimed at developing tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis.”

(via DARPA)

Counterculture Green The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism

According to “Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism,” by Andrew G. Kirk, the mind-blowing photo of our planet was a catalyst for the ecology movement. The Whole Earth Catalog itself became the voice of a new kind of environmental advocacy that, rather than shunning science as nature’s enemy, embraced it as the key that could unlock the door to personal freedom and create a post-scarcity social utopia. Advances like pictures from space, personal computers, geodesic domes and even nuclear power were all part of what became known as the “appropriate technology movement,” for which the Whole Earth Catalog was both a resource and a summary. No tree-hugging Luddite or apocalyptic doomsayer, Brand, Kirk writes, had an optimistic outlook shaped by “a love of good tools, thoughtful technology, scientific inquiry and a Western libertarian skepticism of the government’s ability to take the lead in these areas.” Brand wrote of his own publication, “This is a book of tools for saving the world at the only scale it can be done, one hand at a time.”

Full Story: International Herald Tribune.

(via Trevor’s del.icio.us)

The Weird Russian Mind-Control Research Behind a DHS Contract

The future of U.S. anti-terrorism technology could lie near the end of a Moscow subway line in a circular dungeon-like room with a single door and no windows. Here, at the Psychotechnology Research Institute, human subjects submit to experiments aimed at manipulating their subconscious minds.

Elena Rusalkina, the silver-haired woman who runs the institute, gestured to the center of the claustrophobic room, where what looked like a dentist’s chair sits in front of a glowing computer monitor. “We’ve had volunteers, a lot of them,” she said, the thick concrete walls muffling the noise from the college campus outside. “We worked out a program with (a psychiatric facility) to study criminals. There’s no way to falsify the results. There’s no subjectivism.”

Full Story: Wired.

Thomas C. Greene on cyborg metaphysics

via The Register

In a nutshell, I say that it’s impossible to manufacture an AI which will compete equally with human intelligence. The elusive quality which human thought possesses, and which an AI can’t possess, is something I call ‘irrational insight’. Note the modified noun ‘insight’. I’m not talking about irrationality per se. ‘Insight’ implies, and deliberately so, the qualities of pertinence and consistency.

And the cherry on the cake is this quote, aimed at Stephen Hawking’s advocacy of endowing AI with biological properties and ourselves with mechanical ones:

He [Hawking] deserved a severe rebuke for saying what he said. But if he actually believes it, then the little shit deserves to be hanged.

Counterculture and the Tech Revolution

R.U. Sirius (who before becoming a podcasting pioneer, founded Mondo 2000 magazine) interviews From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism author Fred Turner, and prefaces the interview with some of his own thoughts. Very interesting critiques on both sides. I only wish the interview was longer.

[RU:] I must say honestly that, although I was repulsed by the Gingrich alliance and by much of the corporate rhetoric that emerged, at least in part, out of Brand’s digital elitist clan – I think Brand’s tactics were essentially correct. Turner implies that valuable social change is more likely to happen through political activism than through the invention and distribution of tools and through the whole systems approach that is implicit in that activity. But I think that the internet has – palpably – been much more successful in changing lives than 40 years of left oppositional activism has been. For one example out of thousands, the only reason the means of communication that shapes our cultural and political zeitgeist isn’t COMPLETELY locked down by powerful media corporations is the work that these politically ambiguous freaks have accomplished over the past 40 years. In other words, oppositional activism would be even more occult – more hidden from view – today if not for networks built by hippie types who were not averse to working with DARPA and with big corporations. The world is a complex place.


FT: The idea of back-to-the-country didn’t work. But I think something deeper didn’t work, and it haunts us today, even as it underlies a lot of what we do. The notion that you can build a community around shared style is a deeply bohemian notion. It runs through all sorts of bohemian worlds. The notion that if you just get the right technology you can then build a unified community is a notion that drove a lot of the rural communal efforts. They thought by changing technological regimes; by going to 19th century technologies; by making their own butter; sewing their own clothes – they would be able to build a new kind of community. What they discovered was that if you don’t do politics – explicitly, directly, through parties, through organizations – if you don’t pay attention to and articulate what’s going on with real material power, communities fail.

So I argue that there’s a fantasy that haunts the internet, and it’s haunted it for at least a decade. And it’s the idea that if we just get the tools right and communicate effectively, we will be able to be intimate with one another and build the kinds of communities that don’t exist outside, in the rest of our lives. And I think that’s a deep failure and a fantasy.

Full Story: 10 Zen Monkeys.

Randomly-generated ‘scientific paper’ accepted

Sick of receiving spam emails requesting submissions to the 2005 World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics – which charges $390 for each attendee – students Jeremy Stribling, Daniel Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote a program to generate a nonsense paper.

Starting with skeleton sentences, pools of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and a random assortment of computer science jargon, the program produced a grammatically correct yet utterly nonsensical paper titled: “Rooter: a methodology for the typical unification of access points and redundancy”. “This isn’t artificial intelligence, it’s the dirt-simplest way we could think to do this,” Stribling says.

Full Story: New Scientist: Randomly-generated ‘scientific paper’ accepted

Eight Technologies That Will Change the World

Business 2.0 has a well written article examining eight near-future technologies that they believe will change the world:

  1. Biointeractive Materials
  2. Biofuel Production Plants
  3. Bionics
  4. Cognitronics
  5. Genotyping
  6. Combinatorial Science
  7. Molecular Manufacturing
  8. Quantum Nucleonics

They’ve got a pretty good list, but where are the anti-cancer nano-bots? Cheap solar power? Particle transmitters/teleporters?

Business 2.0: Eight Technologies That Will Change the World

Boffins Create Thought-Controlled Computer

According to this Register article Boffins at the EC’s Joint Research Centre have created a thought controlled computer.

The computer works by picking up the electromagnetic signals created in the brain when people think of different things. Electrodes attached to a plastic cap which is put on the user’s head pick up the signals. Then by tying in thought patterns with different, simple instructions the computer can be controlled by thought alone.

Mad Scientists Create Cybernetic Eel

The Guardian reports that scientists in Chicago have created a cyborg:

Researchers in Chicago have built a cyborg, a half-living, half-robot creature which connects the brain of an eel-like fish to a computer and is capable of moving towards lights.

The device, developed at a research centre owned by Evanston’s Northwestern University, consists of the brain stem from the larva of a lamprey, a bloodsucking fish, attached by electrodes to an off-the-shelf Swiss robot.

In an arrangement reminiscent of the genesis of the Daleks, the living brain floats in a container of cool, oxygenated salt fluid.

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