Archive for March, 2012

Great Moments in Globalization

jwz edition:

So we’re seeing here an indie rock band, with a sitar, named after a song by an English band, at an event that is a Quebec / Iceland co-production… in Texas. So there’s that.

“You doused my soul with gasoline / you flicked a match into my brain”

I know I’ve posted this song on various of my blogs before, but I was listening to it again today and got onto one of my wanders, tracking down bootlegs and live versions and etc.

I think of all the live performances out there this one is my favorite:

Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon are as brilliant as ever. But check out the guitar work by the great Lee Ranaldo, undoubtedly one of the most talented guitarists in the world. His exposed lines near the end of the tune are incredible. Beautifully played and so so precise.

In Case You Missed 2011

Here’s the highlight reel from the very funny Charlie Brooker:

Sorry for the week-long absence. A potent combination of hectic work schedules, Mass Effect 3, and shitty Internet service have been to blame.

(Ever seen a hardcore Internet junky have to go clean because of a Comcast outage? It isn’t pretty. Shakes, sweats, fidgeting. I mean, shit, I got so desperate I ended up watching a movie. On DVD Pure desperation, that.)

Kafkarna

I discovered a wonderful word today. “Kafkarna”. It’s a Czech word meaning a Kafka-esque situation encountered in real life. It makes total sense that Kafka’s people would have a single word for such a wonderful concept. Doubly so since the Czech people spent the 20th century experiencing a protracted tour of the world’s worst forms of government.

I get a feeling it’s a word that will come in handy fairly often.

“I’m just gonna…couch.”

In honor of today’s release of the third and final installment of the Mass Effect trilogy:

(Mildly NSFW for scantily-clad, digitally-rendered Miranda)

Must Be Those Long, Dark Nordic Winters…Of the Soul

What is it about Finns and goth-y music, eh? This music video is all kinds of awesome and demonstrates once again that when it comes to gorgeously dark music, the Nordic peoples are the world’s reigning champions.

(H/T to my friend Ann for linking me to the video.)

Things Are Better Than You Think: Peter Diamandis on Abundance

In this excellent TED talk, Peter Diamandis, Founder of the X-Prize Foundation and Co-Founder of Singularity University talks about the coming era of abundance.

I was particularly interested in his comments on the fact that anything that becomes an Information Technology also becomes an exponentially growing technology. This is not itself a novel idea, but it is relatively new. Moore’s Law is just over 50 years old. Ray Kurzweil and others began generalizing it just a couple decades ago. What isn’t widely understood, however, is that Moore’s Law-like effects are not limited to computation and that the roster of “Information Technologies” is broad and growing.

Take, for instance, the fact that the cost of sequencing a genome (integral in several of the trends and technologies Diamandis mentions in his talk), is collapsing at an exponential rate. Expressed as cost per megabase or cost per genome, the cost is, in fact, dropping much faster than the .5 / 18-month period specified by the original Moore’s Law:

Cost per Genome

Cost per Genome, from genome.gov. Click for full size.

Genetics and Genomics mean that medicine is becoming an information technology. 3D printing means that manufacturing is an information technology. Nanoscale manufacturing means that material science is becoming an information technology.

And the single biggest driver of both the growth of and the real world impacts of information technology is the Internet.

After all, the Internet is the world’s first and only globally-spanning, format-agnostic data network.1 Which means, per Diamandis’ talk, that in the next two decades the population of people participating in this set of super-exponentially growing information technologies will more than double.

The super-exponential growth of these technologies, plus the exponential growth of the population of Internet users, plus the radically combinatorial growth of collaboration in the global consciousness caused by networking effects2 means that unfathomable levels of abundance and prosperity are just around the corner.

This, of course, doesn’t stop the doomsayers from plying their ancient and despicable trade. Bad news and scare tactics appeal to the lizard brain, and so as long as human beings manage to see existential threats in even the slightest bit of bad news, we’ll still be in the strange position of heading into an ever brighter future, while cynically raving that it’s the end of days.


1 – That the Internet is format-agnostic is extremely important, because it means that any digital artifact of information technology can, in principle, be transmitted to anywhere in the globe. That artifact might be a picture of a cat, it might be schematics for a 3D printed statue of a cat, or it might be the complete genome of a particular cat. Whatever kind of information it is, the Internet will transmit it. Believe it or not, it doesn’t even have to be cat-related.

2 – To see why this is such an important part of the growth equation, it’s important to understand that the complexity of the network (as expressed in terms of two-way links in that network) grows exponentially with the number of nodes. So for any network of size N, there are N(N-1)/2 possible connections. But the Internet allows for collaboration among huge numbers of people, so the networking effects are not limited to edges, but to subsets of the nodes in the network. This means that the growth of collaboration is potentially much higher than the exponential rate suggested by the growth of the possible edges. I’m personally tempted to say that the growth of such collaboration is approximately factorial, but I don’t know if I have strong evidence to defend that assertion.

See What Your Government Doesn’t Want You to Know

In a stroke of brilliance, the ACLU has submitted FOIA requests for some of the diplomatic memos released by Wiki leaks. Some of these memos were delivered heavily redacted, others were withheld in their entirety. This gives us an interesting view into exactly what information the government doesn’t want us to have and just what data they think should remain classified. Interesting stuff.

Link.

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.