Crime and punishment and sensemoral

The things I’ve enjoyed most since I’ve left are just mundane things that allow me congenial interactions with people. Paying for the bus. Talking to the person you’re sitting next too. Buying a sandwich. Excusing yourself when you pass someone on an escalator. Helping people. I helped a woman get her pram off the bus this morning, and she probably walked away thinking ‘what a nice young man’ without realising I’ve just spent two years locked inside cesspool of human indignity for threatening a room full of people with a firearm.

→, Amnesia: 2 Years In Prison – A Man’s Story

For both games, two 6 gram weights was almost too much, yet with only one weight in the R.A.T. 7 gaming mouse, it felt a little whippy and I had to dial down the DPI a notch from 4000 DPI range to about 3500 DPI. If there had been a 2 or three gram weight option, it would have been perfect and I probably would have been able to boost the DPI settings even higher than 4000. In any event, my hand was not fatigued in the least by the end of either gaming marathon sessions, this is something which happens all too often for me and some mice I literally have to take a break or risk hand cramps.

→ Everthing USB, Anthony Garland: Mad Catz Cyborg R.A.T. 7 Gaming Mouse Review

The lesson, basically, is that a company won’t do well in the developing world simply by hawking cheap, out-of-date hardware after it’s become obsolete in places like America. Companies like Nokia, LG and Samsung spend a lot of time and money developing new phones that you and I might consider old-fashioned or odd, and with good reason: Emerging markets are huge. The 8th, 9th and 10th largest phone seller in the world, by volume, are companies you’ve never heard of—ZTE, G-Five and Huawei—which have made heaps of money selling millions of customers their first phones.

→ Gizmodo, John Herrman: The most popular phone in the world

Not long ago, foods like kiwis and sushi weren’t widely known or available. It is quite likely that in 2020 we will look back in surprise at the era when our menus didn’t include locusts, beetle larvae, dragonfly larvae, crickets and other insect delights.

→ Wall Street Journal, Marcel Dicke & Arnold van Huis: The six-legged meat of the future

By the next morning—day six—the three were well aware that they’d made a terrible mistake. But what could they do? They sat on the benches, facing each other. They had no watch. Nothing to read. No pen or paper. They tried to distract themselves with conversation, but they had little to say. “It started to get quiet,” says Etueni. “All I was thinking about was water and juice.”

→ GQ, Michael Finkel: Here be monsters

The future! The future!

The Singularity is no longer talked about as the geek rapture which will make people happy and good and content with life; Just as our capacity for rational and creative thought will be multiplied hundredfold in a short time, our capacity to act according to our own morals increases accordingly. No longer a world where anyone can build an atom bomb, but one in which each of us is a walking one. The will to power will out, and just because there’s no need to fight over oil or water doesn’t mean someone won’t want to kill us all.

Ray Kurzweils movie Trancendent Man seems like an interesting overview of the mans ideas, and h+ has an interview with him which you might want to read before the movie makes it onto the torrent sites; He is good at articulating the problems which might appear as a result of technological advances (eternal life, nano-tech, AI) and because of his technological background actually has numbers he can throw at you when it comes to the hard sci-fi predictions.

James Hughes over at Changesurfer Radio interviewed professor of philosphy Asher Seidel about his book, and it’s a good guide to the kinds of questions that might challenge our successors. I started listening to the transhumanist Changesurfer Radio ten years ago in Karlstad, and it’s a great source of interesting ideas and people. I heartily recommend it, if for no other reason than that James is a politically conscious person who doesn’t let his interviewees get away with just technological solutions to human problems; Humans are social and political beasts and use technology accordingly. Which, incidentally, also is the lesson that good science fiction can teach us.


Lately, between fattening myself on crisps and ramen, and watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I’ve been reading. Since none of you heathens got me an ebook reader for the holidays, I’ve been perched in my comfy new fake leather armchair, reading off the screen or on paper.

Mostly I’ve been rekindling old flames: Iain M. Banks Matter as well as the abridged Transition; Peter F Hamiltons Starflyer books — Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained — have sent me back to the first two parts of the Dreaming Void trilogy, and I can hardly wait for the last installment which is due out in fall of 2010, and where I’m guessing we’re going to see a fascist universe be created in the Void.

Matter is a Culture novel and as such it’s a fascinating read. More than in other novels there is intervention by the Culture — a futuristic, egalitarian galactic society which tries to nudge more primitive civilizations along —  into the life and society of a Victorian era feudal world which exists on a shell world; a spherical world within a world within a world, built for unknown purposes. The king is murdered and his daughter, who has gone off and joined the Culture, returns for his funeral, getting mixed up in a world she’d left behind. If you enjoy Iains style of prose, you’ll love this book — its imagery is powerful and the language just the right amount of funny.

Petter gave me Foreskins Lament by Shalom Auslander — known from This American Life as the Jew who hates God — and it’s a good read so far. If you need a reason for why religion might be more damaging to your mental health than a regular abusive home, look no further than to his description of how he was taught about God. Apatheism is the way to go, people. Trust me on this — just focus on an existential issue other than theism, and make that issue the cornerstone of your personal ontology and moral conviction.

I still haven’t slogged through 45 by Bill Drummond, a collection of essays which Olle lent me, but I’m getting there, although that has been delayed by my adorable mom, who just sent me a Polish account of two years spent in Tokyo. It being mom I have to prioritize that, even though it reads like a punny Lost in Translation. Never an endorsement.

In defence of humanity.

Their arms were then hit with a stick. If they gave off a hard, hollow ring, the freezing process was complete. Separately, naked men and women were subjected to freezing temperatures and then defrosted to study the effects of rotting and gangrene on the flesh.

→ Daily Mail, Christopher Hudson: Doctors of Depravity

But Yuasa, who practiced medicine until he was 84, has been active to this day in exposing some of the darkest secrets of the Imperial army. He is propelled by a sense of guilt, as well as the fear that Japan is on a path toward committing the same mistakes again.

→ Japan Times, Jun Hongo: Vivisectionist recalls his day of reckoning

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

→ H-I-M Jail & Prison Ministry: Hebrews 13:3

Robots can take the soldiers’ places, he said. They can continuously keep watch on an area, and if nefarious activity is spotted, “We can take appropriate action. … We can kill those bastards before they plant the IEDs,” he added. That includes mounting a weapon on the robot, he said.

→ National Defense, Stew Magnuson: Failure to field the right robots costs lives

Why are humans so fascinated by robots? Where is the UK’s most innovative robotics research taking place? And how does the biology of the natural world inform robot design and engineering? In this video interview, Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield, discusses developments in robotics – from the proliferation of robots in Japan’s automotive industry to the stair-climbing dexterity of Honda’s Asimo robot and beyond.

→ Silicon, Artificial Intelligence: Noel Sharkey on the inexorable rise of robots (Via Slashdot)

Rather than guiding a missile to its intended target, Arkin’s robotic guidance system is being designed to reduce the need for humans in harm’s way, “… appropriately designed military robots will be better able to avoid civilian casualties than existing human war fighters and might therefore make future wars more ethical.”

→ H+ Magazine, Surfdaddy Orca: Teaching Robots the Rules of War

The US was paying teenagers “thousands of dollars” to drop infrared tags at the homes of al Qaida suspects so that Predator drones could aim their weapons at them, he added. But often the tags were thrown down randomly, marking out completely innocent civilians for attack.

→ The Telegraph: Military killer robots ‘could endanger civilians’

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have found that robots equipped with artificial neural networks and programmed to find “food” eventually learned to conceal their visual signals from other robots to keep the food for themselves.

→ Technology Review, Kristina Grifantini: Robots ‘Evolve’ the Ability to Deceive

Fabbing, contd.

Desktop Factory might be the LaserWriter of additive manufacturing. Priced at under $5000 it’s cheaper than the LaserWriter was, and would allow individuals to buy it for themselves or collectives to scrounge funds together. I would love to play around with it; Barring too high running costs (think of the ink in printers) you could do limited edition runs of stuff.

Maybe the RapMan would be good starting kit for a workshop on building and using 3D printers? I’m actually more interested in building the kits than I am using them, but I guess that the practical applications will reveal themselves once I know what can be done. Or whenever I need a new filterholder for a on-camera-flash or something such.

In the end, I’d probably do what everyone does when confronted with a creative outlet with endless possibilities and print genitalia. But it would be a rapidly prototyped genitalia how cool wouldn’t that be!

The link to Desktop Factory came via Fabbaloo, an excellent fabbing blog with a silly name. Then again, once the 3D printing revolution happens and your ten year old kids will print the latest manga characters, they might very well shout “Faa-baa-loooo!” so perhaps it’s just good brand positioning on their part.



Over at there’s a debate in the comments section about how object models will be pirated, and what effects this will have on the designers and manufacturers of stuff. It’s odd how similar the discussion is to the one about music and movie piracy.

Morals don’t always dictate if we pirate or don’t, but rather convenience. What is considered ethical will be adjusted to the technological lowest common denominator, just as will the job market. It’s not a fair way of going about it, but I don’t know how designers of stuff will make a living in a post-fab world, nor how they can hope to stem the tide of obsolescence. Sitting back with some popcorn and watch the slowly dawning realisation on the faces of panicked designers might become the new spectator sport.

Fabb it all and let the added value sort the back end, maybe? This approach hasn’t prevailed among the more litigious media companies, nor curbed their enthusiasm of that business model. I don’t see the future of fabbing to be any different.

In Neal Stephensons book The Diamond Age nano-manufacturing is a reality. People use matter compilers (MC) to make food or clothes or anything else that they might need or want. (Similar to the cornucopia machines of Charles Stross Singularity Sky, the acronym of which is CM, curiously enough) As long as they have the blueprints for something, they can build it. As long as you have access to a feed line you can use it to make stuff. (This is part of what fabbing might offer, even though we’re far off from nano-assembly)

In the book there’s talk of the seed, a concept where you’ll have self-contained seeds that can grow into whatever you’d like. The difference being that their energy stores are self-contained and wouldn’t have to rely on a centrally controlled feed, much like a seed draws upon the earth and surrounding nutrients when growing. One variation on this theme is presented on by Sascha Pohflepp in the work Growth Assembly, a series of drawings reminiscent of the Codex Seraphinianus but with real-world application instead of high fantasy.


As for fabbing in art, I still haven’t found much worth mentioning. I might be looking in all the wrong places though.

Peter Jansen did a sculpture series, Strange Attractors, using 3D printing to create molds which are then cast in bronze. the shapes themselves are created using the Chaoscope software, which itself is used to generate representations of strange attractors (something I’m wholly unqualified to tell you anything about except that it’s related to chaos theory) examples of which you can see in their gallery. They make for pretty pictures, and to someone who understands the math involved I’m sure there’s an theoretically beautiful part that is unknowable to the rest of us, but it’s just not very interesting. Casting them in bronze doesn’t add much conceptual value to them, neat though it might be.

A better beginning would perhaps be Peters Human Motion series, but I’m not certain if they’re fabbed or traditionally sculpted and cast. As a comment of a technology on its relationship to space and previous art — Nude Descending and Muybridges studies of motion — it might be an interesting statement of intent. But halting there, making the object itself the work of art, would be dull. As it stands I don’t even know if the motion series was fabbed, but one would hope that there will be more to the tech than mere convenience for sculptors. Not that I begrudge them that, mind.

The link to Peter Jansen came via Metafilter: Human Motions

(yet) Another thing to feel guilty about

It’s always fun to see documentaries that trace everyday objects back to their origins. Usually those films are about bread or maybe books; one comes from wheat, the other from the forest. We get a nice line to follow and are given the option of keeping our hunter-gatherer ancestry in sight. (well, sort of)

I’m always baffled (well, again, sort of) when it turns out that the apples I’m looking at in a store have been shipped across the globe. It just doesn’t make sense to me. And if you try to track down the components and resources of high-tech stuff, you’ve got a lifetime of tracking ahead of you.

Take the example of tantalum, a metal powder extracted from coltan ore, and a required part of cellphones, computers and airplanes. It’s a rare resource: Prices are high and the supply is low. Market forces at work here, people. And those forces are at the moment, to put it gently, bum-raping the people of Congo where there’s a huge deposit of coltan ore.

You have a bunch of rebel groups fueling their civil war by selling the ore to refineries that in turn sell this to high-tech companies (Apple? oh, Apple i though you were a cool company! This shit aint cool! Not cool, y’hear?) and in the process killing people (or enslaving them to work in mines), destroying animal habitat (killing gorillas – your cellphone is killing cute baby gorillas) and generally making a muck of things and adding some more bad to an already quite baddish world.

What to do what to do? I love the quote from Outi Mikkonen at Nokia, when asked how they check up on their suppliers if their tantalum comes from Congo: “All you can do is ask, and if they say no, we believe it.”
Yes, because we all know that Nokia just doesn’t have the resources necessary to check up on the supply chain.

I don’t know what to do, but at least I feel i should know where my stuff comes from. A good place to start on that is here: