Sunday, December 29, 2013

Synbio Reformulates the Traditional Scientific Method

Synthetic biology continues to be one of the most wide-spread trends reshaping the conduct of science.

Lauded as the potential ‘transistor of the 21st century’ given its transformative possibilities, synthetic biology is the design and construction of biological devices and systems. It is highly multi-disciplinary, linking biology, engineering, functional design, and computation.

One of the key application areas is metabolic engineering, working with cells to greatly expand their usual production of substances that can then be used for energy, agricultural, and pharmaceutical purposes.

Since the nature of synthetic biology is pro-actively creating de novo biological systems, organisms, and capacities (the opposite of the esprit of the passive characterization of phenomena for which the original scientific method was developed), synbio is reformulating the traditional scientific method.

While it is true that optimizing genetic and regulatory processes within cells can be partially construed under the scientific method, the overall scope of activity and methods are much broader.

Innovating de novo organisms and functionality requires a significantly different scientific methodology than that supported by the traditional scientific method. This includes computational modeling and simulation, engineering practices, feedback loops, automated bio-printing, and a re-conceptualization of science as an endeavor of characterizing and creating.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Biodesign: a Prevalent Cultural Trope

A new science or technology field really starts to capture the imagination and become mainstream when it seeps into art and culture. This is increasingly evident with bioart, bioprinting, and synthetic biology.

In bioart (using biological materials to make art), there have already been several phases starting with bacteria drawings in petri dishes and more recently culminating in DNA manipulation, live cells growing into cultured shapes in galleries, and the Algae Opera (an opera singer’s CO2 producing algae in real-time for audience consumption).

Bioprinting is an emerging field which marries the 3D printing revolution with biohacking and DIYlabs in the 3D printing of designed human materials for aesthetic and functional purposes.  

Synthetic biology (the design and construction of biological devices and systems) is being featured in art shows alongside industry conferences and in film festivals, including in its own Bio-Fiction, an international synthetic biology science, art, and film festival series.

Not only are we making art with biology as an artistic material, culture is being made in new ways through biology. 
The theme of biodesign is becoming prevalent as a cultural trope through the rapid expansion of designed biology into the arts, culture, collective human consciousness, and science and technology. These ideas are becoming quite normal, which can only mean that their demise through kitschification and cliché could be coming soon in a subsequent era of anti-bioart, post-bioprinting, post-synbio!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Supercomputing Processing Speed Nearly Doubles in One Year

The Top500 November 2013 biannual list of the world’s fastest supercomputers shows China's Tianhe-2 still at nearly twice the capacity of the second fastest, with virtually no change since the machine vaulted onto the list in June 2013.

Tech Specs: Tianhe-2 (MilkyWay-2) - TH-IVB-FEP Cluster, Intel Xeon E5-2692 12C 2.200GHz, TH Express-2, Intel Xeon Phi 31S1P. The machine was constructed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT).

Tianhe-2's maximum processing power is 33.8 petaflops per second (and peak processing speed 54.9 petaflops per second). The nearest competitor is the US DOE's Titan, a Cray XK7 Opteron 6274 16C 2.200GHz with a maximum processing power of 17.6 petaflops per second. Processing power is firmly on a steep growth curve, accelerating since the 5 petaflops per second mark was surpassed in June 2011 by RIKEN Japan (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Supercomputing Processing Capacity (Source: Top500)

Supercomputers, although processing faster than the human brain for some time now, process in a massively linear parallel manner which is not at all how the brain functions. However, while not mimicking the human brain, trying to understand it is a key use of supercomputers, along with other traditional prediction problems like weather forecasting, and physics phenomena and energy modeling. Now firmly in the big data era, processing astronomical data too is a key use for supercomputing. Maybe Tianhe-2 will compute findings from lunar data processed through China's recently landed Jade Rabbit. In other astronomical applications, astronomers expect to be processing 10 petabytes of data every hour from the Square Kilometer Array telescope under development in Australia and South Africa with a total collecting area of one square kilometer.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Mania!

With bitcoin nearly doubling in value in the last few weeks (surpassing USD $400 on November 9, 2013 and reaching USD $937 on November 29, 2013) (see this chart in Figure 1 and the real-time exchange rate), the question is whether it is just another inflationary virtual currency bubble like WOW gold and Second Life Lindens, or a trend that will endure. At present volume is skyrocketing, with a daily turnover (as of November 25, 2013) of 50,000 bitcoin per day (USD $45 million) which translates to USD $17 billion per year. 

Figure 1. Daily Bitcoin-USD Price-Volume Chart: Oct 4 - Dec 1, 2013. (Source: BitcoinCharts, quotes also at Bitcoin Charts)

What is bitcoin? 
Bitcoin is an open-source protocol enabling the transmission of value across the Internet in the form of a digital asset, digital currency, or payment mechanism – it is essentially a peer-to-peer decentralized monetary system. Exchange across the network is pseudonymous (not anonymous) because there is a trace if you give someone your wallet address for a transaction. Transfers use a public key/private key system, and a record of transactions in kept in the blockchain. Bitcoin is just one of hundreds of virtual cryptocurrencies (e.g.; cryptography-based) as illustrated in Figure 2; yes, there is a BaconCoin, BBQCoin, [YourNameHere]Coin...

Figure 2. Cryptocurrency Hot List: Dec 1, 2013. (Source: CoinWarz)

Bitcoin Mining Ecosystem
In addition to exchanging physical-world currencies for bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies on exchanges (example: DealCoin), bitcoins can be earned by ‘mining.’ An extensive cryptocurrency mining ecosystem has arisen. Mining or hashing is using home-based GPU rigs (like SETI@home but for crytocoin mining) in resource pools with others (like Coinotron), or renting cloudhashing processing resources, to algorithmically make as many guesses as possible on the number of the next block of coin to be released, sort of like a lottery. There is a safeguard against money-printing and inflation as in the case of bitcoin, only 21 million total bitcoins can be created.

Sophisticated mining operations have driven the profit in bitcoin mining below zero so erstwhile traders mine more volatile currencies that may be up-and-coming like ScryptCoin (USD $27/week profit), MicroCoin (USD $20/week profit) and other riskier alt.currencies that may yield USD $16-$20/day.

Prospects for Long-term Success
The reason why a few top cryptocurrencies like bitcoin could succeed are the huge worldwide liquidity of the Internet, the demand for flexible, digital, cross-border, pseudonymous payment systems, and the practical and social political support for peer-to-peer payment systems, financial empowerment, and self-sufficiency as part of the ongoing Occupy response to the 2008 banking crisis, global capitalism, and corporate hegemony. Transfers within the crytpocurrency network are pseudonymous and not directly trackable by authorities, but network ingress and egress exchange to physical-world currencies can be monitored. Regarding regulation and taxation, bitcoin is already being classified as falling under regulatory jurisdiction as a ‘payment system’ or ‘taxable voucher’ and being enfolded into the traditional financial world, with VAT now levied in Germany, Sweden, and Finland, and discussions ensuing in other countries.

Esprit of Financial Empowerment
Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency movement asks ‘who should be in charge of printing money?’ and suggests individuals not governments. Alt.currencies are just another step in the long tradition of decentralization, access, and self-empowerment in the financial industry that includes web-based stock trading and portfolio management, real estate and mortgage transactions, and peer-to-peer lending, and that is also emerging in other sectors like education with MOOCs, and health and biology with citizen science, biohacking labs, and synthetic biology liberating research from institutions.

Update: Dec 18, 2013 - With market-crashing volatility and regulatory oversight, bitcoin is already seeming short-lived: "Bitcoin value drops 40% after more bad news from China"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rethinking Major Web Properties in Glassware

Google Glass is starting to become even more exiting as a platform as more developers are investigating the functionality and building new apps.

A few key elements are that first it is important to recognize that Glass is a completely new and different technology platform. Glass is not just a cell phone for your face or another smartwatch, but a true cognitive augmentation platform and a critical moment in the continuous always-on information climate. A higher-resolution experience of life could be available in an information-rich environment. The eyes and ears senses are always on and augmented. Passive information can be ambiently contributed to any situation in real-time.

The current applications for Glass include picture-taking, video, maps, directions, search, and hangouts, but as usual with a new platform, the future apps that will harness the functionality in new ways are yet to be imagined. For example, what are some of the new ways of being social in the moment? 
All major web properties will need to rethink themselves in Glass – what is Glass-Instagram, Glass-Facebook, Glass-CRM, Glass-Tivo? 
App creation could ramp up quickly as development can be either native Android (Glass runs on the Android O/S), or standard web (e.g.; html5, css), particularly with this weekend's release of the Mirror API.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What are Cognitive Nanorobots?

Cognitive nanorobots are an extension of the more familiar idea of medical nanorobots.

Medical nanorobots are a range of medical solutions using nanoscale electronics. Medical nanorobots span the continuum from nanoparticles in current pharmaceutical use that disgorge cargo in cellular destinations per simple onboard logic instructions to optically-stimulated channelrhodopsin proteins for real-time live biological intervention to the more elaborate conceptualization of many species of future medical nanorobots such as respirocytes, clottocytes, vasculoids, and microbivores that could perform a variety of biophysical clean-up, maintenance, and augmentation functions in the body.

In the most basic sense, cognitive nanorobots are the analog to medical nanorobots, nanorobots deployed in the specific context of facilitating, aiding, and improving the processes of cognition like perception and memory, a sort of NanoNeuroProsthetics.

Cognition is just another biological function, a process that can possibly be identified, managed, and ameliorated. Robert Freitas in the Nanomedicine text books has already begun to explore the issue of nanorobot biocompatibility with neural cells, and outlined the different levels of concern and response for them: mechanical, physiological, immunological, cytological, and biochemical.

In summary, one initial way to consider and classify cognitive nanorobots is as a special case of medical nanorobots.

More: YouTube Video, Presentation

Sunday, November 10, 2013

State of Tech: Image Corpus Corralling and API Integration

Two of the biggest current tech trends are image corpus ‘corralling’ and API integration. 1 billion images are taken per day and 6 billion photos are shared monthly.
Uploaded photo databases are the new 'data' corpora.
The first moment this shift became clear in Google’s announcement in June 2012 of the ability to recognize images of cats (the most frequently appearing entity in YouTube videos), and in the big data industry’s continual innovation to manage unstructured data like photos. Now, the sheer volume of image-related activity and opportunity for different consumer and commercial applications is making image classification a focal area for the tech industry.

Functionality is being developed for classifying and accessing content – both images and all web content - with tools such as Imagga as a cloud-based image classification program, and OpenCalais, a standard for text-based semantic content analysis and organization. What we might now start to call the corpus characterization ecosystem is expanding into related tools like DocumentCloud that runs uploaded documents through OpenCalais as a service to extract information about the nouns (e.g.; people, places, and organizations) mentioned.

API integration remains an ongoing trend of the year, with integrated API and developer management platforms like Mashery continuing to grow. API integration platforms give companies a means of facilitating and encouraging external developers to access their content to make apps, and give developers a standardized means of accessing large varieties of data content from different sources to integrate in creating a new generation of sophisticated apps and web services. 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Mindfulness and Friendship

Friendship is a topic with significant contemporary relevance both popularly and in academic areas such as philosophy and psychology. This could be due to the huge contemporary trend of focusing on well-being, of which social connectivity is a key component.

Simultaneously, there are many ways that mindfulness is being applied for a heightened experience and understanding of social and interactive phenomena in both physical and virtual reality in areas such as communication, collaboration, friendship, and love.

The central idea in mindfulness and friendship is to be volitional and active instead of passive with regard to friendships: learning and acknowledging that friendships are a dynamic process that needs deliberate focus and ongoing action-taking rather than a passive stance of acceptance. In fact, self-awareness of your own parameters, mindset, rules, and ethics of friendship is a good starting point, especially as your attitudes may be unconscious, and are likely to differ from those of others.

In the friendship context, there may be a greater tendency for conflict avoidance, e.g.; less awareness and interest in acknowledging and discussing issues, in a way that would be unavoidable in other interaction contexts like work or romantic relationships. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Big Data and the Quantified Self

Big data is in a moment that is pre-Coprenican, (original) world-is-flat, and ‘sail west from Europe for the Orient.’ That is to say that big data is in need of not just descriptive tools, but maps, cartographic representations that help to define, concretize, and conceptualize what exactly big data is and how to think about it.

A conceptual mapping of big data is necessary which would most obviously draw upon basic mapping principles (metaphorically and literally) and epistemological models. For example, one dimension of a big data map is numeracy. In the conceptualization of big data, so far the context has been individuated information, information about individual units, like people (e.g.; personal data), and the tensions between the subject of the data and the user of the data, namely institutions. There is now an emergent category (e.g.; group data), the sense of data arising from and belonging to a group.

The quantified self is a vanguard paradigm for understanding personal data and urban data a similar vanguard paradigm for understanding group data. The quantified self is inherently a big data problem, as manually-tracked ‘small data’ is now being replaced by automatically-collected ‘big data,’ and cloud-based methods are required for data processing, analysis, and storage.

More information: Slides, Blog coverage, Paper

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The New Consciousness: Technology Philosophy learns from Queer Theory

Though they might at first seem unrelated, queer theory connects to technology philosophy in two ways: the general level of the discipline of philosophy and the specificity of content.

First, in the general discipline of philosophy, both queer theory and technology philosophy are areas of innovation in philosophical thought. In thinking innovatively in technology philosophy, it is important to track, understand, and incorporate new developments in philosophical thinking, in this case from the progression of the equality philosophies of decolonialism, feminism, queer theory, and transgender and polyamory rights.

Second, the content of queer theory is of interest to technology philosophy. Some of the relevant topics include:
  • Equality Philosophies:  The potential deployment of equality philosophies in a world with a variety of human and non-human intelligences
  • Consciousness and its Emergence: The emergence of consciousness in a process of awareness, alterity, and translation which could relate to the waking-up of new forms of consciousness 
  • Self-constitution of the Subject: The enlargening understanding of how we are constituted and constitute ourselves as subjects, and how this might change in the future as we have even more interior volition and QS self-direction capability, and at the same time greater competition amongst external influences on the constitution of ourselves as digital subjects with partial or full mindfile upload, where the term subject (currently denoting nicely packaged individual consciousnesses in bodies) could become obsolete 
More information: video, video of text references, video en francais

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What are Concepts and why are they Important?

As the French philosopher Deleuze articulates, the output of the scientist is quantitative characterization, the output of the artist is subjective experience, and the output of the philosopher is concepts. Far from being a dusty old topic of the past, philosophy is as vibrant as ever as there are many possibilities in concept innovation that can facilitate a heightened understanding of the world.

What is a Concept?
We can start by asking what is a concept? The dictionary definition of a concept is an abstract idea, a general notion. However bringing specific concepts to mind might not be something we are familiar with doing on a day-to-day basis. Starting to brainstorm some concepts, there seem to be different kinds...

Concepts: Applying to the Self
Some concepts seem practically applicable to the domain of personal experience, how individuals might understand themselves in relation to the world, concepts like karma, flexibility, acceptance, empowerment, self-actualization, extensibility, justice, self-identity, payback, barriers, rules, deferred gratification, and creating community.

Concepts: Phenomena greater than the Self
Another class of concepts seems applicable to phenomena greater than the self, ideas that model what is going on in the world like sustainability, globalization, digital divide, the bottom of the pyramid, the last mile, plasticity, the occupy movement, wearable electronics, the wireless Internet of things, augmented reality, healthspan, quality of life, and crowdfunding.

Concepts: Philosophical Concepts beyond Self and World to Configure a Range of Thinking
For Deleuze, there is another class of concepts, of philosophical concepts that are more extensive than personal and global concepts - a philosophical concept is not an identity condition or proposition, but a metaphysical construction that defines a range of thinking. Some examples of philosophical concepts are Plato's ideal forms of things, Kant's doctrine of our cognitive faculties, and Descartes’s cogito - the philosophic principle that one's existence is demonstrated by the fact that one thinks. As a branch of philosophy, in technology philosophy too, concepts too are defined in this Deleuzian metaphysical construction that defines and invites a range of thinking, some examples are articulated in A Conceptology of Technology Philosophy - Top 20 Technology Philosophy Concepts.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Extreme Data shapes Future Cities

With over 50% of the planet living in cities as of 2008 growing to an expected 75% by 2050 (when the population is estimated to be 9 billion), seamlessly transitioning to cities-of-the-future should be a key planning goal for every urban area. In some countries like the UK, there are strategic initiatives underway to create Future Cities and Smart Cities that include sponsoring hackathons for citizens to work with open urban data, and in other cases research centers are leading efforts such as the MIT Senseable City Lab using the wireless Internet-of-Things (IOT) to sense the real-time city.

Some of the more familiar recent innovations that are starting to pop-up include smart electricity meters, electric car charging stations, on-demand bicycle transport depots, aspirations for vertical farms, and in public transportation: mobile apps with on-demand schedules, journey-planning, and real-time transport information. As another sign of the times, the Oxford English dictionary added the term Internet-of-things in August 2013.

Extreme Urban Data 
The biggest trend reshaping all aspects of our lives, the Big Data Era, is driving a whole new tier of Future Cities and Smart Cities apps connecting big data, open data, statistical processing, and machine learning to user-friendly apps, web services, and other consumable front-ends. Killer Apps could focus on practical improvements to daily life and resource-use: adaptive lighting, smart waste, pest control, hygiene management, eTolls, transport and traffic management, smart grid, asset tracking, and parking. Killer Apps can also be political – using crowdsourced data and social media scrapings to create tools that are the bottom-up sousveillance antidote to top-down surveillance as envisioned in David Brin’s Transparent Society, for example, companies using social media-sourced data to predict country instability in real-time like Cytora.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Digital Literacy: Learning Newtech for its Own Sake

Digital literacy is a new capability and feature of our modern world, where consciously or unconsciously, there is a category in our lives called ‘learning newtech.’

There are two levels: first the basic skill acquisition and conceptual understanding required to learn a newtech, and second, the psychology of the digital learning curve which includes evaluating and justifying the time investment and utility of learning au courrant digital literacy tools with the appreciation that they will be almost immediately obsolescent.

We might complain about the effort required to master contemporary areas of digital literacy like learning mobile app development, the big data statistical manipulation language R, and scripting frameworks like node.js and jQuery. At the same time as we forget our many digital proficiencies, and the time invested to acquire them; previous generations of digital tools like file sharing, photo-uploading, Excel macros, Microsoft Word, PREZI presentations, file archival, and system restoration.

It is arguable that we should devote explicit effort to digital literacy, and further that digital literacy for its own sake could also be an objective. Taking Stanford University as an example, all incoming students must take a software programming class; pedagogically the language requirement is still in place, but it has shifted from French, Spanish, or German to C++, Java, or Python.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Axiologie: An Economy 2.0 Understanding of Valorization

Axiology is a third major branch of philosophy dealing with the study of the nature, types, and criteria of values and of value judgments. Axiology includes valorization, the according of value (or lack of value) to things, and aesthetics, relating to the beauty or pleasing appearance of things. Axiology is often overlooked in favor of its higher-profile philosophical cousins metaphysics, dealing with the nature of existence, and ethics in the 1.0 sense, dealing with rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad.

Axiologie (e.g.; Axiology 2.0)
Axiology 1.0 needs to be extended to Axiology 2.0 or Axiologie in a technology philosophy sense to denote the new kinds of valorization that are present in the shift to Economy 2.0. Economy 2.0 is a world where economic transactions are highly-automated, affinity-based, multi-currency, unobtrusive, and on the way to post-scarcity for material goods.
One of the most visible aspects of the transition to Economy 2.0 is the multi-currency dimension - individuals are increasingly accumulating value in alternative non-monetary currencies such as reputation, authority, attention, intention, time, ideas, creativity, and health.
The multi-currency Economy 2.0 is also called the gift economy, the reputation economy, the attention economy, and the intention economy.

Science fiction has already envisioned future economic worlds where reputation points are the only currency and vary dramatically up and down like video-game points, typically viewable in virtual reality goggle Heads-up-Displays like Cory Doctorow’s whuffie-driven economy in ‘Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.’ Technology philosophy’s Axiologie deals with the acknowledgement, valorization, visibility, invisibility, modes of understanding, transferability, storage, investment, and use of alternative currencies.

Part of an ongoing series of Technology Philosophy Conceptology

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Economics 2.0 Unbounded Upside: Pay-Forward Debit Karma Society

Unbounded upside is a concept applicable to future economics and the economy 2.0, but also the whole future more generally.

So far, in much our human endeavor, we have been oriented around a baseline and the goal of maintaining, achieving, or re-achieving that baseline, completely ignoring all of the possible outcomes on the positive side of the base line.

In finance and credit, loans are made, and the best anyone can hope for is to regain baseline, to have all of the monies repaid, or to achieve an as perfect as possible credit score.

We do not even have terminology for the conceptual opposite of credit, but what would a society based on debit, positive credit, or paid-forward karma look like? 

One vision is considering that in our societies, the financial surplus and resources already exist, and could be apportioned away from bureaucratic programs to instead pay-forward every person a sustainable living allowance each month or year. This would shift the focus to unbounded upside as everyone wonders what can they do not what they have to do for survival.

Regaining baseline is also the paradigm in other areas such as medicine and psychology: cure is returning a pathology to baseline, not going beyond baseline to improved wellness, enhancement, or future prevention. The advent of new fields such as Positive Psychology in the 2000s helps to expose the pervasive baseline mentality and potential expansions therefrom.

As it has been easier and more obvious to focus on reductionist practices in science, so too has been easy and a clear view to focus on the territory below baseline because it is a bounded defined area, whereas above baseline is open and unbounded, in other words, pure opportunity in the most Deleuzian and Bergsonian sense.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Future of Life Sciences: Top 10 List

The next wave of the biotechnology revolution is underway and promises to reshape the world in ways even more transformative than the agricultural, industrial, and information revolutions that preceded it.

It is not unimaginable that at some point, all biological processes, human and otherwise, could be understood and managed directly.

Here is a top ten list of key areas of contemporary advance in life sciences:
  1. Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology 
  2. Regenerative Medicine and 3D Printing 
  3. Genomics, “Omics,” and Preventive Medicine 
  4. Neuroscience 
  5. Nanotechnology 
  6. Big Health Data and Information Visualization 
  7. Quantified Self (QS), Wearable Computing, and the Internet-of-Things (IOT) 
  8. DIYscience, Citizen Science, Participatory Health, and Collective Intelligence 
  9. Aging, Rejuvenation, Health Extension, and Robotics 
  10. Space 
More information: Slideshare talk from the Max Planck Institute

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Subjective Experience and the Existence of Free Will in Bergson

With burgeoning progression in neuroscience projects across a variety of fields including stem cell generation, brain scanning, and natural language processing, the free will / determinism debate remains vibrant. One resource for understanding the problem is French philosopher Henri Bergson and his claim that free will exists, and can be understood through how time and free will are connected.

Henri Bergson lived 1859-1941. 1900s. He was well-known in philosophy and intellectual culture more broadly in the early 1900s, including for anticipating quantum mechanics 30 years ahead of its discovery due to his assessment of time as being asymmetrical. In the 1960s, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze reawakened interest in Bergson, highlighting the importance of Bergson’s concepts regarding multiplicity and difference. Now Bergson continues to be relevant to neuroscience and other areas interested in the understanding of subjective experience, free will, and mind/body dualism. Bergson published three masterworks:
  • Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (1889) arguing in favor of free will 
  • Matter and Memory (1896) resolving mind/body dualism with a larger problem frame taking both dimensions into account 
  • Creative Evolution (1907) linking the idea of the time as energy and the energy of time to evolution 
Linking Time and Free Will 
According to Bergson in Time and Free Will, and as explicated by Suzanne Guerlac in Thinking in Time, we cannot treat the inner world of consciousness and subjective experience with the same model we use to understand the physical world. We need to purify concepts from their objective scientific use for the purpose of examining subjective experience, where the important features are the intensity of qualities, the multiplicity of overlapping mental states, and duration, the lived experience of time. Time is a force because it has a causal role in experiences not being the same each time, or over time, and in allowing experiences to accumulate through memory. Time is therefore a force, but an internal force not subject to the laws of nature as external forces. Exactly because time is not governed by mechanistic external forces, it allows room for the exercise of free will. The force of time makes free will possible and we exercise it when we are living in time, tuned into our subjective experience, and acting passionately and decisively. A more accurate conceptualization of our freedom is not in deciding between two alternatives but rather in experiencing free actions carving themselves out of our hesitation as we plunder though the constant becoming of life. 

Further explanation: YouTube video

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What is Technology Philosophy?

Technology Philosophy is using philosophy to improve the rigor of our thinking and proactively address issues as we create technology. Ideally our technology and biotechnology developments will open up new possibilities for humanity and the world.

Technology Philosophy is specifically not the 'philosophy of technology' which is in large part a retroactive and passive chronicle of activity in science and technology.

The affirmatory field of Technology Philosophy uses philosophy to theorize and create the development of novel science and technology.

More information: Technology Philosophy YouTube videos

Monday, August 19, 2013

Artworld's Reaction to Citizen Art: not like Science and DIYscience

Considering the tradition of the highly-regarded place of science in society and the venerated scientific method, it is surprising that the ScienceWorld has deigned to notice Citizen Science and DIYscience efforts. Initially, the reaction of science may have generally been to dismiss citizen science, however, in many cases, perspectives shifted to wondering how to collaborate with citizen science efforts and how low-cost world-wide accessible Internet models could help to crowdsource study participants, data analysis, and other aspects of studies. The ecosystem became a continuum ranging from institutional science ('high science') to the individual n=1 quantified self experimenter ('citizen science as the venture capital arm (e.g.; starter, feeder, interest-surfacer) of science').(More)

Now the advent of new media has democratized the tools for art production. It is much easier for individuals to express themselves creatively in many different digital art venues and genres. Some of the tools that facilitate individual and collaborative creativity include Garage Band, SoundCloud, Pinterest, the Spore creature creator, blogs, Twitter, and virtual worlds. It is therefore timely to ask about the ArtWorld's (e.g.; insiders: artists, museums, critics) potential reaction to Citizen Art. As opposed the ScienceWorld's reaction to Citizen Science, the ArtWorld's reaction to Citizen Art could be much more complex. This is because art has been, and may always be something contentious. Key questions remain unsettled and even more pronounced with new media and digital art:
  • what is art? 
  • who can do art? 
  • who can determine what is art? 
  • what is the consecration process for art? 
  • what is the societal and political role of art? what is the role of art as critique (of art, society, politics, etc.)? 
  • is art autonomous from society? 
  • what does the commercialization of art mean? 
Precisely because it is art, and not science, the acceptance of Citizen Art by the ArtWorld is much more nuanced than the tangible and quantitative nature of science, including Citizen Science, that makes results demonstrable. What is at stake is also more nebulous, although some new genres of digital art like SciArt, itself a mix of science and art, may be earlier to be acknowledged by the ArtWorld. (More)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Killer Apps of Cognitive Nanorobotics

One of the most fun parts of thinking about nanocognition and cognitive nanorobotics is imagining the killer apps that we might have! 
  1. Bias Reduction - The first and most obvious killer app is bias reduction, helping to identify and reduce the many cognitive biases of humans including loss aversion, overconfidence, confirmation, rationalization, neglecting probability, and hindsight biases. 
  2. Memory Management - A second killer app is memory management – both accessing the right memories at the right time (and including possibly augmenting real memories with Internet-accessible personal or general data), and blocking access to memories, for example in trauma resolution or to consider issues cleanly and not fall into sunk cost or other cognitive traps. 
  3. Desire, Values, and Utility Optimization - The third killer app is the ability to elicit and optimize value systems, utility functions, and desires - using cognitive nanorobots to evoke personal values profiles and manage mental state and behavior for greater fulfillment. 
  4. Perceptual Augmentation - A fourth killer app is perceptual augmentation – using cognitive nanorobots to amplify subjective experience – to give us a way to see multiple realities simultaneously, and to see and think in time instead of space, and to see movement in both time and space. 
  5. POV Apps - A fifth killer app is POV apps (point-of view apps) – a whole new class of apps based on the functionality of being able to see the points of view of others (per their permission). The advent of Google Glass suggests that this is not that far away. There could be the Negotiator App to look for areas of common ground between people in conflict or potential conflict, or the Art Appreciation App as articulated in Greg Egan's 'Diaspora' to try on the different aesthetics perspectives of your friends, there can be endless new permutations of Garage Band simply starting from “here, let me share my HUD.” 
 More: YouTube Video, Presentation

Monday, July 29, 2013

Smartwatch Killer App: Meeting Entertainment!

Smartwatches have popped onto the scene and just like tablets (the world’s fastest adopted platform, even faster than the cell phone), the key killer app that could drive extremely fast penetration is…meeting entertainment! Like tablets, smartwatches (less obtrusively worn with the face on the inside of the wrist) are socially-acceptable gadgetry to attend to during meetings, and serve as a real-time notification and entertainment console. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Real Question is How to Further Develop Autism-related Skills

On the topic of autism, the two biggest areas of societal focus are first, the growing population of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) individuals (1/88 live births in the US; 66% college graduates on the ASD spectrum are unemployed), and second, providing resources for normalizing ASD individuals into day-to-day life activities such as work, housing, and dating.

However, there is a more forward-looking neurodiversity view of ASD. Two key points:
  • ASD is a growing societal trend, and it is unclear what this means to humanity overall
  • Part of the ASD disposition is is a unique and profound skillset, and it is a question as to what this means for the possible mental tasks and undertakings of humans
What would it be to focus on the further development of ASD skillsets in individuals as opposed to (or perhaps in opposition to) exclusive ‘normalization’ to neurotypic standards. If ASD individuals can do certain kinds of projects well (e.g.; like focusing intensively a single detailed topic, and finding patterns and exceptions), what can they do really well, and enjoy developing more fully.

One of the first deployments of the ASD skillset is commercial, in software programming where employers are well aware of the benefit of 3% error rates in computer code created by ASD programmers (vs. 18% by neurotypical programmers). Job sites like NonPareil, Semperical, and Specialists Guild are already catering to ASD programming skills. 

A more comprehensive suite of employment-related services for the ASD market was presented at the Autism Hackathon held in San Francisco July 20-21, 2013 by MindFlower. MindFlower is the idea for an eLabor marketplace that proposes to offer two kinds of ASD-skillset related activities: Mechanical Turk-like projects in the vertical markets of big data analysis, life sciences omics, and patent and literature search, and Kaggle-like data science competitions on supercomputer-unsolvable problems. Spectrum skill assessment and development are other features of the site, along with ASD-friendly advertising.

CNET article covering the event is here
Image credit: Kimberly Pickard

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Future of Collaboration

The Future of Collaboration hackathon was held intercontinentally in Silicon Valley and India on July 12 and 13, 2013. While demos necessarily focused on technical solutions (using communication-based APIs from WebRTC, Media Network Services, vLine, and Twilio (most of which do not yet work on most au courant wearbles computing platforms)), several other interesting qualitative considerations arose.

E-labor Marketplaces for Teams or Groups 
One team proposed the idea of elabor marketplaces for teams or groups. This could engender a new conceptualization of ratings regarding qualitative factors (for dating, friends, employer recruiting) – to develop a more specific understanding of how teams work well together. New dimensions and metrics could be articulated to provide detail about team forming, storming, and norming steps, group dynamics, how people develop affinity and respect for each other, and intrinsic and extrinsic reward systems.

Live Interaction MOOCs (massive open online course platforms) 
Another team suggested the next wave of functionality for online elearning environments: live interaction with two-way video for group discussions. Similar to elabor marketplaces for groups, the concept of the new functionality brings the underlying activity into sharper relief. Here the underlying activity shifts to ‘what it is to be a good discussant’ - the different qualities and roles that discussion participants may exhibit, become explicitly aware of, and improve. Some examples of good discussant skills are restating the issue, extending the topic in useful ways, bringing in resources and examples, empathizing, engaging in active listening, encouraging others to state their views, peer acknowledgement, and topic closure. One can imagine the ‘Top 10 Discussant Qualities’ certificate that could be peer-evaluated and useful to list on a resume or sought by employment recruiters.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ethics of Perception and Nanocognition (Nanorobot-aided Cognition)

It is not too soon to consider what kinds of ethics nanorobotic cognitive aids should have, and what kinds of ethics our QS (quantified self) gadgetry in general should have. Ethics is meant in an Ethics 2.0 sense of enablement, empowerment, and coordination of new ways of living as opposed to an Ethics 1.0 sense of judging and circumscribing behavior.

Cognitive nanorobots, an analog to medical nanorobots, could have applications in cognitive enhancement and perceptual aid such as bias reduction, memory management (access, suppression), and personalized ethics optimization.

In defining an ethics of perception, a number of core philosophical questions arise such as the possibility and desirability of knowing a true and objective reality, and selecting different realities.

Hear more and discuss this topic:
"Ethics of Perception and Nanocognition (Nanorobot-aided Cognition)" Terasem's 9th Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology, July 20, 2013, 1PM – 4PM EDT, Terasem Island, Second Life

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Web Analytics: a Precursor to Cognitive Enhancement

Any sufficiently complex, rapidly-responding, and self-adjusting computer system is sometimes heralded as the place that “AI could wake up,” but could be seen more broadly as the venue of algorithm development that might have extensive applicability, including for cognitive enhancement.

Some exemplar complex modern computing systems include big data analytics, high-frequency trading operations, multiplayer video game networks, weather-modeling systems, and now…mobile and web analytics. These latter platforms are becoming increasingly sophisticated, continually updating actual and predicted user behavior data and delivering this information in real-time. Web property owners can watch live engagement with their websites in a heads-up display (HUD) overlay on web pages, as Chartbeat demonstrated at an API-related mini-hackathon at their NYC offices on June 29, 2013.

Some of the most prominent mobile and web analytics companies currently include Google Analytics, Chartbeat, MixPanel, KISSmetrics, Omniture, and Visual Revenue.

The 800 pound gorilla of online metrics is the eCommerce use case, using metrics in endless iterations of A/B testing (e.g.; does version A or B of the website produce more click-throughs and product purchases?) However, it is now increasingly important to measure other kinds of web experiences, for example news consumption where the key metric is engagement time as opposed to a simple link click-through. The type of interaction is also important, where the user spends time on the page, and the type of engagement activity such as reading, commenting, and sharing/referring.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Interconnected Big Data World: API Services Marketplaces

A feature of the data-driven modern world is different companies (e.g.; Walgreens, BestBuy) and web properties (e.g.; eBay) offering access to their data and services via API (application programming interface).

In some part an ingenious crowdsourcing ploy and more broadly having the effect of enmeshing even more deeply the interconnected data world, API access requires a lot of coordination.

A new market segment, API management services, has sprung up to facilitate both public and private (white-label) access. Some of the leading companies in the segment include: Mashape, the cloud API platform, offering developer access to hundreds of APIs, Mashery (acquired by Intel in April 2013), an API network with standardized and richly-documented access to over 50 APIs, and Apigee, a leading provider of API services for enterprises and developers. Other related companies include 3scale, WebServius, and Layer 7 Technologies. A related company Zapier enables task-automation between online services like Salesforce, Basecamp, and Gmail.

API management services are growing marketplaces for the management, distribution, and consumption of APIs. Developers gain the ability to have a standard interface for quickly accessing and working with data from hundreds of sources. Web properties and corporations gain a standardized and outsourced management solution to coordinate external developer interactions and extend their ecosystems.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Technology vs. Free Will? Tuning into the Internal Qualitative Experience of Time

Henri Bergson, the French philosopher, was living and writing in a time (early 1900s) similar to today where the furious pace of innovation in science and technology was promising to elucidate the deepest secrets of the world such as how the mind works.

Determinism Victory from the Application of Quantitative Methods? 
As the social sciences gelled into departments of academic study unto themselves and sought to apply techniques from the hard sciences, Bergson became concerned about the potential loss of free will and a victory for determinism. Humans might be reduced to billiard balls in the sense that if human behavior could be predicted mechanistically like that of a billiard ball, it would mean that humans would lose their liberty and free will.

Doublings: Experiences with both Inner Qualitative Subjectivity and External Quantitative Objectivity
Bergson proposed that there are several concepts that are different in our internal experience (qualitative, subjective) than in our external experience of the world (quantitative, objective). This difference between internal and external experience (called a doubling) exists in areas like time, intensity, multiplicity, duration, self, and consciousness. The external aspects can be measured quantitatively, but the internal aspects cannot, they are states that overlap, merge into one another, and emerge and recede dynamically.

Prescription: Tune into the Qualitative Aspects of Inner Experience
To Bergson, freedom is most visible in spontaneity, the ability of a person to choose spontaneous action. To maintain free will, one should tune into the qualitative aspects of internal experience, understanding concepts like time as a qualitative overlap and ebb and flow of states dynamically, energetically. Bergson’s nomenclature for inner qualitative time is ‘duration’ as opposed to external quantitative ‘time’ – this is the difference between the sense of waiting for a train to arrive (qualitative) versus the time elapsing on the clock. Being attuned to the qualitative aspects of time, one can live more spontaneously.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

DIY Philosophy: Crowd Models to Democratize Participatory Thinking

The model for computing and info tech exploded with the PC and the Internet – democratizing the field across all strata and making it accessible to any interested individual. The worldwide technology and startup industry has boomed and proliferated as a result. DIY science is doing the same for crowdsourced labor, quantified self-tracking, biology hacking, and the shift to the 21st century health paradigm of preventive medicine. The field of philosophy is ripe for similar democratization – some tip-offs are that it is one of the few remaining areas comprised primarily of white males, and where memorization is still important.

Philosophy Improves Sophistication of Modern Thinking 
Philosophy is the sport of thinking – one of its great benefits is its broad applicability beyond the dusty academic discipline to one’s own personal thinking and lifestyle. A key contemporary use of philosophy is in helping to provide a deeper and more sophisticated means of understanding our fast-paced technologized modern world and our place therein. Many people are interested in philosophy but few have the affordance or interest for full-time involvement which has seemed to have been required given the notorious density and inaccessibility of philosophical works.

Crowd Models Facilitating Philosophy Accessibility 
Crowd models (analogous to the PC revolution) are starting to change the former inaccessibility of philosophy. Philosophy courses and reading groups are popping up at free public universities (the Public School, the University of the Commons), podcasts are acquiring significant listenership, and online communities and publications have growing participatory audiences (e.g.; e-Flux, Plasticities Sciences Arts).

FQXi for Philosophy
While there are some research institutes supporting philosophy like the University of London's Institute of Philosophy, one next step in creating the more overt sensibility of the DIY philosopher as the analog to the DIY scientist and software hacker would be to have Philosophy Research Institutes that specifically promote DIY philosopher participation through essay contests, conferences, and other acknowledgement and community-building activities – an FQXi (e.g.; a research institute encouraging speculative innovation in physics and cosmology) for philosophy is needed.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sensor Mania – The SmartWatch Arrives

The wireless Internet of Things is slowly rolling out – smartwatches (Pebble, Basis) have been some prominent arrivals alongside Google Glass.

A variety of two-way communication from each device type has been a quickly realized need that is starting to appear in SDKs and APIs. Pebble in particular is doing a lot to stimulate use and application development through developer community resources, an online codesharing cloud, meetups, and hackathon events.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the smartwatch rollout and actual use in applications (Figure 1) is the notion of a [seamless] interoperable computing system where the smartwatch, cell phone, and PC communicate together and perform different operations at different times like message alerts and data syncing. A future with a distributed on-board (e.g.; on-human) computing environment can be imagined with many different special purpose devices providing key functionality, all communicating with a utility device for power and connectivity.

Figure 1: Pebble Watch Faces / Apps

Sunday, May 26, 2013

AAAI 2014: Connecting Machine Learning and Human Intelligence

The AAAI Spring Symposia are a place for worldwide artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other computer scientists to present and discuss innovative theoretical research in a workshop-like environment. In 2013, some of the topics included: learning, autonomous systems, wellness, crowd computing, behavior change, and creativity.

Proposals are underway for 2014. Please indicate your opinion by voting at the poll at the top right for these potential topics:
  • My data identity: personal, social, universal 
  • Big data becomes personal: knowledge into meaning 
  • Wearable computing and digital affect: wellness, bioidentity, and intentionality 
  • Big data, wearable computing, and identity construction: knowledge becomes meaning 
  • Personalized knowledge generation: identity, intentionality, action, and wellness

Monday, May 20, 2013

Innovation in Epistemology

Rather than being a dusty old concept in philosophy, epistemology is a source of philosophical advance, and is perhaps shifting in some even more vibrant ways per the contemporary science and technology era of big data, information visualization, synthetic biology, biohacking, DIYscience, and the quantified self.

Epistemology (the study of knowledge) is one of the three main branches of philosophy, together with metaphysics (nature of reality), and aesthetics (nature of beauty). The study of knowledge remains one of the most dense and unresolved areas in philosophy. Some of the usual concerns of epistemology are: What is knowledge? How can knowledge be acquired? To what extent can any subject or entity be known? What are the limits of knowledge?

There are two main traditional theories as to how knowledge is obtained: either through the senses and perception (empiricism; e.g.; Locke’s “All ideas come from sensation”) or through reason (rationalism; e.g.; Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”).

There has been much movement in epistemology from the basic structure of this empiricism-rationalism debate. Both empiricism and rationalism seek common foundations upon which all other ideas are built (foundationalism). Foundationalism is problematic in several ways, two of the most basic are ‘what are these underlying foundations?’ and ‘how do these foundations connect to upstream ideas?’ Traditional/analytic philosophers propose coherentism as an alternative to foundationalism. Coherentism is the notion of it being more important that ideas make sense together and flow from one to the next than that they have immutable discernible foundations.

Continental philosophy too has a response to foundationalism and other aspects of the empiricst/rationalist debate. Gadamer enlarges the notion of epistemology, suggesting that discovering facts is just one of many edification activities; that man’s focus is self-betterment, a higher level than knowledge acquisition. Likewise Heidegger thinks that the higher-order engagement of man is beyond knowing facts and rather in understanding. Further that the circular structure of interpretation (the hermeneutic circle: acquiring new information and updating thoughts) is what makes knowledge possible. Rorty also calls for a larger, more holistic notion of epistemology that includes both conceptualization and the demonstration of practice.

Other new epistemologies also extend, reformulate and reinvigorate our understanding of epistemology and can be brought to bear on contemporary science and technology. Some of these alt.epistemologies are from the areas of social, feminist, queer, decolonial, and Eastern philosophy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pluralist Narratives in Digital Art and Philosophy

Much of contemporary human endeavor involves both art and technology. Objects are both technologized and aesthetically designed. Apple forever changed the expectation of high-quality technology and design in objects. Information visualization, 3-D printing, personal data, video games, and de novo biological design (e.g.; proteins, other molecules, synthetic biology) are some examples of the strong linkage between technology and aesthetic design.

Artists, scientists, and individuals alike are exploring these new venues of information, software, personal data, biology, and virtual reality for discovery and creative expression. Online tools facilitate the process and compress the required learning curves for proficiency.

As a result, there is a shift away from the institutional production of knowledge to include the more democratized production of art, science, technology, objects, and knowledge by individuals and crowds. This helps to enact change at three levels: a greater range of interesting and useful objects and technologies coming into existence; more fulfillment and expression of human creative potential; and new kinds of knowledge and meaning-making narratives about the world.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Friendship 2.0

The new mindfulness extends to every area of life. Communication and romantic relationships often exist now on much improved ground compared to even a few years ago. Now friendship is under the spotlight.

The new idea is becoming more active instead of passive with regard to friendships: learning and acknowledging that friendships are a dynamic process that needs deliberate focus and ongoing tending. At least two new genre-pioneering books are on the scene: Friendships Don’t Just Happen! and The Friendship Fix. The books are aimed at women, but have broadly applicable themes. The attendant friendship development meetup groups, workshops, and conferences are already popping up to help hone the new skillset.

Some obvious Friendship 2.0 things to examine and sync with friends and potential friends are your and their friendship rules. These are your potentially unconscious rules for how you think a friend should behave. Just like with unexamined relationship rules, friendship rules are likely to differ and could cause conflict. Stating expectations is one way to communicate intent and boundaries. The books suggest determining what is most important to you in a friendship – for example, sharing values, experiences, or interests. The more kinds of points of overlap (if possible), the better; but one cannot be overly perfectionist about the criteria list either. There are different steps to follow in identifying and cultivating friendships. Overall, Friendship 2.0 has an exciting esprit of empowerment and possibility for experiencing more fun and life fulfillment through friendships.

An obvious critique might be ‘Is Friendship 2.0 YASFSM (Yet another San Francisco Social Movement)?’ San Francisco is not just the home of technology innovation, but also social innovation. Numerous social movements, if not spawned in San Francisco have been taken up, popularized, and made more acceptable in the Bay Area. A few of these include: co-working, co-housing, hackathons, biohacking, DIY science, unconferences, polyamory, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism, queer theory, happiness, calming tech, persuasive tech, spiritual intelligence, and mindfulness. Shifting models in romantic relationships, longevity, and the mobile fungible lives of the modern individual suggest that Friendship 2.0 could just be starting as a deeply relevant social concept.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quantified Self Fourth Person Perspective and Self 2.0

Quantified self trackers1 are having an increasingly intimate relationship with technology and data flow in mediating their experience of reality. Technology effectively opens up a new perspective (as vaunted by Nietzsche), a fourth person perspective – a new and objective view of the self, possibly on the road to creating the overself (self 2.0). An important and radical aspect of quantified self (QS) activity is its inherent linkage of the former binary of quantified and qualified in three important ways:

1) The QS Act Itself 
The very act of QS’ing fundamentally includes both the collection of objective metrics data and the subjective experience of the impact of these data

2) QS’ing the Qualitative 
QS methods are now being applied to the tracking of (formerly objectively inaccessible) qualitative phenomena such as mood (e.g.; tracking qualitative word descriptors or mapping subjective experience onto quantitative scales)

3) Quant-Qual are part of a Larger Phenomenon 
To understand QS’ing is to see that it is part of a larger more complex process in which the quantified data collection and the qualitative experience of the data are nodes in feedback loops for behavior change. Data, information, understanding, and action are constituent parts of the looping process

1Quantified self activity: the self-tracking of any kind of biological, physical, behavioral, or environmental information, often with a proactive stance towards action

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Venter's Deep Linkage: Microbiome, Synbio, Genomics, and Computing

As usual, Craig Venter’s remarks on April 16, 2013 at UC Berkeley did not disappoint - they were inspirational, informative, and demonstrative of progress. Of note is the multidisciplinarity amongst different branches of his labs’ work, for example using synthetic DNA to perform genomic error correction in stem cell operations, genome transplantation between yeast and bacterial species, and linking microbiome activities to pathology and synthetic biology/biofuel synthesis. Some key points were:
  • Microbiome – YASP (yet another sequencing problem) – While the human genome is currently thought to contain about 42,000 genes, the microbiome has 10 million genes across diverse phyla, taxa, and species 
  • Biofuel – to obtain engineered algae with the desired phenotype that would be a viable alternative to oil, 300 parameters must be engineered 
  • Gene function – even in the minimal genome for Mycoplasma genitalium, there are 50 genes whose function is unknown 
  • New gene discovery – so far in general scientific discovery, 80 million genes have been found, 95% from ocean water sampling; again in these ‘design components for the future,’ function is unknown 
  • ‘Digital phenotype’ is needed for health advance and big health data stream integration – an extended EMR with standardized transmittable digital data for all manner of phenotypic data, both phenotype 1.0 (e.g.; health history, prescriptions, lab results, etc.) and phenotype 2.0 (e.g.; digital omics profiles like proteomics and metabolomics).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Human Microbiome: Futurist Augmentation Platform

The human microbiome is essential in working symbiotically with the human (and indeed all animals) for nutrient synthesis and pathology prevention. However, the large numbers of microbial populations are complicated and dynamic which makes it challenging to profile their activity and construct meaningful interventions. The 14th Annual Microbiology Student Symposium, held at UC Berkeley on April13, 2013 addressed some of these issues (conference program). 

There is tremendous microbiomic variation between individuals – a person’s gut microbiomic signature is perhaps as uniquely distinguishable as a fingerprint. There may be variability within the individual too, but there is a strong trend to persistent populations over time. The microbiome adjusts quickly to dietary and environmental change, within a day, and can shift back just as quickly. If certain populations are wiped out, other substitute species within the same taxa or phylum may emerge to (supposedly) fulfill a similar function. Pathology conditions like Crohn’s disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS, IBD) are likely to mean the dysbiosis (e.g.; microbial imbalance) of the whole biosystem (not just are certain disease-related bacterial populations elevated, but mitigating populations may be much lower. Given the complexity of the microbiome with thousands of species across tax and phyla, machine learning techniques may be useful in combining a series of weak signals into a prognostication as the SLiME Project in the Eric Alm lab at MIT has done, claiming to predict IBD as accurately as other non-invasive methods.

In the longer term, the microbiome could be the perfect platform for many different less-invasive augmentations for the human - bringing on board micro-connectivity, memory, processing, and electronic storage (Google Gut Glass?), with applications such as real-time life-tracking and quantified-self monitoring and intervention.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Identity Authentication and Security Access 2.0

Identity needs to be authenticated in more granular, flexible, real-time ways as digital venues expand and the physical world becomes more digitalized. Technology is now making it possible to rethink and provide a 2.0 update to the whole area of identity authentication and security access services.

The ubiquity of cell phones, and increasingly smartphones, means that many forms of identity authentication can be moved from costly and easy-to-lose physical ID cards to mobile access platforms. QR codes, NFC, and other wireless-based technologies are already starting to be used for security authentication and single-use sign-on for website access.

Work identity badges, hospital access badges, and government and school IDs are examples of physical-world ID cards that can be moved to smartphone ID cards. Likewise many services linking identity authentication to resource-access and mobile payment can be automated, for example, event tickets, work conference room reservation and access, medical equipment and pharmaceutical inventory access, and rental car and hotel check-in and resource access. Digital ID cards can incorporate multi-factor authentication: for example, the visual look, a custom sound or image elicited upon being tapped, or information returned from an external server as the QR code is read.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

What's new in AI? Trust, Creativity, and Shikake

The AAAI spring symposia held at Stanford University in March provide a nice look at the potpourri of innovative projects in process around the world by academic researchers in the artificial intelligence field. This year’s eight tracks can be grouped into two overall categories: those that focus on computer-self interaction or computer-computer interaction, and those that focus on human-computer interaction or human sociological phenomena as listed below.

Computer self-interaction or computer-computer interaction (Link to details)
  • Designing Intelligent Robots: Reintegrating AI II 
  • Lifelong Machine Learning 
  • Trust and Autonomous Systems 
  • Weakly Supervised Learning from Multimedia
Human-computer interaction or human sociological phenomena (Link to details)
  • Analyzing Microtext 
  • Creativity and (Early) Cognitive Development 
  • Data Driven Wellness: From Self-Tracking to Behavior Change 
  • Shikakeology: Designing Triggers for Behavior Change 
This last topic, Shikakeology, is an interesting new category that is completely on-trend with the growing smart matter, Internet-of-things, Quantified Self, Habit Design, and Continuous Monitoring movements. Shikake is a Japanese concept, where physical objects are embedded with sensors to trigger a physical or psychological behavior change. An example would be a trash can playing an appreciative sound to encourage litter to be deposited.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gaming Apps to Unlock Video Archive Footage

One of the leading digital media foundations in the San Francisco Bay Area, GAFFTA, the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, held a hackathon for film-makers and developers March 21-23, 2013. The challenge was to come up with new uses for open-source video archive footage (for example from the Internet Archive).

One idea would be to merge mobile gaming, crowdsourcing, and video archives to make the archives a fun and accessible tool for telling new stories. Here are some app ideas:

App: This is not my story!
In this gaming app, person 1 (whose image or profile photo is shown) selects a video micro-clip that he or she feels is ‘not my story.’ Then person 2, matched randomly from the crowd of the app’s community members, adds a short caption to the video as to why the video micro-clip is not that person’s story. Humor would be tantamount. Other community crowd members could validate the caption (e.g.; police spam), and vote on it with ‘likes’ to determine game winners.

App: PostSecret Video
This gaming app is the video version of the successful, strikingly poignant, and deeply human PostSecret project. PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard which are then posted on the web and compiled and published as books. Instead of sending anonymous postcards with ‘my secret,’ anonymous participants would find a video micro-clip that corresponds to their secret. Other community members would guess what the secret is from the video micro-clip.

App: Exquisite Video Corpse Again taking advantage of the community to create crowd art, this gaming app uses the exquisite corpse technique invented by the surrealists. In a group story telling exercise, the first person selects a video micro-clip. The second selects a second video micro-clip that is the next few frames of the story. The third selects the third, and so on. Each new person selecting can only see the story 1-2 nodes back. Again the crowd could vote on newly created video stories.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Omnivorous Learning

The Learning Mode: Critical Issues in Online Education at UC Berkeley March 15-16, 2013 squarely addressed the future of learning. Most obvious from this examination of the future of learning is that the same transition is underway that has happened in many other industries such as music, publishing, and personal communications, and is still wanting in public health. The effect of technology on the industry is to enable more categories of participation to be defined and a wider spectrum of outcomes to be achieved. Overall this points to an inherently democratizing and empowering influence of technology.

Another theme (as discussed in the book Why School?) is that education systems were developed in a different era when teachers, knowledge, and information were scarce, and that is no longer the case. There are many more choices for self, expert-based, and peer-based learning, in real-time on-demand and time-shifted venues. MOOC (massive open online course) platforms like Coursera, Udacity, edX, and Class Central (a MOOC aggregator) have been growing and adding credentialing and course curation functionality. Other learning tools include podcasts, Khan Academy and YouTube videos, and Lumosity’s cognitive performance brain trainer.

A third theme is that the value chain for learning is becoming more granularly stratified. Learners are of all ages and backgrounds and have diverse educational objectives with are being supported with a variety of in-person, online, and mobile instruction tools.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What are the Next Media for Art?

Any prominent societal ‘currency’ is taken up by artists (and technologists and engineers) as an experimental medium. "Every culture will use the maximum level of technology available to it to make art" - Scott Draves, Generative Artist.

Recent societal currencies of prominence and dominance have included technology, information, biology, and raw data. All have been taken up by artists, scientists, laypersons, and other practitioners through the ease of widely available Internet-based tools (Examples in Figure 1).

The question would obviously arise as to ‘What are the next media for art?’ (e.g.; the continually new New Media). One way to answer is to prognosticate upcoming societal currencies. Some advancing societal currencies could be 3D printing feedstock (already starting to be exploited as an artistic medium), and pink goo – having more granularity and diversity of categories in synthetic biology.