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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Sentient Spaces’

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    Ronald van Tienhoven – Techno Animism

    Once upon a time animism ruled people’s beliefs: both organisms and objects were imbued with a conscience. Artist Ronald van Tienhoven states that as technology closes the gap between organisms and objects, a new form of techno-animism arises.

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    Macbook Pro Fragrance

    Nothing beats the factory-scent of expensive, freshly unboxed technology! Artist group Greatest Hits produced the Apple Unboxing Scent for use at an exhibition in Melbourne, where it will be diffused for the visitors at West Space – Level 1, 225 Bourke Street – April 20th – May 12th.

    “A distinctive scent can be observed when unwrapping a newly purchased Apple product from its packaging. Apple fans will certainly recognize this smell. The scent created for Greatest Hits encompasses the smell of the plastic wrap covering the box, printed ink on the cardboard, the smell of paper and plastic components within the box and of course the aluminum laptop which has come straight from the factory where it was assembled in China.”

    For centuries mother nature has been the inspiration to the perfume makers. Our perfumes make us smell like lavender fields or cool breezes. Even our sweat smells rollicking. Nowadays one could question whether there is such thing as “natural odor”. Seen from this perspective, it is only logical that concepts like these, prelude the coming of a new era where the fusion of man and technology is accepted and common. This must be what NextNature smells like!

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    Internet Traffic is now 51% Non-Human

    So you thought the Internet was made by and for people? Think again. A study by Incapsula, a provider of cloud-based security for web sites (mind you where this data comes from), concludes that 51% of all Internet traffic is generated by non-human sources such as hacking software, scrapers and automated spam mechanisms. While 20% of the 51% non-human traffic is’ good’, the 31% majority of this non-human traffic is potentially malicious.

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    The future of Assisted Living

    Arjen Born, a Dutch Photographer, envisions the future of assisted living through hilarious and moving photographs.

    Photography often reside in the realm of the nostalgic past, but Arjen dares to look forward. He does not question if robots will assist us in our daily life, he questions how robots will do this.

    Via GUP

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    Any Sufficiently Advanced Civilization is Indistinguishable from Nature

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” [1]

    In Western cultures, nature is a cosmological, primal ordering force and a terrestrial condition that exists in the absence of human beings. Both meanings are freely implied in everyday conversation. We distinguish ourselves from the natural world by manipulating our environment through technology. In What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly proposes that technology behaves as a form of meta-nature, which has greater potential for cultural change than the evolutionary powers of the organic world alone.

    With the advent of ‘living technologies’ [2], which possess some of the properties of living systems but are not ‘truly’ alive, a new understanding of our relationship to the natural and designed world is imminent. This change in perspective is encapsulated in Koert Van Mensvoort’s term ‘next nature’, which implies thinking ‘ecologically’, rather than ‘mechanically’. The implications of next nature are profound, and will shape our appreciation of humanity and influence the world around us.

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    Humanthesizer

    The human body as an instrument is a cool example of how culture and nature are merging. Calvin Harris used a giant human synthesizer to perform his single. The material used is Conductive Ink, a material technology that delivers a new platform for non-toxic flexible electronics. Bare is unique among conductive inks because it is non-toxic, flexible, water soluble, and cures at room temperature.

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    Via Creative Review, Denkbeeldenstorm.

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    Feel-o-Meter Feels for a Whole City

    In cities across Germany, Big Brother looks like a smiley face. The Fühlometer, a piece by Julius von Bismarck, Benjamin Maus, and Richard Wilhelmer, uses security cameras and sophisticated software to ‘read’ the faces of pedestrians, and then categorize them according to their emotions. The giant robot mirrors the mood of the city’s inhabitants, and perhaps encourages them to put on a happy face… or else.

    Via Io9

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  • Tweenbots

    Sympathy for the Device

    Tweenbots are small robots that depend on the kindness of strangers. They are only able to move straight forward and do this constantly. Once they get stuck in a hole or at a curb, surrounding people have to move, turn or tilt them to have them reach their destination. Every Tweenbot arrived sooner or later at the address on its label. This implies that people were eager to help this little fellah with its big smiling face. But why are people doing this? Be it due to the instincts to help and protect inferior beings, politeness or empathy – these are all behavioral patterns seen in human relationships rather than interactions with objects.

    On the contrary, users freak out if their high-end laptop is not working instantaneously, but have understanding for this dull cardboard robot. Passers-by turn away if another human needs help, but advising this robot “you can’t go this way, it’s toward the road” or walk it with their umbrella to protect it from rain. This experimental device unveils deeply rooted behavioral patterns, which are normally overruled by culture. It is amazing to see how this little piece of technology breaks through that wall and naturalizes our culture for the blink of an eye – welcome to next nature, Neanderthals.

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    Augmented Cat beats Dog

    Normally a house cat would not stand a chance against a dangerous pit-bull dog. But with a little help of an electric vacuum cleaning robot, supersmart cat Max-Arthur emancipates himself from its presumed fate. Don’t you just love it when old nature and nextnature come together?!

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  • Who Watches the Watchers?

    In The Watchers, the creative geniuses at Studio Smack picture a world where surveillance systems don’t just watch us – they actively judge.  Are you a green-coded Conformist or a red-alert Intellectual? The tone is paranoid, but it’s a vivid reminder that our technological systems make us as much as we make them. Autonomous algorithms already control our economy, our internet, and our vacuum cleaners. It’s not a stretch to imagine that autonomous cameras will control our security and social spaces. Make sure to wait for the twist ending.

    Studio Smack has previously been featured here for Pimp My Planet, Transparency Suit and the utterly eerie Kapitaal. Check out more of their work at the Next Nature Power Show on Saturday.

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    Information Decoration Scarf

    Remember the Information Decoration essay which argued our so-called information society barely employs our human bandwidth, as most of the data in our lives is presented in square, electronic screens – rather than using the richness of patterns in our environment as information carrier?

    Over time, Information Decoration grew into a design methodology that is applied in numerous times and places. As it would be against its own argument to read the original essay on a computer screen, the text is now also available on an elegant 100% silk scarf. Designed by Mieke Gerritzen.

    Run click to the store and toast your neck with it for 69 euro.

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    Trading Humans for Trading Algorithms

    The economic system and profit motive has been a driving force that steers and even dictates social change. Investors and stockbrokers have been a major influence to these social changes, as they decide where money is allocated to serve a specific function. The reason why money is invested in some rather than other businesses isn’t always related to evidence that any given company will do better than the other. Rumors and trading floor gossip sometimes fuel speculations that reap major profits for some and painful losses for others. Losses that could mean the termination of jobs. Of course investment and successive financial gains can also lead to job losses, mostly due to automation where machines replace human workers.

    Now in a strange yet somewhat satisfactory twist of irony, the people who have been making money out of money, have a growing chance of being replaced by faster and cheaper algorithms that can do their jobs better.

    “The Foresight Project” by the “Government Office for Science” of the United Kingdom produced a report called “The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets” which investigates the trends of computer trading and its effects on financial markets. One of these effects is the replacement of human speculators by algorithms. Thus far about a third of UK trading is done by computers compared to three quarters in the United States.

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    The Non-Human Noosphere

    The definition of the noosphere as “the sphere of human thought on earth” is woefully anthropocentric. It ignores that fact that our fellow sentient organisms have noospheres of their own. Elephants have their own social networks, maintaining close friendships and extended tribes, and keeping touch over long distances through subsonic rumbles.

    If the noosphere can loosely be defined as the interaction and interconnection of conscious minds, then clearly cetaceans, wolves, great apes, elephants, and many species of birds have their own forms of a noosphere. Granted, these noospheres are not as large and complex as ours. Humans have telecommunications, the biggest brain-to-body ratio on earth, and the force of numbers – 7 billion of us, versus a few tens of thousands for African elephants, and a few hundred thousand for chimpanzees.

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    Theriomorphous Cyborg

    The Animal Architecture Awards have just announced the winners of their 2011 contest. Taking first place is Simone Ferracina’s Theriomorphous Cyborg, a (speculative) augmented reality game inspired by Jacob von Uexküll’s notion of the animal umwelt. Not truly architectural, Theriomorphous Cyborg instead shifts how a human participant relates to space and the landscape. Each level in the free-form game takes the player through different modes that relate to the sensory capacities of various animals. Ferracina writes:

    “Inspired by migratory birds and their ability to perceive the Earth’s magnetism, LEVEL 1 superimposes the participant’s field of vision with an additional signal consisting of directional color patterns. The gamer learns to navigate space according to his/her own magnetic compass.”

    Once the participant has mastered one form of perception, she advances to more outlandish experiments with vision and navigation. Level 3 essentially blinds the player, and replaces his vision with the feed from a series of hacked CCTV cameras. Level 6 covers up billboards with images of bee-friendly flowers. A mouthpiece morphs the user’s words into animal noises, robbing her of the ability to communicate with language. By imagining an animalistic version of future devices, Theriomorphous Cyborg presents a trippy, compelling alternative to the assumption that all technology must be anthropocentric.

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    Dead Drops

    Wikileaks gone physical? Aram Bartholl’s Dead Drops is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessible to anybody in public space. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data.

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    Let the Algorithms Roam Free

    In this TED talk, Kevin Slavin explains how computer algorithms are breaking free of their virtual habitats and changing the physical world to their liking. Through algorithms, humans are starting to understand the physics of culture. Can we use that knowledge to our advantage, or are we just spectators of a game we don’t quite know the rules of?

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    Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts

    Our proposal to study the financial system as an ecosystem is sometimes criticized as ‘abuse of vegetational concepts’. Interestingly enough BBC documentary maker Adam Curtis now argues the whole notion of the ecosystem is in fact a boomeranged metaphor.

    In his documentary ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’, Curtis claims that the notion of the ‘ecosystem’ was, from the very beginning, based upon technological metaphors: the idea of nature as a complex machine.  I hurry to emphasize that the next nature view goes exactly the other way around: the idea of complex machines as nature.

    Thanks Ruben van Leer.

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    An Ecstatic Dialogue with Richard Doyle

    When techno–optimist and fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute, Jason Silva, meets with Richard Doyle, author of Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants and the Evolution of the Noosphere, we must buckle up for an Ecstatic Dialogue on language, reality, ancient Internets and how psychedelics make us human.

    JASONSILVA: Your new book Darwin’s Pharmacy talks about the relationship between psychedelic plants and the accelerating evolution of the “noosphere”, which some define as the knowledge substrate of reality, the invisible, informational dimension of collective intelligence and human knowledge. Is this more or less accurate?

    RICHDOYLE: The book features a set of nested claims about the evolution of mind, psychedelics (or, as I  prefer and propose, “ecodelics”),  and the evolution of the noosphere, but all of the claims can be understood via two claims:

    (1) Ecodelics have been an integral part of the human toolkit, so suppressing them is like suppressing music, jokes or other aspects of our humanity. (Here I am following Samorini, Siegel, and others)

    and

    (2) As integral parts of the human toolkit, ecodelics are best modeled as part of sexual selection – the competition for mates and the leaving of progeny. A careful look at Charles Darwin’s writings on sexual selection will show that sexual selection works through the management of attention – what we would now call “information technologies.” Think birdsong, bioluminescence ( the most widespread communication technology on the planet), poetry.  The peacock is managing and focusing peahen attention with his feathers, so what we have called “mind” has been involved in evolution for a very long time. Mandrilles eat iboga before competing for mates.

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