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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 ‘Wild-systems’

  • the_Matrix_530

    Next Nature Movie #6: The Matrix

    In the last few decades there have been numerous films that take the struggle between mankind and its increasingly intelligent and autonomous technology as a leitmotif. Ranging from Stanley Kubriks magnificent artwork Space Oddysee 2001 (1968), which is better defined as a posthuman than a nextnature film, to Disney’s cartoonish Tron (1982), to the Terminator series (1984, 1991, 2003).

    The notion of technology becoming competitive with the people who created it, is clearly a thankful movie subject. Pity though, the issue is always projected in the future – at distance from our everyday lives – as this limits the opportunity to reflect upon the co-evolutionary state people and technology have been caught up for a long time already.

    Apparently this is a movie law difficult to get around, and one that directors Andy and Larry Wachowski willingly accept. Yet they do something brilliant. They have a philosophical idea that they want to get out, but they are aware their idea is difficult to sell. If they had made it too explicit their movie would have been an art house film, or a giant flop. So they took their idea and wrapped it up in a sci-fi story, in an action packed blockbuster.

    The subtle premises of The Matrix (1999), is that the people subjected by the machines aren’t aware of the artificial intelligence that is ruling their lives. Like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave they’re blind to the simulation drawn before their eyes – a situation only stirred up with the arrival of the manga style dressed Christ–like savior Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, aka The One, played by a perfectly casted Keanu Reeves. Postmodernity in the overdrive? That’s not giving enough credit.

    Through their syncretic cocktail of ingredients from western and non-western philosophy (*), art and religion, the Wachowski brothers manage to achieve exactly what they want. Like a Trojan horse, they’ve planted something into your mind, the seed of doubt, even if you have no idea it’s there, yet it’s there. That voice in the back of your mind that something is wrong. That feeling you got left with after seeing the movie that it wasn’t just about computers and artificial intelligence but about something else, something more important, something you’re familiar with but just can’t put your finger on.

    The Matrix is a philosophical film that has cut through an entire generation, which now thinks differently about the technology in their surroundings than any generation before them. They’re aware that there may never be a day that technology awakes, becomes conscious and – politely or impolitely – introduces itself to us. They’re aware that this doesn’t withstand that technology is a strong all-pervasive force in our lives: A force that is not only driven by us, but in turn, also drives us. What is the Matrix, you ask? Something closer to reality than you think.

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    (*) Prior to the start of the filming the Wachowski brothers required the principal actors of the film to read three books: ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, by Jean Baudrillard, ‘Out of Control’ by Kevin Kelly, and ‘Introducing Evolutionary Psychology’ by Dylan Evans.

    Passed: Alphaville (1965), Space Oddysee 2001 (1968), Tron (1982), Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989), Terminator 2 (1991), Ghost in the Shell (1995), Technocalyps (2006).

  • terminal_tom_hanks_530

    Next Nature Movie #9 – The Terminal

    Viktor Navorski is an Eastern European traveler – portrayed by Tom Hanks, who in the movie ‘Cast Away’ already played a man stranded on an uninhabited island – that finds himself in the unique circumstance that a war broke out in country while he was traveling to New York. This makes him a man without a country, or one that the U.S. cannot recognize, thus he is denied entrance to the U.S. However, as he can’t be deported either, the Security Manager tells him he has to remain in the airport until his status can be fixed.

    Forced by the circumstances, Victor soon unfolds himself as a situational designer that cleverly repurposes the airport terminal as his living environment. In contrast, the rationalistic security manager desperately tries to cope with the parasitic element that has entered within the system. Guess who wins? Spoiler alert: It’s a Spielberg movie.

    Like in Jurassic Park, director Steven Spielberg shows us that, while people are experts at domesticating their environment with rationalistic systems, the systems we create can easily outgrow us up to the level that we start to perceive them as a next nature that has to be re-domesticated (again). The huge airport terminal set was built for this movie alone. Unsure if they have ever re-used it for a Big Brother-type of reality TV series – oh boy, did we just invent a TV format there?

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    Passed: Modern Times (1936), Brazil (1985)

  • nomadic_plants_530

    Nomadic Plants

    Nomadic Plants are a species assembled from a group of robotic-electronic-biological organisms living in symbiosis in order to survive in habitats affected by human activity.

    The nomadic plant automatically moves towards water when its bacteria require nourishment. It contains vegetation and microorganisms living symbiotically inside the body of the apparatus. The robot draws water from a contaminated river, decomposes its elements, helps to create energy to feed its brain circuits, and the surplus is then used to create life, maintaining plants that, at once, complete their own life cycle.

    Gilberto Esparza created these Nomadic Plants as a metaphor for the supposed alienation of the human condition and the impact its activity has on its environment. By creating these plants nomadic plants, which obviously haven’t evolved by themselves, its creator hopes to instigate critical reflections on the ambiguity of the force wielded by technology.

    Seen at HAIP Festival – New Nature.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Symphony of Science

    As it is Sunday today, lets indulge in a scientific spiritual music video.

    Created by John Boswell. Thanks Finnigans Riverrun.

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  • Self Catching Fish

    Self Catching Fish

    Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts, are testing a plan to train fish to catch themselves by using a sound broadcast to attract them into a net. If it works, the system could eventually allow black sea bass to be released into the open ocean, where they would grow to market size, then swim into an underwater cage to be harvested when they hear the signal.

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  • making_perfect_life_rathenau_nextnature

    European Parliament goes Next Nature

    Alright the title “Making Perfect Life”‘ may sound a bit 20th-century-modernistic-techno-optimistic-naive, but for the rest we are confident this conference is going to be pretty good study material for the European parliament members.

    “Biology is increasingly engineered in much the same way as technology, while technology is becoming more and more life-like. These two engineering trends not only intensify current debates about the desirability and acceptability of genetic engineering and human enhancement, but also raises novel issues, like who’s in control of machines with a life of their own? The social and political consequences of these two bio-engineering trends are discussed at the conference Making Perfect Life on November 10th 2010 in the European Parliament in Brussels.”

    Organized by our friends of the Rathenau Institute. And guess what, you can register too.

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  • Constellation

    Constellation

    No this is not some stellar system far away. What is it then? Lets make another picture, this time with the flashlight on…

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  • found_bill_1500

    Design Fiction – Medical Bill of the Future

    According to this fictitious future medical bill almost every part of the human body will be repairable in 2028. Gut bacteria replacement, Bone tissue growth for skull repair, Airlift, Cryogenic brain protection.. the list is lustrous. Yet, the scenario also wittingly shows how technological progress may have a price of technological dependence: The emancipation from bodily constraints is traded for a social-psychological dependence. The things we design end up designing us.

    Zoom in on the full image for the creepy details. Via Wired. Todd Tankersley was the photographer. Aaron Rowe was the writer. Thanks Stephan.

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  • whatareyoulookingat

    Augmented Reality Maps

    Since a few years the internet in combination with mobile phone technology brought us something that we refer to as augmented reality: A digital projection that is placed over imagery of the existing environment to create a whole new world on the screen.

    Earlier this year Microsoft Bing-Maps architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas showed how augmented reality features can be added to digital world maps. Including streaming video. This means that when you switch to the streetview mode you get to watch live video streams, at least when someone is broadcasting there at that moment. It’s also possible to see older footage that has been put in place with geographic photography techniques so ‘video time travel’ becomes an option.

    As many mobile devices already support photo and video, we can anticipate digital maps to become “live” within some years. This reminds us of the ultimate sonar system from ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’. And like the sonar system from the movie we can ponder on the ethical implications of a system that records half of the world. Will it add a whole new perspective or simply turn every camera phone into a potential security camera? The Big Augmented Reality Maps Brother is watching you!

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  • debug_process02

    Debugged: ‘Graphic Design Bugs’

    The Eindhoven-based design team ‘Edhv‘ made an installation to turn creepy crawlers into genuine graphic designers. By letting crickets, woodlice, ants and many other insects loose in a box with a camera on top of it, they are able to track the path of these little creatures. Through some tracking software and scripting these patterns then get printed on to big sheets of paper. Through modifying the landscape in the box they can create all sorts of logos and typography. As it turns out; each type of insect has it’s own specific pattern so no two prints are the same.

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  • ECO Currency – Explanation Video

    Earlier we have discussed the ECO currency, now here is an explanation video.

    The ECO currency is an alternative currency to express environmental value. People who conduct labor in support of the environment receive ECO’s from a global fund, which is financed via a micro bank tax on global financial transactions.

    The idea for the ECO currency originates from the hypothesis that an important factor in our environmental crisis is the disconnect between the economic ecology and the environmental ecology: Environmental values are easily destroyed because they go unnoticed within the economical system. The aim of the ECO currency is to make environmental value explicit in economical terms. Would the rain forest still be destroyed if we could pay people to let the trees stand?

    If you want to stay up to date on the project, there is always a Facebook page.

    The video was made by Marcel van Heist, Jop Japenga and Billy Schonenberg. Voice: Sean Lynch, Music: Armand Amar. Coaching by Koert van Mensvoort & Luna Maurer.

  • Next Nature intro by Bruce Sterling

    This project is about Nature’s brand image.  One might surmise that “Nature,” being 100 percent all-natural, can’t have any brand image.  The facts suggest otherwise. Try it for yourself: tell a friend that something seemingly 100 percent natural is actually “96 percent natural.”  Not a great difference, apparently, yet a profound unease arises.  That unease is the subject of the many provocative essays and remarkable graphics on NextNature.net

    by BRUCE STERLING

    The project is a study in why we feel uneasiness when the Nature brand is violated.  It’s also about the exciting new-and-improved varieties of unnatural unease that have come to exist quite recently.   It explains why this sensibility is spreading, and what that implies for who we are, and how we live with Nature.

    Now, when Nature is slightly artificialized — say, by installing a park bench under a tree — we rarely get any dark suspicious frisson about that.  The uncanny can only strike us when our ideological constructs about Nature are dented.  We’re especially guarded about our most pious, sentimentalized notions of Nature.  Nature as a nurturing entity that is harmonious, calm,  peaceful, inherently rightful and all-around “good-for-you.”

    This vaguely politicized attitude about Nature never came from Nature.   It was culturally generated.  Nature didn’t get her all-natural identity-branding until the Industrial Revolution broke out.  Then poets and philosophers were allowed to live in dense, well-supplied cities, where they could recast Nature from some intellectual distance.   Before that huge effusion of organized artifice, people lived much closer to the soil.

    These farmers rarely spoke of “Nature” in the abstract.   They were too deeply involved in a lifelong subsistence struggle with natural events, such as inclement weather, bad harvests, weeds, pests, and blights.   They certainly never mistook their existing state of affairs for the Biblical Eden: their theological utopia in which Nature was always harmonious, calm, peaceful and good-for-you.

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  • russian_fire

    Climate Craze in Russia

    Climate change is often thought to have its winners and losers, with Canada, Nordic countries and Russia being portrayed as among the lucky few chilly nations where moderate climate change could mean net benefits such as lower winter heating bills, more forest, longer crop growth and perhaps more summer tourism.

    Russia’s two-month heat wave, which wrecked a quarter of Russia’s grain crop and may cut $14 billion from gross domestic product, is dimming prospects that northern countries will “win” from climate change.

    While Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2002 joked that less icy weather would enable Russians to buy fewer fur coats, President Dmitry Medvedev now blamed the heat wave on global warming – even though most experts say it is impossible to link individual weather events to climate change.

    People in Nordic nations and Canada are becoming aware that climate change will not be a simple blessing for them. Possible damaging side-effects of less chill weather, including the risk to forests and crops of insect pests normally kept in check by winter frosts.

    Via Reuters, Thanks to the Canary Project. Image via English Russia.

  • Nanoparticles in Sunscreen Damage Microbes

    Nanoparticles in Sunscreen Damage Microbes

    Nanotechnology has been hailed for its benefits because of the potential ability to create drugs that could cure cancer and radiation poisoning, make miniature pollutant filters resulting in healthier air and even produce better tasting food. Excitement over these benefits has led to corporations heavily investing in the technology for their products.

    However, the same properties that allow nanotechnology to be valuable give it the potential to cause unforeseen consequences for ecological and human health. To date, it’s unclear whether the benefits of nanotech outweigh the risks associated with environmental release and exposure to nanoparticles.

    Environmental Health News reports that nanoparticles in sunscreens, cosmetics and hundreds of other consumer products may pose risks to the environment by damaging beneficial microbes.

    Researchers Cyndee Gruden and Olga Mileyeva-Biebesheimer from the University of Toledo added varying amounts of nanoparticles to water containing bacteria. The bacteria were grown in a lab and stained with a green fluorescent. It turned out the nano-titanium dioxide – also used in personal care products – reduced biological roles of bacteria after less than an hour of exposure. The findings suggest that these particles, which end up at municipal sewage treatment plants after being washed off in showers, could eliminate microbes that play vital roles in ecosystems and help treat wastewater. Oops!

    Nanotechnology is yet another example of mankind playing with fire: It requires enormous care and restraint, yet on the other hand, playing with fire is perhaps one of the very special abilities that defines us as humans.

    Via: Environmental Health News.

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  • iphone_x600

    Here Comes the iPhone Virus

    By analyzing billions of phone calls, researchers at Scandinavian telecom company Telenor, mapped how social connections between people – measured partly by how often they called each other – correlated with the spread of Apple’s iPhone after its 2007 debut.

    The diagram above shows the evolution of the largest network of Telenor iPhone users over time. Each node represents one subscriber, and its color indicates the model used. In this case, red equals 2G, green means 3G, and yellow means 3GS.

    Researchers learned that its owners helped spread the iPhone virus spread rapidly throughout their social network. A person with just one iPhone-carrying friend was three times more likely to own one themselves than a person whose friends had no iPhones. People with two friends who had iPhones were more than five times as likely to have sprung for the Apple device. Apparently the iPhone virus was highly contagious.

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