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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’

  • romeo wolf with lab

    Black Wolves Have Dogs to Thank

    Black wolves should probably not exist. The same species as their gray relatives, these wolves have a genetic mutation that causes them to produces excess melanin, a pigment responsible for coat color. The origin of black wolves has long been a puzzle. Unlike domestic animals, wild species usually don’t exhibit such dramatic variations in coloration, especially within the same population. While all tigers are orange and striped, and all grizzly bears are brown, “gray” wolves range from pure white to brown to red to black.

    Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that dogs may be the cause of the wolves’ unusual coloration. Dogs have a unique gene for melanism, which is also shared by European, Asian and American black wolves. Scientists estimate that the gene arose somewhere between 12,779 and 121,182 years ago, with a preferred time of around 50,000 years. Even if European wolves were the first to don a black coat, it was domestic dogs that brought the gene to the wolves (and coyotes) of North America.

    Most new mutations tend to disappear within a few generations. With North American wolf, however, this accidental genetic loaner from dogs has become a stable part of their population’s DNA. Clearly, black wolves derive some benefit from their coloration. The reasons why are still a mystery: Black coat color doesn’t aid in camouflage, but since it occurs more frequently in southern, forest-dwelling wolves, it may have some advantage for life in warmer climates.

    The melanism gene in wolves is one of the few instances, perhaps even the only instance, in which interbreeding with a domestic animal has conferred an adaptive edge on a wild animal. As climate change progresses, and forests march northward, it may be that the “gray” wolf population will soon switch to black, all thanks to some melanistic, prehistoric pooches.

    Via the New York Times. Image via Carnivora.

  • collector afterlife

    A Bug’s Afterlife

    When fruit flies die, they don’t go to heaven, but they do get to go to outer space. At least that’s the conceit of artist HsienYu Cheng’s Collector: Afterlife, which zaps bugs with high voltage and then reincarnates them in a Space Invaders-style video game. Each dead fly translates to one extra life for the onscreen hero. When the lives run out, the player has to wait around for more flies to wander into the trap’s deadly blue light. It’s a digital age update on the concept of rebirth, or just a new take on the spider and its web.

    Via Mediamatic

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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.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Technology: The 7th Kingdom of Life

    Prior to the forthcoming Next Nature Power Show in Amsterdam, we share some videos of presentations at earlier next nature events.

    At our 2008 Powershow in Los Angeles founding editor of Wired Magazine, Kevin Kelly, talked about the nature of technology. Kevin proposes to define technology as the 7th Kingdom of Life. According to Kelly, “Our entire system of technology is now so complex that it forms a tangled ecology of ideas and devices which support each other. Human mind, so essential for its birth, play a decreasing role.”

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  • pigeon d'or

    The Pigeon that Shat the Golden Soap

    Ever wished you could take a shower with pigeon poop? Artist Tuur van Balen proposes changing pigeons from flying rats to cleaning agents. A speculative, specially engineered bacteria, as harmless to pigeons as Lactobacillus is to humans, could potentially change pigeon excrement into biological soap.

    For Pigeon D’Or, van Balen built a coop that clips to a window, which would allow future apartment dwellers to harvest their very own fresh, pigeon-made soap. Another version of the perch extends over a car’s windshield, inviting the birds to come and rain detergent on glass in need of cleaning. Van Balen’s “bespoke urban disinfection” won him an 2011 Ars Electronica Award of Distinction.

    Tuur van Balen will be presenting at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5th. Though he won’t be bringing along any sudsy pigeons, he will be teaching the audience how to make their own anti-depressant yogurt.

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  • German Robots Destroy a Living Room

    Artistic duo Robococo, aka Petra Gemeinboeck and Rob Saunders, have embedded a group of autonomous robots in the walls of a gallery. Wielding hammers and creepy electronic eyes, the robots have been methodically breaking apart their confines for the last few months. While the artists say the piece represents “a stealthy invasion of digital surveillance,” it looks more like the ‘bots just can’t believe your taste in wallpaper.

    Via Pruned.

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  • fold-it-protein-game

    Gamers Solve Enzyme Riddle

    In a vivd example of the blur between culture and nature, players using an online game called Foldit have helped solve complex questions for researchers about enzyme models. The solution, which eluded researchers for more than 10 years was solved by gamers in only a few days, contributing towards research into anti-AIDS drugs. Giving credit where it’s due, researchers have named the gamers as co-authors in the study published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

    Read the full story on BBC.com.

  • gardening_complexity

    Next Nature lecture: Gardening Complexity

    No, the peculiar image above was not created by an in vitro fertilized child from the combined DNA of Escher, Mondrian and Pollock, but rather by 21th century designer Remco van Bladel. The dazzling image is part of the visual identity of the ongoing Patterns and Pleasure Festival organized by Steim in Amsterdam.

    Recommended for both musicians as well as economists – if you happen to be in the neighborhood – do visit the Next Nature lecture at the Gardening Complexity symposium. Contrary to the modernistic approach of simplifying through modeling, we must now embrace complexity and guide its growth. Word up.

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  • THfTA

    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.

    Read more »

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  • northern corn rootworm

    Monsanto’s Technorhetoric Kills Corn

    Mega-agro-biotech corporation Monsanto recently denied that insects have developed resistance to their patented Bt corn. Injected with a bacterial gene toxic to corn rootworms, Bt corn has proven so successful with farmers that it now makes up 65 percent of the corn planted in the US. Fields of wilting, dying corn are now following years of massive popularity. Bt-resistant worms have been found in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, and are likely to continue spreading.

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  • Next Nature Kills

    Next Nature Kills

    Today, 122 years ago, on 13 september 1899, Henry Bliss became the first pedestrian known to be killed by an automobile in North America. Although not the first, he was certainly not the last victim of this invention that would soon be part of our next nature.

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  • nextnature_services

    Essay: Next Nature Services

    Intentionality separates culture from nature. A dog is intentional, a fox is not; a park is intentional, a forest is not. Since trash, ruined buildings, and automated computer programs are unintentional, they are also a type of nature. Nature provides human society with valuable ‘ecosystem services’ such as water purification or erosion control. Next nature provides ecosystem services of its own, although they might not be what we expect.

    BY BAS HARING

    2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity. The United Nations introduced the concept as a way to draw attention to the decline of nature. Advocating on nature’s behalf, a relatively new argument emerged, ‘ecosystem services’: useful things nature does, unbeknownst to us. Forests filter dust from the air, scrub prevents erosion, and insects pollinate our crops. Incidentally, nature provides us with services that would otherwise have cost a fortune. Leaving aside the question of where they could be purchased. Is it conceivable that one day there will be next nature services, delivered in passing and unintentionally by new, future ecologies?

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  • Mapping the Utilisphere

    Earth has had a geosphere, atmosphere and biosphere for a few billion years. Only within the last several thousand years has earth gained a global noosphere, the intangible ‘sphere’ of human thought and communication on earth. Now, anthropologist Félix Pharand has mapped an even newer addition to the Anthropocene’s profusion of next natural spheres.

    The utilisphere consists of the planet’s utilities and transportation networks: highways, railroads, pipelines and fiber optic cables. By making his animation without labels or city names, Pharand invites us to view the spiderweb shape of the utilisphere as something more organic, approaching the freshwater hydrosphere in complexity.

    Via Gizmodo

  • dow_jones_80-09

    Michael Najjar – High Altitude

    The rock formations in the High Altitude photo series don’t exist physically, yet they are very present in our society of simulations. The photos visualize the development of the leading global stock market indices over the past 20-30 years.

    Each stock market index, such as the Dow Jones (shown above), Nikkei, Nasdaq or the more specific Lehman Brothers stock quote downfall, corresponds to a impeccably rendered unique mountain range. Photographer Michael Najjar used the images captured during his trek to Mount Aconcagua (6,962m) as the basis of the high altitude data visualizations.

    Lehman 92-08

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    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?

  • typewriter animals

    Typing Out Evolution

    From the exhibit “What Machines Dream Of” in Berlin comes Life Writer, a work by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. As the participant types, letters are projected on a scroll of paper. After pushing the return bar, the letters are transformed into animated, typographic creatures that bob and skitter across the paper. The ravenous insects then proceed to gobble up the words as fast as they’re typed. When the paper is scrolled, the creatures reproduce, birthing offspring that looks slightly different from the parent. An algorithm determines the shape and behavior of the organisms, and controls how they evolve with each generation.

    Sommer and Mignonneau use an obsolete technology to bring up very current questions about the autonomy of technological systems, and what ‘life’ means when humans can create convincing facsimiles of it. “What Machines Dream Of” is on display until August 28. It’s free, fun, and full of  next natural goodness.

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  • The Technological Sublime

    The sublime is an aesthetic concept of ‘the exalted,’ of beauty that is grand and dangerous. Through 17th and 18th century European intellectual tradition, the sublime became intimately associated with nature. Only in the 20th century, did the technological sublime replace the natural sublime. Have our sense of awe and terror been transferred to factories, war machines, and the unknowable, infinite possibilities suggested by computers and genetic engineering?

    By JOS DE MUL

    When we call a landscape or a piece of art ‘sublime,’ we express the fact that it evokes particular beauty or excellence. Note that the ‘sublime’ is not only an aesthetic characterization; a moral action of high standing or an unparalleled goal in a soccer game may also be called ‘sublime.’ Roughly speaking, the sublime is something that exceeds the ordinary. This aspect of its meaning is expressed aptly in the German word for the sublime: the ‘exalted’ (das Erhabene). In the latter term we also hear echoes of the religious connotation of the concept. The sublime confronts us with that which exceeds our very understanding.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    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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