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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’

  • 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.

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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

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    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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  • yellow sac spider

    Cheiracanthium drives a Mazda

    In March, Mazda recalled 65,000 cars, not because of any structural faults in the vehicle, but because the engineers had inadvertently created the perfect habitat for a tiny spider.  The yellow sac spider, capable of inflicting a painful bite, was inexorably drawn to build webs in the car’s evaporative canister vent line. The spider’s nest could restrict the line, raising pressure in the fuel tank and eventually leading to a crack.  It may be that the species is attracted to the smell of hydrogen oxide in gasoline, or it could just be that the little arachnids think Americans need to do a better job of carpooling.

    Arthropods have a distinguished history of gumming up our most precise pieces of technology. The first computer bug was a brown moth that got stuck in Harvard’s Relay Calculator in 1947.  I remember battling the ants that took up residence in my laptop in the Philippines, and a quick Google search shows that computer-nerd ants are a common complaint. Technology may be designed for humans, but it’s used by the entire ecosystem.

    Via The Consumerist.  Image via UW Madison Department of Etymology.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Crows crack nuts… and traffic patterns

    Narrated by the incomparable David Attenborough, this footage goes to show that urban birds really are smarter.

    The cross-walking crows recall a similar feat accomplished by the dogs of Moscow. Each day, the stray mutts take the subway to the city center to forage for shoarma and other treats, and ride it to the suburbs at night, presumably where the sleeping arrangements are more amenable. These behaviors demonstrate that urban environments don’t just inspire novel cultural traits in humans, but in big-brained animals as well. Old nature has gotten street smart.

  • north korea dmz

    Disaster Edens: The Anti-Tourist Attraction

    Imagine your cruise to the Galapagos came with a ghoulish warning: “Your hair will fall out, your skin will blister, you’ll probably get cancer and your children’s children might be born deformed.” Not enough of a deterrent? How about “We’ll shoot you on sight”?  If you’re a visiting tourist or a fisherman looking to poach some tuna or turtles, you might decide to hightail it back to the mainland.

    Human culture normally creates areas amenable to other humans, but to few other species. Apartment blocks, parking lots, suburbs and Starbucks are pretty great for us, but miserable, even uninhabitable, to most creatures more specialized than a pigeon. ‘Involuntary parks,’ a term coined by Next Nature favorite Bruce Sterling, arise when warfare or industrial accidents upset the normal balance of human land-use. Soldiers shoot their enemies but not the birds. Radiation warnings will keep out the evacuated citizens, but not the bears and tigers.

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  • Blinky – Does what we want it to do

    In the short movie Blinky, on a boy and his robot, director Ruari Robinson reflects on our daily dealings with technology and its risks.

    Alex is a child growing up in a family owned by marital problems. Blinky distracts Alex from the daily rowing of his parents. But the awareness of the simplicity of Blinky, which seems to be an intelligent and emotional friend in the beginning, turns into the tipping point of the story.  It illustrates how technology can turn into a nightmare and gets out of control. In fact the word ‘control’ is an interesting issue in this story.

    Does the humanoid Blinky really run out of control or was it the naive handling of Alex? Does technology really run out of control or aren’t we not able to deal with the offered scope and consequences of technology?

    Watch the entire movie (12 minutes)

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  • cable-art-530

    Next Nature Server Dementia

    Over the last few days the Next Nature website has been suffering symptoms of dementia due to a hardware failure at our very fancy and luxurious web hosting provider Media Temple. The incident was caused by to two failed storage drives and likely a failed RAID controller at their data center, which resulted in memory loss at NextNature.net.

    Recovery is currently in progress, yet this may still cause some glitches or déjà vu experiences over the next few days. We apologize for this situation. We advise you to take a nice walk in the park while we are reanimating.

    Obviously we are disappointed by the failure, as we chose the supposedly top notch host Mediatemple to avoid such events in the first place. We are working on a more secure hosting plan for the future. For your information: the picture above was not taken in a Mediatemple data center, rather, it is our peculiar image of the week.