Hide this

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’

  • 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

    Read more »

  • 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.

    on Comments Off
  • 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.

    Read more »

  • 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.

    on Comments Off
  • 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.

    Read more »

    on Comments Off
  • 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)

    on Comments Off
  • 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.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Fly Paper Clock

    Bionic horror by designers James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau, who have created a clock that traps insects on flypaper before depositing them into a vat of bacteria. The resulting chemical reaction – a form of digestion – results into electric power that keeps the roller rolling and the clock ticking.

    At first sight the Fly Paper Clock seems odious and prosperous, however, we must applaud its self-sustaining quality. Will we one day have our houses crowded of insect catching domestic robots? NPR has an article on more meat eating furniture, including a table that consumes mice.

    Thanks Roy van den Heuvel.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Exploring the Oceans of Plastic

    Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

    on Comments Off
  • lion riding a motorcycle

    The Cat Parasite that Sells Motorcycles

    The protozoa Toxoplasma gondii makes an unobtrusive home in nearly every warm-blooded species, but it’s prolific life is limited: Toxo can only reproduce in cat stomachs. The parasite, which causes mild to nonexistant flu-like symptoms, has a clever trick to make sure it winds up where it wants to be. Toxo-infected rats are completely healthy but abnormally attracted to cat urine, and more active than normal. A more outgoing, less fearful rat makes an easy snack for a cat. So far, so good for the parasite’s survival strategy, but there’s a catch for us. Toxoplasma messes with human brain chemistry in much the same way as it does with rodents.

    Read more »

    on Comments Off
  • YouTube Preview Image

    Did Nature Cease to Exist in the ’60s?

    Our historical snippet of the moment is a Canadian television fragment from 1968 featuring a debate between Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan on the implications of media technology and whether nature still existed.

    The two heroes of the ’60s are absolute opposites. Leaning forward in his chair, Mailer is assertive, animated, hot, engaged. McLuhan, abstracted and smiling wanly, leaning backward, cool. Mcluhan argues “The planet is no longer nature,” he declares, to Mailer’s uncomprehending stare; “it’s now the content of an art work.” Mailer: “Well, I think you are anticipating a century, perhaps”.

    Did Nature cease to exist in the ’60s? Of course not. It just changes along with us.

    Via Roughtype.com. Thanks Monique.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    The Soul is a Plastic Bag

    In the film Plastic Bag, the title character spends a lifetime (or more) on a quest for a creator not even aware of his existence.  A stunning short by Ramin Bahrani, director of Man Push Cart and Goodbye Solo, Plastic Bag is both a postmodern spiritual pilgrimage and an ecological fable.   It is strange, wry, and by the end it had my eyes welling up like the Deepwater Horizon.

    Plastic Bag makes a fitting companion to Grizzly Man, and not just because the ponderous tones of Werner Herzog give voice to the Bag’s 18-minute monologue. Like Timothy Treadwell, the Bag is an artifact of human civilization searching an impassive world for a sublime, and entirely fictional, true connection.

    Read more »

    on Comments Off
  • The Institute for Digital Biology

    The Institute for Digital Biology

    The Institute for Digital Biology researches next steps in the evolution of the internet, where websites and services develop into living creatures.”
    This scenario lives in the mind of Walewijn den Boer, graduated from KABK in 2010.

    During the exhibition, visitors were able to feed a colony of microscopical pop-up creatures, save Chinese websites from a pageview-shortage, preserve an Amazone tribe from extinction by subscribing to its homepage and view a short documentary on how the living internet established itself.

    Read more »

    on Comments Off
  • ff_ai_essay_airevolution_c_f

    The AI Revolution Is On

    Steven Levy writes in Wired on the unexpected turn of the Artificial Intelligence revolution: rather than whole artificial minds, it consists of a rich bestiary of digital fauna, which few would dispute possess something approaching intelligence.

    Diapers.com warehouses are a bit of a jumble. Boxes of pacifiers sit above crates of onesies, which rest next to cartons of baby food. In a seeming abdication of logic, similar items are placed across the room from one another. A person trying to figure out how the products were shelved could well conclude that no form of intelligence—except maybe a random number generator—had a hand in determining what went where.

    But the warehouses aren’t meant to be understood by humans; they were built for bots. Every day, hundreds of robots course nimbly through the aisles, instantly identifying items and delivering them to flesh-and-blood packers on the periphery. Instead of organizing the warehouse as a human might—by placing like products next to one another, for instance—Diapers.com’s robots stick the items in various aisles throughout the facility. Then, to fill an order, the first available robot simply finds the closest requested item. The storeroom is an ever-shifting mass that adjusts to constantly changing data, like the size and popularity of merchandise, the geography of the warehouse, and the location of each robot. Set up by Kiva Systems, which has outfitted similar facilities for Gap, Staples, and Office Depot, the system can deliver items to packers at the rate of one every six seconds.

    The Kiva bots may not seem very smart. They don’t possess anything like human intelligence and certainly couldn’t pass a Turing test. But they represent a new forefront in the field of artificial intelligence. Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain. Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks. Examples can be found everywhere: The Google global machine uses AI to interpret cryptic human queries. Credit card companies use it to track fraud. Netflix uses it to recommend movies to subscribers. And the financial system uses it to handle billions of trades (with only the occasional meltdown).

    Read more »