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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.

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Wild Systems

map of the internet Image: Open Sailing
When Anthropogenic Systems Go Feral

We like to think that we are in control of our offspring. But just like children grow up, so do our systems. Human technologies have become so complex that they now behave like independent ecologies.

Algorithms run the stock market.  Computer viruses keep going long after their creators have set them free. Genetically modified organisms thrive in the wild. In this new world of wild, technological beasts, will humans be at the mercy of our monsters?

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Adam Curtis explores the notion that Ayn Rand influenced the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of the 1990s to create a world where digital systems are more powerful than human ones.

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 20thcentury, 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?

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Because of its Janus-faced powers, technology itself has become the sublime god of our (post)modern age.

— Jos de Mul

Crops Running Wild

Crops Running Wild

Now there is an interesting biomimicmarketing technique we had not seen before. For their new marketing campaign internet security company Messagelabs worked with digital artist Alex Dragulescu to graphically show what cyber threats actually look like. The images are generated from the actual code from each of the threats.

What happened was that in the US they found two varieties of genetically modified canola in the wild, both of which contain a different type of herbicide-resistant transgene. And next to that they also came across varieties that were resistant to both types of herbicide and contained both transgenes.

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Protei, the Sail Bot that Cleans Up Oil

Protei is a sailing robot that’s designed to clean up oil spills without human assistance. After sailing upwind, the bot drifts downwind, zigg-zagging across the surface to absorb oil in its long, tail-like boom. Since Protei is self-righting, it will be able to operate even under hurricane conditions, keeping human crews out of danger from both high winds and toxic chemicals. The robots can be operated by remote control, or can be programmed to work together as an autonomous swarm.

Though it’s currently only a prototype, the eco-friendly, open-source Protei may some day radically change how we clean up the ocean. Though it was originally designed to sop up  future Deepwater Horizons, modified Protei could possibly be used to gather plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

More photos after the jump.

Thanks to Alex …

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protei test
Traffic jams are a new force of nature. Traffic jams are a new force of nature.

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 …

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Zombie Spam – Botnet Resurrects from Death

Computerworld reports a big spam-spewing botnet, that was shut down a few weeks ago, has been resurrected and is again under the control of criminals.

The “Srizbi” botnet returned from the dead late Tuesday, said Fengmin Gong, chief security content officer at FireEye Inc., when the infected PCs were able to successfully reconnect with new command-and-control servers, which are now based in Estonia.

Srizbi was knocked out more than two weeks ago when McColo Corp., a hosting company that had been accused of harboring a wide range of criminal activities, was yanked off the Internet by its upstream service providers. With McColo down, PCs infected with Srizbi and other bot Trojan horses were unable to communicate with their command servers, which had been hosted by McColo. As a result, spam levels dropped precipitously.

 

Zombie Spam – Botnet Resurrects from Death

Meet the worms, viruses, and trojans

Now there is an interesting biomimicmarketing technique we had not seen before. For their new marketing campaign internet security company Messagelabs worked with digital artist Alex Dragulescu to graphically show what cyber threats actually look like. The images are generated from the actual code from each of the threats.

Malwarez is a series of visualization of worms, viruses, trojans and spyware code. For each piece of disassembled code, API calls, memory addresses and subroutines are tracked and analyzed. Their …

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