While for most of us, happy blog readers, access to electricity is taken for granted, things are quite different in developing regions of the world. In India for example, over 65% of the population still lives in rural villages where electricity supply is very limited. If an electricity grid is at all available, it is typically very unstable.
Since electricity is known to be an engine for development, it makes sense to bring electricity to the rural villages of India, however, these rural areas cannot rely on the top down grid-electricity solutions. Local energy generation and concepts for distributed energy networks are more promising.
Marcel van Heist, designer and recent graduate at the Next Nature Lab at Eindhoven University of Technology went to India with the goal to introduce distributed energy solutions in rural areas. After investigating the established Kerosene based energy models, Marcel came up with an alternative based on solar powered LED lamps built from locally available materials. Here’s how.
You have a choice dear reader: spend 4 seconds scanning this blogpost, or spend the full 58:10 minutes (*) watching the retro-futuristic interview with polymath & nextnature thinker avant la lettre Buckminister Fuller.
(*) We are well aware these are times of short-attention span, yet sometimes you have to immerse yourself. We actually recommend watching the video twice to obtain an optimal understanding and appreciation of the material.
So you thought the Internet was made by and for people? Think again. A study by Incapsula, a provider of cloud-based security for web sites (mind you where this data comes from), concludes that 51% of all Internet traffic is generated by non-human sources such as hacking software, scrapers and automated spam mechanisms. While 20% of the 51% non-human traffic is’ good’, the 31% majority of this non-human traffic is potentially malicious.
Traditionally, technology is seen as a force that diminishes our instincts and puts us at a distance of nature. Increasingly however, we realize technology can also energize and amplify our deepest human sensibilities – even some we had forgotten about. Propelling us not so much back to, but rather forward to nature.
Almost two decades ago, Brian Eno – artist, composer, inventor, thinker – gave an interview in which he stated the problem with computers was that there is not enough Africa in them . “Africa is everything that something like classical music isn’t. Classical – perhaps I should say ‘orchestral’ – music is so digital, so cut up, rhythmically, pitch wise and in terms of the roles of the musicians. It’s all in little boxes.”… “Do you know what a nerd is? A nerd is a human being without enough Africa in him or her. I know this sounds sort of inversely racist to say, but I think the African connection is so important. I want so desperately for that sensibility to flood into these other areas, like computers.” … “It uses so little of my body. You’re just sitting there, and it’s quite boring. You’ve got this stupid little mouse that requires one hand, and your eyes. That’s it. What about the rest of you? No African would stand for a computer like that. It’s imprisoning.”
On June 10, the digital currency Bitcoin lost 30% of its value in a few hours, dropping from US $28.92 to $20.01 per coin. Bitcoins are a largely untraceable form of money, relying on a peer-to-peer system for legitimacy, instead of a central authority like a government or Second Life’s Linden Labs. Gawker recently brought Bitcoins to mainstream attention in a report on Silk Road, a website where aspiring drug users can use the anonymous currency to purchase home delivery of any psychoactive from LSD to cocaine.
The Bitcoin Black Friday was the result of certain events that real life markets have learned to control for – a bank rush, where Bitcoin owners exchanged their Bits back to bucks en masse, and a market that stayed open despite rapid inflation over the last few weeks. Millions of dollars in Bitcoin investments were lost in the resulting crash. This fast-moving bear market goes to show that online events increasingly mimic ‘real’ events, and that the investors in digital markets could stand to crack open their history books. Virtual economies work the same as actual ones, although all money, by definition, is already virtual.
Via DailyTech. Image via Dipity.
Remember the gold farmers in China who put in eye-straining hours to earn virtual money in World of Warcraft? Gold farming has now made the leap to the country’s corrupt penal system. Along with back-breaking physical labor and manufacturing work in Chinese labour camps, some prisoners are forced to play massively multiplayer online games to accrue in-game credits. Inmates work in 12 hour shifts, and are beaten or tortured if they fall behind their quotas for the day. The virtual ‘gold’ is sold to players around the world eager to move ahead in the game. After games became jobs, it was inevitable that games would also become punishment.
Via: Guardian. Image via IgxPro.
Plants behave in some oddly intelligent ways: fighting predators, maximizing food opportunities … But can we think of them as actually having a form of intelligence of their own? Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso presents intriguing evidence in his talk at TED. Obviously, next nature observers will appreciate his comparisons between the networked nature of plant roots and the internet.
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).