Tag: Technorhetoric

Sentient Spaces

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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Intimate Technology

Sin free for just €1.59

For just £1.19 ($1.99, €1,59) you can download an app for your iPhone which offers tips and guidelines with the sacrament, “the perfect aid for every penitent” as the description reads. This, on itself, is not so special. There are dozen of apps which help you to confess, though this is the first which is officially approved by the Catholic Church.

The app allows users to keep track of their sins, and guides them through the sacrament (where Catholics admit their wrongdoing through).  The app is launched shortly after Pope Benedict XVI gave the advice to embrace digital communication. Although he adds: “It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.”

Hopefully there will be a ‘Pocket Pope’ app in the near future.

Via BBC News, iTunes

berg lumine plat

Holland Gets an Unnatural High

When the Dutch built the Netherlands, they forgot to add any mountains. The highest point in Holland is a measly 323 meters, compared to 2,962 meters for the highest mountain in Germany. Possibly inspired by architect Jacok Tigges’ proposal for Berlin, Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld recently suggested that the Netherlands deserves a fake mountain of its own. Unlike Tigges’ purely theoretical proposal, the people behind Die Berg Komt Er (video) (The Mountain Is Coming) are taking their landscape-building mandate seriously. The mountain has turned into a movement.

Different designers have different visions for this god-like task. DHV situates their Bergen in Zee, an exact replica of Mount Fuji, in the ocean near the town of Bergen aan Zee. It would rise 2,000 meters, occupy an area the size of Disney World, and provide sustainable power for the mainland. Hoffers and Kruger place it in the land or the sea, and fill up their hollow structure with everything from aquariums to sport arenas to farms. Regardless of the particulars, the Nederlandse Berg would be the biggest and costliest manmade structure in history. If the mountain is actually realized, it will certainly prove one thing: The Dutch will let nothing stand in the way of a nice weekend of skiing.

Via Pruned.


Deus Ex: The EyeBorg Documentary

Back in 2009 Rob Spence, a cyborg film maker, worked together with a team of ocularists, inventors, engineering specialists on a prosthetic eye which can capture and stream video. He then started the project: EyeBorg.

Commissioned by the makers of ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘, a game which tells the story of the year 2027 where cyborgs are the norm, he needed to figure out how far we currently are from that future. In his 12 minute documentary he meets leading scientists in biotechnology and fellow cyborgs. It shows we are not far from a future where cyborgs are the norm.

Rob says: “People are going to have the option of having superior arms, superior eyes at some point. People say no one would ever cut off their own arm and replace it, but if the technology gets there – and it looks like it will – people will think about it. They might be early adopters.”

Via EyeBorg – Sky News


Drugs are Nuts

Thinking about Next Nature can sometimes result in a feeling of vertigo. Normal standards are eroded and slowly replaced by next natural ones. A bewildering example can be found in a letter the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent to a manufacturer of walnuts.

Based on claims made on your firm’s website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. The following are examples of the claaims made on your firm’s website under the heading of a web page stating “OMEGA-3s … Every time you munch a few walnuts, you’re doing your body a big favor.”

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northern corn rootworm
Manufactured Animals

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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Back to the Tribe

Why Handwriting Must Die

Associate professor Anne Trubek argues that handwriting will soon be history, because writing words by hand is a technology that’s just too slow for our times, and our minds. A copy-paste summary from her essay:

“Handwriting has been around for just 6,000 of humanity’s some 200,000 years. Its effects have been enormous, of course: It alters the brain, changes with civilizations, cultures and factions, and plays a role in religious and political battles.”

“Most of us know, but often forget, that handwriting is not natural. We are not born to do it. There is no genetic basis for writing. Writing is not like seeing or talking, which are innate. Writing must be taught.”

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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?


Human Augmentation™

As a gamer, I come across many visions of possible futures. But this trailer from the upcoming video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third part in the Deus Ex series shocked me with its convincing message.

Prosthetic limbs have been perfected, and in this world people are exchanging their completely functional limbs for better and improved parts. But what are the dangers of doing this? Except for the many ethical questions it proposes, it also lays our humanity in the hands of corporations. What if, just as the trailer suggests, we need to take drugs to keep our bodies from rejecting the augmentations? Will we start to despise those who give up their organic ‘parts’ for better ones? Or look up to them?


Retro-futuristic Weather Machine

Geo-engineering avant la lettre. This is what 19th century people thought a 21th century weather machine would look like. This retro-futuristic postcard was produced around 1900 by Hildebrands – a leading German chocolate company of that time. Unsure whether the device was envisioned to run on steam. Via Paleo Future.