Social connectivity

August 7, 2008

No thought, however trivial, should go undigitized – or so it seems these days….
Informs us that “real life happens between blogposts and email”
– and you want to share this, you wonder? — really?
“you wouldnt send an email to a friend to tell
them that you are having coffee?”
 – No, I wouldnt!
“But what about the people that want to know about the
little things that happens in your life ?”
 — they join nsa?
“Meet Carla – she is addicted to her mobile phone,
blogs – and has contacts all over the world?
She heard about twitter – and was sceptical …
But signed on anyway ..
The little messages on twitter from her friends
and coworkers painted a whole new picture,
that she had never seen before ..
Soon she became a friend of twitter and posted updates
to twitter”
 .. all the time, we imagine ..
twitter messages works because they are small,
only 140 characters.
By asking the question “what are you doing” – Carla
found that twitter brought her closer to people
that matters to her …
One service like that should be enough, but not so… is a microblogging service brought to you by Control Yourself, Inc.. It runs the Laconica microblogging software, version 0.5.0, available under the GNU Affero General Public License.
on they inform us, that:
tumblelogs are the easiets way to share yourself …
– do you really want to?
Chloe Higashida  writes …
“Be kind to everyone. You may not be able to save a person,
but at least you weren’t one of the people who didn’t try.”
Good for you Chloe, but seriously do you even know me? is really cool.
Email anything to
attach anything …
we reply instantly with your new blog …
If you can use email, you can have your own website to share thoughts and media with friends, family and the world.
No setup or signup ..
– great, we hated these nauseating experiences of filling out all those ridiculous forms …
later in posterous it reads …
Autopost to everywhere
Just set up your other accounts here. The next time you post to posterous, we will instantly autopost everywhere else
Flickr, blogger etc … — how do you do that? I have never given my login to you guys ?
And are emails safe ?
Email can easily be spoofed, but Posterous has come up with some ways to figure out if the email we receive comes from you. If we think it might not be you, we ask you to confirm the email before we post it. No matter what, you always get an email notification of every post we put online for your blog, with an easy link to remove the post if you didn’t do it. And remember, if you’re running into problems with people abusing your account, help is just one email away.
— wonderful ,,,,,
“How much space do I get?”
You get up to 1 GB of space for personal use. If you need more, tell us.
— Oh boy, I remember when 1 kb was a lot ,,,, 🙂

So I tried this, see my blog at
And google is so yesterday

I entered my own name — and it immidiately gave me:
I had completely forgottan that I had signed up to a service that would track me down forever ….
This is expected considering that the folks behind Cuil are mainly ex-employees of Google who have lots of experience in the area of search. In additional, they claim that the number of pages indexed by the Cuil search engine is 3 times more than Google and 10 times more than the remaining key players, Microsoft and Yahoo.

with all these blogs, twitters and what have you
You must have services that bring your life together – so you go to swurl.
I.e. url:
Especially like their timeline, where one can really read all about what one has been up to:

Facebook is so yesterday …

Next time you find yourself stranded near a black hole

August 7, 2008

You will find Greg Egans “Incandescence” very helpful.

Of course you need to be inside a physical body again.
Being software linked into a scape is no good.
Like the heroes of Incandescence you must transfer to
a body. A body that must be left to engage
with the physical world.
– “It felt odd to be
on such intimate terms with the physical world again,
without a layer of simulation. It
was like being naked for the first time in a century”.

And a very dangerous thing this thing about having a body.
– “To travel is to die”.
Certainly true if you are in
the wilderness of stars near the black hole in
the center of our galaxy.

But you will experience many wonders with a body:
– “Out in the disc people usually waited
for cultures to develop interstellar travel
for themselves before making contact with them;
the exceptions had often been messy”.

However, Using an avatar, a tiny thing some 1 centimeter high,
you can explore other civilizations.

An so it goes – Our heroes make contact with some locals
on an ark, survivors from some ancient, 50 million years +, civilisation.
The ark itself is circling a neutron star near the
core of our Galaxy,
So here we go: Our heroes is now inside a body that looks somewhat
the same as the arkdwellers.

-“My name is Ra”, Rakesh said.
-“I am Neb”, the farmer replied.
-“I’ve come from the outside world”, Rakesk announced boldly.
-“We have enough workers” – Neb explained.

Hilarious stuff from the core of the Galaxy….

Egan explains it to us:
“To the arkdwellers it was frivolous diversion
to talk about anything but their sleepwalking existence.
Inconsequentiel chatter is what the arkdwellers
wants – about food, sex and sleep”.

Yet the arkdwellers have general intelligence.
And their makers have given them a mechanism,
where extreme stress triggers a genetic mechanisms
that brings about curiousity. Enlightement on overdrive so to speak.
It is just a question on when to throw the
switch to enlightement.

So of we go to throw the switch on enlightement.

All brilliant stuff – and on the way Egan wants
to teach his readers some general relativity.
Unfortunately I dont think that part of the
book reaches the heights it could have gone to.

In Egans own words:
“Incandescence grew out of the notion that the theory of general relativity —
widely regarded as one of the pinnacles of human intellectual achievement —
could be discovered by a pre-industrial civilization with no steam engines,
no electric lights, no radio transmitters, and absolutely no tradition of astronomy”.

“How, then, could my alien civilization possibly reach the same conceptual heights,
when they were armed with none of these apparent prerequisites?
The short answer is that they would need to be living in
just the right environment: the accretion disk of a large black hole”.

“How? Put on your space suit, and pump out all the station’s air.
Then fill the station with small objects —
paper clips, pens, whatever — being careful to place them initially
at rest with respect to the walls.
Wait, and see what happens”.

Yes. Ok.  Next time I find myself stranded inside a rocky world
near a black hole I will find this part of the book very helpful …
But come on.  There should be a new revision of Incandescence
where you actually get the math and the theory of
general relativity that goes along with each chapter in the book.
Otherwise it is just to hard to be a reader….
You will have to read all the extra material
on to make all the right connections –
Certainly this stuff should have been included in the book?
Along with some easy to understand additional cartoon like explanations ?-
To understand is to have it explained in many different ways?

best wishes

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

August 4, 2008

I began reading Rainbows End ready to be amazed.

The story is set in 2025 San Diego. We follow
the famous poet Robert Gu.
Now cured of Alzheimers, but missing all
recent changes in technology.
Which we are now introduced to
through Robert’s experience.
So far so good.

We learn that everyone is plugged into the net on a constant basis
via wearable computers with contact lenses for output display.
Through your contact lenses you can “google” in midair.
There is a complete visual overlay on the “real” world,
allowing everyone to effectively “live” in whatever fantasy world they desire.
And the DHS – departmentment of Homeland security – logic
is deeply embedded in all hardware.
Athletes are on drugs …etc.

Its all very neat and all very likely,
but not very exciting, and not very amazing,
actually. This is more
like today than 17 years out in the future ….
I wanted to be excited about this book –
but in the end I was not. I am afraid.


How good people turn evil – Stanford Prison experiment

August 3, 2008

In the classic Stanford Prison Experiment
Philip Zimbardo took a group of ordinary students
and placed them in a mock prison, guarded by fellow
students. In less than a week, the study had
to be terminated, when the “guards” became
increasingly sadistic and the “prisoner” pathological.
Raising fundamental questions on good and evil.
Apparently most of us can be initiated
into the ranks of evil doers.

The book, the Lucifer effect, explores
how good people becomes bad.

Lucifer has of course done his job over
the centuries. In the middle ages we had
the inquisition. Where Philip Zimbardo
gives us thought provoking examples on how
good becomes bad.
I.e. The Malleus Maleficarum was required reading for
the judges of the inquisition. It begins
with a problem. How can evil exists in a world
created and governed by an all-good, all powerful
God? The answer is (was) that the Creator
allows evil to test the souls of man. Yield
to the temptations – and go to hell. Resist,
and be invited into heaven.
So to do good – evil had to be found and eliminated.
Especially, find witches and heretics and burn
them on the stake. The ardent and sincere desire to combat evil
generated evil on a larger scale than
ever seen before.

To Philip Zimbardo much of it starts when
human relationships becomes “I – it”.
Humanized relationships are “I – Thou”,
while dehumanized relationships are “I – It”,
The misperception of certain humans
as subhuman, bad humans, inhuman, dispensable,
is facilitated with labels. stereotypes and slogans –
and most importantly – when others are treated as “it”.
The Stanford prison experiment created an ecology
of dehumanization. It started with loss of freedom,
loss of privacy, and finally loss of personal identity.
It separated inmates from their past, their families etc.
Eventually, external coercive rules and arbitrary rules by guards
dictated the prisoners behaviour. Prisoners who just one week
before had been average students.
Tender caring emotions were absent among guards and
prisoners after only a few days.

“Proof” of sorts that Zimbardos thesis , that
external situations decides much of what is good
and evil, – is in fact true.

If one wants to defend human decency by saying that
the students in the Stanford Prison Experiment
were not average – Zimbardo tells you that
they were exactly that. Average.
Even though noone likes to think of themselves as average.
I.e. In a study – 86 percent of Australians rate their
job performance as above average. And 90 percent
of american business managers rate their performance
as superior to that of their average peer.

Worse – it follows that evil is within everyone:
An inventive teacher, Ron Jones, would teach
his high school students something about
Hitlers Nazi regime. Despite his forewarning to
the class about all of this – he quickly established
a new rigid classroom rule, that should be obeyed
without question.
All answers must be limited to three words or less and
preceded by “sir”. When noone challenged this or other
arbitrary rules – the classroom atmosphere began to change.
The verbally fluent students lost their positions and
the less verbal, more physically assertative took
The classroom movement was named the third wave.
Each day there was a new slogan. like – “strength through
discipline”, “strength through action”, “strength
through pride”. And there would eventually be
more than 100 kids attending “a third wave rally”
outside the classroom.
When Jones finally told his students what he had
been up to – and what he wanted to demonstrate –
noone ever admitted to attenting the rally.

Another teacher, Jane Elliott, created third grade hell, when she
divided the class into blue eyed and brown eyed kids and began
telling stories about what blue eyed kids or brown eyed
kids really are like.

In Zimbados words –
Our personal identities are socially situated.
we are what we live, eat, work. It is possible to predict
a wide range of your attitudes and behaviour from
knowing your status factors – your ethnicity, social class,
education, and religion.

But still – not all is said. Occasional
a hero comes along – and can not be bullied
into accepting evil. It might be a John McCain
in Vietnamese prison that will not rat on his
country. Or it might be a Nelson Mandela
that will not answer violence with violence.

Evil does not always have the last word.
and most people eventually know what is right and
what is wrong –
But the immature, it be one prison guard, or an entire nation,
you can apparently always trick into being evil by
creating a “lucifer situation” – where evil is

I would have given the book better marks had there be
more on teaching us all to be Jedi in the
face of evil – as it is, to me, it only demonstrates
that circumstance plays a big part in making
average people evil. I dont think
Zimbardo is out there to explain away evil and
take responsibility away from the individual.
But he should be far more concrete and have much more
focus on all of this.


The Lucifer Effect
Philip Zimbardo
Rider 2007

Tianasquare 1989

August 3, 2008
Tianasquare 1989, Peking.

Tianasquare 1989, Peking.

One man stands up for democracy and freedom.

A lot can be done with large datasets

July 1, 2008

And Ian Ayres’ book, Supercrunchers,  will tell you a little about it.

Supercrunchers are those who use lage datasets
to find patterns in human behaviour, and
predict the future based on these large datasets.

The book informs us that super crunching is on the verge of being
used all over. E.g.
Chess grandmaster Kasparov was no match
for IBMs Deep Blue chess computer,
that stored some 700.000 grandmaster chess games to help find the
winning move.
The IRS could use its data to tell a small business,
if it is spending too much or too little on advertising.
Indeed, the IRS probably has enough data to
make good estimates on whether business, marriages, etc. etc.
will fail – based only on comparison with its existing dataset.

For the paranoid, it is a horror that supermarkets could map your life cycle and predict your next purchases pretty accurately (based on
what other similar customers did).
For the optimist data mining is a good thing and we’ll all lead better lives because of it.

Want to write a bestseller about it? Compare your title and some key words with data from a database of books,, containing millions of bestsellers and flops, and you will get your answer.

It all seems pretty straight forward, and the book has some nice examples of what we can expect in the coming years.


Descartes Error by Antonio Damasio (review)

April 3, 2008

We have heard a lot about railway worker Phineas P. Gage
by now. In the summer of 1848 Gage blast away rock in Vermont
in order for the railway to have straigther and more level path.
Unfortunately, one days he lits the explosive powder
by accident, and an iron bar blows upward in his face.
The iron enters Gages left cheek and traverses the front of his
Miraculously he doesn’t die. And even weirder, he can
still function, sort of.
As it turns out, he is not the same man anymore.
With the frontal lobes damaged, he could not make good
choices. They were not reserved or slight
decisions of someone who whose mind is diminished and who is
afraid to act. No, his decisions were very poor, actively
And of the story goes. The mind i situated in the brain.
Brain damage is mind damage.

Damasio makes it clear that his account of the working
of the mind is a limited one: “I am skeptical of sciences
presumption of objectivity and definitiveness.
I have a difficult time seeing scientific results,
especially in neurobiology, as anything but provisional
approximations, to be enjoyed for a while,
and descarded as better accounts become available.”
– And then of course he sets sail for what appears
to be a pretty impressive definitive account of
what a mind in a brain in body – really means.

Based on Gages case (and the damage to his frontal lobes)
decision making is explored.
His somatic-marker hypothesis is explained.
I.e. you need feelings for decision making, and
if none is present (as in the robot or in
a frontal lobe damage patient) you only have infinite
decisions trees that doesn’t help you much actually
coming up with a decision.
The body turns out to take part in this. Emotions are send
out the body. And the body then performs some complex
calculations, which your mind then read back as a feeling.
(you walk along at night and is followed, your brain
set heart racing, and your mind then read your
heart racing away, which introduces feelings of terror).

Descartes error was that he imagined thinking
as an activity quite separate from the body.
The thinking thing away from the nonthinking body.
You think – you are. But not according to Damasio.
Here we go back to the dawn of humanity and
beings were beings. In the beginning there was
being, only later came elementary consciousness
and later still thinking.
Descartes error was the separation between body and mind,
between the mechanically operated body stuff on
one hand and the midn stuff on the other.
According to Damasio physical pain,
emotional upheavel cannot exist separately from the body.
So, if you really think you can simulate a mind,
you can only do so, by simulating a body also.

Sounds reasonable to me! A brilliant book.


The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama book review

March 12, 2008

Obamas second book is almost as good as
the first. But only almost. Long parts are
somewhat boring policy statements. Policies that
doesn’t seem all that new, or exciting.
Something we have heard a million times before, and
where we have turned somewhat cynical.

That said his framing of our world
does seem to be right on the money.
It starts with Reagan – that he doesnt endorse
(I assume he cant as a democrat). – Nevertheless,it does sound
like a ringing endorsement:
Reagan spoke to the longing for order,
our need to believe that we are not simply subject
to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape
our individual and collective destinies, so long as we
rediscover the traditional values of hard work, patriotism,
personal responsibility, optimism and faith.

It is also good to hear – and obviously necessary:
That the behaviours that express our mutual regard for one another
should be: Honesty, fairness, humility, kindness,
courtesy and compassion.
If you have the basics rights. It cant be all wrong.

And you dont feel manipulated when you read this.
His remarks about Clinton. E.g.
Clinton could seem frightening coldhearted (allowing the
execution of a mentally retarded death row inmate to
go forward on the eve of an important primary).
Candidates signify their values by stopping at a black church,
go on a hunting trip, to a NASCAR race and read in
a kindergarten classroom.
informs us that he understands the need for something genuine
Obamas promise to follow his mothers guiding principle,
when dealing with other prople : “How would that make
you feel”. Also holds a lot of promise in all its
His remarks on values are obviously true. And does
need some attention in this day and age:
Our values are where we put our time, energy and money.
If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values,
if we aren’t willing to make sacrifices to realize them,
we should ask ourselves whether we believe in them at all.
Do we want nothing more than be rich, thin, young, famous,
safe and entertained?
Then it is understandable why debt is handed down to the
next generation and why millions languish in powerty.

Certainly high spirited. And faith based.
In Obamas words:
When democrats abandon the field of religious discourse,
ignoring the debate on what it means to be a good christian,
muslim or jew – others will fill the vacuum. Which is
bad politics (if you are a democrat).

Is it enough in capitalisms periodic gales of creative destruction.
In a world of natural disasters and wars?

It is all we got – obviously. The rest, time will tell.

The small anecdotes you get as you read the book
makes it worthwhile. E.g.
White couples who toss me their car keys as I stand
outside a restaurant waiting fro the valet, police cars
polling me over for no apparent reason.
And you wonder how these people will feel
realizing that they treated the future president that way?

March 12 2008.

Barack Obama’s memoirs

March 2, 2008

In Barack Obamas memoirs “Dreams from my father”
he informs us that an autobiography promises feats worthy
of record, conversations with famous people, a central role
in important events
– and there is none of that here!
That is funny!

If you are going to president of the United States,
I would say that there is a least one famous person in the book!?
And the book is just crammed with feats worthy of record:
Starting with his white mothers fantasies.
The promise of another life. Warm, sensuel, exotic, different
(from white life in Kansas). His grandfathers hopes and failures,
that takes them to Hawaii. Where eventually his mother

meets Barack sr. She is confused and alone, and flattered by
Barack sr’s attention.
And somehow, her parents are not against the marriage.
There are vague indications that Baracks grandfather
sees this as the future. In stark contrast to everyone else,
he doesn’t judge. Barack sr’s father on the other hand,
back home in Kenya, is against the marriage.
— As he has another wife back there….
A shattered marriage it may be,
but nevertheless a marriage. Besides, the father,
rightly, suspects
it will be difficult for a white woman to live in Kenya.

The journey is as long as any journey could be.
Baracks father is a
Kenyan of the Luo tribe, born on the shores of
Lake Victoria. We are told that the “Luo are intelligent
but lazy”, in contrast to
“the Kikuyu who are money-grubbing but industrious”.
With amazing luck and a quick mind Barack senior gets
a scholarship in the US (University of Hawaii).
Where he meets Baracks jr’s mother.
The plot thickens.

Barack, the father, is very ambitious though.
The parents breakup is only briefly sketched –
but nevertheless easy to understand,
there is a divide. His mother sense of adventure
unbroken though. And she soon finds another man,
this time an Indonesian. And off they
(Barack and his mother) are to Indonesia.
Writing home to his grandparents in Hawaii,
young Barack finds it difficult to tell the whole story
about Indonesia.
The face of the man, who had come to their door one day,
with a gaping hole,
where his nose should have been.
The whistling sound he made, as he asked Baracks mother
for food. The world he finds himself in for four years
(with his mother) is violent, unpredictable and often cruel.
He decides that his grandparents knows nothing of such a
world, and that there is no point in disturbing
them with questions with no answers.
His stepfather explains him the way of the world.
The strong man takes the weak mans land. And he makes
the weak man work in his fields. If the weak mans woman
is pretty, the strong man will take her.
Ending with the question –
what would you rather be? strong or weak?

Baracks mother wakes him every morning at 4 O’Clock,
and teaches him english for 3 hours,
before he is off to Indonesian (and later Catholic) school.
Eventually, she decides his future will be better in America
and sends him back to his grandparents in Hawaii.
Back in Americas consumer culture,
where you are safe (and drops into a long a hibernation).
His grandmother tells him, that the only thing that really
matters in life is that your kids do well.
But not all is well, after all, you have the british out
there to enslave people, from Kenya, to Indonesia
(and originally in America as well, lets not forget).
And then it turns out that he is black (half black anyway).
A struggle that is his, not his mothers, nor his grandparents.
His struggles are his alone, or, would whites look
as his struggles as a mirror of their own,
rather than yet more evidence of black pathology?
As a young man he tries out pot, and booze;
maybe a little blow, when he could afford it.
No mention of not inhaling the stuff (Clinton style)
But eventually he finds his way.
Away from inner city schools (that are about social
control, holding pens, miniture jails). Gets to college.
Finds satisfaction in social work in Chicago.
And eventually lands a Harward law degree.
In America (and the western world) you find
technology and mobility –
and you looses the insistent pleasure of peoples company,
the joy of human warmth.
Is family a genetic chain, parents and offspring.
A social construct, economics. Or something else –
shared memories.
An Ambit of love, a reach across the void? He wonders.
The trail takes him back to Kenya to find out.
In Kenya he finds his father and grandfather Husseins
graves. For some, it seems as though his father ends
up a defeated, lonely bureaucrat.
Obama concludes:
And both men are cursed with to much rigidness,
suspicions and male cruelties.
There is to little encouragement,
To little embrace. Strong true love.
Lot of gifts – a quick mind – powers of concentration,
charm – and some faults.
And there he is – in Kenya. The land of his ancestors.
Where literally, everyone knows his name (and can spell it).
In contrast to Europe, which is beautiful,
but someone elses romance.
At home at last. For we are strangers before them,
and sojourners, as were all our fathers. 1, Chronicles 29.15.
Barack means blessed, and in the end he describes
himself as blessed.

I read the book in one stretch. I find it very logical
that eventually someone with this kind of lifestory will
make it to become US president in 21st century.
What is not so logical is that the eventual president
will be a poet. But then again, King David was a poet.
So we have seen that before, as well I guess.
Barack Obame has been critizised for being naive
– reading the book I find him nothing of the sort.
He is candid, but his pictures of parents,
and grandparents seems very precise.
Actually, none are overly romantized in the book.
Yet I find the book a loving account.
As a european I am not all that pleased to understand
that the next president may be a lot more interested in Kenya,
than he might be in the continent of Europe.
As a human being I would consider Barack Obama my friend
after having read his book.
There is passion, love and struggle
in that book that should end in a warm embrace.

Simon Laub
March 2nd. 2008.

Getting to the Singularity, Charles Stross’ Accelerando

September 23, 2007

Charles Stross book accelerando is a nice read. No doubt about it. But we kind of heard
the singularity plot outline before (e.g. Ray Kurzweil):

One day in this century, machines will have more processing
power than human brains – and that will make for a completely
new society. The singularity.
In Charles Stross’ words: “Sometime in this century laboring women will
produce forty-five thousand babies a day, representing
10^23 MIPS of processing power. Also around the world,
fab lines will churn out out thirty million microprocessors a day,
representing 10^23 MIPS of processing power.
After that day most of the MIPS being added to the solar
system will be machine hosted”.

And obviously human minds will be connected to
the machines. In accelerando we have the meta cortex –
a distributed cloud of software
agents that surrounds humans in the near future –
a thing which is as much a part of the books characters
than the society of mind that
occupies their skulls.

Eventually, human minds are running more on machines than they
are inside human skulls. Death and biology conquered.
No problem, except perhaps for the legal system. I.e.
“the law didn’t recognize death as a reversible process.
people pay for having their heads frozen after their death,
but when they wake up all reconstructed in some simulation
and without any rights – was that what they wanted ?”

And off we go to the fourth decade,
where the machines are up to 10^33 MIPS and rising, allthough
there is still a long way before the solar system is fully awake.

People (kind of) with neural implants, that feel as natural
as lungs or fingers, with half their wetware running
outside their skull in a personal metacortex, i.e. cyborgs,
gets the first alien nessage – on where to find the router to plug
into the galactic internet.
This we also kind of expected – think Timothy Ferris here.

The new stuff (for me) comes with the ceti
– communication with extraterrestrial intelligences –
Surely, you need a piece of software, that you put into
your head to allow you to have a highlevel protocol service that allows you
to connect to the router and start the ceti.

After that you transfer yourself into the alien network –
and find yourself in a simulation where you dont need to simulate breathing.
Oh sure, you dont feel all that human if you dont breathe?
But so what, you are a posthuman now.

Eventually you catch up with other superintelligences.
Or at least you know they are there. Superintelligences don’t
go travelling, as they cant
get enough bandwidth to transport themselves from one place
to another through the routers … and perhaps
they don’t really need the outside input anymore –
having become a superintelligence what is their really to learn
from the outside. And so Charles Stross neatly solves
the Fermi Paradox for us.

The planets are all dismantled and used as materials
to build a Matrioshka super brain.
The only question now is if information from such a superintelligence
will ever become apparent to someone
from the outside (think fred Hoyle here)
– or it will just die living nothing behind.

I don’t think we really get the answer form Charles Stross
on that one. But he does make the impact of technology on human society, identity and consciousness totally believable. Of course things are really
going to go down this road. It is inevitable.
Highly readable, techno-babbling at times, exciting, but not all that new.
We kind of heard it before.
So now we are certain thats the way it is going to play out.
Don’t know if thats a relief or not …