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.