Monday, 12 June 2017

twitch and tantra

Though I’d venture that the benefits of yoga don’t come in the form of a perfect pose and could even prove harmful (I embrace the fact that I’m an awkward mess and don’t get discouraged), a wearable technology clothier is introducing (with consultation by instructors) a pair of leggings—yoga pants and the athleisure industry comprise a multi-billion dollar market—that has a suite of sensors embedded within the textiles that can detect in conjunction with one’s mobile device the position that one is trying to assume and gives feedback with battery-powered pulses to correct one’s posture and stance. The company is designing other interactive sports apparel (which would be a potential leveller of handicaps for other games) and though I have a few reservations concerning the appropriateness of bionics in yoga, I’ll bet that the system would be beneficial for a beginner without the ability or means to seek out a yogi.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

mancunians united

Though the poem was commissioned a few years ago to celebrate the unique character of the city in a wholly different context, poet Tony Walsh’s recitation of his This is the Place hit some very resonate notes that helped those attending this vigil find some solace in not losing the strength of what connects them.

This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace; it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands.

And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh—take the mick summat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yea we’ve a wealth

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

i seem to be a verb

We were pleased to certify the veracity of a quotation by engineer and futurist Buckminster Fuller on the topic of policing the under-class by insisting that we all be kept occupied and not left to our own devices. Speaking volumes on the subject of universal basic income and technological redundancy, Fuller in 1970 answering to an environmental teach-in reported by New York magazine replied:

“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Again, instead of being fearful of robots taking our jobs, we ought to welcome it, lest it this revolution, disruption be misappropriated once again.

http referer

Via Kottke, we are directed to a reflection on how the online environment has changed in the past decade by technology correspondent Alexis Madrigal writing for The Atlantic. The article is definitely worth reading through and of course where we are with the internet becomes all the more absorbing when conditioned with the filter of time and wondering how things might be different.
As a fellow purveyor of fine hypertext products surely appreciates diverting from one playground to explore others—or in other terms, to escape from a walled-garden, the central thesis of Madrigal’s argument is encapsulated by those who dare click on a link—with discrimination, sadly, as there are an awful lot of imposters and catch-penny sites and worse out there. What do you think? For better or worse, in 2007—which also saw the iPhone become commercially available, the internet was a quite different network of connections where as much happened below the surface and behind the scenes and parting that curtain to follow the daisy-chain of links to an unexpected place was more routine, whereas after the growth of social platforms (parallel with the pace of the progress of mobility) and dominance—at the expense of the monumental architecture of entities like Wikipedia and the blogosphere though there are quite a few troopers and true-believers, most of the action is on the surface and corralled.

Sunday, 14 May 2017


The consensus seems to suggest that for all the potentially dangerous disruption unleashed—and not to financial institutions or social networks—but to hospitals and transportation support systems, and for the risks involved if caught, the group behind a global tranche of ransom-ware cyber-attacks have little ill-gotten Geld to show for it.
Even when weighing the risks of how it might encourage further extortion, security experts are tacitly suggesting that they paid this pittance—though doing so isn’t just send a nuisance away, should one consider the shuddering scope of the kidnapped data that they could release, resell or delete if their demands weren’t met, not to mention the real risk to life and limb. The groups behind these attacks, which capitalised on exploitative techniques that the US National Security Agency believed that as the guys in the white hats would only work for them, perhaps wanted industry to finally patch all these flaws to bother hackers and snooping governments—as this attack surely can no longer be carried out with the same quiver of tactics. What do you think? As small amounts continue to flow in, it strikes me as their demands probably fail to exceed some threshold for authorities to act on and they could possibly just bilk their victims with ransom becoming a protection-racket. Maybe it’s too increase the value of the cyber-currency that they’re demanding remuneration in—which would appear especially safe if they’re never apprehended. Whatever the outcome, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

senor and sensibility

Similar in principle to the technique of phreaking to hijack switchboard exchanges, hackers may be finding other outlets to violate the sanctity and security of our phones, drones and other networked, autonomous appliances (and driverless carriages) by targeting them with blasts of very specific acoustic signals.
These sound waves are not necessarily a way of commandeering a device directly but is a way of altering its perceptions, blinding it or throwing it off balance, by skewing its senses—either resulting in paralysis or propelling itself into surrounding obstacles. What do you think?  I do not see the point of creating smart toasters, baby-monitors, refrigerators, umbrellas (that beg to be taken if the weather forecast deems it necessary), and microwave ovens if they open up a path of least resistance to our wired ecosystem and doubt the convenience justifies the risk.  Even changing the reading of a small component could set off a cascade of a catastrophic effects.

Monday, 13 March 2017

sxsw or urbi et orbi

The BBC’s technology correspondent catches up with Bishop Paul Tighe, Vatican representative and papal social media handler, in attendance at the South by Southwest conference.
The Holy See will also be presenting a panel discussion on Compassionate Disruption, which has attracted a lot of attention, but the interview focused on the forum that essentially launched the media platform Twitter a decade hence and the papacy’s uncomfortable but determined embrace of the social network five years ago. Pope Francis’ directive is that tweets are at minimum to be encouraging and if one deigns to enter into that discussion, one should try to avoid the negative elements out there.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

bed of nails

A far better solution than surfaces coated with antimicrobial chemicals which are just as prone to propelling the survival of the fittest as any other hygienic strategies, material science to looking toward the dragon fly, as TYWKIWDBI informs, for a novel way to repel germs.
Engineers have created a structure out of black silicon, nanopillars, that are very punishing to the cellular membranes of bacteria, just like the topology found on the insects’ wings. Once on this sort of surface, should the microbe move it will be sheared to pieces. Other research projects have yielded nano-structures that inhibit the bacteria sticking at all or being disruptively slippery to discourage cohesion and infection.

Monday, 6 March 2017

your mileage may vary

Via the forever fabulous Everlasting Blรถrt comes this delightful promotional film from the American Petroleum Institute that illustrates the virtues of fuel-efficiency and ethical resource management through the conformist practises of the Martians in thrall to the great and powerful Ogg who pay the primitive Earthlings a visit, who despite their superior technology, don’t have infrastructure and public institutions worked out too well. This animated short by character designer Tom Oreb is from 1956 and for the time really highlights our ability to harness energy and develop new industries but it also demonstrates that we’ve all but stopped progressing, insofar as we’re still reliant on oil.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

i for one welcome our robot overlords

Perhaps betraying an enormous amount of good judgment that surpasses their programming, androids seem, as Gizmodo delightfully points out with a thorough and rather exhaustive array of examples, not to warm to the pseudo-populist leaders of the world.
It’s not as if they’ve just been warned-off by some of the politicians that have experienced Dear Leader’s forceful and strange hand-shake and the aversion, surely mutual, seems nearly universal among the recently matriculated. As the author posits, these PR agents might have been sent from the future to give us a subtle warning, encoded in etiquette.

Monday, 6 February 2017


Via Super Punch, we discover that engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created translucent amล“boid robots composed almost solely of hydrogel—a rubbery substance that’s fairly robust, enabling these little gelatine machines to dart around quickly and punch quite above their weight with flagella and pseudopodia.
The video demonstration that includes enveloping and then releasing a fish is a little scary to imagine, given their near invisibility, but the potential is really staggering from cleaning up pollution in the oceans to making surgery a matter of swallowing a pill. Not only are the robots able to evade visual detection, appearing only as a ripple, they also have the same acoustic and fluid dynamic properties of the surrounding medium when relaxed and solid objects would pass through them without realising it—just a ghostly organising principle for water. It makes me think of the undersea aliens encountered in the 1989 James Cameron film The Abyss and wonder if such technological surrogates will be our ambassadors for first contact.

Friday, 27 January 2017

supernatural or deus ex machina

I recall coming across in the afterward of some assigned reading for a class designed to teach empathy or some such thing whose inspiration and circumspection is doubtless virtuous but tends to wither too quickly a confession on the part of the author of a touch of agnosticism but was more than willing and desirous to entertain there being a God, especially a personal and benevolent one. The author went on—the book was otherwise forgettable and a bit embarrassing to endure—to ponder if civilisation did not only invent the concept of the divine through myth-making and trying to understand the natural world but also (by being worthy) created the gods.
There was no talk of a technological singularity or philosophical mechanism but broached the idea, like the concept of some religious tradition that human beings were not animate with souls from birth but rather earned them in epiphanies. One expert in the field of artificial intelligence, coming from a slightly nuanced angle, conjectures that in order to gain and keep the trust, faith of humans, robots as they become by degrees omnipresent and omnipotent in a non-supernatural fashion, they only way to guarantee that that power will be used wisely and compassionately is if all power is surrendered right away unconditionally. This God-fearing nature in many of us, fretting over idolatry, job-security and future-shock, is fraught with paradox as it is precisely what is holding us back from relinquishing control to an albeit hypothetical artificial god and possibly ensures that the progress of artificial intelligence going forward will appear to humans as rather Old Testament punishing and oppressive—and out of our control altogether. I wonder if all sufficiently sophisticated civilisations create gods such as these and whether these titans are heir to or destroyers of the elder gods. What do you think about this? Like the plot device, a god from the machine, perhaps the resistance, the fear of God is present in part because to be otherwise and more receptive and welcome might betray the blandishments of laziness and masking ineptness with a twist that ensures a happy ending.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

doping or spider-sense

Via Marginal Revolution, we are invited to entertain the notion that we could—and are currently, could tune our bodies not just with exercise or fad diets or self-medication but with more sophisticated forms of gene therapy, whose advocates and early-adopters encourage one to try at home.
One experimental method that smacks a little of Frankenstein involves temporarily stimulating cells to produce certain proteins through electro-currents purported to stimulate longevity and overall health—but not anchored in one’s chromosomes and genetic makeup permanently and the effects only last weeks to months before a re-charge is needed. This sort of gene-regulation is radical enough in itself—especially as a DIY project, but as the technology behind gene and DNA editing called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), think of the potential for individuals to understand and successful tweak their biochemistry and mutate themselves to attain super-human abilities.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

give me that old time disruptor

Collectors’ Weekly has an interesting review of some of the gimmicky, vintage gadgets of the Industrial Revolution that were touted (at least by the tinkerers who had them on offer) as game-changers for industries yet to be established and plied eagerly on early-adopters.
Some of these inventions and interventions—called revelatory due to the times—or their ideas are still with us, like various punch-clocks and time-verifiers, much like those productivity-boosters and service-tickets built into our infrastructure to make sure our utilities aren’t putting their thumbs to the scales, which is sometimes just as much as a time-thief. What do you think? Some inventions create problems to solve.  Will digital-signatures, encryption, kick-starter campaigns, drones and the formalised sharing-economy (in all senses, models built on gigs and renting out one’s time and property as well as platforms for interaction) look like snake-oil and tonic compared to the real innovations of the age to the next generation (perhaps authentically, 3-D printing, gene-editting and immersive virtual reality for therapy and exploration) and are only capitalising on the excitement of the present? Of course, I suppose the trick is in recognising the hucksters from the brokers and engineers and for most of us, that’s usually only gained in hindsight.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

separation anxiety or we can remember it for you wholesale

Writing for The Atlantic, Rebecca Searles explores a strange new sort of metaphysical detachment that some users experience after testing out virtual-reality and then forced to confront their mundane, authentic realities. Somewhere on the scale between awakening from an odd dream and Total Recall, unreality can be a lingering thing (as sophisticated as it has become) and once oneironauts get their sea-legs and can cope with the physical disorientation, some can start to develop symptoms of post VR sadness when the experience is over. What do you think? Given that the point of VR is to deliver an experience as realistic as possible—and perhaps even a hyper-realistic one where humans aren’t bound by mortal weaknesses, perhaps it ought not come as a surprise and accepted as a natural consequence, especially when the sheltered existence is perceived to be something better than the everyday alternative.

Friday, 18 November 2016


Honoured with the James Dyson Award for innovative design, Isis Shiffer’s EcoHelmet is a fully recyclable, collapsing bicycle helmet made of paper that folds flat for easy transport. An elegant solution to an obvious problem, these helmets are cheap to produce so riders wouldn’t be put off in donning one (especially for urban bike-sharing schemes or ad-hoc, unexpected jaunts) but durable and robust enough to provide real protection.  Be sure to visit the link up top to find out more about Shiffer’s design and review other Dyson Award laureates from years past.


The uncanny visual acuity of our friend the Mantis Shrimp (who’ve been blessed with a whole range of super powers including battle claws whose joust can create a sonic boom) could teach scientists how to make more advanced polarised lenses that could discriminate between the signatures of diseased and healthy tissue. Their compound eyes, described as hexnocular, allow the shrimp to communicate and flirt at a spectrum that no other creatures are privy to are inspiring engineers to replicate the optics which may lead to remarkable early detection of cancer and dementia, able to study what goes on in organs and neurons just with a superficial glance.

Friday, 4 November 2016

wear and tear

Amazingly, material scientists working in the laboratories of University of California’s San Diego campus are developing fabrics and casings (and even circuit-boards) that can repair themselves using an ink like compound infused with magnetic particles that can be directed to a rip or crack and instantly cauterise the wound at first signs of disintegration. This self-healing function is a lot like our own pliable, living skin and may make some significant inroads into our culture of over-packaging (if our stuff was more resilient, maybe handling wouldn’t be of such importance) and disposable outlook on things. What if you had socks that darned themselves? I think that would in itself be a motivation to mend and rehabilitate things not yet imbued with the ability to patch themselves up.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

with my sword and magic helmet or electric youth

Fast Company features a suite of wearables—an exoskeletal enhancement, that impart super powers on those who don them.
There’s a harness, a truss that provides gentle nudges to keep one oriented and an earpiece that promises to filter out unwanted environmental noises and enable people to have a conversation that rises about the general din without shouting themselves hoarse, but what I found most clever was a concept (that’s been in development for several years apparently) called the Ouijiband, referencing those involuntary, nervous motions that move a planchette across a Ouija board, that would attach to the user’s wrist to guide and refine one’s dexterity—be it improving on a surgeon’s hand or as a mechanical trainer to perfect one’s tennis-swing. What do you think? Once we have these prosthetic-assists available, is it negligent to try out anything without them? There is the question of ego versus responsibility on one hand, if one indeed foregoes the short-cut in the first place, but what happens to play and experimentation if none of us are willing to doff our accessories?

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


Thanks to the always marvelous Nag on the Lake, we’re given to ponder on the meta-consumer character of these 3D printed earrings, designed to catch cordless headphones when they inevitably (they say, although I’ve never liked using any sort of ear-bud) dislodge from ones ears. Without judging the merit of this concept, which I think is pretty clever for the niche or failing it redresses, the brilliance of this “product” is that it’s only a concept that one can make, reinvent or not. How do you think greater access to 3D printing technology is going to change the relationship between consumers and manufacturers and potential be a disruptive factor all around.