Thursday 18 April 2024

10x10 (11. 496)

the cloud under the seas: the fleet of secret submarine cable repair ships 

sarbox: US Supreme Court appears skeptical about charging January Sixth rioters with obstruction of justice as defined by a law made in the aftermath of the Enron accounting scandal  

mix-and-match orthography: how Japanese writers navigate a choice between four writing systems—via Cardhouse  

walled gardens have deep roots: the imperative of rewilding (previously) the internet lest the duopolies take over—via Waxy 

bongo bash: Wild Stereo Drums (1961)  

embroidered surveillance: cross-stitch works of closed-circuit security camera footage  

the questor tapes: a 1974 television sci-fi drama about an android with incomplete programming by Star Trek alumni Gene L Coon, D C Fontana and Gene Roddenberry—via r/Obscure Media  

tegelwippen: Dutch towns compete to remove garden paving and embrace weeds—via Miss Cellania  

voir dire: jury selection continues for the criminal trial of Donald J Trump—with some potential jurors being unintentionally doxed by the media 

 atlas 2.0: Boston Dynamics’ new humanoid robot


one year ago: Atelier Elvira, an unwoke chatbot plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: more gachapons plus an introduction to risography

three years ago: the launch of the Disney Channel (1983), an experimental light house plus Wham in China (1985)

four years ago: more links to enjoy, the International Amateur Radio Union plus The Spirits Book (1897)

five years ago: concrete monoliths moved by hand plus Mueller Report redactions

Sunday 7 April 2024

7x7 (11. 474)

my dad is dracula (and a very good dog): the funny webcomic by Jason Poland—via Miss Cellania  

good night george: a last nostalgic look the Glasgow hotel featured in Trainspotting, Taggart and with other cameos in television and film—via Nag on the Lake  

volcanic vortex rings: Mount Etna is sending out smoke signals, a phenomenon never before documented on film  

penny hike: instructions to create a lodestone for mindful, distraction-free wandering, using AI, to return you to where you started—via Web Curios—it has a certain resonance but I’ll give you a magic pebble to keep in your pocket so you don’t get too lost 

spyware: the secret weapons of Cold War espionage  

carmel-by-the-sea: a historic hotel known as the birthplace of the Apple Macintosh restored  

bug bytes: US government created comic books to fight disinformation and increase media literacy fall rather flat of their goals appealing to old tropes—via Hyperallergic

Tuesday 26 March 2024

i’m feeling lucky (11. 451)

A couplet of essays illustrate the insatiable drive for the tech industry to foist AI enhancements to a suite of baseline products (an inuring narrative that we’ve encountered before from guilds to shingles, to telephone directories, to 800 numbers, to websites, to encryption, to block-chain) with a trial of ‘search generative experience’ by default, making chatbot recommendations scraped from the web rather than (ir)relevant links. An experiment for now, it is indicative of the direction behemoths would take user queries—even at the risk of not just being seen as promoting content that no one is looking for but also as the creator of said bad results, redefining what a search-engine does with a curatorial capacity. The counterpoint is somewhat of an apology for the trajectory of seemingly better performance, promising utility, with the wholesale intrusion, offering that AI does not comprehend what “to google” is and cannot differentiate between requests for research and requests for navigation, unwilling to accept a point of departure and what’s easy to know but increasingly harder find. Although championing what is juried by humans (both noting how it is informed our non-synthetic archives), neither developmental observation bodes well for curiosity.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, the Book of Mormon (1820) plus the musical stylings of Takeshi Terauchi

two years ago: more links to enjoy plus some local street art

three years ago: Balance (1989), the Fiat factory test track plus the Hapsburgs attempt to retake the throne (1921)

four years ago: the GOP Death Cult, fomites plus the Schengen Area (1995)

five years ago: more shadowology, The Handmaid’s Tale as a graphic novel, the Frauenhofer Institute (1949), a FOIA primer plus property development naming reforms

Sunday 24 March 2024

11x11 (11. 448)

inauspicious beginnings: a rift opens up in a group of official astrologers employed by the Sri Lankan government to pick ideal dates for new years rituals  

disco arabesquo: record label Habibi Funk aims to introduce Middle Eastern vintage music to wider audiences 

typecraft: a transformative font foundry in India 

the allegory of the cave: on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film’s premiere, we may be still trapped in the Matrix 

banjaxed and bockety: two curious Irish terms 

der buch der hasengeschichten: Tom Seidmann-Freud’s 1924 collection of hare fables 

working for tips: bizarrely robot baristas will accept gratuities, in a service sector landscape already fraught with insecurity and precarity—via tmn  

the juice is on the loose: a sequel thirty-six years in the making, reuniting the original cast—via Miss Cellania  

international system of typographic picture education: an archive of the pictograms of Gerd Arntz—see previously  

pocket full of kryptonite: the preponderance of alternative rock songs about Superman in the 1990s, 2000s 

prosopometamorphopsia: a new study on generalised social anxiety disorder tries to see from the perspective of those with a rare condition that causes faces to appear distorted, demonic—via the New Shelton wet/dry

Sunday 17 March 2024

format cells (11. 430)

Though once deemed too dangerous to release to the public—though the verdict is still out—GPT-2 has been crammed into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, as an AI heuristic tool offline and running locally to teach developers how large language models work and hopefully inspiring the next phase of improvement. Still working off the autocomplete, next token prediction principle that underpins all present chat applications, users input prompts in adjacent fields and the algorithm tries to triangulate a response, and interesting in a way that’s constrained and self-contained so that those experimenting might be able to debug themselves or understand how the sentence building went awry. The other uses that people have shoehorned into the accounting software are always pretty fascinating and the binary file is free to download. More technical details and a tutorial are at the file’s link and at Ars Technica at the link above.

Friday 15 March 2024 (11. 423)

The above domain of the now defunct privately held computer company spun of from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s artificial intelligence laboratory in 1980 that developed and sold the first single-user workstations utilising a high-level programming language especially fluent for hardware and peripheral integration was the registered on this day in 1985, making it the first of its kind and as it is still active, sold to investments, also the oldest. The venerable property now uses AI to rate one’s domain, it appears. Maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the other core and original generic top-level domains .org, .edu, and .net were registered to the US Department of Defence research and development agency DARPA in January of that year, whose predecessor was responsible for the ARPANET project (see previously) that created the first computing network that allowed communication and resource sharing amongst remote terminals.

6x6 (11. 422)

merica: singular, normalised behaviour of US residents that they’ve become inured to 

sfx: more mind-blowing short videos from OpenAI’s Sora—see previously 

outstanding in the field: highlights from the annual British Wildlife Photo  

negative pressure ventilator: an obituary for author, lawyer and polio survivor who used an iron lung for seven decades  

getty images: foundation and museum has made over eighty thousand artworks and artefacts from its collect available to the public  

free drawing: lessons in illustration from 1925 by Franz ฤŒiลพek and Hermann Kastner bytedance: users react to app’s uncertain future in the US


one year ago: assorted links to revisit

two years ago: another MST3K classic, a Roman holiday plus the Doomsday Clock

three years ago: the Ides of March, the Feast of the Holy Lance, more links to enjoy plus a lost and found project

four years ago: the Osaka World’s Fair Expo (1970), a Roman Star Trek episode, disease vectors, antique bills of sale, some blasphemous graffiti plus Scotland’s new bank notes

five years ago: a non-gendered digital assistant, xenophobic dogma, unblurring photos, college admission and privilege plus more links worth the revisit

Friday 8 March 2024

promissory estoppal (11. 409)

Whilst the lawsuit Elon Musk recently filed against OpenAI might seem frivolous and the domain of tech-billionaires with hard feelings—Musk being an original backer of the artificial intelligence venture, the allegation that co-founder Sam Altman (previously) for breach of contract—essentially harm caused by the broken-promise above—for abandoning its initial vision and mission of forwarding the field for the benefit of all by licensing its interim innovations before the Singularity to Microsoft as a commercial branch of the non-profit. Arguably an incremental improvement (weighing the publicised concerns from people involved with the newest iteration), the plaintiff claims that the release of GPT-4 without transparency and available for a price amounts to a sentient Clippy. Although we don’t believe that this version is thinking and the sought after Artificial General Intelligence, yet—at least, and such altruistic slogans like “Don’t be evil” or “Move fast and break things” tend to backfire—the lawsuit does raise an interesting question for the new Turing Test that I never thought might be an impediment to progress: if OpenAI is motivated to say that the next version for commercial release is only an improvement on the last and not the end goal, then we may never reach it, at least by one estimation and subject to litigation.

Thursday 7 March 2024

synchronise (11. 405)

Via Miss Cellania, we are directed towards the latest project from GMUNK (see previously, artist and director Bradley G Munkowitz) in the form of a music video produced for the Folktronica duo Milky Chance hailing from Kassel. Harnessing cutting edge technical developments in the digital arts for decades, GMUNK and team have created a rather brilliant rendered, dynamic landscape to accompany the song. Learn more about the human-AI collaboration to create effects not possible just a short while ago at Colossal at the link above.


one year ago: Gone with the Wind’s Rainbow Script

two years ago: the Comet of the Century plus more odonymy

three years ago: Seven Nation Army (2003),  Die Sendung mit der Maus (1971) plus wandering words

four years ago: the Battle of Remagen (1945), broadening the search for extraterrestrial life plus pandemic hoarding

five years ago: Van Life

Friday 1 March 2024

8x8 (11. 392)

unauthorised avatar: Ukrainian individual discovers her likeness from her self-help videos have been cloned to sell Russian goods, friendship with China  

criterion collection: a curated series of great moments from the film company’s archive of Closet Picks  

il galateo, overo de’ costumi: the age of impoliteness—an influential sixteenth century Venetian treatise of delicacy and manners  

the weeknd stroke psa: a song parody about signs and symptoms of a cerebrovascular incident  

@smalin: graphic artist Stephen Manlinowski creates beautifully animated classical and jazz score—via Web Curios 

the hero’s journey: “the chosen one,” coming of age narratives of Dune, Star Wars, Harry Potter are mostly about adolescent boys coming to grips with their sexuality—via tmn  

dark currents: a 1992 public access occult soap opera from Marrawamkeag, Maine inspired by Dark Shadows, Twin Peaks  

thimblerig: internet retailer’s financial shell game and predatory pricing enabled it to create an untenable monopoly not thought sustainable

Tuesday 27 February 2024

infinite improbability drive (11.386)

Via Kottke, we are directed to an interesting observation, theory by Lisa Riemers (an example of l'esprit de l’escalier—a stair-step realisation, the perfect reply that came too late—shared after a podcast recording) that technology has graduated beyond Star Trek-inspired hardware with tricorders, comms-badges, tablet computers—though we are still lacking the transporters, replicators, warp-travel and post-scarcity society—and is entering the Douglas Adams’ phase, when absurd tech calls for correspondingly absurd inventions. The super computer Deep Thought, in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, which devised the Ultimate Answer, forty-two, but made no sense as the Ultimate Question was outside the scope of its programming, Electric Monks that did the believing for you to alleviate some of the tedium of it, the exceeding wealthy building custom planets, depressed robots and lab rats (hyper-intelligences in disguise) subjected to experimentation conducting research on the scientists all seem to have their corollaries in chatbot and AI trials, virtual boyfriends, unhinged and hallucinating large language models, rogue driverless cars and luxury doomsday bunkers. Maybe we have attained the Babel Fish / Universal Translator, however, but the verdict is still out. More at the links above.

Saturday 24 February 2024

cognitive offloading (11. 376)

Via Good Internet, whilst there have always been panics over new technological extensions of the human mind leading to decline and atrophy from platonic criticism of the written word to the “boob tube” to the toxicity and tribalism of the web, one researcher with the University of Monterrey fears that the capacity of artificial intelligence for mimicry goes beyond facilitating study and investigation with instant answers and unverifiable connections (possibly beneficial—yet to be seen and the verdict is still out—for navigating a native digital environment for things like programming and debugging and those onerous tasks, and jobs, that only exist because systems don’t talk to one another and integration is difficult) that might make us lazy and less critical but poses a real threat in supplanting our executive functions. Rather than stimulating and enhancing thought and examination, ready answers, verging towards dogmatism when it comes to nuanced and complex ideas, these shortcuts, short-circuits could make judgment and creativity an increasingly rare commodity.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

10x10 (11. 365)

royal mews: King Charles’ one of a kind electric Jaguar up for auction—via Miss Cellania  

ppe: the portable nuclear bomb shield, patented by Harold Tiff  

got clearance clarence: after embarrassing blunder over bad travel advice, Air Canada advocates personhood (and limited liability) for its chatbot customer representative 

1776 days: Julian Assange’s long detention and fight against rendition to the US for Wikileaks

that which you call hardee’s, we call carl’s junior: food deserts, prevalence and distribution of casual dining chains in the US 

tigers blood: new singles from Waxahatchee 

daddy daughter day: breakdancing, bitcoin father revealed as a veteran of member of the Christian Coalition and conservative speech writer 

the second in line: Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson—via Messy Nessy Chic  

body armour: Casimir Zeglen, the priest who invented the bulletproof vest  

motorcade: Joe Biden’s Cadillac sedan for sale—via tmn


one year ago: artist creates a prosthetic extra digit plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: more links to enjoy, the subterrene (1972) plus The Shape of Things to Come (1936)

three years ago: introducing the Jeep (1941), a Nyan Cat NFT plus a suite of Japanese pictograms

four years ago: more mass-transit upholstery, RIP Larry Gordon Tesler who invested copy-and-paste, superannuated map styles, the possible extradition of Julian Assange plus the new US ambassador to Germany

five years ago: all the presidents’ meals, a secret meeting between industrialists and the Nazi government (1933), more links worth the revisit, the US emergency broadcast system (1971), vintages mazes plus the bokeh technique

Friday 16 February 2024

world simulators (11. 353)

Although trialled previously by other platforms to varying success, via Waxy, the new text-to-video generation models from OpenAI’s Sora does seem like prising open another Pandora’s Box. Producing rather crisp and wholly convincing clips up to a minute in length from prompts and instructions, a gallery of samples have been released and for safety and further testing, the vignettes were made by user’s within the company with the participation of a select few artists and cinematographers to assess its strengths and weaknesses. Currently there are no plans to release it to the public and given the pace of change, will probably be impressive for a very short amount of time, though checking out the videos I cannot believe what I’m seeing. Building from adversarial static that transforms over successive steps, the neural network, named after the Japanese word for sky to express its limitless potential, can also extend existing footage forward and backward in time and replace missing frames. The project however has shown difficulty with continuity, the physics of causality and knowing right from left.


one year ago: the tomb of Tutankhamun (1923) plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: BBS (1978), the moon of Uranus, traditional Japanese chess plus The Simpsons Sing the Blues (1991)

three years ago: more links to enjoy, another North Korean holiday plus Ladybug Ladybug (1963)

four years ago: jamming with barcodes

five years ago: imperial America, more links worth the revisit plus night-mode

Wednesday 14 February 2024

9x9 (11. 351)

planisphere: explore the fifteenth century Mappa Mundi—made by a Venetian cartographer and monk map who never left the lagoon  

high rollers: the character and history of burlesque shows  

robots.txt: a tiny text file that has been the underpinnings of the internet is unravelling due to AI 

a load-bearing day: the confluence of several celebrations, including Ash Wednesday (be furiousing rather than fasting), Valentine’s and the Luni-Solar New Year  

my unfortunate incarceration: the abundant prison-tech alliance is a brutal harbinger of what’s to come

bulletisation: the functional literacy crisis in reading comprehension—via the morning news 

service sector: some large companies requiring AI-informed personality tests for vacancy applicants  

disco vicar: some Anglican churches and cathedrals opening for parties  

news deserts: explore local journalism and those newsrooms hanging on—via Maps Mania

Sunday 11 February 2024

sweethearts (11. 344)

Our intrepid AI wrangler, Janelle Shane, repeats a battery of experiments—this time using magnitudes more computational power—by having Chat GPT-3 design those chalky conversation confectionaries with an inscribed message. Far from the quirkiness on order it seems to illustrate the struggle that machine learning has with text, even if more orthographically plausible, and labels but begs the question, even that chatbots are recursive and have probably mined data from Shane’s earlier popular iterations, if it is not drawing from those and influencing the outcome. “Soe Coed,” “I ll Sont, ” “Le Yas,” and “Lov Shov” are pretty good but nothing could ever top Mouthy Hamster.

Tuesday 6 February 2024

8x8 (11. 328)

the scholar & his cat: a resonant ninth century reflection by Pangur Bรกn 

bring your own beach owl: mimicry and semi-automated genre fiction—via Kottke  

riverwalk: a one kilometre-long museum that undulates with the reservoir it crosses in Shandong province

steelmaster: a 1966 office furniture catalogue  

television stone: the unique optical properties of the mineral ulexite 

๐Ÿ›‹️: the Eames Archive open to the public—see previously 

vesuvius challenge: a trio of researchers share the honorarium for deciphering charred scrolls from Herculaneum with the help of AI  

ombre: Alexander Pope’s card game


one year ago: Facebook’s social engineering experiments plus a ska version of the Tetris theme

two years ago: multiple zoom maps, Computerwelt, Sesame Street light jazz plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: quotation marks, Zardoz (1974), more links to enjoy, the founding of Liberia, I Ching in melting snow plus barbarian tongues

four years ago: Deciminisation Days, Trump acquitted, classical architecture plus photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

five years ago: Anguilla independence, the Irish border, dress uniforms plus Orson Welles on creeping intolerance

Monday 5 February 2024

turned off (11. 326)

Via our faithful chronicler, we learn that on this day in 1969, one of the shortest-lived television programmes (see also), cut during its first and only broadcast with the time slot by some network affiliates filled by organ music, an emergency protocol that hadn’t been used in decades, Turn-On was summarily rejected for its language, quick-cuts and general poor taste. Conceived by writer-director Digby Wolfe (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, That Was the Week That Was) and George Schlatter, the premise for the surreal sketch comedy series was, slotted as the replacement for Peyton Place, was as the first computerised television show with no sets except for a white backdrop and the troupe of actors to stage improv prompts generated by an artificial intelligence. Viewers were especially disturbed by the rapid-fire sensory assault consisting of experimental split-screens, puppets, computer graphics and stop-motion effects on the blank slate, as well as the Moog-synthesised laugh-track (the computer’s laughter) and the random appearance of production credits throughout the half-hour programme—rather than as an intro or outro. Not much different than than Laugh-In except in tone, Turn-On would probably sit well with today’s audiences.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

8x8 (11. 309)

that spells primbci: Neuralink begins trials on human volunteers—see previously  

infinite craft: drag and drop fundamental elements to make new materials, from Neal Agarwal—previously  

gboard caps: search engine Japan team designs a hat (ๅธฝใƒใƒผใ‚ธใƒงใƒณ) that types  

double feature: more command-line movies from ASCII Theatre—see previously  

once you pop, you can’t stop: the weird and secretive world of crisp flavours—via Present/&/Correct  

vier-tage woche: German companies experimenting with a four-day workweek to ameliorate labour shortages  

zetetic astronomy: a mid-nineteenth century experiment that spanned the Flat Earth movement  

beta-testing: a few well-reasoned counterpoints for the mechanical Turk hucksters and AI-evangelists

Tuesday 30 January 2024

that’s eliza with a z (11. 305)

We had seen this demonstration of the nearly six-decade old chatbot, a study of natural language interaction between a computer and humans, researched and published by pioneering informatics scientist Joseph Weizenbaum knocking about for about a week now and were intrigued by the therapeutic suspension of belief that came from these trials—and were appreciative of Messy Nessy Chic’s invitation to indulge it again—that’s how blogging works sometimes. Used as a heuristic tool from the late sixties, revived in the 1980s and recently pitted against large-language models, proving surprisingly robust in keeping up with the cutting-edge competitors, its handlers were just as shocked as they were when originally witnessing test-subjects convinced of empathy in their dialogue partner. Though the counselling approach was always emphasised—people want to impart and attribute feelings particularly if they feel heard, the ELIZA effect for the tendency to project human traits—but the programme and schema of pattern matching and substitution also played a role in the development of gaming interface and text-based commands. Much more at the links above, including video testimonials.

one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the visual identity of the Duneiverse
two years ago: Bloody Sunday (1972), the first computer virus (1982), Steamed Hams as a text adventure, early airpods, root systems visualised plus Lady Gaga as mushrooms
three years ago: your daily demon: Andras,  another MST3K classic, cheese and magic, a classic from Journey, a Midcentury Modern vacation village plus Pigs is Pigs (1937)

four years ago: the latest batch of emoji, more links to enjoy plus a cryptic monument
five years ago: the Beatles’ rooftop concert (1969), more links worth the revisit, Dia de Saudade plus a composer’s gravestone