Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fee increases are a ‘disciplinary technique’ and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, they have also internalized the ‘disciplinarian culture.’
This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.
Executives at Volkswagen had ordered their software engineers to figure out a way to trick the Environmental Protection Agency during their emissions tests. They knew that during these tests, regulators would use specific parameters. So they wrote logic that — if those parameters were selected — the engine would run in a special mode.
This “defeat device” masked the fact that “clean diesel” Volkwagen engines were actually producing much greater nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions than were legally allowed. Up to 40 times the federal limit.
And this stuff causes lung cancer. MIT scientists estimate that these emissions will ultimately cause 60 people to die prematurely. And that’s just in America.
That’s right — the software these developers wrote kills innocent people.
The more powerful and inevitable something appears, the more startling and devastating its weaknesses are when they are exposed. Or, to borrow a phrase, the harder they come, the harder they fall.
That’s useful to remember when you consider the transformation we are currently undergoing, one in which more and more of our devices become connected to the internet. Whether you call it the “Internet of Things” or the “Internet of Everything” or the “Third Wave” or the “Programmable World,” the long-predicted moment when connectivity becomes as ubiquitous as electricity is nearly upon us. The benefits will be staggering—a world that will know us and adjust to our needs and desires, a universe of data that will impart new wisdom. But so will the vulnerabilities, the opportunities for our worlds to be penetrated, manipulated, and even destroyed by malevolent intruders.
This exposes yet another vulnerability for the tech industry—a meta-vulnerability, really. That vision depends on trust. It requires us to put our faith in our self-driving cars and Alexa-enabled virtual assistants and thermostats and, yes, smart televisions. Every time we learn of a new zero-day exploit, it renews fears of an entirely hackable world, where our machines can be enlisted against us. It reminds us that the future is a necessarily more vulnerable place.
The Vault 7 leak is not the tech industry’s fault, exactly, but we must ask at what point we stop placing our trust in devices, systems, and people that are inherently undeserving of it? Actually, never mind, we’re past it already. The most troubling aspect of the latest revelations is that there is no way to protect yourself beyond not buying a smartphone, or at least not having any meaningful conversations when you are in the same room with one. These vulnerabilities and cracks are not optional, but woven throughout the fabric of our social and commercial lives. They are coming from inside the house.
I’ve asked if they considered to pay the driver more? He said that it’s not ideal, since they want to keep their service as affordable as possible. He then added that I must realize that they were not competing with Taxis for the drivers, but rather with Walmart. Implying that if the drivers could earn slightly above the minimum wage driving for Uber, things were OK.
“He said that it’s not ideal, since they want to keep their service as affordable as possiblemake as much money as possible.”
Well, just as we engage in a diplomatic dialogue with countries, we also need to establish and prioritize comprehensive relations with tech actors, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and so on. The idea is, we see a lot of companies and new technologies that will in many ways involve and be part of everyday life of citizens in Denmark. And some [of these companies] also have a size that is comparable to nations.
As both Sanders and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek noted after Sanders lost the primaries, left and right are in some sense outdated ideas. The new division in politics is those who favor the current global hegemony and those who are against it. Like the Hollywood heroes, right and left have been competing to become this new radical anti-status quo party.
*Okay, the one with the welding mask is a “Worker,” and the one on the farm with the red kerchief is obviously a “Peasant,” but what’s with the blue-eyed blonde in the skyscraper utopia who doesn’t have to lift a finger and also has the nicest hairstyle?
*I’m guessing that she’s got to be a Communist Party leader. She’s the politician. That’s why things are so “glorious” for “Soviet women.”
*Also: their somber and Slavic female expressions. None of those husband-pleasing Yankee grins and nods. “I’ll be over here doing the taxes and getting the car repaired while you’re drunk. When you overdo that, I’ll bury you.” They’re holding up way more than half their smokestack sky.
An “exaggerated, self-aggrandising individualism is very common, you can see that in the way that we live at the moment,” says Kapos. “If you go into the City [of London], you can see how traders think of themselves being expressed in the architecture. They really do think that they’re completely self-enclosed, heroic individuals, who have every right to behave in the way that they do, and it’s profoundly antisocial and destructive. A Muji City would be the opposite of the City of London. They’re both different kinds of representations of social life.”
In Don Delillo’s novel White Noise (1984) - which by the way is both hilarious and more relevant than ever with its themes of media saturation, environmental catastrophe, consumerism as religion, and fascism (the main character is a university chair of Hitler Studies) - there is a philosophical exchange on the subject of everything we don’t know about the technologically advanced society we live in. Framed as a kind of Socratic dialogue between father and son (with the son always playing Socrates), the 14-year-old Heinrich describes our diminished agency in a system that casts us only as passive consumers. ‘What good is knowledge’, he asks, ‘if it just floats in the air? It goes from computer to computer. It changes and grows every second of every day. But nobody actually knows anything.’
To illustrate this point he gives a lengthy diatribe on everything we don’t know about the society we live in. The ignorance he describes is highlighted by the community’s helplessness in the face of a catastrophe (an ‘Airborne Toxic Event’ set off by a chemical spill):
‘It’s like we’ve been flung back in time,’ he said. ‘Here we are in the Stone Age, knowing all these great things after centuries of progress but what can we do to make life easier for the Stone Agers? Can we make a refrigerator? Can we even explain how it works? What is electricity? What is light? We experience these things every day of our lives but what good does it do if we find ourselves hurled back in time and we can’t even tell people the basic principles much less actually make something that would improve conditions. Name one thing you could make. Could you make a simple wooden match that you could strike on a rock to make a flame? We think we’re so great and modern. Moon landings, artificial hearts. But what if you were hurled into a time warp and came face to face with the ancient Greeks. The Greeks invented trigonometry. They did autopsies and dissections. What could you tell an ancient Greek that he couldn’t say, “Big Deal.” Could you tell him about the atom? Atom is a Greek word. The Greeks knew that the major events in the universe can’t be seen by the eye of man. It’s waves, it’s rays, it’s particles.’
‘We’re doing all right.’
‘We’re sitting in this huge moldy room. It’s like we’re flung back.’
‘We have heat, we have light.’
‘These are Stone Age things. They had heat and light. They had fire. They rubbed flints together and made sparks. Could you rub flints together? Would you know a flint if you saw one? If a Stone Ager asked you what a nucleotide is, could you tell him? How do we make carbon paper? What is glass? If you came awake tomorrow in the Middle Ages and there was an epidemic raging, what could you do to stop it, knowing what you know about the progress of medicines and diseases? Here it is practically the twenty-first century and you’ve read hundreds of books and magazines and seen a hundred TV shows about science and medicine. Could you tell those people one little crucial thing that might save a million and a half lives?’
‘“Boil your water,” I’d tell them.’
‘Sure. What about “Wash behind your ears.” That’s about as good.’
‘I still think we’re doing fairly well. There was no warning. We have food, we have radios.’
‘What is a radio? What is the principle of a radio? Go ahead, explain. You’re sitting in the middle of this circle of people. They use pebble tools. They eat grubs. Explain a radio.’
It’s an unsettling speech. Sure, some of us know how a radio works, or how to light a fire without a match, but not many; certainly it’s a shrinking minority. Learning how things work is one small step we can take, especially now that all the information we need is literally at our fingertips.
We’ve been talking a lot recently about Albert Borgmann’s device paradigm, about ‘thingness’ and being connected to a larger ecosystem. Borgmann illustrates his concept with the image of the traditional hearth, ‘a place that gathered the work and leisure of a family and gave the house a centre’. Our latest projects explore in part the ways we might make devices back into things.
On a less pedantic note, we had a clear night this week and we got a fire going. We wanted to meet for a couple of hours, the two of us and our PhD student Enrique, to develop some fresh ideas for future projects. Why go to a meeting room when you can sit by the fire with a sketchbook and pencil and a bottle (or two) of good red wine? So that’s what we did. The fireside is now our preferred meeting place, especially for the big ideas that can be filled in with details later. It’s a good way to escape the noise and rediscover the signal.
Choi argues that our phones are objects unlike almost anything else we’ve ever had. He says that they’re more like prosthetic limbs than they are like wallets or even notebooks. “Our data is deeply imbued with our personhood, and leaving it unguarded leaves our persons unprotected by the Constitution,” he wrote in his paper on the intersection between the fourth and fifth amendments.
Choi argues that evidence the police pull from your phone isn’t like having a friend testify against you. And it’s not like having a bloody shirt or glove presented as evidence. It’s another thing entirely. It would be like someone was able to scan your brain and read your thoughts, and then use those thoughts against you. If we had machines that could actually read minds, and that could extract memories to play for the court, that would be more akin to our cell phones contents than anything else. And Choi thinks that should be protected, in the same way that the memories contained within our fleshy brains are protected.
And this brings us to some questions too about the future search of cell phones. Here’s an analogy: when the police get a warrant to search a house, they often have to specify which parts of the home they want to search, and justify why they want access to those rooms. And if they find evidence in parts of the home they weren’t supposed to be in, that evidence can’t be used in court. So if the police do get a warrant to search a cell phone, should that warrant be limited to certain apps or sections of the phone? Will future warrants be specifically for the photo albums, but exclude the contents of apps like Tinder or WhatsApp?
Or, to bring it back to the border situation, will border guards be given permission to look at your Twitter and Facebook profiles, but not, say, read your emails or text messages? Which rooms of your digital house are they allowed to go into without a warrant? Nobody knows, this is uncharted territory. But I suspect, with all the high profile searches happening right now, we might see a few of these cases in court soon.
Crap Futures were in New York for this year’s Interaction conference. It was uplifting, enlightening, inspiring, and exhausting. Here are the slides from our presentation - somehow we condensed 15 months of Crap Futures thinking into 20 minutes.
Of course design can be and do all of these things, but for the most part it has become so linked to the market and conspicuous consumption that it has essentially become a novelty machine.
This imposes constraints that limit the potential of design as a positive force. In this talk I’ll explore some of these constraints before suggesting ways of re-thinking them.
The first constraint is progress dogma.
Christian Schussele’s Men of Progress - a painting commissioned in 1857 to celebrate some of the key scientists and inventors that had positively altered the course of contemporary civilisation.
Despite powerful criticism - voiced over the past two centuries by Romantics such as William Blake, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, and avant-garde provocateurs like Dada - the belief that technology will solve our problems remains largely pervasive.
According to Langdon Winner:
Not much has changed: think of Donald Trump’s 2016 meeting of leading technologists (more women than Men of Progress … but not many).
The power of Silicon Valley continues to shape all our futures: familiar utopian dreams made possible by advances in technology - smart everything, automation, robotics and so on.
Of course these things can improve people’s lives, but they can also disrupt enormously. This is the irony of the rise of Trump and the pro-leave EU campaign in the UK - the cry of immigrants taking jobs - that automation is a far more obvious threat but is rarely mentioned in these circles.
According to a 2016 report by the Eurasia Group consultancy, ‘the rise of technologists’ is one of the ‘top risks’ at present - due to the fact that ‘highly influential non-state actors from the world of technology are entering the realm of politics with unprecedented assertiveness’.
Removing the constraint of progress dogma means that we are not simply selling futures but also exploring what could go wrong - an approach we began developing in the early 2000s.
This is the audio tooth implant, developed with Jimmy Loizeau in 2001. Based on the growing ubiquity of mobile telephones we imagined that the next logical step would be for the phone to become part of our body. We pitched this as a semi-real concept at the Science Museum in London.
We sculpted a model tooth and cast it in clear resin with an old computer chip embedded in the middle.
It was broadly disseminated by the popular media - here on the front cover of Time magazine.
But this is an example of the true product here - a thoughtful and considered expert appraisal of what could go wrong - before it’s actually available. This aims to facilitate a more responsible approach to the technological future.
The second constraint is means and ends.
In the 1920s Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers made the following statement, essentially signalling the rise of conspicuous consumption and the worship of gadgets. Designers were (and still are) complicit in this process.
Albert Borgmann has another way of describing it through his device paradigm: things are inseparable from their context: we engage and interact with them in their worlds. Devices, on the other hand, unburden us of their contexts through the operation of background machinery; the more advanced the technology, the more invisible or concealed the machinery. Borgmann used the fireplace as an example of a thing - it provides a focal point for the household, it links people to local terrains through the gathering of firewood and demands an idea of how much wood is required to get through the winter.
In contrast the central heating system disburdens us of all these other elements as the means become invisible - controlled and managed by others. Designers and consumers alike have become obsessed with the end - glossy glamorous products - whilst the systems behind become increasingly opaque.
This pathway essentially leads to automation - devices satisfying all of our needs as efficiently as possible through techniques such as machine learning, prediction algorithms and so on. Completely invisible, intangible, and operated by others.
Jean Baudrillard was already describing the consequences of automation in the 1960’s.
Removing the constraint of end focus encourages the designer to think beyond the generic solutions and objects of so-called desire to re-engage with local systems - making and materials.
This is an open-source hardware vacuum cleaner designer by Royal College of Art graduate Tom Lynch. All elements sourced or made locally and all documented on the project’s wiki - a fully functional product for under $50. The challenge is to combine the maker ideology with good design - the competition is strong as consumers are programmed to desire sexy products.
The OpenStructures WaterBoiler, originally designed and composed by Jesse Howard in collaboration with Thomas Lommée, provides some inspiration as to how this new aesthetic might be achieved.
Constraint No.3: Future Nudge We can only design what the product could realistically evolve into.
The economist Robert Heilbroner described the way technology (and therefore technological products) evolve - this means that what comes next will be similar to what came before.
The car is a good example. Travel is instrumentalised as we focus on the object rather than the act. It iterates in small steps made possible by advances in specific areas.
This constrains us to design only what the product could conceivably evolve into. Smart products, for example, are usually existing products simply updated with smart technology.
Mobile telephones provide another good example - 7 phones in 7 years - each a small advancement on the previous. Typical progression is derived from Moore’s law - smaller, more powerful, more efficient (more sales, revenue, etc.).
Re-constraining future nudge allows us to imagine what might happen should we step out of the lineage - to focus for example on how we might design for quality experiences.
The Iso-phone was developed in 2003 to re-think the telephone from the perspective of qualitative experience rather than efficiency.
The concept used sensory deprivation theory to a facilitate a reduction in sensory input - the only thing the wearer experiences is the voice of someone else arriving from somewhere else in the world. Here’s a short video of the project:
The final constraint is Infrastructure.
I’m going to explore the subject of energy, but infrastructural and legacy constraints inform almost everything we do and everything we design - from food systems to transport, manufacturing to entertainment.
Tesla’s invention of AC current afforded the building of huge power stations built in the countryside, generating power through the burning of fossil fuels.
Radially distributed across nations via grid systems …
Arriving magically at our houses via sockets in the walls. These sockets and the plugs that are inserted into them dictate how all electrical products are used and how all products are designed.
With my Crap Futures co-author Julian Hanna we have been thinking about how to re-constrain energy infrastructure on our home island of Madeira, based on the implementation of renewables.
As a place with ample sun, wind, rain, and sea it would be easy to assume that renewable approaches to energy would be thriving in Madeira. What you see when you fly over the island supports that notion: vast banks of solar photovoltaic panels line several of the exposed hillsides; wind farms are exposed to the full force of the gales blowing in from the Atlantic.
However, beneath the optimistic surface lies a darker reality.
The (oversimplified) problem is this:
Solar PVs only generate energy while the sun shines. Wind farms generate energy when the wind blows. The wind is unpredictable and the sun shines during the day when most people are at work, meaning that energy cannot realistically be consumed in real time. The only viable option at the moment is to sell energy back to the grid; unfortunately this conflicts with the power company’s business model. So while incentives seem to abound, the reality is that these incentives are diminishing. Portugal practices an instantaneous net-metering scheme, meaning that the energy generated by the PV system has to be consumed at the same instant that it is produced to be considered self-consumption. The grid injection tariff is four times lower than the consumption tariff, forcing solar producers to self-consume and not inject any solar power into the grid. As things stand, users of renewables still rely on the grid during dark or windless periods, and therefore utility owners argue - with some reason - that they should pay for grid upkeep.
While the infrastructure battle rages on, what else can be done?
By thinking about what’s beyond the wall - local contexts, landscapes, materials, skills, culture - it becomes possible to develop bespoke solutions. In Madeira that means cliffs and cliff-side communities. Many Madeiran communities are built on cliff-sides with drops ranging from a common 7-8 metres in the centre of Funchal to the 780 metre Cabo Girão on the south coast. These provide one solution to the storage issues that problematise solar panels - gravity batteries. The aim is to use locally sourced and inexpensive parts with minimal complex making.
We’re working on a book of 100 alternative energy ideas …
From small operational prototypes such as this low power gravity battery - exploiting the vertical nature of the island - to more spectacular, ambitious, even crazy concepts such as this huge series of elevators in our capital city of Funchal.
Inspired by the Neo-Gothic splendour of the Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon (1902):
Here’s a more serious prototype that we’re currently testing.
All parts are sourced or made locally. Solar energy lifts the mass during the daytime, storing it as potential energy. Allowing the mass to drop releases the energy when it is needed.
We have a mass - in this case around 15kg that rotates a pulley as it falls. This turns the shaft of a DC motor via a gear box, increasing the revolutions.
And the latest iteration: using a locally found scrap motorcycle engine as the gearbox, ready-made and super efficient, minimises complex making.
Finally, a video of the prototype - it’s a bit rough and ready as we only tested it last week (and I edited it on the plane over).
The best aspect of this design is the tangible relationship with energy that it affords. Turning up the volume makes the mass fall faster, reducing the time available to listen to the music. In the next steps we’re planning to boil a kettle and toast some bread …
Thanks for listening. Find out more by reading the rest of our blog.
*What a fun thing to admire from a suitably huge distance
The way Trump performs greatness, as he understands it, is simply by winning. In order to win, he needs adversaries. This means his administration will be a constant pageant of generating adversaries for the sake of having them. So that then he can try to diminish and defeat them. And be a winner. And thereby be great.
There will never be any calm in this administration, any unity. Trump’s conception of greatness depends on the production of targets for his displays of domination.
From his stint as a consultant he learned something valuable, however. It seemed to him that a big part of a consultant’s job was to feign total certainty about uncertain things. In a job interview with McKinsey, they told him that he was not certain enough in his opinions. “And I said it was because I wasn’t certain. And they said, ‘We’re billing clients five hundred grand a year, so you have to be sure of what you are saying.’” The consulting firm that eventually hired him was forever asking him to exhibit confidence when, in his view, confidence was a sign of fraudulence. They’d asked him to forecast the price of oil for clients, for instance. “And then we would go to our clients and tell them we could predict the price of oil. No one can predict the price of oil. It was basically nonsense.”
A lot of what people did and said when they “predicted” things, Morey now realized, was phony: pretending to know things rather than actually knowing things. There were a great many interesting questions in the world to which the only honest answer was, “It’s impossible to know for sure.” “What will the price of oil be in ten years?” was such a question. That didn’t mean you gave up trying to find an answer; you just couched that answer in probabilistic terms.
That’s the power of parametric design,” he says. “Once all of that is in place, I hit play and it creates a million cells, all different and all based on these parameters. I have 100 percent control over setting up the algorithm, and then I have no more control.
NextMuni data is transmitted via AT&T’s wireless cell phone network. As Muni was the first transit agency to adopt the system, the NextMuni infrastructure installed in 2002 only had the capacity to use a 2G wireless network – a now outdated technology which AT&T is deactivating nationwide. As you may have noticed, we’ve displayed messages on our NextMuni signs in recent months to communicate about upgrades to them.
Simply put, the deactivation work that affects our vehicles started sooner than expected and outpaced our ongoing upgrade of all Muni vehicles to a new communications and monitoring system.
That means Muni vehicles that haven’t been upgraded can’t transmit the data that allows NextMuni screens to predict their arrival. At this point, that’s nearly 70 percent of Muni vehicles, including all Metro trains.
In 1491 , Charles Mann writes that “Europeans tended to manage land by breaking it into fragments for farmers and herders. Indians often worked on such a grand scale that the scope of their ambition can be hard to grasp.”
Indians primary tool for reshaping their environment was fire. During the Civil War, American troops in Virginia’s woods could barely see each other through the dense underbrush. But when Europeans first arrived, they marveled that they could ride a horse straight through a forest. The difference was that Indians had once cleared out the underbrush with fires so large that the earliest colonists watched the burns like they were fireworks .
Not every part of North America was transformed in this way, but in many areas, Mann writes, “Indians retooled whole ecosystems to grow bumper crops of elk, deer, and bison…. Millennia of exuberant burning shaped the plains into vast buffalo farms.”
Much of what European explorers saw as rich, untamed wilderness was actually what Mann calls “the world’s largest garden.”
“It was an altered landscape,” Dr. George Milner explains. “But Europeans didn’t recognize it as such.”
*Moral leader attempted to fight stupidity; is already in jail and soon to be hanged
We were urged by everyone to hire a big advertising agency and do traditional posters. ‘When can we discuss our posters?’ I was asked constantly by people who would then try to explain to me their creative ideas (‘we need another Labour Isn’t Working, Dominic, I’ve got an idea for a picture of the globe and arrows…’). One of the few reliable things we know about advertising amid the all-pervasive charlatanry is that, unsurprisingly, adverts are more effective the closer to the decision moment they hit the brain. Instead of spending a fortune on an expensive agency (with 15% going to them out of ‘controlled expenditure’) and putting up posters to be ‘part of the national conversation’ weeks or months before the vote, we decided to 1) hire extremely smart physicists to consider everything from first principles, 2) put almost all our money into digital (~98%), 3) hold the vast majority of our budget back and drop it all right at the end with money spent on those adverts that experiments had shown were most effective (internal code name ‘Waterloo’). When things are digital you can be more empirical and control the timing. The world of advertising agencies and PR companies were sure we had screwed up because they did not see what we were doing. (Tim Bell told everybody we were doomed because we hadn’t hired one of his companies.) This points to another important issue – it is actually hard even for very competent and determined people to track digital communication accurately, and it is important that the political media is not set up to do this. There was not a single report anywhere (and very little curiosity) on how the official Leave campaign spent 98% of its marketing budget. There was a lot of coverage of a few tactical posters.
Mary Robinson: On the expectations that people would live up to, what would the new oath for immigrants potentially do?
Dame Louise Casey: It is in the same territory, really. Again, we feel that there needs to be a greater emphasis on this. Rights and wrongs of immigration are for other people to judge, but what is clear is that we ought to be more about integration—we should have been and need to be.
I hope the Chairman will not mind my saying this, but we were jointly in a meeting in his constituency. I felt at the meeting that we were kind of explaining the rules of the game to some of the people there who were from eastern Europe, who had never really been engaged with in that way before. It was with a local MP, and they had me, but I thought it was interesting that they said nobody had talked to them about this. They arrived and didn’t get jobs when they thought they were getting jobs. They hadn’t been treated that well, as it happens, and on we go from there. But also, nobody had talked to them about our way of life here, or about when to put rubbish out.
Let us take a real detail that would be a real issue for a local authority: if you put rubbish out on the wrong day, it costs a lot of money. So there were basics that we had not even run through. Nobody told them to queue. Nobody told them to be nice and all those sorts of things. We hadn’t been on it. As part of the package, that would be no bad thing.
Circus Tree: Six individual sycamore trees were shaped, bent, and braided to form this.
Actually pretty easy. Trees don’t reject tissue from other trees in the same family. You bend the tree to another tree when it is a sapling, scrape off the bark on both trees where they touch, add some damp sphagnum moss around them to keep everything slightly moist and bind them together. Then wait a few years- The trees will have grown together.
You can use a similar technique to graft a lemon branch or a lime branch or even both- onto an orange tree and have one tree that has all three fruits.
As a biologist I can clearly state that plants are fucking weird and you should probably be slightly afraid of them.
On that note! At the university (UBC) located in town, the Agriculture students were told by their teacher that a tree flipped upside down would die. So they took an excavator and flipped the tree upside down. And it’s still growing. But the branches are now the roots, and the roots are now these super gnarly looking branches. Be afraid.
But Vi, how can you mention that and NOT post a picture? D:
I am both amazed and horrified of nature as we all should be
I love how trees are like “fuck it, I’ll deal” at literally everything. Forest fire? Cool, my seeds’ll finally grow. Upside down? Branches, suck, roots, leave. What’s this new branch? Eh, welcome to the tree buddy.
I need to be more like tree
I continue to fear and respect out arboreal overlords.
what kind of professor did these students have that they needed to prove him wrong so badly that they literally dug up a tree, flipped it and put it back in the ground?
Sounds like y’all’ve never heard about the Tree of 40 Fruits. Well, it’s exactly as it sounds. Sam Van Aken, an artist based in New York, decided to try his hand at grafting (e.g. the process by which you attach the branches of a different tree to a host tree).
As artists are inclined to do he decided to push some limits and over the course of a few years he grafted over 40 different fruit onto the host “
including almond, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum varieties.”
It has a fruiting period lasting from July to October and this is what it looks like when blossoming.
Shit’s tight yo.
Also we have a group called the Guerrilla Grafters. A group who started in San Fransisco with the goal of grafting fruiting branches onto non-fruiting trees of the same type.
Most cities have fruit trees that simply don’t produce fruit because having all these would be a mess and inadvertently providing unregulated food to people comes with a lot of legal risks I suppose. These grafters seem to think otherwise and have taken it upon themselves to try and bring fruit trees back to urban areas.
Internet of Shit (@internetofshit) is at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, the annual festival of stuff not made by Apple. This year’s big themes include drones and home automation, but there’s an ocean of bizarre, obviously-nightmarish Internet of Things crapgadgetry. And they found all of it.
If you do shrink the screen, though, you get the other problem: the resolution of modern VR headsets is terrible. Text is only legible if it’s blown up fairly large, and even then, you aren’t going to be reading anything in complicated fonts or a language with an unfamiliar character set. This, more than anything else, is why I ended up with a splitting headache. It felt like reading drunk.
The first train departed Yiwu in eastern Zhejiang province on Jan. 1 and will cover more than 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) in about 18 days before reaching London, China Railway Corp. said in a statement Monday. The service, carrying garments, bags and suitcases among other items, will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.
“Look at that. I haven’t even hit a button and it’s automatically populated the page with answers to the query: ‘Do blacks commit more crimes?’ And look, I could have been going to ask all sorts of questions. ‘Do blacks excel at sports’, or anything. And it’s only given me two choices and these aren’t simply search-based or the most searched terms right now. Google used to use that but now they use an algorithm that looks at other things. Now, let me look at Bing and Yahoo. I’m on Yahoo and I have 10 suggestions, not one of which is ‘Do black people commit more crime?’
“And people don’t question this. Google isn’t just offering a suggestion. This is a negative suggestion and we know that negative suggestions depending on lots of things can draw between five and 15 more clicks. And this all programmed. And it could be programmed differently.”
Extra spending on reducing mental illness would be self-financing, the researchers added, because it would be recovered by the government through higher employment and increased tax receipts together with a reduction in NHS costs from fewer GP visits and hospital A&E admissions.
Add to that, on ISPs specifically, an incoming UK law is set to place an obligation on Internet service providers to collect and store website access data for all customers for a full year — as part of government attempts to expand state security agency and policing powers, under the controversial Investigatory Powers bill.
Should that requirement pass into law this year as intended, UK ISPs are likely to become an even more attractive target for hackers given the additional sensitive data they will be legally required to store, as indeed critics of the bill have warned — including the former UK ICO.
Regardless of the reason that Dyn suffered the attack, the incident impressed cyber-criminal communities and it justifiably inspired fearful discussions in cybersecurity and legislative communities.
In his written testimony before the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce, Bruce Schneier stated,“In many ways, the Dyn attack was benign. Some websites went offline for a while. No one was killed. No property was destroyed. But computers have permeated our lives. The Internet now affects the world in a direct physicalmanner. The Internet of Things is bringing computerization and connectivity to many tens of millions of devices worldwide. We are connecting cars, drones, medical devices, and home thermostats. What was once benign is now dangerous.”
In the wake of theattack on Dyn, MalwareTech.com setup a Twitter account (@MiraiAttacks) that live tweets Mirai attack instructions from honeypot systems. The automated live tweets include the botnet used, the type of traffic, the duration of the attack, the target IP address, and the port targeted. At the time of publication of this report, at least 70 distinct Mirai botnets are monitored by the accountand the number of adopters increases daily…
When the botnet named
Mirai first appeared in September, it announced its existence with
dramatic flair. After flooding a prominent security journalist’s website
with traffic from zombie Internet of Things devices, it managed to make much of the internet unavailable
for millions of people by overwhelming Dyn, a company that provides a
significant portion of the US internet’s backbone. Since then, the
number attacks have only increased. What’s increasingly clear is that
Mirai is a powerfully disruptive force. What’s increasingly not? How to
Mirai is a type of malware that automatically finds Internet of
Things devices to infect and conscripts them into a botnet—a group of
computing devices that can be centrally controlled. From there this IoT
army can be used to mount distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
in which a firehose of junk traffic floods a target’s servers with
malicious traffic. In just the past few weeks, Mirai disrupted internet
service for more than 900,000 Deutsche Telekom customers in Germany, and infected almost 2,400 TalkTalk routers in the UK. This week, researchers published evidence that 80 models of Sony cameras are vulnerable to a Mirai takeover.
These attacks have been enabled both by the massive army of modems
and webcams under Mirai’s control, and the fact that a hacker known as
“Anna-senpai” elected to open-source its code in September. While
there’s nothing particularly novel about Mirai’s software, it has proven
itself to be remarkably flexible and adaptable.
As a result, hackers can develop different strains of Mirai that can
take over new vulnerable IoT devices and increase the population (and
compute power) Mirai botnets can draw on.
“It’s accelerating because there’s a wide-open, unprotected landscape
that people can go to,” says Chris Carlson, vice president of product
management at Qualys. “It’s a gold rush to capture these devices for
Internet of Bots
The rise of Internet of Things malware is reminiscent of the viruses,
worms, and intense email spam that plagued early internet users. Most
PCs weren’t adequately secured, and companies racing to join the dot-com
bubble didn’t necessarily understand the importance of internet
security. The same is true now, but with webcams and routers instead of
What’s distinctly different in this tech generation, though, is how
users interact with infected devices. An infected PC often malfunctions,
slows down, or notifies users (either through operating system security
alerts or through the malware itself in the case of something like
ransomware). All of this encourages people to act. It’s standard
practice to install some sort of security software on enterprise PCs,
and anti-virus measures are popular at home as well.
IoT devices like routers, though, are workhorses that are meant to
function indefinitely, with minimal direct user interaction. One reason
Mirai is so difficult to contain is that it lurks on devices, and
generally doesn’t noticeably affect their performance. There’s no reason
the average user would ever think that their webcam—or more likely, a small business’s—is
potentially part of an active botnet. And even if it were, there’s not
much they could do about it, having no direct way to interface with the
“The early 2000s web security called and they want their lack of
security back,” says Rick Holland, vice president of strategy at the
cybersecurity defense firm Digital Shadows. “It’s not like this
population of total vulnerable devices is going to be going down. It’s
going to be increasing.”
But Mirai is the main go-to for now because it’s easily accessible and adjustable, with different strains
for different campaigns. Holland says that Digital Shadows researchers
have observed a growing community of Mirai users asking for help (even
bad actors need tech support sometimes!) and offering each other tips
Perhaps it’s a bit premature to start that meme, but you can see it coming. Gasoline stations began offering self-service pumps in the late sixties. The first self-checkout for groceries was patented in 1984. In 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com and started selling books online. In the early 2000′s, self-checkout was catching on, not just in grocery stores, but hardware stores and big-box retailers. Borders, the international brick and mortar bookseller that operated around 700 stores and employed nearly 20,000 people in the U.S. alone, filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Now Amazon has announced Amazon Go.
It’s not just happening in retail. McDonald’s has announced a new restaurant format in which you will order your food at an automated kiosk. Uber has autonomous vehicles taxiing passengers right here in Pittsburgh, and their self-driving truck made its first delivery—50,000 beers—this past October. Foxconn, the Chinese company that supplies the likes of Apple and Samsung, replaced 60,000 factory workers with robots back in May.
This is more than just a trend. Artificial intelligence and automation technologies are becoming more capable and more affordable at an accelerated rate. A report published by Deloitte and Oxford University predicts that 35% of UK jobs will be at risk over the next 20 years.
Forget about minimum wage, job retraining programs, immigrants, and outsourcing for a minute, and consider this: what do we do when there just aren’t jobs for everyone? What happens when the majority of the population is unemployed, not because they are unskilled or uneducated, but because they are unnecessary—because machines are far more efficient, reliable, and affordable? Capitalism just may not work anymore. When do we stop trying to figure out which jobs are future-proof and start planning for the world we see represented in Star Trek?
I certainly don’t want to live in the alternative.
Fugate was in his office with state meteorologist Ben Nelson and members of the Florida National Guard, color-coding infrastructure loss on a map — green for operating, yellow for affected, and red for destroyed — and the group decided to take a look at some of the damage, and try to find a meal.
“They went to a Waffle House and noticed they had a limited menu, with nonperishable items,” Alexa Lopez, FEMA’s press secretary, told me. “The next day, they were driving around and they went to a different Waffle House, and the same thing happened, a limited menu.”
So, she said, the group was inspired first to rank Waffle Houses in the same way: green for fully operational, yellow for a limited menu and red for closed. “Which is pretty bad, because Waffle House is always open,” Lopez added. And, second, to use those observations as a proxy for how much a disaster disrupts a community. Fugate has since been quoted as saying: “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad. That’s where you go to work.”
More than 900,000 customers of German ISP Deutsche Telekom (DT) were knocked offline this week after their Internet routers got infected by a new variant of a computer worm known as Mirai. The malware wriggled inside the routers via a newly discovered vulnerability in a feature that allows ISPs to remotely upgrade the firmware on the devices. But the new Mirai malware turns that feature off once it infests a device, complicating DT’s cleanup and restoration efforts. (((That’s pretty good, eh? Sneak in and lock the door shut behind you!)))
Security experts say the multi-day outage is a sign of things to come as cyber criminals continue to aggressively scour the Internet of Things (IoT) for vulnerable and poorly-secured routers, Internet-connected cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs). Once enslaved, the IoT devices can be used and rented out for a variety of purposes — from conducting massive denial-of-service attacks capable of knocking large Web sites offline to helping cybercriminals stay anonymous online.
An internet-wide scan conducted by Shodan.io suggests there may be more than five million devices vulnerable to the exploit that caused problems for so many DT customers this week.
This new variant of Mirai builds on malware source code released at the end of September. That leak came a little more a week after a botnet based on Mirai was used in a record-sized attack that caused KrebsOnSecurity to go offline for several days. Since then, dozens of new Mirai botnets have emerged, all competing for a finite pool of vulnerable IoT systems that can be infected.
Until this week, all Mirai botnets scanned for the same 60+ factory default usernames and passwords used by millions of IoT devices. But the criminals behind one of the larger Mirai botnets apparently decided to add a new weapon to their arsenal, incorporating exploit code published earlier this month for a security flaw in specific routers made by Zyxel and Speedport.
These companies act as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that specialize in building DSL modems that ISPs then ship to customers. The vulnerability exists in communications protocols supported by the devices that ISPs can use to remotely manage all of the customer-premises routers on their network.
According to BadCyber.com, which first blogged about the emergence of the new Mirai variant, part of the problem is that Deutsche Telekom does not appear to have followed the best practice of blocking the rest of the world from remotely managing these devices as well.
“The malware itself is really friendly as it closes the vulnerability once the router is infected,” BadCyber noted. “It performs [a] command which should make the device ‘secure,’ until next reboot. The first one closes port 7547 and the second one kills the telnet service, making it really hard for the ISP to update the device remotely.” [For the Geek Factor 5 readership out there, the flaw stems from the way these routers parse incoming traffic destined for Port 7547 using communications protocols known as TR-069]. (((Good thing that all 5 million Germans with routers in their houses are hip to that. Blame the lazy user, that’s my philosophy.)))
DT has been urging customers who are having trouble to briefly disconnect and then reconnect the routers, a process which wipes the malware from the device’s memory. The devices should then be able to receive a new update from DT that plugs the vulnerability.
That is, unless the new Mirai strain gets to them first. (((Nice further twist to the tale.))) Johannes Ullrich, dean of security research at The SANS Technology Institute, said this version of Mirai aggressively scans the Internet for new victims, and that SANS’s research has shown vulnerable devices are compromised by the new Mirai variant within five to ten minutes of being plugged into the Internet.
Ullrich said the scanning activity conducted by the new Mirai variant is so aggressive that it can create hangups and crashes even for routers that are are not vulnerable to this exploit.
“Some of these devices went down because of the sheer number of incoming connections” from the new Mirai variant, Ullrich said. “They were listening on Port 7547 but were not vulnerable to this exploit and were still overloaded with the number of connections to that port.” (((It’s an accidental DDOS created by guys who want to turn your machine into a DDOS machine.)))
Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, said this latest Mirai variant appears to be an attempt to feed fresh victims into one of the larger and more established Mirai botnets out there today….
Information Technology and Services | Kinneret Area, Israel, IL
I have been working as a contract technical writer at Intel Israel since 2003. In addition to writing documentation for complex, technical systems, I am responsible for updating the intranet sites for several products, and have provided user experience input at the relevant stages of product development. I do not require much in the way of direction or supervision. Once I know what I need to do, I do what it takes to get the right information from the right people (I’m not scared to look foolish by asking “stupid” questions), and then go heads-down to get the documentation done. I’m used to working in a team, but also enjoy the parts of the job that can only be done alone. I’m pretty tech-savvy—I’ve been involved with computers and technology since I was 11. Although I’m a technical writer, I have also picked up some web and programming skills along the way, and have built several websites. But my keen interest in the user experience field means that I always keep the end user and their needs in mind, whether I’m helping the developers figure out the layout of a screen or the flow of an interaction, or whether I’m writing the documentation that the user will turn to when they need to do something that they don’t know how to do yet.
2016 - Present
Technical Writer / Nagra Kudelski
Technical Writer / IFN Solutions
Technical Writer / Intel
Documenting several complex internal systems and regularly generating updated HTML and PDF versions of the documentation, for several different user types. This includes documentation for:
o Intel's grid computing system o The grid system’s API o Intel's storage management and replication system o A cache management system o A GUI application for submitting and tracking jobs in the grid system
I write documentation using both Adobe Framemaker (unstructured), WebWorks ePublisher, and DITA XML (using XMLMind XML Editor and the DITA Open Toolkit). I have also created and narrated a number of video tutorials.
Designing parts of the interface for:
o An internal file storage management system o A dashboard application for displaying data about Intel's grid computing system
It begins to look as if we might have been wrong. All those predictions driving us forward throughout history have brought us finally to the unexpected realisation that the future is, suddenly, no longer what it used to be. Oops.
James Burke is a living legend. Or, as he put it, “No-one under the age of fifty has heard of me and everyone over the age of fifty thinks I’m dead.”
He is a science historian, an author, and a television presenter. But calling James Burke a television presenter is like calling Mozart a busker. His 1978 series Connections and his 1985 series The Day The Universe Changed remain unparalleled pieces of television brilliance covering the history of science and technology.
Before making those astounding shows, he worked on Tomorrow’s World and went on to become the BBC’s chief reporter on the Apollo Moon missions.
His books include The Pinball Effect, The Knowledge Web, Twin Tracks and Circles.
In the latest London IA Podcast we host a wide-ranging conversation with Cennydd Bowles on moving from user experience design to digital product designer, what it takes to develop visual design skills, freelancing, A List Apart, writing a book, conference speaking and of course that legendary animal of European folklore.
Hosted by Matthew Solle and Andrew Travers. Produced by Will Myddelton and Matthew Solle.
Lately, Augmented Reality (AR) has come to stand for the highest and deepest form of synthesis between the digital and physical worlds. Slavin will outline an argument for rethinking what really augments reality and what the benefits are, as well as the costs.
Rather than considering AR as a technology, we will consider the goals we have for it, and how those are best addressed. Along the way, we’ll look at the history and future of seeing, with a series of stories, most of which are mostly true.
AR may be where all this goes. But how it gets there, and where there is, is up for debate. This is intended to serve to start or end that debate, or at a minimum, to bring the conference to a close by pointing at the future, perhaps in the wrong direction.
Kevin Slavin is the Managing Director and co-Founder of area/code. He has worked in corporate communications for technology-based clients for 13 years, including IBM, Compaq, Dell, TiVo, Time/Warner Cable, Microsoft, Wild Tangent and Qwest Wireless.
Slavin has lectured at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and the Parsons School of Design, and has written for various publications on games and game culture. His work has received honors from the AIGA, the One Show, and the Art Directors Club, and he has exhibited internationally, including the Frankfurt Museum für Moderne Kunst.
As the times accelerate and we face ever more kaleidoscopic careers, a crucial meta-skill is the ability to learn new skills extremely rapidly, extremely well. That practice has no better exemplar and proponent than Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid-Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. Not surprisingly, he has made himself adept at compelling presentations, this one prepared especially for the Long Now audience.
Jarrett Walker talks to Gerry Gaffney about human transit, in a discussion that has many parallels for UX practitioners. "Think about the question," Jarrett tells us, "before you fall in love with a technology." He describes the need for ongoing education to help planners and residents understand that good transit promotes not just community building, but "the freedom and joy of individual humans." (August 2011.)
Languages are Parallel Universes
"To have a second language is to have a second soul," said Charlemagne around 800 AD. "Each language has its own cognitive toolkit," said psychologist/linguist Lera Boroditsky in 2010 AD.
Different languages handle verbs, distinctions, gender, time, space, metaphor, and agency differently, and those differences, her research shows, make people think and act differently.
In this episode, Paul talks with Paul Romer, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Center for International Development and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. They discussed Romer's path as an academic turned entrepreneur, who returned to Stanford to explore how the startup dynamic could potentially be applied at the level of developing countries.