Quick links -augmented reality articles

 A quick write-up before I go off to work/last minute shopping

I’ve been really into tumblr lately. Tumblr+twitter had been my medium of choice for past month or two. 

I want you to check out two links I put up at my tumblr on the subject of augmented reality. 

http://bookhling.tumblr.com/post/66220823/books-infused-with-augmented-reality-illustrations

http://bookhling.tumblr.com/post/66220638/augmented-reality-graffiti-heres-a-cool-idea  (((this one’s really amazing)))

Follow up post when I get back home later.

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all-nighty

Part of being an adult is pulling an all-nighter, and then getting paid for it. You see, kids pull all-nighters all the time on ridiculously stringent schedule, but they (usually) don’t get paid. Ah the sweet innocence of the lost days.

I just took a relaxing stretch in the living room, with all the lights off and only the monitor of my trusty laptop blinking at intermittent intervals in the study while crunching numbers with the Mathematica and running some minimal cellular automata written in python.

Of course, I had the obligatory glass of alcohol in my hand. A cheap, mild merlot. What is a night without a decent drink?

As I lay myself on the sofa in the dark, my eyes adjusted to the darkness, with remarkable haste I should add, since I’ve been staring at a full-brightness LED screen for past five hours straight.

For a moment I thought I was standing on the edge of a skyscraper in Tokyo. A trick of the tired vision.
You see, my living room, for all its tidy appearance (I like to keep things organized), is filled and stacked to the brims with electronic gadgets ranging from draft-N wireless router to media center laptop I have cabled to external HD and a HDTV. I didn’t notice it before with the light on, but the whole room is apparently dotted with constantly blinking LED diodes embedded into the electronics.

Distantly blinking lights of green, red, orange and blue, all around the dark rectangular and squarish masses.

It seems that I’ve been unwittingly creating a skyline within my own living room.

P.S. I found another web-augmentation to play around with. The good thing about this particular service? I don’t have to do anything to it. I’m just syndicating all the existing input-services to a central location, so that bits and pieces of myself can permeate the web further. Have you ever searched for Bookhling on the Google?

http://bookhling.swurl.com/

Musing

People love fantasies. They fantasize about things all the time. Act of shaping the most compelling traits of that fantasy in real world is called art. And the process that allows the conversion of idea to shape is called technology. Look at this.

Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, but I think this will definitely appear beautiful in the eyes of the majority. Now, this is merely a model. But sciences and technology might as well make this come true sooner that most people expect it.

What I find truly interesting, however, isn’t the shared trait between arts and sciences. That much had been obvious since the days of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the hints of the inseparable relationship between the two had been acknowledged even before then… Or rather, would it be correct to say that modern separation between arts and sciences is a freak accident of history that was given birth a few centuries ago at most? I guess we are all collectively reeling in from the aftershock of the events that happened centuries ago (and people ask why we should bother to learn history).

What I really find interesting, to an almost obsessive degree, is where the beginnings of arts and sciences came from. That is, what would drive bunch of complex systems of collections of molecular compounds to form ideas, worldview, beliefs, and etc… Whether you are a religious fundamentalist or a Dawkins-ian atheist, the fact is that most if not all of humanity have some capacity at aesthetic sensitivity that borders on mystical. Like any prudent scientist (to-be), I believe in things happening in front of my eyes rather than some abstract ideas floating in the clouds. It is a fact that people keep on creating and reacting to stuff, tries to keep themselves alive (though survival seem to take on varying degrees of priority in individuals), and are a system of molecules. So it should be reasonable to suspect that there is a method in nature to create systems of creativity out of components we already know about, using systematic pathways/algorithms that can be replicated.

What is creativity? It is a constant drive to do stuff. Is that enough? Not really. Simply being active isn’t good enough… Creativity is a drive to do stuff in coherent manner. Thermodynamic work with coherence, which I might even call ‘memory’ though it might be too hasty at this point. Would this mean that a metabolic engine with capacity for coherent action (memory?) on the system-wide level contains innate ability to create? Like bacterium? Localized complex chain reaction with proper coherence eventually leads to self-replication? So would this mean that the human capacity for arts is in some deep level related to the capacity to procreate in minimally life-like systems?… Then what would be the concept of beauty? And why/how would human beings pursue aesthetics/ideas outside of the necessity for survival?

It’s fun to do a bit of musing like this. Yet it always get frustrating at the end, because I know in my heart that there’s no way to test all this physically. Or is there?

All I can do at the moment is to sit here and wait for my muse.

Your name to the moon!

A little note on something I just came across.

The wonderful folks at NASA (despite what the people say, I still believe in the dream!) have decided to send bunch of names to the moon on their new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project. All you have to do is visit the site and click on the link titled ‘Send Your Name to the Moon.’ After which you’ll be prompted to enter your name. They also have this neat certificate of participation available on their website, which you can print and/or download as a pdf file for showing off to family and friends.

Since manned flight to the moon (at least for me) won’t be happening any time soon, we might as well whet our appetite with this little demo of the moon world experience. Tell this to your friends and families. It doesn’t hurt to have your name sent up to the moon. And we don’t want to disappoint the nice people who thought to do this, do we?

As for me, I have to go get some green tea ice cream while humming along the fly me to the moon.

The singularity and the legacy of the world- Sketch

I’ve been reading up on quite a bit of transhumanist literature recently, both arguments for and against it. I must say, I’m beginning to think that the biggest hurdle to any kind of transhumanist and historical/technological singularity ideas is the shallow naivety of the transhumanism/singularity proponents themselves.

Technology will not magically fix the ailing of the world, and the nature of intelligence and consciousness will take much longer to understand fully; it is only that we will be capable of simulating such characteristics using artificial medium. Electric networks certainly catalyzed some great changes for the system of the world, but in the end it was merely catalyzing of the potential already there. The human network and corresponding complex system of human-nodes and social-economic-cultural links were already put in place long time ago, to the extent that we classify such trait as a fundamental part of humanity as organisms. This also means that simple increase in technological capacity will not be enough to surpass the nature of the human network itself, only speed the process already in place.

Mind you, I am very enthusiastic about the future potential of humanity. And I do certainly believe that some sort of chapter-opening change of human civilization will take place sometime soon, not necessarily while I’m alive (I’m 21 by the way) but definitely soon when viewed from the scales of world history. I am simply becoming increasingly skeptical of the kind of change expected to take place by the transhumanist community at large (if there can be such a thing). Massive information processing and storage ability does not translate into intellectual capacity without human input. There simply aren’t enough scientific evidence to support such a claim. The very idea that some sort of external intelligence engine would be able to fix the world’s problems is a vague notion that makes me want to question the degree of understanding possessed by some of the more radical supporters of transhumanism regarding matters of intelligence, brain physiology, and complex system dynamics. Certain degree of performance boost in brain capacities will definitely change the face of human civilization. Artificial intelligence in its ideal form will transform everyone’s lives. There is no doubt about that. I am just very irked about the underlying notion that such advances would be the singular answer to the singular problem of the world. Does anyone remember the concept of legacy anymore? I suggest you to find and read Jaron Lanier‘s essay on irreducible complexity (I’ve read it in a book) if you don’t know what I am talking about.

I believe in singularity-esque future, and all the good things it will bring. I also believe in reasonable ideas and sound scientific basis for reality, something some people seem to be forgetting in their rush to live forever.

Synthetic biology

I’ve been looking around the synthetic biology scene for a while now. Although my academic specialty doesn’t revolve around the field of biology, I try to keep at least an amateur’s perspective upon the advances and techniques of the field. Considering that my passion lies in the study and realization of artificial life I find it important to keep broad view of things irregardless of specialty or the immediate requirements of my own job.

I’ve often noted that the field of synthetic biology had suffered quite a bit of misunderstanding since its inception (which wasn’t that long ago actually), so I thought I might as well do a little write up of what synthetic biology really is.

Synthetic biology is an approach to engineering biology instead of being an academic field of specific goals. Simply put, synthetic biology as a whole is an approach, which may be utilized toward a specific application dictated by the case/individual/group etc.

In order to become a tool in engineering biology its link with conventional genetic engineering is inevitable. The breakdown of the similarities and differences between synthetic biology and genetic engineering is as follows.

Conventional genetic engineering is composed of three primary stages.

1)Recombinant DNA

2)PCR (stands for polymerase chain reaction)

3)Automated sequencing

The step one and two are about writing the DNA of specific purpose, and the step three is about reading the recomposed/component DNA. While these three steps are integrated to the core of the field of synthetic biology, it includes three more stages which differentiates it from pure genetic engineering.

4)Automated construction of DNA

5)Standards

6)Abstraction

The fourth stage, automated construction of DNA refers to the divide between the designers and builders of the DNA. Within the structure of the synthetic biology the designing of a DNA sequence and actually working in forming such DNA sequence (which is an expensive and time-consuming process) is separate from each other, making student-amateur oriented biological machine design possible within currently existing technical/industrial infrastructure. However, simply having a separate industry deal with mechanical parts of the synthetic biology would be meaningless without stage five and six, formation of standards, and abstraction of genetic interface. The last two stages run along the lines of the advance of computer programming scene, where formation of standard (html) and abstraction (most users don’t type in zeroes and ones anymore. We click buttons) brought on an explosion of global userbase and subsequent integration of the computerization into the very fabric of modern human civilization. Synthetic biology as a field encompasses all the six stages I’ve written about so far, each of them an integral part that reinforces another. In a way, synthetic biology is intimately linked with the garage-biology or biohacking movement in that it allows individuals to focus on designing their own novel biological contraptions using freely available and globally present database of biological/genetic abstractions and standards, while leaving the complexities and drudgeries of bioengineering to the mechanism of economy/industry.

I personally consider the field of synthetic biology to be a movement. Nothing as pretentious as some political gather-up, but a real movement like a wave spreading across the surface of the human society, a tell-tale sign of something gigantic beneath the surface. People used to build computers in their garage. Look where we are now. I can’t begin to imagine to full impact of well-executed synthetic biology as movement/industry/economy in the course of the future. Many little children these days are aware of tools like python and java, and some of them even utilize them with surprising efficiency and familiarity. Imagine the same children in the future, not with imaginary numbers but with the stuff of life. A little risky, but it’s certainly the type of world I want to live in.

What I also find to be interesting is the method of thinking behind synthetic biology. I don’t know how to put it succinctly yet, but as I have noted in the previous write up ‘transhumanism and the human network’, there is an underlying method of thinking that is showing up in universal scales, regardless of locale and cultural background. Am I correct in assuming this peculiarly wide-spread method of thinking as a type of zeitgeist? If so, where and how did it originate? And what role does the human network and its emergent properties take in the shape of the world we live in?

Maybe, once the biological hacking is done, the little children will hack the human civilization itself.

For those of you interested in slightly more detailed insight into synthetic biology, I give you two links.

www.openwetware.org

The openwetware website, definitely worth a look.

http://openwetware.org/images/3/3d/SB_Primer_100707.pdf

A simple primer to synthetic biology, covers the basics so it applies to other fields of biology as well.

Transhumanism, and the human network.

A little something I scribbled down a moment ago. Maybe it would be an interesting read for some of you, especially when viewed in light of the digital art -social networking age we live in right now.

The term transhumanism is thrown around a lot these days. It’s almost as if it is fast becoming a whole generational movement instead of a novelty philosophy catering to a limited cadre of technophiles. The true attraction of the movement I believe, is the real possibility that many things currently considered impossible might become possible in the future, not through any institutional reform but through a technological revolution capable of suiting individual tastes and goals. In many ways the movement of transhumanism is intensely political yet at the same time as politically neutral as it can be.
It seems transhumanism is about increasing the capacity to do things on the individual level without regards to a unified direction. After getting the ability you want using technological means, you can be a hardcore communist or a hardcore libertarian. The movement of the transhumanism itself doesn’t dictate what its proponents should do after becoming ‘transhuman’, and the only political ideal directly associated with the philosophy of transhumanism is the one necessary in making it come true, free and unrestricted access to technology and information. It can be said that the transhumanism and the theory of singularity so many people attribute to the movement of transhumanism is like deus ex machina come to life, the proverbial genie of the lamp given flesh in human adaptation of technology. However, it should be noted that the post-cyberpunk transhumanism ideals aren’t quite as clean and wish-wash as some of its predecessors of the enlightenment and industrial revolution, instead opting to put its faith in the very opening of the possibilities themselves rather than what those possibilities can ultimately achieve, and I dare say that it is this new way of thinking that defines the current generation’s zeitgeist regardless of geological locale or technical proficiency. Propagation of systems of thought through generational sentiments instead of any strict governmental or academic structure (that might even go beyond regional and cultural taboo), a sort of social-blogging approach to the propagation and practice of systems of thought. Yet in this case, the physical entity of the net is not a necessity. Instead, majority of the network-forming, linking and subsequent emergent behavior results from interactions between people and ideas, the technical infrastructure only acting as a catalyst for already present elements in precipitating metamorphosis.

As the idea of physical distance becomes fuddled in the future and virtual density of the human population increases, the idea and practice of the net-less networking built into all conscious life forms in the innate interaction between life forms themselves and the life and idea-structures will become more and more profound, its effects more and more pronounced, perhaps enough to truly dictate the course of human history, and perhaps, even human beliefs.