Meme Blocking, Mass Action, Mogees and Fantastical

Meme blocking is when a Meme blocks a genuine piece of information from spreading. This all came from my flatmate Pete’s story of a cat breeder friend on the edge of Bodmin Moor – after all the “Bodmin Beast” sightings, they saw all their genuine Google traffic disappear.

Mass action is something that has been in my mind recently – what if everyone under 40 changed their bank account? Would it really make a difference? Trying to think of non-violent ways to effect change.

Mogees are a delicious sound interactive device that my flatmate Pete has been experimenting with recently.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Natural Language Processing was used in more interfaces?


Kinectic Sculpture Racing, Bicycles for the Mind and Cryptologs

A kinetic sculpture race is an organized contest of human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. The original and longest race is held annually since 1969 in Humboldt County in far northern California. Participants compete for three days over 42 miles of land, water, sand, and mud. Other races are held annually in locations throughout the United States, and in Australia. Surely we should have one in Hackney?

Perhaps Hermann Tilke could design the next track? What an amazing job to have.

Jessi Baker recently saw a preview of my interview in the upcoming Clouds documentary:

“The computer is like a bicycle for the mind” ace Jobs quote @JoelGethinLewis @kickstarter backed Clouds @obviousjim @deepspeedmedia #res13

I’ve tracked down the Jobs quote to here:

The NSA’s archive of it’s internal magazine on cryptography was recently released. Some interesting blacked out sections, naturally.


Bubble Machines, a better Blog Engine, Abrash on VR/AR Challenges and Negative Feedback

A terrifying and infuriating piece from 2009 on Goldman Sachs and the Great American Bubble Machine. Morally, how can these people do this? You don’t get any prizes for being the richest person in the graveyard. Is the corporation a highly efficient guilt assuager?

Steve Yegge complained way back in 2006 about how terrible Blogging software is. Why haven’t things moved forward? Intertia around WordPress? Is it “Good Enough”?

Michael Abrash has uploaded his slides from his recent Game Developers Conference talk on what he is doing in AR and VR.

Putting together the talk made me realize how many challenging problems have to be solved in order to get VR and AR to work well, and how long it’ll to take to get all of those areas truly right; it’s going to be an interesting decade or two. At least I don’t have to worry about running out of stuff to talk about here for a long time!

Elon Musk interviewed at TED – an interesting video, especially the part when he talks about what makes him different, and what he thinks people can do to be more like him:

  1. A solid Physics education – so you don’t rely on analogy to explain the world around you.
  2. Soliciting negative feedback from peers – hardly anyone does this.

Low light, Everything is automatically tracked, Justin Bieber and the Dream Machine

All I want from a digital camera these days is low light performance. I hate flash. It looks like Canon is first in line to make what I want. Perfect for photographing parties and galaxies alike.

Russell Davies recently posted about BAE’s surveillance camera, the ARGUS-IS. What a system! Made up of four lenses and 368 cell phone cameras, at 5 megapixels each – making a 1.8 Gigapixel overall resolution. Effectively allows people to monitor an area of around 3 km radius, and scrub in time, with automatic tracking of every moving object. Look at the image that comes out of this thing!

Parag Mital is working on software to automatically reconstruct videos from other video sources. He’s recently been going around the houses with Justin Bieber and YouTube over the copyright of these videos. He’s also been working on doing image reconstruction from brain scan information – opening the way to a future where you can replay your dreams. Legally also fascinating – do I own the copyright on the images that I “see” in my head? If I made a video from the images in my head would I own it? Even if I was looking at copyrighted material? As I’ve said before, digital technology is outpacing our legal system’s ability to cope, and things are only going to get faster in the future.

A handy summary of some of the latest developments in AI/Neural Networks.


James George & Bruce Sterling and the Wellspring and Orgone

I saw my friend James George talk at FutureEverything, mainly about his work on making three dimensional video tools for his Clouds documentary.

He spoke about a meeting with Bruce Sterling where Sterling dismissed coupling of Kinect and DLSR as a “hamster” – cute, fun to play with, but with an ultimately short life span. He suggested James aim for wellsprings – areas that just keep giving.

I happened upon Sterling’s keynote for Vimeo via a Wired article:

“Obsolete before Plateau” is a challenge for many platforms and technologies. I also can’t wait to use the camera that he describes. I wonder how far away it is? Just an electron devourer, able to compute angles and views at any time. It’s interesting to hear Sterling talk about his writing as design fiction – and even more interesting to hear that James George takes it as a challenge.

Finally, an interesting snippet from Mick Farren while discussing the Motorhead Album “Ace of Spades” – I’d never heard of Orgone before, but was pleased that my Devo hat that I have at home is an accumulator of the mythical substance.



James Bridle’s Drone Shadows, Particle Deceleration from Honor Harger and Natalie Jeremijenko’s Bird Perches

In March I attended FutureEverything 2013 in Manchester. 

Honor Harger‘s talk was titled “Something Invisible in the Landscape is Just Landscape“. Honor showed James Bridle’s Drone Shadows, and talked about what happened when it was installed in different places across the world and how difficult it was to show in Australia. I really highlit something that I’d been thinking about for some time – how technology has served to increasingly remove perpetrators of violence from their actions. Out of sight is out of mind.

Honor also showed Trevor Paglen‘s work:

Trevor Paglen Quote on Galileo during The Enlightenment

I was fascinated by the the possibilities of a rational consensus emerging through Enlightenment enabled intelligent agents being able to communicate openly – we aren’t there yet.

Honor said something fascinating:

“Media Artists let us see the landscape we are in”

Julian Oliver has many interesting things to say about the agency of knowledge – that if we don’t know, we can’t act. Openness is an essential first step to a fair society, and it’s artists responsibility to highlight closed thinking – in whatever form.

Olof from Today’s Art showed the promotional videos for his art show – that actually resulted in his arrest for being too close the the bone.

Finally, I saw the work of Natalie Jeremijenko for the first time. I particularly enjoyed the bird perches that encourage people to feed the birds – especially that the most “effective” one was the one that drew peoples attention to the fact that healthy birds mean less bird flu. As Natalie said:

“We get the diseases we deserve – every swine flu case was within 5km of an industrialised farm”

Her final thought was on pollution in NYC – 80% of NYC’s carbon footprint is air con related. A feedback loop of madness that we need to stop.


Coding as Skate Videos via a Cyclic Vacuum Cannon, Going Round the Corner Piece, LED is Easy

On the 1st of October, 2012, Kyle McDonald tweeted:

“Coding tutorials as Skate Videos”


Presstube (@presstube)
22/03/2013 12:48
@kcimc @JoelGethinLewis was from a(n).. email where I was blabbing about my wishes for Code Journal : )

With the help of the Internet, I was able to track down where this thought came from. From Presstube a.k.a. James Paterson. His series of (meta) posts on his Cyclic Vacuum Cannon. James has been doing lovely things for onkers. I thoroughly recommend watching them all.


James sez:

"- To try and capture and communicate that feeling you get when you're blazing through code in complete flow. To give non-coders or people just starting out a voyeuristic hint of that feeling. A bit like a skateboard video, more idealized porn than a record of gritty reality in all its somewhat more tedious glory. Something to get you 'stoked' and infect you with enthusiasm, but at the end of the day the only way to learn to kickflip is to go out there and try it a hundred thousand times. "



What a lovely idea. There are so many useful “tricks” to creating interaction that are only learnt through bitter experience – I remember being amazed watching Ash Nehru code at the speed of thought when I first started at UnitedVisualArtists in 2005. I couldn’t believe anyone could type that fast! How could it work? I remember the first time I read “Coders At Work” by Peter Seibel. I was so relieved to read that ALL of the coders featured used printfs to debug!

Going Around the Corner Piece by Bruce Nauman, 1970. 4 video cameras, 4 video monitors arranged around a cube inside a room. I saw this piece first hand when I returned from inter-railing (remember that?) around Europe with my friend Rick Adams. I don’t think I’ve ever been the same since. By placing these standard pieces of technology in a novel arrangement, Nauman produced an infinite loop. He made a system that people explored, and made their own narratives within. It was the first time I had ever seen technology used to tell a human story, full of emotion. Walking around the cube, I glanced the back of my head, just going around the corner as I turned it. No matter how fast I ran, I could never catch up with myself.

There are many artists and designers out there working with LED – but few appreciate how easy it is to drive huge LED displays – I remember being staggered to see my mouse pointer go across a massive collection of Barco LED – and all through the DVI out of my Macbook Pro. If it has to go on the road, it has to be roadie proof.


Great SF

I’ve always loved Science Fiction. From the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, to my first reading of Neuromancer in 1997. What a summer that was, I’d finished my A-levels, was preparing to go to work for IBM, and also listened to OK Computer, which was released that year. Below are four Science Fiction novels that I have read and enjoyed over the past few years.

The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester. This one I came across via William Gibson – he has consistently named it his favourite, and after reading it the influence on him is clear. The introduction of the concept of “jaunting” – the ability for humans to teleport themselves at will – is only limited by the ability of the person to imagine the space they want to go with sufficient clarity.

“Accelerando” by Charles Stross. From a near future character that has created software that automatically patents his every business thought, to an orbiting group of lobster based AI, Acclerando starts fast and bends time to go faster. Available for free from the author here.

Tau Zero” by Poul Anderson. A future world ruled by Sweden. My introduction to so called “hard” SF. A starship aiming to explore the stars suffers a brake failure, meaning all they can do is accelerate to the end of the universe. Where next?

Diaspora” by Greg Egan. A scrupulously accurate in research terms hard SF writer. Famously has no images available of himself online. Diaspora deals with a group of people digitising and copying themselves 1000 times, and dispatching micro-spaceships to the farthest corners of space in attempt to understand the universe. As an astounding ending as I have ever read.


The future is independent

When I attended the lovely Beyond Tellerrand 2012 conference, I was lucky enough to catch Andy Baio‘s keynote.

He covered many things in his talk, but the one that really stuck was his demand that we all watch two documentaries immediately:

Indie Game The Movie tells the tail of three independent developers, and their attempts to make their own dream game, outside traditional EA style game development.

The three games featured are:

We are Legion tells the story of the beginning of Anonymous, operation AntiSec and LulzSec. They also made lovely timeline.

I can’t recommend each film enough, and you can download them both through VHX.

The final story that Andy told was that of his festival, XOXO (Kiss Hug Kiss Hug), for independent makers of all kinds. You can see all the videos from the festival for free here.

I am truly excited about the future for all independent makers – the devils bargain that was previously necessary to distribute your work has evaporated.


The Abolition of Work – A Ludic Revolution?

“No one should ever work.

Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you’d care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.”

Bob Black writes in his seminal essay about what would happen if we had a Ludic Revolution. Thanks to Bruce Lawson (@brucel) for the link. More background here.

“Profit is the reward for correctly understanding an aspect of reality ahead of your peers.”

Above is a quote from Alain de Botton that I keep bringing up in presentations. Isn’t this the purest form of entrepreneurship – anticipating the future?

“I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organised diminution of work.”

Black and de Botton got me to thinking about Bertrand Russell‘s 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness“.