Thursday, August 26, 2021

Friday Thinking 27 Aug 2021 - The Last Apprehension of the Future of the Digital Environment

Hello all – Here’s today’s Friday Thinking - dedicated to illuminating tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

This will be my last Friday Thinking - I can’t remember exactly when I first began this little curation of curiosities of possibility. I believe it was at least around 2012. So it’s been almost a decade. I think it has served its purpose. There was too much to know when I started and the ‘too much to know’ keeps growing exponentially. 

The uncertainty of our future has also grown in the same way. But we must all remember that - “To be lucky, it’s essential to be open and alert to the unexpected.”

I want to thank everyone who enjoyed Friday Thinking even if only sporadically - or in fondness of the weird guy that bothered to keep sending it out week after month after year. :) 


In the 21st Century curiosity is what skills the cat -
for life of skillful means .

‘There are times, ‘when I catch myself believing there is something which is separate from something else.’

“I'm not failing - I'm Learning"
Quellcrist Falconer - Altered Carbon

“Once we can study a situation where quantum theory would suggest that space-time itself should be in a superposition of two measurably different states,” said Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum physicist at the University of Toronto, “all bets are off, and we have nothing but experiment to guide us. It’s reasonable to keep an open mind to the possibility that we will discover something new.”

In other words, expanding the quantum scale up to sizes where gravity matters might teach us new things about quantum mechanics, gravity and hidden aspects of the universe. 

How Big Can the Quantum World Be? Physicists Probe the Limits.

Fichte understands human embodiment and finitude as a call to action. So long as we can feel and exist in a community with others, then we can learn and continue becoming better versions of ourselves. To think that we could find the truth that would cease our strivings and settle our worries is to deny the necessary limitations of human existence. Though we cannot know whether what we feel is ‘really’ true (because all we know must come from feelings), we contribute to the collective progression of humanity towards perfection through following where our feelings lead us.

A pragmatist ethics …  aims to cause feelings that lead others to reconsider what they take to be true, or authoritative, rather than convincing them to accept some pre-established truth on our say-so. Authority is not ‘out there’ baked into the world in virtue of it being non-perspectival or objective, just as it is not transparent what God’s commands permit (hence all the disagreement). Pragmatism excises God, Truth and even appeals to the universal authority of science, and begins again with a commitment to unforced social cooperation, an attitude towards others that emulates what Friedrich Nietzsche called ‘the seriousness of a child at play’.

Democracy is sentimental

a brain map with neat borders is not just oversimplified — it’s misleading. “Scientists for over 100 years have searched fruitlessly for brain boundaries between thinking, feeling, deciding, remembering, moving and other everyday experiences,” Barrett said. A host of recent neurological studies further confirm that these mental categories “are poor guides for understanding how brains are structured or how they work.”

Neuroscientists generally agree about how the physical tissue of the brain is organized: into particular regions, networks, cell types. But when it comes to relating those to the task the brain might be performing — perception, memory, attention, emotion or action — “things get a lot more dodgy,”

Recent work has found, for instance, that two-thirds of the brain is involved in simple eye movements; meanwhile, half of the brain gets activated during respiration. In 2019, several teams of scientists found that most of the neural activity in “perception” areas such as the visual cortex was encoding information about the animals’ movements rather than sensory inputs.

The Brain Doesn’t Think the Way You Think It Does

A common theme of this scholarship is that groupings depend more on dominant culture than on ancestry. In Singapore, the government mandates that individuals are identified explicitly as Chinese, Malay, Indian or Other, which affects where they can live and study. In the United States, people with ancestry from the world’s two most populous countries, India and China, along with every other country on the continent, are collapsed into a single racial category called ‘Asian’. Similarly, the term ‘Hispanic’ erases a multitude of cultural and ancestral identities, especially among Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Erroneous ideas about genetic ‘races’ live on in the broad, ambiguous ‘continental ancestry’ groups such as ‘Black, African’ or ‘African American’, that are used in the US Census and are ubiquitous in biomedical research. These collapse incredible amounts of diversity and erase cultural and ancestral identities. Study participants deemed not to fit within such crude buckets are often excluded from analyses, despite the fact that fewer and fewer individuals identify with a single population of origin.

One practical way forwards is to move away from having people identify themselves using only checkboxes. I am not calling for an end to the study of genetic ancestry or socio-cultural categories such as self-identified race and ethnicity. These are useful for tracking and studying equity in justice, health care, education and more. The goal is to stop conflating the two, which leads scientists and clinicians to attribute differences in health to innate biology rather than to poverty and social inequality.

Too many scientists still say Caucasian

Human beings find comfort in certainty. We form governments, make calendars, and create organisations; and we structure our activities, strategies and plans around these constructs. These routines give us the satisfaction of knowing that, by having a plan, there’s a means of it coming to fruition.

But there’s another force, constantly at play in life, that often makes the greatest difference to our futures: the ‘unexpected’ or the ‘unforeseen’. If you think about it, you already look out for the unexpected every day, but perhaps only as a defence mechanism. For example, whenever you use a pedestrian crossing on a busy road, you look out for the unexpected driver who might race through the red light. That ‘alertness’ to, or awareness of, the unexpected is at the centre of understanding the science of (smart) luck and exploiting it to your benefit.

In my research into what makes individuals and organisations fit for the future, one insight has come up again and again: many of the world’s leading minds have developed a capacity, often unconscious, to turn the unexpected into positive outcomes. Developing this ‘serendipity mindset’, is both a philosophy of life and a capability that you can shape and nurture in yourself. 

You might think of serendipity as passive luck that just happens to you, when actually it’s an active process of spotting and connecting the dots. It is about seeing bridges where others see gaps, and then taking initiative and action(s) to create smart luck. Serendipity is a guiding force in great scientific discoveries but it’s also present in our everyday lives, in the smallest of moments as well as the greatest life-changing events. It’s how we often ‘unexpectedly’ find love, a co-founder, a new job, or a business partner – and it’s how inventions such as Post-it Notes, X-rays, penicillin, microwaves and many other innovations came about.

How to be lucky

A signal from the 80’s about the future that’s still coming.

Neuromancer --- Radio Drama

A radio play of William Gibson’s breakout novel.
Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way--and burned the talent out of his brain, micron by micron. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courted death in the high-tech underworld. Until a shadowy conspiracy offered him a second chance--and a cure--for a price..

If the quest of the ‘Grail’ of knowledge is the journey that all scientists undertake - the natural question they must ask is “Who does the Grail serve?” This is a signal for the choice humanity must face to share knowledge or to let privateers enclose a knowledge commons.
researchers have taken to Twitter in outrage, calling the blanket ruling “short sighted”, “plain ludicrous”, “cruel”, “astonishing”, “outdated” and “gut-wrenching”.

Preprint ban in grant applications deemed ‘plain ludicrous’

Australia’s major research funder has ruled more than 20 fellowship applications ineligible because they mentioned preprints and other non-peer reviewed materials, sparking an outcry from scientists who say the move is a blow to open science and will stymie careers.

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the use of preprints to the fore, researchers say the stance by the Australian Research Council (ARC) — which limits applicants’ ability to refer to the latest research — is out of step with modern publishing practices and at odds with overseas funding agencies that allow or encourage the use of preprints.

This is an important signal for the future of self-driven transportation. It’s not just the technology that is important - it is the human-centric design and enables easy use and trust. On a personal note I’ve seen the detrimental impact on people when their driving license had to be revoked due to disability or aging. The loss of autonomy can have serious impact on well-being. The question is how do we enable that sense of autonomy and agency - while enabling automation. This is also another signal of the extended mind.
Interestingly, results showed that most people prefer a self-driving car that drives like a less aggressive version of their own driving behaviors. Participants who reported that they trust or somewhat trust artificial intelligence, autonomous technologies, and self-driving cars expected a car with behaviors similar to their personal driving behaviors.

Do passengers want self-driving cars to behave more or less human?

Recent studies have shown that people have negative attitudes about using autonomous systems because they don't trust them. Moreover, research shows a human-centered approach in autonomy is perceived as more trustworthy by users. This begs the question: "Do passengers want self-driving cars to mimic their personal driving behaviors or do they hold these autonomous vehicles to a different standard?"

To explore this quandary, researchers from Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering and Computer Science conducted a study asking 352 participants about their personal driving behaviors such as speed, changing lanes, distance from a car in front of them, accelerating and decelerating and passing other vehicles. They also asked them the same questions about their expectations of a self-driving car performing these very same tasks. The objective of the study was to examine trust and distrust to see if there is a relationship between an individual's driving behaviors and how they expect a self-driving car to behave.

For the study, published in the proceedings HCI in Mobility, Transport and Automotive Systems, researchers asked the participants 46 questions to gain a better understanding of driving behavior and driver's expectations of self-driving cars in a variety of driving scenarios. Ultimately, information from this study can be used to construct driving models for self-driving cars.

The development of the extended mind can also include a new sort of ‘sensorium’ - and in a world filled with all manner of new material this may be important.

Detecting an unprecedented range of potentially harmful airborne compounds

Many of the products we encounter daily—from deodorant to pesticides to paint—release molecules that drift through the air. Breathing in enough of the wrong ones can cause serious and potentially long-term health problems. However, it can be hard to estimate exposure because current devices are limited in what they can detect. Today, researchers report development of a new personal air-sampling system that can detect an unprecedented range of these compounds from a special badge or pen attached to someone's shirt or placed in a pocket.

The researchers will present their results today at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

"In every situation there's a unique set of compounds that could be present in the air, including potential hazards that we do not know about," says Allen Apblett, Ph.D., the project's senior researcher, who is presenting the research. "Using a single material, we can capture many classes of these compounds, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and potentially offer a much more comprehensive picture of exposures."

When I was a child my step-grandfather would feed squirrels peanuts in the shell - they became so friendly they would actually go into his pant pockets to pull out peanuts. Who wouldn’t just find them to be sooo cute.
Then as an adult I started growing things like grapes. That’s when I really learned the meaning of varmints - the squirrels would season after season - simply trash the grapes just as they were ripening. I understood the old movie images of an old man on his porch with a shotgun shooting salt - waiting for those varmints to show up.

Protecting gardens and crops from insects using the 'smell of fear'

For home gardeners and farmers, herbivorous insects present a major threat to their hard work and crop yields. The predator insects that feed on these bugs emit odors that pests can sense, which changes the pests' behavior and even their physiology to avoid being eaten. With bugs becoming more resistant to traditional pesticides, researchers now report they have developed a way to bottle the "smell of fear" produced by predators to repel and disrupt destructive insects naturally without the need for harsh substances.

The researchers will present their results today at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

"It is not uncommon to use our senses to avoid risky situations. If a building was on fire, we as humans could use our senses of sight or smell to detect the threat," says Sara Hermann, Ph.D., the project's principal investigator. "There is evidence for such behavioral responses to risk across taxa that suggest prey organisms can detect predation threats, but the mechanisms for detection aren't very well understood, especially with insects."

This is definitely a signal to watch in the transformation of global energy geo-politics.

World's biggest wind turbine shows the disproportionate power of scale

China's MingYang Smart Energy has announced an offshore wind turbine even bigger than GE's monstrous Haliade-X. The MySE 16.0-242 is a 16-megawatt, 242-meter-tall (794-ft) behemoth capable of powering 20,000 homes per unit over a 25-year service life.

The stats on these renewable-energy colossi are getting pretty crazy. When MingYang's new turbine first spins up in prototype form next year, its three 118-m (387-ft) blades will sweep a 46,000-sq-m (495,140-sq-ft) area bigger than six soccer fields.

Every year, each one expected to generate 80 GWh of electricity. That's 45 percent more than the company's MySE 11.0-203, from just a 19 percent increase in diameter. No wonder these things keep getting bigger; the bigger they get, the better they seem to work, and the fewer expensive installation projects need to be undertaken to develop the same capacity.

these mammoth turbines is the key reason why industry experts are predicting that the cost of offshore wind will drop by between 37 and 49 percent by 2050. 

 the MySE 16.0-242 is just the start of its "new 15MW+ offshore product platform," and that it's capable of operating installed to the sea floor or on a floating base. The full prototype will be built in 2022, installed and into operation by 2023. Commercial production is slated to begin in the first half of 2024.

Another signal on the future of global energy geopolitics.
"It was really exciting when we observed the sodium-ion intercalation with such high capacity. The research is still at an early stage, but the results are very promising. This shows that it's possible to design graphene layers in an ordered structure that suits sodium ions, making it comparable to graphite,"

Janus graphene opens doors to sustainable sodium-ion batteries

In the search for sustainable energy storage, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, present a new concept to fabricate high-performance electrode materials for sodium batteries. It is based on a novel type of graphene to store one of the world's most common and cheap metal ions—sodium. The results show that the capacity can match today's lithium-ion batteries.

Even though lithium ions work well for energy storage, lithium is an expensive metal with concerns regarding its long-term supply and environmental issues.

Sodium, on the other hand, is an abundant low-cost metal, and a main ingredient in seawater (and in kitchen salt). This makes sodium-ion batteries an interesting and sustainable alternative for reducing our need for critical raw materials. However, one major challenge is to increase the capacity.

Typically, the capacity of sodium intercalation in standard graphite is about 35 milliampere hours per gram (mA h g-1). This is less than one tenth of the capacity for lithium-ion intercalation in graphite. With the novel graphene the specific capacity for sodium ions is 332 milliampere hours per gram—approaching the value for lithium in graphite. The results also showed full reversibility and high cycling stability.

Shameless self-promotion

Re-imagining the Local

Response-Able action to the challenges of the 21st Century
Three paradigms enabling response-able action to the challenges of the 21st Century — where everything that can be automated will be.
There will never be a shortage of Work and Activity to Do and to Value — When we are Engaged in the enterprise of a Flourishing Life, Community and Ecology.

Paradigm One — Power of a nation with its own currency — Modern Monetary Theory 

Paradigm Two — Enabling a person to flourish as a citizen — Universal Basic Assets (UBA) and Guaranteed Job rather than unemployment insurance.

Paradigm Three — Enabling community to be response-able in a changing world — Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD).   

And a signal of our epistemological times.

A Eulogy to Truth

The Truth is Dead - Long Live Honesty
Intro - Motif 
The truth is dead - long live honesty
Entailing honest accounts and holding accounts honest

Science teaches us skepticism - 
Entailing multiple lines of evidence
For reliable knowledge

Complexity teaches us relative perspectives - 
Entailing multiple ways of reasoning
For relevant wisdom

Collective wisdom emerges in our institutions of conversation
Entailing good faith speaker-hearers - 
with honest accounting - 
Entangling complex reasonings - 
For adaptive evolving 
We barely know what we know – but we don’t even know what we don’t know


yeah - 
the complexity -
of our challenges -
drives our evolution -
even when -
we are part of -
our challenges -

commons governance -
social hormones entangle community of I's -
like organs with an -
allostasis metric -
like the price mechanism -
becoming displaced -
perhaps -
by distributed ledgers -
 self-care is other-care -
other-care is self-care -
mimesis of entanglement -

mhm -
with distributed ledgers -
price mechanisms level up -
in complexity -
enabling -
 allostatic self-governance -
and diversity of commons  -
and exchange accounting -
architectures -
enabling collective -
exploration of afford-dancing -
the valuing of values -

mhm - 
yes  - 
the perfect beauty of cubs at play - 
a perfecting of moments -
entangled -
over the time of memories -
of one summer - 
a time of paying -
without roles - 
but with each other - 
the beauty enacted - 
as we played - 
outside the roles - 

we have no ‘self’ -
we are allostatic -attractor-processes -
in-environments -
enabled to maintain -
narrationing -
sustaining viable coping -

crisis-growth emerge -
narrationing-about-narrationing -
learning to learn about learning -
en-act-play -
is wicked hard -

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Friday Thinking 20 Aug 2021

Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. Choices are based on my own curiosity and that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity is what skills the cat -
for life of skillful means .
Jobs are dying - Work is just beginning.
Work that engages our whole self becomes play that works.

The emerging world-of-connected-everything - digital environment - 
computational ecology - 
may still require humans as the consciousness of its own existence. 

To see red - is to know other colors - without the ground of others - there is no figure - differences that make a defference.  

‘There are times, ‘when I catch myself believing there is something which is separate from something else.’

“I'm not failing - I'm Learning"
Quellcrist Falconer - Altered Carbon



Complexity, Human Alignment and the Evolution of AI

Beyond Neoliberal Trade

Think Big, Act Small: Elinor Ostrom's Radical Vision for Community Power


Introduction to MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) Part 1 (of 2)

Think Big, Act Small: Elinor Ostrom's Radical Vision for Community Power

Apple's Plan to "Think Different" About Encryption Opens a Backdoor to Your Private Life

Meet the trillions of viruses that make up your virome

How gut microbes could drive brain disorders

Planting forests may cool the planet more than thought

Computer Scientists Discover Limits of Major Research Algorithm

‘Tortured phrases’ give away fabricated research papers

Engineers make critical advance in quantum computer design

Codex, an AI system that translates natural language to programming code


Less than 1% of the world’s population is involved in software development. This is unfortunate because the ideas of managing complexity are the same problems of human governance yet we are ignorant of most of these ideas.

This lack of understanding of software is also pervasive in other scientific fields. Most science is performed using concepts that existed before the invention of the computer. Many are unaware that our immersion with computers generates entirely new universal ideas.

Humanity is involved in many difficult complex governance problems (i.e. climate change, pandemic) where most people involved in these fields are unaware of the concepts and tools invented by software developers to tackle complexity.

Human civilization is critically dependent on humans to express complex ideas. Unfortunately, too many of us have never learned these newer vocabularies. When we are exposed to them, we interpret the expressions of the experts in the wrong ways.

The experience of India shows how consequential these agreements can be. In 1972 the nation banned product patents in pharmaceuticals. At the time, medicine prices in the country were among the highest in the world, but critics of the ban warned that the country would lose access to imported medicines. In the decades that followed, however, India established a vast indigenous generics manufacturing industry and reverse engineered most state-of-the-art medicines developed elsewhere. Prices in the country dropped to among the lowest in the world, and by the turn of the century, Indian generic companies had become the largest supplier of affordable essential medicines outside the western world and the largest global supplier of generic medicines. Doctors Without Borders dubbed the country the “pharmacy of the developing world.”

The success of this industry was not predictable from standard narratives of export-oriented growth. This was not a case of low wage led industrialization; India did not have a comparative advantage in the labor, knowhow or raw material required for drug production. Instead, a combination of industrial policy, including early public investment, learning by doing as Indian pharmaceutical companies gained technical and technological expertise, a fortuitously large pool of scientists, and critically, no IP restrictions on the adoption of foreign technology combined to allow the country to become a low-cost producer. In theory, countries specialize in the things they are best at making. In reality, what countries are good at depends on what they make—or are allowed to.

Beyond Neoliberal Trade

three important, overlapping arguments from across Ostrom’s scholarship to form a case for decentralisation and enhanced community power:

The commons: Communities can manage their own resources.
Beyond markets and states, there is a third model where communities establish their own systems without the need for regulation or privatisation. These communities can be found all over the world and are demonstrably capable of managing common resources and assets in a more sustainable and productive way than comparable state or market systems.

Self-governance: Democracy is more meaningful at a local level.
Legitimacy and social trust can only flourish when people have a reasonable expectation of influence over the things that affect their lives. Mobilised communities will tend to benefit from having decision making power and control over resources to develop local services and facilities.

Polycentricity: In complex social and environmental systems there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
What is needed is a dynamic system that permits experimentation, and which can tolerate the existence of diverse and layered institutions of different kinds. The alternative – where top-down, monolithic systems dominate – diminishes resilience. Rather, it centralises risks and quashes creative, adaptive solutions to problems.

Three Core Conditions of Community Power

Locality: Systems should be designed for specific places.

Systems – including the way that resources are managed, rules are designed, and decisions are made – should be originated within, and appropriate for, the particular places where they operate. Ostrom’s evidence shows this makes it more likely that people will collaborate and cooperate with each other, and that overall outcomes can be improved this way.

Autonomy: The rights of communities to create and run local systems must be respected. Communities will have few incentives to come together without a basic expectation that their decisions and participation will have meaning and impact, and will that their decisions will be respected by external parties.

Diversity: Each community is different – and will take different approaches. Context-driven, autonomous communities will experiment with different systems. Taking different approaches in different places means people have a range of opportunities to get involved, enriching civil society. This diversity should be promoted, as it may reveal strong new approaches.

Think Big, Act Small: Elinor Ostrom's Radical Vision for Community Power

This is an excellent 5 min introduction of Modern Monetary Theory - the necessary economic paradigm if we are going to meet the challenges of climate change, aging infrastructure and the need for modern infrastructure as well as a social infrastructure that enable all people to flourish.
A MUST view.

Introduction to MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) Part 1 (of 2)

Modern monetary theory, or MMT for short, is a superior framework for understanding how our monetary system functions today. It has been developed since the 1990s by Professor Bill Mitchell, alongside American academics like Professor Randall Wray, Professor Stephanie Kelton, and investment banker and fund manager Warren Mosler. MMT builds on the ideas of a previous generation of economists, such as Hyman Minsky, Wynne Godley and Abba Lerner.

Thanks to Dr. Steven Hail, Prof. Bill Mitchell, Warren Mosler, Patricia Pino & Christian Reily (at The MMT Podcast) for providing the inspiration and feedback for this video.

Part 2 is here

This is a positive signal of the future - one where we can enable a more participatory democracy to care for our social, economic, political and our ecological commons.
This report draws out Ostrom’s insights for the UK in the context of a growing crisis in the relationship between people and institutions. It adapts and contextualises her work into a new set of practical lessons for ‘self-governance’ – where communities take control over the things that matter to them – and connects these with contemporary examples of community-powered projects in the UK.

Think Big, Act Small: Elinor Ostrom's Radical Vision for Community Power

Elinor Ostrom humanised the study of economics and politics. She discovered what is possible, and the problems that can be solved, when we trust each other. Her work inspires optimism, but she was also a realist, basing her findings on decades of tireless work in the real world. This quietly revolutionary research led her to become the first woman to win a Nobel prize in economics. She demonstrated that people’s motivation and ability to cooperate, participate, and sustainably control their own resources are far greater than is usually assumed.

Ostrom’s work offers grounds for ambitiously re-imagining the relationship between people and institutions. It should inform and inspire policy debate about community power, devolution, public service reform, and organisational transformation.

This report draws out Ostrom’s insights for the UK in the context of a growing crisis in the relationship between people and institutions. It adapts and contextualises her work into a new set of practical lessons for ‘self-governance’ – where communities take control over the things that matter to them – and connects these with contemporary examples of community-powered projects in the UK.

A sign of the current state of privacy.
When Apple releases these “client-side scanning” functionalities, users of iCloud Photos, child users of iMessage, and anyone who talks to a minor through iMessage will have to carefully consider their privacy and security priorities in light of the changes, and possibly be unable to safely use what until this development is one of the preeminent encrypted messengers.

Apple's Plan to "Think Different" About Encryption Opens a Backdoor to Your Private Life

Apple has announced impending changes to its operating systems that include new “protections for children” features in iCloud and iMessage. If you’ve spent any time following the Crypto Wars, you know what this means: Apple is planning to build a backdoor into its data storage system and its messaging system.

Child exploitation is a serious problem, and Apple isn't the first tech company to bend its privacy-protective stance in an attempt to combat it. But that choice will come at a high price for overall user privacy. Apple can explain at length how its technical implementation will preserve privacy and security in its proposed backdoor, but at the end of the day, even a thoroughly documented, carefully thought-out, and narrowly-scoped backdoor is still a backdoor.

There are two main features that the company is planning to install in every Apple device. One is a scanning feature that will scan all photos as they get uploaded into iCloud Photos to see if they match a photo in the database of known child sexual abuse material (CSAM) maintained by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The other feature scans all iMessage images sent or received by child accounts—that is, accounts designated as owned by a minor—for sexually explicit material, and if the child is young enough, notifies the parent when these images are sent or received. This feature can be turned on or off by parents.

This is a good signal about something that has the whole globe aware and concerned. 

Meet the trillions of viruses that make up your virome

If you think you don’t have viruses, think again.
It may be hard to fathom, but the human body is occupied by large collections of microorganisms, commonly referred to as our microbiome, that have evolved with us since the early days of man. Scientists have only recently begun to quantify the microbiome, and discovered it is inhabited by at least 38 trillion bacteria. More intriguing, perhaps, is that bacteria are not the most abundant microbes that live in and on our bodies. That award goes to viruses.

It has been estimated that there are over 380 trillion viruses inhabiting us, a community collectively known as the human virome. But these viruses are not the dangerous ones you commonly hear about, like those that cause the flu or the common cold, or more sinister infections like Ebola or dengue. Many of these viruses infect the bacteria that live inside you and are known as bacteriophages, or phages for short. The human body is a breeding ground for phages, and despite their abundance, we have very little insight into what all they or any of the other viruses in the body are doing.

And a nice account of some recent progress on our bacterial ecologies - this is worth the read.

How gut microbes could drive brain disorders

Scientists are starting to work out how the gut microbiome can affect brain health. That might lead to better and easier treatments for brain diseases.

An important signal especially in the context of the massive forest fires of the last decade. It also signal the complex relationship that have to be understood in any natural phenomena.
"The main thing is that nobody has known whether planting trees at midlatitudes is good or bad because of the albedo problem," "We show that if one considers that clouds tend to form more frequently over forested areas, then planting trees over large areas is advantageous and should be done for climate purposes."

Planting forests may cool the planet more than thought

Planting trees and replenishing forests are among the simplest and most appealing natural climate solutions, but the impact of trees on atmospheric temperature is more complex than meets the eye.

One question among scientists is whether reforesting midlatitude locations such as North America or Europe could in fact make the planet hotter. Forests absorb large amounts of solar radiation as a result of having a low albedo, which is the measure of a surface's ability to reflect sunlight. In the tropics, low albedo is offset by the higher uptake of carbon dioxide by the dense, year-round vegetation. But in temperate climates, the concern is that the sun's trapped heat could counteract any cooling effect forests would provide by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But a new study from Princeton University researchers found that these concerns may be overlooking a crucial component—clouds. They report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the denser cloud formations associated with forested areas means that reforestation would likely be more effective at cooling Earth's atmosphere than previously thought.

This is a sort of Godel type signal of some fundamental knowability in some aspects of mathematical and logical calculus-reasoning.
“There is a kind of worst-case hardness to it that is worth knowing about,” said Paul Goldberg of the University of Oxford, co-author of the work along with John Fearnley and Rahul Savani of the University of Liverpool and Alexandros Hollender of Oxford. The result received a Best Paper Award in June at the annual Symposium on Theory of Computing.

Computer Scientists Discover Limits of Major Research Algorithm

The most widely used technique for finding the largest or smallest values of a math function turns out to be a fundamentally difficult computational problem.
Many aspects of modern applied research rely on a crucial algorithm called gradient descent. This is a procedure generally used for finding the largest or smallest values of a particular mathematical function — a process known as optimizing the function. It can be used to calculate anything from the most profitable way to manufacture a product to the best way to assign shifts to workers.

Yet despite this widespread usefulness, researchers have never fully understood which situations the algorithm struggles with most. Now, new work explains it, establishing that gradient descent, at heart, tackles a fundamentally difficult computational problem. The new result places limits on the type of performance researchers can expect from the technique in particular applications.

Here is an interesting signal of the state of current technology applications of artificial intelligence - while trusting science is the best way to get reliable knowledge - trusting scientists is often not quite the same thing.

‘Tortured phrases’ give away fabricated research papers

Analysis reveals that strange turns of phrase may indicate foul play in science.
In April 2021, a series of strange phrases in journal articles piqued the interest of a group of computer scientists. The researchers could not understand why researchers would use the terms ‘counterfeit consciousness’, ‘profound neural organization’ and ‘colossal information’ in place of the more widely recognized terms ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘deep neural network’ and ‘big data’.

Further investigation revealed that these strange terms — which they dub “tortured phrases” — are probably the result of automated translation or software that attempts to disguise plagiarism. And they seem to be rife in computer-science papers.

Research-integrity sleuths say that Cabanac and his colleagues have uncovered a new type of fabricated research paper, and that their work, posted in a preprint on arXiv on 12 July, might expose only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the literature affected.

To get a sense of how many papers are affected, the researchers ran a search for several tortured phrases in journal articles indexed in the citation database Dimensions. They found more than 860 publications that included at least one of the phrases, 31 of which were published in a single journal: Microprocessors and Microsystems.

Progress in quantum computing continues - this signals a significant advance.

Engineers make critical advance in quantum computer design

Quantum engineers from UNSW Sydney have removed a major obstacle that has stood in the way of quantum computers becoming a reality. They discovered a new technique they say will be capable of controlling millions of spin qubits—the basic units of information in a silicon quantum processor.

Until now, quantum computer engineers and scientists have worked with a proof-of-concept model of quantum processors by demonstrating the control of only a handful of qubits.

But with their latest research, published today in Science Advances, the team have found what they consider "the missing jigsaw piece" in the quantum computer architecture that should enable the control of the millions of qubits needed for extraordinarily complex calculations.

In this decade we are nudged to enact a Star Trek like relationship to a ubiquitous presence of computational support - “Computer - make it so” is morphing into “OK Google - Cortana - Alexis - etc.” This signals a more profound relationship.

Codex, an AI system that translates natural language to programming code

Artificial intelligence research company OpenAI has announced the development of an AI system that translates natural language to programming code—called Codex, the system is being released as a free API, at least for the time being.

Codex is more of a next-step product for OpenAI, rather than something completely new. It builds on Copilot, a tool for use with Microsoft's GitHub code repository. With the earlier product, users would get suggestions similar to those seen in autocomplete in Google, except it would help finish lines of code. Codex has taken that concept a huge step forward by accepting sentences written in English and translating them into runnable code. As an example, a user could ask the system to create a web page with a certain name at the top and with four evenly sized panels below numbered one through four. Codex would then attempt to create the page by generating the code necessary for the creation of such a site in whatever language (JavaScript, Python, etc.) was deemed appropriate. The user could then send additional English commands to build the website piece by piece.


jeezuz -
 our interfaces -
with the digital habitus - 
are like the -
wall-o-rules in -
Animal Farm - 
or a slow acid trip -
where everyday habits -
of perceptions - 
change in ways that feel -
like we’re getting Alzheimer’s -

don’t know the motivation -
 what the search is for ? - 
to find or -
to get-away ? -
to be for healed - 
or escaping a shadow ? - 
life or -
unconsciousness - 
what's the matter -
in hand -