Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can you make rude jokes in programming language? If so, how and what?

I'm trying ping.fm to post to my various social media. Anyone have any experience with this and opinions?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Urge to Converge

As Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Humanity Plus (an event sponsor), please excuse this interruption for a very important announcement:

Join a historic convergence of leading long-term organizations and thought leaders. Two days with people at the forefront of world-changing technologies that challenge our perception of what can and should be done – reshaping your career, body and mind.

Convergence08 is an Unconference – Each day starts and ends with an eye-opening debate or keynote to inspire us, and the remaining agenda is created by YOU.

Join in freewheeling discussions on topics below, or – better yet – convene your own group focused on exactly what you think is most important:

Artificial general intelligence
Synthetic biology
Human enhancement
Space tourism
Social software
Prediction markets
Smart drugs
NBIC startup tips
Reputation systems
Life extension / anti-aging
Accelerating change
Open source everything
Sousveillance / privacy

Don't see your topics here? Add them to the Convergence08 Wiki! You just may get a new startup or film project crystallizing around your topic before the conference is over.
All this takes place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley – where new technological revolutions grow like weeds. Come help the next one get launched!

Convergence08 will be held November 15-16, 2008. I'll be there. Hope to see you there, too!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Next Nature

Billed as “More than 25 visionary statements from artists, scientist, designer, filmers, writers…” the Biggest Visual Power Show presentation of “Next Nature” came to the historic Million Dollar Theater in Downtown Los Angeles this Saturday night, May 17th, appropriately across from the utopian architectural landmark, the Bradbury Building.

“Next Nature is the nature caused by human culture,” a very h+ concept. What initially interested me was that Kevin Kelly (Out of Control) and Erik Davis (Techgnosis) would be among the presenters. However, it turned out I had read Kelly’s presentation essay, “The Seventh Kingdom of Life” before and Davis’ talk on the mythological relationship between our conceptions of analog and digital was not one of his strongest, especially since the visuals by Niels Schrader overwhelmed Davis’ thoughts. However, what got me to stay were all the other artists, predominantly Dutch and all previously unknown to me, whose work was profound, funny, cutting edge and a thought-provoking step in understanding humanity’s relationship with nature and technology.

Our emcee for the evening was artist/scientist/organizer/curator Koert van Mensvoort, who explained why the Dutch have such a profound appreciation of the manipulation of nature. The Netherlands is a country that only exists by dint of nature-changing technology. Reclaimed from the sea, the land is a densely populated bulwark against the encroachment of the natural world. The Dutch understand perhaps better than most that people design and craft the world around us to suit our ends.

My date for the evening was Norman Gilmore, tech entrepreneur/ futurist/software architect/business analyst and fellow avantgardist. He enjoyed the show as much as I did.

My personal highlights out of over two dozen presentations were:

Joris Van Gelder’s magical interaction technology. This young man just graduated from Eindhoven University of Technology. From his early studies observing how people bring magical expectations to their interactions with technology, he developed a “magical” remote control for Bang & Olufsen which is one of the cleverest, sexiest devices I’ve seen. As Norman said, if Steven Jobs doesn’t kidnap the boy and ferry him (magically) back to the Apple kingdom, he’s crazy.

Katinka Simonse aka Tinkebell, an animal rights artist/filmmaker, “mockumented” her slaughtering and skinning her pet cat to make into a purse. Her fabulous faux-naïveté and sweetness, her political incorrectness and the gory, graphic how-to images of the all-too-real skinned dead cat made Sarah Silverman look like a wimpy wannabe shockette.

Filmmakers Rene Daalder and Folkert Gorter, who lead Space Collective, “where forward thinking terrestrials exchange ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction today.” It looks like a fun and stimulating creative community.

Casey Alt’s fabulously slick and disturbing “Slightly Sociopathic Software” digital presentation called “Vasillogix” was a very American presentation! Part American Psycho, part Gattaca, part Dale Carnegie, I highly recommend watching it once he posts the completed film.

Floris Kaayk’s film “Metalosis Maligna" was another cute mockumentary about the spread of post implantation infection from metal implants, causing bodies to sprout chaotic metal structures like a Meccano set on acid.

Christian Bramsiepe made a snappy graphic short on intelligent design (or the lack thereof). [Click on “arbeitsproben” and it should be the first film]

Extreme Green Guerillas, a mockumentary on the ultimate green martyrs:

Even the two dozen or so interstitial videos designed by Arnoud Van Den Heuvel, depicting a generic car graphic doing clever and technologically ironic things were well executed.

I expected a bigger turn out for such a wide-reaching program, but I’m not sure how much PR was done to promote it. It deserved a bigger audience than it got. Let’s hope “Next Nature” travels and gets more exposure.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Hardest Job in Journalism

Today's Column One article is about The Los Angeles Times Homicide Report, an unusual experiment in American newspapers where each andevery homicide in Los Angeles County is researched by a single reporter and documented on a website which allows readers to post comments. Often the posters are their friends and families of the victims that our culture would prefer to forget.

I have been aware of journalist Jill Leovy's website for some time nowand it's a site of great power. But why am I posting it here? Because it demonstrates how the Internet can increase empathy, as opposed to the stultifying effects of many supposed social networking sites, which often only create compatible subgroups already inclined to hold the same world views.

The Homicide Report makes the unseen seen and tells their story, even if that story is only the end of the story. It allows the unheard to grieve, their voices heard at last. Take some time and read the comments. They will make you weep.

This site flies in the face of the economics of attention, a battle newspapers wage daily in the melee with the rest of the media, ad space fighting for editorial space and the desire of advertisers overriding the desires of the community. It reverses the terrible trend that values entertainment over bearing witness. And the fourth estate does its job -- finally.

And as Leovy points out, it reveals to the public the underlying patterns of murder that our society would like to keep hidden. But why is it hidden? Because it doesn't sell advertising or papers or increase real estate values or get politicians elected.

Leovy had the hardest job in journalism. I hope the new journalist that is replacing Leovy can do as fine and empathetic a job as she has for the last year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Co-hosting Fast Forward Radio

I'm co-hosting Fast Forward Radio with Stephen Gordon on Sunday night, December 16th. Stephen and Phil Bowermaster have graciously asked me to fill in for Phil for the evening. Our guest will be Pearl Chin, president of the Foresight Institute. Not surprisingly, we'll be discussing nanotechnology.

Can I tell you what a kick I get from saying, "co-hosting" and "our guest"? What a hoot!

I hope you'll listen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My First Podcast

I had a new experience on Sunday night -- I was interviewed in my first podcast! Stephen Gordon and Phil Bowermaster of the Speculist blog have a weekly futurist radio show called, "Fast Forward Radio." I had met Phil at the Foresight Unconference in early November and he asked me at the end of the weekend if I'd be interested in being interviewed. He subsequently read my essay on empathy and technology and that became the subject for the show, as well as dipping our toes into the concept of geek culture in general. Being an unrepentant geek, I felt very at home.

Stephen and Phil were fabulous -- sweet, funny, smart, generous and I was very happy they were there to push me on my training wheels. I think we hit it off, because they've asked me to co-host on Dec. 16, when Phil's out of town. I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Bible Belt Paradox

I had an epiphany the other night.

I was lying in bed, wondering why the most religiously devout parts of the US (call them Red States, call them Bible Belt, call them Heartland, it matters not) are statistically the places with the highest rates of divorce, domestic violence, murder, child endangerment, kidnapping, serial killers, corporate malfeasance, you name it. They got it. When I worked in the movie-of-the-week (MOW) business oh-so-briefly in the early ‘90’s (because I frankly did not have the stomach for ambulance-chasing the latest woman-in-jeopardy story), we covered the South like a rug, but especially two states that were the most notorious for the most egregious acts against fellow humans: Texas and Florida. Therefore, every self-respecting MOW producer kept track of the local newspapers out of Texas and Florida, especially Northern Florida. They were the homes of Ted Bundy, Aileen Wuornos and Gerard John Schaefer (aka the Killer Cop/the Florida Sex Beast). The Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And later, Enron and world-class vote stealing. (And let’s not forget our present administration and the Bush family’s Texas and Florida dynasties. But I digress…)

What puzzled me was that these same areas of the country were the most Bible thumping, most devout, most God-fearing parts of the country as well. How could so many people who believed that God would strike them dead if they did wrong, do wrong?

Then I thought about all my recent reading in neuroscience and psychology for my novel and my own background in marketing. One of the concepts that is often discussed in both psychology and marketing and has now been confirmed with fMRI technology in brain scans, is how a negated statement is often ignored and instead embraced as its positive. For instance, if there was a picture of you in the newspaper, accompanied by the headline, “Terrorist Suspect found Not Guilty,” the average person would see you and remember, “Terrorist… Guilty.” The “Not” disappears. Even if intellectually they remembered that you were found not guilty, they would still file you in their brains as a terrorist and reference you as such thereafter. Especially if the previous headlines had accused you of terrorism, because like your mother always said, first impressions last.

We use the principle in child rearing all the time. You don’t tell a child “Don’t run across the street!” because you know they’re only hearing “Run Across the Street!” Instead, you say “Stay with Me!” or “Hold My Hand!”

The Republicans are masters at this. They make positive statements all the time, like “We found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq” that force their critics to tell the truth and negate them, replying, “There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.” But all the public remembers is the war we’re fighting is about Weapons of Mass Destruction. They don’t hear the ‘No’ in the negated, but truthful statement. To the public, the Democrats are simply repeating what the Republicans have been saying the entire time.

And then it hit me. The Ten Commandments is a To-Do-List.

Whoever wrote Exodus clearly didn’t have a degree in Cognitive Psychology. And if God really carved those tablets from the rocks of Mount Sinai, then he needs to take Psych 101. Or Marketing 101. He’s just not getting his message across.

Because the devout have been paying, and paying, and paying for those little negated statements ever since.

They don’t hear, “Thou shalt not kill.” They hear, “Thou shalt… kill.” They don’t hear, “Thou shalt not steal.” They hear, “Thou shalt… steal.” They don’t hear, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Instead, they hadn’t even thought about coveting their neighbor’s wife, but then they think about it for the first time because the Ten Commandments tell them so and they take a good, long look at her and think, “Hey, my neighbor’s wife is HOT!” And before they know it, they’ve broken TWO commandments -- coveting and adultery.

Think about it.

If I’m wrong, do you have a better explanation for what shall hitherto be known as The Bible Belt Paradox?