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friday :: november 24, 2006
the design of the world: massive change

Design has emerged as one of the world’s most powerful forces. It has placed us at the beginning of a new, unprecedented period of human possibility, where all economies and ecologies are becoming global, relational, and interconnected.

In order to understand and harness these emerging forces, there is an urgent need to articulate precisely what we are doing to ourselves and to our world. This is the ambition of Massive Change.

Massive Change is a celebration of our global capacities but also a cautious look at our limitations. It encompasses the utopian and dystopian possibilities of this emerging world, in which even nature is no longer outside the reach of our manipulation.

For many of us, design is invisible. We live in a world that is so thoroughly configured by human effort that design has become second nature, ever-present, inevitable, taken for granted.

And yet, the power of design to transform and affect every aspect of daily life is gaining widespread public awareness.

No longer associated simply with objects and appearances, design is increasingly understood in a much wider sense as the human capacity to plan and produce desired outcomes. Engineered as an international discursive project, Massive Change: The Future of Global Design, will map the new capacity, power and promise of design.

Massive Change explores paradigm-shifting events, ideas, and people, investigating the capacities and ethical dilemmas of design in manufacturing, transportation, urbanism, warfare, health, living, energy, markets, materials, the image and information. We need to evolve a global society that has the capacity to direct and control the emerging forces in order to achieve the most positive outcome. We must ask ourselves: Now that we can do anything what will we do?

We want to produce a new breed of change maker - citizens who think as designers. These people would be, in the words of inventor and philosopher Buckminster Fuller, a "synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist, and evolutionary strategist."

Massive Change is a project by Bruce Mau Design and the Institute without Boundaries. >from *Massive Change*. It's not about the world of design. It's about the design of the world.

related context
the world is not running out of oil. october 19, 2006
> destruction by design. june 9, 2006
> how does your city affect you?. november 4, 2005
> 'one world, one health' paradigm. june 24, 2005
> state of the world 2005. january 14, 2005
> climate change. december 21, 2004
> oil peak. june 23, 2004
> aids epidemic. november 12, 2003. [more]
> flow: the design challenge of pervasive computing. november 6, 2002
> earth 'will expire by 2050'. july 12, 2002
> worldwide hunger. january 30, 2002

tricky tunes of massive change

sonic flow
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... [download]

| permaLink

friday :: november 17, 2006
neural noise represents the uncertainty of the world

How can it be that our neurons, which are responsible for our crystal-clear thoughts, seem to fire in utterly random ways? A study by researchers at the University of Rochester shows that the brain's cortex uses seemingly chaotic, or "noisy," signals to represent the ambiguities of the real world--and that this noise dramatically enhances the brain's processing, enabling us to make decisions in an uncertain world.

Alex Pouget work for the first time connects two of the brain's biggest mysteries; why it's so noisy, and how it can perform such complex calculations. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the noise seems integral to making those calculations possible.

In the last decade, Pouget and his colleagues have blazed a new path to understanding our gray matter. The traditional approach has assumed the brain uses the same method computation in general had used up until the mid-80s: You see an image and you relate that image to one stored in your head. But the reality of the cranial world seems to be a confusing array of possibilities and probabilities, all of which are somehow, mysteriously, properly calculated.

The science of drawing answers from such a variety of probabilities is called Bayesian computing, after minister Thomas Bayes who founded the unusual branch of math 150 years ago. Pouget says that when we seem to be struck by an idea from out of the blue, our brain has actually just resolved many probabilities its been fervently calculating.

"We've known for several years that at the behavioral level, we're 'Bayes optimal,' meaning we are excellent at taking various bits of probability information, weighing their relative worth, and coming to a good conclusion quickly," says Pouget. "But we've always been at a loss to explain how our brains are able to conduct such complex Bayesian computations so easily."

Bayesian computing can be done most efficiently when data is formatted in what's called "Poisson distribution." And the neural noise, Pouget noticed, looked suspiciously like this optimal distribution. This idea set Pouget and his team into investigating whether our neurons' noise really fits this Poisson distribution, and in his current paper he found that it fit extremely well.

"The cortex appears wired at its foundation to run Bayesian computations as efficiently as can be possible," says Pouget. His paper says the uncertainty of the real world is represented by this noise, and the noise itself is in a format that reduces the resources needed to compute it. Anyone familiar with log tables and slide rules knows that while multiplying large numbers is difficult, adding them with log tables is relatively undemanding. The brain is apparently designed in a similar manner--"coding" the possibilities it encounters into a format that makes it tremendously easier to compute an answer. >from *Mysterious 'neural noise' actually primes brain for peak performance*. November 10, 2006

related context
how the brain reflects onto itself the actions of others. october 6, 2006
> brain adaptive rewiring. august 18, 2006
> how brain cells work. april 28, 2006
> disorder-induced synchronization. april 14, 2006
> why the brain has gray and white matter. january 27, 2006
> how the brain makes a whole out of parts. january 17, 2006
> brain is a dynamic network. october 15, 2003
> mental operating system. january 4, 2002

make some neural noise boys

sonic flow
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... [download]

| permaLink

friday :: november 10, 2006
new property of matter: coherence

Scientists have for the first time observed the spontaneous production of coherence. Modern physics was born by the discovery that all particles in nature are also waves. Coherence means that such waves are all 'in sync.' The spontaneous coherence of the matter waves is the reason behind some of the most exciting phenomena in nature.

A team of four physicists at UCSD working in collaboration with a materials scientist at UC Santa Barbara have for the first time observed the spontaneous production of coherence within "excitons," the bound pairs of electrons and holes that enable semiconductors to function as novel electronic devices. The effort was headed by Leonid Butov, a professor of physics at UCSD who in 2002 led a similar team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to the discovery that excitons, when made sufficiently cold, tend to self-organize into an ordered array of microscopic droplets, like a miniature pearl necklace.

"What is coherence and why is it so important?" said Butov. "To start with, modern physics was born by the discovery that all particles in nature are also waves. Coherence means that such waves are all 'in sync.' The spontaneous coherence of the matter waves is the reason behind some of the most exciting phenomena in nature such as superconductivity and lasing."

"A simple way to visualize coherence is to imagine cheering spectators at a stadium making 'a wave'," added Michael Fogler, an assistant professor of physics at UCSD and a co-author of the paper. "If the top rows get up and down at the same time as the bottom ones, the rows are mutually coherent. In turn, coherence is spontaneous when the cheering is done on the spectator's own initiative and is not orchestrated by the directions of an external announcer."

A famous example of spontaneous coherence of matter waves is the Bose-Einstein condensate, which is a state predicted by Einstein some 80 years ago. The Bose-Einstein condensate is a gas of atoms so dense and cold that their matter waves lose their individuality and condense into a "macroscopic coherent superatom wave.">from *UC San Diego Physicists Observe New Property of Matter*. November 1, 2006

related context
> direct proof of dark matter. september 1, 2006
> two super heavy elements discovery ratified. february 10, 2006
> disorder-induced synchronization. april 14, 2006
> synchrony: order is inevitable. april 9, 2003
> the bose-einstein condensate. october 11, 2001

stick together ... my best friends

sonic flow
spontaneous production of
coherence [stream]

spontaneous production of
coherence [download]

| permaLink

friday :: november 3, 2006
cooperation project

Problems of health care, economic development, political and interpersonal conflict, environmental sustainability, resource allocation, disaster relief, urban planning, civil society, democratic governance, technological innovation, intellectual property, public education—the most critical problems of our time -involve social dilemmas and institutions for collective action that are not yet well-understood.

Evidence from biology, sociology, economics, political science, computer science, and psychology suggest the feasibility of building an interdisciplinary framework for understanding cooperation. Because of institutional specialization, a program of cooperation studies will not happen without purposeful action. In order to catalyze the growth of this enterprise, the Cooperation Project has created:

* An open, shared, knowledge base of insights and resources relevant to cooperation and collective action: the Knowledge Commons
* Several visual maps for customized navigation of the cooperation studies landscape
* A university course with publicly available lecture videos and readings
* A workshop and guidebook for re-perceiving the role of cooperation in business and the technologies that enable it
* The beginnings of a social network of cooperation researchers

The Cooperation Project has convened expert workshops, published a syllabus, launched online discussion communities, compiled reports, created and published video lectures, and built software prototypes—the beginnings of a Cooperation Toolset. Now we seek to:

* Test and refine these instruments through workshops and further research.
* Attract the best minds in cooperation-related disciplines to help.
* Learn how practitioners can use the knowledge and tools in their domains.
* Make these resources public and invite broad participation.

>from *Cooperation Commons site*. A collaboration between the Institute for the Future and Howard Rheingold

related context
diversity promotes cooperation. october 27, 2006
> synchrony: order is inevitable. april 9, 2003
> network-based movements. march 3, 2003
> smart mobs. october 3, 2002
> creative commons: law and technology. may 24, 2002
> science commons. march 15, 2002

the social dilemma:
cooperation construct at crossing railroads

sonic flow
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... [download]

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