Archive | December 21, 2013

Singularity Goes Mainstream With Johnny Depp’s ‘Transcendence’

Via Slate:

This may be the singularity’s mainstream moment. Popularized by sci-fi author Vernor Vinge, the term refers to a theoretical point at which machines eclipse humans in intelligence, and beyond which pretty much everything changes. Kurzweil is its preeminent latter-day apostle, and he was recently hired as an engineer by Google to work on hastening its arrival by teaching computers to understand English. Now we’ve got Captain Jack Sparrow explaining it in a voiceover.

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Winter Solstice Today

Goseck-CircleThe winter solstice is upon us this weekend. While it’s far too soggy outside for the bonfire I had half-considered, I’ll still probably tip a glass of rum later tonight to the passing of another winter. I’m not religious, but I try to be mindful of the natural world’s cycles and remember my place within them.

If you’re interested, here’s a nice little list of ancient tribute sites from Live Science.

Goseck circle, Germany

The Goseck circle is a series of concentric rings dug into the ground — the largest of which measures about 246 feet (75 m) in diameter — located in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It dates back to about 4900 B.C., but was forgotten and covered by a wheat field before being discovered through aerial surveys in the early 1990s. Archaeological remains suggest Goseck circle was the site of religious rituals, such as sacrifices.

Upon discovery and excavation, researchers realized that two gates cut into the outermost circle aligned with the sunrise and sunset of the winter solstice, suggesting this the circle was somehow a tribute to the solstice.

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The Church of Subgenius: Slack Your Way to Salvation

DinoRidinBob-HR-SM(What a flashback! Chances are you’ve seen this before, but if not, consider this your call to Slack – ed.)

In what must be the most heretical form of the Abrahamic tradition to date, the Church of the Subgenius holds as its ultimate goal “slacking,” by the method “the casting out of false prophets,” the weapon “time control,” and the motto “F*** them if they can’t take a joke.” The pamphlet asks “Do you think you are STRANGE?  …Then you might be on the right track!”

Excerpts from the pamphlet:

JEHOVAH 1 – a.k.a. YAHWEH – is a mad alien, full of eyes round about, He cometh with the clouds, radioactive, all-pervading, He has forged His covenant with the SubGenius in CHAINS of GENETIC PROGRAMMING and DEMANDS OBEISANCE to His caveman sense of humor….We REBEL against the alien JEHOVAH 1 and yet PLACATE Him at the same time that He might not smite us with nuclear war, a worldwide economic disaster or hostile UFOS….… Read the rest

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Google Buys Military Robotics Contractor

The company that creates terrifying machines such as BigDog, CHEETAH, and PETMAN for the Pentagon’s DARPA division is now a subsidiary of Google. It remains to be seen how Google plans to combine the deployment of robots such as BigDog (below) with its knowledge of your intimate personal information and location at all times. The New York Times reports:

Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for extraordinarily agile machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even — cheetahlike — run faster than the fastest humans.

Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection.

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The UK Surveillance State’s Finest Export: Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Alexandria VA Dodge Charger Police Car ANPR

A City of Alexandria Dodge Charger police car equipped with mobile ANPR. Two forward facing ANPR units are mounted on the trunk of this vehicle. Photo: Something Original (CC)

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) might not sound quite as invasive to your privacy as it actually is. James Bridle, perhaps flush with worldwide attention from his much admired Surveillance Spaulder, has written a tremendous history of ANPR, starting in Britain 30 years ago and now aggressively used around the world. In this portion of his lengthy essay at Medium, he discusses ANPR in the United States:

In the United States, implementations have multiplied many times over in recent years. Thanks to lobbying and financial support from insurance companies, Oklahoma and Arizona, among other states, have introduced extensive ANPR networks aimed at catching uninsured drivers. Other deployments, meanwhile, have a more familiar feeling.

When the city of San Leandro, California, purchased ANPR cameras for its police force in 2009, local resident Michael Katz-Lacabe, using a Freedom of Information request, discovered that his car had been captured by the system more than 100 times in a matter of months.

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