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The Myth of Cyberspace – The New Inquiry

The Myth of Cyberspace – The New Inquiry | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

In the early 1980s, when personal computing first became a reality, the faces of glowing terminals had an almost magical aura, transubstantiating arcane passages of 1s and 0s into sensory experience. In fact, the seemingly impenetrable complexity of what was unfolding behind the screen created a sense of mystery and wonderment. We were in awe of the hackers who could unlock the code and conjure various illusions from it; they were modern magicians who seemed to travel between two worlds: reality and cyberspace. One day, we imagined, these sages of cyberspace would leave their bodies behind and fully immerse themselves in the secret world behind the screen. Such images manifested themselves through the decades in films like Tron, Hackers, and The Matrix and in the fiction narratives of the cyberpunk genre. When the public internet first emerged, images of cyberspace were already deeply embedded in our collective imagination; these images have become the primary lens through which we view and evaluate our online activity. For this reason, tracing the genealogy of the cyberspace concept reveals much about present cultural assumptions regarding our relationship with information technology.


Via luiy
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luiy's curator insight, March 18, 2013 1:38 PM

The great irony of the cyberspace concept is that, though we embraced it to resolve cognitive dissonance, it has come to cause only more of it. As Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking sites have grown more popular, it has become undeniable that they play an important role in organizing our social lives. Our presence on these sites arguably has become so important that we begin to experience the world differently, tailoring our behavior toward producing desirable sorts of things to share on them. We all know intuitively that what we do online affects us offline and vice versa — that both comprise the same friends, the same conversations, the same events. Yet the collective fantasy of cyberspace and all its related vocabulary are so deeply embedded in our cultural logic that we cannot help but lapse into denial of these obvious truths. Our language betrays us; it obfuscates the truth of our experience.

Western culture has a long history of creating such dualisms when confronted with crises of meaning or identity. For example, we have long evaded questions regarding our mortality by conceptually separating matter and form, body and soul. As with cyberspace, this age-old dualism generated a subsequent need to imagine a space where soul could exist apart from body, so we imagined heaven and hell. Our uncritical acceptance of the cyberspace fantasy has imbued it with a similar sacredness; it has become part of a new secular religion, built on faith in something that is imagined but never experienced.

Religion, as Emile Durkheim famously defined it, “is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and surrounded by prohibitions — beliefs and practices that unite its adherents in a single moral community.” Cyberspace is exactly the sort of thing that we have set apart conceptually and subjected to ceaseless moralizing: It has become almost second nature to claim that “the virtual” is less intimate, authentic, or natural than “the real.” Despite its failure to compellingly describe the world we inhabit, cyberspace nevertheless thrives as a framework for making moral judgments about that same world. Cyberspace has become our Mount Olympus, the founding myth of the Internet Age. It is an article of faith, not the product of lived experience.

Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with fantasy. Speculative fiction provides an important opportunity to anticipate and prepare for techno-cultural change. The problem arises when we begin to prioritize that fictional narrative over actual experience, when we let these speculations control the reality that emerges. We have allowed the myth of cyberspace to usurp reason and to shape perception in our increasingly digitally-mediated lives. Perhaps, this realization should not come as too much of a surprise. Gibson himself recognized that the creative capacities of human beings predispose us to supplanting concrete observation with abstract concepts. A passage from Memory Palace can be read almost as claiming that the cyberspace myth fulfills some broader human teleology:

You see, so we’ve always been on our way to this new place — that is no place, really — but it is real. It’s our nature to represent. We’re the animal that represents — the sole and only maker of maps. And, if our weakness has been to confuse the bright and bloody colors of our calendars with the true weather of days, and the parchment’s territory of our maps with the land spread out before us—never mind. We have always been on our way to this new place — that is no place, really — but it is real.

Support The New Inquiry. Subscribe to TNI Magazine for $2Cyberspace is not real per se but real in the sense of the Thomas theorem: “If [wo]men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” Real reality is not characterized by such dualisms; it is equally made of atoms and bits. The cost of upholding this mythical separation is that we have become disassociated with many aspects of our lives. If we hope to make ourselves whole again, we first need a new vocabulary, new myths, and new representations for the Web.

Systems Theory
theoretical aspects of (social) systems theory
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Kondratieff cycles and algorithms

Research into the origins and progress of the process of industrial development over a longer period clearly reveals, according to Schumpeter [1], that it always occurs in a long wave movement extending over a period of around 45 to 60 years.

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Schrödinger's cat caught on quantum film using quantum entanglement

Schrödinger's cat caught on quantum film using quantum entanglement | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

The patron animal of quantum theory poses for a unique portrait in which the camera and the sitter don't share a single photon – except by entanglement.

 

Information is central to quantum mechanics. In particular, quantum interference occurs only if there exists no information to distinguish between the superposed states. The mere possibility of obtaining information that could distinguish between overlapping states inhibits quantum interference1, 2. Gabriela Barreto Lemos at the Austrian Academy of Sciences introduces and experimentally demonstrates a quantum imaging concept based on induced coherence without induced emission3, 4. The experiment uses two separate down-conversion nonlinear crystals (numbered NL1 and NL2), each illuminated by the same pump laser, creating one pair of photons (denoted idler and signal). If the photon pair is created in NL1, one photon (the idler) passes through the object to be imaged and is overlapped with the idler amplitude created in NL2, its source thus being undefined.


Interference of the signal amplitudes coming from the two crystals then reveals the image of the object. The photons that pass through the imaged object (idler photons from NL1) are never detected, while we obtain images exclusively with the signal photons (from NL1 and NL2), which do not interact with the object.


The experiment is fundamentally different from previous quantum imaging techniques, such as interaction-free imaging5 or ghost imaging6, 7, 8, 9, because now the photons used to illuminate the object do not have to be detected at all and no coincidence detection is necessary. This enables the probe wavelength to be chosen in a range for which suitable detectors are not available. To illustrate this, the researchers show images of objects that are either opaque or invisible to the detected photons. This experiment is a prototype in quantum information—knowledge can be extracted by, and about, a photon that is never detected.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Donald Schwartz's curator insight, August 30, 2:34 PM

 

As I live and breath, are there no mysteries any more?

 

 

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Complex systems theory a short film

Complex systems theory a short film | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
short film series on complex systems.Starting with complexity theory this section looks as its relevant to gaining a better understanding both the natural (Complex systems-a brief video: http://t.co/jHaneJUSLf)...
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Robo Brain is Learning from the Internet

Robo Brain is Learning from the Internet | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Robo Brain is now at work examining images and concepts available on the Internet so that it can teach robots how to recognize, grasp and manipulate objects and predict human behavior in the environment.

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Alessio Erioli's curator insight, August 26, 3:58 PM

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This Oxford professor thinks artificial intelligence will destroy us all - Vox

This Oxford professor thinks artificial intelligence will destroy us all - Vox | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
This Oxford professor thinks artificial intelligence will destroy us all
Vox
In theory, these hyper-intelligent machines could be used to serve human ends. They could .... Humans are not secure systems.
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AI Systems Will Prove Useful Long Before They Become Self-Aware - Wired

AI Systems Will Prove Useful Long Before They Become Self-Aware - Wired | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Wired
AI Systems Will Prove Useful Long Before They Become Self-Aware
Wired
winning Watson supercomputer. This could be built today in theory, but it will probably be a few years before anything like it is built in practice.
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A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes - IEEE Spectrum

A Thousand Kilobots Self-Assemble Into Complex Shapes - IEEE Spectrum | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
This is probably the most robots that have ever been in the same place at the same time, ever ("@kedwardbear: #Robot swarms: 1000 #kilobots self-assemble into complex shapes.
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The man behind Facebook's artificial brain attempt (Wired UK)

The man behind Facebook's artificial brain attempt (Wired UK) | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Deep learning has suddenly spread across the commercial tech world, from Google to Microsoft to Baidu to Twitter, just a few years after most AI researchers openly scoffed at it
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Humans Are Heading Down A Path That Will Allow Us To Supercharge The Brain

Humans Are Heading Down A Path That Will Allow Us To Supercharge The Brain | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A small jolt of electrical stimulation can boost memory and focus. What'll be possible once we can implant chips into the brain?
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IBM Unveils a ‘Brain-Like’ Chip With 4,000 Processor Cores | Enterprise | WIRED

IBM Unveils a ‘Brain-Like’ Chip With 4,000 Processor Cores | Enterprise | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The human brain is the world’s most sophisticated computer, capable of learning new things on the fly, using very little data. It can recognize objects, understand speech, respond to change. Since the early days of digital technology, scientists have worked to build computers that were more like the three-pound organ inside your head. Most efforts…
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Robotic suit gives shipyard workers super strength - health - 04 August 2014 - New Scientist

Robotic suit gives shipyard workers super strength - health - 04 August 2014 - New Scientist | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Workers building the world's biggest ships could soon don robotic exoskeletons to lug around 100-kilogram hunks of metal as if they're nothing

Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET
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Bostrom on Superintelligence (2): The Instrumental Convergence Thesis

Bostrom on Superintelligence (2): The Instrumental Convergence Thesis | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
This is the second post in my series on Nick Bostrom’s recent book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. In the previous post, I looked at Bostrom’s defence of the orthogonality thesis. This thesis claimed that pretty much any level of intelligence — when “intelligence” is understood as skill at means-end reasoning — is compatible with pretty much any (final) goal. Thus, an artificial agent could have a very high level of intelligence, and nevertheless use that intelligence to pursue very odd final goals, including goals that are inimical to the survival of human beings. In other words, there is no guarantee that high levels of intelligence among AIs will lead to a better world for us.

Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET
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3 Things You Should Know The Network Economy

3 Things You Should Know The Network Economy | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
In recent years a robust science of networks has been established, so we’ve gained important insights into how they function. It’s time we start putting the science to work in how we manage enterprises.
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Massive online brain being built for the world's robots - Mother Nature Network

Massive online brain being built for the world's robots - Mother Nature Network | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Mother Nature Network Massive online brain being built for the world's robots Mother Nature Network As individual robots learn new knowledge, this knowledge can also be uploaded to the global brain, meaning that all other robots hooked up to the...

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Complex systems theory a short film

Complex systems theory a short film | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
short film series on complex systems.Starting with complexity theory this section looks as its relevant to gaining a better understanding both the natural (Complex systems-a brief video: http://t.co/jHaneJUSLf)...
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Supercomputers make discoveries that scientists can't - tech - 27 August 2014 - New Scientist

Supercomputers make discoveries that scientists can't - tech - 27 August 2014 - New Scientist | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
No researcher could read all the papers in their field – but machines are making discoveries in their own right by mining the scientific literature
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WIRED: Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis and Gets Rid of Concepts Like "Length" and "Mass"

WIRED: Radical New Theory Could Kill the Multiverse Hypothesis and Gets Rid of Concepts Like "Length" and "Mass" | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Mass and length may not be fundamental properties of nature, according to new ideas bubbling out of the multiverse.

 

Though galaxies look larger than atoms and elephants appear to outweigh ants, some physicists have begun to suspect that size differences are illusory. Perhaps the fundamental description of the universe does not include the concepts of “mass” and “length,” implying that at its core, nature lacks a sense of scale.


This little-explored idea, known as scale symmetry, constitutes a radical departure from long-standing assumptions about how elementary particles acquire their properties. But it has recently emerged as a common theme of numerous talks and papers by respected particle physicists. With their field stuck at a nasty impasse, the researchers have returned to the master equations that describe the known particles and their interactions, and are asking: What happens when you erase the terms in the equations having to do with mass and length?

 

Nature, at the deepest level, may not differentiate between scales. With scale symmetry, physicists start with a basic equation that sets forth a massless collection of particles, each a unique confluence of characteristics such as whether it is matter or antimatter and has positive or negative electric charge. As these particles attract and repel one another and the effects of their interactions cascade like dominoes through the calculations, scale symmetry “breaks,” and masses and lengths spontaneously arise.

 

Similar dynamical effects generate 99 percent of the mass in the visible universe. Protons and neutrons are amalgams — each one a trio of lightweight elementary particles called quarks. The energy used to hold these quarks together gives them a combined mass that is around 100 times more than the sum of the parts. “Most of the mass that we see is generated in this way, so we are interested in seeing if it’s possible to generate all mass in this way,” said Alberto Salvio, a particle physicist at the Autonomous University of Madrid and the co-author of a recent paper on a scale-symmetric theory of nature.


In the equations of the “Standard Model” of particle physics, only a particle discovered in 2012, called the Higgs boson, comes equipped with mass from the get-go. According to a theory developed 50 years ago by the British physicist Peter Higgs and associates, it doles out mass to other elementary particles through its interactions with them. Electrons, W and Z bosons, individual quarks and so on: All their masses are believed to derive from the Higgs boson — and, in a feedback effect, they simultaneously dial the Higgs mass up or down, too.


The new scale symmetry approach rewrites the beginning of that story.
“The idea is that maybe even the Higgs mass is not really there,” said Alessandro Strumia, a particle physicist at the University of Pisa in Italy. “It can be understood with some dynamics.”

 

The concept seems far-fetched, but it is garnering interest at a time of widespread soul-searching in the field. When the Large Hadron Collider at CERN Laboratory in Geneva closed down for upgrades in early 2013, its collisions had failed to yield any of dozens of particles that many theorists had included in their equations for more than 30 years. The grand flop suggests that researchers may have taken a wrong turn decades ago in their understanding of how to calculate the masses of particles.

 

“We’re not in a position where we can afford to be particularly arrogant about our understanding of what the laws of nature must look like,” said Michael Dine, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been following the new work on scale symmetry. “Things that I might have been skeptical about before, I’m willing to entertain.”



Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Systems Thinking and System Change

Systems Thinking and System Change | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Fritjof Capra is a best-selling writer and leading systems thinker. Marjorie Kelly interviews Capra about the emergence of systems thinking and what lessons it has to offer in a world of convergent crises.
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Systems Theory

Systems Theory | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
By Gordon Rugg Systems theory is about what happens when individual items are connected and become a system. “Items” in this context can be anything physical and/or abstract, which gives you a pret...
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Cybernetics Tradition

Jillian Packer Dena Rosko Sherry Janda Joseph Kemp Gonzaga University 2008 (Cybernetics Tradition #claudeshannon #cybernetictradition http://t.co/6DYHDSpGAa via @SlideShare)...
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Do quantum computers threaten global encryption systems? - BBC News

Do quantum computers threaten global encryption systems? - BBC News | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
BBC News
Do quantum computers threaten global encryption systems?
BBC News
With that secure channel created, different encryption systems that are much less susceptible to attack by quantum computers are used to protect data shuttling back and forth.
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Why IBM’s New Brainlike Chip May Be “Historic” | MIT Technology Review

Why IBM’s New Brainlike Chip May Be “Historic” | MIT Technology Review | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A chip that uses a million digital neurons and 256 million synapses may signal the beginning of a new era of more intelligent computers.
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How the Web Became Our ‘External Brain,’ and What It Means for Our Kids | Opinion | WIRED

How the Web Became Our ‘External Brain,’ and What It Means for Our Kids | Opinion | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Search YouTube for “baby” and “iPad” and you’ll find clips featuring one-year-olds attempting to manipulate magazine pages and television screens as though they were touch-sensitive displays. These children are one step away from assuming that such technology is a natural, spontaneous part of the material world.
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Keep, Delete, Modify: Synthetic Genes, Synthetic Cells, Synthetic Life

Keep, Delete, Modify: Synthetic Genes, Synthetic Cells, Synthetic Life | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Nature needed about one billion years to create the simplest single-cell organisms that swam around in the primordial soup. Now, scientists are eager to create synthetic life – but better and faster.

 

Hamilton Smith (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1978 with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans) started his lecture at the 64th Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau with a quote from Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize in Physics 1965): Feynman had probably meant physical models, whereas Smith referred to living organisms. In his laboratory at the J. Craig Venter Institute, he tries to create synthetic cells: “I hope that if we create that, we will understand.”


Nowadays, the entire human genome has been decoded. But how a live human being develops from DNA molecules, a human being that can breath, eat, walk, study, love, receive Nobel Prizes and award them – nobody really understands yet. Even for single-cell organisms, this isn’t crystal clear. Even the simplest bacteria exhibit genes without apparent function, that are not essential for life. During evolution, a lot of ‘genetic waste’ has accumulated that might have been useful at some point, but was rendered useless by mutations. Some genetic fragments were in fact smuggled into the genome by viruses, others were created by accidental duplications of genetic segments. Numerous molecular mechanisms lead to many genetic variations – rendering evolution possible in the first place. But over time, many of these genes and segments have become useless.


Currently Smith tries to tidy up the genome of Mycoplasma mycoides, a microbe normally living in the digestive tract of ruminants. Originally Smith and his team wanted to use the genome of Mycoplasma genitalium, the bacterium with the smallest known genome – it needs only 475 genes to live. Smith estimates that about 100 of these are non-essential. But since M. mycoides has a much higher cell division rate, although its genome is twice as large, experiments with M. mycoides proved to be more effective. During this ‘minimal cell project’, the researchers switch off one gene after another and study the effects on the microbes. (And the slower the microbes grow, the longer the researchers have to wait for their results.) Smith’s final goal is “a genome that is very understandable – we are searching for the genetic kernels of life”.


Smith also assumes that all genes from the last group can be switched off without negative impacts on the microbes. Concerning the middle category, the researchers have to carefully weigh all options. When all is done, the result should be a bacterium that can still multiply rapidly, at least in laboratory conditions that offer plenty of nourishment, constant temperatures, but no competitors. The researchers’ goal is a fifty percent genome reduction in a happily thriving microbe that divides at least once in 100 minutes.


Smith likes using computer terms to describe his work. He compares the genome of any organism with its software, the rest is hardware (the cytoplasm, proteins and enzymes), controlled by said software. As soon as a cell receives a new genetic program, it starts to put this program to use. In order to test their own synthetic programs, Smith and his team replaced the bacterium’s DNA with synthetic DNA containing their basic program. To date, the old ‘hardware’ has not adopted the new program ‘update’. In computer speak, troubleshooting and maintenance are called “debugging”: Smith and his team will be busy with debugging for some time.

 


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Philosophical Disquisitions: Bostrom on Superintelligence (1): The Orthogonality Thesis

Philosophical Disquisitions: Bostrom on Superintelligence (1): The Orthogonality Thesis | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

Via Jean-Philippe BOCQUENET
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