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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.

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The Internet of Things: Wholism and Evolution

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New blogpost: The internet of things: Wholism and Evolution

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NASA, Microsoft Collaboration Will Allow Scientists to 'Work on Mars'

NASA, Microsoft Collaboration Will Allow Scientists to 'Work on Mars' | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to develop software called OnSight, a new technology that will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars using wearable technology called Microsoft HoloLens.

Developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, OnSight will give scientists a means to plan and, along with the Mars Curiosity rover, conduct science operations on the Red Planet.

"OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices," said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It fundamentally changes our perception of Mars, and how we understand the Mars environment surrounding the rover."

OnSight will use real rover data and extend the Curiosity mission's existing planning tools by creating a 3-D simulation of the Martian environment where scientists around the world can meet. Program scientists will be able to examine the rover's worksite from a first-person perspective, plan new activities and preview the results of their work firsthand.

"We believe OnSight will enhance the ways in which we explore Mars and share that journey of exploration with the world," said Jeff Norris, JPL's OnSight project manager.

Until now, rover operations required scientists to examine Mars imagery on a computer screen, and make inferences about what they are seeing. But images, even 3-D stereo views, lack a natural sense of depth that human vision employs to understand spatial relationships.

The OnSight system uses holographic computing to overlay visual information and rover data into the user's field of view. Holographic computing blends a view of the physical world with computer-generated imagery to create a hybrid of real and virtual.

To view this holographic realm, members of the Curiosity mission team don a Microsoft HoloLens device, which surrounds them with images from the rover's Martian field site. They then can stroll around the rocky surface or crouch down to examine rocky outcrops from different angles. The tool provides access to scientists and engineers looking to interact with Mars in a more natural, human way.

"Previously, our Mars explorers have been stuck on one side of a computer screen. This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover's surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet," said Norris.

Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Technique greatly extends duration of fragile quantum states, pointing toward practical quantum computers

Technique greatly extends duration of fragile quantum states, pointing toward practical quantum computers | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

Quantum computers are experimental devices that promise exponential speedups on some computational problems. Where a bit in a classical computer can represent either a 0 or a 1, a quantum bit, or qubit, can represent 0 and 1 simultaneously, letting quantum computers explore multiple problem solutions in parallel. But such “superpositions” of quantum states are, in practice, difficult to maintain.


In a paper appearing this week in Nature Communications, MIT researchers and colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the synthetic-diamond company Element Six describe a new design that in experiments extended the superposition time of a promising type of qubit a hundredfold.


In the long term, the work could lead toward practical quantum computers. But in the shorter term, it could enable the indefinite extension of quantum-secured communication links, a commercial application of quantum information technology that currently has a range of less than 100 miles.


The researchers’ qubit design employs nitrogen atoms embedded in synthetic diamond. When nitrogen atoms happen to be situated next to gaps in the diamond’s crystal lattice, they produce “nitrogen vacancies,” which enable researchers to optically control the magnetic orientation, or “spin,” of individual electrons and atomic nuclei. Spin can be up, down, or a superposition of the two.


To date, the most successful demonstrations of quantum computing have involved atoms trapped in magnetic fields. But “holding an atom in vacuum is difficult, so there’s been a big effort to try to trap them in solids,” says Dirk Englund, the Jamieson Career Development Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and corresponding author on the new paper.


“In particular, you want a transparent solid, so you can send light in and out. Crystals are better than many other solids, like glass, in that their atoms are nice and regular and their electronic structure is well defined. And amongst all the crystals, diamond is a particularly good host for capturing an atom, because it turns out that the nuclei of diamond are mostly free of magnetic dipoles, which can cause noise on the electron spin.”


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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The AI Revolution: Road to Superintelligence - Wait But Why

The AI Revolution: Road to Superintelligence - Wait But Why | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The topic everyone in the world should be talking about.
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Facebook Open-Sources a Trove of AI Tools | WIRED

Facebook Open-Sources a Trove of AI Tools | WIRED | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Facebook has opened up some of its core artificial intelligence tools, which could pave the way for startups and academia to blaze new trails in machine learning research.
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Physicists debate whether quantum math is as real as atoms

Physicists debate whether quantum math is as real as atoms | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Physicists debate whether quantum states are as real as atoms or are just tools for forecasting phenomena.
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The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone

The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
From smartphone attachments that can diagnose an ear infection to apps that can monitor mental health, new tools are tilting health-care control from doctors to patients.
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The Emerging Science of Human-Data Interaction | #bigdata #HDI

The Emerging Science of Human-Data Interaction | #bigdata #HDI | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The rapidly evolving ecosystems associated with personal data is creating an entirely new field of scientific study, say computer scientists. And this requires a much more powerful ethics-based infrastructure.

Via luiy
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luiy's curator insight, January 9, 4:13 AM

... Richard Mortier at the University of Nottingham in the UK and a few pals say the increasingly complex, invasive and opaque use of data should be a call to arms to change the way we study data, interact with it and control its use. Today, they publish a manifesto describing how a new science of human-data interaction is emerging from this “data ecosystem” and say that it combines disciplines such as computer science, statistics, sociology, psychology and behavioural economics.

 

They start by pointing out that the long-standing discipline of human-computer interaction research has always focused on computers as devices to be interacted with. But our interaction with the cyber world has become more sophisticated as computing power has become ubiquitous, a phenomenon driven by the Internet but also through mobile devices such as smartphones. Consequently, humans are constantly producing and revealing data in all kinds of different ways.

 

Mortier and co say there is an important distinction between data that is consciously created and released such as a Facebook profile; observed data such as online shopping behaviour; and inferred data that is created by other organisations about us, such as preferences based on friends’ preferences.


Original Article : http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.6159

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Biology as the next hardware - O'Reilly Radar

Biology as the next hardware - O'Reilly Radar | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
I’ve spent the last couple of years arguing that the barriers between software and the physical world are falling. The barriers between software and the living world are...
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The Philosophy of Complexity: Are Complex Systems Inherently Tyrannical?

The Philosophy of Complexity: Are Complex Systems Inherently Tyrannical? | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
The philosophy of complexity is developing as a field of philosophical inquiry to accompany, support, and question advances in the science of complex systems.

Via Christophe Bredillet, Philippe Vallat, Bernard Ryefield
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To Save Our Ecosystems, Will We Have to Design Synthetic Creatures? | WIRED

Bioremediating slugs that monitor our soil, porcupine-like creatures that distribute seeds, biofilm-coated tree leaves that trap pollution and viruses.
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IBM Builds a Brain-Inspired Chip Using Phase-Change Memory | MIT Technology Review

IBM Builds a Brain-Inspired Chip Using Phase-Change Memory | MIT Technology Review | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
A new kind of computer memory could help make more capable computer chips that function more like biological brains, say IBM researchers.
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Building Robots With Better Morals Than Humans - The Atlantic

Building Robots With Better Morals Than Humans - The Atlantic | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Bill Gates says he's concerned about the decisions machines of the near future will make once they outsmart humans.
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Safecracking the Brain

Safecracking the Brain | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

It’s hard to imagine an encryption machine more sophisticated than the human brain. This three-pound blob of tissue holds an estimated 86 billion neurons, cells that rapidly fire electrical pulses in split-second response to whatever stimuli our bodies encounter in the external environment. Each neuron, in turn, has thousands of spindly branches that reach out to nodes, called synapses, which transmit those electrical messages to other cells. Somehow the brain interprets this impossibly noisy code, allowing us to effectively respond to an ever-changing world.

Given the complexity of the neural code, it’s not surprising that some neuroscientists are borrowing tricks from more experienced hackers: cryptographers, the puzzle-obsessed who draw on math, logic, and computer science to make and break secret codes.


http://nautil.us/issue/20/creativity/safecracking-the-brain-rp


Via Complexity Digest
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tom cockburn's curator insight, Today, 3:50 AM

Bit more than the Enigma machine of WW2 fame

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What comes next after we're done with the Internet of Things? Intel gives us some clues - Pocket-lint

What comes next after we're done with the Internet of Things? Intel gives us some clues - Pocket-lint | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
What's going to be the next big thing after the Internet of Things? It might be a massive trend right now, but once the standards have been cracked and
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Synthetic amino acid enables safe, new biotechnology solutions to global problems

Synthetic amino acid enables safe, new biotechnology solutions to global problems | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Scientists have devised a way to ensure genetically modified organisms can be safely confined in the environment, overcoming a major obstacle to widespread use of GMOs in agriculture, energy production, waste management, and medicine.
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How 'Quantum Dots' Could Probe Mysteries of Entanglement

How 'Quantum Dots' Could Probe Mysteries of Entanglement | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Quantum dot masers could help develop quantum computers and probe the mysteries of entanglement.
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Death by Robot

Death by Robot | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Automated machines may soon care for the sick and fight in wars. Can they learn to make moral choices?
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Mental Model: Complex Adaptive Systems

Mental Model: Complex Adaptive Systems | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Let's explore the concept of complex adaptive systems.

Via Lorien Pratt
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Lorien Pratt's curator insight, July 21, 2014 2:33 PM

Probably the clearest explanation I've read of the distinction between complicated, complex, and adaptive.  Well worth a read

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There's Now A Computer Program Playing Perfect Poker, Even Knows How To Bluff

There's Now A Computer Program Playing Perfect Poker, Even Knows How To Bluff | Systems Theory | Scoop.it

Until Cepheus came along. Bowling and his team instructed the computer to play billions of poker games against itself. Initially, they taught Cepheus only the basic rules of Texas Hold’em. The computer started off playing randomly, but eventually it began to learn. Cepheus started compiling lists of “regrets”—situations in which it could have folded or bluffed or bet differently, and won more money by doing so. The researchers then programmed Cepheus to begin acting on its most serious regrets, while ignoring its more minor regrets.


Ultimately, Cepheus whittled its list of regrets nearly down to zero. Now the program can bet and bluff with the best. “If you do this in a precise mathematical way, you can prove your regrets are guaranteed to go down to zero,” Bowling says. “And in the process of approaching zero, you must be approaching perfect play.”


Cepheus isn’t perfect, but it is guaranteed not to lose in the long run. That’s about as good as it gets for a game that still relies partially on chance. Cepheus’ performance has other experts in the field of artificial intelligence excited. “It’s a really interesting paper, with a convincing argument that a particular form of poker has been essentially solved,” says Howard Williams, a computer scientist and doctoral student at Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in the study.


Beyond poker, Bowling envisions a new set of algorithms that could help security officers optimize checkpoints, random searches and placement of air marshals on flights. In these situations, a program like Cepheus could be taught to view potential terrorists as other players in a high-stakes game rife with variables. “That’s very close to what we have achieved here for the game of poker. It’s a strategy guaranteed not to lose,” he says.


If, however, you find yourself tempted (I know I am), Bowling and his team have set up a website where you can try your luck against Cepheus itself—the one computer program that always knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Thinking Systems #3: Thinking about Systems Theory | SMART Infrastructure Facility

Beginning 2015 with the third installment of Graham Harris' blogging series, "Thinking Systems #3". Read it online: http://t.co/YX0q6W02BC
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Artificial Intelligence: No longer the stuff of science fiction - The National

Artificial Intelligence: No longer the stuff of science fiction - The National | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
Writers have long toyed with the idea of a robot revolution but the very real limitations of artificial intelligence have made this an impossibility.
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The Human Brain Project Will Push the Boundaries of Supercomputing | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites

The Human Brain Project Will Push the Boundaries of Supercomputing | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites | Systems Theory | Scoop.it
When the general public hears about the Human Brain Project (HBP), they immediately think about the possible medical breakthroughs the project will enable, like accelerated development of diagnostic tools and treatments for brain diseases or personalized medicine.
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