25 November 2007


UPDATE: replaced 5star tag with rated.01 for my highest rated public Delicious bookmarks. still a silly name i know.

anyways, use it, don't use it...

21 November 2007

a good brain theory?

slightly annoying, but sharp..

i liked the bit about intelligence having more to do with predictive power than it does behavior .. Maybe if this idea holds out, we might eventually do away with the Turing test for artificial intelligence -which was always so anthropocentric as to be, well, just a little bit silly ;)

The idea is that the frontal neocortex -not the older (and possibly more complex) pre-mammalian brain- is basically a mechanism to predict the future. That the neocortex can be simply modeled as vast networks of hierarchical elements that predict their future input sequences.
So, as far as i can make out, predictive subsystems
- that are based on a hierarchical theory of memory,
- and are strongly sequential/temporal.

And the model of the neocortex plugs into other components of the brain (that aren't modeled here). The intelligence (the memory and predictive components) providing the input to the older, pre-mammalian brain, which then uses this intelligent prediction to drive action and behavior via those older systems.

Anyway, sounds good so far. Probably worth keeping an eye out for On Intelligence, his book on the subject

09 November 2007

The Unnatural History of the Sea

direct link to the mp3 from the Science and the City podcast.

Callum Roberts is a leading authority on the ocean environment and author of the new book The Unnatural History of the Sea, an unprecedented history of the exploitation of the ocean, its fisheries and marine life, and a look at what our future may hold. In this lecture, he shares his research, nicely highlighting the short sightedness of our past and current fishing strategies and policies.

His idea of what needs to be done is
- first, to fish less, or at least more intelligently - with more selection, and using less destructive means.
- to create marine reserves,
- and to eliminate risky decision making...

"One of the key things to do is to remove the decision making power of politicians in fishing. Politicians are not the right people to be making decisions about how many fish can be caught, because they think in the short-term, not in the long-term welfare of the industries, or the long-term welfare of the environment. Yet in most countries in the world politicians are the ones that make decisions about how much to catch.

The decisions also involve the very large presence of industry - this also involves the potential for risky decision making (what understatement!), because again, the perspectives are more in the short-term
we need to move to a system where we think much less about the short term and much more about the long term, because fishing and fish stocks are really too important to squander in the way that society is doing at the present."

i agree ..All serious collective decisions, like about things that impact our survival, or the future of the planet, amongst other things, deserve open processes with proper scientific rigor and method - a long way off the greedy, narrow minded bullshit we seem to put up with currently.

anyways, its a good listen. 30 minute..ish

25 August 2007

The Century Of The Self -bump

Just finished the series and its probably some of the best TV I've ever seen. So this repost was the least i could do.

from the wikipedia article:
...The Century of the Self describes the impact of Freud's theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their "engineering of consent".

Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the "father of the public relations industry". Freud's daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, the main opponent of Freud's theories.

Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

The business and, increasingly, the political world uses PR to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a society, the documentary shows how by employing the tactics of psychoanalysis, politicians appeal to irrational, primitive impulses that have little apparent bearing on issues outside of the narrow self-interest of a consumer population. He cites a Wall Street banker as saying "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs." ...

It is all hosted in google video, you can view it by following the links below:

Part 1/4:
Happiness Machines

Part 2/4:
The Engineering of Consent

Part 3/4:
There is Policeman Inside all
our Heads He Must Be Destroyed

Part 4/4:
Eight People Sipping Wine

18 August 2007


FREE CULTURE by Lawrence Lessig: halfway through and I'm thinking its just fucking brilliant!
copyright, ownership, derivative content, universal access, and the impact of new technology on all of these. its an essential debate that simply needs to happen more. Lessig argues for sensible change so simply and clearly that you've got to read Free Culture if you're interested in any of it. (naturally its a free download)

I'll try to write some more, or to summarize fully when I've finished, but i probably wont be able to do any of it justice without simply pasting in large bits of text from the book.

btw, he doesnt just push open-content, he nicely describes how and why copyright itself should be re-negotiated.

Checkout the audio version if you want to listen to it.. like maybe, while doing something else ;)
"Free Culture" as a popup audiobook

31 July 2007

installing AVG free anti-virus in ubuntu

you dont really need this in ubuntu, but its useful if you run windows as well, or if you want to test downloaded files for windows' viruses.

just copy-paste the commands in this ubuntuforum article into your terminal. Remember to change the .deb filename to that of the more recent version you downloaded.

25 July 2007

a basic delicious hack

a quicksearch shortcut to get to your del.icio.us tags:

1. In the firefox bookmark menu, choose Organise Bookmarks..
2. in the Bookmark Manager, click on 'New Bookmark'
3. name it something like delicious quicksearch
3. Enter http://del.icio.us/jaysen/%s in the location field (replacing jaysen with your delicious username),
4. Enter d in the keyword field.

Now, typing d tag1 in firefox's address bar will take you to your delicious pages tagged with tag1, and d tag1+tag2+tag3 will take you to your pages tagged with all of tag1, tag2, and tag3.

simple, i know, but i haven't seen it on any delicious-tool-list sites, and i use it a lot, so thought it was worth mentioning.

18 July 2007

a sense of numbers

"Because the number system is like human life. First you have the natural numbers. The ones that are whole and positive. The numbers of a small child. But human consciousness expands. The child discovers longing, and do you know the mathematical expression for longing? The negative numbers. The formalization of the feeling that you're missing something.

And human consciousness expands and grows even more, and the child discovers the in-between spaces. Between stones, between pieces of moss on the stones, between people. And between numbers. And do you know what that leads to? It leads to fractions. Whole numbers plus fractions produce the rational numbers.

And human consciousness doesn't stop there. It wants to go beyond reason. It adds an operation as absurd as the extraction of roots. And produces irrational numbers.
It's a form of madness. Because the irrational numbers are infinite. They can't be written down. They force human consciousness out beyond the limits. And by adding irrational numbers to rational numbers, you get real numbers.

It doesn't stop. It never stops. Because now, on the spot, we expand the real numbers with the imaginary ones, square roots of negative numbers. These are numbers we can't picture, numbers that normal human consciousness cannot comprehend. And when we add the imaginary numbers to the real numbers, we have the complex number system.

And that (the complex number system) is the first number system in which it's possible to completely explain satisfactorily the crystal formation of ice."

from Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow.

16 July 2007


check out 'laaitie'.
from the blog:
‘Laaitie’ is a South African colloquialism used to refer to someone younger than oneself or a young person. It may also infer someone being younger in experience or intellectual ability. It may be used positively, as a term of endearment, or as a way of dismissing someone as inferior to oneself. Mostly, laaities are not taken seriously in the world. This has not, however, stopped laaities all over the globe from changing the paths of history. Today, too, in struggles from Soweto to Paris to Argentina, it is ‘laaities with lus’ (Koenraad De Buys, 2006) who speak out and act against authoritarian and exploitative relations, situations and regimes. While the term ‘laaitie’ is often used to dismiss the fighting, critical and unrestrained spirit of young people as being outside of the domain of ‘the rational’, and ‘the responsible’ (not yet mature enough for proper consideration), it is reappropriated here in celebration of the laaitie as that spirit of unbridled freedom and rigour of critique and action in life.

11 July 2007

Ok, it looks like I've told this wrong (many, many times). I had it that he used the symbol to get out of a recording contract, but thats not quite right. Heres the story from an article i stumbled onto:

"In 1993, Prince’s dissatisfaction with his record label, Warner Bros., finally reached its peak. Despite his superstar status and $100 million contract, the Purple One didn’t feel he had enough creative control over his music. So 'in protest,' Prince announced that Prince would never perform for Warner Bros. again - this unpronounceable symbol would instead.

The symbol for the Artist Formerly Known as Prince combined three ancient symbols: the male symbol, the female symbol, and the alchemy symbol for soapstone, which was supposed to reflect his artistic genius. Prince retired the symbol when his contract with Warner Bros. ran out in 2000. Today, he is again Prince."

just slightly wrong, but i thought that I could straighten things out here. and yes, I am a fan.

08 July 2007

20 June 2007

exxon proposes burning the dead for fuel if climate calamity hits

they were actually YesMen - activists who posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen at Canada's largest oil conference - amazing how far it went before people caught on - funny. read it here

refactoring the mind

Listen to A monk's guide to changing your mind (mp3 audio)
I like that he places the practice of meditation within solid neurological and cognitive frameworks.. mostly because i'm tired of all the new-agey crap that gets unintentionally bundled in with one sitting quietly for a few minutes everyday and breathing.

check these bookmarks for some material in text form.

UPDATE: The above link the the audio file is broken - but I've found a very similar talk by the same monk, hosted here: http://diydharma.org/audio/download/3593/206%20-%20The%20science%20of%20meditation.mp3

28 May 2007


OpenArena is an opensource first person (doomlike) shooter. You can find it in the Ubuntu repository using the package manager, or, for the windows version, check this mirror, or the others listed here.

I've played it a few times, and it plays well - much better than Nexuiz. If anyone wants to run around cool maps shooting at me, leave me a comment.

Nice that its free 'as in speech' software as well.

22 May 2007

13 May 2007

beware - cognitive hazards..

A Cognitive bias is distortion in the way humans perceive reality. Check out a really useful list of cognitive biases here. Some of these have been verified empirically in the field of psychology, others are considered general categories of bias.

also posted as 26 reasons what you think is right, is wrong

09 May 2007

ubuntu for mobile devices

Linux evolves for mobile devices: A version of the increasingly popular Linux operating system Ubuntu will be developed for use on net-enabled phones and devices (including the new Centrino based UltraMobile PC platform)
read more..

just what i need to get excited about the old pocketpc, er.. again

27 April 2007

hacking your body's bacteria

from this article:
" 'The microbes that live in the human body are quite ancient,' says a pioneer in gut microbe research. 'They've been selected (through evolution) because they help us.'

And it now appears that our daily antibacterial regimens are disrupting a balance that once protected humans from health problems, especially allergies and malfunctioning immune responses." (Vindication!)

"Microbial exposures early in life, scientists believe, cause mild inflammation that calibrates the body's responses to other pathogens and contaminants later in life. Without exposure as infants, researchers say, people can end up with unbalanced immune systems."

also from the article: "To hack the gut bacteria more precisely, Blaser calls for a Gut Genome Project, modeled after the Human Genome Project. It's a daunting task: The human genome, mapped to great fanfare but still dimly understood, contains a tenth of the genes believed to be in our gut bacteria."

oh yes, and they mention that: "Consumer probiotics don't always contain medically recognized bacterial strains, he said, and often the bacteria they contain are dead."

23 April 2007

ubuntu's feisty fawn

so, ubuntu 7.04 feisty fawn has been released, and on both my machines for the last few days. not that different from 6.10, but mainly i'm liking.

things like one click to enable compositing desktop effects, and that it auto installs proprietary drivers and codecs when you need them - much better for the new linux user.

still need to try out the new (now stable) ntfs read/write access using ntfs-3G

UPDATE- ntfs read/write works well - see this ubuntuforum post describing ntfs-3g installation in detail, or the ntfs-3g section of this article covering useful installs on feisty

17 April 2007

imagining OpenGovernment

some scribbles from fevered vision

taking government from the cathedral to the bazaar. or, at least, adding a bazaar to the cathedral of current governance.

creating collaborative open communities -an OpenGovernment space- with access to all documentation including all government processes, policies, decisions - those being in the public domain - using open content and discussion systems like wikis and forums for comments, discussion and debate. the space managed by the meritocracy based community of all participants. with access filtering, all the way to public redrafting, and beyond?. starting as a sort of a shadow government entirely in the public domain.

and people getting involved in these communities on large scales. awake to the necessity and possibilities of participation. trained in the hierarchies, groups and forum-rules of the these communities at all schools, and as part of ubiquitous computer/net-community studies. This learning and participation becoming an aspect of widely deployed community internet facilities , and an aspect of social life itself.

using rules for handling debate, discussion, flaming, vandals, and misinformation that are emerging from wiki communities and the larger opensource communal space

patterns similar to those noted in opensource communities concentrating participation from the people with the most in stake, the most interested and the most able contributers - from an enormous pool of potential contributers - using our vast numbers more to our advantage. the knots of complex problem spaces untangling under the weight of a multitude of eyeballs.

05 April 2007

another two pieces of social software

LastFm is social-networking for music. You grow networks of people that listen to similar music, based on your ongoing listening and tagging, and then listen to their playlists as streamed (tag radio) stations..
my lastfm userpage - early days but growing.

AllPeers is a group based filesharing extension for firefox using bit-torrent transfers.

UPDATE: uninstalled the AllPeers extension without testing - mainly because couldnt find anyone who wanted to try it out - probably will look at it when next i actually need to transfer large files with a friend. LastFM on the other hand is mostly all good.

24 March 2007

wired to connect

Science & the City | Webzine of the New York Academy of Sciences: "Wired to Connect - Daniel Goleman
In Social Intelligence, psychologist and science writer Daniel Goleman, known for his 1995 bestseller Emotional Intelligence, introduces new concepts in neuroscience that reveal how human brains are designed to connect."

listen to the interview directly here, or download the mp3 from here. hes got some good ideas in there.
Science And The City has an good store of articles and podcasts - most of those i've listened to so far have been worth the effort.

13 March 2007

Gimmie, a new panel replacement for Gnome, and how to install it in Ubuntu

Gimmie looks like it has some interesting user interface innovation - checkout this blog for how to install it.

will update this post after i've tested it properly.

UPDATE:20070620: still havent tried this -fuck it- and probably wont anytime soon

11 March 2007

The Ape That Got Lucky

bbc Radio4-Comedy- The Ape That Got Lucky: "Chris Addison - the thinking idiot's pretend anthropologist - takes us on a journey through the vast and rich subject of human evolution in four comic lectures"

damn funny

08 January 2007

writing in common (with google docs)

you getting this
Yeah very cool
this changes things, huh?
truly revolutionary bru

These were our first words on screen when sometime yesterday morning, DS - in Johannesburg - and jaysen - in Algiers - decided to check out google's collaborative authoring tools. I know what you thinking, and you right, we're are a little geeky. But now that we got that out of the way we can say, without fear of ridicule or censure...THIS SHIT IS FUCKING IMPRESSIVE. We were so impressed that we decided to test it with a joint blog.

First, We got there via http://docs.google.com. So far, google have come up with word processor and spreadsheet web applications done with some fancy AJAX. It imports/exports from/to openoffice, word, excel, html, and pdf and runs off your browser. The interface is pretty much what you get with most office applications. What makes this so cool is that any number of people, anywhere in the world, can be working on the same document at the same time with changes appearing almost instantaneously. (We did notice some delay creeping in sometimes, but not often)

The only shit thing we've found so far is that it doesn't allow footnotes. Although it transports footnotes from word documents as anchors in the text, its a bit of a pain to have create a new anchor every-time you add a footnote (DS likes footnotes).

There is an almost direct and linear progression from the wiki idea, or at least, the collaborative part of the wiki idea (not the unique funkiness of wiki's massively linked network of nodes - yes, we're both fans of wiki as well). But the collaboration with this tool just seems so much more immediate and realtime -with changes appearing almost as soon as others can make them during simultaneous use, with an excellent revision control system (the latter allows you to track changes in the document, literally, to the second. although the increments of time get larger the further back you go).
Add the extra dimension of a skypecall, and this becomes a dangerously powerful tool. Truly revolutionary. In fact, we're thinking, this might even be better than working together in the same room.

Apart from footnotes, the only drawback we experienced has less to do with software, and more to do with the singularity of each of our styles of writing and ways thinking. But the gap, if you can call it that, is the real tension that creativity springs from. Its a good thing even if takes working through