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Showing posts from June, 2017

sensory substitution as a superpower

‘Weihenmayer climbs using a device called the BrainPort, held in his mouth; it converts one sense (sight) to another (touch).

A decade ago, Weihenmayer began using the BrainPort, a device that enables him to “see” the rock face using his tongue. The BrainPort consists of two parts: the band on his brow supports a tiny video camera; connected to this by a cable is a postage-stamp-size white plastic lollipop, which he holds in his mouth. The camera feed is reduced in resolution to a grid of four hundred gray-scale pixels, transmitted to his tongue via a corresponding grid of four hundred tiny electrodes on the lollipop. Dark pixels provide a strong shock; lighter pixels merely tingle. The resulting vision is a sensation that Weihenmayer describes as “pictures being painted with tiny bubbles.” What’s particularly interesting, however, is that these are still just the earliest days of investment and research into what sensory-substitution devices might someday be able to achieve.  They c…

insight on defining one's own role

“The big problem, I think, is that institutions tend to be wrong about what they are actually for.

That is, they have defined their existence by various functions they perform within a given ecosystem. In the context here, these institutions grew up in an ecosystem where information was scarce, and information distribution limited. The ecosystem has changed (info distribution and access is abundant), and institutions are having a hard time adapting. So: music labels think they sell CDs to people; newspapers think they get writers to make news articles, and get people to read them; libraries think they give people access to books and computers; universities think they provide a place for people to learn and do research; governments think they try to improve society by implementing policies wanted by the people … etc. But I think they are all wrong.

All those kinds of definitions get you tied up in the functional stuff you do, and they don’t really get to the core of what’s important, …

on sheeps and androids

The movie Blade Runner is very dear to my heart. It is a treatise on the nature of existence expanding on, and perhaps exceeding the reach of the Phillip K. Dick work which inspired it, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Perhaps I have missed out on some greater subtlety of PKD's work, but the point of DADoES pursues the definition of fake, while Blade Runner instead focuses on what is real. Where the replicants in the novel are sociopathic monsters who emulate emotions solely to gain traction against humans who may hunt them, the humans there rely on machines to dictate their own emotions for them. They dial for "energetic determination" or "six-hour self-accusatory depression." As much as the replicants are machines incapable of real emotion, humans are similarly reliant on a machine to simulate emotion for them.

In contrast, the movie's central them is spelled out for us in Deckard's apartment, when Rachel is playing the piano. She professes that, …