“I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to college soon. This should not matter. We should not have to prove Mike Brown was worthy of living. We should not have to account for the ways in which he is suitably respectable. We should not have to prove that his body did not deserve to be riddled with bullets. His community should not have to silence their anger so they won’t be accused of rioting, so they won’t become targets too.”—"silence is not an option," roxane gay (via brookehatfield)
This is big in the Grinder community. Most people start off by implanting magnets in their fingertips, which gives you the ability to feel magnetic fields. Your fingertips have lots of nerve endings jammed into one area and they are really sensitive to stimuli. Magnets twitch or move in the presence of magnetic fields, and when you implant one in your finger you can really start to feel different magnetic fields around you. So it is like a sixth sense. At first you will be waving your hand around appliances, probing fields like someone looking for a light switch in the dark. After a few days or weeks you will almost forget you have the implant because your brain has fully incorporated the sense into your normal world experience. When you sleep you will notice that even your dreams have changed to include the sense. You can now perceive an otherwise invisible world.
This makes many curious about all of the other things happening around them that they can’t see and they want more. So let’s expand on the magnet thing. We can buy all kinds of different sensors to detect heat, radiation, radio signals, wifi, whatever you want. If we wrap a wire around our implanted finger and attach that wire to our new sensor, we find that the wire creates a small magnetic field to the beat of the sensor. This of course makes our magnet twitch, and now we can feel heat from a distance, feel wifi, or whatever.
Why limit ourselves to feeling these sensations? We have other senses we can induce synesthesia in. I got some media attention in June of 2013 after I implanted headphones in my tragus to do just that. I had some practical reasons for doing this in addition to my thirst for exploration. A few years earlier I suddenly became legally blind in one eye. Lenses cannot correct it and my original eye doctor informed me that the other eye was likely to follow, at which point I would be legally blind, lose my job, etc. With this inevitability in mind I decided to be proactive. Ultrasonic rangefinders are devices used to determine how far away an object is. I knew that most blind people find acoustic variations help them identify the proximity of objects, so I figured I might be able to amplify this by converting rangefinder data into audio I could send wirelessly to my headphone implants. It turned out to be much more complicated than I thought, but that is a part of Grinding that I have come to appreciate. My setbacks lead me deeper into the rabbit hole of audiology where I discovered knowledge that has unlocked a thousand more possibilities.
I’d say that 25% of the people I talk to about sensory enhancement think it’s really cool and some go get implants themselves. The other 75% will nod their head and hope the conversation ends or they laugh and ask “why would anyone want to feel magnetic fields?” I get asked that question so much, and I still find it hard to articulate. They usually point out that “you don’t need it,” to which I counter “what if you lost the ability to taste? You don’t really need it to survive.” Ask anyone with an implant how they would feel if they lost the implant, and almost all of them will tell you they would miss it. A small bit of richness would be missing from their life experience.
Visible light is but a tiny portion of the greater magnetic spectrum that we cannot see. If we modeled the entire spectrum as a road stretching from LA to New York, the amount of visible light that humans can see would equal a few nanometers. Humans, from our allegorical caves, have nonetheless managed to form and test theories about things at the edges of perception but these discoveries took thousands of years. Where would humans be now technologically if we never developed sight? How long would it take us to theorize the existence of the aurora borealis or to hypothesize about the existence of stars? This reduction of input obviously cripples the rate of input.
So is the opposite true? Would expanding our senses accelerate our advancement? My answer is yes. Some Grinder friends of mine formed a team called Science for the Masses to discover if they could biologically push human perception of visible light into the near-infrared spectrum. This is a small increase, around 6% above our current abilities. The impact is dramatic. The new light allows you to see through fog and haze, tinted windows, and some clothing. Stars can be seen during day hours. Subtle changes in blood flow can be seen under the skin, allowing anyone to detect circulation problems and find clots. Seeing blood flow takes some of the guesswork out of determining what mood your date is in and lying becomes nearly impossible. Imagine how this awareness would have altered human history, politics, art, courtship, and relationships. Does human psychology benefit in a world where sincerity and emotional context can be seen with the naked eye rather than hypothesized or conjured? The new layers of info I’ve detailed above are actually just the tip of the iceberg. The real magic of sensory expansion comes from finding deviations and surprises that don’t fit within our scientific understanding because it makes us reconcile our mental models of the world with reality.
The way that magnets have moved from California New Age hippies in the 1980s to Seattle rockers in the 90’s to a Burning Man novelty to a major thread in the bodymod communities to, now, Grindr is kind of fascinating.
“In Martinique, I had visited rustic and neglected rum-distilleries where the equipment and the methods used had not changed since the eighteenth century. In Puerto Rico, on the other hand, in the factories of the company which enjoys a virtual monopoly over the whole of the sugar production, I was faced by a display of white enamel tanks and chromium piping. Yet the various kinds of Martinique rum, as I tasted them in front of ancient wooden vats thickly encrusted with waste matter, were mellow and scented, whereas those of Puerto Rico are coarse and harsh. We may suppose, then, that the subtlety of the Martinique rums is dependent on impurities the continuance of which is encouraged by the archaic method of production. To me, this contrast illustrates the paradox of civilization: its charms are due essentially to the various residues it carries along with it, although this does not absolve us of the obligation to purify the stream. By being doubly in the right, we are admitting our mistake. We are right to be rational and to try to increase our production and so keep manufacturing costs down. But we are also right to cherish those very imperfections we are endeavouring to eliminate. Social life consists in destroying that which gives it its savour.”—Claude Lev-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques. The underlying philosophy of liberalism, and the consumer culture it generates, condensed into nine sentences. (via ayjay)
“It takes a certain kind of personal-injury lawyer to look at the facts of this glittering night and wrest from them a plausible plaintiff and defendant, unless it were possible for Travis Hughes to be sued by his own anus.”—The Dark Power of Fraternities
On a brisk evening in Oakland, CA I had just finished dinner and was heading to the kitchen for a glass of wine when my phone rang unexpectedly. On the other end was Chris Dixon, the man who had recruited me to Hunch and negotiated the sale of the company to eBay for $80 million. He had a special mission, if I chose to accept it, involving a secretive adventure to Australia with a hand-picked team to re-invent the ailing eBay brand and website. The concept was simple: give users the ability to follow sellers, buyers, and product categories the way you can follow people and brands on Facebook and Twitter.
The team of six was leaving for Australia in less than 24 hours. Was I in, or out?
What makes you think Woody did it? There’s so much hate flying around the internet and a lot of misinformation, and I’m finding it really hard trying to figure out who’s more clear.
Are you fucking kidding me? When a seven year old girl confesses in graphic detail to being sexually assaulted by her adoptive father, BELIEVE HER. When, as an adult, her story hasn’t changed despite two decades of unimaginable pressure, shame, and unwanted publicity, BELIEVE HER.
“The car companies can’t do full autonomy yet, so they do it piece by piece. Every decade or so, they introduce another bit of automation, another task gently lifted from the captain’s hands: power steering in the nineteen-fifties, cruise control as a standard feature in the seventies, antilock brakes in the eighties, electronic stability control in the nineties, the first self-parking cars in the two-thousands. The latest models can detect lane lines and steer themselves to stay within them. They can keep a steady distance from the car ahead, braking to a stop if necessary. They have night vision, blind-spot detection, and stereo cameras that can identify pedestrians. Yet the over-all approach hasn’t changed. As Levandowski [from Google] puts it, “They want to make cars that make drivers better. We want to make cars that are better than drivers.””—
I’m a few weeks behind, but the NYer had an amazing x10 article on Google’s Autonomous Car Project. This is one of the parts of the near-future that I am most excited about.
There are tons of reasons I’m excited about driverless cars but the one I think about the most now is due to CitiBike: if the upside to one-way bike trips is so big, imagine the freedom that a driverless car can bring.
Before the Bitcoin protocol was invented, most computer scientists thought a system like Bitcoin was impossible because of a famous problem in computer science called the Byzantine Generals Problem.
The problem, in a nutshell, is how to coordinate among distributed nodes to come up with a consensus that is resistant to attackers who are trying to undermine that consensus. A significant component of the solution is the proof-of-work algorithm, which is the main purpose of so-called Bitcoin miners.
The mainstream press has completely ignored the importance of this computer science breakthrough. When the NYTimes writes about mining, it either ridicules it:
Bitcoin is digitally “mined” by computers running an algorithm. (If you just rolled your eyes, you’re not alone.)
One thing I haven’t seen emphasized, however, is the extent to which the whole concept of having to “mine” Bitcoins by expending real resources amounts to a drastic retrogression — a retrogression that Adam Smith would have scorned.
How much does the existing banking/payment infrastructure cost? One reasonable measure are the fees charged. Standard online payment fees are 2.5%, not including the added costs fraud (chargebacks plus transactions blocked out of fear of fraud). Bitcoin payment fees are close to zero and fraud is impossible since Bitcoin is a bearer instrument.
The NYTimes has now written hundreds of articles about Bitcoin, but the phrase “Byzantine General’s problem” (or any discussion of Bitcoin’s scientific significance) has yet to occur in any of the articles.
LC just kept saying to me, “This is why people don’t report. This is why sexual assault is so under-reported.” And she’s right. I found her resilience during this ordeal remarkable because she had been mistreated by not just the assailant, but also almost every single person she has had contact with since including her friends, her date, the police, and the rape crisis agency- all people who are supposed to be on her side.
As I’m settling in Wudaokou, Beijing, and getting to know my roommates, I have come to really enjoy them and, more importantly, admire one of my them, in particular, for his uncanny creativity and imagination. He’s a 20-something Indonesian-Chinese music composer, studying here in Beijing, aspiring to become a famous Pianist.
This post won’t be about his inimitable hospitality or care for people, but about his ingenious awareness.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Roosevelt’s normative stance on making the best with what you have is a great way to describe his attitude. Since our residence is still under construction, it’s rather bare. However, I’m fond of its simplicity and minimalist atmosphere, since it allows for much flexibility and freedom.
Let me start off by saying that I love sitting on the floor, whether I’m working on my laptop, studying, or relaxin’ with friends. So, one day, my roommate walks in and notices my love for this sort of atmosphere and decides to improve it.
"Improve it? It’s the floor, and I’m sitting on it. What do you have in mind?" I ask.