Adonis Diaries

A system that can read your hidden excitement, happiness, anger, or sadness. With or without your cooperation?

It’s called “EQ-Radio,” and it’s the creation of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

September 23, 2016 by Robby Berman

They claim it’s accurate 87% of the time. It reads your feelings by bouncing ordinary WiFi signals off of you that can track your heart rate. There are no on-skin sensors involved with EQ-Radio.

How EQ-Radio Works

WiFi is a two-way form of communication: Your router carries internet data to your laptop, which then transmits data back to the router en route to the internet.

An EQ-Radio measures the speed at which data completes a round trip to its target — for example, you — and analyzes fluctuations in that speed to measure your heart rate. It’s your heart rate that gives away your emotional state. (Is there Not a wide array of emotions?)

The correlation of heartbeat to emotion in each person is unique to some extent, but MIT says they can accurately assess the emotional state even of people they’ve never before studied 70% of the time.

Mingmin Zhao, on the MIT team, told MIT News, “Just by knowing how people breathe and how their hearts beat in different emotional states, we can look at a random person’s heartbeat and reliably detect their emotions.”

One of the challenges the team faced was filtering out extraneous “noise” such as breath sounds to clearly detect the heart rate.

Bear in mind that it’s not audio that EQ-Radio has to analyze, but instead data that reflects the speed of the WiFi bounceback.

So “noise” refers to irrelevant data, not the actual sound of, say, your breath. That they’re able to measure heart rate with about a .3% margin of error is remarkable. That’s as good as an ECG monitor.

The EQ-Radio software is based on previous work the lab has done using WiFi to detect human movement. The goal of the earlier work was to use WiFi in smart homes that could do things like control heat and lighting based on your location, and detect if an elderly person has fallen. (It’s also seen as having potential use for animation motion-capture in films.)

The junction of that earlier project and EQ-Radio was the exploration of more-accurate health-tracking wearable devices.

The Possible Uses of EQ-Radio

There are a number of obvious applications for EQ-Radio, such as:

  • Far more accurate test screenings and focus groups for ad agencies and film studios
  • Smart homes that can adjust lighting and environmental controls to match, or help you out of, your mood
  • Smart hotels that could continually customize a guest’s environment according to mood
  • Non-invasive healthcare and psychiatric monitoring, with office or home-installed systems
  • Directed advertising based on an assessment of a target’s mood
  • Interrogations

Hopefully, EQ-Radio won’t turn up in personal devices that let you “read” the emotions of people around you.

(And after all these emotional diagnosis? How are our health to be treated? By EQ-Radio also? Can the people receive any feedback? Is this a one-way technique to accumulate meta data for ad. agencies?)

EQ-Radio and Privacy

When EQ-Radio moves beyond its current laboratory setting, there’ll be obvious privacy concerns: Do you have the right to keep your feelings to yourself? (Are you kidding?)

If you’re in a public place — say, a hospital or theater — where an EQ-Radio system is in operation, will a signed release from you be required before your emotional state can be tracked?

Would you have to give a police department permission to monitor your feelings during an investigation, or could you refuse as you can a polygraph test?

Could an authoritarian government “read” its citizenry at will?

Will this become a standard tool to anti-terrorism authorities?

It may be that the right to private emotion is the next personal freedom. It remains to be seen whether we’ll be asked to surrender it.

(Again. Welcome to this absurd future).

If you were born in a subjugated nation

Antoun Saadeh: Founder and leader of the Syrian National Social party (since 1936, during the French mandated power over Lebanon and Syria).

In a speech to immigrant youths in Santiago (Argentina) in 1940, during his forced exile from Lebanon, an exile that lasted till 1946.  The immigrant youths were Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians… what the Party consider as one people, sharing the same culture, history and an economic life cycle.

First generation Immigrants who fled their occupied country, for any reason, feel their life is not complete, until they share in any kinds of resistance to the occupier.

Leading a passive life style in their foreign country, even if living in the most powerful of nations, affect the second generation in apathetic behaviour toward changing the status of the new host country.

Saadeh went on for 2 hours to remind the youth of the history of their Syrian nation since antiquity: Inventions, creativity, culture, the application of democracy, the navigation zeal to establish city-state around the Mediterranean Sea basin, the civil laws, the written language using alphabet…

Should Not forget that the entire world owe you much of what is practicing and it is about time to shed the apathy attitude that you are Not worth building an autonomous nation and proud nation.

‎علي كركلا‎'s photo.

علي كركلا to إضاءة اليوم. June 26 at 8:59am ·

تحيا سورية،
إضاءة اليوم:

…وهنا نقطة دقيقة قلّما يهتمّ بها الآباء ولكنّ الأبناء يهتمّون بها، وهي تشغل عقولهم وهي هٰذه: إنّ الولد الّذي أبوه من بلاد مستَعبَدة لا يكون فخاره كاملاً ولو وُلد في أعظم بلاد العالم. لأنّه يشعر دائمًا أنّه من أصلٍ غير متوفرة فيه شروط الكرامة والمجد.
فهٰذا الألم الخفيّ الّذي يكدّر سعادة كلّ أولاد السّوريين في أميركة جاء الآن من يزيله من صدورهم، ويبدّله بشجاعةٍ وقوةٍ وافتخار.
في إحدى اللّيالي وضع حضرة الزّعيم الخارطة أمام الشّـبّان، وكانوا جماهير مزدحمة، وأخذ يسرد لهم أمجاد سورية الخالدة وما أعطته إلى العالم من العلوم والاكتشافات في العصور القديمة، وكيف أنّ أعظم أنواع الفلسفة ظهرت في سورية، كما ظهر فيها أعظم القوّاد الّذين رسموا خططًا حربيّة لا تزال مستعملة عند أعظم الأمم، لأنّ الفكر البشريّ إلى الآن لم يتوصّل إلى أحسن منها.
ثمّ ذكر الشّرائع الّتي يسير عليها البشر فأبان لهم كيف أنّ الشّعاع الأوّل ظهر في سورية، وأخذ يمتدّ من هناك إلى العالم حيث أخذه المفكّرون مثالاً نسجوا عليه وأضافوا إليه ما قضت الحال به، ولا يزال ذٰلك إلى عصرنا هٰذا.
أمّا الدّيمقراطيّة الّتي يفتخر بها العالم الآن فهي من صنعٍ سوريّ أيضًا، لأنّ أوّل فكرة ديموقراطيّة تُعطي الشّعب حقّه في إبداء الرّأي في سائر شؤونه ظهرت في سورية، وبلا شك هي الغرسة الأولى في هٰذا الباب الّتي أعطت الثّمر الكثير للعالم كلّه، ولا يزال البشر إلى الآن يجاهدون في إيصال هٰذه الفكرة “حقوق الإنسان” إلى حدّ الكمال.
وأعظم ما يشير إليه الزّعيم في هٰذا الموضوع هو أنّ السّوريين القوميين يجب أن يعرفوا واجبهم في هٰذه القضيّة الخطيرة، وأنّ العالم بأسره ينتظر منهم تفكيرًا جديدًا، ولا سيّما في الوجهة الدّيمقراطيّة الّتي أصبحت الآن في حالٍ مبهمة، فالسّوريّ القوميّ يجب أن يعالجها من جديد ويدفعها إلى العالم كاملة.
فالسّوريّ المفكّر يجب أن يهتمّ في إنقاذ الدّيمقراطيّة من الهلاك. وذٰلك بأن يزيل ما دخل إليها من الفساد ويُدخل إليها تفكيرًا ينطبق على ما وصل إليه النّاس من العلم والمعرفة، فتصير صالحة لنفع الإنسان وتكفل حقوق الإنسان من كلّ مهاجمة وتعدٍّ.
هٰذا هو الإصلاح الّذي تتمخّض به البشريّة ولا بدّ أن يولد. فإذا جاء عن يدٍ سورية تكون هٰذه البلاد العزيزة – بلادنا – ولّدت الدّيمقراطيّة، ثمّ أنقذتها من الهلاك عندما داهمتها الأخطار الكثيرة. إنّ الأمّ تفهم آلام ابنها وتداويها أحسن من جميع النّاس.
ثمّ ذكر الزّعيم الأساطيل البحريّة الّتي كان السّوريّون أوّل من أوجدها في العالم، ثمّ إقامة المدن على السّواحل وفتح المعاملة التّجاريّة مع باقي البلدان، ومشاركة المرأة الرّجل في سائر الأعمال، إلى غير ذٰلك من الأعمال الّتي جاءت بها سورية قبل غيرها، ودفعتها إلى العالم مثالاً ينسجون على منواله.
أمّا اكتشاف حروف الهجاء فهو بلا شك أوّل درجة من سلّم التّرقّي البشريّ، إذا لم تكن أعظم درجة فيه على الإطلاق، وهو اكتشاف سوريّ لا ينازعنا فيه منازع.
هٰذه المحاضرة دامت أكثر من ساعتين وكانت جماهير الشّـبّان كلّها آذان صاغية كأنّ على رؤوسهم الطّير، كما يقولون، وما انتهى الزّعيم من الكلام حتّى هتفوا جميعًا من أعماق قلوبهم، وكأنّ كلّ واحد منهم تولّدت فيه شخصيّة جديدة أو كأنّه وجد شيئًا ييحث عنه ويرغب في الوصول إليه…
سعاده
الأعمال الكاملة، الجزء 4، صفحة 42-40
“الزّعيم في سانتياغو أيضًا”
“الشّبيبة كلّها تؤيّد مبادئ السّوريين القوميين”
عن “سورية الجديدة”، سان باولو، العدد 68،

1940/6/1

A Biography of Antoun Sa3adeh

Abou Majed with ‎شوقي خير الله‎ ‎.

بعرف إنو كلكم قاريين عن حياة الزعيم، بس تنشيط الذاكرة منيح

وقفات العزّ فيك بتعتزّ

أنطون سعادة (1 مارس 1904 – 8 يوليو 1949)، مؤسس الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي. ولد في بلدة الشوير في جبل لبنان. والده الدكتور خليل سعادة ووالدته نايفة نصير خنيصر.

تلقى علومه الأولى في مدرسة الفرير في القاهرة، وبعد وفاة والدته عاد إلى الوطن ليعيش في كنف جدته حيث سافر والده للعمل في الأرجنتين، وأكمل علومه في مدرسة برمانا. عام 1919 هاجر مع أخوته إلى الولايات المتحدة الأميركية وهناك عمل عدة أشهر في محطة للقطارات وبعدها انتقل إلى البرازيل حيث المقر الجديد لعمل والده.

في البرازيل، أقبل على نهل العلوم بمواظبة واهتمام على يد أبيه، وانكب على دراسة اللغات بجهد شخصي (برتغالية، الألمانية، و الروسية). بعدها، اتجهت قراءاته إلى الفلسفة والتاريخ وعلم الاجتماع والسياسة. وما لبث أن شارك والده في إصدار جريدة الجريدة، ثم في مجلة المجلة.

ظهرت كتاباته الأولى عندما كان في الثامنة عشرة. ونشر خلال عامي 1922 – 1923 عدة مقالات طالب فيها بإنهاء الاحتلال الفرنسي واستقلال سوريا ، واستشرف مشروع الحركة الصهيونية وخطره على سوريا الطبيعية رابطاً بين وعد بلفور بوطن قومي لليهود في فلسطين وبين اتفاقية سايكس بيكو التي قسمت سوريا الطبيعية إلى خمس كيانات.

حاول عام 1925 تأليف حزب لتوحيد أبناء الجالية السورية في البرازيل باسم “الشبيبة الفدائية السورية”، لكنه لم يلاق نجاحاً. وأعاد المحاولة عام 1927 فأسس “حزب السوريين الأحرار”، الذي توقف نشاطه بعد ثلاث سنوات.

وإثر توقف مجلة المجلة عن الصدور (1928) انصرف أنطون سعادة إلى التعليم في بعض المعاهد السورية في ساو باولو، كما شارك في بعض اللجان التربوية التي أقامتها الحكومة البرازيلية للإشراف على تطوير المناهج التعليمية، وفي هذه الفترة كتب رواية “فاجعة حب” التي نشرت فيما بعد في بيروت، وفي صيف 1931 أصدر روايته الثانية “سيدة صيدنايا”.

في تموز 1930 عاد أنطون سعادة إلى الوطن من البرازيل، وبعد إقامة قصيرة في ضهور الشوير سافر إلى دمشق لدراسة إمكانية العمل السياسي فيها، كونها العاصمة التاريخية لسوريا ومركز المعارضة السياسية للانتداب الفرنسي، فمارس التعليم لتأمين رزقه، وكتب سلسلة من المقالات في الصحف الدمشقية “اليوم، القبس، ألف باء”، لكنه سرعان ما عاد إلى بيروت (1931) وبدأ بإعطاء دروس من خارج الملاك في اللغة الألمانية في الجامعة الأميركية في بيروت. وقد أتاح له التدريس ساحة واسعة للحوار الفكري مع الطلبة والوسط الثقافي، إضافة إلى منابر فكرية أتاحتها له عدة جمعيات ثقافية في بيروت، منها : العروة الوثقى – جمعية الاجتهاد الروحي للشبيبة – “النادي الفلسطيني”. وقد حفلت هذه المحاضرات ببواكير فكرة القومي الاجتماعي في مرحلة ما قبل إعلان الحزب، وهو ما تمخض عنه فيما بعد العقيدة القومية الاجتماعية، المنهج الفكري للحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي الذي أسسه في 16 تشرين الثاني 1932، وكان حزباً سرياً بسبب الظروف الصعبة الناجمة عن الانتداب الفرنسي على سوريا الشمالية (لبنان وسوريا).

الوطن السوري كما يراه الحزب السوري القومي الاجتماعي
في عام 1933 أعـاد أنطون سعادة إصدار مجلة “المجلة” في بيروت لتساهم في توضيح أسس النهضة السورية القومية الاجتماعية التي طرحها، وعلى صفحاتها ظهرت في المشرق العربي، ولأول مرة، دراسات تحليلية لموضوع “الأمة” استناداً إلى علم الاجتماع الحديث، وبرؤية مستقلة عن نظريات الغرب التي فلسفت الأمة من منظور عرقي، وسياسي أحياناً أخرى.

في حزيران عام 1935، وبعد أن أصبح انتشار الحزب ملموساً في الأوساط الشبابية والثقافية، أقام سعادة الاجتماع العام الأول رغم سرية الحزب، وفي هذا الاجتماع ألقى خطاباً مكتوباً هـو من أهم الوثائق الفكرية في العقيدة السورية القومية الاجتماعية، ودليل عمل حركة النهضة القومية الاجتماعية التي يهدف إليها الحزب، لكن سلطات الانتداب الفرنسي سرعان ما اكتشفت أمر الحزب نتيجة معلومة نقلها رئيس الجامعة الأميركية إلى السلطة الفرنسية، فاعتقلت في 16 تشرين الثاني 1935 سعادة وعدداً من الأعضاء بتهمة تشكيل جمعية سرية والإخلال بالأمن العام والإضرار بأمن الدولة وتغيير شكل الحكم، فأصدرت سلطات الانتداب الفرنسي قراراً بسجنه ستة أشهر، أكمل خلالها كتابة مؤلفه العلمي “نشوء الأمم” الذي صدرت طبعته الأولى عام 1938. وخرج من السجن في 12 أيار 1936.

اعتقلت سلطات الانتداب سعادة مرة ثانية في 30 حزيران 1936 (أي بعد أسابيع من الإفراج عنه) لأن مشروع سعادة أصبح يهدد السياسة الاستعمارية الفرنسية بفصل لبنان عن سوريا التاريخية ،وتشكيل لبنان كقدم لفرنسا في الشرق الأوسط، وظل في السجن إلى 12 تشرين الثاني 1936 وخلال هذه الفترة أنجز سعادة كتابه شرح مبادئ الحزب وغايته.

أعيد اعتقاله في 9 آذار 1937 وظل في السجن حتى 15 أيار 1937. وفي 14 تشرين الأول 1937 أصدر جريدة النهضة التي استقطبت النخبة الثقافية الشابة في تناول السياسة الخارجية والأمور الفكرية والردّ على القوى السياسية المناوئة، وقد حظيت ردود سعادة القومية على البطريرك الماروني والأحزاب الانعزالية في لبنان والشام باهتمام كبير من مختلف الأوساط.

في 11 حزيران 1938 غادر سعادة الوطن في جولة على فروع الحزب في المغتربات. وسافر براً من بيروت إلى الأردن ومنها إلى فلسطين، حيث اجتمع مع السوريين القوميين الاجتماعيين في عمان وفي حيفا. ثم إلى قبرص وألمانيا، ومنها سافر إلى البرازيل، حيث استقر في سان باولو مرتع صباه (كانون الأول 1938). وفور مغادرته بيروت قامت سلطات الانتداب بمداهمة مركز الحزب، وعطلت صحيفة النهضة، وحظرت على السوريين القوميين الاجتماعيين ممارسة العمل الحزبي، كما أصدرت مذكرة قضائية بمحاكمة سعادة. سجن شهراً في البرازيل بضغط من فرنسا، فغادر إلى الأرجنتين بعد خروجه وومكث فيها حتى أيار 1940 وظل في مغتربه القسري حتى عام 1947 وأصدر خلال هذه الفترة جريدة “الزوبعة”. بعد جلاء القوات الفرنسية عام 1946 حاول العودة إلى لبنان لكن تحالف بشارة الخوري (رئيس الجمهورية) ورياض الصلح (رئيس الحكومة) كان يعرقل عودته بحجة الحكم القضائي الصادر بحقه منذ أيام الانتداب. في 2 آذار 1947 وصلت طائرة سعادة إلى بيروت فأصدرت الحكومة اللبنانية في أعقاب الاستقبال الكبير مذكرة توقيف بحقه وألغتها في تشرين الأول 1947.

قام بإطلاق حركـة مواجهة قومية شاملة خلال حرب فلسطين 1948. وكان رد فعل الحكومة اللبنانية مباشراً، إذ أصدرت سلسلة قرارات منعت بموجبها الحزب من عقد الاجتماعات العلنية وحدثت عدة صدامات بين أعضاء الحزب والسلطة خلال احتفالات آذار 1949 وبعد الانتخابات البرلمانية الملغاة لجأ على إثرها سعادة إلى دمشق. استقبله حسني الزعيم، وبعد شهر، سلمه للسلطات اللبنانية وفق صفقة يوم 7 تموز 1949 فحاكمته وأعدمته فجر يوم 8 يوليو/تموز 1949.

 It may not matter? living in a computer program?

Are you real? What about me?

These used to be questions that only philosophers worried about. Scientists just got on with figuring out how the world is, and why.

But some of the current best guesses about how the world is, seem to leave the question hanging over science too.

Several physicists, cosmologists and technologists are now happy to entertain the idea that we are all living inside a gigantic computer simulation, experiencing a Matrix-style virtual world that we mistakenly think is real.

Our instincts rebel, of course.

It all feels too real to be a simulation. The weight of the cup in my hand, the rich aroma of the coffee it contains, the sounds all around me – how can such richness of experience be faked?

But then consider the extraordinary progress in computer and information technologies over the past few decades. Computers have given us games of uncanny realism – with autonomous characters responding to our choices – as well as virtual-reality simulators of tremendous persuasive power.

It is enough to make you paranoid.

The Matrix formulated the narrative with unprecedented clarity.

In that story, humans are locked by a malignant power into a virtual world that they accept unquestioningly as “real”. But the science-fiction nightmare of being trapped in a universe manufactured within our minds can be traced back further, for instance to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985).

Over all these dystopian visions, there loom two questions. How would we know? And would it matter anyway?

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“If reality is just information, then we are no more or less “real” if we are in a simulation or not. In either case, information is all we can be.”

bbc.com|By Philip Ball

The idea that we live in a simulation has some high-profile advocates.

In June 2016, technology entrepreneur Elon Musk asserted that the odds are “a billion to one” against us living in “base reality”.

Similarly, Google’s machine-intelligence guru Ray Kurzweil has suggested that “maybe our whole universe is a science experiment of some junior high-school student in another universe”.

What’s more, some physicists are willing to entertain the possibility.

In April 2016, several of them debated the issue at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, US.

None of these people are proposing that we are physical beings held in some gloopy vat and wired up to believe in the world around us, as in The Matrix.

Instead, there are at least two other ways that the Universe around us might not be the real one.

Cosmologist Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US has suggested that our entire Universe might be real yet still a kind of lab experiment. The idea is that our Universe was created by some super-intelligence, much as biologists breed colonies of micro-organisms.

There is nothing in principle that rules out the possibility of manufacturing a universe in an artificial Big Bang, filled with real matter and energy, says Guth.

Nor would it destroy the universe in which it was made.

The new universe would create its own bubble of space-time, separate from that in which it was hatched. This bubble would quickly pinch off from the parent universe and lose contact with it. (Except these murderous waves of slaughter-hood  and kamikaze bombings that are spreading around the globe)

This scenario does not then really change anything. Our Universe might have been born in some super-beings’ equivalent of a test tube, but it is just as physically “real” as if it had been born “naturally”.

However, there is a second scenario. It is this one that has garnered all the attention, because it seems to undermine our very concept of reality.

Musk and other like-minded folk are suggesting that we are entirely simulated beings. We could be nothing more than strings of information manipulated in some gigantic computer, like the characters in a video game.

Even our brains are simulated, and are responding to simulated sensory inputs.

In this view, there is no Matrix to “escape from”. This is where we live, and is our only chance of “living” at all.

But why believe in such a baroque possibility?

The argument is quite simple: we already make simulations, and with better technology it should be possible to create the ultimate one, with conscious agents that experience it as totally lifelike

We carry out computer simulations not just in games but in research. Scientists try to simulate aspects of the world at levels ranging from the subatomic to entire societies or galaxies, even whole universes.

For example, computer simulations of animals may tell us how they develop complex behaviours like flocking and swarming. Other simulations help us understand how planets, stars and galaxies form. (But it explains nothing of why)

We can also simulate human societies using rather simple “agents” that make choices according to certain rules. These give us insights into how cooperation appears, how cities evolve, how road traffic and economies function, and much else.

These simulations are getting ever more complex as computer power expands. Already, some simulations of human behaviour try to build in rough descriptions of cognition.

Researchers envisage a time, not far away, when these agents’ decision-making will not come from simple “if…then…” rules. Instead, they will give the agents simplified models of the brain and see how they respond. (Simplified models are Not the real thing)

Who is to say that before long we will not be able to create computational agents – virtual beings – that show signs of consciousness? Advances in understanding and mapping the brain, as well as the vast computational resources promised by quantum computing, make this more likely by the day.

If we ever reach that stage, we will be running huge numbers of simulations. They will vastly outnumber the one “real” world around us. (And where the energy will come from to run all these simulations?)

Is it not likely, then, that some other intelligence elsewhere in the Universe has already reached that point?

If so, it makes sense for any conscious beings like ourselves to assume that we are actually in such a simulation, and not in the one world from which the virtual realities are run. The probability is just so much greater.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford in the UK has broken down this scenario into three possibilities. As he puts it, either:

(1) Intelligent civilisations never get to the stage where they can make such simulations, perhaps because they wipe themselves out first; or

(2) They get to that point, but then choose for some reason not to conduct such simulations; or

(3) We are overwhelmingly likely to be in such a simulation.

The question is which of these options seems most probable.

Astrophysicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot has argued that there is no compelling reason to believe (1) or (2). (And why Not?)

Sure, humanity is causing itself plenty of problems at the moment, what with climate change, nuclear weapons and a looming mass extinction. But these problems need not be terminal. (Why Not? What force is keeping the galaxies turning around themselves and around other galaxies?)

What’s more, there is nothing to suggest that truly detailed simulations, in which the agents experience themselves as real and free, are impossible in principle.

Smoot adds that, given how widespread we now know other planets to be (with another Earth-like one right on our cosmic doorstep), it would be the height of arrogance to assume that we are the most advanced intelligence in the entire Universe.

What about option (2)? Conceivably, we might desist from making such simulations for ethical reasons. Perhaps it would seem improper to create simulated beings that believe they exist and have autonomy. (Ethics have never been a critical barrier to discovering what could be discovered)

But that too seems unlikely, Smoot says. After all, one key reason we conduct simulations today is to find out more about the real world. This can help us make the world better and save lives. So there are sound ethical reasons for doing it. (Didn’t get that reasoning)

That seems to leave us with option (3): we are probably in a simulation.

But this is all just supposition. Could we find any evidence?

Many researchers believe that depends on how good the simulation is.

The best way would be to search for flaws in the program, just like the glitches that betray the artificial nature of the “ordinary world” in The Matrix. For instance, we might discover inconsistencies in the laws of physics.

Alternatively, the late artificial-intelligence maven Marvin Minsky has suggested that there might be giveaway errors due to “rounding off” approximations in the computation. For example, whenever an event has several possible outcomes, their probabilities should add up to 1. If we found that they did not, that would suggest something was amiss. (But probability is a logical math concept to rely on for real life existence)

Some scientists argue that there are already good reasons to think we are inside a simulation. One is the fact that our Universe looks designed. (We are the ones looking hard for a design in everything)

The constants of nature, such as the strengths of the fundamental forces, have values that look fine-tuned to make life possible. Even small alterations would mean that atoms were no longer stable, or that stars could not form. Why this is so is one of the deepest mysteries in cosmology.

One possible answer invokes the “multiverse“. Maybe there is a plethora of universes, all created in Big Bang-type events and all with different laws of physics. (That view, I tend to agree with)

By chance, some of them would be fine-tuned for life – and if we were not in such a hospitable universe, we would not ask the fine-tuning question because we would not exist.

However, parallel universes are a pretty speculative idea. (And what is Not speculative?)

So it is at least conceivable that our Universe is instead a simulation whose parameters have been fine-tuned to give interesting results, like stars, galaxies and people.

While this is possible, the reasoning does not get us anywhere. After all, presumably the “real” Universe of our creators must also be fine-tuned for them to exist. In that case, positing that we are in a simulation does not explain the fine-tuning mystery.

Others have pointed to some of the truly weird findings of modern physics as evidence that there is something amiss.

Quantum mechanics, the theory of the very small, has thrown up all sorts of odd things.

For instance, both matter and energy seem to be granular. What’s more, there are limits to the resolution with which we can observe the Universe, and if we try to study anything smaller, things just look “fuzzy”.

Smoot says these perplexing features of quantum physics are just what we would expect in a simulation. They are like the pixellation of a screen when you look too closely.

However, that is just a rough analogy. It is beginning to look as though the quantum graininess of nature might not be really so fundamental, but is a consequence of deeper principles about the extent to which reality is knowable.

A second argument is that the Universe appears to run on mathematical lines, just as you would expect from a computer program. Ultimately, say some physicists, reality might be nothing but mathematics. (we tend to match designs with abstract math concepts)

Max Tegmark of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argues that this is just what we would expect if the laws of physics were based on a computational algorithm.

However, that argument seems rather circular.

For one thing, if some super-intelligence were running simulations of their own “real” world, they could be expected to base its physical principles on those in their own universe, just as we do. In that case, the reason our world is mathematical would not be because it runs on a computer, but because the “real” world is also that way.

Conversely, simulations would not have to be based on mathematical rules.

They could be set up, for example, to work randomly. Whether that would result in any coherent outcomes is not clear, but the point is that we cannot use the apparently mathematical nature of the Universe to deduce anything about its “reality”.

However, based on his own research in fundamental physics, James Gates of the University of Maryland thinks there is a more specific reason for suspecting that the laws of physics are dictated by a computer simulation

Gates studies matter at the level of subatomic particles like quarks, the constituents of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. He says the rules governing these particles’ behaviour turn out to have features that resemble the codes that correct for errors in manipulating data in computers. So perhaps those rules really are computer codes?

Maybe. Or maybe interpreting these physical laws as error-correcting codes is just the latest example of the way we have always interpreted nature on the basis of our advanced technologies.

At one time Newtonian mechanics seemed to make the universe a clockwork mechanism, and more recently genetics was seen – at the dawn of the computer age – as a kind of digital code with storage and readout functions. We might just be superimposing our current preoccupations onto the laws of physics.

It is likely to be profoundly difficult if not impossible to find strong evidence that we are in a simulation. Unless the simulation was really rather error-strewn, it will be hard to design a test for which the results could not be explained in some other way.

We might never know, says Smoot, simply because our minds would not be up to the task. After all, you design your agents in a simulation to function within the rules of the game, not to subvert them. This might be a box we cannot think outside of.

There is, however, a more profound reason why perhaps we should not get too worried by the idea that we are just information being manipulated in a vast computation. Because that is what some physicists think the “real” world is like anyway.

Quantum theory itself is increasingly being couched in terms of information and computation. Some physicists feel that, at its most fundamental level, nature might not be pure mathematics but pure information: bits, like the ones and zeros of computers.

The influential theoretical physicist John Wheeler dubbed this notion “It From Bit“.

In this view, everything that happens, from the interactions of fundamental particles upwards, is a kind of computation.

“The Universe can be regarded as a giant quantum computer,” says Seth Lloyd of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If one looks at the ‘guts’ of the Universe – the structure of matter at its smallest scale – then those guts consist of nothing more than [quantum] bits undergoing local, digital operations.”

This gets to the nub of the matter.

If reality is just information, then we are no more or less “real” if we are in a simulation or not. In either case, information is all we can be.

Does it make a difference if that information were programmed by nature or by super-intelligent creators?

It is not obvious why it should – except that, in the latter case, presumably our creators could in principle intervene in the simulation, or even switch it off. How should we feel about that?

Tegmark, mindful of this possibility, has recommended that we had all better go out and do interesting things with our lives, just in case our simulators get bored.

I think this is said at least half in jest. After all, there are surely better reasons to want to lead interesting lives than that they might otherwise be erased. But it inadvertently betrays some of the problems with the whole concept.

The idea of super-intelligent simulators saying “Ah look, this run is a bit dull – let’s stop it and start another” is comically anthropomorphic. Like Kurzweil’s comment about a school project, it imagines our “creators” as fickle teenagers with Xboxes.

The discussion of Bostrom’s three possibilities involves a similar kind of solipsism.

It is an attempt to say something profound about the Universe by extrapolating from what humans in the 21st Century are up to. The argument boils down to: “We make computer games. I bet super-beings would too, only they’d be awesome!”

In trying to imagine what super-intelligent beings might do, or even what they would consist of, we have little choice but to start from ourselves. But that should not obscure the fact that we are then spinning webs from a thread of ignorance.

It is surely no coincidence that many advocates of the “universal simulation” idea attest to being avid science-fiction fans in their youth.

This might have inspired them to imagine futures and alien intelligences, but it may also have predisposed them to cast such imaginings in human terms: to see the cosmos through the windows of the Starship Enterprise.

Perhaps mindful of such limitations, Harvard physicist Lisa Randall is puzzled by the enthusiasm some of her colleagues show for these speculations about cosmic simulation.

For her they change nothing about how we should see and investigate the world. Her bafflement is not just a “so what”: it is a question of what we choose to understand by “reality”.

Almost certainly, Elon Musk does not go around telling himself that the people he sees around him, and his friends and family, are just computer constructs created by streams of data entering the computational nodes that encode his own consciousness.

Partly, he does not do so because it is impossible to hold that image in our heads for any sustained length of time. But more to the point, it is because we know deep down that the only notion of reality worth having is the one we experience, and not some hypothetical world “behind” it.

There is, however, nothing new about asking what is “behind” the appearances and sensations we experience. Philosophers have been doing so for centuries.

Plato wondered if what we perceive as reality is like the shadows projected onto the walls of a cave.

Immanuel Kant asserted that, while there might be some “thing in itself” that underlies the appearances we perceive, we can never know it.

René Descartes accepted, in his famous one-liner “I think therefore I am“, that the capacity to think is the only meaningful criterion of existence we can attest.

The concept of “the world as simulation” takes that old philosophical saw and clothes it in the garb of our latest technologies. There is no harm in that. Like many philosophical conundrums, it impels us to examine our assumptions and preconceptions.

But until you can show that drawing distinctions between what we experience and what is “real” leads to demonstrable differences in what we might observe or do, it does not change our notion of reality in a meaningful way.

In the early 1700s, the philosopher George Berkeley argued that the world is merely an illusion. Dismissing the idea, the ebullient English writer Samuel Johnson exclaimed “I refute it thus” – and kicked a stone.

Johnson did not really refute anything. But he may nevertheless have come up with the right response.

Table listing the varieties of US military intervention in the last 100 years

Versions of this list have been published on Zmag.org, Neravt.com, and numerous other websites.

Turkish newspaper urges that the United States be listed in Guinness Book of World Records as the Country with the Most Foreign Interventions.

COUNTRY OR STATE Dates of intervention Forces Comments
SOUTH DAKOTA  1890 (-?)  Troops 300 Lakota Indians massacred at Wounded Knee.
ARGENTINA 1890 Troops Buenos Aires interests protected.
CHILE 1891 Troops Marines clash with nationalist rebels.
HAITI 1891 Troops Black revolt on Navassa defeated.
IDAHO 1892 Troops Army suppresses silver miners’ strike.
HAWAII 1893 (-?) Naval, troops Independent kingdom overthrown, annexed.
CHICAGO 1894 Troops Breaking of rail strike, 34 killed.
NICARAGUA 1894 Troops Month-long occupation of Bluefields.
CHINA 1894-95 Naval, troops Marines land in Sino-Japanese War
KOREA 1894-96 Troops Marines kept in Seoul during war.
PANAMA 1895 Troops, naval Marines land in Colombian province.
NICARAGUA 1896 Troops Marines land in port of Corinto.
CHINA 1898-1900 Troops Boxer Rebellion fought by foreign armies.
PHILIPPINES 1898-1910 (-?) Naval, troops Seized from Spain, killed 600,000 Filipinos
CUBA 1898-1902 (-?) Naval, troops Seized from Spain, still hold Navy base.
PUERTO RICO 1898 (-?) Naval, troops Seized from Spain, occupation continues.
GUAM 1898 (-?) Naval, troops Seized from Spain, still use as base.
MINNESOTA 1898 (-?) Troops Army battles Chippewa at Leech Lake.
NICARAGUA 1898 Troops Marines land at port of San Juan del Sur.
SAMOA 1899 (-?) Troops Battle over succession to throne.
NICARAGUA 1899 Troops Marines land at port of Bluefields.
IDAHO 1899-1901 Troops Army occupies Coeur d’Alene mining region.
OKLAHOMA 1901 Troops Army battles Creek Indian revolt.
PANAMA 1901-14 Naval, troops Broke off from Colombia 1903, annexed Canal Zone; Opened canal 1914.
HONDURAS 1903 Troops Marines intervene in revolution.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1903-04 Troops U.S. interests protected in Revolution.
KOREA 1904-05 Troops Marines land in Russo-Japanese War.
CUBA 1906-09 Troops Marines land in democratic election.
NICARAGUA 1907 Troops “Dollar Diplomacy” protectorate set up.
HONDURAS 1907 Troops Marines land during war with Nicaragua
PANAMA 1908 Troops Marines intervene in election contest.
NICARAGUA 1910 Troops Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto.
HONDURAS 1911 Troops U.S. interests protected in civil war.
CHINA 1911-41 Naval, troops Continuous occupation with flare-ups.
CUBA 1912 Troops U.S. interests protected in civil war.
PANAMA 1912 Troops Marines land during heated election.
HONDURAS 1912 Troops Marines protect U.S. economic interests.
NICARAGUA 1912-33 Troops, bombing 10-year occupation, fought guerillas
MEXICO 1913 Naval Americans evacuated during revolution.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1914 Naval Fight with rebels over Santo Domingo.
COLORADO 1914 Troops Breaking of miners’ strike by Army.
MEXICO 1914-18 Naval, troops Series of interventions against nationalists.
HAITI 1914-34 Troops, bombing 19-year occupation after revolts.
TEXAS 1915 Troops Federal soldiers crush “Plan of San Diego” Mexican-American rebellion
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1916-24 Troops 8-year Marine occupation.
CUBA 1917-33 Troops Military occupation, economic protectorate.
WORLD WAR I 1917-18 Naval, troops Ships sunk, fought Germany for 1 1/2 years.
RUSSIA 1918-22 Naval, troops Five landings to fight Bolsheviks
PANAMA 1918-20 Troops “Police duty” during unrest after elections.
HONDURAS 1919 Troops Marines land during election campaign.
YUGOSLAVIA 1919 Troops/Marines intervene for Italy against Serbs in Dalmatia.
GUATEMALA 1920 Troops 2-week intervention against unionists.
WEST VIRGINIA 1920-21 Troops, bombing Army intervenes against mineworkers.
TURKEY 1922 Troops Fought nationalists in Smyrna.
CHINA 1922-27 Naval, troops Deployment during nationalist revolt.
MEXICO

HONDURAS

1923

1924-25

Bombing

Troops

Airpower defends Calles from rebellion

Landed twice during election strife.

PANAMA 1925 Troops Marines suppress general strike.
CHINA 1927-34 Troops Marines stationed throughout the country.
EL SALVADOR 1932 Naval Warships send during Marti revolt.
WASHINGTON DC 1932 Troops Army stops WWI vet bonus protest.
WORLD WAR II 1941-45 Naval, troops, bombing, nuclear Hawaii bombed, fought Japan, Italy and Germay for 3 years; first nuclear war.
DETROIT 1943 Troops Army put down Black rebellion.
IRAN 1946 Nuclear threat Soviet troops told to leave north.
YUGOSLAVIA 1946 Nuclear threat, naval Response to shoot-down of US plane.
URUGUAY 1947 Nuclear threat Bombers deployed as show of strength.
GREECE 1947-49 Command operation U.S. directs extreme-right in civil war.
GERMANY 1948 Nuclear Threat Atomic-capable bombers guard Berlin Airlift.
CHINA 1948-49 Troops/Marines evacuate Americans before Communist victory.
PHILIPPINES 1948-54 Command operation CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.
PUERTO RICO 1950 Command operation Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.
KOREA 1951-53 (-?) Troops, naval, bombing , nuclear threats U.S./So. Korea fights China/No. Korea to stalemate; A-bomb threat in 1950, and against China in 1953. Still have bases.
IRAN 1953 Command Operation CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.
VIETNAM 1954 Nuclear threat French offered bombs to use against seige.
GUATEMALA 1954 Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat CIA directs exile invasion after new gov’t nationalized U.S. company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua.
EGYPT 1956 Nuclear threat, troops Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis; Marines evacuate foreigners.
LEBANON l958 Troops, naval Army & Marine occupation against rebels.
IRAQ 1958 Nuclear threat Iraq warned against invading Kuwait.
CHINA l958 Nuclear threat China told not to move on Taiwan isles.
PANAMA 1958 Troops Flag protests erupt into confrontation.
VIETNAM l960-75 Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam; one million killed in longest U.S. war; atomic bomb threats in l968 and l969.
CUBA l961 Command operation CIA-directed exile invasion fails.
GERMANY l961 Nuclear threat Alert during Berlin Wall crisis.
LAOS 1962 Command operation Military buildup during guerrilla war.
 CUBA  l962  Nuclear threat, naval Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union.
 IRAQ 1963 Command operation CIA organizes coup that killed president, brings Ba’ath Party to power, and Saddam Hussein back from exile to be head of the secret service.
PANAMA l964 Troops Panamanians shot for urging canal’s return.
INDONESIA l965 Command operation Million killed in CIA-assisted army coup.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1965-66 Troops, bombing Army & Marines land during election campaign.
GUATEMALA l966-67 Command operation Green Berets intervene against rebels.
DETROIT l967 Troops Army battles African Americans, 43 killed.
UNITED STATES l968 Troops After King is shot; over 21,000 soldiers in cities.
CAMBODIA l969-75 Bombing, troops, naval Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.
OMAN l970 Command operation U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.
LAOS l971-73 Command operation, bombing U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; “carpet-bombs” countryside.
SOUTH DAKOTA l973 Command operation Army directs Wounded Knee siege of Lakotas.
MIDEAST 1973 Nuclear threat World-wide alert during Mideast War.
CHILE 1973 Command operation CIA-backed coup ousts elected marxist president.
CAMBODIA l975 Troops, bombing Gassing of captured ship Mayagüez, 28 troops die when copter shot down.
ANGOLA l976-92 Command operation CIA assists South African-backed rebels.
IRAN l980 Troops, nuclear threat, aborted bombing Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.
LIBYA l981 Naval jets Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.
EL SALVADOR l981-92 Command operation, troops Advisors, overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash.
NICARAGUA l981-90 Command operation, naval CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution.
LEBANON l982-84 Naval, bombing, troops Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions. 241 Marines killed when Shi’a rebel bombs barracks.
GRENADA l983-84 Troops, bombing Invasion four years after revolution.
HONDURAS l983-89 Troops Maneuvers help build bases near borders.
IRAN l984 Jets Two Iranian jets shot down over Persian Gulf.
LIBYA l986 Bombing, naval Air strikes to topple Qaddafi gov’t.
BOLIVIA 1986 Troops Army assists raids on cocaine region.
IRAN l987-88 Naval, bombing US intervenes on side of Iraq in war, defending reflagged tankers and shooting down civilian jet.
LIBYA 1989 Naval jets Two Libyan jets shot down.
VIRGIN ISLANDS 1989 Troops St. Croix Black unrest after storm.
PHILIPPINES 1989 Jets Air cover provided for government against coup.
PANAMA 1989 (-?) Troops, bombing Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed.
LIBERIA 1990 Troops Foreigners evacuated during civil war.
SAUDI ARABIA 1990-91 Troops, jets Iraq countered after invading Kuwait. 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.
IRAQ 1990-91 Bombing, troops, naval Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.
KUWAIT 1991 Naval, bombing, troops Kuwait royal family returned to throne.
 IRAQ 1991-2003 Bombing, naval No-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south; constant air strikes and naval-enforced economic sanctions
LOS ANGELES 1992 Troops Army, Marines deployed against anti-police uprising.
SOMALIA 1992-94 Troops, naval, bombing U.S.-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.
YUGOSLAVIA 1992-94 Naval NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.
BOSNIA 1993-? Jets, bombing No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.
HAITI 1994 Troops, naval Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup.
ZAIRE (CONGO) 1996-97 Troops Troops at Rwandan Hutu refugee camps, in area where Congo revolution begins.
LIBERIA 1997 Troops Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.
ALBANIA 1997 Troops Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.
SUDAN 1998 Missiles Attack on pharmaceutical plant alleged to be “terrorist” nerve gas plant.
AFGHANISTAN 1998 Missiles Attack on former CIA training camps used by Islamic fundamentalist groups alleged to have attacked embassies.
IRAQ 1998 Bombing, Missiles Four days of intensive air strikes after weapons inspectors allege Iraqi obstructions.
YUGOSLAVIA 1999 Bombing, Missiles Heavy NATO air strikes after Serbia declines to withdraw from Kosovo. NATO occupation of Kosovo.
YEMEN 2000 Naval USS Cole, docked in Aden, bombed.
MACEDONIA 2001 Troops NATO forces deployed to move and disarm Albanian rebels.
UNITED STATES 2001 Jets, naval Reaction to hijacker attacks on New York, DC
AFGHANISTAN 2001-? Troops, bombing, missiles Massive U.S. mobilization to overthrow Taliban, hunt Al Qaeda fighters, install Karzai regime, and battle Taliban insurgency. More than 30,000 U.S. troops and numerous private security contractors carry our occupation.
YEMEN 2002 Missiles Predator drone missile attack on Al Qaeda, including a US citizen.
PHILIPPINES 2002-? Troops, naval Training mission for Philippine military fighting Abu Sayyaf rebels evolves into combat missions in Sulu Archipelago, west of Mindanao.
COLOMBIA 2003-? Troops US special forces sent to rebel zone to back up Colombian military protecting oil pipeline.
IRAQ 2003-11 Troops, naval, bombing, missiles Saddam regime toppled in Baghdad. More than 250,000 U.S. personnel participate in invasion. US and UK forces occupy country and battle Sunni and Shi’ite insurgencies. More than 160,000 troops and numerous private contractors carry out occupation and build large permanent bases.
LIBERIA 2003 Troops Brief involvement in peacekeeping force as rebels drove out leader.
HAITI 2004-05 Troops, naval   Marines & Army land after right-wing rebels oust elected President Aristide, who was advised to leave by Washington.
PAKISTAN 2005-? Missiles, bombing, covert operation CIA missile and air strikes and Special Forces raids on alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban refuge villages kill multiple civilians. Drone attacks also on Pakistani Mehsud network.
SOMALIA 2006-? Missiles, naval, troops, command operation Special Forces advise Ethiopian invasion that topples Islamist government; AC-130 strikes, Cruise missile attacks and helicopter raids against Islamist rebels; naval blockade against “pirates” and insurgents.
SYRIA 2008 Troops Special Forces in helicopter raid 5 miles from Iraq kill 8 Syrian civilians
YEMEN 2009-? Missiles, command operation Cruise missile attack on Al Qaeda kills 49 civilians; Yemeni military assaults on rebels
LIBYA 2011-? Bombing, missiles, troops, command operation NATO coordinates air strikes and missile attacks against Qaddafi government during uprising by rebel army. Periodic Special Forces raids against Islamist insurgents.
IRAQ 2014-? Bombing, missiles, troops, command operation Air strikes and Special Forces intervene against Islamic State insurgents; training Iraqi and Kurdish troops.
SYRIA 2014-? Bombing, missiles, troops, command operation Air strikes and Special Forces intervene against Islamic State insurgents; training other Syrian insurgents.

 

(Death toll estimates from 20th-century wars can be found in the Historical Atlas of the 20th Century by alphabetized places index, map series, and major casualties .)

This guide does not include:

  • mobilizations of the National Guard
  • offshore shows of naval strength
  • reinforcements of embassy personnel
  • the use of non-Defense Department personnel (such as the Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • military exercises
  • non-combat mobilizations (such as replacing postal strikers)
  • the permanent stationing of armed forces
  • covert actions where the U.S. did not play a command and control role
  • the use of small hostage rescue units
  • most uses of proxy troops
  • U.S. piloting of foreign warplanes
  • foreign or domestic disaster assistance
  • military training and advisory programs not involving direct combat
  • civic action programs
  • and many other military activities.

Work on your hierarchy of value: After your life is well oiled? 

A hierarchy of value when everything functions

Bottom up structure

Hierarchy of value

When two things offer the same appropriate level of function, we’ll choose the cheap one. (Even made in China?)

But if one offers more connection than the other, it is worth more.

Where is the tribe, do people like me do things like this, who’s there, will they miss me, do I trust them, have I been here before…

If two items offer (same level) of connection, but one offers the approval and sexiness that style brings, some of us will pay extra for that. After all, style promises ever more connection. (Looks and feels more natural?)

And at the top of the hierarchy is our quest for scarcity, desire and the hotness of now.

In a market like smartphones, it’s pretty clear that it’s really difficult to offer more function than the other guy. And the quality of connection, the very attribute that fuels the smartphone, was surrendered to the app makers a long time ago. Which leaves the sexiness of a drop-dead case and the urgency of the latest model.

What do you and your team offer? Where are you in the hierarchy?

Most freelancers have been so beaten down in the quest to make a go of it, they stop at function and take what they can get. Some businesses (small and large) find the patience and guts to offer connection or even style. And every once in awhile, an idea and an organization come along that promise to share the elusive hot that sits atop the pyramid.

So, buy a Harley, not because it can move you from here to there cheaper, but because it comes with a tribe. And buy that Nars lipstick because of the way it makes you feel. And get on line for that new gadget, because, hey, there’s a line.

And then, someone finds the audacity to redefine ‘function’ and the whole thing begins again.

Posted by Seth Godin on September 07, 2016

An Internet without screens

Can you figure out how to get stream of information without screens?

“We are not addicted to our devices. We’re addicted to the information that flows through them.”

Designer Tom Uglow is creating a future in which humanity’s love for natural solutions and simple tools can coexist with our need for information and the devices that provide us with it. “Reality is richer than screens,” he says.

“We can have a happy place filled with the information we love that feels as natural as switching on lightbulb.”

Tom Uglow. Designer. As creative director in the Google Creative Lab, Tom Uglow sees a disconnect with how we design to deliver information and what makes us happy. Full bio

I’d like to start by asking you all to go to your happy place, please. Yes, your happy place, I know you’ve got one even if it’s fake.

00:23  I’d like to you to mentally answer the following questions. Is there any strip lighting in your happy place? Any plastic tables? Polyester flooring? Mobile phones? No?

I think we all know that our happy place is meant to be somewhere natural, outdoors — on a beach, fireside. We’ll be reading or eating or knitting. And we’re surrounded by natural light and organic elements.

Natural things make us happy. And happiness is a great motivator; we strive for happiness. Perhaps that’s why we’re always redesigning everything, in the hopes that our solutions might feel more natural. So let’s start there — with the idea that good design should feel natural. (And if we were born and raised in a practically un-natural environment?)

Your phone is not very natural. And you probably think you’re addicted to your phone, but you’re really not.

We’re not addicted to devices, we’re addicted to the information that flows through them. I wonder how long you would be happy in your happy place without any information from the outside world.

I’m interested in how we access that information, how we experience it. We’re moving from a time of static information, held in books and libraries and bus stops, through a period of digital information, towards a period of fluid information, where your children will expect to be able to access anything, anywhere at any time, from quantum physics to medieval viticulture, from gender theory to tomorrow’s weather, just like switching on a lightbulb — Imagine that.

Humans also like simple tools. Your phone is not a very simple tool. A fork is a simple tool.

And we don’t like them made of plastic, in the same way I don’t really like my phone very much — it’s not how I want to experience information.

I think there are better solutions than a world mediated by screens. I don’t hate screens, but I don’t feel — and I don’t think any of us feel that good about how much time we spend slouched over them.

Fortunately, the big tech companies seem to agree. They’re actually heavily invested in touch and speech and gesture, and also in senses things that can turn dumb objects, like cups, and imbue them with the magic of the Internet, potentially turning this digital cloud into something we might touch and move.

The parents in crisis over screen time need physical digital toys teaching their kids to read, as well as family-safe app stores. And I think, actually, that’s already really happening.

Reality is richer than screens. For example, I love books. For me they are time machines — atoms and molecules bound in space, from the moment of their creation to the moment of my experience.

But frankly, the content’s identical on my phone. So what makes this a richer experience than a screen? I mean, scientifically.

We need screens, of course. I’m going to show film, I need the enormous screen. But there’s more than you can do with these magic boxes. Your phone is not the Internet’s door bitch.

We can build things — physical things, using physics and pixels, that can integrate the Internet into the world around us. And I’m going to show you a few examples of those.

A while ago, I got to work with a design agency, Berg, on an exploration of what the Internet without screens might actually look like. And they showed us a range ways that light can work with simple senses and physical objects to really bring the Internet to life, to make it tangible. Like this wonderfully mechanical YouTube player. And this was an inspiration to me.

Next I worked with the Japanese agency, AQ, on a research project into mental health.

We wanted to create an object that could capture the subjective data around mood swings that’s so essential to diagnosis. This object captures your touch, so you might press it very hard if you’re angry, or stroke it if you’re calm. It’s like a digital emoji stick. And then you might revisit those moments later, and add context to them online. Most of all, we wanted to create an intimate, beautiful thing that could live in your pocket and be loved.

The binoculars are actually a birthday present for the Sydney Opera House’s 40th anniversary. Our friends at Tellart in Boston brought over a pair of street binoculars, the kind you might find on the Empire State Building, and they fitted them with 360-degree views of other iconic world heritage sights —  using Street View.

And then we stuck them under the steps. So, they became this very physical, simple reappropriation, or like a portal to these other icons. So you might see Versailles or Shackleton’s Hut. Basically, it’s virtual reality circa 1955.

 In our office we use hacky sacks to exchange URLs. This is incredibly simple, it’s like your Opal card. You basically put a website on the little chip in here, and then you do this and … bosh! — the website appears on your phone. It’s about 10 cents.

Treehugger is a project that we’re working on with Grumpy Sailor and Finch, here in Sydney. And I’m very excited about what might happen when you pull the phones apart and you put the bits into trees, and that my children might have an opportunity to visit an enchanted forest guided by a magic wand, where they could talk to digital fairies and ask them questions, and be asked questions in return.

As you can see, we’re at the cardboard stage with this one.

 But I’m very excited by the possibility of getting kids back outside without screens, but with all the powerful magic of the Internet at their fingertips. And we hope to have something like this working by the end of the year.

07:00 So let’s recap. Humans like natural solutions. Humans love information. Humans need simple tools. These principles should underpin how we design for the future, not just for the Internet.

You may feel uncomfortable about the age of information that we’re moving into. You may feel challenged, rather than simply excited. Guess what? Me too. It’s a really extraordinary period of human history.

We are the people that actually build our world, there are no artificial intelligences… yet.

It’s us — designers, architects, artists, engineers. And if we challenge ourselves, I think that actually we can have a happy place filled with the information we love that feels as natural and as simple as switching on lightbulb.

And although it may seem inevitable, that what the public wants is watches and websites and widgets, maybe we could give a bit of thought to cork and light and hacky sacks.

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2016
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