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We See Ourselves in Black Mirror

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Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones are the surprisingly funny minds behind Black Mirror, the binge-watch of choice for dystopian techies. (Besides CSPAN.)

These days, their show veers very close to reality. They’ve done episodes on the performative stress of social media, on the lethal consequences of cyber-bullying, and a show from 2013 on a cartoon character running for prime minister. They seem to have an eerily accurate pulse on our imminent tech future. Brooker and Jones came to the Note to Self studios to explain themselves.

And it turns out we have a lot in common. They’re also wary of their webcams. They also sleep with their phones close to their heads, and they also feel bad about it. They also worry about information overload and the impact of constant surveillance. They’re our type of nerd.

Charlie, Anna and Manoush talked about where their ideas come from, why they haven’t quit TV to launch a startup, and why Twitter is the world’s top video game.





Download audio: https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/audio.wnyc.org/notetoself/notetoself062117_cms758763_pod.mp3
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marmalade
4 days ago
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Sussex, UK
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Rock Sculptures Suspended Within Bell Jars by Their Own Weight by Dan Grayber

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Cavity Mechanism #12 w/ Glass Dome. 2013. Mixed. 23″ x 13″ x 13″. All images via Dan Grayber.

Dan Grayber‘s works exist at the intersection of sculpture and physics, pieces carefully designed to solve the problems created by their own existence. The sculptures each include a rock suspended within a glass enclosure, the rock’s weight perfectly balanced by the mechanisms, systems, and pulleys that surround it.

Grayber relates this play of tension and balance to personal relationships, which serves as another influence to his work outside of visual interests in industrial design, construction machinery, and the children’s game Cat’s Cradle.

Cavity Mechanism #6, from 2009, [seen below] is one of the most obvious pieces to speak about interpersonal relationships that I’ve made,” said Grayber to Venison Magazine. “There are two identical mechanisms inside of a glass display dome, and one small cable that runs between the two mechanisms. This cable holds all of the tension between the two mechanisms, and they both need to remain in place to maintain the tension. I was really thinking about co-dependence when I made the piece. If either mechanism were to slip, or the connection between them to break, it would cause both to fail.”

You can see more of Grayber’s experiments in equilibrium on his Instagram and Facebook. (via Boing Boing and Makezine)

Cavity Mechanism #21. 2016. Mixed. 13" x 14" x 14".

Cavity Mechanism #21. 2016. Mixed. 13″ x 14″ x 14″

Cavity Mechanism #24. 2016. Mixed. 13.5" x 6.5" x 6.5".

Cavity Mechanism #24. 2016. Mixed. 13.5″ x 6.5″ x 6.5″

Cavity Mechanism #18. 2015. Mixed. 11" x 5" x 5"

Cavity Mechanism #18. 2015. Mixed. 11″ x 5″ x 5″

Cavity Mechanism #23. 2016. Mixed. 7.5" x 5" x 5"

Cavity Mechanism #23. 2016. Mixed. 7.5″ x 5″ x 5″

Display Case Mechanism #6. 2016. Mixed. 24.5" x 16" x 11"

Display Case Mechanism #6. 2016. Mixed. 24.5″ x 16″ x 11″

Display Case Mechanism #6. 2016. Mixed. 24.5" x 16" x 11"

Display Case Mechanism #6. 2016. Mixed. 24.5″ x 16″ x 11″

Cavity Mechanism #20. 2016. Mixed. 29.5" x 12" x 12".

Cavity Mechanism #20. 2016. Mixed. 29.5″ x 12″ x 12″

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marmalade
6 days ago
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Sussex, UK
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Space Cats

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Space Cats

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marmalade
6 days ago
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Someone actually went to the trouble of compiling this collection of cats in Sci-Fi art.
Sussex, UK
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Awesome NLP tutorials by Allison Parrish

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I love fun programming tutorials, and I love the Jupyter notebook for showing how to do cool Python stuff. So I was really happy this morning when I saw Allison Parrish (who makes a lot of delightful computer-generated language art) post these tutorials she’s written (which mostly use the Jupyter notebook) about how to parse and generate English text this morning!

First, some links to cool stuff Allison has done:

And now the tutorials! To start, there’s this a basic intro to working with CSV files in Python (which is extremely useful, but I know that.

Here are the links to the 4 tutorials I was really excited about if you just want the links and don’t care what I have to say about them :)

Text generation

First! Suppose you want to generate random text, like “I’m a banana, not a cucumber”. You could do this by writing like "I'm a %s, not a %s" % ("banana", "cucumber"), but you’ll run into problems fast because it’s “I’m an apple”, not “I’m a apple”.

It turns out that there’s a cool library called Tracery to help you with text generation. Allison has 2 cool tutorials about Tracery:

Parsing text with spaCy

The next tutorial is NLP concepts with spaCy. Basically you can take a sentence or paragraph and parse it to figure out what it means! Some example of stuff she explains how to figure out:

Where the sentences are Whether a word is a verb or a noun or what Identify more complicated grammar constructs like the “prepositional phrases” (‘with reason and conscience’, ‘towards one another’)

She linked to some examples of how to use spacy. I ran the “what they’re doing” example on Pride and Prejudice and it wrote out:

Hurst is returning
Bingley is blaming
Collins is coming
Darcy is viewing
Bingley is providing
Wickham is caring
Darcy is viewing
Lady is remaining
Hill is coming

So it seems to have done a good job of identifying the characters in Pride and Prejudice! Neat!

Previously the NLP library I’d heard about was NLTK, and she has this very useful note in the tutorial:

(Traditionally, most NLP work in Python was done with a library called NLTK. NLTK is a fantastic library, but it’s also a writhing behemoth: large and slippery and difficult to understand. Also, much of the code in NLTK is decades out of date with contemporary practices in NLP.)

Understanding word vectors

Ok, the next tutorial is Understanding word vectors

The cool thing I learned from this is that you can programmatically “average” words like ‘day’ and ‘night’ to end up with ‘evening’! You can also figure out which animals are similar and all kinds of really cool stuff. I didn’t know that you could do this, if you want to know more you should read the excellent tutorial.

Fun building blocks for doing text experiments!

I think these 3 things (tracery for generating sentences, spacy for parsing text, and spacy (again) for seeing which words are similar to each other) seem like a super awesome way to get started with playing with text!

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marmalade
6 days ago
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It's about a year since I did anything with Jupyter and Python. This makes me want to do more :)
Sussex, UK
glenn
6 days ago
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Waterloo, Canada
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Legendary Cosmologist Martin Rees on Science, Religion, and the Future of Post-Human Intelligence

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“Fundamental physics shows how hard it is for us to grasp even the simplest things in the world. That makes you quite skeptical whenever someone declares he has the key to some deeper reality.”


Legendary Cosmologist Martin Rees on Science, Religion, and the Future of Post-Human Intelligence

“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire,” trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell observed in contemplating science, religion, and our conquest of truth at the end of the nineteenth century. “If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed,” Carl Sagan wrote a century later in his exquisite meditation on science and spirituality. And yet the longing for stable answers and thorough understanding — or, as Hannah Arendt memorably framed it, the propensity for asking unanswerable questions — might be one of the hallmarks of our species. After all, for as long as modern science has existed, scientists have attempted to answer such unanswerable questions by trying to either reconcile science and religion, like Galileo did in defending his theories against the Inquisition and Ada Lovelace did in considering the interconnectedness of the universe, or at least to relegate them to different realms of inquiry.

Adding to the canon of these meditations is the celebrated English cosmologist and astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees — the last European court astronomer in his position as Astronomer Royal to the House of Windsor and science adviser to the Queen of England.

Sir Martin Rees

In We Are All Stardust: Leading Scientists Talk About Their Work, Their Lives, and the Mysteries of Our Existence (public library) — Austrian physicist, essayist, and science journalist Stefan Klein’s fantastic compendium of interviews, which also gave us Nobel-winning physicist Steven Weinberg on simplicity, complexity, and the unity of the universe — Rees reflects on his rather unusual entry point into the question of science and spirituality:

I was brought up as a member of the Church of England and simply follow the customs of my tribe. The church is part of my culture; I like the rituals and the music. If I had grown up in Iraq, I would go to a mosque… It seems to me that people who attack religion don’t really understand it. Science and religion can coexist peacefully — although I don’t think they have much to say to each other. What I would like best would be for scientists not even to use the word “God.” … Fundamental physics shows how hard it is for us to grasp even the simplest things in the world. That makes you quite skeptical whenever someone declares he has the key to some deeper reality… I know that we don’t yet even understand the hydrogen atom — so how could I believe in dogmas? I’m a practicing Christian, but not a believing one.

The central problem of religious dogma, of course, is that the mythology of “God” offers a single cohesive story that contends to explain all of “Creation” — a theory that claims its truthfulness not by empirical evidence but by insistent assertion. In a sentiment that calls to mind Sagan’s abiding wisdom on the vital balance between skepticism and openness, Rees illustrates how the scientist regards a theory:

I find it irrational to become attached to one theory. I prefer to let different ideas compete like horses in a race and watch which one wins.

Art by Derek Dominic D’souza for Song of Two Worlds, physicist Alan Lightman’s epic poem about science and the unknown

When asked whether he believes that scientists make more intelligent decisions as citizens, Rees responds:

[Scientists] bring a special perspective to things. For example, as an astrophysicist, I’m used to thinking in terms of extremely long periods of time. For many people, the year 2050 is distant enough to seem unimaginably far away. I, however, am constantly aware that we’re the result of four billion years of evolution — and that the future of the earth will last at least as long. When you always have in mind how many generations might follow us, you take a different attitude toward many questions of the present. You realize how much is at stake.

With an eye to the progress and peril that human civilization has wrought, Rees considers the prospective evolutionary future of a post-human intelligence:

We humans of the present are certainly not the summit of Creation. Species more intelligent than us will inhabit the earth. They might even appear quite soon. These days evolution is no longer driven by slow natural development, as Darwin described it, but by human culture. So a post-human intelligence might be made by us ourselves. And I hope that our successors have a better understanding of the world.

Complement this particular portion of the thoroughly invigorating We Are All Stardust — which includes conversations with such titans of science as primatologist Jane Goodall, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and geographer Jared Diamond — with Freeman Dyson on the unanswerable questions that give meaning to the universe, Simone de Beauvoir on the spiritual rewards of atheism, and Alan Lightman’s poetic ode to science and the unknown.


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marmalade
6 days ago
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Sussex, UK
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laughingsquid:Little Girl in Car Seat Waits for the Beat to Drop...

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laughingsquid:

Little Girl in Car Seat Waits for the Beat to Drop in ‘Uptown Funk’ Before Dancing up a Storm

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marmalade
10 days ago
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Pure joy.
Sussex, UK
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