Filtered for things I learned over the weekend

17.53, Tuesday 17 Oct 2017


Computers can be trained to see. But they don’t necessarily fixate on the features humans see.

Adversarial Machine Learning is a technique to change an image to be recognised as something else, without looking any different to humans.

For example: a panda that - with the right fuzz of pixels added to it - looks to the computer 99.3% like a gibbon.

A hack: adversarial stop signs.

the team was able to create a stop sign that just looks splotchy or faded to human eyes but that was consistently classified by a computer vision system as a Speed Limit 45 sign.

Examples are given.


Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology:

puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally – plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example.

Things from their own perspective.

A desk telephone, from its own perspective, is constructed to entice (a curve of a handle, buttons that want to be pushed) to feed on sound. To be nourished by sound. And with that consumed energy, to reach out across the world and touch - out of an infinity of destinations and through the tangle - one other. And to breath in relief at this connection, a sigh: another voice.


The Ethics of Mars Exploration, an interview with Lucianne Walkowicz:

it remains a fact that Mars is a place unto its own that has its own history, and what respect do we owe to that history? What rights does that history have?

Which makes me ask this:

Yes I believe there’s a human imperative to go to Mars; yes I believe it has to be done in an inclusive way; yes space mustn’t be about resource exploitation, a cosmic Gestell; yes potential life on Mars must be preserved.

But also, what Walkowicz said, the land, the land, the land.

I hike, and the land has an intrinsic right to be itself. But I also believe in the human experience of the land, that this is a component of meaning: so, paths? When you walk the trails of the American south west, you come to understand that the trail-makers are poets, giving the land a voice to sing through human experience: effort, surprise, endurance, revelation, breathlessness.

So there should be trails on Mars too.

Which makes me think this:

Who is working to understand this interplay of the subjectivity of the land, and the human gaze, right now? Not necessarily on Mars.

Landscape artists - landscape photographers - do this well.

And that’s a process that, for Mars, could start today.

There is Mars exploration via rover right now. The rovers, of course, have cameras. Do they have landscape photographers on the team? Are those artists given reign to look, be, and create?

Why Hasn’t David Hockney Been Given The Keys To The Mars Rover Yet.


A list of interstellar radio messages. That is, ones we’ve transmitted, not ones we’ve received.

The first one, from 1962, in Morse code: MIR LENIN SSSR Sent to Venus.

A more recent one, A Simple Response to an Elemental Message, was transmitted in October 2016 and comprised 3,755 crowdsourced responses to the question How will our present, environmental interactions shape the future? It was transmitted towards Polaris and will take 434 years to arrive. (Then another 434 years to hear back.)

The Golden Record is not a radio transmission but a physical item, copies of which were placed on Voyagers 1 and 2 in 1977, includes pictures, sounds, music, and greetings in 55 languages including, in Amoy, spoken in southern China, these words:

Friends of space, how are you all? Have you eaten yet? Come visit us if you have time.

Which I hope desperately isn’t misinterpreted as offering humanity up for lunch.

Voyager 1 will make a flyby of a star in 40,000 years. Star AC +79 3888 is 17.6 lightyears away, so the earliest we will receive a radio message back is in 40,017.6 years. We should remember to listen out for that. Year 42,034. June.

The Rosetta Project is an archive of all the world’s languages by the Long Now Foundation, and is intended to be a code for future civilisations to unlock… what? An archive that we leave behind.

Over the weekend I heard it asked:

Who is keeping an archive of all the messages we send into space, and how will that archive be maintained? We won’t receive an answer from the stars, if any, for hundreds or maybe tens of thousands of years.

If, when, we receive a reply saying YES then how will we know what it’s a YES about?

My weekend

I spent the weekend at Kickstarter HQ in Brooklyn for PWL Camp 2017 – a 48 hour, 200 person unconference where the agenda is created by the attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Anyone who wants to initiate a discussion on a topic can claim a time and a space.

Tons of great conversations. A very open, generous, and talented crowd. My notebook is full but mostly incomprehensible. The above are four things that came up. I’m grateful for having been invited.

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