Tag Archives: communication

It’s alive! – BT looking to artificial life

rhizomeQ: What do the Nuer, social insects, and BT have in common?

A: The first two are organised along acephalous (‘headless’) principles, while researchers working for the third have begun to hail the advantages of following suit.

At this week’s Artificial Life XI conference in Winchester, BT researchers explained how ‘[i]nsights from artificial life could soon be helping run [the firm’s] networks’

“If we look at the biological world, there is a huge amount of change, complexity, and adaptation,” said former biologist Paul Marrow who works in BT’s Broadband Applications Research Centre.

“These artificial life ideas are a very useful source of inspiration as the products and services we provide become increasingly complex and demanding in terms of resources.

In stark contrast to the heirarchical structures of traditional network architecture,

BT hopes to tap the secrets of another of life’s defining features called self-organisation

“With self-organisation, you have very simple rules governing individual units that together perform a bigger task – a typical example is ant colonies,” said Fabrice Saffre, principal researcher at BT’s Pervasive ICT Research Centre.

The simplicity of the rules makes for less computation, and therefore is easier on the network. “It’s a very economical solution – especially for problems that are very dynamic. Anything you can do with self-organisation is basically a ‘free lunch’,” said Dr Saffre.

Mmm … rhizomatic! 🙂

[story via the BBC / image by kevindooley, via flickr / for more on the Nuer, see the work of anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard]


This month’s story comes from Kristin Janz, who took a rather different approach to narrative structure; “Veritas Nos Liberabit” is a story told in emails about how emails can tell stories.

So read on, and don’t forget to leave Kristin some feedback in the comments at the bottom. Enjoy!

Veritas Nos Liberabit

by Kristin Janz

From: jess hentzchel <jessicahentzchel@gmail.com>
Sent: August 1, 20__ (12:42 a.m., EDT)
To: Amy Pearson <apearson@eslpharm.com>
Subject: Dancing bear – kind of funny (fwd)
Attachments: dancingbear.gif

Amy – Check out the dancing bear, it’s sort of cute.


From: Amy Pearson <apearson@eslpharm.com>
Sent: August 1, 20__ (9:23 a.m., EDT)
To: jess hentzchel <jessicahentzchel@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Dancing bear – kind of funny (fwd)

This isn’t like you, Jess. Forwarding cute animated graphics of anthropomorphic predators? What next, angel poetry penned by senile old ladies in the Midwest? Or – heaven forbid – “Footprints”?

So it’s official. David is getting divorced. I overheard him telling Vikram in the cafeteria this morning.



From: Jonathan Lu <jlu@eslpharm.com>
Sent: August 1, 20__ (9:31 a.m., EDT)
To: Amy Pearson <apearson@eslpharm.com>
CC: Medicinal Chemistry

Subject: Re: Dancing bear – kind of funny (fwd)

> Jonathan – Check out the dancing bear, it’s sort of cute.

Amy, why you send this to me? I don’t know what it means, Veritas Nos Liberabit. It is French?


Continue reading VERITAS NOS LIBERABIT by Kristin Janz

"Mind-reading" machines beginning to appear

RobertFuddBewusstsein17Jh A neckband that picks up nerve signals and translates them into speech has been demonstrated for the first time. (Via NewScientistTech.)

With training, a user can send nerve signals to their vocal cords without making a sound that the neckband picks up and relays wirelessly to a computer, which then converts them into words spoken by a voice synthesizer.

This same device has been used to let people control wheelchairs using their thoughts.

Currently the system, called Audeo, can only recognize a limited set of about 150 words and phrases, but by the end of the year there’s supposed to be an improved version without a vocabulary limit. Although it will be slower–it’s based on phonemes, not whole words–it will allow people to say whatever they want, and should be a boon to people who have lost the ability to speak due to disease or injury.

It’s not the only “mind-reading” technology that’s been in the news recently, either. Researchers at the University of California have developed a system that uses functional MRI data to decode information from the visual cortex. Using it, the scientists were able to figure out which of more than 100 previously unseen photographs subjects were looking at.

What lies at the end of that road? Possibly the ability to access dreams and memories–assuming the way the brain processes dreams is analogous to visual stimuli.

And then there’s the “mind-reading” car that monitors a driver’s brain activity and reduces the amount of information displayed on the dash during stressful periods. In tests, the system has speeded up driver’s reactions by as much as 100 milliseconds–equivalent to reducing braking distance by nearly three metres at 100 kilometres per hour.

The phrase “I know what you’re thinking” has thus far only been addressed by one human to another, and only in a metaphorical sense.

Someday soon, our machines could make it literal.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]technology, brain, telepathy, communication[/tags]

The Tipping Point toppled?

Seesaw Being the sort of well-informed netizens you are, I expect you’re familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” hypothesis, widely believed to be the cutting-edge theory for predicting how trends, fads and fashions propagate. [Image from Wikipedia]

According to Gladwell, fashions are started by “Influentials” – highly visible and well-connected individuals who others look to for the next big thing.

According to Duncan Watts, however, the Tipping Point is so much baloney:

“It just doesn’t work,” Watts says […] “A rare bunch of cool people just don’t have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There’s no there there.”

And this is not, he argues, mere academic whimsy. He has developed a new technique for propagating ads virally, which can double or even quadruple the reach of an ordinary online campaign by harnessing the pass-around power of everyday people–and ignoring Influentials altogether.

Of course, Watts has his rival theory to promote – he’s not telling us this out of some philanthropic urge. But the point is that the business of marketing is probably where we’ll see the next big breakthroughs in understanding human communication as a system.

How the results will be used remains to be seen, of course. [Via The Daily Swarm]