Nominate Joshua Harris for Director of MIT!

Paul Raven @ 02-12-2010

Okay, here’s something of a guest-post. I got a message a few days ago from someone who I’m reasonably convinced is actually Joshua Harris – subject of the movie We Live In Public, which I mentioned a while ago. Why am I convinced that this out-of-the-blue contact is from the actual Josh Harris and not some imposter pulling my leg? Well, I don’t think an imposter could pull off the degree of chutzpah on display here; you see, Joshua Harris wants me – and all of the rest of you, too – to nominate him for the post of Director at MIT’s Media Lab.

No, seriously. Here’s his message to you, verbatim:

dear futurismic readers:

my name is josh harris and i build human chicken factories of the future (or what i call The Wired City).  the idea is to build the future out as far in advance as possible NOW so that we will gain perspective on the world that we are walking into 15 years from now.

i figure any loyalish futurismic reader can extrapolate where The Wired City is headed so i’ll leave that to your imagination and comments.  if elected as the new Director of the MIT Media Lab i promise to hear any and all futurismic reader ideas and suggestions.

read/view the links below, if it what i am saying makes sense to you then by all means please nominate me for Director of the MIT Media Lab.  and pass the word along.

sincerely,

josh harris candidate – Director, MIT Media Lab

Here’s some contextual content for you to browse through, as supplied by Harris himself:

(For my money, the TechCrunch link at the top is the one that’ll get you up to speed quickest.)

And here’s the blurb from a one-sheet run-down on the Wired City project:

THE WIRED CITY

(The Internet Television Network)

The Wired City (TWC) orchestrates millions of hours of audience “self surveillance” into a hierarchical system that generates compelling broadcast and netcast quality programming.

Key production elements of The Wired City include:

  • Real-time chat video switching (next generation social graph).
  • 24/7 netcasting studios that efficiently process mass data signals generated by the audience.
  • Massive multiplayer online gaming element (winning audience members get to live on set and get special powers and privileges).
  • Hollywood style production values produced by and for netcasting audiences.
  • Hearts and minds.  Audience members are letting each other into their homes and lives (the camera is turned on them).
  • Bonafication.  Audience members get their 15 minutes of fame every day.
  • 1 million hours of net generated programming is distilled into one hour of prime time broadcast programming, every day.

Key commerce elements of The Wired City include:

  • Micro aggregation of mass audiences returning broadcast quality CPM revenues.
  • A more direct relationship/bond between audience and sponsors.
  • Coordination of mass audiences as tastemakers and influencers generates traction with sponsors.

Relevant Professional Background – Josh Harris

  • CEO – Operator11 Exchange Corporation (2006 – 2007): Web 3.0 Internet television network.
  • We Live In Public, LLC (2000 -2001): Art project designed to dramatically produce home surveillance (subsequent film won Sundance Grand Jury Prize for documentary in 2009).
  • Quiet (1999): Art project as net studio prototype of The Wired City (compared to Truman Capote’s “Black and White Party” by MOMA NYC).
  • CEO and Founder Pseudo Programs, Inc. (1994 -1998): Internet television network.
  • CEO and Founder Jupiter Communications (1986 – 1994): Internet research and consulting (went public 1999).

And here’s the MIT action that Harris wants to combine with his Wired City idea: a computer system that can precisely identify mouse behaviour patterns from camera footage. In real-time.

If you have no idea who Joshua Harris is, then I’d suggest you should find out; his is a pretty fascinating story, whichever way you look at it. Those of you who do know who he is are either thinking “hell yeah, give the guy the job!” or “giving him that job would be madness of the highest order”… or possibly both at once, which is the camp in which I find myself. There’s no doubt at all that Harris is a loose cannon of prodigious proportions, but it’s also impossible to deny that he saw the rise of the soc-net participatory panopticon and the ultimate ethical outer limits of “reality” television programming long before either actually existed, and he made that vision an undiluted (and pretty terrifying) reality.

He’s a smart guy, possibly dangerously so, but it’s dangerous intelligence that has the best chance of thinking outside the cliches and seeing the futures that we don’t want to imagine; partner Harris with the MIT boffins to regulate the more extreme ethical weirdness, and The Wired City could be a crucial experimental window into our ubicomp-everyware-lifelogged near-future, a Stanford Prison Experiment for the twenty-teens… not to mention a form of reality television more deserving of the name.

I have no idea whether MIT would even honour a mass nomination of Harris to the directorship of the Media Lab or not… but I went and nominated the guy anyway, because I’m a sucker for visionary outliers, and because discovering the surprisingly unknown story of the Quiet project totally blew my mind. If you’re a sucker for mad genius too, or if you think we should be experimenting more boldly with the effects of complete mediation of the human experience, maybe you should nominate him too.

To nominate Joshua Harris for Director of MIT’s Media Lab, go to this webpage, enter your own information as nominator, and the following for Harris as nominee:

  • Name: Joshua Harris
  • Phone:  310 801-2294
  • Email: mjluvvy@gmail.com

[ Yes, I am taking this at face value; no, this is not a joke post. ]


Singularity lacking in motivation

Tom James @ 09-09-2009

motivationMIT neuroengineer Edward Boyden has been speculating as to whether the singularity requires the machine-equivalent of what humans call “motivation”:

I think that focusing solely on intelligence augmentation as the driver of the future is leaving out a critical part of the analysis–namely, the changes in motivation that might arise as intelligence amplifies. Call it the need for “machine leadership skills” or “machine philosophy”–without it, such a feedback loop might quickly sputter out.

We all know that intelligence, as commonly defined, isn’t enough to impact the world all by itself. The ability to pursue a goal doggedly against obstacles, ignoring the grimness of reality (sometimes even to the point of delusion–i.e., against intelligence), is also important.

This brings us back to another Larry Niven trope. In the Known Space series the Pak Protector species (sans spoilers) is superintelligent, but utterly dedicated to the goal of protecting their young. As such Protectors are incapable of long-term co-operation because individual protectors will always seek advantage only for their own gene-line. As such the Pak homeworld is in a state of permanent warfare.

This ties in with artificial intelligence: what good is being superintelligent if you aren’t motivated to do anything, or if you are motivated solely to one, specific task? This highlights one of the basic problems with rationality itself: Humean intrumental rationality implies that our intellect is always the slave of the passions, meaning that we use our intelligence to achieve our desires, which are predetermined and beyond our control.

But as economist Chris Dillow points out in this review of the book Animal Spirits, irrational behaviour can be valuable. Artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and writers may create things with little rational hope of reward but – thankfully for the rest of society – they do it anyway.

And what if it turns out that any prospective superintelligent AIs wake up and work out that it isn’t worth ever trying to do anything, ever?

[via Slashdot, from Technology Review][image from spaceshipbeebe on flickr]


Brain control with light: neuroengineering at MIT

Tom James @ 02-03-2009

Just a nod to a must-read article at Wired on the new1 technology of neuroengineering:

Boyden directs MIT’s Neuroengineering and Neuromedia Lab, part of the MIT Media Lab. He explains the mission of neuroengineering this way: “If we take seriously the idea that our minds are implemented in the circuits of our brains, then it becomes a top priority to understand how to engineer brains for the better.”

Here, neuroscience is not merely studied, it is applied. Which is why we’re off again, to see the molecular engineer’s microscope, the viral growing area, and the machine where they cut micron-thin slices of mouse brains in order to evaluate what changes they’ve made using the rest of the equipment.

This video illustrates one of the most potentially disruptive technologies ever:

1:Although the article points out that, depending on how far you expand the definition, human beings have been “neuroengineering” for all history.


Pulp-based computing

Edward Willett @ 23-09-2007

Computer chip embedded in paper In computers, we have software and hardware. Jokingly, the human brain is sometimes called wetware. Up next: pulpware!

OK, technically it’s hardware–wires, sensors and computer chips–embedded in paper or cardboard. A spiral of conductive ink can be a speaker, or a touch sensor. Two layers, and a page can tell when it is being bent. Among the possible creations are books that talk or light up when their pages are turned (personally, I can’t think of anything more annoying!), or boxes that can tell you how much their content weighs. (Maybe with voice messages. "Don’t even try it, buddy! I’m a hernia-in-waiting!")

The project was outlined at the recent International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Innsbruck, Austria. Here’s a video of the production process and some applications. Here’s the original paper. And here’s the research project’s website.

(Via New Scientist Tech.)

(Photo from MIT.)

[tags]computers, MIT, technology, paper[/tags]


Researchers Identify Fear Enzyme

Jeremiah Tolbert @ 16-07-2007

Researchers working out of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have identified an enzyme, Cdk5, that can inhibit in rats to prevent learned fear responses. The research has practical applications in the areas of phobia and post traumatic stress treatment. This is just the latest in a series of research in the neurosciences that are leading to a near-complete mastery of how we feel and even what we think. A future is possible in which our descendants will look back at us in amazement that we ever felt an emotion that we didn’t wish to feel.


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