Posts tagged “singularity”

ChittahChattah Quickies’s ‘Genome’ Predicts What Paintings You Will Like [Wired] – Although the article deals more with the carefully controlled art market, I’m mostly intrigued by this quantitative translation of the ineffable. Pandora is a successful proof of concept (though I suppose we might debate it’s ability to deliver on it’s promise); I am waiting for the donut genome project and its recommendation engine. [Hah. Mere seconds after posting, I come upon this. Pretty close!]

On its screen, the Warhol painting-that is, the phone’s rendering of the laptop’s picture of the painting-was now surrounded by tiny thumbnails of other artwork, painted or made by diverse artists and dating from multiple eras, including the present day. According to, these works all share the same DNA, so to speak. Cleveland and a team of art historians have spent the past year studying thousands of works and compiling a list of their distinct and measurable elements. The result is the Art Genome, composed at present of more than 550 “genes”: attributes of fine art that range from the simply factual (the medium, the color palette) to the undeniably subjective (the “movement” a work falls into, or its “subject matter”). Using these attributes,’s recommendation engine can evaluate a piece on the fly and suggest relationships with other works, presenting those results on any device-even, eventually, a phone.

Saving Humanity from Homo Sapiens [] – Just from a cultural collision perspective, I like the conflation of techno-nihilism and not-for-profit advocacy. Two great tastes!

The greatest threats to humanity lie in technologies humans have invented. From the danger of nuclear war or catastrophic global warming to the looming threat of future technologies such as self-replicating nanobots and powerful artificial intelligence, SHfHS is dedicated to finding ways to ensure that humanity continues to progress without snuffing ourselves out along the way. There are people trying to do the good work of saving humanity from potentially destroying itself, but they need our help. That’s what Saving Humanity from Homo Sapiens is all about: finding the people doing the best work to prevent man-made X-Risk and supporting them. You can help.

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot [Dirty 30s!] – Once again, art reduced to a formula. Here, there’s no pretense that doing so remains within the realm of art. In general, I find these deconstructions fascinating as artifacts, whether or not they produce quality output.

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words. No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell. The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.

Here’s how it starts:


One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.

A different murder method could be–different. Thinking of shooting, knifing, hydrocyanic, garroting, poison needles, scorpions, a few others, and writing them on paper gets them where they may suggest something. Scorpions and their poison bite? Maybe mosquitos or flies treated with deadly germs?

To thwart porn, colleges are buying up .xxx sites [AP] – The introduction of new domain suffixes means new flavors of pre-emptive domains. It was amusing more than a decade ago when companies like (say) Starbucks bought (or battled over) domains like (say) The likely misappropriations of a college brand are slightly different, a this story reveals.

The University of Kansas is buying up website names such as and But not because it’s planning a Hot Babes of Kansas site or an X-rated gallery of the Nude Girls of the Land of Aaahs. Instead, the university and countless other schools and businesses are rushing to prevent their good names from falling into the hands of the pornography industry. Over the past two months, they have snapped up tens of thousands of “.xxx” website names that could be exploited by the adult entertainment business. “Down the road there’s no way we can predict what some unscrupulous entrepreneur might come up with,” said Paul Vander Tuig, trademark licensing director at the Lawrence, Kan., school.

Vinge Binge

Months ago Troy Worman posted a tip where he suggested that I write something about the Singularity.

“What If the Singularity Does NOT Happen?” Vernor Vinge, Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, San Francisco, 7pm, Thursday, February 15. The lecture starts promptly at 7:30pm. Admission is free (a $10 donation is always welcome, not required).

Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge invented the concept that dominates thinking about technology these days. He called it “the Singularity”— the idea that technology (computer tech, biotech, nanotech) is now accelerating so exponentially that it will lead to a massive, irreversible, and profoundly unpredictable transformation of humanity by mid-century.

This Thursday evening Vinge will challenge his own idea for the first time: “I have some plausible, non-singularity scenarios that get us into a human-scale world with long time horizons. I’ll describe the near-term peculiarities I see for such scenarios and then discuss what such a world might be like across ten or twenty thousand years. Finally, I’d like to talk about dangers and defenses related to these scenarios.”

Put on by The Long Now Foundation, with info on seminars (and downloads of previous ones) here. We saw one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen – Will Wright and Brian Eno – at a previous Long Now Seminar.

A few months ago I read The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge. Now, I grew up reading Golden Age science fiction (Asimov, and others who I can no longer name on a whim), and then moved into Heinlein, Silverberg and the like. I read those books when I was young and the books were old. Even if Heinlein was challenging sexual mores (i.e., Time Enough For Love), it was more about the novel than the ideas for me. The ideas seemed secondary. Maybe I just liked stories about robots, spaceships, and planets.

This changed for me about 10 years ago when I read Snow Crash, a book that took the ideas of right now (or right then) and played with them, taking some things to an extreme, but always with a clear line back to today. Given a lifetime of reading science fiction, this was a sea change. Indeed, much of the sci-fi I’ve read or watched since then has been along those lines (just like I posted yesterday).

But where’s that balance between being a visionary and being a storyteller? I tried to read Accelerando a few months back, but the story merely served as a carrier for the torrent of ideas/social commentary Charlie Stross wanted us to think about. It was fun for the first 50 pages, trying to keep up with it all, enjoying the stimulation, but after that it started to get annoying, then ultimately untenable. I hurled the book across the room, giving up in frustration.

Vinge’s collection of stories didn’t provoke such a strong reaction, and I was easily able to finish it. But it left me cold. The older stories seem more about current ideas, now dated, and less about the characters and the plot. I didn’t care about most of it and I couldn’t connect with most of it. Only the most recent story had any cultural or technological currency (in both senses of the word) and was therefore entertaining to read.

Obviously much of this has to do with where I’m at in engaging with the world when I come across these stories. Comments or ideas about culture are obviously more resonant than when I was 10. But I wonder if this is always how science fiction was read and written, or if the landscape has changed?


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