Monday, February 01, 2016

Snowflakes play sudoku

"As a result, the water molecules arrange themselves in predetermined spaces and in a specific arrangement. This process is much like tiling a floor in accordance with a specific pattern: once the pattern is chosen and the first tiles are placed, then all the other tiles must go in predetermined spaces in order to maintain the pattern of symmetry. Water molecules simply arrange themselves to fit the spaces and maintain symmetry; in this way, the different arms of the snowflake are formed." 
Scientific American

I have been thinking about economics as a kind of sudoku where we might be looking at the elements in a system and figuring out the best way to have balance and diversity. Snowflakes doing it of their own accord seems inspiring and hopeful.

Radical Human Ecology: Intercultural and Indigenous Approaches

Searching google for sudoku and ecology lead me to this book which reminds me that abstractions can be tidy but irrelevant when dealing with real ecologies and communities. So perhaps it is the process of inclusion, balance and diversity in sudoku rather than the specifics of it that I find interesting, that it has a different intent than chess or monopoly, which seems helpful. Then it is the spirit of the people and the ecology or their real dynamics that give expression to that approach and produce a living snowflake? a web of life?

Where we look at our context and see each other and what we can individually or collaboratively contribute, share, use, create?  Like the farmers who took hay to Queensland.The lifesaver who went to Greece. Firefighting volunteers. Homeless laundry. Gumtree is a bit like this, redbubble, etsy, or ebay in the retail sense. but perhaps it could work for things like power networks and load balancing from houses with solar, wind farms, energy storage, tidal ? Could we redistribute flood v drought with enough subtlety to keep the ecologies we have in tact?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


the hundred legged tree is walking again
reaching through the tides and soft silt

deep in the ocean
a swathe of networked jellyfish
pulse with data

anenomes shift latitudes to cooler water
sighing in colour
and the sea slug harvests algae
to run photosynthesis
beginning the long journey
back to equilibrium

on land the wind blows through empty cities
the creatures of the sea have seen this cycle many times
adapting to the climate left behind
by the last species to stand apart and war
until there was nothing left to lose

plankton ever ready to adapt
find a nutrient cascade in the acidic sea
shift their appetite and chemistry
and found a new epoch.

they are all authored here
even if the transients
shout loud declarations of dominion
before they fold
another wave on the shore

inspired by Mary Oliver
and prompted by dverse poets

Monday, January 11, 2016


I was active and played netball and loved swimming.
A couple of trophies for trying, nothing amazing, but I enjoyed myself.
Then wheelchair time. The frustration of having to proxy intention.
And now. The beginnings of independence again.

They brought together the wearable chair, new thinking on muscles and adaptive power generation, and mental device control. So now I have a partial exoskeleton, which comes to me in the morning.
I roll into it and it hangs on. I am still getting the hang of getting in just the right position
so sometimes we have to twist a bit after we stand up.

But now I can dress, shower, eat, cook, walk and I am learning to ride an exercise bike.
Hoping that if I can feel really comfortable with it I can have a go on the road.

The energy system uses backscatter, solar, heat difference and ammonia,
the tension in the muscles contributes to storage and moves it through the system.

The next generation is probably going to be a combination of spinal muscle and nerve recovery coupled with augmented tech for strength. I want to try hang gliding. =)
But, for now, I am happy to be spontaneous and independent.


I am programming the skeleton and to experiment with new kinds of energy.
Using an ammonia bank and an external muscle mass I can power a quadcopter mentally and fly like a bird. Tweaking the right balance of weight and power. We meet at the park and experiment with flying in flocks. Different people are using different kinds of tech so there is plenty to learn.

Next steps

Chairless chair

Synthetic Muscles

Personal EEG

Ambient backscatter energy

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Technology and intent

This post is a response to Paul Fenwick's presentation at PLUG:

The future is awesome by Paul Fenwick

Some thoughts on technology and intent


Response to Marc Goodman talk at Google
which I think suggests the wrong approach to security:

It takes as a given that we are strategically opposed to each other, individuals, communities, companies. That is the flaw in our approach to technologies. Aspiring to a digital Manhattan project - even naming something that as something to aspire to - is sociopathic?

Crowdsourcing enmity with technology is similarly dysfunctional.
There is no reason that drug traders would not use the same system to their advantage.

Not really a personal criticism, it is a systemic criticism.
I think it is a consistent intent which comes from our oppositional economics.


Same intent issues on Aspen's Deep Dive on Technology.

Issues including right to be forgotten v freedom of information, technological solutions which do not fit the needs to developing communities, 'fiduciary' control of internet content, the householder v fridge issues of the Internet of Things. They are all the same intent problem.

I acknowledge that the instinct that some indigenous people had about photographs being dangerous and taking something from them can happen in an internet context where the person as a meme becomes louder and more durable than the person themselves and their movement beyond that moment. I think it is the oppositional context that makes it a problem. We are likely to have more nuanced tools for this when we shift frames of intention. To be interested in ideas and opportunities rather than fails. Schadenfreude is an apt description for some of the stuff that happens now. I don't think we would need that in a different kind of value structure.

'Fiduciary' control of internet content is a single point of failure and conceived within an oppositional frame. It would be better to design tools that enable people to filter their own content and preferences, to be able to step out of those viewpoints and see from an open or alternative view, to have privacy with tools that have systemic integrity, because if the people are not our enemy we can relax and focus on other priorities.

The householder v fridge(as instance of agency of manufacturer or network provider) issues of the Internet of Thing are again inward looking, extractive, divisive. Really it is an internet of *agency* and needs to be talked about re who's agency is decisive at any given point in time. Copyright used to be framed specifically to allow people to have 'peace of our possessions'.

I think copyright in its current form has had its day, it is not systemically helpful. It was originally designed in order to justify the large investment that printers outlaid to typeset and print an item. Printing and distribution these days is simple and is probably more efficient as a distributed shared process. Patents similarly have become an obstacle, divisive and obstructive. I think attribution could still be useful, I just think we need to find other ways to support the leading edges of culture and science.

This paper raises interesting issues:

Robert Steele:

Here are my thoughts thus far:

I do not think open everything can be safely implemented in this economic context.
Capitalism as a mechanism is oppositional and concentrates self-interested wealth and power by withdrawing it from the wider context. Oppositional self-interest in an open context puts powerful people at an advantage because they are unlikely to be open and are likely to exploit access to others.
For example open everything using internet of things? Who owns household things? Are they agents of corporate interests or are they personal property? Are those objects at risk of earning massively funded proxy person rights on behalf of companies in opposition to personal domestic rights?
If we want to have open everything we need a shift in the underlying intent of power, and in our thinking about distribution of rights. Win win power would work well with an open context.

I think the problem with the idea of using transactions as the only income for governance is that it is essentially making government feudal because the people with the most transactions to throw around are still the concentrated wealthy. If they withhold or shift the structure for their transactions then people have no capacity for shared self-interest. The ecology is still beholden to current financial transactions and does not have a budget of its own.

Public funds solely based on throwing around individual wealth would not empower ecology or society. If you want ecology and society and therefore individuals to have a sustainable future you have to shift the structures which privilege powerful individuals over those priorities.

It is problematic to focus around cities, for the same feudal reasons. It focuses policy on a city which could be a less helpful structure in a post growth/consumerist context. If we are looking for systems which value all of our ecologies and their interests then we need value systems which can care for ecologies that do not have people in them, on land at sea, and also prioritises people living in small sustainable communities fairly in contrast to urban wealth or interests.

How does open ballotbox work? People voting for best candidates regardless of party does not change things if the delegates vote on party or sponsored lines in office.

The form of liquid democracy that follows people is a problem because it tracks a person's decision trees and their trust relationships which would be a target for coercion and the system could drop votes and blame the candidate.

Could we vote for issues with option to fork a decision if we want a more specific or amended choice? Have others see the fork and have the choice to update their perspective? A system which is an issue tree might be more interesting. Something that could be negotiated.

Cooperative models seem to be good for commons resource management where all the participants have a long term open commitment (Ostrom) and where you do not have people with distorted wealth or power or systemically destructive intentions. ie no capitalist frackers across your district.

The suggestion that the NSA be repurposed to give us decision advice, while hunting for faith and economic traitors sounds partisan and fraught. Snowden, Manning, Assange, Swartz all chose to represent the public interest. It would need everyone else to make that cultural shift.

Security will not be solved with divisive aggressive intent. It is a waste of intelligence and effort we could be spending on climate and ecologically efficient shifts in culture and industry. Once we reframe the goals then we stop seeing each other as a surface area of risk. We need to be focused on getting beyond war and its disregard for the legacy we are (not) saving for future generations.

Our intent and our economics, diplomacy and tools need to be congruent and constructive. The growth of ecologies and healthy environment is the founding profit we need. Healthy societies will help us to achieve those goals. We cannot afford individual profit which works against those interests.

Long life and backups

This post is a response to Paul Fenwick's presentation at PLUG:

The future is awesome by Paul Fenwick

I would love to see technologies which give people who are alive the best agency and active range that is possible. The standing chairs that people are using for factory or surgery work look like they could be helpful for people with leg strength challenges. Liftware is brilliant.

I do get a gut reaction about thinking about humans with infinite life. I had the same gut reaction when they were cloning sheep, and then lost my Lucy dog and wished I could clone her back. I am 51 and have been lucky, but my parents are older now and long life and health have real traction for me now. But my gut is still telling me in both cases that there is a tension between my personal longing for infinite life for the people I love and a healthy cycle of life for a planet.

It feels like Aristotle's bath to me. That my existence has an opportunity cost, and that it should be graciously returned to sender when done so that something else can live. One day bits of me could be a tree or a gecko or a worm. 

Even if we have infinite digital life I feel there is a risk that the cost of maintaining the infrastructure for infinite numbers of infinite lives could have a cost in terms of what other life might be displaced or disadvantaged. If digital lives are read-write then they can be taking on more data and experience and so be infinite in size? Do you only save one instance of an experience if several lives have the same data? Lossy life compression? What does that feel like? People of faith are likely to want to move on so it is likely to be an atheist crew, does that matter? Perhaps the Dalek sewers and Timelord Catacombs have scared me off =)

Perhaps we will be able to provide the growing resources with ease, perhaps it will become a burden. Who has right of way re law or resources, an increasing number of digital lives or the breathing species around them? If they are read-only entities they have a given size and could be seen as a library for future generations? 

Does sentience mean right of way or does the fit in the ecology and the value as a unique species regardless of complexity mean they have value and place. Biopathic gmo's are easy to discount but perhaps there will be some that are not designed for monopoly and toxic agriculture. That fit to an ecology constructively. 

I think we have existing tensions regarding what size human population allows for enough space and resources for each of the other species to coexist. There are a range of perspectives on whether we have that in hand. Perhaps it will be solved with education and agency. But at this point we do still have a growing global population.

We have lost 50% of species are expected to lose all fish by 2048, are clearing rainforest for soap
and fracking our already overdrawn aquifers. In that context I think that aspiring to individual infinite life is probably a bit human centric and person centric?

I am not sure where the middle ground is. I want everyone to live long and prosper. All of us and all species. I think we need to look at our place in the weave of life, get the whole system stable and then think about our capacity to have redundant arrays of self? =)

Jonathan White Keeping Body and Soul Together: Myths of the Near Future


Last night Shona died. A tumor. We let her go.
We hold onto her example of grace and gentleness and persuasive headbutts.

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours. 
Mary Oliver

Friday, January 01, 2016

Future freight

This post is a response to Paul Fenwick's presentation at PLUG:

The future is awesome by Paul Fenwick

Paul is asking about how we define what is a fair trade between accidents and motion, costs and convenience. I think we probably do already have cars designed for intrasafety more than intersafety.
Autonomous traffic represents a generalised decision following the same mode of thinking we apply in other contexts. Some human drivers do road rage, hit and run. We have all kinds of accidents which are not caused by types of vehicles so it would be great to shift that intent regardless of mode of transport?  I think that issue is more systemic than just about driving and applies to a win:lose approach to things including economics and technology more broadly.

Future freight is my imagined future traffic story. In the story modular traffic hooks together to share power costs and reduce drag. We join and fork according to stated intentions re destination. With smooth cooperation rather than anticollision as the intention of the software perhaps we could design safer traffic?


Future freight

I used to be a long haul trucker. Now I am a mobile merchant, trucker, postie, story teller and inventor. We all are really, sometimes specialising in different kinds of materials or specific set of stops along a route. We stop along the way home at towns and with people who are working on technologies we are using so we can learn from each other. There is still some long haul straight through freight which is usually automated unless it is living cargo or a difficult material to transport.

When we travel we hitch with other traffic in the same direction. The load is shared. Sometimes it is the little lock-on trailers of goods that plug into other traffic, and disconnect when they are at their destination. Sometimes it is a package we carry ourselves. Or a hitched convoy of passenger traffic.
Freight is more like postage or courier work, more of a conversation now. We hitch our module into a payload of freight, our vehicle contributing to the power in that chunk of aggregate traffic.

The physical flows are following the online conversations, people comparing food crops, choosing christmas presents, participating in regular exchanges or round robin art and craft networks. Fabrics, printing, clothes and toys. We do still ship universal components for making things locally. People customise their kit to suit specific climates and needs.

If there is handling or assembly required we can stop and help the community pass things into the store or put together a new cooling system. We bring things we have found that we think people would like, and we bring things people have ordered online. We take our own work and collect custom work by others. A lot more hand made and custom production, mixed loads of specific projects from maker to buyer. Wagga Wagga Carmelite Nun's coconut ice, hand carved footy players from Alice Springs, Haiths Chocolate, Beeren Jam, Skaro Meats, Lobethal fabrics.

Speed is less of a pressure now, there is some express freight but mostly people would like things to take the slow run so that their products can be seen and they can see things from their region. This all makes freight much more bespoke than before transition.

I usually travel with two trailers of my own, one with musical instruments and costumes, one with spare parts for people making things, batteries, circuit boards, wiring, parts and new feedstuff for 3d printer/sinters, wood and carving tools, If it is a local run I might take plants or bees.

There are touring medical classes that visit the regional health centres and tourists and collectors exploring the different ranges of things available in each town, touring artisans visit the workshops with specific tools and materials.

Each product has a digital pedigree, ingredients and their sources, maker and location, recipes.
When the product is used the pedigree is updated back upstream to let the contributors know where their work and materials finished up and how any waste is being recycled. It is easy to follow the full cycle and see where one product's end of life reaches a compost heap or fits into the inputs of the next creative flow. People collect items with unique and unusual pedigrees, or items with really sweet healthy flow.

Our perspective on cheap is different now. We don't mind if something takes a bit longer to make, we want things to be precisely how we want them, we want them to last and we want to be able to fix and adapt them. To improve them and redistribute the thinking or the object. I make musical instruments and tools for people with disabilities, specifically tailored for the job and really easy for the person to use and repair. Some people download the general plans, some want the item itself made to suit specific limits.

Cheap is about the ecological footprint and flow from life to life. Low churn, no waste, safe, easy to fix and update, easy to turn into something new. Valuable is partly fit for purpose and partly the opportunities that something brings to think and make and create value. It is really nice to use processes designed to help us be unique and capable again. We all profit from that.


Wildlife bridges.between scrubland crossed by freeways would be helpful for all?
Or underpasses for wombats who are likely to prefer that to heights?

Living collision avoidance

We have had autonomous vehicles with collision avoidance for a long time:
“When you get a little too much to drink, why not ride a horse?” he said, “It’s safer that way. The horse knows the way home.”
Some horse training is designed for the horse's autonomy and confidence.

So a horse is a living sentient mode of travel. There were horse based accidents too but it would be interesting to see how they happened and if they could be avoided?
Donkeys perhaps safer and slower because they are 'surefooted' which means they choose their own concern for safety over the urgency of others(which is why they are called stubborn).
Some folk use cattle, or goats, or dogs, or deer.

I like that it is an inclusive mode of travel. It is a way of engaging with our fellow species rather than excluding them through our economics, much as we increasingly exclude people. I think it would be interesting if we thought about technology not as an opportunity to replace a living thing but perhaps to help us connect better between living things.

Mechanical collision avoidance 
There are plenty of human driver based accidents as well so perhaps mechanically we could do better if the car could:

levitate/fly so it does not go over the cliff or hit anyone,
Back to the future

synthetic vision/heat vision already exists in modern military aircraft allowing aggegate vision from different vehicles to reduce blindspots,

An image of Honeywell's synthetic view for pilots.
bendy so its wheels can go wider and step over things(exists in freight robots),
US Military mule

scoop creatures off the road
from A beating heart

or climb the cliff upwards(Vertigo)
VertiGo - A Wall-Climbing Robot Including Ground-Wall Transition
or it could be rubbery like jelly, ie soft but not brittle?

Thursday, December 03, 2015


an internet of energy
all nodes are sources and banks
and also energy consumers
dynamic equilibrium

image from: rootgrow