(art by Daniel Martin Diaz)Earlier today, we published my story "By His Things Will You Know Him," which is from the forthcoming Institute for the Future anthology "An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter." I've read the story aloud for my podcast, if that's how you prefer your fiction.
This week, This American Life revisits the question of patents (a subject they did a very good job with in 2011), a move sparked by the attempt to shake down podcasters for patent royalties for a ridiculously overbroad patent from a company that went bust recording magazine articles to cassette and putting them in the mail. The new episode revisits the main stories raised in the earlier broadcast (don't worry, it stands alone), and does a remarkable job of making the case for substantive patent reform -- and pierces the veil on Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myrvold's notorious patent-troll-that-insists-it-isn't-a-troll.
NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg tell the story of Intellectual Ventures, which is accused of being the largest of the patent trolls. Executives at Intellectual Ventures insist they are not trolls, but rather, promoters of innovation. They buy patents from struggling inventors, which encourages those inventors to go out and invent more stuff. Intellectual Ventures offers an example of such an inventor, a man named Chris Crawford. But when Laura and Alex try and talk to Chris Crawford, it leads them on a long search, culminating in a small town in Texas, where they find a hallway full of seemingly empty offices with no employees.
In a fascinating installment of the IEEE Techwise podcast [MP3], Rice University Computational Engineering prof Moshe Vardi discusses the possibility that robots will obviate human labor faster than new jobs are created, leaving us with no jobs. This needn't be a bad thing -- it might mean finally realizing the age of leisure we've been promised since the first glimmers of the industrial revolution -- but if market economies can't figure out how to equitably distribute the fruits of automation, it might end up with an even bigger, even more hopeless underclass.
I think the issue of machine intelligence and jobs deserves some serious discussion. I don’t know that we will reach a definite conclusion, and it’s not clear how easy it will be to agree on desired actions, but I think the topic is important enough that it deserves discussion. And right now I would say it’s mostly being discussed by economists, by labor economists. It has to also be discussed by the people that produce the technology, because one of the questions we could ask is, you know, there is a concept that, for example, that people have started talking about, which is that we are using, we are creating technology that has no friction, okay? Creating many things that are just too easy to do.
Many of these ideas came up in this Boing Boing post from January, which also touches on Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, a book that Vardi mentions in his interview.
While researching the sounds from the classic series, Burtt discovered that they were created with a Hammond chord organ. "Going back and getting some organ recordings and playing with it, I was able to fashion some things very similar to the transporter, perhaps exactly the same way, so that's in there."
Slate, the New America Foundation and Arizona State University have kicked off a new podcast called "Future Tense," hosted by Internet scholar Tim Wu. The inaugural episode is an interview with Neal Stephenson wherein Neal and Tim talk about where the future has gone -- why we no longer seem to dream of jetpacks and instead focus on fiddly mobile phones. Stephenson gets some very good points in on the lack of predictivity in science fiction, and what sf really contributes to the future.
There are six installments in all -- coming episodes include conversations with Margaret Atwood and me!
Jeff Baham from HauntedMansion.com sez, "March 30 marked the centennial of the birth of Marc Davis, one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men" who was responsible for both the creation of some of Disney's iconic characters (Tinker Bell, Maleficent) and iconic theme park attractions (Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion). The Mousetalgia podcast is noting the life and work of Davis with a special episode dedicated to his career, including a never-published interview with Davis himself and a recent conversation with his widow and fellow Disney Imagineer, Alice Davis. Of special note are Marc and Alice's recollections about Marc joining the Disney Studio in the '20s, where he worked on Snow White."
Autonomous sensory meridian response - self-diagnosed neurological condition/superpower that makes you really enjoy whispering
In Tribes, this week's This American Life podcast, a woman with "Autonomous sensory meridian response" describes her curious neurological condition. When she hears boring, whispering voices, she experiences pleasurable, relaxing "brain shivers" that are so nice, she finds herself watching the Home Shopping Network for hours (and hours!) at a time. There's a whole YouTube subculture of ASMR videos in which (mostly) women whisper quietly as they narrate their jewelry condition, or role-play giving you a shave.
There's not much science on ASMR (yet), but a Sheffield university prof doesn't discount the possibility that it is real.
ASMR subculture feels like something out of a very good recent William Gibson novel, and it's apparently real.
Sodajerker, a British podcast devoted to songwriting, produced a great one-hour episode with Disney songwriting legend Richard M Sherman, half of the Sherman Brothers team that gave us everything from "It's a Small World" to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (and lots more). Hearing Sherman talk about his work is fascinating.
As one half of The Sherman Brothers, along with his late brother Robert, Richard M. Sherman is responsible for co-writing the most memorable Disney songs of all time. From the Academy Award winning compositions for Mary Poppins such as ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Feed the Birds’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, ‘Jolly Holiday’, ‘I Love to Laugh’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’, to other landmark Disney works such as The Parent Trap, ‘It’s a Small World (After All)’, ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ (The Jungle Book), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Winnie the Pooh, the Sherman Brothers have enchanted people of all ages for half a century. In this hour of conversation, Richard M. Sherman joins Simon and Brian to talk through the writing of many of these classics in his own inimitable style.
Here's a bit of audio of Frank Zappa reading some of the dirty parts of William S Burroughs's Naked Lunch, taken from a rare double LP called "The Nova Convention."
The occasion of this reading was the Nova Convention in 1978, three days and nights of readings, panel discussions, film screenings, and performances that, The New York Times wrote at the time, “sought to grapple with some of the implications of the writing” of Burroughs. In addition to Burroughs and Zappa, the convention featured such notable countercultural names as Terry Southern, Patti Smith, Philip Glass, Brion Gysin, John Cage, Timothy Leary, and Robert Anton Wilson. A good bit of the happening (including the audio above) was recorded for posterity and released as a double-LP by Giorno Poetry Systems.
In Bruce Sterling's barn-burning closing keynote for SXSW 2013, he confronts the realities of disruption -- that disruption leads to destruction. Our wonderful things destroy other wonderful things. The future composts the past. We roast the 20th century over our bonfire, let's not shamefully pretend that we did it by accident. Let's eat our kill.
Thomas "Command Line" Gideon came out for the DC stop on my Homeland tour, at Busboys and Poets, and mic'ed me up for the event. He's mastered the audio and posted it. It's a 40 minute talk about the promise of technology to improve our lives, the risks from allowing technology to be used to surveil and control us, and the contributions Aaron Swartz made to this cause and to the book. There's also about 20 minutes of Q&A.
Aaja sez, "The great Disney fan Podcast Wedway Radio has an interview with the cinematographer of the controversial film "Escape from Tomorrow". It's interesting to hear more about the film making experience and the relationship the film makers have towards the Disney parks."
On this episode we are lucky enough to be joined by someone who has seen the controversial film set at Walt Disney World, Escape From Tomorrow at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. We also got the opportunity to discuss the making of the film and some of the controversial elements of the film with the cinematographer of the film, Lucas Graham.
"Punk Voyager" is this week's story on the Escape Pod podcast, and it is fucking amazing. It's Shaenon Garrity story about punks at the twilight of the 1970s who are drunkenly outraged to discover that the Voyager probe has been launched with classical music records for aliens. They build their own Voyager probe out of garbage, razor-blades, beer cans and a surfboard some douchebag left on the beach, filled with all the most important human artifacts that they can find in their van. They forget about it as the 80s roar in, and then the aliens come to Earth and cockpunch Ronald Reagan.
Punk Voyager was built by punks. They made it from beer cans, razors, safety pins, and a surfboard some D-bag had left on the beach. Also plutonium. Where did they get plutonium? Around. Fuck you.
The punks who built Punk Voyager were Johnny Bonesaw, Johnny Razor, Mexican Johnny D-bag, Red Viscera, and some other guys. No, asshole, nobody remembers what other guys. They were Fucking wasted, these punks. They’d been drinking on the San Diego beach all day and night, talking about making a run to Tijuana and then forgetting and punching each other. They’d built a fire on the beach, and all night the fire went up and went down while the punks threw beer cans at the seagulls.
Forget the shit I just said, it wasn’t the punks who did it. They were Fucking punks. The hell they know about astro-engineering? Truth is that Punk Voyager was the strung-out masterpiece of Mexican Johnny D-bag’s girlfriend, Lacuna, who had a doctorate in structural engineering. Before she burned out and ran for the coast, Lacuna was named Alice McGuire and built secret nuclear submarines for a government contractor in Ohio. It sucked. But that was where she got the skills to construct an unmanned deep-space probe. Same principle, right? Keep the radiation in and the water out. Or the vacuum of space, whatever, it’s all the same shit to an engineer.
Fuck that, it wasn’t really Lacuna’s baby. It wasn’t her idea. The idea was Red’s.
“Fucking space,” he said that fateful night. He was lying on his back looking up at space, is why he said it.
“Hell yeah,” said Johnny Bonesaw.
In the ongoing analog vs. digital debate, there are myriad measurements involving frequency response, distortion levels, and dynamic range that both sides cite to “prove” that the other is misinformed, unscientific, or just plain wrong. One path to consider is playing your digital tunes through an analog stereo, ranging from a headphone-to-RCA cable to a high-end digital-to-analog converter. Some might say that’s the best of both worlds; others would say you’d be better off with an AM radio. Ultimately though, it’s all about personal perception. So with that in mind, here are several products for bridging the gap between your digital music and your analog ears. The irony of running lousy and lossy mp3s through high-quality tube amps isn’t lost on me. But at least the enchanting glow of the vacuum tubes will distract you."Digital Music Meet Analog Stereo"
Stefan Riepl’s vacuum tube photo from Wikimedia Commons
Boing Boing is committed to bringing you your annual portion of Lord Buckley's inspirational beat poetry. Earlier this month, I posted his version of "A Christmas Carol". Now, here's "The Nazz," Lord Buckley's indispensible biography of Jesus Christ. This is all the Christmas cheer anyone needs. With this alone, we could rebuild civilization from rubble.
See also: Dig Infinity!, a biography of Lord Buckley
Instructables user Amandaghassaei has posted a HOWTO for making a 3D printed record that plays on a regular turntable. Her method converts any digital audio file to grooves ready to print. It's a bit fuzzy, but still rather exciting! I'm waiting for the way when taking a snapshot of a vinyl disc can be the first step toward deriving its audio content, converting that back to a shapefile, and printing out a high-fidelity duplicate.
In this Instructable, I'll demonstrate how I developed a workflow that can convert any audio file, of virtually any format, into a 3D model of a record. This is far too complex a task to perform with traditional drafting-style CAD techniques, so I wrote an program to do this conversion automatically. It works by importing raw audio data, performing some calculations to generate the geometry of a record, and eventually exporting this geometry straight to the STL file format (used by all 3D printers). Most of the heavy lifting is done by Processing, an open source environment that's often used for coding interactive graphics applications. To get Processing to export to STL, I used the ModelBuilder Library written by Marius Watz (if you are into Arduino/Processing and 3D printing I highly recommend checking this out, it works great).
I've uploaded some of my complete record models to the 123D gallery as well as the Pirate Bay. Check Step 6 for a complete listing of what's there and what I plan on posting. Alternatively, you can go to Step 7 to download my code and learn how to make your own printable records from any audio file you like.