Yes, humans are capable of creating a happy and successful liberal society: The Netherlands

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As U.S. headlines bombard us with proof of how low humanity can go, here's a look at a happy, peaceful, and prosperous country -- The Netherlands -- to remind us that it is actually possible for the human race to get it right. If people want to change present circumstances through liberal ideals, it's helpful to look at a liberal, politically stable country with a strong and open economy. Also known as Holland, the country does not have the same history and culture that creates the inherent social and economic problems in the U.S., but it is clearly moving in the right direction -- forward.

It's a great destination for liberal ex-patriates looking for a place to live and work -- especially in the tech sector -- that already has its shit together, in case you really are now considering moving out of the country. Staying or going, it makes sense to see what a liberal society looks like and how it works. 

We've compiled a list of facts about The Netherlands to show you what humans can do when they're not fighting en masse on Twitter:

The Dutch government plans to ban the sales of petrol and diesel-powered cars in 2025Healthiest country in the world for dietKeeps closing prisons due to a lack of prisonersFirst to legalize same-sex marriageHighest concentration of museums in the worldHighest English-proficiency in the world where it is not first languageHighest population density in EuropeHome to more bikes than peopleCycling in the Netherlands is the safest in the worldAmsterdam’s Schiphol airport offers more direct flights than any airport in the world83 percent of the population live in urban areas but there are few high risesLargely secular country: up to 40 percent of Dutch say they have no religion, 30 percent are Catholic, and 20 percent are Protestant. Read the rest

In 100 years, we'll remember technology's transformation and Trump will be long forgotten

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Steven "Hackers" Levy has a long view of Trump: as radical as he is, he's only a drop in the bucket compared to the political and social changes wrought by technology: "Who was king during the industrial revolution in England? The quirks and flaws of government leaders are not relevant information when studying the enlightenment. In the long run, the Galileos and James Watts of the world have even more influence than the Napoleons." Read the rest

Brain implant allows paralyzed monkey to walk

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Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have developed a neuroprosthetic interface that creates a wireless link between the brain and the spine. In a recent experiment, they used it to enable a paralyzed monkey to walk.

Via Healthglu:

The brain-spine interface overcomes a damaged connection by bridging the spinal cord injury — and it does so in real-time and via wireless technology. The neuroprosthetic device implanted in the monkey’s brain correctly interprets activity generated by the motor cortex, and relays this information to a system of electrodes placed over the surface of the spinal cord, just below the injury. A burst of just a few volts, delivered at the right location, triggers specific muscles in the legs. Monkeys implanted with the device were able to walk within six days of the spinal cord injury.

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What does it mean to be human in an age of machines?

The Neurobotics Lab’s prosthetic hand is a close replica of an actual human hand. Researchers are working to integrate it with the human nervous system. Credit: M. Levin, University of Washington

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In his 1854 book, Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Men have become the tools of their tools.” Thoreau’s assertion is as valid today as it was when he made it over one hundred and sixty years ago. Whenever we shape technology, it shapes us, both as individuals and as a society. We created cars, and cars turned us into motorists, auto mechanics, and commuters.

Over the centuries we’ve populated our world with machines that help us do things we can’t or don’t want to do ourselves. Our world has become so saturated with machines that they’ve faded into the background. We hardly notice them. We are reaching a new threshold. Our machines are getting networked, and enabling new forms of human machine symbiosis. We’re entering a new era where fifty billion machines are in constant communication, automating and orchestrating the movement and interactions among individuals, organizations, and cities.

Institute for the Future (IFTF) is a non-profit think tank in Silicon Valley, that helps organizations and the public think about long term future plans to make better decisions in the present. Mark Frauenfelder, a research director at IFTF interviewed Rod Falcon, IFTF’s Director of the Technology Horizons Program, which combines a deep understanding of technology and societal forces, to identify and evaluate these discontinuities and innovations in the near future. Rod discussed Tech Horizon’s recent research into how machine automation is becoming an integrated, embedded, and ultimately invisible part of virtually every aspect of our lives. Read the rest

Technology stock photos from the 1990s

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Whisk yourself back to the days of bulky devices, outmoded physical media, and painfully obvious visual puns with these 1990s high-tech stock photos. Literal surfing and literal webs! Large format high resolution only $399 on some stock sites! Read the rest

Anarchic Adjustment: pioneering street culture brand revived at L.A. art show

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Anarchic Adjustment was a pioneering streetwear brand and artist collective that emerged from the London punk-skate-BMX-Xerox art scene in the mid-1980s and spread like a virus when founder Nick Philip moved to San Francisco and immersed himself in the early cyberculture. Immediately, Anarchic Adjustment became the clothier-of-choice for the likes of DJ Mixmaster Morris, Joi Ito (now director of MIT Media Lab), Timothy Leary, and countless rave kids and guerrilla art punks. Those were the daze.

Now though, Philip, who in the last decade became best known for his Imaginary Foundation line, has announced an Anarchic Adjustment revival in the form of a sculpture show opening October 20 at Los Angeles's Seventh Letter Gallery. The highly-anticipated exhibition of new work is titled "The Future is not what is used to be."

"It's an uncompromising satire of mass distraction, narcissism and the hidden machine lurking in plain sight," Philip says.

He says that the sculpture above, titled "Little Brother" and inspired by Cory Doctorow's novel, is an observation of "the feedback loop of surveillance, transparency, and a culture entirely preoccupied with its selfie." Below, two of my other favorite works from the show -- "Shackled Connectivity" and "I did it for the lulz."

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Joi Ito interviews Barack Obama for Wired: machine learning, neurodiversity, basic research and Star Trek

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Joi Ito (previously) -- director of MIT Media Lab, former Creative Commons chief, investor, entrepreneur, and happy mutant -- interviewed Barack Obama for a special, Obama-edited issue of Wired. Read the rest

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's new virtual reality startup

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Modal VR, the new stealth startup co-founded by Atari and Chuck E. Cheese creator, has opened the doors a crack. According to Bushnell, their portable VR system is built for business applications (even though the demo video shows, you guessed it, a game). “We want to help enterprises solve problems by looking at them from another point of view," Bushnell said.

“For those of us who grew up on “Star Trek,” the holodeck has always been the gold standard," he said. “Modal VR is the first time that I believe we actually have the holodeck.”

"Nolan Bushnell’s Modal VR launches next-generation virtual reality platform for enterprises" (VentureBeat)

"Nolan Bushnell Says His New Virtual Reality Startup Has the Keys to the Holodeck—and it’s Portable" (IEEE Spectrum)

Read the rest

Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft join forces to protect humans from robots

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A group of some of the most powerful technology companies on the planet have formed a partnership on artificial intelligence.

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100% CGI versions of 80s tech and toys

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Mike Campau recreated Generation Gap, a CGI series of some of the most iconic items from 1980s childhoods, each one lit with gorgeous multi-hued gradients. Read the rest

Our little technology rituals don't do anything--or do they?

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At Vice, Leigh Alexander (recently at Boing Boing) writes about the superstitious rituals we all practice when it comes to technology. We do it whether we are conscious of the ritual or not, and we do it even when we are informed the ritual is harmful to the machines.

...blowing on cartridges may have actually caused more problems than it solved. But because collectively our anecdotal experiences had led us to believe that blowing had some positive effect—it seemed to work, even if it took an unpredictable number of puffs, amid all kinds of other unknown factors—we established a ritual. Our belief that blowing on cartridges does something is stronger even than evidence to the contrary.

Closing background apps on your iphone, wiggling accellerometers, tilting game controllers, double-tapping touchscreen icons, and rebooting slow computers: all modern equivalents to the ol' Nintendo Blow. But something has changed: now the designers of the technology can adapt to and integrate our rituals into how technology works. And once it's there, the technology can demand it. Read the rest

Machine-learning model fed web content makes racist and sexist associations

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Human biases exposed by Implicit Association Tests can be replicated in machine learning using GloVe word embedding, according to a new study where GloVe was trained on "a corpus of text from the Web." Read the rest

Flag's Kickstarter to build the world's best photo printing facility

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Hey, it's your ol' pal Joel! Used to write a gadget blog that wasn't about gadgets? Man, great to see you. No, no, have a seat. Can we get a couple of...yeah, no ice, thanks.

So let's get business out of the way before we eat: One of my clients is launching a Kickstarter today and I hope you'll check it out.

(I have clients now! I started a company. It isn't a media company or even a gadget blog. Just a regular, ol' fashioned intragalactic-HUMINT-and-covert-ops-themed strategic comms company, where people hire me to help them solve problems. I like it.)

The Kickstarter is set at $500k, which is a lot of money; it's also how much is needed to build a dedicated printing facility under one roof that can provide 20 museum-quality, ad-supported prints to tens of thousands of customers for free each month. That's what they need to increase production, in both volume and speed. Bear in mind this is a company that took an initial $160k Kickstarter success and 1) made a functional iPhone app 2) established a printing process that exceeds all other consumer printing quality, and 3) spun up production that is putting out 80-100k prints a month. There were many pitfalls along the way—screwed up batches of prints that had to be reprinted before delivery, equipment that was promised that didn't work, greater-than-expected software delays—but they didn't walk away from it. They pushed through it and have built a company. They've got major advertisers lined up to start sponsoring prints. Read the rest

Halt and Catch Fire: The Most Relevant Show on Television is Set in the 80s

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With the cacophony of an election year ablaze with unparalleled drama being fought on the front lines of Twitter, we find ourselves slowing down and staring at it like a bad accident. The need for escapist relief is perhaps more dire than usual right now. This fall, if it's drama you crave, but the Hillary v. Trump show is driving you to near-suicide, then the AMC series Halt and Catch Fire is your new best friend. Returning for its third season on Tuesday, August 23rd with a two-hour premiere, you'll still get your fix of intriguing plot twists, flawed personalities, and high stakes, but without the partisan tantrums and pre-apocalyptic anxiety.

What the Hell is this Show About?

The show's title refers to the computing term (HCF), "Halt and Catch Fire," an early technical command that sends a computer into race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained. The namesake series takes place in the personal computing boom of the 80s, when IBM was dictator, and before "website" was a word. Though HCF is categorized as a "workplace drama," you could say the same thing about Breaking Bad, and you'd be completely missing the point--and the thrill--of both shows.

To "break bad" is a colloquialism used in the American South meaning to challenge authority. Breaking Bad and HCF have three important things in common: obscure, nondescript titles that run the risk of losing potential viewers who need their plot summaries spoon-fed and hashtagged, a committed, forward-thinking home on AMC Networks, and the consistently visionary TV producer Melissa Bernstein. Read the rest

Startup aims to sell a brain implant to improve memory

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For more than a decade, University of Southern California neuro-engineer Theodore Berger has been working on an artificial hippocampus, an electronic aid for the part of the brain that scientists believe encodes experiences as long-term memories. Now Berger and a new startup called Kernel are confident that the device is ready for prime time.

"We’re testing it in humans now, and getting good initial results,” Berger told IEEE Spectrum. “We’re going to go forward with the goal of commercializing this prosthesis.”

In Berger’s approach, electrodes in the hippocampus first record electrical signals from certain neurons as they learn something new and encode the memory. These electrical signals are the result of neurons “firing” in specific patterns. Berger studied how electrical signals associated with learning are translated into signals associated with storing that information in long-term memory. Then his lab built mathematical models that take any input (learning) signal, and produce the proper output (memory) signal.

An implant could help someone whose hippocampus doesn't properly turn information into memories. An implanted memory prosthetic would have electrodes to record signals during learning, a microprocessor to do the computations, and electrodes that stimulate neurons to encode the information as a memory.

For people who have difficulty forming lasting memories on their own, the prosthetic would provide a boost. “We take these memory codes, enhance them, and put them back into the brain,” Berger says. “If we can do that consistently, then we’ll be ready to go.”

"New Startup Aims to Commercialize a Brain Prosthetic to Improve Memory" (IEEE Spectrum) Read the rest

Meet the Megaprocessor: a 16-bit CPU the size of a room

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Chipmaking is a relentless competition to make transistors smaller and smaller. Such refined technology is as inscrutable to users as angels dancing on the head of a few hundred copper pins, so James Newman set out to make a working CPU whose every connection can be explored and understood by students.

"Like all modern processors the Megaprocessor is built from transistors," he writes. "It's just that instead of using teeny-weeny ones integrated on a silicon chip it uses discrete individual ones... Thousands of them. And loads of LEDs."

The resulting machine took two years to construct and recalls the earliest room-filling electronic computers, with banks of blinking lights and ropes of cable linking each refridgerator-sized peripheral. But this time, it's by choice rather than limitation: with a light on every connection, you can see the logic and movement of data through the chip in person.

Ten meters wide and 2 meters tall, the 16-bit Megaprocessor is deliberately simple and slow. Clocked at 20kHz, it could feel at home in an airport-sized Commodore Amiga or classic Mac, though it's not quite as complicated as the Motorola 68000 that inspired it.

There's already software to play with, though, including a rough implementation of Tetris. You can download an emulator to get started on making your own.

"I didn't plan on ending up here. I started by wanting to learn about transistors," Newman writes. "Things got out of hand. Read the rest

Temporary tattoos act as "on-skin user interfaces"

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MIT and Microsoft researchers demonstrated a system of gold leaf temporary tattoos for "on-skin user interfaces" including a touch sensor, near field communication antennae, and a low-res thermochromic display that changes color. From the research description:

DuoSkin draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry. DuoSkin devices enable users to control their mobile devices, display information, and store information on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. We believe that in the future, on-skin electronics will no longer be black-boxed and mystified; instead, they will converge towards the user friendliness, extensibility, and aesthetics of body decorations, forming a DuoSkin integrated to the extent that it has seemingly disappeared.

DuoSkin (MIT)

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