China's Citizen Score system combines surveillance of your social media and social graph with your credit report, your purchase history and state spy agencies and police files on you to produce a "trustworthiness" score -- people who score low are denied access to high-speed travel, financial products, and other services like private school for their kids.
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In 1955, MIT- and Caltech-educated Qian Xuesen was fired from his job teaching at JPL and deported from the USA under suspicion of being a communist sympathizer; on his return to China, he led the country's nuclear weapons program and became a folk hero who is still worshipped today.
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Joi Ito's Resisting Reduction manifesto rejects the idea of reducing the world to a series of computable relationships that will eventually be overtaken by our ability to manipulate them with computers ("the Singularity") and instead to view the world as full of irreducible complexities and "to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems."
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The New York Hall of Science's new Connected Worlds exhibit is a series of six interactive ecosystems that spreads across the walls of its Great Hall, united by a 3000 square foot interactive floor. Read the rest
Harvard University researchers show how simple, brainless "bristle-bots" exhibit swarming behavior when contained in a small area.
Are you curious about complexity? Do you dig dynamic systems and emergent phenomena? The Santa Fe Institute, one of the birthplaces of chaos theory, is now offering a free "Introduction to Complexity" online course, open to anyone. No science or math background required! The instructor is computer scientist Melanie Mitchell, author of the excellent and entertaining book Complexity: A Guided Tour. The course started last week but it's not too late to join!
In this eleven-week course you'll learn about the tools used by scientists to understand complex systems. The topics you'll learn about include dynamics, chaos, fractals, information theory, self-organization, agent-based modeling, and networks. You’ll also get a sense of how these topics fit together to help explain how complexity arises and evolves in nature, society, and technology. There are no prerequisites. You don't need a science or math background to take this introductory course; it simply requires an interest in the field and the willingness to participate in a hands-on approach to the subject.
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If you only have the vaguest notion of what a "smart grid" actually is, don't feel bad. This is one of those energy buzzwords that confuses a lot of people. Part of the problem is that utility companies don't often do a very good job of communicating this stuff. They tell you it's good. They say something hand-wavey about the Internet. And then they pretty much leave you to fend for yourself.
The other part of the problem: "Smart grid" is one word that refers to more than one thing. A smart grid is actually lots of different technologies. They're related. But they do different jobs in different ways, and even one tool might have different levels of functionality that apply to it. That fact is really clear when you visit a smart grid research laboratory, as I did earlier this week at the Colorado State University.
The school's Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory houses a little micro-grid, where electricity can be generated, used, and stored in ways that model the workings of the real-life grid. The smart grid technologies the laboratory is used to study apply to every part of that system—smart grid is part of generation, it's part of how electricity is moved around, it's part of how we consume electricity, and it's part of how we balance supply and demand and avoid blackouts. In other words: This seemingly vague and esoteric concept is actually closely tied to practical, day-to-day realities.
Yesterday, I got to go on NPR's Marketplace Tech Report to talk about two smart grid technologies that you're likely to get some hands-on experience with in the near future. Read the rest