Showing posts from April, 2006

Google's' globalization of time (Google's calendar)

There are so many definitions of "globalization" that one may feel justified in believing that the phenomenon itself is too shifty to be captured with any precision and clarity. In a forthcoming paper ( Global Information Ethics: The Importance of Being Environmentally Earnest ), I have tried to identify six key trends that characterize contemporary globalization: contraction , expansion , porosity , hybridization , synchronization and correlation . The arrival of Google's calendar belongs to the "synchronization" trend. Human space in the twenty-first century has not merely shrunk thanks to cheap, pervasive and ubiquitous transports. ICTs have created a new digital environment, which is constantly expanding and becoming progressively more diverse. The origins of this global, transnational, common space are old. They are to be found in the invention of recording and communication technologies that range from the alphabet to printing, from photography to televi

Optic nerve regrown with a nanofibre scaffold

In a recent paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Ellis-Behnke and colleagues from Hong Kong University and the Institute for Neuroscience in Xia’an (China) have shown how hamsters, blinded following damage to their optic nerve, could have their vision partially restored by means of a nerve-bridging scaffold, made up of nanoparticle fibres. The nanoscale scaffold guides nerve tissue in its regrowing process,largelyy increasing its rate of success. Combine this discovery with the previous blog on artificial compund eyes and you start "seeing" an interesting picture. Will similar discoveries merge one day?

Google, China and Cold Blood

"Don't be evil, unless you have to" seems a more accurate and realistic motto. It would be, if uphold, already an extraordinary ideal, morally speaking. Too much evil is gratuitous, predictable and evitable, the result of careless attitude or absentmindedness. Stupidity, in a word, runs devil's business most of the times. Google is doing in China what companies do best: launching its business; negotiating with the political and social environment in order to survive first and then flourish; making (or at least laying down the conditions in order to make) profits. All this is fine. There is no moral scandal in accepting restrictions on what users may have access to. Censored information is better than no information at all. And a limited Google now is a Trojan horse tomorrow. The Chinese government probably knows that all too well. They certainly need no lesson on wisdom and long-term planning. So why are they opening the gates to such a loaded gift? The best way to

A biologically-inspired artificial compound eye now available

Ever wondered what the world might look like through the eyes of an insect such as a dragonfly or a simple housefly? Well, thanks to a team of bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley, we might be closer to discovering it. They have just created a series of artificial compound eyes (let me call them aces ), as reported in an article published in Science (click on the title above for a report). "They are the first hemispherical, three-dimensional optical systems to integrate microlens arrays - thousands of tiny lenses packed side by side - with self-aligned, self-written waveguides, that is, light-conducting channels that themselves have been created by beams of light, said Lee, the Lloyd Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley." With a bit of luck, aces will find applications in almost any optical instrument, from cameras to sensory detectors , from surveillance systems to endoscopies and image-guided surgeries. The army will certainly wa

The Battle of Browsers

Here are some news about new releases: - Google Calendar extension for Firefox has arrived. This extension notifies the user of upcoming events and lets one add events into one's calendar. - Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 has been released. - Google SketchUp has been released (it is free). The program allows you to create 3D models of buildings, houses, decks, and even space ships. It customizable and fairly easy to use. - Google has begun advertising Firefox on its homepage, putting extra pressure on MS-IE. This is the first time that Google promotes a third-party program on its homepage (the advertisement is seen only by users of Internet Explorer located in the US). - New version of Yahoo Mail available.

ERIH Journals project: a total failure so far

Cataloguing and ranking seems rather popular in this age of cheap computational power, pseudo-scientific projects and top-down control policies. If you have no ideas, make a list. Better still if you can self-appoint yourself as the judge of what makes it into the list and according to which ranking. Now, it might be interesting to know what the very best, the good and the, well, not-so good (read: junky) journals in philosophy are, but the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH) Journals Project is not, so far, reliable in any reasonable sense. Actually, it would be rather laughable, if it weren't a worrying waste of money and a dangerous step in the wrong direction (read: renewing or withdrawing subscriptions on the basis of such misconceived list, or using it as a yardstick to evaluate applicants and faculty members). The attempt to rank all European and the best of non-European Philosophy journals by means of 4 categories (A, B, C and unclassified), may be worth

Firefox Backers Create 'Destroy IE' Campaign

Firefox used to be the good guys' choice. But so was Google. And pro-environment policies. Or pro-life alternatives. The last attack on IE is a good reminder that we live in an ethically gray world. Animal activists will actually harm human animals to get other animals out of the labs. Firefoxers are now happy to intrude in the choices of users to free them from other intruders. History repeats itself a bit too boringly sometime. In Luke 14:23 one can read (New International Version (NIV) Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society): "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full." "Make them come in" sounds very mild in English. The Latin translation left no doubts on the imperative nature of the suggestion: cogite or conpelle entrare . Force them to enter . Against their will, clearly. For their own good, obviously. And so Augustine used that passage to justi

Laps are the new desks

Whenever it happened (read more in the article), laptops are finally the new cultural icon of what a computer is, with desktops slowly joining other mammoths in the history of ICT. Mission Impossible usign a desktop? Not cool, so yesterday. Yet, that one might carry around so much computational power and high-tech is still amazing to anyone who grew up with punched cards. Of course, all this is history. The ongoing battle? Weight and battery life. Freshers in 2017 will hardly believe that back at the beginning of the millennium we were carrying around kilos of stuff with a few hours of autonomy.

Semiconductors slow light

In a universe subject to the laws of evolution, it may seems open to question whether anything stays the same forever, "forever" being the sort of length of time during which evolution tends to play a trick or two. Having said this, the speed at which light likes to zip around (299,792,458 m/186,281 mi per second through empty space) is a good bet for a permanent feature of whatever the universe will be in the future. This, of course, does not mean that light cannot travel more slowly. Researchers at Imperial College (London) have just found out how you can actually slow it down. Pass light through a layer of wafer-thin films of semiconductors, and you can make it travel at less than 1/40th of its speed in empty space. They hope to bring it to a complete standstill. This would perhaps satisfy Faust, and his desire for that unique, suspended moment when one could say "halt, you are beautiful". It also means that you can finally travel faster than (slowed down) lig

A paradoxical counterfactual?

Suppose Alex and Bob are two friends. Alex is informed that Bob's girlfriend, Christine, would really like a copy of Callan's book (see previous post). Christine's birthday arrives, Bob buys her the last Harry Potter, it is the wrong present and they have an argument. The following day Bob and Alex meet. Having been informed about the quarrel, Alex tells Bob that he should have bought Callan's book instead. Bob complaints: "why didn't you tell me before?". Alex replies: "because you didn't ask me". So Bob concludes, counterfactually: "Had I know the answer (that I should have bought Callan's book), I would have asked you the question". To which Alex objects: "No you wouldn't, there would have been no need, since you would have had the right information already". Lesson: counterfactuals are fine when talking about some features of the world (had I had more money I would have bought a better car), but do not work s

Artificial Intelligence by Rob Callan

Artificial Intelligence (2003), by Rob Callan, is probably one of the best textbooks around in terms of accuracy, scope, updatedness, relevance to philosophically-minded readers and value for money. It is technical but not to the point of becoming obscure; and the author always makes a sincere and often successful attempt to explain every step. I enjoyed reading it and I would recommend it. There is also a Companion Website. Other reviewers have found it somewhat lacking in depth and technical details but, although this might be true for students and scientists in CS, for a philosophy class on the conceptual foundations of AI this book still does very well what it is meant to do. It provides a conceptual introduction to the field, comprehensible to intelligent beginners.

Spies infiltrate zombie computer networks

Philosophers know one kind of zombies, hypothetical beings like us, who only lack consciousness. They use them to run thought experiments in the philosophy of mind. The question is not "are you a zombie?" but rather "granted that you are not a zombie, how do you know that you are not?". If you wish to know the answer, you may check this paper: "Consciousness, Agents and the Knowledge Game" , Minds and Machines 2005, 15. 3-4, pp. 415-444. In cyberspace, there are real zombies out there: computers "zombie" controlled by nasty people. And yours might be one. The question is: how do you know it is not?

The 10 Wackiest E-Commerce Sites

The revenge of things. Just too many to disappear quietly.

RFID 'Til the Cows Come Home

Where did I put my cow? The coming of digital animal farm.

How Lara Croft Steals Hearts

Do not miss this short piece on why young men might actualy identify with Laura Crof. Very interesting.

Virtual World, Real Money

BusinessWeek's cover story for May 1st has to do with a little place called Second Life. BusinessWeek Online has several stories related to their exploration on online living. My Virtual Life is a first-time exploration of Second Life, with some examination of the property and financial aspects of the gameworld. It's Not All Fun and Games explores the serious side of virtual businesses, as they interview Ashne Chung (notable real estate baron) in a piece called Virtual Land, Real Money. Ed Castronova has his say in a more general article on virtual economies . Finally, for an outside perspective, the obligatory Terra Nova discussion is always useful.

Metallic Fighter Robot

Created by Eiichiro Morinaga, the “Metallic Fighter” is one of Robo-One’s fiercest competitors and will be featured in an upcoming promotional video (ROBO-ONE In Space). Video clip.

Has chatbot Alice crossed to the dark side?

The world's favourite chatbot may have fallen from grace. Fears are growing that a clone of the open source chatbot Alice is being used to dupe users of MSN's instant messaging service into downloading spyware.

Introduction to Linux "philosophy"

Welcome to part two of a series for beginners explaining what Linux is, where it came from, where it's going, how to use it and why you should.

Robotic footballers have a ball

Robot footballers push an orange golf ball. Graceful runs are controlled by a central computer. A football tournament between teams of robots has been won by students from Plymouth University.

Watch doc. on history of video games

The Discovery Channel recently aired an excellent documentary on the “History of Video Games”, from Mario to online gaming, they’ve got it covered.

U.S. Governments Advised to Use Open Source

An anonymous reader writes "LinuxDevices is reporting that non-profit public policy research group, Committee for Economic Development, has released a 72-page report that takes a look at open standards, open source software, and 'open innovation.' From the article: 'The report concludes that openness should be promoted as a matter of public policy, in order to foster innovation and economic growth in the U.S. and world economies.' The full text [PDF] of the report is also available for download from the CED site.

Opera 9 Beta

The new version of the brwoser Opera 9 Beta is now available, follow the link below. Opera 9 includes Widgets, content blocker and BitTorrent.

Screenshots Of Google's New Search Results Screen

Searching the web might never be the same.

Will Tablet PCs Replace Textbooks?

Tablets have yet to move into the mainstream, but Bill Gates still believes in the technology. Link

Major Banking Sites Insecure

Sites do not use authentication technology to prove they are genuine, researcher says. Robert McMillan, IDG News Service Friday, April 21, 2006 Online bank customers may want to pay a little more attention to their browsers the next time they log in, because many of the most popular banking sites in the U.S. may be needlessly placing their customers at risk to online thieves, a noted security researcher warned this week.

A slice of carbon could work wonders with chips

Move over silicon: the hottest new material in electronics could be sitting inside the humble pencil. At the Institute of Physics' Condensed Matter and Materials Physics conference at the University of Exeter on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 April, Andre Geim of the University of Manchester and his colleagues claim that graphite, the silvery black, soft form of carbon known for thousands of years, could yield a new generation of microelectronic devices, as well as unveiling unprecedented effects in quantum physics.

Software tracks mood swings of blogosphere

Software that tracks mood swings across the 'blogosphere' and pinpoints the events behind them could provide more insightful ways to search and analyse the web, researchers say. The software, called MoodViews, was created by Gilad Mishne and colleagues at Amsterdam University, The Netherlands. It tracks about 10 million blogs hosted by the US service LiveJournal. Link

Superconducting memory flip-flops in an instant

An exotic form of electronic memory made using superconductors could someday be used to make computers that work at unprecedented speeds, say researchers. Link

BIT 25th Anniversary Best Paper Prize

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Behaviour & Information Technology, Taylor & Francis are offering a prize for the best paper either published in or submitted to the Journal in 2006. The paper may be written on any of the main topics of the Journal. Behaviour & Information Technology is an international journal focussing on human-computer interaction, and reports original research and development on the design, use and impact of information technology in all its forms. For full instructions for authors and a downloadable style guide for manuscript preparation, please visit the Behaviour & Information Technology website .

Bits to Atoms (and Atoms to Bits)

According to Neil Gershenfeld, we might be close to a third digital revolution, one in which matter and information merge. The vision is interesting, the ontological shift and implications challenging, but the actual delivery shows the limits of the hype. At the "fabrication laboratory", dubbed the Fab Lab, at MIT, where Gershenfeld is the director of the Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), researchers design and manufacture ordinary things readjusting ordinary atoms. There is no magic creation of it from bit. Disappointing? Not quite. The Lab is worth a virtual visit, just do not expect to see an ontology of res extensa pop out of an ontology of res informatica .

Know your wireless enemy

Understanding the tools that could be used against your WLAN. Link

Reflections on Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science, by Ray Kurzweil

You may definitely not read the book, but this review is not to be missed: Reflections on Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science , by Ray Kurzweil (it explains why you may read something else instead, Kant, for example).

multicellular computing

A conversation with Steve Burbeck on the topic of multicellular computing. Link

Code for Unbreakable Quantum Encryption

Raw code for 'unbreakable' quantum encryption has been generated at record speed over optical fiber at NIST. The work is a step toward using conventional high-speed networks such as broadband Internet and local-area networks to transmit ultra-secure video for applications such as surveillance.

Quantum cryptography record broken

Important speed breakthrough which brings closer the day when quantum encryption becomes a usable part of communications security.

Black holes: The ultimate quantum computers?

Nearly all of the information that falls into a black hole escapes back out, a controversial new study argues. The work suggests that black holes could one day be used as incredibly accurate quantum computers – if enormous theoretical and practical hurdles can first be overcome.

First molecular-machine combination revealed

It twists and swims - and little else - but the first combination of two molecular machines is an important step on the long path to nanodevices sophisticated enough to, for example, perform repair functions within our cells.

Phone viruses: how bad is it?

Not very bad. In fact, it is most unlikely that you might get a virus on your mobile phone. Still, there is a chance, and as chances go, things might easily get worst. So far, though, no real risks.

Steve Jobs on iPod

For those who still remember or own a first generation iPod, this video clip — of Steve Jobs at the Apple Music Event 2001 — should bring back a few good memories.

Alan Turing: a snapshot


Group: Yahoo help led to third dissident's arrest

Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) is noted in court verdict documents for supplying email account information for a third convicted cyber-dissident in China. A media rights group has identified a third dissident who the Chinese government arrested based on information apparently supplied by a Yahoo subsidiary.

OECD urges more international cooperation on spam

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has praised the report. Governments need to pass more antispam laws, give law enforcement agencies more resources and work better across borders to combat unsolicited e-mail clogging up inboxes, an international economic group said Wednesday. Link

Black hole mergers modelled in 3D

Simulations on a supercomputer have allowed Nasa scientists to understand finally the pattern of gravitational waves produced by merging black holes. The work should help the worldwide effort that is currently underway to make the first detection of these "ripples" in the fabric of space-time.

Privacy Threat in New RFID Travel Cards?

Privacy Threat in New RFID Travel Cards? ZDNet has an interesting article rehashing the problems with privacy in future RFID-equipped travel documents and ID. The piece focuses on a recent speech given by Jim Williams, director of the Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT program. From the article: "Many of the privacy worries center on whether RFID tags--typically minuscule chips with an antenna a few inches long that can transmit a unique ID number--can be read from afar. If the range is a few inches, the privacy concerns are reduced. But at ranges of 30 feet, the tags could theoretically be read by hidden sensors alongside the road, in the mall or in the hands of criminals hoping to identify someone on the street by his or her ID number."

Information using likeness measures

Journal of the American Society for Information Science Volume 48, Issue 10 , Pages 882 - 892 Information using likeness measures Martin Frické School of Information Resources, The University of Arizona, 1515 E. First St., Tucson, AZ 85719 Abstract A suggestion is made regarding the nature of information: That the information in a theory be evaluated by measuring either its distance from the perfect theory or by measuring its distance from the right answer to the information seeking question that led to it. The measures here are provided by the Tichy-Hilpinen-Oddie-Niiniluoto-likeness measures which were introduced in the context of the philosophical problem of verisimilitude. One feature of this suggestion that differentiates it from most theories of information is that it does not use or depend on probabilities or uncertainty. Another unusual feature of it is that it permits false views or theories to possess information.

Hypothetical Knowledge and Counterfactual Reasoning*

Abstract: Salmet introduced a notion of hypothetical knowledge and showed how it could be used to capture the type of counterfactual reasoning necessary to force the backwards induction solution in a game of perfect information. He argued that while hypothetical knowledge and the extended information structures used to model it bear some resemblance to the way philosophers have used conditional logic to model counterfactuals, hypothetical knowledge cannot be reduced to conditional logic together with epistemic logic. Here it is shown that in fact hypothetical knowledge can be captured using the standard counterfactual operator ">" and the knowledge operator "K", provided that some assumptions are made regarding the interaction between the two. It is argued, however, that these assumptions are unreasonable in general, as are the axioms that follow from them. Some implications for game theory are discussed.

Speculation on the future of science by Kevin Kelly

SPECULATIONS ON THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE By Kevin Kelly Science will continue to surprise us with what it discovers and creates; then it will astound us by devising new methods to surprises us. At the core of science's self-modification is technology. New tools enable new structures of knowledge and new ways of discovery. The achievement of science is to know new things; the evolution of science is to know them in new ways. What evolves is less the body of what we know and more the nature of our knowing.

US military struggles with data loss

US military struggles with data loss. Here's a security tip for the digital age - write the biggest secrets down on paper.

Stephen Jay Gould and medical information online

In his essay, The Median Isn't the Message ( , Stephen Jay Gould recalls that when he was first diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, his consultant suggested that maybe he shouldn't read too much about his condition.

Commons-based peer production and the medical information monopoly

"A decade ago I consulted with a federal health agency on the redesign of its website. They wanted to use the web to make more health care information readily available to more people, but they didn't have much to offer. My suggestion was to leverage what we now call commons-based peer production , which then was mostly happening on the Usenet. The feds were deeply conflicted about that. They knew people were exchanging lots of useful information in newsgroups. But they also knew there was a lot of quackery, and they couldn't imagine themselves separating the wheat from the chaff. It was a valid concern. There was no way that they, alone, could patrol the likes of and highlight the most useful advice for, say, people recovering from knee replacement." [read more by following the url]

Telecommuting security concerns grow

Telecommuting has become a way of life as more companies let employees work from home to do jobs that might otherwise be done on corporate premises. As a result, IT managers are adapting security policies to encompass home PCs.

accuracy and precision

Good article in Wikipedia on both topics. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in pi.

Philosophy of information on Wikipedia

The entry needs some editing.

John Weckert editor of new springer journal on NanoEthics

Prof. John Weckert , of CAPPE and the School of Information Studies , Charles Sturt University , is the new editor of NanoEthics,11855,5-0-70-131768896-0,00.html?

Modelling social norms in multiagent systems

Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence Publisher: Taylor & Francis Issue: Volume 18, Number 01 / March 2006 Pages: 49 - 71 URL: Linking Options DOI: 10.1080/09528130500466783 Modelling social norms in multiagent systems Henry Hexmoor A1, Satish Gunnu Venkata A1, Donald Hayes A1 A1 Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA Abstract: Social norms are cultural phenomena that naturally emerge in human societies and help to prescribe and proscribe normative patterns of behaviour. In recent times, the discipline of multi-agent systems has been used to model social norms in an artificial society of agents. In this paper we review norms in multi-agent systems and then explore a series of norms in a simulated urban traffic setting. Using game-theoretic concepts we define and offer an account of norm stability. Particularly in small groups, a relatively small number of individuals with cooperative atti