It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

fear of sentient robots

[something short that I’d like to turn into something much longer, given the time to do some research. –jet]

In the past few weeks there have been a number of news articles and at least four kerjillion blog posts regarding robots and the future of humanity. Robots that power themselves with organic matter, robots that can run like an animal, and snake robots that can hump human legs are all pretty cool, but there’s also a related narrative that we, as humans, don’t know how to deal with sentient robots.

The thing is, we’ve had unstoppable, zombie-like, intelligent actors capable of taking out a single human for at least a century. They have legal status, can own property, can file lawsuits, own weapons, have security forces, and they self-replicate based on available resources.

They’re called “corporations”.

A corporation has almost all the rights of an individual human, save for voting. But in most other ways, they’re better than any single human. They can store and process data in vast quantities and faster than a single human. They can make intelligent decisions about how they interact with you based on your purchasing history, your medical history, your entertainment preferences, and your social networking activities. A corporation can not only repair itself, it can survive financial death via various forms of bankruptcy and self-replication. If a corporation gets too big, it can split into a group of more efficiently sized corporations that can coordinate efforts with one another.

I’m not worried about a future where sentient robot dogs that feed on the dead stalk the streets at night.

I’m worried about a now where corporations trick humans into paying as much for a liter of bottled tap water as they do for a liter of milk.

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posted by jet at 19:11  

Monday, July 20, 2009

a little design thinking inspiration for the day

[I got stuck while writing three journal entries at once so I went to Papanek for some inspiration and found this nice passage. Typos are due to OCR failures. –jet]

Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World, revised ed, p293 :


A more durable kind of design thinking entails seeing the product (or tool, or transportation device, or building, or city) as a meaningful link between man and environment. We must see man, his tools, environment, and ways of thinking and planning, as a nonlinear, simultaneous, integrated, comprehensive whole.

This approach is integrated design. It deals with the specialized extensions of man that make it possible for him to remain a generalist. All man’s functions — breathing, balancing, walking, perceiving, consuming, symbol-making, society-generating — are interrelated and interdependent. If we wish to relate the human environment to the psychophysical wholeness of the human being, our goal will be to replan and redesign both function and structure of all the tools, products, shelters, and settlements of man into an integrated living environment, an environment capable of growth, change, mutation, adaptation, regeneration, in response to man’s needs.

Integrated design will concern itself, for the first time since the Late Paleolithic, with unity. This must include locally autonomous planning, as well as regional and city planning, architecture (both interior and exterior), industrial design (including systems analysis, transportation, and bionic research), product design (including clothing), packaging, and all the graphic, video and film-making skills that can be generally subsumed under the phrase visual design. Dividing lines exist between these areas at present, but the lunacy of these divisions is apparent even on the most basic level. To use one example: what is architecture? Assuredly it is more than the skill of building arches. Consider today’s mix of civil engineering, speculative building, contracting, interior decoration, federally subsidized mass housing, landscaping, regional planning, rural and urban sociology, sculpture, and industrial design: what is left?

Architecture can hardly still be considered an area of its own (it lacks definition), and it overlaps with dozens of different fields. In view of all this, what is architecture? Could this be the reason so many architects have moved toward research, self-indulgent paper fantasies, heroic but ecologically unsound monumentalism, planning, and industrial design during the last decade? And during that same time, industrial designers have concerned themselves increasingly with the development of prefabricated houses and building components. Interior designers have developed furniture and tools and got caught up in such fads as supergraphics, nostalgia, brutalism, and so forth, while visual designers develop products and make films.


If we speak of integrated design, of design-as-a-whole, of unity, we need designers able to deal with the design process comprehensively. Lamentably, designers so equipped are not yet turned out by any school. Their education would need to be less specialized and include many disciplines now considered to be only distantly related to design, if related at all.

Integrated design is not a set of skills, techniques, or rules but should be thought of as a series of functions occurring simultaneously rather than in a linear sequence. These simultaneous “events” can be thought of (in biological terms) as initial fertilization, developmental growth, production (or mimesis), and evaluation, the latter leading to reinitiation or regeneration or both, thus forming a closed feedback loop. Integrated design (a general unified design system) demands that we establish at what level of complexity the problem belongs. Are we, for instance, dealing with a tool that must be redesigned, or are we dealing with a manufacturing method in which this tool has been used, or should we rethink the product itself in relation to its ultimate purpose? […]”

posted by jet at 15:18  

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