You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
Evgeny Morozov (previously
) calls bullshit
on the "increasingly" "simplistic" "anxiety-peddling futurology" surrounding the TED conference in generally and especially the new TED book Hybrid Reality
by Ayesha & Parag Khanna. [more inside]
Barnes and Noble is spinning off Nook into a subsidiary business
after a $300M deal with Microsoft which gives the Redmond company a 17% stake, bringing an end to a patent dispute
between the two companies and sending shares skyrocketing
. Commentary from John Scalzi
and Tobias Buckell
. Meanwhile the Kindle Fire, Amazon's competitor to the Nook tablet, has grabbed over 50% of the Android tablet market
is an imprint of University of Michigan Press which releases scholarly books under a creative commons license. They've got 19 books published already
and more on the way
. Among those on offer are poet and English professor Kevin Stein's Poetry's Afterlife: Verse in the Digital Age
, anthropologist Bonnie A. Nardi's My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft
, English professor Buzz Alexander's Is William Martinez Not Our Brother?: Twenty Years of the Prison Creative Arts Project
and English professor Elizabeth Carolyn Miller's Framed: The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siècle
. If you don't want to read a whole book they also have essay collections, such as Civic Engagement in the Wake of Katrina
and Best Technology Writing 2008
, which includes pieces by, among others, Cass Sunstein, Robin Meija and Walter Kirn. [previously, Rock Paper Shotgun scribe Jim Rossignol's This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities]
Some are calling it the "Kindle Killer".
(Demo launch video at engadget
.) Plastic Logic's new e-reader, expected to be out in the first half of 2009, does promise to offer a lot that Kindle and most other other popular e-readers don't, like a larger display, big enough to provide a newspaper or magazine layout; touch-based markup and annotation; the ability to read standard documents and other file types without conversion; (promised) Wi-Fi connectivity (including the ability to transfer documents between readers); and last but not least, a screen display that you can hit with a shoe
, and isn't that something we've all been waiting for during these tense times? [more inside]
"I began to realize that "robots"-- in all their various forms-- can really be seen as a symbol of a larger relationship between people and technology." In 1988, Frederick Schodt
wrote about the Japanese fascination and use of robots in his book Inside the Robot Kingdom
, curious by the disparities between American and Japanese manufacturing processes . In 1988, the American public wasn't ready for the book, or for robots.
Today, Japan still has embraced robotic automation
in a way that arguably no other country has. For more similar topics, Mangobot
is a column that reports on Asian futurism.
Edward Samuel's Illustrated History of Copyright
A fascinating illustrated historical tour, looking at how different technologies have shaped how we think about copyright and intellectual property.
From the U.S. National Academies Press: 3,000 Science, Technology, Medical, and Social Science Books Available Free, Online.
The interface is clunky - you can only see one page at a time, can't download PDFs (except paid) and image view is via TIFF - but!
the content is all there, and free. Some is quite technical, but much is readily accessible. Some idea of the breadth: A Doctor's Memoirs of Treating AIDS in Haiti
, The "Drama of the Commons"
, The 1872 Research Voyage of HMS Challenger
, Biography of Stephen Hawking
, Biotechnology Research in the Age of Terrorism
, Risk Reduction Strategies for Human Exploration of Space
, Forensic Lead Bullet Analysis
, 50 Short Essays on How Mathematicians Think
, Recent Research on Non-Lethal Weapons
, and Introduction to Tough Topics in Contemporary Science
Also, see their rather spiffy site on the cosmos
The first Transhuman Conference On the Law of Transhuman Persons:
Whether or not you believe humans are set to evolve into gods, or AI is destined to achieve self-awareness
the idea of the Transhuman
is a thought provoking concept. Philosophers have debated the nature of the self
, of the human for millennia. Is it time to start drafting new laws to govern all
possible sentient beings on this planet? or is it all just a science
? a comfortable humanist illusion
by Tim Whitaker, editor at Philadelphia Weekly
, who "kind of jests
" someone should order the main branch of the Free Library at 19th and Vine streets gutted, all the passé books written by the long since dead and decayed--books that nobody looks at anyway, thrown out, and replaced with computers.
This could be done over a long weekend, and the new Free Workstation Center of Philadelphia would open. Thousands of city residents who'd been priced out of the Information Revolution for well over a decade would rush to the free computers to experience the online rush that comes with access to the WWW.
He says Amazon's new service "search inside the book" is the first glimpse of a full-bore revolution in the way research will be conducted and books will be distributed in the future that spells the death of libraries.
He bounced this idea off of Steven Levy, a Philadelphia native who writes about technology for Newsweek, and he says "It's not that crazy, The future of libraries is a hot topic with librarians all over the country."
"Once the Web has become a full-service digital archive of the whole wide written word, it'll only be a quick innovation or two before we'll have the technology to order and bind books on our own home book-printing systems. Ebooks will finally become reality. Libraries will become mini-museums, where old books are kept under glass, relics of the pre-"inside the book" revolutionary age.
A new dynamic in e-publishing?
While at work today, I stumbled on Safari
, an online book library of sorts from O'Reilly & Associates, Addison Wesley Professional, New Riders and about 4 other companies (as previously mentioned here
). It allows to select from upwards of 1000 books, fully searchable and bookmarkable, online for a flat monthly subscription rate.
Safari is just for tech books, but wouldn't it be interesting to see the technology and business plan adapted for other uses?
Catalogue your personal library...
I have a sizeable library, and have long wanted to catalog the whole thing for insurance purposes and for general gee-whiz potential. The prospect of hand entering information for each of the books, though, has kept me from doing anything. Now, thanks to a link at PB's site
, I've got the itch again... and something to scratch it.
Note to Mac users: Mac-Barcode has a USB scanner available.