A Class in second life: Identity and Embodiment

Today in my media studies course “Serious Gaming” we’re meeting in Second Life for our unit on ‘Identity and Embodiment.’ It will take place on Vassar Island at 1:30pm EST. I’ll be screencasting the whole thing, but come check it out.

Please leave a comment if you tuned in…

Here’s some screenshots from the area. Warning: digital nudity.




The Long Defeat – We’re in for a sad three months of Campaigning…

Here’s some selections from a must read op-ed at the NYtimes regarding Hillary’s dimming prospects of winning the Dem. nomination:

Let‚Äôs take a look at what she‚Äôs going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we‚Äôll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we‚Äôll have the daily round of r?©sum?© padding and sulfurous conference calls. We‚Äôll have campaign aides blurting ‚Äúblue dress‚Äù and only-because-he‚Äôs-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

On the politico machine:

For nearly 20 years, she has been encased in the apparatus of political celebrity. Look at her schedule as first lady and ever since. Think of the thousands of staged events, the tens of thousands of times she has pretended to be delighted to see someone she doesn‚Äôt know, the hundreds of thousands times she has recited empty clich?©s and exhortatory banalities, the millions of photos she has posed for in which she is supposed to appear empathetic or tough, the billions of politically opportune half-truths that have bounced around her head.

No wonder the Clinton campaign feels impersonal. It’s like a machine for the production of politics. It plows ahead from event to event following its own iron logic. The only question is whether Clinton herself can step outside the apparatus long enough to turn it off and withdraw voluntarily or whether she will force the rest of her party to intervene and jam the gears.

Link: The Long Defeat by David Brooks

Strange New York Times Slideshow Choices

Looks like the NYtimes slide-show department is having trouble coming up with ideas. Here we have “A history of Bullying” featuring photos of a poor kid who’s been beat up since the age of 12.

Also, make sure not to miss “Physical Culture | Gear Test, Running Hats”
Here’s a winner over at Reuters: Slideshow of the work of Beawiharta, of the Jakarta office of Reuters photography:
I know the two can’t be compared, but there’s got to be better photos to feature than hats and a collection of photos that a mother took of her teen’s bruises. COME ON

Bush says Iran (in the past tense) wants to have Nuclear Weapons to Destroy People

Here we have a classic case of Bush saying “Look at me… I still care about security, but I want to direct fear towards a certain geographic area…”

Iran Admits to Nuclear Weapon Ambitions, Bush Claims

U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday that Iran has openly admitted an intention to develop nuclear weapons, challenging a U.S. intelligence assertion that Tehran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the Washington Post reported (see GSN, March 20).

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people — some in the Middle East,” he said.

“That’s unacceptable to the United States, and it’s unacceptable to the world,” Bush told Radio Farda, a U.S.-funded station that broadcasts into Iran.

Iran analysts and proliferation experts quickly refuted Bush’s statement.

“That’s as uninformed as (U.S. Senator John) McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true. It’s a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran,” said nuclear proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund.

But we have someone in the National Security Council to clean up the cheerios from Bush’s playtime:

According to National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, Bush’s comment was intended to address past Iranian statements calling for the destruction of Israel.

“The president shorthanded his answer with regard to Iran’s previously secret nuclear weapons program and their current enrichment and ballistic missile testing,” he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department urged caution from U.S. banks regarding potential transactions with Iranian financial institutions. “The government of Iran disguises its involvement in proliferation and terrorism activities through an array of deceptive practices,” the department said in a statement.

Stay tuned, it might get ugly. I was looking for a picture of Bush to include in this post, but It made me kinda sad.

Facade Tomfoolery (Game Review)

this is a game review. 0 of 10 stars. Thumbs down.
Facade is without a doubt the greatest waste of time. Play it if you must, but try not to think how long it took to make the game–that’ll just make you depressed.

This post is second in a series relating to my video game class. Coming soon, our unit on Second Life. Screenshots galore! (thanks to skitch).

I took screenshots because I WANTED TO REMEMBER THE JOY

But those pants got me through the game, even though she was a total jerk the whole time.

Artificial Intelligence Links for 3/21/2008

Before we get into some interesting links to articles based loosely on the topic of Artificial Intelligence, please note that my personal blog can be found at fatanimals.com. It pulls in my flickr photos, twitter updates, and I may be posting more regularly to it with actual words.


Scientists Develop 16-bit Parallel Molecular Nanoprocessor

Anirban Bandyopadhyay and Somobrata Acharya from the International Center for Young Scientists, National Institute for Materials Science in Japan, are reporting a self organizing 16-bit parallel processing molecular assembly.

A 2 inch cube of a material with this processing power would contain the processing power of the human brain.

Distinguishing Artificial From Natural Is Possible, for Now [wired]

Some researchers have speculated that it might be possible to tell the difference between natural and artificial life, if scientists added “watermarks” to their engineered DNA. In January, for instance, genome guru Craig Venter and his colleagues made news when they rebuilt a microbe’s entire genome. It wasn’t a carbon copy of the original, however, because the scientists also inserted small segments of DNA to spell out their names in the genetic code.

Global Network of Dreams

Gnod is my experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. Its a self-adapting system, living on this server and ‘talking’ to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn ‘understanding’ its visitors. This enables gnod to share all its wisdom with you in an intuitive and efficient way. You might call it a search-engine to find things you don’t know about.

It Takes a Giant Cosmos to Create Life and Mind by James N. Gardner

The Intelligent Universe proposes a third possibility: that the universe might end in intelligent life. Not life as we know it, but life that has acquired the capacity to shape the cosmos as a whole, just as life on Earth has acquired the ability to shape the land, the sea, and the atmosphere. As Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson puts it: “Mind, through the long course of biological evolution, has established itself as a moving force in our little corner of the universe. Here on this small planet, mind has infiltrated matter and has taken control. It appears to me that the tendency of mind to infiltrate and control matter is a law of nature.”

Nerve-tapping Communication and Mobility

This a demonstration of a device (already in commercialization) that can decipher nerve impulses created by thought and translate them into speech. The video below is the first ‘telepathic’ phone call. I would expect to be shown something like this, but I just found it:

And those same voice signals have been processed into directions for a wheelchair prototype in the style of Xavier from X-men. I imagine the ‘driver’ thinks ‘left’ ‘go’ ‘right’ ‘stop’ — all while clasping his hands in a t-pee like Sherlock Holmes as he contemplates his next move:


Let’s talk a little bit about technological potential. The brain machine interfaces scientists have been working on for perhaps three decades will soon reach the point where no computer input will ever be required. Just as voice recognition (and computer speech) has become natural and reliable, so will our ‘telepathic’ communication with computers become efficient and effortless. While this isn’t the first instance of voice communication from brain–>machine–>audio, the fact that New Scientist has featured/sensationalized this feat on their Youtube channel means people will soon began to think of what this means.

In terms of brain input, there’s also a great deal of research into creating artificial vision. A cochlear implant for the eyes (in the form of a strange tooth implant) has given blind people sight. In thirty years the “interface” between machines and people as a concept may soon be spoken of as something silly that the primitive Gen-‘information age’ folks toiled over.

From: Telepathic Chat [New Scientist -March 12, 2008]
Also see ‘Is this the Bionic Man’ [Nature]

A more perfect Union – Barack Obama, Philadelphia, PA

Now, please help me find a speech like this by the other two candidates…

Let’s talk about awards. Statistics:

  • The speech has been featured on the News and Politics pages for 19 nations besides USA. (featured by youtube staff)
  • #1 Most viewed today in News and Politics.
  • #1 Most Favorited Today.
  • YouTube%20-%20Obama%20Speech:%20'A%20More%20Perfect%20Union'

    March 18th, 10:15am, Philadelphia, PA (text from WSJ)

    “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

    Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
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