The Internet’s Effect on the Human Mind (discussion forum)

Any communicative medium allows us to deliver cognitive information into a shared space of consciousness, and ideally, to deliver much of our “known” reality to another mind. Media shape information, decide how it can be delivered, and, how we receive and interpret it. “Cognitive science has revealed a human brain notable for its plasticity. It is not unreasonable to speculate that the Internet not only shapes itself to the mind but shapes the mind to itself”, writes Ana Menéndez in this month’s Poets & Writers magazine.

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‘Ghost Net’: Cyber-spying Probe Reveals Vast Network of Cyber-espionage Based in China

Investigators in several countries say they have uncovered a global “ghost net” of cyber-espionage, with major centers in three Chinese provinces and a foothold in California. Just one of the group’s alleged cyber-spies is said to have created a system that hacked into 30,000 computers per day. The investigation began with a probe into alleged hacking of computers used by the Dalai Lama in exile in India.

According to CNN:

Computers —including machines at NATO, governments and embassies— are infected with software that lets attackers gain complete control of them, cyber-security experts alleged in two reports Sunday.

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Big Oil Needs to Adjust to Non-fuel Long-term Business Model

The converging crises of carbon-induced climate destabilization and unsustainable transport-related costs and land-use are pushing global society toward a moment of major change, in which “fuel” as we know it will be less a matter of resourced-fuel combustion and more a matter of renewable clean electric power storage and delivery. The petroleum industry needs to adjust its business model to operate in a world where burning its prime resource is not the goal.

Until now, and even in the midst of the current ongoing energy debate, we are accustomed to viewing the onset of renewable energy sources and the interests of petroleum companies as diametrically opposed and politically incompatible. That idea is now easily seen as what it is: an ideological assumption based on a world-view informed by too few facts and too little understanding of complex interrelationships among resources, natural systems, and economic activity. 

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Page-perfect Touchscreen e-Reader will Revolutionize Mobile Computing

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The Amazon Kindle is a nice device, and it handles its job well, but it is just a very clumsy start to what will be a technological convergence few in mainstream media (and publishing) are anticipating, though it may not be far off. The page-perfect, for lack of a better term, e-reading device will make portable electronic reading easier and more comfortable than ever, packing huge amounts of data, as well as wireless downloading and even browsing capability, into an ultrathin tablet touchscreen.

The device may, after one or two initial iterations, come to have the computing power of today’s less expensive laptop computers, and will capitalize on the great discoveries in user-interface technology that have emerged from the introduction of the iPhone into the mainstream consumer market.

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In Defense of Essay-length Online Writing

Brevity is the soul of wit. True enough. But, information that brings us to a more enlightened approach to understanding the world often needs to “play out” in a substantial interaction of ideas, a “testing” of logical thought-processes as relating to concept and interpretation, an essay. There has long been a presumption that online writing must be brief, due to the “above the fold” bias of attention-span deficient online readers, but I would argue that the medium is actually ideally suited to something very different.

The traditional newspaper or magazine has a limited amount of space, as well as the physical constraints of materials used, weight, shipping, cost, etc., that necessarily interfere with the length and scope of materials contained within. And yet, one can often find far longer profile or investigative pieces printed in the pages of The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair, than one tends to find on even probing, serious investigative online publications.

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Resilient Complexity versus Exposure to Entropy

All systems fail, all organized interactions are vulnerable to entropy, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And at best, we are but stardust, a beautiful yet haunting explanation of our origins. Infused with light. Doomed to shadow. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, in the mortal physical realm, entropy is always interfering. The intellect often uses convenient conceptualizations to feel it is better understood or more secure, more real and lasting, than it is.

Remember: the only constant is change, so to oversimplify is to willfully strip ourselves of needed understanding, the power of intellect that can do the best work against entropy. To paint in broad strokes an entire universe of experience to exist only in dualities of black and white, up and down, matter and void, is to confuse simplicity with clarity, at our peril. While the best explanation is usually the simplest one, the truth is almost always more complex than we can perceive.

So, we are left to navigate a universe of traumas and disappointments we cannot just dismiss as signs of the wrong thing happening or the other side gaining temporary control over our otherwise pure and decent environs. Darkness and light are lies in that they are not so diametrically opposed as they pretend; there are better options for understanding what they mean. As R. Buckminster Fuller has written: “We have relationships, not space”.

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Transparency Network as Means of Restoring Financial Confidence

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It may be that “a few bad apples” got the ball rolling on what has turned into a massive international financial disaster. Or, it may be that a few bad apples got their names in lights, while the entire system conspired unwittingly in a spectacular collapse. Either way, the best expression of the problem might be to say that markets have stopped working, in part, because they have been comprehensively modified to stop working like markets.

With capital vanishing, nearly $7 trillion in stock losses in just a few months, and banks refusing to lend even the tens of billions they were given precisely to lubricate the lending process, we are facing a crisis of confidence and an inability to conceptualize shared interest. The idea that self-interest motivates markets somehow developed, irresponsibly, into the idea that self-interest is more important than the functionality of market dynamics.

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Ziggurat Century: Global Civilization as the New Babel, with Reason for Hope

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We are living in a time of unprecedented global integration, where economies, security interests, legal systems, and languages and systems of learning have been dispersed and interwoven across the globe. There are obvious positive effects to this integration, along with certain overarching and seemingly intractable problems that cause real worry for even the most hopeful or studied observers.

Languages and cultures intermingle, yet seek to remain distinct and continuous, and individuals seek to enhance their own possibilities (requiring freedom of information, and freedom of movement), while seeking to prevent the corrosion of already structured social fabrics. The obvious problem is that some of our most vital human interests come into conflict more readily with those of others, when massive numbers of people mix and intermingle, individuals and cultures competing with one another for the spoils of a new global system.

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Raindrops New Source of Low-Intensity Clean Energy

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A new study has shown that raindrops can be used to produce electricity. The key is the mechanical energy of the raindrops, meaning the energy contained in their motion and in the way that force is diffused when striking a given type of surface. In this case the surface is PVDF (polyvinylidene difluoride) plastic, which is able to release a charge when temporarily “deformed” by mechanical activity, such as being struck by a moving object.

A sheet of PVDF just 25 micrometers thick (1,000 = 1 milimeter) receives the impact of raindrops, and the effect is the release of energy, which can be harvested and turned into electricity. Romain Guigon, from the research institute CEA Leti-Minatec in Grenoble, France, says the research shows that “even in the most unfavorable conditions, the mechanical energy of the raindrops… is high enough to power low-consumption devices”, but the study does not specify how well circuitry retains a minimum charge sufficient for regular functioning.

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Microwave Engine Applies Theory of Relativity, for Locomotion

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electromagnetic drive could make wings, wheels, combustion obsolete

A new breakthrough in propulsion technology may enable a fuel-free engine with no moving parts to use microwaves to push satellites through space and automobiles on earth. The science is complicated and controversial, but appears to be sound and takes advantage of Einstein’s landmark theory of relativity to turn contained microwaves into a propulsion system, in the form of a non-mechanical engine.

The electromagnetic drive (emdrive) system is revolutionary because it enables human technology to interact with the physical environment in ways previously only dreamed in science fiction. Observers have referred to it as a Star-Trek-style “warp drive”, though for now it is far less powerful.

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