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Time Lapse of Colossus Assembly at Maker Faire Bay Area

Photo by Matt Richardson

I'm proud to have been on one of three teams shooting over 100 of the best projects at this year's Maker Faire. The centerpiece was Colossus. This assembly time lapse gives a good feel for its size and presence, but it's not the same as seeing it on-site. Although, standing next to it means you don't get time lapse!

Shot by Nat Wilson-Heckathorn

Do Androids Dream of Wall Mounted Art?

Do Androids Dream of Wall Mounted Art? San Francisco

Having questions about whether becoming "transhuman" will feel great or kind of, like, weird? Whether the promise of living forever and morphing into a god is something new when it's presented by science as opposed to superstition?

If so, this new art show probably won't be of any help to you. It assumes that ushering in a post-human intelligence (The Singularity) will absolutely be super awesome for everyone.

Singularity Schwag - Transform & Transcend; San Francisco

You can understand how an immortality cult of rich, powerful nerds has a need to equate science and art in order to make the idea of evolving into a machine feel less apocalyptic. But I fear they're gonna have to do better than this.

For example, I give Google credit for their Droid commercials, especially the one of the miners who discover a floating chunk of ore that converts humans into machines - it's bold and dark and, aside from the presumption that we'll be given a choice about the conversion, doesn't sugar coat the horror that would no doubt accompany the process. You've probably seen it:

I recommend repeated viewings. Pay attention to the storyline here: Open on what looks like earth, at a futuristic strip mine. A group of folks who cannot breathe the atmosphere enter a sci-fi gate, plunge deep into the earth, pass an empty helmet (it isn't like theirs - it looks like that of a current-day military pilot), and finally enter the chamber where the levitating mystery ore somehow leads one brave guy to take off his space suit's sleeve and insert his bare arm into the thing. His arm immediately turns into a machine (with a Verizon-powered Droid phone on the end, naturally).

The best thing about the spot is that it's fucking cool. The tangible sense of menace in the story raises more questions than it answers.

An earlier spot is simpler, and doesn't include choice - in the reflection of a closeup of an eyeball, we see someone is simply browsing online and in the process is converted into a machine:

In contrast, here is the propaganda of the Singularitarian cult in its rawest form:

There are no questions here, just answers. It reeks of desperation and fear - fear that no one else on the planet believes their immortalist vision and, therefore, their own day of Transformation will never come.

Relax, guys. Assuming the Machine Intelligence will take cognizance of us at all when it emerges, I'm sure it can resurrect us from the dead along with all of our relatives who have ever passed on. Take a lesson from your religious cousins - have a little faith. If nothing else, it's more becoming.

Ironically, Google's approach will probably sweeten people up to the notion of surrendering to the Singularity more than the pure propaganda approach will. It seems that the Google hive mind understands irony better than the wanna-be transhumans. Which is truly, epically, cosmically fucking ironic.

This Synthetic Bacteria Thing-a-ma-jiggy

This is an interview conducted in my living room in Hayes Valley for a webzine and a podcast I produced back in 2007. (Here are MP3s of the whole interview: Part 1, Part 2)

In it, Dr. Alan Goldstein, a professor of bio-materials at Alfred University, proposes that the creation of synthetic biological life would in fact be our First Contact with alien life.

He also explains that such an endeavor represents the height of hubris if we assume that we can predict what will happen after that point, and whether it will work out well or not for our species.

I wonder how he thinks the newly-announced self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell fits in the context of his A-Prize, a contest meant to emphasize safeguarding humanity against over-ambitious researchers in this field.

Most of the commentary in the media is already being filled with the same old paranoia about "playing god," and it falls as flat as ever. That's because we rarely dig down to the existential issue at the core of the fear - our own mortality.

Google Teases SF With Promise of Fiber Internet Roll-out

Google Laying Fiber in San Francisco?

The SF Examiner reports that Google will make its initial presentation to the Committee on Information Technology (COIT) regarding its desire to bring ultra high-speed internet access to the city as part of a nationwide trial program. According to Google Project Manager James Kelly:

“We plan to provide fiber to the home service with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second for at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people. In selected locations we’ll offer Internet connections up to 100 times faster than many Americans have access to today – and at competitive prices.”

Google will speak to COIT on Thursday morning.

I want to believe. Having said that, some of us remember the whole free city-wide wi-fi debacle, and even past promises of fiber.

(spotted @)

No Excuses, Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith at Macworld; Photos: Jon Snyder/

The director of Cop Out made a speech or something at Macworld here in San Francisco. I'm no fashionist, but by what natural law is Smith permitted to appear on stage making Heshy Fried look like Johnny Weir?

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Twitter Cheats for Gavin Newsom, Soon to be CA CZAR

gavin newsom, mayor of San Francisco

Also, Twitter hates Republicans who run for governor in California:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is on the suggested user list and has 1.2 million followers. His likely opponent for the Democratic nomination, Attorney General Jerry Brown, has 960,000 followers even though he is not a declared candidate and has posted the fewest tweets of all the gubernatorial hopefuls.

None of the three Republican candidates is on the list, and all have fewer than 5,000 followers.

Hey, here's a thought: Those people are lower not on the list because they have fewer followers. Oh, wait:

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said in a March posting on his blog that he and a handful of other company employees make the final choice about who will be featured, a list that has grown to about 500 people.

Ha, Newsom has no excuse for losing now. (That is so not fair.)

The iPhone is Dead, Long Live my iPhone?

Part of me is, like, "Shit I just signed a 2-year contract with AT&T for my new iPhone!" Because as everyone knows, AT&T isn't a real cellular network. Example: every time there's the smallest hipster event in Dolores Park (like a warm weekend day), the ability to connect in all of the surrounding Mission District territory, my house included, suffers.

But instead of lamenting the fact that I'm stuck with them, and now there's a better-performing network with a potential rival to iPhone that I'm barred from for at least 19 more months, I'm gonna instead focus on the possibility that a bunch of disgruntled iPhone users will exodus and free up some bandwidth back here in what is sure to become the smartphone ghetto.

In fact, AT&T, please continue with your horrible performance and customer service. I need all the disgruntled hipsters you can muster, if I'm to have a chance at satisfaction in this life.

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Google Street View Blackout


Take a close look at the image above. The blue highlighted streets are the ones covered by Google Street View. "A" marks the approximate location of my house. You'll notice that a whole range of surrounding blocks are not highlighted, in addition to an adjacent area to the west. Accordingly, if you try to navigoogle off of Mission Street onto 19th Street towards Capp, or Lexington... well, you can't do that.