OK, so I’ve discovered an awesome sci-fi webcomic, A Miracle of Science. The number one cool thing is the heroine, Caprice, who is a Martian. These are humans who moved to Mars and developed a group mind, with the help of nanotechnology and the like. This results in an awesome piece of dialogue when Caprice hits on the hero, Benjamin:
Benjamin: …That is the third person who gave me a flower today.
Caprice: Mars likes you.
Benjamin: That’s like saying “Brazil has decided you’re cute“.
I ran across something that reminded me of this yesterday… apparently Kodak created a world-record-sized photo montage, with the tagline “The Whole of Greece in One Smile“, where “The people of Greece were invited to send a picture and be part of history in the largest-ever photographic montage. The photos of the 16,609 Greeks that responded made up the face of a child, whose smile looks at the future with hope and awaits the ATHENS 2004 Olympic Games with pride.” Greece is smiling at you.
While I’m a rugged individualist, the idea of this emergent intelligence, or emergent democracy, is very appealing. The concept of smart mobs can give us this strong supporting community while alllowing us to retain our autonomy. Admittedly we’re not sure how emergent democracy/smart mobs will develop in the future, but I think that this is one of the most interesting and exciting parts of the free culture movement. As the internet and digital technology makes it increasingly easier and cheaper for individuals communicate with one another on a global scale, it will be increasingly true “that a million people are smart / Smarter than one” (to quote NOFX).
So I recently came across this awesome movement known as Critical Mass. The idea is that, in China, bicycles manage to take control of the streets away from cars by pooling up at traffic lights until they build up to a “critical mass”, at which point the cars have to respect them, and they bike on down the road moving as one “supervehicle”. Then isolated bicyclists gather up at the traffic light again and the cycle repeats. Critical Mass is an attempt to create similar “flash mobs” in the United States and around the world, anywhere where bikes are not as prevalent as they are in China and bicyclists are second-class citizens on the roads.
Check out these links:
The big problem that they seem to be having with these websites is that, since this is a decentralized movement, most of the websites are abandoned pages where the people who created the page have moved on, but they have failed to hand over control to somebody else who lives in the area.
This movement is crying for a Critical mass Wiki! For goodness sakes, somebody set this up!
In case anyone was wondering, there is a god, and His name is Public Safety.
As I posted earlier my bike has been missing, which made me very sad, as it was the bike that was in the NYTimes and it has some sentimental value. Public Safety thought they had found my bike once before, but was a different bike that happened to be red and also made by Giant. Today, I got a call from Public Safety that they thought they had found my bike again, and I was bracing myself for another false alarm as we pulled up to PPR. Then they pointed to a bike leaning on the side of the building, and I recognized the sleek outlines of my oh-so-sexy bike! The gear-shifters are messed up, but other than that it is in perfect condition! Even the head and taillights are still attached.
All in all, my faith is restored.
P.S. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were public bikes just lying around whenever you needed one? Here is some news about that idea: http://www.smartmobs.com/archives/002905.html
Hey, check it out, I’m speaking at the Internet Commons Congress in Washington DC on March 25! Look at the “schedule”! I’m on Thursday on the “Digital Democracy” panel. Tune in to the audio webcast if you can, I’m speaking 10:30-11:30am EST on Thursday. It’s going to be insanely awesome, and now I actually have an excuse to miss class. I was fretting over whether it was worth committing academic suicide to go to this conference, but now that I’m speaking, I kind of have to go, my concerns are now… academic! Ha! Ha! Bad Swarthmore pun…
In other news, I successfully found a blind date for my roommate Jerome in the Swarthmore tradition known as “Screw your Roommate”. Everyone gets a blind date on the same night, and you find your date by recognizing their costume: For instance, I was Red Hat Linux (I had a ginormous construction paper hat), and I was told that my date was another open source mascot (she turned out to be the BSD Daemon, of course). I thought it was pretty funny that I was playing matchmaker, but I guess it doesn’t really count because I screwed Jerome with my friend Christina from Haverford, who is definitely not single. Sigh… Jerome was happy though, and I guess that’s all that matters, and I was glad to see Christina too. She was supposed to be a character in an opera (supposedly the Ring Cycle), so she had this funky corset on, goodness knows why people have these things in their dorm closets. And Jerome was a mathematical ring (he went around saying, “I’m closed under addition and subtraction!” or something to that effect). It was a fun night.
Oh, and Vertigogo, Swat’s improv comedy group, did an awesome show! The best part was the dating game, where each contestant was supposed to represent something different. Neil was an international organ thief, Joella was a chicken embryo, but the other kid whose name I forgot stole the show as The Meaning of Swarthmore! And because some people have been filming on campus a lot in the past few days for a Swarthmore propaganda video, some of Vertigogo spent a good part of the show miming the actions of an annoying camera crew 🙂 It rocked, go see their shows if you get a chance!
This was too good not to blog… also from Boing Boing, there is an art gallery of really creepy Photoshopped kids, somewhat reminiscent of IBM’s Linux boy, except more artsy. Some of them look like they just stepped right out of Ender’s Game… they look like super-intelligent cold-blooded killers.
Incidentally, this also made me think of Steve “the Cyborg Professor” Mann and his “filtered reality”… since he has a videocamera digitally recording everything he sees, he can take what he is seeing and change how it looks in realtime, so that the world he sees becomes living art. He has some interesting pictures on his site from recordings of sessions like this, but his site seems to be down now, unfortunately.
Well, it was my birthday yesterday, and I am now, frighteningly enough, a 20-year-old. I always used to justify my more reckless activities by saying, “I’m a teenager, I’m invincible!” or justify my sex drive by saying, “I’m a healthy teenage guy!” Now what will I say?
Incidentally, nobody knew that it was my birthday. Why is this? Because I didn’t tell anyone. Continue reading →
In an essay entitled How I Lost The Big One, Lessig provides us all with a valuable learning experience from the time when he took Eldred vs. Ashcroft to the Supreme Court and lost. Logical arguments are not enough, people have to feel in their guts the importance of Free Culture, otherwise they won’t lift a finger to defend it. Logical arguments aren’t going to overcome the inertia and power of the monopolies. We’ve got to aim for people’s hearts.
It is very painful to see our friend and hero Lawrence Lessig flagellating himself, however; I hope that he can leave this behind him, and help us take the fight into the future without carrying this weight upon his shoulders.