Professor Benjamin Zeller was talking about the similarities between tech culture and religious thinking in this week’s Digital Human podcast, but his research on new religou and religious engagement with science is fascinating enough for it’s own series.
In this video he talks about the Heaven’s Gate Cult, so be aware there will be potentially triggering conversation about suicide, particularly suicide as a religious act. It’s a captivating interview.
Such was the prescription from indie musicians Amanda Palmer and Damon Krukowski ’85 during an animated discussion about digital creativity Tuesday night at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.
Krukowski, who came to the Consumer Research Center/store to kick off the tour for his new book, “The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World,” used “noise” to describe the ambient sounds such as air conditioning or breathing that found their way onto analog audio recordings, but he was also speaking of life in the pre-digital world before social media giants’ content streams.
Krukowski, who was the founder and drummer for Galaxie 500 in the late ’80s, worked on the idea of analog versus digital as a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society in 2015-16. By eliminating noise, he argued, digital technology has isolated authentic sound, though he hoped the debate would not be seen as old versus new, or good versus bad.
But Palmer, a rock ’n’ roll performer who has cultivated an intimate relationship with fans on and off social media, wasted no time lamenting the loss. Instead, she commiserated with Krukowski over a shared displeasure with Facebook. She quoted from Krukowski’s book: “Social media have no content to offer other than what their users provide. Yet that information, too, is limited to isolated signal as defined by the platform — a neat trick.” Then she made her own supporting argument.
“I also hate Facebook, and I hate Facebook more and more every day,” she said, bemoaning the algorithms it uses to determine what is signal and what is noise for its 2 billion users.
“Noise is necessary. If we’re going to stay human, visual, audio, emotional noise, it’s what makes life. If you don’t have it, you don’t really even have the conditions for living. If things are signal only, that literally means there is no room for coincidence, synchronicity, kismet, randomness — the things that make life feel realistic,” she said.
Rosie Matheson’s Boys series is, in this humble digihuman research monkey’s opinion, bloody gorgeous. The light is beautiful, and somehow in each shot she captures something with simmering intensity and yet an overriding intimacy and sensitivity throughout the whole series. She has an incredible talent for getting touching the heart of her subject in each shot. Beautiful example of why film is still such a beautiful, vital medium.
Consider this a lunctime lecture… so long as you aren’t squeamish. Caroline Rance was a great guest to have – I’d love to do a podcast with her all about the fascinating stories and products she’s unearthed in her research. Listen to her talk, and dive into her blog if you like a bit of weird medical history (and really, who doesn’t?).
Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley this year set themselves an audacious new goal: creating a brain-reading device that would allow people to effortlessly send texts with their thoughts.
In April, Elon Musk announced a secretive new brain-interface company called Neuralink. Days later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that “direct brain interfaces [are] going to, eventually, let you communicate only with your mind.” The company says it has 60 engineers working on the problem.
It’s an ambitious quest—and there are reasons to think it won’t happen anytime soon. But for at least one small, orange-beaked bird, the zebra finch, the dream just became a lot closer to reality.
That’s thanks to some nifty work by Timothy Gentner and his students at the University of California, San Diego, who built a brain-to-tweet interface that figures out the song a finch is going to sing a fraction of a second before it does so.
“We decode realistic synthetic birdsong directly from neural activity,” the scientists announced in a new report published on the website bioRxiv. The team, which includes Argentinian birdsong expert Ezequiel Arneodo, calls the system the first prototype of “a decoder of complex, natural communication signals from neural activity.” A similar approach could fuel advances towards a human thought-to-text interface, the researchers say.