The Creeping Garden

A real life science fiction movie exploring a world creeping right beneath our feet, where time and space are magnified and intelligence redefined.

The Creeping Garden is a feature length creative documentary exploring the work of fringe scientists, mycologists and artists, from the UK to Japan, and their relationship with the extraordinary plasmodial slime mould.

The slime mould is being used to explore biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot controllers, much of which borders on the world of science fiction.

This reminds us of Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, a designer, artist and writer, who explores the social, ethical and cultural implications of emerging technologies, especially synthetic biology. At PopTech 2010 she shared how her projects open up a creative space to imagine the potential scientific triumphs and disasters on the horizon.

Exploring Humanity's Evolving 'Global Brain'


Thomas W. Malone, director of MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, on his study of humanity’s ability to think beyond our own brains: the idea of “collective intelligence”.

What does collective intelligence mean? It’s important to realize that intelligence is not just something that happens inside individual brains. It also arises with groups of individuals. In fact, I’d define collective intelligence as groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. By that definition, of course, collective intelligence has been around for a very long time. Families, companies, countries, and armies: those are all examples of groups of people working together in ways that at least sometimes seem intelligent.

It’s also possible for groups of people to work together in ways that seem pretty stupid, and I think collective stupidity is just as possible as collective intelligence…

What’s new, though, is a new kind of collective intelligence enabled by the Internet. Think of Google, for instance, where millions of people all over the world create web pages, and link those web pages to each other. Then all that knowledge is harvested by the Google technology so that when you type a question in the Google search bar the answers you get often seem amazingly intelligent, at least by some definition of the word “intelligence”….

Our future as a species may depend on our ability to use our global collective intelligence to make choices that are not just smart, but also wise.

Want to dig deeper? Andy Revkin has a collection of links on his NY Times DotEarth blog. The fact that we are even having this discussion, in the connected manner that we are having it, is a pretty good example of the power of this idea.

Mind-boggling. 100,00 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser. It includes real location data of over 100,000 nearby stars, including 87 major named stars and our solar system.

Try it.

“With all disasters, with all crises, comes opportunity.”

Watch now: Víðir Reynisson, head of the National Commission of Icelandic Police, coordinates the country’s response to natural disasters, including the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and oversees the country’s search and rescue teams. Iceland has developed a nimble crisis management model.

“Most crises are endogenous. They are not coming out of the blue, like a black swan. They are knowable. They can be diagnosed in advance.”

Watch now: Didier Sornette is a professor of entrepreneurial risks in Zurich. He explores data patterns to help predict crises and extreme events in complex systems, like global financial crises. 

Watch now: First stage talk from PopTech Iceland released—undercover economist Tim Harford!

Economic commentator and author Tim Harford presented a creative, challenging perspective on financial systems, drawing upon examples from oil rig explosions to nuclear disasters to make his point. He believes that by studying the triggers of major engineering accidents, we can draw lessons on how to help prevent crises in the financial world.

Can One Incredibly Stubborn Person Save a Species?

In 1979 another in a growing line of alien species hitched a ride on a fishing skiff from a remote village on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula to land on Rasa Island, a tiny sun-blasted wafer of rock in the Gulf of California. The invader was Enriqueta Velarde, a petite 25-year-old Mexican graduate biology student who looked 18, with a comely smile and an adventuring heart. It was the launch of her Ph.D. research into one of the island’s resident species, the Heermann’s gull, a petite, pretty bird about which almost nothing was known. In fact, little was known of the island beyond its desolate oddities: thousands of mysterious stone cairns and pathways thought to have been made by guano miners in the 19th century, three wooden crosses marking unremembered graves, a stone hut crumbling with the region’s frequent temblors.

Eriqueta Velarde has saved two species, mostly on her own. And she’s not the only keystone lady saving entire ecosystems. Go, go, go read Julia Whitty’s #longread from our latest issue. (via motherjones


Astounding stereographic projection by Greek photographer Chris Kotsiopoloulos combines 24 hours into a single panoramic photograph.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Data Mining but Were Afraid to Ask

Big data is everywhere we look these days. Businesses are falling all over themselves to hire ‘data scientists,’ privacy advocates are concerned about personal data and control, and technologists and entrepreneurs scramble to find new ways to collect, control and monetize data. We know that data is powerful and valuable. But how? 

This article is an attempt to explain how data mining works and why you should care about it. Because when we think about how our data is being used, it is crucial to understand the power of this practice. Without data mining, when you give someone access to information about you, all they know is what you have told them. With data mining, they know what you have told them and can guess a great deal more. Put another way, data mining allows companies and governments to use the information you provide to reveal more than you think. 

To most of us data mining goes something like this: tons of data is collected, then quant wizards work their arcane magic, and then they know all of this amazing stuff. But, how? And what types of things can they know? Here is the truth: despite the fact that the specific technical functioning of data mining algorithms is quite complex — they are a black box unless you are a professional statistician or computer scientist — the uses and capabilities of these approaches are, in fact, quite comprehensible and intuitive.

Read more.[Image: Reuters]

(via theatlantic)