An unexpected resonance

My post of 2021/09/15 circled back to 2020/11/09, expectedly.

Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig.

Marcus Aurelius, around 170 AD

More than anything we are maintaining a mortuary here at the fish counter keeping all our skinned dead friends looking glam for the customer. We retrieve their corpses from the back, and then begin coaxing some semblance of “fresh” or “life” out of them.

The Secret Life of Groceries, published in 2020

Blogs should have three parts

  1. A list of other blogs that a blogger might recommend by providing links to them (usually in a sidebar list), also known as a blogroll.

2. A writing and publishing system, like WordPress or Jekyll. The blogroll is in a sidebar on the home page and in all posts.

3. A personal aggregator and feed reader, like Google Reader. Uses the blogroll. Posts can be reblogged with commentary or replied to in a standalone post.

Farhad Manjoo on Face Computing

The big problem with Google Glass was not technical but social. Despite the company’s best efforts to make Glass cool, the people who first got the device tended to be of a certain type — overconfident, entitled, rich tech guys. Soon they earned a derisive nickname — “glassholes” — and at that point the device was done for.

A lot has changed since Glass’s release. Cameras and mobile processors are smaller and more powerful; now Glass-like tech can be built into spectacles without much sacrifice in style. There is also far less social opprobrium attached to wearable tech; earbuds and smart watches are not just for rich nerds

Farhad Manjoo in the NYT

Awaken; return to yourself. Now, no longer asleep, knowing they were only dreams, clear-headed again, treat everything around you as a dream.

Marcus Aurelius

That line above is from The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (the version I was reading was “A New Translation“). I was awake at 3 AM and reading at the kitchen table, as usual, and it hit me like a lightning bolt.

As I understand it he’s saying that we are fools in a web of self-deception, something that he riffs on a lot. Here’s another fragment on the same theme:

Like seeing roasted meat and other dishes in front of you and suddenly realizing: This is a dead fish. A dead bird. A dead pig.

It wasn’t only the thought that struck me, but also the tweet-like shortness, without twitter.

Gaze Control

Imagine investing tens of billions in head-mounted computing like Oculus and seeing no better use case than social networking. Enter Facebook+RayBans:

“We’re passionate about exploring devices that can give people better ways to connect with those closest to them. Wearables have the potential to do that. With EssilorLuxottica we have an equally ambitious partner who’ll lend their expertise and world-class brand catalogue to the first truly fashionable smart glasses,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of the Reality Labs division, said in a statement.

Controlling your mouse by looking at your screen is more far-reaching and orders of magnitude cheaper. is all that.

Using your gaze as an input device enables all applications where the user’s hands and voice are unavailable.

I’m particularly inspired by musical performance, where the hands and even feet are committed to controlling an instrument and the voice is singing. Guitar pedal boards are a huge distraction.

Public speaking has similar constraints, but probably better budgets. Removing hand controllers from teleprompters would make the speaker more natural and authentic, less like an infomercial.

Not that eyeballs are the only viable approach. There’s more than one way to do it, and brain-computer interfaces are just around the bend. “This mind-controlled concept car lets you switch radio stations just by thinking about it“.

Using your mind to pick a show to watch to turn off your mind

…but gaze detection is both massively simpler and cheaper. It is the simplest thing that could possibly work.

However, even though I do not believe in the known use cases for Facebook’s new smart glasses, I believe the fashion side is a breakthrough, and I believe in fashion. People care a lot about how they look.

It’s not just Mr Fashion Nightmare himself. Pretty much all of us prefer to be Joey in sunglasses:

Over Joey with scary naked eyes:

Human factors are real. I have seen people wearing an big-ol’ Oculus in a cafe and the appearance is unacceptable. They might as well be wearing a strap-on potbelly. Human factors are arguably the only factors that matter. The Ray-Ban Stories video is entirely about human stuff, not tech.

Fashion isn’t easy to pull off. There’s a reason so many people wear Ramones t-shirts and so few wear Facebook t-shirts. If you’re advanced enough, you can pull off a Doja Cat.

I genuinely admire her

Zuckerberg is a Terminator robot, but he is not dumb. Solving the issue of looking snazzy is a meaningful advance.

Wood Between the Worlds

I was working on a new version of my personal home page and was reminded of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books.

I’m thinking of this page as a personal portal. It is strictly a jumping-off point. Nothing ever happens there – it is a place to pass through.

The Wood between the Worlds is a pond-filled forest in The Magician’s Nephew (1955), the sixth book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Each pond is a portal that provides instant transportation to a different world, such as Earth, Narnia or Charn.

The Wood between the Worlds is so named by Polly Plummer, who is transported there when Digory Kirke‘s Uncle Andrew tricks her into picking up a magic yellow ring. She soon falls asleep, and when Digory arrives later the children are both disoriented; they aren’t sure how long they have been there or even who they are. The state of lassitude is explained by C.S. Lewis as the Wood being a place where nothing ever happens, unlike the different worlds that it connects.

A search for illustrations of this space yielded this.

Hyphal and mycelial consciousness

Where the science is going is to dethrone not just human but also animal cognition!

Cognition is being manifested by sources with almost nothing in common. Parallel evolution is much more likely than genes carried over from the shared ancestor of mushrooms, octopuses, crows, and people.

If this doesn’t seem beyond weird to you, stop. It is almost impossible to process intuitively that a mycorrhizal web underground has a mind like your own.

This whole line of learning suggests that any thriving exo-ecology will contain intelligence. The chance that any life we may find will demonstrate cognition is going up.

Studies on mycelia and mycorrhizas have encouraged the concept of the forest as a kind of super-organism with a “wood wide net” formulated by fungal connections between trees. This awkward allusion to the World Wide Web has some usefulness as a metaphor, and is an attention grabber, but it does a disservice to the fungi. In this brief essay I have considered fungal expressions of consciousness, including sensitivity, decision making, learning, and memory. This rich behavioral repertoire allows fungi to adapt in real time to changes in environmental circumstances. Our internet shows none of this inherent flexibility. It is a network of pathways that generates nothing on its own. Life outshines the limitations of this drab technology in every cell. With the wealth of research revealing the sensitivity and responsiveness of individual hyphae to their environment, coupled with the novel studies on mycelial learning and memory, now is a fruitful time to recognize the study of fungal ethology as a distinctive discipline within mycology.

Hyphal and mycelial consciousness: the concept of the fungal mind

In recent years, a body of remarkable experiments have shown that fungi operate as individuals, engage in decision-making, are capable of learning, and possess short-term memory. These findings highlight the spectacular sensitivity of such ‘simple’ organisms, and situate the human version of the mind within a spectrum of consciousness that might well span the entire natural world.

The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence