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. precisiongazemouse.org 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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_between_the_Worlds

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

List of blogs on the open web

Refined.blog:

“We need personal blogs again. It’s hard to find blogs so let’s create this blog list together!”

To submit a blog, you add a JSON blob to a GitHub repo:

https://github.com/m8/refined.blog/blob/master/contributing.md

The site is basically an enormous blogroll. A very very long list of blog names and links. A list at the end of the world, like a scroll in a dusty locked library whose only function is to be added to.

I appreciate the sheer laziness of this approach. It is beautiful.

Hack idea: text effects

Guitar effects take a stream of audio, usually in real time, and modify it. Text effects would take a stream of written words and perform artful modifications.

Auto-translation is a text modification that isn’t about art.

  • Input: Hello. I like you. You are a very good person.
  • Output: Hola. Me gustas. Eres una muy buena persona.

Round-trip auto-translation would translate forward, then translate the translated text back. It would add a layer of weirdness.

If I send “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” from English through Somali, Latvian, Tajik, and back to English, I get “The best times were the worst times.


Text effects and guitar effects could be chained together.

  1. Talk into a mic
  2. Speech to text
  3. English to Somali to Latvian to Tajik to English
  4. Text to speech
  5. Distortion
  6. Cathedral reverb

Joyful mayhem!

Europeanism is a better word than racism

All the words for non-white people are wrong. There is no one word that makes sense. The shortcomings of POC led to BIPOC, and BIPOC will into an infinity of additional initials. The problem is is that we are thinking about the people affected by racism, not the people doing the racism.

I am making up better words.

Instead of POC or BIPOC, we could say TWA, standing for Targets of White Aggression.

Instead of racism:

  • Europeanism
  • Colonialism
  • Whiteism (whitism?)

The important thing is for the language to focus on the people driving this shitshow. Everybody else is just sucked into their (our) dysfunction. It has never been about race or color.

You’ve been visiting a fish mortuary your whole life without knowing it

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

Manycam is Arguably Malware

I’m planting this post as googlebait to protect people who may install a piece of software called Manycam. Manycam is software to combine multiple feeds into a video stream. Maybe this post will be interesting to ordinary blog readers, maybe not. I didn’t find a good centralized location to share warnings like this, so I’m hoping search engines will help out.

I tried it out in hopes of using my Android phone as an IP camera embedded in a recorded presentation at the same time as a slide deck, then recording them together. It was way too buggy to use – for example the IP camera feature couldn’t see my IP camera or load the presentation file – so I uninstalled it.

I wasn’t able to get a refund without complaining to Paypal. Their customer service promised but failed, and the site tried for days, again and again, to charge my credit card.

On uninstalling the software on OS X by dragging it to the trash I found that it remained attached to video conferencing tools like Zoom, posting up an ad in my video feed.

After complaining to support they provided instructions to drag it to the trash, which has no benefit, or to install it all over again and *then* drag it to the trash, and incidentally enclosed a shell script to do the uninstall. It had a small bug in it but was not outright malicious, so I fixed the bug. Here are the steps to remove it using Terminal:

find_exec="sudo rm -rf"
sudo find /tmp -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /System/Library/Extensions -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/Extensions -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/CoreMediaIO/Plug-Ins -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/LaunchDaemons -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/HAL -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Applications -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/QuickTime -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/Graphics -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;
sudo find /Library/Compositions -iname "*manycam*" -depth -print -exec $find_exec "{}" ;

The Billionaire

Thinking about yesterday’s NYT article on Trump’s taxes, it appears that not only is Trump not a billionaire, he’s hardly even a businessman. He has two enterprises – his image as a businessman, and cheating on taxes.

He doesn’t own the assets that make him appear wealthy, his businesses do. He doesn’t buy his haircuts or dinners, he invests in businesses that take a loss on them.

He’s hardly even a millionaire, given that his assets mainly exist to pay his personal expenses, his profits almost zero out, and his personal debt of $300 million far outweighs his profit.

On the whole the Trump Organization is a grift, a fake, an illusion, a con. It only appears to be a legit business because of the scale of the lie.


Update: Forbes makes the case that his assets are still at least $1B > his debt:

In fact, Trump is a multibillionaire, worth $2.5 billion, by our count. His portfolio, which includes commercial buildings, golf properties and branding businesses, is worth an estimated $3.66 billion before debt. The president has a fair amount of leverage—adding up to a roughly $1.13 billion—but not enough to drag his net worth below a billion dollars.