reflections on the technium

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay

Brown Bag at the Movies – Selected technical topics(12)

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For this installment of Brown Bag at the Movies we will be viewing (abstract below):

08-09-2011 +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

CEP COMMENT: Watch this, then pick your jaw up off the ground. Terraforming the planet to benefit algorithms! Have the machines won?

Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world
Kevin Slavin argues that we’re living in a world designed for — and increasingly controlled by — algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can’t understand, with implications we can’t control.


Kevin Slavin <> <>
Kevin Slavin navigates in the algoworld, the expanding space in our lives that’s determined and run by algorithms.

Are you addicted to the dead-simple numbers game Drop 7 or Facebook’s Parking Wars? Blame Kevin Slavin and the game development company he co-founded in 2005, Area/Code, which makes clever game entertainments that enter the fabric of reality.

All this fun is powered by algorithms — as, increasingly, is our daily life. From the Google algorithms to the algos that give you “recommendations” online to those that automatically play the stock markets (and sometimes crash them): we may not realize it, but we live in the algoworld.

He says: “The quickest way to find out what the boundaries of reality are is to figure where they break.”

Also see:

CEP COMMENT: A generic weapon of mass destruction. Basically the stuxnet code can be tuned to target just about any platform.

Ralph Langner: Cracking Stuxnet, a 21st-century cyber weapon
When first discovered in 2010, the Stuxnet <> computer worm posed a baffling puzzle. Beyond its unusually high level of sophistication loomed a more troubling mystery: its purpose. Ralph Langner and team helped crack the code that revealed this digital warhead’s final target — and its covert origins. In a fascinating look inside cyber-forensics, he explains how.


Ralph Langner <>
Ralph Langner is a German control system security consultant. He has received worldwide recognition for his analysis of the Stuxnet malware.

He heads Langner, an independent cyber-security firm that specializes in control systems — electronic devices that monitor and regulate other devices, such as manufacturing equipment. These devices’ deep connection to the infrastructure that runs our cities and countries has made them, increasingly, the targets of an emerging, highly sophisticated type of cyber-warfare. And since 2010, when the Stuxnet computer worm first reared its head, Langner has stood squarely in the middle of the battlefield.

As part of a global effort to decode the mysterious program, Langner and his team analyzed Stuxnet’s data structures, and revealed what he believes to be its ultimate intent: the control system software known to run centrifuges in nuclear facilities — specifically, facilities in Iran. Further analysis by Langner uncovered what seem to be Stuxnet’s clandestine origins, which he revealed in his TED2011 talk.

CEP COMMENT: See also <>

Mikko Hypponen: Fighting viruses, defending the net

It’s been 25 years since the first PC virus (Brain A <>) hit the net, and what was once an annoyance has become a sophisticated tool for crime and espionage. Computer security expert Mikko Hyppönen tells us how we can stop these new viruses from threatening the internet as we know it.


Mikko Hypponen <>
As computer access expands, Mikko Hypponen asks: What’s the next killer virus, and will the world be able to cope with it?

Why you should listen to him: The chief research officer at F-Secure Corporation in Finland, Mikko Hypponen has led his team through some of the largest computer virus outbreaks in history. His team took down the world-wide network used by the Sobig.F worm. He was the first to warn the world about the Sasser outbreak, and he has done classified briefings on the operation of the Stuxnet worm — a hugely complex worm designed to sabotage Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities.

As a few hundred million more Internet users join the web from India and China and elsewhere, and as governments and corporations become more sophisticated at using viruses as weapons, Hypponen asks, what’s next? Who will be at the front defending the world’s networks from malicious software? His work offers a peek into the post-Stuxnet future.

He says: “It’s more than unsettling to realize there are large companies out there developing backdoors, exploits and trojans.”

See also Brain: Searching for the first PC virus in Pakistan <> 9:36


Upside of Irrationality, The Not-Invented-Here Bias: Why “My” Ideas Are Better than “Yours”

Discusses his experiments to confirm the “not invented here bias.” <>


Dan Ariely, is a behavioral economist at Duke University. <>
Book: Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Book: The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic


A robot that flies like a bird
Plenty of robots can fly — but none can fly like a real bird. That is, until Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. A soaring demo fresh from TEDGlobal 2011. <>


Markus Fischer led the team at Festo that developed the first ultralight artificial bird capable of flying like a real bird.

Why you should listen to him:

One of the oldest dreams of mankind is to fly like a bird. Many, from Leonardo da Vinci to contemporary research teams, tried to crack the “code” for the flight of birds, unsuccessfully. Until in 2011 the engineers of the Bionic Learning Network established by Festo, a German technology company, developed a flight model of an artificial bird that’s capable of taking off and rising in the air by means of its flapping wings alone. It’s called SmartBird. Markus Fischer is Festo’s head of corporate design, where he’s responsible for a wide array of initiatives. He established the Bionic Learning Network in 2006.

SmartBird is inspired by the herring gull <;. The wings not only beat up and down but twist like those of a real bird — and seeing it fly leaves no doubt: it’s a perfect technical imitation of the natural model, just bigger. (Even birds think so. <>) Its wingspan is almost two meters, while its carbon-fiber structure weighs only 450 grams.

Fischer says: “We learned from the birds how to move the wings, but also the need to be very energy efficient.”



Written by Chuck Petras

July 28, 2011 at 09:49

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