Monthly Archives: September 2013

Gibson’s explanation of the password

“As to what the word is, well, I never considered it to be a word, really, though 3Jane, teasingly, calls it one. It is in fact three “notes”, something akin to birdcall. The key to the cipher, that is, is revealed as being purely tonal, musical, rather than linguistic. Case’s “cry”, a species of primal scream, the voicing of the emotionality he’s been walled off from throughout the narrative (and his life), torn finally from the core of his being, is what actually forces 3Jane to give up the key. Call and response, of some kind. Hearing him, she can’t help herself. When she taunts him (“Take your word, thief.”) she’s in fact daring him, and assuming he can’t — just as she was, a moment before, daring Molly to kill her. ”

(via his blog post)

The Defecating Duck and Eighteenth-Century Wetware

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As mentioned the other day in class, Stanford History prof Jessica Riskin does really interesting work on the history of AI, starting in the second half of the 18th century. She has a great paper, The Defecating Duck, or the Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life about Vaucanson’s duck and flute-playing automata. All very much like the jeweled-head terminal in Neuromancer.

I also really recommend this paper: Eighteenth-Century Wetware, which draws a comparison between contemporary work in simulation and this particular aesthetic of automatons in the 18th century.

NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek’s Enterprise

“In an in-depth profile of NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, Foreign Policy reveals that one of the ways the general endeared himself to lawmakers and officials was to make them feel like Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the starship Enterprise from the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Quote from Neuromancer

Here’s a quote from Neuromancer that I thought was interesting — especially given our conversation about Stelarc, who sometimes operates outside of the law to bring his art to fruition, as well as hackers and makers who push the legal boundaries of technologies all the time.

“…burgeoning technologies require outlaw zones…Night City wasn’t there for its inhabitants, but as a deliberately unsupervised playground for technology itself.”

Are ‘outlaw zones,’ or a lack of supervision in general, necessary for innovation? I recently read a book called Biopunk that took on this question in the context of the DIY biology scene. Happy to loan it to anyone interested!