Floating city, libertarian colonies close to reality

Article by Marianne English

Cities come in all shapes and sizes, but can they float?

PayPal founder Peter Thiel recently invested $1.25 million to try to make that happen. By offering support to the Seasteading Institute, he has jump-started efforts to create city-state communities afloat on ocean platforms. In 2009, the institute held a 3D design competition to help people visualize what these sea-bound communities may look like (see photos above and below).

The structures will be 12,000 tons, diesel-powered and carry around 270 people per unit, as reported by Details Magazine. The idea is to link the structures together to create ocean metropolises equipped to accommodate millions of people.

But here’s the kicker: Thiel hopes to place the structures beyond the coastal jurisdiction of existing countries and their laws. Call it a libertarian pipe dream if you will, but he hopes to experiment with different types of government styles. In some cases, he wishes to start up city-states without minimum wages and welfare, with fewer weapons restrictions and “looser” building codes, he says. Seasteading already has a team working on the legal issues involved.

Floating pilots, which will include office buildings, will be placed off the coast of San Francisco as early as next year.

Read full article here.


New IBM computer chip attempts to mimic the human brain

DARPA, the US military’s research branch is putting money into a new chip that will attempt to mimic the human brain. “Making computers behave like humans has taken another step forward.”

From cnn.com:

IBM on Thursday announced it has created a chip designed to imitate the human brain’s ability to understand its surroundings, act on things that happen around it and make sense of complex data.

Instead of requiring the type of programming that computers have needed for the past half-century, the experimental chip will let a new generation of computers, called “cognitive computers,” learn through their experiences and form their own theories about what those experiences mean.

The chips revealed Thursday are a step in a project called SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics). The two chip prototypes are a step toward letting computers “reason” instead of reacting solely based on data that has been pre-programmed, IBM says.

“Imagine traffic lights that can integrate sights, sounds and smells and flag unsafe intersections before disaster happens,” said Dharmendra Modha, the project leader for IBM Research. “Or imagine cognitive co-processors that turn servers, laptops, tablets and phones into machines that can interact better with their environments.”

The chips’ processing power is not unlike that of IBM’s Watson supercomputer that beat two human champions on “Jeopardy!” this year.

Other scenarios the researchers envision: A computing system that could monitor the world’s water supply — measuring things like temperature, pressure, wave height and acoustics — then give a warning when it thinks a tsunami is likely.

Or imagine a sensor that a grocery store owner could use to read sights, smells and temperatures and give an alert that produce may have gone bad.

“The computers we have today are more like calculators,” Modha told tech blog VentureBeat. “We want to make something like the brain. It is a sharp departure from the past.”
One of the prototype cores contains what amounts to 262,144 programmable synapses, and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses.

Using the chips, IBM researchers have built a “brain wall” at a San Jose, California, lab. The long-term goal? A one-square-centimeter chip with the equivalent of 1 million neurons and 10 billion synapses.
Modha and other researchers say that using current programming techniques, any computer that approached what they’re trying with the SyNAPSE project would have to be larger and would suck up more energy.
For the next phase of SyNAPSE, IBM has assembled teams from Columbia University, Cornell University, the University of California, Merced and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Phase 2 of the project has been rewarded $21 million in funding from DARPA, the U.S. military’s research branch.


The Ballad of the Black Gold

This is the ballad of the black gold
They call it Texas tea
But it’s bigger than a cowboy with a lasso

It’s deeper than a black hole
Create monopolies
Except they collect a fee when you pass-go

Crisis’ international
The government de facto
We got no control in this fiasco

Darker than the back roads
Bubble hotter than Tabasco
More than what you bargained for or asked for


Oliver The Chimp

Oliver (born circa 1958) is a Common Chimpanzee and a former performing ape once promoted as a missing link or “Humanzee” due to his unusually human-like face and a tendency to walk upright. Despite his somewhat unusual appearance and behavior, scientists determined in the 1990s that Oliver is not a human-chimpanzee hybrid.