Sunday, September 29, 2019

Twins, digital and mythological

A comment piece in Nature this week talks about mirror worlds (cf. RF mirror worlds), though the authors use the currently-fashionable term “digital twins” rather than Gelernter’s “mirror worlds.”

It’s a technocratic and manufacturing-oriented perspective. There’s more to be said about the substance of the piece, but right now I’d rather think about the cultural underpinnings.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Molding humans

Two stories from the Research Highlights section of a recent Nature podcast got me thinking about the wide range in human behaviors, e.g. extraversion and introversion, risk appetite and aversion, optimism and pessimism.

It seems that selective breeding has shaped dog behavior (duh). For example, brain regions involved in movement and navigation were bigger in dogs bred for coursing, such as Greyhounds, than in dogs bred for companionship, such as the Maltese. Presumably Homo Sapiens has shaped its own behavior (and thus brains) in the same way.

There are no optimal traits though, so variability will persist. Researchers found that white barn owls have more hunting success during the full moon -- but brown ones did better the rest of the month, explaining the large variability in owl color.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Second thoughts on statistics and chaos

I argued in the last post, Mythology, old and new, that modern times call for a new god of uncertainty; I felt that neither Tyche nor Dionysus quite fit the bill. After Susan Tonkin’s private feedback, I’ve become less certain. (Her help with this whole series has been invaluable.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Mythology, old and new: Some patterns and implications

I’ve been exploring the intersection of technology and mythology recently (Techno-Loki, Greek Technology Gods, Spectro-Loki, and Afterthoughts). This post starts to pull together some of the threads: why gods are useful, candidate gods (not Gods) in modern life, and technology as god(s).

Friday, January 18, 2019

Afterthoughts: Norse & Greek Technology Gods

In recent posts, I explored patterns in Norse and Greek mythology that might help me understand technology. Before I attempt to draw conclusions, here’s a rag-tag bag of afterthoughts.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Spectro-Loki: The trickster in radio spectrum

In Techno-Loki, I argued that the Norse trickster god is a good metaphor for technology. I described how tech, like Loki and his exploits, has to be coerced into doing the right thing; follows impulse, skipping from one thing to the next; produces effects both good and bad, which are sometimes hard to distinguish; and is a shapeshifter. The examples in the previous post were a grab-bag of technologies; here are some from my current specialization, radio and spectrum.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Greek Technology Gods: Hermes, Hephaestus, Prometheus


As I wrote recently, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology prompted me to think of Loki as a god of technology. However, it’s not so simple in Greek mythology where there are many candidates, notably Hephaestus, Hermes and Prometheus. Their similarities and differences offer new perspectives on how to think about tech as a supernatural force.