Category Archives: Tech news of the weird

CHIP IN HEAD!!!

Kickstartered!!! Sign me up!! I am your experimental subject!!

Very seriously, I have always wanted a BCI for many reasons, and one of them is because I have chronic, severe, recurrent depression and the meds are always failing. The OpenBCI project offers a beautiful way to honor a loved one, by contributing to the development of open-source technology for direct computer-brain interaction. Neurotherapy technology like this could “reboot” depressed brains, identify and monitor them for brain wave patterns linked to suicidal ideation, or perhaps even “lock” a depressive about to self-harm until help can arrive.

I realize to many people this sounds frighteningly ripe for abuse. But for people whose brains have been trying to kill them their entire lives, it sounds like a miracle. Google pumping Viagra ads directly into your visual cortex would be a small price to pay for relief from suicidal ideation. if you want a more cheerful example, check out how badass quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann ( awesome human-robot frontier adventurer Jan Scheuermann!) is now able to use a robot arm to feed herself chocolate. She is pretty excited about the potential of BCI.

I don’t have much money, but I pledged the “Honor a loved one” amount in memory of Conor, who lost his battle with depression not long ago.

 

Signs of the nerdcorporate Apocalypse in formerly louche, bohemian San Francisco.

So yesterday people I know got into the winter Y Combinator session. Startup madness is in the air at every party we go to; we find ourselves talking to people we love and respect about business, when we used to talk to them about art or sex. I’m glad that people I care about are doing well, I support their awesome business ideas, it’s all fine- it’s just really damn weird to be back in 1998.
I’m having a lot of cognitive dissonance, seeing all this happen here again. It seems like it’s even worse this time, but maybe it’s just me? I’ve started a new T324 pinboard to log it, since it seems we’re condemned to repeat.

Go to Bar Bot, where robots will make you a pretty good Pisco Sour.

We saw Bar Bot creators Simone Davalos and David Calkins at a party this weekend, and heard great things from Simone about the upcoming Bar Bot event. It’s in a cool sekrit location and apparently our friend Jonathan Foote is building something impressively insane. Go, and have drinks mixed for you while our future robot overlords still stoop to the level of doing menial tasks for meatsacks! Mostly the robots work, sometimes they don’t, sometimes there’s a fire!

Also, see below for our rockets, robots & rayguns roundup, inspired by Simone.

I was going to write about TechCrunch Disrupt 2013, but it’s too awful.

It’s too awful. It’s too awful to read TechCrunch’s apology for the ogling/masturbating apps at Disrupt 2013.

It’s too awful to look at screencaps of douchebro Pax Dickinson tweeting threats at Anil Dash. It’s too awful that my hero Hugh Jackman has to resort to PandoDaily as a bully pulpit for social welfare messaging. It’s too awful that DC Comics posted a talent contest that involved a naked Harley Quinn attempting to electrocute herself. It’s too awful that the Penny Arcade guy still hasn’t grown up or healed or become human. The NSA situation is so awful, I really prefer not to think about it. It’s been a bad, gross week on the Internet, for technology and for geek culture.

So instead, we bring you a new T324 geek Pinterest board:

Most ridiculous results of mainstreaming and appropriation of geek culture.

Wolverine-nightlight-watches-over-your-child

Where we post the most cognitively dissonant attempts to monetize how much geeks love the things we love.

Like this Wolverine nightlight to watch over your child. Because this guy makes me feel so safe.

(You can also visit our new sister board, “Clever, knowing appropriation of geek culture in service of pop art that transcends crass commercialism and is kind of awesome or funny.”)

Because having a Wolverine hoodie means never having to say you’re sorry.

We Can Deliver It For You Wholesale, and other adventures in same-day AutoTurking.

taskrabbitSo yesterday I didn’t feel well enough to go to work and sit in front of a computer.

I felt just barely well enough to lie on the couch with a computer on my lap. My boyfriend had needs, however.

“Do we have any food?” he wanted to know. That’s code for “Sudo, make me a sandwich” in our house. He’s the primary breadwinner; I work half-time and housewife the rest.

My mom didn’t burn her bra so I could live out traditional gender archetypes, but she also didn’t plan on having a daughter with disabling health issues who’d choose to live in the second most expensive part of the US, where you can’t live without a tech worker income and tech workers work too many hours to take care of themselves. So sue me, First-Wavers. Continue reading

Grindr for leftovers, and other disturbing news of the sharing economy gold rush.

Ok, so now Grindr for leftovers is a thing.

Um. Trying so hard to get my brain around this. It makes sense, and yet, it freaks me the hell out. I have many times taken leftover food from an office party or food service business I worked at to the free stuff drop off at People’s Park- where the park-dwellers rush your car and ask if you have anything organic- and yet somehow this app seems really dangerous and crazy to me.

Continue reading

Does hating tech workers help the Bay Area?

screenshot-2017-01-05-at-1-40-24-pm-edited

“The only acupuncturists or herbalists I know who can make it here have a tech worker spouse who supports them.”

We were standing on Jackson St. in Oakland when our friend N. told us he was leaving. He’d graduated from Chinese medicine school last year, and the numbers just didn’t work out. Student loans, cost of living, the challenge of establishing a practice.

Even with a thousand Facebook friends and incredible goodwill from the community, who’d Liked and Tweeted and Yelp’d him like crazy, there just wasn’t enough money in the work he loved. So one of the gentlest, most healing spirits we know is leaving SF. If you take what he said and substitute “artist”, “performer”, “midwife”, “corsetmaker” or “playwright” you get the reality of our community, the uniquely Bay Area intersection of art and tech: you can afford one creative per couple here.

To have a middle class life in SF, you need at least one tech income. Continue reading

GlassUp is a receive-only HUD, versus the Google Glass voyeuristic creep factor.

Do we want AR?

Are we ready for augmented reality, on our faces on the daily?

screenshot-2017-01-05-at-1-27-10-pm-editedIs AR a very separate need from the visual version of distributed mechanical telepathy and jacking in to someone else’s sensorium? Will we buy a second screen for our second screens, a HUD that will show texts in our visual fields, because looking down at our Dick Tracy watches is just too inconvenient?

I’m currently re-reading Gibson’s Spook Country. Like all of his recent works, Spook Country is mostly a collection of stylistic tics (luckily, I love Gibson’s stylistic tics). However, it’s interesting in that it foresees* (in ’07) our return to the seemingly failed notions of VR and AR.

The idea of locative art has long since peaked, but the notion of enriching our awareness of the world through technology we wear is red-hot. The eversion of cyberspace has happened, is commodified. There is a wearable tech gold rush on, and HUDs are a big part of the territory. So a number of devices that compete with Google Glass are emerging.

One is the very affordable ($299 without camera) GlassUp device, which projects your phone data onto your glasses.TechCrunch suggests that price and eyelessness could push adoption of GlassUp- that people who are creeped out by the camera on Glass would feel better about buying GlassUp. This ignores the fact that GlassUp will be available with a camera for just $100 more.

The concept is similar to that of a Bluetooth earphone (actually, we have thought of a notifier earphone as well). Whatever arrives on the glasses is already on the phone, so it’s useful only to see messages without grabbing your smartphone. We see it as a first step towards telepathy, for which we couldn’t yet find the technology solution (yet :-)).

The privacy issues that horrify my boyfriend (see my “promise me you won’t wear them in the house” post) about Google Glass are related to the Glass camera and facial recognition. He is a person who is very uncomfortable about the idea that his movements can be tracked, online or in meatspace. Not because he’s a criminal, but because he read Ayn Rand at an impressionable age.

Myself, I assume that the government is tracking everything I do, and has been all my life. Because my parents were drug-taking hippies in an era when people who took drugs were the objects of a Phil Dickian surveillance state, and by the time I was fourteen all my friends were drug dealers (Stuyvesant had a lot of them in 1981), I accepted being watched as a fact of life.

Being connected to the Grateful Dead tour acid dealing network meant being connected to people whose phones were tapped by the DEA and FBI. I was lucky enough to get sober and out of drug culture as the “war on drugs” escalated and people I knew began to go to prison, in the late ’80s. But I never shook that feeling of being watched.

My boyfriend is a Millennial; he was born in ’82. He’s been online since the beginning, since chatrooms and dial-up. He’s always been in hacker culture, which is intrinsically paranoid and anti-establishment and parasitically infiltrated by the Man, so even though he’s not a druggie, we share a cellular, atavistic reaction to the word “narc”. And we share the experience of having our friends go to prison.

Yet being surveilled is enraging to him, while to me it’s undisturbing and in fact somewhat promising. Is it because I believe privacy is dead? Or is it because I believe in agency-based social compliance, enforced by alibi archives, copseyes and benevolent surveillance? Nah, it’s because I don’t have the bandwidth to care about anything ominous, and I’m basically techno-optimistic and an Internet Optimist.

I trust my friends at the EFF to protect my rights, and I trust the American Constitution to bounce back from damn near anything. I trust human adaptability and I trust the future. This is what growing up on science fiction did for me: it gave me an OS of hope. If we all wear glasses that tell us when the Colosseum was built and that mom is at the restaurant already, it’ll be no big deal. If we all wear glasses that let us see through each other’s eyes, it might change the world.screenshot-2017-01-05-at-1-33-24-pm-edited

*It also contains a chilling awareness of the NSA tap-o-sphere that foreshadows both Snowden’s revelations and the surprising public indifference to them.

Gibson notes that most Americans assume the government is tapping their phones, and so the idea of their digital communications being monitored as well is unsurprising.

I’m not sure what annoys me more: That the National Security Agency can tap into every major Internet service and telecom carriers and monitor everything you do online or that I just can’t get wound up about it.

this post originally appeared on the T324 blog.