I’ve seen the future

The future of music distribution that is! Streaming through the Internet, it’s simple, legal (hopefully), no DRM, and with ok sound quality (160 kb/s ogg). Native versions of the client exists for PC and Mac. It also runs well on my Ubuntu machine through Wine. Most of my old heroes from the 70’s and the 80’s are there: Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Jeff Beck, Return to Forever, … The guys behind the Continue Reading

150 years of controversy

Up there with the great The Economist published an article in their Christmas issue commemorating the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species (and the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12 February 1809) [1][2]. I was a bit surprised (or maybe not) about the fact that it still seems newsworthy to not only run a biography of Darwin, the great scientist, but to continue the debate about his ideas Continue Reading

The Disruption is Here

The book Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen discusses how initially inferior technologies may eventually displace existing technologies. Christensen calls these technologies “disruptive technologies”. Christensen’s favourite example is hard drives for computers in which market the incumbent almost never made the leap to the next level of miniaturisation successfully. It was not because they lacked the technical expertise but because they were “stuck” with a large and profitable base of existing customers for Continue Reading

The blind watchmaker and the blind hen

The parameters of the universe we inhabit are incredibly well tuned to allow life to develop. All the constants governing the four known forces of the universe, the masses of the elementary particles etc. have exactly the required values to enable complex molecules and thus life to develop. With even a slightly tweaked set of parameter values the universe would never have developed the way it has, let alone come to life. Continue Reading

Describing and disseminating know-how

The research about the human brain and behavior strongly suggests that most of the information processing we do in our brains including a substantial amount of decision making happens without ourselves being aware of it (in the sense that we can communicate such awareness). Libet’s experiment (see a Libet’s short delay) for instance shows that an action potential builds up in the brain up to half a second before we become aware Continue Reading

What’s the fuss anyway?

Don’t slam it! Many people, including many scientists, go to great length to save the concept of free will. Why is that? One of the arguments is that without free will we can not be morally accountable for our actions. But is it really a sign of free will to “choose” to do what the contemporary society thinks is morally acceptable? To me it sounds rather like the opposite. And more importantly, Continue Reading

Libet’s experiment

Several seminal experiments that illustrated crucial aspects of consciousness were performed by Benjamin Libet in the 60’s and 70’s. (I have still, like everybody else, failed to give a definition of consciousness but for the purpose of this post we can define consciousness as such awareness of an event that the awareness can be communicated to another person.) In an early and somewhat macabre (all in the name of science) experiment, Libet Continue Reading

Repent! The singularity is near (or maybe not)

Reading the June 2008 issue of IEEE Spectrum [1] left me impressed with the courage of the editors. The whole issue was about the “singularity”, meaning the point in time when computers become powerful enough to be able to define their own future. At that point development starts accelerating as powerful computers design even more powerful computers and so on. This point in time is also known as the “event horizon”, since Continue Reading