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Everything Originates in Fire

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My friend Alex Busby just returned from Chennai, India where he was working on visual effects for a feature film. He related to me a philosophical concept about connectedness that he encountered there.

This view touched on everything from microbiology to the tangible realm including details like the chambers of the heart. One of the central ideas was that fire transforms inanimate substances and compounds into living ones -- it is a catalyst. It is held to be the most primal of the elements.

A ritual using coals and lighting fires from other fires was part of the experience Alex described. I hope to learn more about this. Perhaps it is connect with Ayurvdedic medicine or Vedic thought.

Metabolo Metaphors

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I thought about creating a place where I can list examples of metabolo in contemporary culture, as I encounter or think of them, and expand on them later. This post is that place.

Examples:

  • Flock - the browser I'm using right now
  • Media ecology - a young discipline pioneered by Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and others
  • Rabid media attention described as a "feeding frenzy." On this note, one relative of the slain child Jon Bennet Ramsey said the media attention was "like having a wild animal attached to your face."
  • Macintosh's pulsating status light -- like a sleeping animal's breathing
  • Linkrot - apt... if not pretty

MIT Media Lab's Scratch: a programming language for animation, games, art

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I had a great meeting recently with Britt, one of my former students from the Institute without Boundaries. She had returned from visiting the MIT Media Lab where she toured the school and met Mitchell Resnick and others.

One project she told me about later was Scratch, a programming language for animation, games, art - From MIT Media Lab comes Scratch, a new programming language that lets you create your own animations, games, and interactive art.

Scratch is being developed by Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the Media Lab, in collaboration with KIDS research group at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

Dance-Twist demo programmed in Scratch

Dance-Twist demo programmed in Scratch

Metabolism: The sum of all biochemical processes involved in life

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Definitions of "metabolism" from Answers.com

me·tab·o·lism
n.

1. The chemical processes occurring within a living cell or organism that are necessary for the maintenance of life. In metabolism some substances are broken down to yield energy for vital processes while other substances, necessary for life, are synthesized.

2. The processing of a specific substance within the living body: water metabolism; iodine metabolism.

[From Greek metabole, change, from metaballein, to change : meta-, meta- + ballein, to throw.]

Designing for Emergence at Harvard U

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Here's a Harvard University engineering and applied science graduate class that asks, "How do we engineer robust behavior from the cooperation of vast numbers of unreliable parts? Biology hints that there may be significant power to be achieved from building things out of cheap, imprecise parts with limited life."

CS 266: Biologically-inspired Distributed and Multi-agent Systems

Research topics include: swarm behaviors and robotics, amorphous computing and smart materials, reconfigurable robotics, immune-inspired systems, synthetic biology.

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What is the Beal Centre for Strategic Creativity?

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The stated mission of the Beal Centre for Strategic Creativity is: to enhance education with new methodologies in imaginative thinking; to contribute to the development of knowledge and economic wellbeing; and to explore new ways of improving the human condition.

What’s in a Name? Insect Social Systems

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Choosing a name for this site was tough. The interdisciplinary (or transdisciplinary) focus of my research is one issue. Most important to me was to allude to nature or biology with a term that operates something like the way "biomimicry" does.

This intriguing page provided one of several deciding factors. Deep within its text I discovered that "metabolo = change."

Insect Social Systems - "The study of insect social systems is an active and fascinating field, encompassing many important issues in behavioral ecology, evolutionary theory and even genomics." [del.icio.us/gva]

Bruce Sterling’s Speech at ETech 2006

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This item links to the transcript -- or the script... not sure which -- of Bruce Sterling's speech at Emerging Technology 2006, San Diego, CA, March 2006. In the author's words, "Delivered at alpha-geek central, it may include indecipherable techie in-jokes. Well over 6,000 words. Includes illustrations." The audio, which is quintissentially Sterling and thus more fun to consume, is available at http://www.itconversations.com (keyword search for Sterling). [del.icio.us/gva]

Innovation vs. Invention

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I'm not so much interested in creativity, imagination, or invention on their own, but rather in how these can lead to new, useful ideas and systems in the world, i.e., in how a new design is adopted by large populations. In short, I'm interested in adoption. (There is a literature on the subject that goes by the name "diffusion studies" or "diffusion research" -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations)

In keeping with this idea I distinguish between invention and innovation. Invention signifies the moment when novelty arises, when something new is created. For example, Edison invents a light bulb. I do not apply the word "emergence" to this moment, because at this moment there is not yet a complex dynamic of adoption or diffusion in the picture.

About Metabolo: From Mechanics to Mimesis

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Far from becoming tamer, the far-reaching effects of electric technology that were presaged by Marshall McLuhan seem to be waxing wilder, penetrating ever more deeply into our personal and social lives. Is it alarm we’re sensing, or the thrill of recognition – a quickening? Are we attempting to maintain control, or building a portrait of our environment and ourselves that is beginning to rival the responsiveness and creativity of the natural world?