Search History: Me, Myself, and Intelligence

Galaxy-brain links from the bookmarks folder of Zine’s contributing editor, Blaine O’Neill.

Text Blaine O'Neill
Published 19 Jan 2023

1. Artificial Intelligence

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Warp Records’ legendary Artificial Intelligence compilation and rerelease, Autechre made a nearly six-hour mix of tracks that contextualized the release when it first came out.

I first discovered this compilation when I was flipping through a 1993 issue of Mondo 2000 with Cintra Wilson on the cover. Whoever organized this track ID spreadsheet, Dog bless you!

2. Collective Cellular Intelligence

The Levin Lab, helmed by developmental biologist Michael Levin, publishes research findings that include the provocation that anatomy is encoded in a neural layer distinct from DNA, and that this layer can be “programmed” by reusing patterns of bioelectricity. In a talk entitled “Cell Intelligence in Physiological and Morphological Spaces,” Levin compares the morphological state of organismal development and cellular differentiation to the memory layer in a computer system.

This research explodes my understanding of evolution and the genotype/phenotype binary that bounds much of the way I understand life. Beyond sharing his findings in biological robotics, Levin proposes a “Technological Approach to Mind Everywhere” framework for understanding the diversity of intelligences from individual cells and cell groups to swarms, ecosystems, and neural networks. (Shout out to my friend Max who tipped me off to this talk!)

3. Intelligent Exit Strategies

Exit to Community (E2C) is a campaign to change the lifecycle of business. Although the all-too-familiar outcome for most startups is going public or getting acquired, often to the detriment of the org’s mission, workers, and users, what if founders could exit in favor of their community?

Currently, E2C comprises an informational website, learning group, zine, and network. The hope is that through continued conversation and research, exiting to community will become as common as cashing out. Fingers x’ed.

4. ETH-fueled Live Auctions

For the launch of PleasrHouse, an art auction house built for Web3, PleasrDAO hosted a live conversation with Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden while auctioning off an NFT entitled “Wouldn’t You Go to Prison to Help End This War?” to benefit the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Daniel Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy. 739 POAPs were given out for those in attendance.

5. A Sufficiently Decentralized Twitter Alternative

As Elon Musk continues to destroy the Twitter we know and love, refugees might find solace in alternative networks like Farcaster, a social network that is built on Ethereum. User identities are managed on a layer-one blockchain, while updates and storage are handled via a peer-to-peer layer-two network.

Instead of a closed platform where user data is often the property of a publicly traded corporation, Farcaster is an open protocol that can be built on top of, meaning “users will always have the freedom to move their social identity between applications, and developers will always have the freedom to build applications with new features on the network.”

In addition to popular open-source Twitter alternative Mastodon (which provides a Twitter-like public feed that can be browsed through open source viewers like Elk), the Farcaster community is active and growing but skews towards developers, technologists, and Web3 enthusiasts. I’m eager to watch the protocol evolve.

6. Unsellable or Unintelligible?

Unsellable is a service that buys low-value NFTs at next to nothing prices in order to aid in tax-loss harvesting. Browsing the thousands of NFTs that collectors have sold to “harvest their losses” is quite the experience. Considering how many works are in their OpenSea collection, I don’t think this is a joke…?

7. Race Condition

Jonas Lund is a Swedish artist who DAOified his entire artistic practice with the launch of the ERC-20 Jonas Lund Token in 2018. On January 20th, Lund will launch Race Condition, a psychedelic in-browser racing game and NFT series.

The game’s NFT minting mechanic humorously determines who wins and who loses:  “ are not determined by your driving skills, but by something outside of your control, the properties and features of your mint.”

8. "...a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human..."

Nick Cave responds to a fan who used ChatGPT to generate song lyrics in the musician’s singular style. In a few concise paragraphs, he destroys the bot’s attempt at songwriting:

“Writing a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite. It is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past. It is those dangerous, heart-stopping departures that catapult the artist beyond the limits of what he or she recognises as their known self. This is part of the authentic creative struggle that precedes the invention of a unique lyric of actual value; it is the breathless confrontation with one’s vulnerability, one’s perilousness, one’s smallness, pitted against a sense of sudden shocking discovery; it is the redemptive artistic act that stirs the heart of the listener, where the listener recognizes in the inner workings of the song their own blood, their own struggle, their own suffering. This is what we humble humans can offer, that AI can only mimic, the transcendent journey of the artist that forever grapples with his or her own shortcomings. This is where human genius resides, deeply embedded within, yet reaching beyond, those limitations.

It may sound like I’m taking all this a little too personally, but I’m a songwriter who is engaged, at this very moment, in the process of songwriting. It’s a blood and guts business, here at my desk, that requires something of me to initiate the new and fresh idea. It requires my humanness. What that new idea is, I don’t know, but it is out there somewhere, searching for me. In time, we will find each other.”

9. Preliminary Materials for the Psychology of the Web Developer

Web developers finally get the autofiction we deserve! Stop whatever you’re doing and read artist, writer, and—ahem—web developer Maisa Imamović’s book, The Psychology of the Web Developer: Reality of a Female Freelancer. I started reading this book and couldn’t put it down. For fans of This is a motherfucking website, watch Imamović do a reading of the site contents at “THE VOID”.

10. Unthinking Photography

Unthinking Photography is “an online resource that explores photography's increasingly automated, networked life,” organized by the Photographers’ Gallery in London. The website features research-driven photographic projects that help us unthink photography and hone our understanding of the current dynamics of representation.

The platform most recently presented A•kin, by Aarati Akkapeddi, a project exploring photographic archives and “…grasping anthropological, historical and cultural notions about personal and collective identity when photographs are considered as mere data points.”

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