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Category Archives: Singularity

Navy hopes new NGEN contract will lead to domain singularity – Federal News Network

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 3:04 pm

Twenty years after the Department of the Navy started to consolidate its IT networks into the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), youd think that the sea services would have come close to eliminating all of their network stovepipes by now.

If so, you would be wrong.

As of today, there are approximately 140 separate legacy and excepted networks throughout the fleet that still havent been brought under the NMCI umbrella. And even though they represent a relatively small user base, theyre basically ungoverned territory. Their continued existence makes it harder for the DON to move toward a future with universally-accepted standards, and where consuming commercial cloud services is second-nature.

Its become really unaffordable, and its a also large security burden, said Capt. Ben McNeal, the program manager for Naval Enterprise Networks. Weve been successful in the past in terms of absorbing legacy and excepted networks into NMCI, but we really want to take a leap as we move forward, much like we did on the afloat networks with the CANES program.

The Navy hopes to use the latest recompetition of its Next Generation Enterprise Network contract, known as NGEN-R, to achieve that vision, which McNeal calls domain singularity. The $7.7 billion award to Leidos is being held up for the moment by two separate bid protests.

But once those matters are resolved, the Navy wants to use the contract to help absorb its remaining one-off networks into a more manageable structure. McNeal said the ultimate goal would be to physically integrate those stragglers into NMCI, much as it already plans to do with ONE-Net, the Navys overseas network.

However, thats the sort of thing that takes a lot of time and money. So in the meantime, a single logical network that follows one set of standards may have to suffice as an interim goal.

There are going to be places where we cant roll in and converge to a single solution set, McNeal said in an interview for Federal News Networks On DoD. So we want to make sure that the logical connection allows us to have seamless data flow between those networks. Some of the concepts and solution sets within the zero trust architecture allows us to be able to have that seamless flow, such that its more of a logical than a physical connection. Policy, and how we architect those, allows for those trusts that dont exist today.

Integrating the Navys IT systems into NMCI is helpful for interoperability. But its less than ideal if NMCI itself is buried in technical debt.

And Navy officials freely acknowledge thats the case today. Aaron Weis, the Navy Departments new chief information officer, estimates NMCI is running about 15 years behind industry standards.

McNeal attributes much of the current problem to outdated requirements documents. If the network the Navys using today looks like something from 2001, thats because thats when NMCI was architected. Ever since then, its been designed mostly to connect individual bases with one another not to connect the Navy with the commercial cloud computing services it now wants to use.

The Navy has tried to address that problem too via NGEN-R.

Weve framed out a journey thats going to take us from being cloud-intolerant not able to consume cloud services at all to being cloud-tolerant, cloud-ready and ultimately, cloud-native, McNeal said. Were still just in the cloud-tolerant stage right now. As weve implemented things like Office 365, weve had to make major modifications to the network just to be able to consume those cloud based productivity services. Ultimately, when were in a cloud-native state, a new application can be consumed without issue, but were not there now.

The COVID-19 situation spotlighted that problem and potential solutions to it in spectacular fashion.

Faced with a crush of teleworkers that was exponentially larger than any of the military departments or agencies had ever anticipated, the Defense Department quickly put funding toward projects like bandwidth expansion.

In Norfolk, Va., for example the largest fleet concentration center in the world the total internet bandwidth available to Navy users was 2 gigabits per second (Gbps) before the pandemic hit. Projects to expand that capacity had been delayed for the past two years.

But armed with new funding as part of the CARES Act, the Defense Information Systems Agency managed to widen that pipeline to 44 Gbps almost overnight.

Likewise, the Defense Department quickly stood up a new service called Commercial Virtual Remote, based on Microsofts Teams platform, to let employees collaborate and communicate from home. That service has its limitations: its only authorized up to Impact Level 2, so it can only be used for the lowest levels of unclassified data.

But McNeal said its been something of a game-changer.

It provides for collaboration across the entire Department of Defense. It is the closest thing Ive seen yet to domain singularity we have all of the DoD that can consume these capabilities, theres a single tenant, and we can all collaborate together were all in it, he said during a May 12 webinar hosted by ACT-IAC . When I talk about domain singularity, this is what were trying to bring forth for other services in the same manner as DoD was able to bring forth for productivity services.

But when the Navy first implemented CVR, it was careful to warn its users not to get too used to it. Any data stored on that platform would be deleted, and the entire thing would be shut down once the pandemic was over, officials warned.

Thats partly because its a trivial matter for Navy users to connect to commercial cloud services when theyre at home, where theyre directly connected to the public internet. Once they return to their desk computers, NMCIs narrow pathways to the cloud simply wont be able to support all of those connections to a service like CVR.

Not in the near-term, at least.

All of our buildings across all of our posts, camps and stations across the Navy are based on an idea of an internal routing and switching fabric, McNeal said. So our challenge is how to upgrade the boundaries to allow for the same kind of user experience when youre external to the network. Those upgrades are underway, but the Navy cant afford to upgrade the infrastructure in each building across all 2,500 of those sites. Thats where were looking to some transformational technologies 5G for example as a mitigator of some of the cost and level of effort that would be required for some of those traditional upgrades, because that would be unaffordable.

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A New Bionic Eye Could Give Robots and the Blind 20/20 Vision – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 3:04 pm

A bionic eye could restore sight to the blind and greatly improve robotic vision, but current visual sensors are a long way from the impressive attributes of natures design. Now researchers have found a way to mimic its structure and create an artificial eye that reproduces many of its capabilities.

A key part of what makes the eyes design so powerful is its shape, but this is also one of the hardestthings to mimic. The concave shape of the retinathe photoreceptor-laden layer of tissue at the back of the eyemakes it possible to pick up much more light as it passes through the curved lens than it would pick up if it was flat. But replicating this curved sensor array has proven difficult.

Most previous approaches have relied on fabricating photosensors on flat surfaces before folding them or transplanting them onto curved ones. The problem with this approach is that it limits the density of photosensors, and therefore the resolution of the bionic eye, because space needs to be left between sensors to allow the transformation from flat to curved.

In a paper published last week in Nature, though, researchers from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology devised a way to build photosensors directly into a hemispherical artificial retina. This enabled them to create a device that can mimic the wide field of view, responsiveness, and resolution of the human eye.

The structural mimicry of Gu and colleagues artificial eye is certainly impressive, but what makes it truly stand out from previously reported devices is that many of its sensory capabilities compare favorably with those of its natural counterpart, writes Hongrui Jiang, an engineer at the University of Wisconsin Madison, in a perspective in Nature.

Key to the breakthrough was an ingenious way of implanting photosensors into a dome-shaped artificial retina. The team created a hemisphere of aluminum oxide peppered with densely-packed nanoscale pores. They then used vapor deposition to grow nanowires inside these pores made from perovskite, a type of photosensitive compound used in solar cells.

These nanowires act as the artificial equivalent of photoreceptors. When light passes over them, they transmit electrical signals that are picked up by liquid metal wires attached to the back of the retina. The researchers created another hemisphere made out of aluminum with a lens in the center to act as the front of the eye, and filled the space in between it and the retina with an ionic liquid designed to mimic the fluid aqueous humor that makes up the bulk of the human eye.

The researchers then hooked up the bionic eye to a computer and demonstrated that it could recognize a series of letters. While the artificial eye couldnt quite achieve the 130-degree field of view of a human eye, it managed 100 degrees, which is a considerable improvement over the roughly 70 degrees a flat sensor can achieve.

In other areas, though, the approach has the potential to improve on biological eyes. The researchers discovered that the nanowires photodetectors were actually considerably more responsive. They were activated in as little as 19.2 milliseconds and recovered to a point where they could be activated again in 23.9 milliseconds. Response and recovery times in human photoreceptors range from 40 to 150milliseconds.

The density of nanowires in the artificial retina is also more than 10 times that of photoreceptors in the human eye, suggesting that the technology could ultimately achieve far higher resolution than nature.

The big limitation at the moment is wiring up these photosensors. The liquid metal connections are currently two orders of magnitude wider than the nanowires, so each one connects to many photosensors, and its only possible to attach 100 wires to the back of the retina. That means that despite the density of photosensors, the eye has a resolution of only 100 pixels.

The researchers did devise a way to use magnetic fields to connect nickel microneedles to just three nanowires at a time, but the process is a complicated manual one that would be impossible to scale up to the millions of nanowires present in the artificial retina. Still, the device represents a promising proof-of-concept that suggests that we may soon be able to replicate and even better one of natures most exquisite designs.

Given these advances, it seems feasible that we might witness the wide use of artificial and bionic eyes in daily life within the next decade, writes Jiang.

Image Credit: Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Did My Hero Academia Just Reveal the Truth Behind the Singularity? –

Posted: at 3:04 pm

My Hero Academia's mythos is surprisingly rich. Series creator Kohei Horikoshi has deftly added more and more brushstrokes of backstory to his world of quirk powers, heroes, and villains, while never really tipping the hat on the larger mysteries taking shape in the story. Well, as the My Hero Academia manga's "Paranormal Liberation War" arc unfolds, there's been one deep-simmering part of the storyline that's suddenly bubbling up to the surface: the Quirk Singularity Theory. Now we have learned that the true origins of My Hero Academia's doomsday theory, and it suggests the Quirk Singularity Theory may have been playing out in front of our eyes, this whole time!

Warning - My Hero Academia Manga SPOILERS Follow!

The latest chapters of the My Hero Academia have seen the Pro Heroes capture All For One's longtime disciple, Dr. Ujiko. The mad scientist has turned out to be a treasure trove of secrets, revealing everything from All For One steals quirks, to how the villain has survived so long. As it turns out, Ujiko (aka Dr. Garaki) was the man who first proposed the "Paranormal Singularity Theory", which predicted that after enough generations, superpowers (or "quirks") would intensify exponentially, until they became too powerful for people to control, and end up consuming the world.

But here's the thing: My Hero Academia's war arc has also revealed some substantial changes to the powers of both Izuki Midoriya and his rival Tomura Shigaraki. Izuku has seen his bond with the One For All power go even deeper than All Might, unlocking an entire array of new powers, courtesy of past users. Meanwhile, Ujiko has broken the restraints All For One placed on Tomura Shigaraki's mind and powers - including the original All For One quirk, which Shigaraki has apparently been carrying for quite some time. Now Shigaraki is fully awakened (no more hands), and his powers have been boosted to an ominous degree. But just as the villains' leader is coming into his power, Izuku's One For All power seems to be coming out, in kind.

What's happening with Deku and Shigaraki isn't just the next generation of the All Might / All For One rivalry taking shape. My Hero Academia has been stressing that both boys are on the verge of major power upgrades, and the levels of power their battle would unleash are on a whole other scale than their predecessors. This could very well be the flash-point in quirk evolution - two powerhouses wielding multiple quirks - that breaks the society of My Hero Academia. Because no matter who emerges as the winner, knowledge that quirks can become Omega-level threats will change everything.

My Hero Academia has finished airing season 4 of the anime on Hulu and Funimation. Online chapters of the manga can be found HERE.

Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.

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Astronomers have discovered a black hole in two steps from the Earth – The Times Hub

Posted: at 3:03 pm

Astronomers studied the constellation the Telescope and found in it a black hole. The scale of the milky way singularity is two steps from the Ground.

Black holes are one of the biggest mysteries of the Universe. Scientists know that even in the milky way are millions of them, but to detect the singularity very difficult. Black holes have such strong gravity that even light can not break through the event horizon. One of such singularities astronomers have discovered in two steps from the Earth, of course, the scale of the milky way. A black hole is in the constellation the Telescope. Scientists drew attention to the two stars that revolve around invisible, but very heavy object. The analysis showed that it is a black hole. The distance to the singularity is about 1000 light years. However, astronomers believe that there are more close education, but they have not yet discovered.

Astrophysicists immediately rushed to warn that this black hole does not pose a risk to humanity. Theory on the entrainment of the planets and stars of the singularities is a myth. It is actually a little easier. A black hole has more gravity, which only in certain conditions, attracts the object. For example, the Sun also has a huge mass, but the planet is not falling on the surface. If you replace the star with a black hole in the global scale, nothing will change, therefore, experience, on this occasion it is not necessary.

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The US Government Just Invested Big in Small-Scale Nuclear Power – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 3:03 pm

Amid the coronavirus lockdowns around the world, one of few positive pieces of news weve heard is that carbon emissions have dropped dramatically. The clearer skies and cleaner air have led to a renewed vigor behind calls for retiring fossil fuels and investing more heavily in renewable energy. Proponents of renewables tend to focus on solar and wind as the best green energy sources, leaving out a lingeringly controversial yet crucial player: nuclear power.

Last week, the US Department of Energy (DOE) shone a light on nuclears potential in the most effective possible way: by dumping a bunch of money on it. The DOE launched its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to the tune of $230 million. That sum is broken down into $160 million for scientists currently working on nuclear reactors that could be operational in 5 to 7 years, and another $70 million for additional research and development down the road.

The US currently gets about 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors; as of October 2019 there were 96 of them across the country. However, on average the reactors are over 38 years old. Though nuclear energy production still works the same way it did 38 years agosplitting uranium atoms releases energy thats used to heat water, producing steam that turns a turbine to generate electricitythere have been some notable advances in the technology involved, and in the design of reactors themselves.

Small modular reactors are touted as having the most potential to reduce the up-front costs of nuclear power while improving its safety. Rather than having to be custom-built onsite, small modular reactors can be manufactured in a central location and shipped to their destination in pieces.

Oregon-based NuScale Power is leading the small modular reactor charge with its 65-foot-tall by 9-foot-wide light water reactor. 100 of them could fit in the containment chamber of a large conventional reactor, and NuScale says its small reactor can produce 60 megawatts of energy per day (as compared to around 1,000 MW produced daily by conventional fission reactors)so the size-to-production-capacity ratio is pretty solid. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington DC, NuScale will likely be the first company to receive small modular reactor design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Grants from the newly-minted Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program can go towards three different purposes: demonstrating a new light reactor design that can be fully functional within seven years, improving existing reactor designs to move them toward deployment, or doing longer-term research on conceptual projects that might see the light of day in the 2035 timeframe.

If small modular reactor and other nuclear tech moves forwardovercoming barriers from cost to bureaucracy to public opinionwe could see, in the not-too-distant future, large conventional reactors supplanted by smaller local ones. Under current safety regulations, reactors have to be at least 10 miles from the people theyre providing power to. Small modular reactors could be closer to the communities or industrial zones theyre powering, meaning less energy would be lost in transit and storage.

Regardless of how fast it advances, nuclear power will be facing some serious competition from solar, wind, and natural gas, whose prices continue to fall; solar in particular has beaten every projection of how low its cost would drop over given timeframes. While solar power enjoys widespread public support, though, it has some major barriers to overcome before we can count on it to replace coal and meet our future energy needs: storage, seasonality, and intermittency wont be easy problems to solve.

But NuScale and others, including Bill Gates-backed TerraPower, are banking on the US (and the rest of the world) needing additional clean power sources regardless of advances in solar. Given that energy demand is only going to grow along with the global population and, in developing countries particularly, an emerging middle class, they could very well be correct. And theyre not alone; in March, non-profit Energy Impact Center released the first open-source design for a small-scale reactor it says could be built in 2 years at a comparatively very low cost of $300 million.

Investments in nuclear power are nonetheless something of a gamble, especially now that were beset by uncertainty on all fronts. But its one the US government is up for making; we will, after all, be looking for ways to keep the skies smog-free and stop temperatures from rising for decades to come.

Image Credit: Wolfgang Stemme from Pixabay

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Rule of thumb on proper use of active verb – Daily Nation

Posted: at 3:03 pm

By PHILIP OCHIENGMore by this Author

Previously in the Saturday Nation, an official of a Nairobi book-publishing company made the grammatically puzzling statement that ... book publishing is one of the industries that attracts the least number of new investments...

Note that the subject industries is plural but that the verb (attracts) is in the third person singular form.

The expression one of the... is the perennial culprit. It gives Kenyas English-language journalists no end of grief.

In that expression, what exactly attracts? Is it the pronoun one or the noun industries? In the simple present third person singular form, the verb attracts is justifiable only if the speaker is referring to a single industry.

But, manifestly, thats not so. For he means many industries, of which the one (publishing) is only an example.

In such an expression, then, the plural noun industries not the singular pronoun one is what must control the form the verb takes. Thus, in accord with the plurality of the controlling noun, the verb must drop the plural s.

For our newspapers, the enduring question is this: In this form, is the expression one of the... referring to the singularity of the pronoun one or is it referring to the plurality of the noun industries?

For, clearly, one is singular. But in every such formulation, the singular one in the expression one of the... is always used to introduce a plurality of things. Charity Ngilu is one (singular) of the Cabinet secretaries (plural) who never cease (plural) to excite controversy.

The significance of the Nations statement does not rest on the one industry (publishing) but on a plurality of industries, of which the one is only an instance.

In the above statement, therefore, the plural noun industries, not to the singular pronoun one which merely exemplifies it is your grammatical take-off point.

In other words, in the phrase ... one of the industries..., the substantive "industries" is what occupies the grammatical drivers seat. It is what controls the form that the verb must take.

The pronoun one merely singles out an industry among many of the same kind.

I reiterate that the phrase one of the... always invites a plurality of collective things (or nouns). Publishing is just one of many industries that attract the fewest new investors. It is not the only one. No, it is among many.

Thus, when conjugated, the verb following it must agree with the plurality of industries, not with the singularity of the one.

In other words, the verb form attract (without the s) is plural because it reflects the plural noun industries, not the singular pronoun one.

Grammatically, the plural noun industries, not the singular pronoun one, is what controls the active verbs form.

In grammar, then, the form of the active (or conjugated) verb is what changes in accordance with the grammatical number of the subject to reflect the tense, the mood and the gender (though, in English, both the mood and the gender have long ago lost practically all their erstwhile grammatical significance).

Philip Ochieng is a veteran journalist.

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Making It Work: Marketing consultancy crowdfunds to target overseas markets – Business Post

Posted: at 3:03 pm

Donegal company Motarme has turned to crowdfunding to invest in new technology and finance plans to ramp up sales in overseas markets.

Headquartered in Letterkenny, the firm has developed an online platform to help business-to-business companies with sales prospecting and lead generation.

The company is raising 150,000 on Spark Crowdfunding, which will be match-funded by Enterprise Ireland. Motarme is a high-potential start-up client of the state agency.

Michael White, Motarmes founder and managing director, said the funding would be used to boost sales activity in Britain and the US and to invest in new machine learning technology.

We want to hire three sales and marketing people initially to focus on Britain and the US, and we also want to add a new machine learning component to our platform, White said.

That will mean we can analyse the campaigns we have already done so we can optimise campaigns for new customers. We have hundreds of thousands of communication points going back over the last few years. The machine learning system will be able to identify the patterns that produce the most successful results.

White described Motarme as an account-based sales system that helps businesses to identify and connect with potential customers.

Businesses need a steady flow of new sales, but a lot of companies have challenges in systematically finding target customers and then connecting with them, he said.

Motarme can find target companies that match a specific profile and engage with those targets to start a sales conversation.

White said Motarmes primary focus was on large enterprise contracts. The company has 15 customers in the software and manufacturing sectors. Clients include P-Mac, Principal Logistics Technologies and Woodco.

You often find B2B companies having to deal with a lot of sales activity, messaging and inbound marketing. They can find it hard to cut through the noise, he said.

Most of the tools available to them focus on contacting individuals and on transactional deals. With account-based sales, were targeting a much bigger group of companies that weve done some background investigation on. We use very tailored messages that go out across a number of channels at once, so they get emails, direct mail, social media and online communication, all coordinated with the same message.

White established Motarme in 2015, having worked as head of marketing at Singularity in Derry and as a senior product manager at Siemens in Dublin and Munich.

He said the company had opted to raise money on the Spark Crowdfunding platform primarily due to its location.

The vast majority of VC funding still goes into companies based in Dublin or Galway. Were in Letterkenny, right on the border, he said.

Its harder for companies like us to access investment, because we dont have easy access to a network.

With Spark Crowdfunding, youre appealing to a larger number of smaller investors and your location isnt such an issue.

Motarmes crowdfunding campaign will run on the Spark platform until May 29.

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Rebellion, New OrderStyle: What Happened to It? – National Review

Posted: April 23, 2020 at 2:45 am

A scene from the music video for New Orders Singularity(via YouTube)For the quarantined sheeple, its as if rock n roll, punk, and hip-hop never happened.

History comes back to provoke us in New Orders Singularity music video, which debuted in 2016 but has found fresh popularity. Its new viral status owes to deep quarantine viewing. Confined spectators respond to the videos depiction of isolation, seclusion, and, finally, rebellion as captured in footage from West Berlin prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The actions shown in Singularity provide a strong contrast to the daily 7 p.m.ritual by self-imprisoned New Yorkers who crack open their apartment windows to clap, bang pots and pans, and cheer. The ceremony, supposedly intended to encourage the citys first responders, lasts only twice as long as a New York minute shorter than Singularity itself (4:13). This timid, self-conscious group activity has inspired appreciation of Singularitys nostalgia for genuine rebellion.

The Twitterverse is aroused by envy. New Order, the distinguished British dance-pop-synth band, had commissioned the Singularity video from designer Damian Hale, an expert in live-concert visuals, who compiled clips from B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin 19791989. That film was a fact-based chronicle of British music producer Mark Reeders experiences in Europes post-punk scene; its records frenzy, tumult, and chaos. More than a celebration of youthful uprising, it specifically exhibits live-wire reaction to silence and social obedience a marked contrast to Americas orderly sequestration during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Singularitys appeal raises questions about Millennial compliance so different from punk-era rebellion during this emergency. Does it set the stage for socialist dictatorship as newly ambitious mayors and governors, along with the hotly emboldened news media, control citizens behavior through fear? Singularitys images of dissent and unrest, edited to New Orders elegant dance beats, salute fearlessness and abandon by a generation that distrusted politicians and establishment media. Mark Reeder and his punk-culture cohorts sought to express their own sense of liberty. Scenes of close-quarters dancing and sex flout the seriousness of social-distancing. Repeated shots of various, vintage, flipped fingers seem aimed at 21st-century acquiescence itself.

Punk culture disregarded the maudlin fear of danger and embraced it an outrageous, unexpected expanse of FDRs idea that theres nothing to fear but fear itself, which COVID-19 politicians dont dare repeat. So Singularity commemorates fearlessness, and in doing so, it shames that 7 p.m.pseudo-civility. Compared with New Orders scenes of disorderly conduct, the polite clapping and cheering come from people in New Yorks most liberal, Hillary-supporting districts (from my neighborhood perspective, the nervously cracked windows are in swanky brownstones) that share a pampered sense of what resistance really means. Unlike those radicals in Berlins anti-Stasi youth subculture, the Manhattan noisemakers seem at a loss about what to do with themselves; they may well be of the ADD generation, former Ritalin kids who are now cautious homeowners and urban stakeholders.

The protests in Singularity havent yet happened in the U.S., tensely considering the reopening of the economy, but the fever of fed-upness (a better term than the now discredited resistance) indicates some underlying exasperation such as is inchoately expressed by the 7 p.m.bourgeois ritual. Singularity throws images of liberation back at a nation of sheeple. Baaing people. Applauding people. They really seem to be congratulating themselves for their own helplessness, for upholding government edicts during the clampdown, keeping quiet, and waiting all day for that brief moment when they can pretend to appreciate other peoples sacrifice. The typical liberal impulse is to mistake self-congratulation for altruism. A populace that disguises its own lack of self-awareness as gratitude demonstrates the essence of conformity and surrender.

This meek, docile applauding at 7 p.m. suggests a dire transformation of the American spirit. Its as if rock n roll, punk, and hip-hop never happened.

Some skeptics have asked: Wheres that rebel spirit? Wheres Antifa now to protest the confining of the indigent and shut-in, in the interest of justice the first steps toward fascism? Where are the Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movements when the republics freedom and liberty need to be restored, as those Cold War Berliners desired?

The popularity of New Orders Singularity offers a last hope against restrictions that are not entirely based on science but come from the fiat of leaders who claim to know whats best.The song Singularity mourns the loss of camaraderie, while the video supplies virtual, vicarious protest. Its a reminder of the punk ethic buried inside.

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Why Interest in Virtual Worlds for Online Collaboration Is Spiking – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 2:45 am

By now, its well known that usage of video-conferencing software like Zoom has exploded as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown. What is less known is that interest in avatar-based virtual worlds and business-specific adaptations of concepts like Second Life, a well-known virtual world which peaked in mainstream popularity 15 years ago, is spiking as well.

Yes, weve been getting a ton of inquiries, said Philip Rosedale in an email to Singularity Hub. Rosedale is CEO and cofounder of High Fidelity, a software company currently building a new kind of virtual world thats not yet been released. Hes also the creator and founder of Second Life and said it is seeing a surge in use as well.

This is a strange moment for VR, virtualworlds, and the internetmore generally. We may now truly be forced to create an equitable public commons online, where historically weve had the fallback of real life proximity, Rosedale added.

While video-based software like Zoom will likely continue to be the preferred method for most remote business meetings during the shutdown, it is possible to wonder whether virtual worlds may prove uniquely useful now as well.

This point was underscored last week in an opinion article for the Wall Street Journal where Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson outlined why video conferencing on Zoom can feel so exhausting. In his view, Zoom forces people to display behaviors that are usually reserved for close and intimate relationships; what he refers to as nonverbal overload such as making direct eye contact for long periods of time and focusing on someone elses face. In the real world, Bailenson points out, individuals can control their own personal space, manage their distance from coworkers, and choose their location during a meeting. On Zoom, however, there is no concept of spatial distance since the experience exists in a flat 2D window.

According to Alex Howland, CEO of VirBELA, another virtual world provider, they have also seen a massive uptick in interest these past few weeks from companies, non-profits, and government agencies affected by the shutdown.

In VirBELA, users create an avatar and navigate a video game-like environment to attend meetings, collaborate around boardroom tables, use media surfaces to display documents or websites, and interact in ways that may capture social cues (like personal space) from the real world.

The most important benefit of a virtual world, then, may be that it replicates many of the behaviors you might expect to see in the real world. There is such a thing as getting too close or far away from someone, and this sense of spatial presence can be quite convincing. The Boston Globe even reported an anecdote in which one user in VirBELA felt uncomfortable and complained because their avatar didnt have a chair to sit in during a meeting.

And perhaps the biggest difference from video-conferencing is the ability to randomly stumble into a colleague you might not otherwise interact with.

In virtual worlds, users feel like they are at a place together and that place is persistent. This helps foster a sense of shared culture and brings back water cooler opportunities and unplanned social collisions that just dont happen on a conference call. We are even seeing people from the same global organization, in different geographies, meeting each other in the world for the first time by happenstance, Howland told me.

Several years ago, I profiled the case of a publicly traded business with a billion dollars in revenue per year and over 28,000 employees and contractors around the world which operates entirely inside VirBELA. (That company later acquired the virtual world business outright). It certainly registered as a mainstream turning point for the use of persistent online social environments.

Even before Covid-19 pressed the brakes on our economy, forcing employees around the world to shelter at home, parts of the business world were already moving in the direction of remote collaboration and long-distance communication. And while our current health crisis isnt steering us in a particularly new direction, it may be accelerating us toward the working from home destination many companies had already been aiming for.

While I dont expect virtual worlds to overtake the use of video conferencing for the vast majority of todays business meetings, it is worth noting the key attributes that make these environments unique. And the longer this global pandemic stretches on, the more it will continue to shape the future of what our working lives might look like.

As interest in virtual world platforms grows, its worth keeping an eye on whether they are a mere curiosity or here to stay.

Image Credit: stephan sorkinonUnsplash

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Why Interest in Virtual Worlds for Online Collaboration Is Spiking - Singularity Hub

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College of the Siskiyous play about end of the world canceled by end of the world – Siskiyou Daily News

Posted: at 2:45 am

The Singularity Machine, explained Carpentier-Alting, is a play about a family trying to escape a world in crisis through the use of a device that will transport them into the future.

Friday, April 3, would have been the premier performance of The Singularity Machine at the College of the Siskiyous Kenneth Ford Theater in Weed. The play, told in two acts, is the creation of COS director Neil Carpentier-Alting and deals with humanitys quest to survive climate catastrophe.

Who wouldve thought a play about the end of the world would get canceled by the end of the world? said Carpentier-Alting.

The Singularity Machine, explained Carpentier-Alting, is a play about a family trying to escape a world in crisis through the use of a device that will transport them into the future. The primary question that the play attempts to address is how humanity will survive the effects of the impending climate catastrophe and overcome societal divisions in time to pull together. Oh, and there are lots of killer robots too.

On the stage for their first and final technical rehearsal on Monday, March 16, COS students and actors were able to at least film some scenes with lights and technical props in action before the early shelter-in-place order went into effect on March 19. The students will most likely not be able to stage a live performance this year.

The play was a completely in-house creation. Carpentier-Alting provided the main inspiration with an eight-page narrative, and local musicians Dave Theno and Tristan Behm composed the score. COS dance instructor Wendy James provided choreography oversight, Nic Fabrio was in charge of costume design and Amy LaMachia oversaw makeup.

We were just able to get each scene on film, said Carpentier-Alting. We have had to move classes to an online format with the thought that we may have to do this again in the fall. For now, we are getting together with the cast to record our experiences with the pandemic with the hopes of making something out of it.

Stage Makeup instructor Amy LaMachia will continue teaching the students online. She prepared makeup kits for each student and says they will be able to finish the semester but there are challenges.

These students are so resilient and creative, I honestly cannot wait to see what they come up with for these remaining modules, LaMachia said. So much of what makes our department as amazing as it is, is the personal connection we have with our students. We hope to foster that even if it is through an internet connection.

The Singularity Machine was created as a piece of devised theater in which all the cast, crew and technicians collectively create a piece of visual art. The collaborative process uses dance, gesture, music and sound to tell the story. The play follows the quest of a father, mother, and their daughter as they travel through time to escape calamity. The father looks to technology to save humanity, while the mother looks to rouse others to their cause. It is their child who ultimately leads them to a new and better world. The dynamic piece of theater follows the three travelers as they battle sentient robots, meet strange alien civilizations, and travel through time through an on-stage portal. For Carpentier-Alting and his fellow instructors the focus now is on preserving the play digitally and thinking about a remount in the fall.

How do we plan for this level of uncertainty in this new world? Carpentier-Alting said. How do we plan for anything now?

Answering his own question, Carpentier-Alting offers the play as a possible starting point.

The play assumes adopting and cultivating humane practices in all aspects of life will help to create a broader safety net and increase the rate of survival, he said. Change is necessary for survival and growth.


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