"Machines for Training: Military Performance and Embodied Knowledge" on KCET's Artbound

In his 1923 manifesto "Vers une architecture" (Toward an Architecture) Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier famously described houses as "machines for living." By comparing houses -- or any buildings -- to machines, he gave us a new way to consider and understand buildings and, at the same time, also posed an implicit question. A machine -- a tool -- only realizes its fullest potential in performing work. Machines require use to be fully understood, because there is tacit knowledge -- what philosophers of knowledge distinguish as "know how" as opposed to "know of" -- that can only be known through performing the work itself. So if houses -- if buildings -- are machines, must we in fact be in them and "operate" them in order to fully understand them?

I had this question in mind in January 2015 when I was preparing for a visit to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. I joined a group of creative thinkers that included artists, designers, filmmakers, historians, geographers, and computer scientists on a trip to view Range 220, the largest urban combat simulation training facility in the United States and one of the largest in the world, and also to talk with Marines about terrain visualization, drawing, and training for these activities.

Read the full post at KCET's Artbound.


"Of Course Facebook Wants to Control Your Feelings" on The Daily Beast

By now, if you have a Facebook account or if you’ve just been on the internet in the past week, you are probably aware that Facebook conducted a study to see if it could construct users’ news feeds in order to affect their emotions. You’ve probably also see the range of responses, from shocked—shocked, to outraged, to apologetic (and more apologetic, and even more apologetic) and everything in between.

But for all of the explaining and hand-wringing, there has been little discussion of why Facebook conducted this research—or where this work is going. No matter how much furor this incident kicks up, it won’t be the last time an experiment like this happens. For Facebook to survive, it has to continue to find more and more ways to do what it has always done: change how we behave, and make money when we do. And Facebook isn’t alone. Google, data aggregators, and a zillion other tech and not-so-tech companies need to do it, too. Non-profits and governments may even need to get on the bandwagon.


Read the full post at The Daily Beast.


"How to Talk Like a Pirate … In His Native Javanese" on Danger Room

International Talk Like A Pirate Day is here again for its 10th anniversary. Which means the old gags — shivering your timbers, calling out to your maties,  mispronouncing “Sarsgaard” — are getting kind of stale, especially when there are real-life pirates roaming the high seas. If you really want to rap like a modern-day Captain Jack, it means learning a few choices phrases in a new language – one spoken by the gents hijacking ships right now.

Last year Danger Room’s hard-hitting ITLAPD coverage brought you linguistic quick guides to Somali and Yemeni Arabic. But since then pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa have dropped significantly, especially over this past summer. Some credit may be to the weather, since it turns out that rough seas during monsoon season restrict the ability of Somali pirates to operate. Some credit may also be to the combined efforts of various anti-piracy forces, including those of the United States and the EU, which have stepped up attacks against pirates in the past year. And some credit may be to increased security measures on ships that are passing through the Gulf of Aden and around the Horn of Africa — a trend which continues results reported in 2011. But whatever the reasons, the facts are that attacks are down, and so you may be starting to wonder if all the that time you’ve spent in the last year learning pirate phrases in Somali was worth it. You may even be wondering if it’s worth it to talk like a pirate at all.

Well matorka demee, sailor! Just because piracy is down around Somalia doesn't mean the high seas are safe for mariners the world over. While the drop in Somali piracy has reduced the rate of piracy worldwide, piracy remains high in the number two region for pirate activity in the world: South East Asia and the the Indian Sub-Continent. And the number one area for pirate activity in the region remains Indonesia. In the first half of 2012 there were 32 attacks in Indonesia, one in the Malacca Straits, and four in Malaysia — compared to 21, zero and 11 for all of 2011. If piracy continues at the same rate for the rest of 2012 we can expect a record year for piracy in the region, continuing a trend that started at an all time low mark for piracy in the region in 2009.

So it’s time to learn a little pirate Indonesian, me hearties.

Read the full post at Danger Room.


"Turn Left Here? Why Problems with GPS Show our Cyber Weaknesses" on the Truman National Security Project

It turns out that the problems with GPS are bigger than any of us knew about — and that has serious implications about not just GPS, but about the larger cybersecurity debate that is playing out in the Senate this week with the final debate over the revised Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

Last month news broke that a team of researchers from the University of Texas had hijacked a drone by spoofing the GPS used in it’s navigation system. “Spoofing” is a hacking technique that involves fooling a computer into believing that the hacker’s computer is a trusted computer. In this case, the U of T team fooled the drone by sending a signal that pretended to be from satellites in the GPS constellation but contained inaccurate location information — information that would have caused the drone to crash if not for pilot intervention.

Which should worry you not just because GPS helps fly drones but also because none of us know how to get anywhere without it any more.

Read the full post on the Truman National Security Project blog.


"GPS, a Weak Link in Cybersecurity?" on the Truman National Security Project

The news last month that LightSquared, a company attempting to deliver broadband internet via satellite, had filed for bankruptcy, settled a long-simmering but little noticed debate with far-reaching impacts on militaries, governments, businesses—and plain old folks like you and me.

Why? Because the global positioning system—better known as GPS—industry feared that LightSquared’s technology would interfere with the GPS signal, a service on which the world has become increasingly dependent but which it also takes almost completely taken for granted. The LightSquared decision a pretty big deal in and of itself—but it also opens a window into the larger debate on cyber security which is now being argued both inside the Beltway and around the world.

Read the full post on the Truman National Security Project blog.