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February 09 2015

aren
08:46
Universe No. 25
from John B Calhoun: "Death Squared. The Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse Population", Proc R Soc Med. 1973 Jan; 66(1 Pt 2): 80–88.

Sci-Fi Dystopias We've Actually Created:
Universe No. 25

by Robert Brockway (Cracked, June 13, 2012)

Let's set the scene: A brilliant, eccentric scientist devotes his life to refining the perfect society. After two dozen iterations, he finally hits it: Universe 25. It is a huge, painstakingly designed megastructure with prebuilt living spaces for all of its occupants. There are no threats, no danger, no disease, and everything is provided for you. There's unlimited free, clean water and healthy food, the temperature is always 68 degrees Fahrenheit -- hell, it even cleans itself every couple of weeks. And sure, maybe it's a little disconcerting that the walls go so high and there are no exits, but really, do you need them? Where do you have to go anymore? All you have to do in this place is live happily with yourself, your wife and three other couples. It's paradise.

If it sounds too good to be true, it's not: John B. Calhoun actually built it, all the way back in 1972. The results? In just under two years, despite having every possible amenity provided for happy living, the occupants of Universe 25 turned on each other. The collapse was apocalyptic: There was rampant cannibalism and sexual deviancy, savage violence became the norm and, most damning of all, a killer apathy took root like a plague. The few occupants of Universe 25 who were not murderballing each other to death simply stopped caring about anything -- survival, life, morality -- they all but laid down and died.

But it wasn't that big a deal; they were just a bunch of stupid mice, after all.

Universe 25 was a 101-square-inch tank, carefully engineered to safely and comfortably hold over 1,000 mice. Everything was provided for a little mouse heaven, but it's like Rodent Sartre said: Hell is other mice.

There were only four breeding pairs at first, but then nature took over. When Universe 25's population reached 600 mice -- not even close to capacity -- growth began to slow. At a staggering 2,200 mice, twice the maximum comfortable occupancy, growth of Universe 25 stopped altogether. But it was too late; the environment could not regulate. Living with such overcrowding had ruined the mice psychologically. Without normal designated tasks like protection and food gathering, the mice became psychotically, randomly violent. Or else they turned into something worse: One of the ominously dubbed "Beautiful Ones." The Beautiful Ones didn't want sex, they didn't want to fight, they didn't want anything -- the world started destroying itself around them and all they did was eat, sleep and groom themselves. With the only potential mates being rage virus psychos or impotent, navel-gazing egomaniacs, all breeding stopped, and Universe 25 collapsed completely.

But it was inevitable, really. The clue was in the name: What do you think happened to Universes 1 to 24? Tiny mouse apocalypses were such old hat to Calhoun that he'd even devised an algorithm for it. This is it:

Mortality, bodily death = the second death

Drastic reduction of mortality
= death of the second death
= death squared
= (death)2

(Death)2 leads to dissolution of social organization
= death of the establishment

Death of the establishment leads to spiritual death
= loss of capacity to engage in behaviors essential to species survival
= the first death

Therefore:
(Death)2 = the first death


Jesus, dude. When you're constructing the algorithm for the perfect society and you start factoring the "drastic reduction of morality" and carrying the "death of the establishment," maybe it's time to check your back for some kind of purple cape: You might have finally crossed that fine line between mathematician and supervillain. But what did that morbid algorithm end up proving, anyway? That mice suck at building societies? You don't need math to prove that shit, Calhoun; just open up the cages at the pet store and see how long it takes them to start running the register. What's that? They're not doing it all? They're just pooping? Everywhere? Right, because they're friggin' mice, man.

But Calhoun wasn't just playing Vengeful Mouse God for kicks; his intended point was to demonstrate the long-term effects of serious overcrowding, even in a society with absolutely no shortage of resources.

You know, kind of like ours ...

Listen, whether you buy the validity of his results or not, the fact is this: Calhoun built tiny little universes all his life, just to see where ours was headed. And when he'd gazed in that crystal ball long enough, he pulled his eyes away, rubbed at the bridge of his nose and carefully jotted down the words "death squared" in his little notebook.
Reposted fromArchimedes Archimedes viascience science

August 06 2012

aren
18:10
Tweenbots by Kacie Kinzer:

Given their extreme vulnerability, the vastness of city space, the dangers posed by traffic, suspicion of terrorism, and the possibility that no one would be interested in helping a lost little robot, I initially conceived the Tweenbots as disposable creatures which were more likely to struggle and die in the city than to reach their destination. Because I built them with minimal technology, I had no way of tracking the Tweenbot’s progress, and so I set out on the first test with a video camera hidden in my purse. I placed the Tweenbot down on the sidewalk, and walked far enough away that I would not be observed as the Tweenbot––a smiling 10-inch tall cardboard missionary––bumped along towards his inevitable fate. The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, “You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road.” The Tweenbot’s unexpected presence in the city created an unfolding narrative that spoke not simply to the vastness of city space and to the journey of a human-assisted robot, but also to the power of a simple technological object to create a complex network powered by human intelligence and asynchronous interactions. But of more interest to me, was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy for an anthropomorphized object. The journey the Tweenbots take each time they are released in the city becomes a story of people’s willingness to engage with a creature that mirrors human characteristics of vulnerability, of being lost, and of having intention without the means of achieving its goal alone. As each encounter with a helpful pedestrian takes the robot one step closer to attaining it’s destination, the significance of our random discoveries and individual actions accumulates into a story about a vast space made small by an even smaller robot.
Tags: tech sociology

December 16 2011

aren
18:12
Schrödinger's Cat vs. Pavlov's Dog

December 14 2011

aren
17:28
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