Four short links: 23 September 2009

Video Art, Synthetic Biology Futures, Crowdsourced Personality, and an 1890s Startup

  1. Projections (YouTube) — the incredible video projection onto an old English manor house by Kiwi Foo Camp alums The Dark Room.
  2. Where Will Synthetic Biology Lead Us? (New Yorker) — a thoughtful article about the possibilities and cautions of synthetic biology. . “A house pet is a domesticated parasite,” he noted. “ It is evolved to have an interaction with human beings. Same thing with corn”—a crop that didn’t exist until we created it. “Same thing is going to start happening with energy,” he went on. “We are going to start domesticating bacteria to process stuff inside enclosed reactors to produce energy in a far more clean and efficient manner. This is just the beginning stage of being able to program life.”

  3. Business Cards and Crowdsourced Personality Assessmentswe scanned images of a person’s business card and asked crowdsourced workers from the Amazon Mechanical Turk channel to write five kind words about the person based on what they saw. I like the idea of being able to crowdsource a quick impartial aesthetic judgement about a design.
  4. When Sears Was a Startup (Pete Warden) — one of the first catalogues from Sears (1897) inspires comparisons to Amazon and other web startups. On a mission with a new business model. They can’t stop talking about how they’re cutting out the middle men who’ve been gouging their customers, with pages devoted to messianic rants against the monopolies trying to put them out of business. They contrast their order fulfillment process (dozens of clerks dealing with tens of thousands of orders a day) with the inefficient country stores full of assistants being paid to idly wait for customers, explaining how they can offer such low prices despite the shipping.
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