Stack City

Behrand Behin's Stack City explores very pragmatic ideas of zero-carbon infrastructure and modularity in an ideal setting in the Arabian peninsula, a land where budgets are near limitless but volatile and the problems of climate and income disparity often ground plans for utopic futures.

A perfected underground infrastructure of transport and energy, based around a central 'solar stack' used for cooling and energy makes the construction expandable and collapsible to be able to respond to the economic climate.

Banking Boat

LBV Bull

As the fluctuations of the markets impress themselves on the world's geography, two-thirds of the planet's surface remains unused. Banking corporations begin to make use of the sea space as static urban centralisation begins to break up and modular constructions begin to evolve, flourish and deconstruct around ephemeral financial centers.

The construction of the vessels originally began under the threat of rising sea-levels and the potential of natural disaster to disrupt the established financial centres of the City of London, Wall Street and Tokyo. In time, the ability to physically isolate and navigate entire departments around the world with them remaining essentially in situ as well as the natural cooling properties of the sea on the bank's servers and generators proved to be its own advantage and offshore sightings of corporate vessels became common.

The Light Banking Vehicle Bull was the first of Merrill Lynch's fleet, designed to carry the company's legal department. Some commentators suspected that this was in order to keep their activities out of the now-defunct national borders in order to exclude them from prosecution by national laws as some nation states were reluctant to allow advances in banking power.

The ship was completely refitted from a cargo ship, bought at auction from a collapsing timber merchant. Corporate offices including visitors suites were placed alongside the apartments and offices of 58 lawyers and 112 supporting staff and the quarters of the 15 crew.

It included a helipad, a full communications array, venting for it's nuclear fission generator, later replaced with a fusion system.

The ship also included suicide nets, a regrettable practice more common in the middle of the 21st century than now, and the traditional Merrill bull, an idol to the lost art of luck that still perseveres today.


The international ITER fusion project generator. It was started in 1985 and is designed to output 500MW from an input of 50MW. It's predicted to stabalise plasma by a very specific November 2019 and be fully functioning by 2026. The project is supported by the most technologically advanced nations in the world - the US, China, Russia, India and the EU.

Construction of the facility at Cadarache in the Cote d'Azur began in 2011 with the construction of the actual tokamak - the 'generator' that uses magnetic fields to control the flow of plasma - scheduled to begin in 2015.

Recent Photos

Stuff from Christmas, sorry.

Induction Education

Boston University and Japan's ATR Computational Neuroscience department have done some experiments for proof of concept that it would be possible for the brain to learn through a sort of 'brainwave induction' whereby the learner would have to make no conscious effort to develop skills and knowledge. Simply inducing the correct brain patterns corresponding to activities would, I assume with practice, teach that skill or knowledge in another person's mind.

The researchers were able to "use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state." In other words, a person seeking to learn a topic would watch a computer screen and have her brain patterns modified to match those of a person who already knows the content or how to do something.

Although it's certainly exciting in the sense that it might allow an adult with a fully formed brain to learn additional things at minimal time expenditure it raises questions of what form education is lost. All slow processes incur a certain amount of introspection and reflection on the part of the learner and this would be lost with instantaneous induction of knowledge. All the side-effects of a combined, social education - the type of things that PTA's and government think tanks bang on about - wouldn't be a part of the learning process, even if there was one.

What if cognitive therapy was combined with this learning, and the full mental and emotional maturity of an adult was uploaded into a child as young as 5 or even just a few months?


Future Money

Alasdair Gray

Posy Simmonds

William Boyd: 'It is designed for our new neo-Swiss, isolated, non-EU life. Deliberately ersatz, already grubby, the £ has been replaced by the more universal X.'



Economics is at the start of a revolution that is traceable to an unexpected source: medical schools and their research facilities. Neuroscience – the science of how the brain, that physical organ inside one’s head, really works – is beginning to change the way we think about how people make decisions.

Economics has always fallen back on the model of the 'rational human' when creating models, the idea being that humans in any given system fundamentally desire an increase in happiness (economists call this 'utility') and that the models will subsequently reveal objectives and methods for achieving utility.
This assumption that all humans behave rationally and make decisions that further their own happiness leaves economic models flawed, often disastrously. More often than not, humans are irrational and poor decision makers, with little foresight, they make sacrifices and sometimes even behave altruistically.
John Maynard Keynes thought that most economic decision-making occurs in ambiguous situations in which probabilities are not known. He concluded that much of our business cycle is driven by fluctuations in “animal spirits,” something in the mind – and not understood by economists.

It's not only humanity that economics underestimates, but often the very nature of the universe. Nassim Nicholas Taleb will wax lyrical about the Black Swans that plague predictive and reflective models of economics - dismissed outliers, unpredictable events, failures in the inherent nature of the model's range - but neuroeconomics seeks to build on the ironically un-fleshy and perhaps most important part of the models - the humans.

Neuroeconomics, as a way of informing economic theory through neuroscience also brings closer together the great human/computer analogy. Modern neuroscience, still very much in its infancy, springboards off the idea that the mind can be modelled on a computer and through this reflection behaves like a computer often in the biases of the science and the perceptions of the layman. Economic theory however has used these suppositions since almost the advent of the computer, if not before and so is thoroughly cemented in the 'platonic model' fallacy/philosophy.

The MONIAC water computer, developed in 1949, demonstrated and modelled economic systems with several variables using water. The idea that economies functioned systematically and predictably predated the widespread use of the computer.

Our idea of economies and humans as computers has failed uncountable times (Taleb again will tell you to examine the farcical error rate of financial forecasting) and yet we still begin our sciences with the assumption that nature can be reflected in the computer. Whether neuroeconomic findings will draw economics more into the irrational, unpredictable and the human or draw neuroscience into the flawed models of economics remains to be seen as will whether the merging of the fields will lead to a new way of approaching ourselves as humans and thus how it might shape history.

The brain, the computer, and the economy: all three are devices whose purpose is to solve fundamental information problems in coordinating the activities of individual units – the neurons, the transistors, or individual people. As we improve our understanding of the problems that any one of these devices solves – and how it overcomes obstacles in doing so – we learn something valuable about all three.

(quotes via)

Recent Images

Part of the Space Shuttle Columbia, washed up in a Texas lake, where low water levels have opened up over 200 new archaeological sites.

Semi-autonomous flying robots programmed by Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler "will lift, transport and assemble 1500 polystyrene foam bricks" next month—starting 2 December 2011—at the FRAC Center in France. The result, they hope, will be a "3.5 meter wide structure." (via)

Images from the book Alter Ego; Avatars and Their Creators

Legal Primacy

The Huexotzinco Codex is an eight-sheet document on amatl, a pre- European paper made in Mesoamerica. It is part of the testimony in a legal case against representatives of the colonial government in Mexico, ten years after the Spanish conquest in 1521. Huexotzinco (Way-hoat-ZINC-o) is a town southeast of Mexico City, in the state of Puebla. In 1521, the Nahua Indian people of the town were the allies of the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortés, and together they confronted their enemies to overcome Moctezuma, leader of the Aztec Empire. After the conquest, the Huexotzinco peoples became part of Cortés’estates. During 1529-1530 when Cortés was out of the country, Spanish colonial administrators intervened in the daily activities of the community and forced the Nahuas to pay excessive taxes in the form of goods and services. When Cortés returned, the Nahuas joined him in a legal case against the abuses of the Spanish administrators. The plaintiffs were successful in their suit in Mexico, and later when it was retried in Spain. The record shows [in a document uncovered in the collections of the Library of Congress] that in 1538, King Charles of Spain agreed with the judgement against the Spanish administrators and ruled that two-thirds of all tributes taken from the people of Huexotzinco be returned.


The Repository of The Eternal Now

Robert Ware's graduate of last year from the Architecture department - The Repository of The Eternal Now. Sadly unsearchable, it took me a good 20 minutes in the library archives to dig this one out. It's quite a fascinating study of a direct merger between religion, economics and technology. The church invest in the markets and under fear of attack, continues the line of traditional religious architecture in constructing it's data into huge, imposing monoliths that represent it's glory and wealth.

Ware makes the data that represents wealth tangible; again a long-established disposition towards showy constructions of power and muscle flexing on the part of the Roman church. It's interesting to consider that the church might become an economic power that represents and protects it's data in huge monoliths to a new sort of power.

Graph it True

Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question... (via)

Recent Photos

The Ladies

More, as ever at the old flickr

The Short History of Nationhood

The history of the world of nations is short because the nation as entity of power is a relatively recent invention. At the time of the Roman Empire, there existed to states of being for any entity of power; the Roman Empire and everything else. The idea of a 'nation' was really a definition of race. Cicero wrote in 44BC:

Omnes nationes servitutem ferre possunt: nostra civitas non potest.
("All races are able to bear enslavement, but our community cannot.")

From this we can draw the first use of the word nationes, which would evolve through Old French to become the word nation by it's first, modern use in respect of the Byzantine emperor in 968AD.

The land...which you say belongs to your empire belongs, as the nationality and language of the people proves, to the kingdom of Italy. - Liutprand of Cremona

Cicero makes clear the difference between the nationes
and the civitas which he regards as the body of the Empire. Sovereign states based on the model of nationhood - division by religious or racial boundaries (as we can read from Cicero) only begin to appear after the Roman Empire and are only referred to in these terms by the late 17th century.

Historically, political borders would have been impossible to lay down due to the debatable and inaccurate nature of contemporary cartography and so major cities and geographic elements provided the markers and bastions of a 'nation.' Some of these markers still exist today where borders run along rivers or ravines while others, such as those of the New World are more arbitrary and still others are given by hyper-real markers, Korea's 38th parallel being one prominent example. The vague, borderless forms preceding the medieval state based their definition on the range of militaristic and civic control, and so the Roman Empire could simply maintain control by placing legions in 'outer' cities or bastions and thus use these positions to define their borders.

The Roman Empire can't be considered an empire on parallel terms to the British Empire or any other 'empires' of the period of nations. The Roman Empire was the totality of civilisation, representing the first unified civitas of multiple nationes. Following empires simply reclaimed other nation areas, imposing their own civic rule upon them.

Nationalism died as deciding force with then end of the Second World War. The Cold War was fought on ideology regardless of nationhood and race and it follows naturally that in an age of multiculturalism, globalisation and the Internet that borders of the kind laid out after the disintegration of the Roman Empire are outdated and irrelevant memorials to the brief period of nationalism that gripped the world from the medieval period to the beginning of the Cold War.