Bruce Sterling: Augmented Reality and “Dead Drops”

Bruce Sterling’s been “Visionary in Residence” again this summer at the Pasadena Art Center, where he’s been in cyborg mode, focusing on augmented reality, or reality augmented and mediated by computer-generated sensory input. Bruce has developed an application that runs on the Layar platform, called Dead Drops, inspired by the work of German media artist Aram Bartholl, which per Sterling is “all about hidden data revealed in real-world, three-dimensional spaces.” A Dead Drop is

an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project.

It’s sorta like geocaching, where the cache is digital, and anybody who finds the drop can add to it. The application Bruce has developed is for finding and mapping the drops.

Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology is riff on nano/bio tech – according to Rudy Rucker, “it’s about building slippery wetware entities that might live in the real world.” Rucker has a rich post about the field, and its promises (“we ought to be able to design some kind of microorganism that eats
inexpensive crud and generates energy in some usable form or another”) and problems (“what’s to stop a particularly virulent synthetic organism from eating everything on earth?”) Ending with a cool science friction premise:

Suppose it were possible to encode a person’s memory
and personality into a single, very large, DNA-like molecule. Now
suppose that someone turns himself into a viral disease that other
people can catch. If I were you—sneeze—oh, wait, I guess I am.