226 results for “Global-Image-Economy”

Fake-for-Real: Octopus Lips

Freya Hutchings
January 20th 2020

A recent lip filler trend blew up on social media. 'Devil lips', or Octopus lips, have attracted divided opinion online. When the body modification hit Instagram, some spectators found the change in natural lip structure oddly attractive, to others it seemed completely ridiculous, and one beauty expert point blank dismissed them as dangerous, criticizing anyone who promoted the trend.

It is still unclear whether the fillers are a photo shop stunt or even surgically possible. Yet, a number of online …

Have you thought about your social media death?

Freya Hutchings
January 13th 2020

Recently, Twitter announced it would be clearing all inactive accounts in an effort to free up dormant usernames and prevent the risk of old accounts being hacked. The new policy was set to wipe out all members inactive for six months or more. This news alarmed many users, who had been treating the accounts of deceased members as spaces of memorialization, as online tombstones where friends and relatives could grieve together.

It seems, when data meets human emotion, the worlds …

Why Next Nature Network is hiring an army of bots

NextNature.net
April 11th 2019

As we showed with HUBOT, we can use new technologies and robotics to make our work more enjoyable, interesting and humane. Aside from our speculative jobs, a lot of robotic companions already exist. Think about the robotic fish that observes marine life, the breathing pillow that helps you sleep and robotic arms that assist the surgeon. So why not join forces at Next Nature Network?

Not working against, but with robots!

Over the past few years, we have been actively …

‘Listen’ to your genetic heritage: Curate a playlist based on your DNA

Ruben Baart
September 27th 2018

Genealogy services have exploded over the past few years, and Spotify is capitalizing on the boom by providing curated playlist based on users’ DNA. Here's what you should know.

If you could listen to your DNA, what would it sound like?…

Smartphone app helps indigenous communities fight deforestation

jeannedjawadi
September 13th 2018

Five people suspected of illegal gold mining in Peru are in custody after indigenous community members used a system called ForestLink to alert authorities to the activity.…

This startup uses body heat to mine crypto

Camille Charluet
May 15th 2018

While many love to speculate about the sheer number of jobs that robots and artificial intelligence are going to replace in the near future, no one seems to be coming up with any solid alternatives. One forward-thinking Dutch startup, however, believes humans should start using their bodies to produce capital… but not in the way you’re imagining.…

Here’s how the Dutch are embracing blockchain in the polder

Coen van de Ven
May 7th 2018

Smiling broadly and rattling with enthusiasm, the 33-year-old Rylana Doesburg shows off a QR-code on her phone: an angular pattern of black and white squares. “Thanks to this picture, last month I was able to buy rompers, a winter coat, and Christmas presents for my daughter.” For three months this single mother from Zuidhorn, the Netherlands, has made use of the “child package” from the municipality.…

The return of trade: Blockchain technology is enabling trade to make a fierce comeback

Koen Blezer
April 5th 2018

Before money came into existence, trading was all we knew. Farmers in China traded their spades for food and other goods, and this continued up until a point where most spades were no longer used for digging, as they had shrunk down for convenience in being a medium of exchange. While the heavily abstracted spades had turned into something that resembled its former function, farmers were still able to connect it to the environment in which the trade was happening …

The Story of Money: Bits

NextNature.net
January 10th 2018
The story of money: an accessible roadmap from prehistory to digital age, from cows to credit, from gold mining to bitcoin mining. The final episode: bits.

The Story of Money: Plastic

NextNature.net
January 4th 2018
The story of money: an accessible roadmap from prehistory to digital age, from cows to credit, from gold mining to bitcoin mining. This episode: plastic.
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A recent lip filler trend blew up on social media. 'Devil lips', or Octopus lips, have attracted divided opinion online. When the body modification hit Instagram, some spectators found the change in natural lip structure oddly attractive, to others it seemed completely ridiculous, and one beauty expert point blank dismissed them as dangerous, criticizing anyone who promoted the trend.

It is still unclear whether the fillers are a photo shop stunt or even surgically possible. Yet, a number of online influencers soon appeared to be sporting the new look - and we cannot underestimate their impact in the offline world. Just last year Instagram announced it would remove a range of filters that promote cosmetic surgery amid mental health concerns.

Additionally, plastic surgeons have revealed how their clients have not only been motivated by Instagram images, but use them as a visual reference for their requests. Also, remember how in 2018 US teens were seeking cosmetic surgery to look like their favorite Snapchat filter? What instances like this reveal is how, once again, beauty ideals find their way from online to offline spaces.

So, what are the limits of our abilities to transform ourselves and escape our biological constraints? Has the 'Instagram face',with its symmetrical, full-pouted lips, become an exhausted and predictable plastic surgery narrative? Does the devil/octopus lip trend indicate the beginning of new cosmetic preference that goes beyond exaggerated human characteristics, and towards the aesthetics of other-worldly creatures?

Release your inner devil, or octopus, it seems. Are new body modifications blurring the real with the fantastical, and will these transgressive aesthetics lead to more variety in self-expression, or just a different kind of homogeneity? What will the future of humans look like? Less human caricature and more species ambiguous? Only time will tell...

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Recently, Twitter announced it would be clearing all inactive accounts in an effort to free up dormant usernames and prevent the risk of old accounts being hacked. The new policy was set to wipe out all members inactive for six months or more. This news alarmed many users, who had been treating the accounts of deceased members as spaces of memorialization, as online tombstones where friends and relatives could grieve together.

It seems, when data meets human emotion, the worlds of the living and dead collide and even change places. Given the complexity of such situations, general rules cannot be applied. Just as it is unacceptable to bulldoze a graveyard without warning, Twitter needed to rethink its policy. The social media platform soon backtracked on its decision and stated that [Twitter] "will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorize accounts.”

Thankful twitter users expressed their relief:

“I’m literally sobbing...thank you so much, thank you”

“there are accounts where the person is now deceased and ppl like to look at them from time to time.”

“Thank you! my brother passed away. We wanted to have access to tweets to use for a memorial book.”

“Yes, we have a duty to preserve internet history and create lasting memories online”

Twitter responds to complaints about deleting the accounts of deceased users.

What happens to your social media after you die?

As the Twitter controversy has revealed, many people return to the pages of lost loved ones to post supportive messages and relive memories recorded online. Social media accounts give grieving friends and family a chronological source from which to reflect. Indeed, Facebook timelines can form an intricate record of a dead users life moments, the people they knew, the times they shared. Their profiles exist as a preserved space in which a person appears to live on.

However, like a person in real life that is unaware of a death, social media is not resistant to awkward, jarring moments of insensitivity. If left untouched, the accounts of deceased people continue to interact with their virtual circle through automated social media functions. This means reminders of birthdays, memories, pending pokes, and that the dead will continue to eerily pop up on your ‘suggested friends’ list. You may receive a shock when providers such as WhatsApp automatically suggest you message a friend who has passed away.

To avoid these triggering moments, Facebook now allows family and friends to convert the accounts of dead people into memorial pages. This process transforms a regular profile into a locked and simplified version, with the word ‘remembering’ placed before the name of the account.

Alternatively, you can chose to appoint a legacy contact, who can access and manage your profile after you die. Twitter and Instagram allow a friend or relative to have a profile deleted after showing an official document that proves the death of the account holder.

Film critic Richard Ebert sends tweets from beyond the grave, with the help of his living partner, Chaz.

Yet, you don’t have to die digitally. You might entrust someone to communicate on your behalf by sharing your login details before you pass. Take for example, Chaz, the wife of successful film critic Roger Ebert, who managed his digital afterlife on Twitter. An agreement made prior to his death meant that she continued to post from his account. Shortly after his passing, Chaz published a pre-prepared tweet from Ebert: ‘Even when the theater has gone dark, the story is still alive in you.’

These profound 'last words' were a comfort for friends, family and followers; a testament of his approach to life delivered from beyond the grave.

The birth of online executors

There are also a plethora of online services that claim to make the transition from offline to online death a smooth one. The website ‘If I die’ lets you record a goodbye video that appointed trustees can publish on Facebook. Failed start up ‘virtual eternity’ created ‘intelligent’ avatars that could live on after you die. Teesside University lecturer Simon McKeown also predicts computers will keep us alive in avatar form.

Simon McKeown predicts a future where where life after death is made possible using online avatars.

An app called ‘DeadSocial’ allows you to schedule messages to post on Facebook and Twitter in the aftermath of your physical death. Additionally, services such as ‘LivesOn’ and 'Eter9' claim to have developed AI technology capable of identifying and remembering your chat preferences, enabling you to communicate with friends in your online afterlife.

These services may sound like morbid jokes, but they exist alongside legal provisions that have been recommended on a governmental level. In the US, Florida's Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act has made it legally possible to transfer digital possessions of the dead to the living. In Dubai, as of July 2019, a court ruling clarified that wishes for social media accounts can only be acted upon if permission is granted in a legally binding will. 

So, have you thought about your online death? Maybe you should. Your social media persona will continue to live on after you die, and may remain one of the most detailed records of your life. In what virtual form would you like to exist after you have gone, if any?

Are social media becoming the new graveyard?

Incidences such as the Twitter account clearing backlash, and special policies dedicated to dealing with death online, form an important example of how social media binds the dead and the living, how online platforms are adapting their actions to address offline tragedies. Has there been a transformation in the way we grieve and the places in which we do it?

Image via VOA/Techtonics/M. Sandeen

Certainly, social media is becoming a key part of the process. Although we may avoid thinking about it, dead Facebook users will soon outnumber the living, thanks to our rising, aging and increasingly social-media savvy population. Communities of mourning will continue to gather around these virtual spaces, interacting with the “living” profiles of the dead. Social media sites are morphing into sacred tombs where the records of an offline existence are kept alive.

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As we showed with HUBOT, we can use new technologies and robotics to make our work more enjoyable, interesting and humane. Aside from our speculative jobs, a lot of robotic companions already exist. Think about the robotic fish that observes marine life, the breathing pillow that helps you sleep and robotic arms that assist the surgeon. So why not join forces at Next Nature Network?

Not working against, but with robots!

Over the past few years, we have been actively growing a meaningful community on Instagram. Ever since 2016, the Instagram feed is curated by an algorithm that holds the magical powers to decide what you see. And, in doing so, the robots at Instagram decide what our online community gets to see.

This doesn’t sound like a humane technology to us.

Also, Instagram does not allow us to use the so-called 'swipe up' functionality that directly leads you to our stories on Nextnature.net.

So why do we keep using Instagram? Because it also bring us joy and convenience. Social media platforms are connecting us to like-minded people all over the world, and we value your engagement! It’s not all bad, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

We wish we could change Instagram’s algorithms and functionalities, but unfortunately we do not have that power (yet). What we can do, is make life easier for you, hence we decided to hire an army of robots to the rescue.

10.000 new colleagues

Meet our Robotic Follower. They are responsible for playing Instagram’s algorithms and unlocking new features. If they do the job well, you won’t even notice they're there. Thanks to their work, we can put our time and energy into creating great content for you. Because that's what we love to do. Let’s make inhumane technology more humane!

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Genealogy services have exploded over the past few years, and Spotify is capitalizing on the boom by providing curated playlist based on users’ DNA. Here's what you should know.

If you could listen to your DNA, what would it sound like?

This weekend Spotify announced it has partnered with the world’s largest for-profit genealogy company, AncestryDNA, to launch a new feature which curates your own personal playlist based on your DNA. These genetically-curated playlists will link your Spotify account to your DNA test results, combining the music streaming platform’s personalized recommendations with 'top tracks' based on your genetic heritage.

All you have to do is to sign up for the genealogy platform, send in your saliva sample, and the DNA dealer will input the data into Spotify’s musical generator, which will simply select the playlist with historic music from the countries that feature in your DNA results.

That’s right, thanks to the modern miracle of corporate synergy, you can let your $99 AncestryDNA info dictate a custom clutch of tunes for your next road trip. But what's really at stake here?

The lucrative rise of DNA testing

For centuries, genealogists have relied on oral and written records to trace their family trees. But around the turn of the millennium, the age of DIY genetics testing took off and a growth industry was born. Today industry estimates suggest that roughly 1 in 25 adult Americans have access to their genetic data.

Sure, on the one hand this provided genealogists and family historians with an opportunity to use well-established scientific methods to prove relationships and ancestry, but on the other hand, it created a marketplace.

Make no mistake, this market is expected to be worth £261m by 2022 and is being applied to a broad spectrum of sectors including ancestry, health, beauty, and dating. Some firms in America even provide DNA testing for pets, so dog owners can pinpoint the exact breed makeup of their four-legged friend.

It’s a market largely dominated by large firms, such as AncestryDNA, which last year announced they’d reached four million users on their database, and 23andMe, backed by Facebook billionaire Yuri Milner and Google Ventures. But what about the security implications…

Is DNA the new data?

The public’s fascination with ancestry has led to a boom in businesses specialising in DNA, but it requires the transfer of sensitive information: your genetic data.

The rise of consumer genetics tests has brought up a number of privacy concerns, since they deal with information that’s fundamental and unique to every individual. It poses the question: When you spit into a tube and submit your sample, who has access to that information - and who ultimately owns your DNA?

Therefore it’s important to get a clear picture of who owns that information and who will be able to see it. I mean, we are good at clicking ‘agree’ and not reading the terms of service, right? From there, it’s a matter of how far such terms go.

Then there’s also the question of what it truly means to trust a tech company like Spotify to recommend songs based on your genetic origins, or how DNA could get shared with other companies without your consent.

The fact is, we don’t know how our genetic sequence will be used in the years to come, who will be able to access it, and on what terms. Who knows, in the near future, DNA may be the hottest new currency around.

So for now, you may consider holding off on sharing yours.

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Five people suspected of illegal gold mining in Peru are in custody after indigenous community members used a system called ForestLink to alert authorities to the activity.

“Communities are the natural guardians of the Amazon,” Rosa Baca, who works for a Peruvian indigenous group called FENAMAD, said in a statement. “Technologies like ForestLink are helping indigenous peoples to protect the rainforest from illegal mining, even in areas outside their titled lands.”

After members of the Masenawa community in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon discovered a mining camp, they documented its presence and sent the evidence by satellite link to FENAMAD — short for Federación Nativa del Rio Madre de Dios y Afluentes.

The illegal gold mining camp that the indigenous community members discovered was situated not far from the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. Image courtesy of FENAMAD.

Madre de Dios is one of the country’s richest repositories of biodiversity. But its forests have also come under siege in recent years as gold miners — some 30,000 in 2015 alone — have moved into the area, where they illegally collected $15 billion worth of gold between 2003 and 2014. In the miners’ wake, they often leave felled forests, muddied waterways and lands scraped of their topsoils.

To tackle these types of issues, which typically occur far from the oversight of government authorities and conservation NGOs, Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) developed the ForestLink system and has worked with groups like FENAMAD to get the technology into the hands of the people living in and near the forest, such as the Masenawa.

The capability to connect with a satellite link allows “real-time monitoring” of remote areas. Groups in Central Africa, as well as Peru, now have the technology. And sending the alerts costs only about as much as sending a text message, according to a video by RFUK.

An oxbow lake in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Image by Sue Palminteri/Mongabay.

Once FENAMAD had proof that miners were working in the area, not far from the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve south of Manu National Park, they shared the information with government authorities. Police then traveled to the location and used explosives to destroy the heavy machinery at the camp.

The five people arrested now await charges.

“What this intervention shows is the power of harnessing technology for social good and putting it in the hands of local people, who are on the frontlines of the fight against deforestation,” Aldo Soto, RFUK’s Peru and Andean Amazon coordinator, said in the statement.

Police used controlled explosions to destroy equipment at the mining camp. Image courtesy of FENAMAD.

Carmen Irey Cameno, the community’s president, has spoken out against gold mining in the region, and she condemned this latest evidence of the flood of miners into Madre de Dios. But that advocacy on behalf of the forests the Masenawa call home has come at a cost. It’s resulted in threats to members of the group, as well as the beating of two of Cameno’s family members, according to Rainforest Foundation UK.

“It’s alarming to see environmental defenders threatened and intimidated in this way,” Soto said. “At the same time, the determination of Carmen and her people in protecting their environment is truly inspiring.”

This article is published in partnership with Mongabay.com. Read the original story here.

[post_title] => Smartphone app helps indigenous communities fight deforestation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => smartphone-app-helps-indigenous-communities-fight-deforestation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 13:10:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 12:10:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=91114 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81621 [post_author] => 1428 [post_date] => 2018-05-15 08:18:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-15 07:18:25 [post_content] => While many love to speculate about the sheer number of jobs that robots and artificial intelligence are going to replace in the near future, no one seems to be coming up with any solid alternatives. One forward-thinking Dutch startup, however, believes humans should start using their bodies to produce capital… but not in the way you’re imagining.Founded in 2015, the Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO) is based in The Hague and presents itself as an organization devoted to exploring how individuals can capitalize on biological, and data production labor through art and research projects.One of IoHO’s most impressive research projects and art installations to date is their body suit that harvests excess human body heat to mine cryptocurrency. Yes, you read that correctly. IoHO created a body suit that uses thermoelectric generators to store body heat — and converts that heat into usable electricity.This electricity was then used to mine crypto, with IoHO choosing to mine newly created currencies on the basis that they have a higher potential to grow in value. 37 workers were responsible for 212 hours of work between them, harvesting a total of 127,210 milliwatts of electricity, and mining 16,954 coins. 80 percent of the earnings went to the workers, while the rest went to the institute.“I think art is able to explain abstract things and through art, you are also able to trigger something. With this project I want to generate questions or sparks,” explained IoHO’s founder, Manuel Beltrán.Another unconventional art and research project initiated by IoHO is one that intends to launch a discussion about how big corporations currently capitalize on the massive amount of data we generate.Corporations such as Google and Facebook use our data to make huge amounts of money, but IoHO imagines a world where we, the “data workers,” have the ability to earn some cash. The institution believes that all wealth created from data should be distributed equally.Every swipe, scroll, post, click, and text reveals many things about our personality and behavior and in turn, generates value. So Beltrán posits: “Now we give our data voluntarily and free to companies such as Facebook and Google, why not benefit from it?”To do this, IoHO proposes a distribution system they’ve termed the ‘Data Basic Income’. In this system, every participant receives the same amount of money in return for their data. Rather than harvesting the information participants create,  IoHO collects people’s unique finger movements with a movement sensor, a choreography, or labor worth money.How exactly those movements turn into money remains unclear to me, but luckily the artists themselves were also still asking that question: “We ask ourselves throughout this session where the moment is that our automated habits become choreography and when this choreography becomes a form of labor.” Here’s to hoping they find out.Artist, activist, researcher, and founder of IoHO, Manuel Beltrán, initiates projects like the above to get people thinking about the scenario of robots and algorithms replacing the human labor force. As he explained:“I met a lot of people who have pessimistic feelings about the future. Politics are out of control and we have no say. We are ruled by algorithms which we don’t even understand. We don’t know whom to fight and how we feel. Maybe art can help us to imagine and to start the fight.”This story is published in partnership with The Next Web. Read the original piece here. [post_title] => This startup uses body heat to mine crypto [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => this-startup-uses-body-heat-to-mine-crypto [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-15 08:18:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-15 07:18:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81621 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81501 [post_author] => 1621 [post_date] => 2018-05-07 13:03:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-07 12:03:40 [post_content] => Smiling broadly and rattling with enthusiasm, the 33-year-old Rylana Doesburg shows off a QR-code on her phone: an angular pattern of black and white squares. “Thanks to this picture, last month I was able to buy rompers, a winter coat, and Christmas presents for my daughter.” For three months this single mother from Zuidhorn, the Netherlands, has made use of the “child package” from the municipality.It’s one of the many funds from which Doesburg can draw, though admin-wise, this is the simplest. As soon as anything about her income changes, all her other allowances require her to dive into the paperwork to see whether she’s suddenly receiving too much or too little. “A few weeks ago I had some work in a factory nearby, but I’ve already lost the job,” she sighs. There was no more work. “Now I have to figure out all over again what I’m entitled to and fill in all the forms again.” Doesburg is grateful for the subsidies that the Netherlands provides for people in financial need – but she is also afraid of becoming lost in the jungle of regulations as soon as she makes any misstep. “If I make one mistake, there’s a chance I’ll have to pay everything back.”The bright spot in that mountain of paperwork is the QR code on her phone. Scanning the image at one of twelve associated shops in Zuidhorn allows her to buy things for her three-year-old daughter. Each time such a scan occurs, an anonymized command is sent to a blockchain database which instantly checks whether all the conditions are fulfilled: does she still have enough credit? Is the shop recognized? By an agreement, “ethers” (cryptocoins) are transferred from the municipal treasury to the merchant, a transaction that is instantly converted into Euros via a special bank.“Before, I had a lot of hassle with government coupons. Now the money is in my bank within a day,” says a bicycle-maker who has sold three children’s bikes to impoverished customers since the introduction of the new system.Doesburg and the bicycle-maker don’t really know what the blockchain is, nor that there are “ethers” involved. Nevertheless, the system runs on the innovative technology that some are welcoming as “the greatest information revolution since the internet”.

A system controlled by the masses

The blockchain is attracting worldwide attention. In Radical Technologies, urban planner and designer Adam Greenfield describes it as one of the first contemporary technologies so radically different that intelligent people struggle to comprehend it. For those who want to try, a short explanation: the blockchain is an administration controlled by the masses. Nobody owns it, and a network of interlinked computers constitutes the currency algorithmically.That has big advantages. Right now, people exchange data online by sending each other copies. This article was written on a laptop, then emailed to the editor-in-chief, and after that sent to the editing team. These were all copies of the original. That works great, but for more complicated data exchanges, it can become outright clumsy. For instance, transferring €100 involves making sure that the receiver gets the money, and the sender no longer owns it. If that €100 continues to exist in more than one account, it’s an error; if it’s not an error, we call it fraud.Right now banks, notaries, governments or other middlemen are responsible for this kind of control. The blockchain promises to sideline them. Not a central authority, but the collective computer power of the user base, checks everything is accounted for on the blockchain. Transferring ownership to someone else via the blockchain involves sending an order into the system: These orders end up in so-called “blocks”. Every ten minutes a network of computers checks those blocks and, once approved, they are added to the chain. From that moment on, the order is irreversible. In this way, the blockchain creates a long chain whereby perfect strangers can transfer ownership without recourse to a third party. “The blockchain makes trust available in digital form,” as the Ministry of Economics neatly summarizes it.Not only in Zuidhorn does that stir up the imagination. Dutch innovators are heavily invested in this development. The Dutch Blockchain Coalition brings together government, business, and academic figures to research the possibilities of the blockchain. Besides that, under the name Blockchain Pilots, a hip platform launched by the Dutch government, thirty experiments in various municipalities and ministries are underway. The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) has already participated in the pilot scheme for a year and a half.“What I see here, I have never seen anywhere else in the world. The Netherlands is further on than famed blockchain-hubs like Dubai and Singapore,” says Vinay Gupta, working on blockchain app Ethereum, which allows users to create binding contracts without the intercession of a third party. He made the statement in the Ridderzaal, where a large blockchain conference took place last September. Dutch minister of foreign affairs Stef Blok made an appearance, and Prince Constantijn opened the event. According to the prince, promising technologies coexist in the startup environment with bubbles, hype, and mistakes. “But ultimately you’re left with the real gems: the new Googles and Amazons.”

On the digital map

A tour of the Dutch municipalities experimenting with the blockchain teaches you that they’re pretty much all still in the “conceptual phase” or “still brainstorming”. Anybody who really wants to see how the blockchain can be put to work, so they say, should visit the rural municipality of Zuidhorn, under the smoke of Groningen. “Barely a year ago we also wanted to ‘do something with the blockchain’”, says Erwin Van der Maesen de Sombreff, the official who proposed the idea. What it should be or what they would be able to do with it, nobody really knew. “What we did know was that it’s coming, and it’s disruptive, especially for the government itself. We could simply wait, or we could embrace it and get a head-start,” says Van der Maesen de Sombreff. That head-start took the form of an intern vacancy for students specialized in technology.From that point, things progressed quickly. After two students were found and given a budget to work out pilots and participate in an important blockchain competition – which they won – suddenly Zuidhorn found itself on the digital map.Two months ago it became the first municipality to decentralize a serious governmental welfare role, the child packages. Again, that is. After several welfare provisions were passed over from the government to the municipalities, these provisions are now being decentralized to the citizens themselves. What until now was complex, taking the efforts of many civil servants, now takes place between citizens, entrepreneurs and caregivers, with minimal interference from the municipality.

Administators of the chain

In Zuidhorn, control of the child packages is now in large part in the hands of an algorithm, and citizens are themselves the administrators of their own link in the “chain”. And with it, owners of their own data. “The ideal of a sovereign individual is an important incentive for many people in the blockchain movement,” says Maarten Velthuijs, the 24-year-old student who began as an intern but now leads Zuidhorn’s blockchain project. He does it from his own foundation Forus, a contraction of for and us. Here, six predominantly young programmers and consultants work together with a wide array of freelancers. The telephone is always ringing: other municipalities and organizations want blockchain solutions too.The fact that the small municipality of Zuidhorn wins blockchain competitions, is a symptom of the fact that we’ve embraced the radical ideal of change – so they say at the town hall. Many parties stand in the way, according to Velthuijs: “Rabobank would never develop bitcoin. Why would a bank invent a currency intended to sideline the banks?” Councillor of Economy and Innovation Fred Stol is in strong agreement: “You must be prepared to reconsider your own position. We are seeing the world change quickly and the government is no longer leading the way with these changes. Step by step, we’re all becoming part of the network, instead of looking down on it from an ivory tower.”

Smart contracts

Worldwide, concerns over blockchain applications increase. Nobody disputes the revolutionary power of the decentralizing technology, but some question the intentions of the developers. The United Nations, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund warn, in various reports or by means of spokespeople, against the ideological views which lie hidden in the blockchain’s code. That’s not terribly surprising, since these organizations are themselves under fire from the blockchain movement.The removal of powerful middlemen, such as the government or banks, is a long-cherished wish of online activists. “Since the arrival of the internet, anarchist ideals have been a part of hacker ethics,” says Tsjalling Swierstra, philosopher of technology based in Maastricht. Notable is that the blockchain movement primarily attracts anarchists of a particular stripe: anarcho-capitalists. Earmarked in academic literature as “cyber-libertarians”, tech-savvy folk who believe that the internet must be a free and unregulated market, guided by individuality and property rights.“When the first blockchain technologies arose, I recognized immediately the far-right economic ideas of my time on Wall Street. Conspiracy theories about gold and the role of the federal reserve were dominant there,” writes David Golumbia in an email. For years he worked as a software developer in the financial sector. Now he works as a media professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. About the parallels between the right-wing economic views dominating Wall Street and new blockchain applications, he wrote the book The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism. It reads mainly as a warning for enthusiasts, those caught up in the hype but not on-board with the views in question.“The blockchain harbors a number of intrinsically right-wing principles such as the attempt to remove ‘the middleman’. Proponents call these extra steps an unnecessary shackle and tedious bureaucracy; I call them legitimate control and regulation.” According to Golumbia, the broad embrace of the blockchain is part of a decades-long struggle to diminish the government. “The danger is that through the quick spread of blockchain technology, the underlying philosophy also spreads, and that philosophy is strongly opposed to democratic measures to address economic inequality.”As an example he names the blockchain application Ethereum. With this app, people worldwide can make so-called “smart contracts” with each other without obstacles. The agreements are virtual, and are binding because they’re always supported by cryptocurrency that’s part of the system. An example of such a smart contract is a will: when my nephew turns eighteen and I pass away, then a certain amount of ether (internet currency) goes to his account. That works irrespective of national borders and without the help of a notary or the meddling of the government. “These types of contracts between people, without the intervention of others, is the sort of system cyber-libertarians have long sought,” says Golumbia. “It facilitates the free market but sidelines the government and all external controls.”

A free market ideal

When Vice asked Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin last year who inspired him, he immediately answered with names like Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand.Those names rank highly on blockchain forums and cryptocurrency sites. Von Mises, Rothbard and Hayek seem particularly in vogue. Not insignificant thinkers, but they’re hardly undisputed elsewhere. They’re part of the Austrian Economic School, where at the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th, neoclassical theories were formulated which later sowed the seeds of what we now call neoliberalism.According to philosopher of technology Tsjalling Swierstra, there are great similarities between the views of blockchain enthusiasts and those of the Austrian School. Both show a strong belief in cybernetics, the systems theory which describes how biological and mechanical systems function best when constantly nourishing by internal feedback. The many separate components would supposedly function best if they were free from external interventions that could interrupt that process. Call it the scientific undergirding of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”.“Hayek was strongly influenced by cybernetics, it connects directly with the core of his defense of the free market: the idea that the state is always stupider because all the spread-out knowledge of a society can’t be centralized,” says Swierstra. The blockchain harbors the same conviction that central management and control will always lose out against a web of individuals pursuing their own needs in front of their computers. “In the philosophy of technology, you have to consider the free market ideal to be the precursor of the blockchain.”It’s no coincidence that this technology has grown up during years of crisis, says René Penning de Vries, named “IT figurehead” by the Ministry of Economics: “A trust problem has arisen between centralized power and the populace. By giving control over their own data back to people via the blockchain, you can create a very different relationship and restore that trust.” He also sees risks: “This technology originates in a spirited, nerdy environment which is strongly oriented towards libertarianism. Many ministries and businesses a few years ago therefore saw it as a dark cloud above their heads. In the meantime, they’ve also seen the advantages, and it’s our task to research, alongside these authorities, how we can implement this technology in a sound manner in our society.”The bugbear, according to him, is the monopoly of the Silicon Valley’s big five: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet (parent company of Google). “Right now, they dominate the internet. But if you had asked 25 years ago whether we wanted that, nobody would have said yes. Now we have to ask the same ethical and political questions about the blockchain.”

Redefining the blockchain

Embracing the blockchain necessitates a decrease in government power, Zuidhorn’s councillors affirm. The big question, according to them, is not whether that power shift exists, but in whose hands the power ends up. “If we’re talking about traffic lights, we as government officials remain responsible. And if someone runs a red light, we have to stop them,” says Stol. “But if we’re talking about the foundation or upkeep of a nursing home or a new football field, that’s something you can hand over to regular people.” There is already excitement about what, besides the child package, could run on the blockchain: naturally, other social funds, but also land registration and sustainability loans for solar panels.Admittedly, says the Christian Democratic Appeal minister beside his political party colleague, these surroundings are ideal for a blockchain experiment. “Neighborly spirit and Christian values ensure that the community are happy to address problems themselves, and they take the initiative in doing so.” The councillors point out through the window, where the end of the village can be seen and long meadows extend towards the next village. “Previously we were led by the ideal of the market; we’ve also leaned heavily on the government. Neither has turned out to be beatific. People here want to work together. Without centralized power.”In political-philosophical terms: power must return to the commons, to the community. “In a place like Zuidhorn where the population is reasonably homogenous and mutual bonds are strong, it’s easier to do that,” affirms Maïka De Keyzer, researcher studying “the commons” at the University of Antwerp. It’s unique, she says. “History teaches us that the removal of central authority doesn’t automatically lead to power for the collective. A small vanguard or a few individuals often know how to monopolize this power.”According to her, the blockchain isn’t inherently left-wing or right-wing, but a new tool that assumes the form of the most dominant ideology in our society right now: individualistic free market thinking, she says. “If we want to embed the blockchain within the management of collective property, then we first have to think about that concept more broadly.”

Code is never neutral

The people that embrace new technologies project their own worldviews onto them. The first and most well-known blockchain apps are cryptocurrencies, online currencies citizens can use without reference to official monetary standards. An idea discussed already in 1976, in Friedrich Hayek’s The Denationalization of Money, wherein he set himself against central banks and argued that the state should not have a monopoly on currency. Libertarian thinktanks nowadays happily revert to this 41-year-old argument in their support of new tech initiatives.The most famous cryptocurrency, bitcoin, does not try to camouflage the values which undergird it. The anonymous inventor – pseudonymously called Satoshi Nakamoto – wrote bluntly in November 2008, a month after publishing the blueprint for his cryptocurrency,  that his invention would be “very attractive for people with a libertarian worldview, if we can just explain it well. But I’m better with code than words.”A closer look at the code reveals that the currency is programmed to cap at 21 million, which means that just as with gold, the total amount is limited. That isn’t a technological choice. It is simply an economic and ideological decision to protect scarcity. And that connects with the strong sentiment among libertarians that the abolished gold standard – which attached the worth of the dollar to a stock of gold – should return. Despite broad consensus among economists that the abolition of that standard was a good decision, the choices of a small group of right-wing economists prove decisive in how new blockchain apps take shape. The manifesto of the Bitcoin Foundation is sprinkled with critique of our current “fiat money” and contains a paean to the abolished gold standard.That gold analogy is a constant theme. Bitcoins can be bought, but also mined. A reference to the unearthing of gold. Bitcoin is built so that all transactions in the collective ledger must be checked. This happens via an algorithm and costs a great deal of computer power. Those who provide that computer power get compensation: the chance to mine bitcoins. Just like real gold, the search for bitcoins becomes more and more difficult.Cyber-activists are grasping back towards a sort of romanticism widespread among American libertarians: a deeply rooted longing for the time when America was an open plain where people could escape the yoke of European monarchies and build their own existence. “The bright side of libertarianism is that it has a very egalitarian style of rhetoric,” says Swierstra. “Everyone has a chance. But we know from history that communities can start out very egalitarian, but without collective mechanisms you very quickly get big power and income disparities. You have to devise collectively binding rules to solve that, but that’s precisely what libertarians don’t want.”It’s striking that, just as in the real Californian gold rush in the 19th century, there are people who’ve built up a fortune of millions in the first hour, while late comers must hope that they can scrape up what’s left over. The greater your computer’s power, the greater the chance that you “mine” something. In practice this means that a handful of gigantic businesses, as a rule in China, now check almost all the transactions and earn from it. There is no longer any talk of equal chances. Those with money or knowledge dominate the software which in principle was supposed to give users equal influence.

Revolutionary technology

Is blockchain a facilitator of community or of cowboys in a Wild West environment? That discord is characteristic of the way in which political organizations worldwide look doubtfully at the blockchain. It’s revolutionary technology, but many want the tech without the revolution. The solution is frequently to choose for a “private blockchain”. The initially critical UN now use the blockchain to implement emergency food programs in a smarter, more transparent way. They use smart technology in a closed context. In this way, the system and the data remain property of the organization, and they get to determine who can and can’t participate. The blockchain for them is little more than an optimization technology.Banks, meanwhile, embrace the cryptocurrency wave, enjoying the advantages of blockchain technology while retaining control for themselves. And so the disruptive character distinguishing bitcoin and other alternative currencies is lost. For cyber-libertarians this is a slap in the face. They dread the idea that their libertarian upheaval will be smothered in the cradle; that ultimately governments will keep pushing the buttons, and not a public algorithm.Councillors Bert Nederveen and Fred Stol at the town hall in Zuidhorn chose consciously –and in contrast to many public bodies – to adopt a public blockchain. “We believe in this technology and so wanted to set up a public blockchain. So that the power really comes to lie with the community.” Of course, it was of decisive importance that the students designing it would do so from a foundation. “Of course we wanted to pay them decently, but also to avoid that money and commercial interests would become the goal,” says Bert Nederveen. “What we’re making here is for the community, and it has to remain that way.”Behind the door of the office wherein the councillors tell their story, the revelry of an upcoming New Years’ party drifts slowly in. The 150-man town hall concludes each year with a big party, including a quiz, performances, and drinks. It’s only a question of how long that will keep happening here. Step by step, the municipality wants to do away with “the town hall” and start working independently via digital systems.“From January 1, 2019, our staff will be sitting with laptops in the community centers, to serve the citizen directly,” says Stol. “As equals, and as members of a community. Without hierarchy, without hassle. That suits a community no longer led by a government.”Cover art by Sheona Turnbull._______________________________________This story was translated for NextNature.net. It was originally written in Dutch for De Groene Amsterdammer, and published on January 10th 2018. [post_title] => Here’s how the Dutch are embracing blockchain in the polder [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => blockchain-in-the-polder [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-12 12:17:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-12 11:17:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81501 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81211 [post_author] => 1593 [post_date] => 2018-04-05 13:16:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-05 12:16:36 [post_content] => Before money came into existence, trading was all we knew. Farmers in China traded their spades for food and other goods, and this continued up until a point where most spades were no longer used for digging, as they had shrunk down for convenience in being a medium of exchange. While the heavily abstracted spades had turned into something that resembled its former function, farmers were still able to connect it to the environment in which the trade was happening in; the farm. This makes us wonder, what are our contemporary spades? Are we experiencing the return of trade, made possible by digital tokens?

When systems go feral

Today, to ensure that societies receive their most basic needs, our markets have evolved into abstract processes of trading ‘spades’ for goods through logistical processes. Through globally connected supply chain processes, we can get a fair amount of products for a low price. Within such processes, there are two levels: An upper level (money) and a lower level (goods).The upper level, in this sense, means that money (yuan, dollars, euro’s, yen) is circulated in order to make a logistically networked supply chain process possible, all around the globe. The lower level, refers to the process that physically takes place (the supply chain).Money, of course, makes the world go round, and the rules of supply and demand - in conjunction with the free market - work for most capitalist systems on the ‘upper level’. This system makes modern capitalist societies run smoothly, and return vast amounts of capital, wages and happiness to everyone working in them.But at the lower level of the network - the food creation & distribution process - it has become warped and is hurting our environment in several ways: Food miles are a common denominator to define the distance the food has travelled before it becomes available to us, and what the environmental implications of this process are. It will not come as a surprise to you that food miles have gone up in recent years.Another negative development is that companies are monopolising industrial farming to sell the same products over and over again, and not to mention pesticide production.By now, this whole network of food distribution and creation has become as wild and unpredictable as ever: one of our next natures. A way to mitigate the risk that these wild developments pose, is to close the circle within which the goods are traded.

Communities of strangers

A possible solution to this system growing out of control, is to break it up into smaller groups, each governed by the same ideas. And thus hybrid market models were born.Now, there are many groups of people around the world that make ‘a spade’ from sharing. However, hovering above these communities are so-called sharing economy platforms, which essentially are capitalist companies that incentivize sharing. How to cope with that?This is where peer-2-peer markets come in. We view the primary function of these markets as making it easy for buyers to find sellers and engage in convenient, trustworthy transactions - in turn, closing the loop.Sharing economy platforms are non-existent in a P2P world. Both the upper and lower levels of trade are more directly connected in this new framework, as the middle-men in this process is left out. This market is therefore becoming more transparent, more manageable and more malleable. This leads to consumers feeling a sense of connection to their merchant.P2P markets (or, communities of strangers) play an important role in these communities, as these are centered around a group of people interacting with one another - and actively adapting their behaviour according to the other party’s response.

A case study: POWER Ledger

POWER Ledger is an example of a platform that aims to make sustainable energy more widely and directly accessible. In order to achieve this goal, they make use of blockchain technology. So what happens when anyone can create their own electricity in say, 50 years?A P2P marketplace (for any product) guarantees that there is always a possibility to do that. POWER Ledger does exactly this: connecting energy producers to energy consumers  without the energy first going back and forth to the electric company.Producing your own electricity is now possible through new products entering the market like home solar panels and batteries that can store the energy harvested from the sun. In fact, some houses create an actual surplus of energy that they simply don’t use.With all this extra electricity, these households can make some money by selling this back to the electricity companies. That energy can be used elsewhere - say, at your neighbor's house who uses more electricity than you do. Wouldn’t it be great if you could cut out the middleman and simply sell your generated electricity to your neighbour?Technically, of course, it’s not possible to create a fully peer-to-peer electricity network without any actual middle-men. There are laws and regulations that citizens and companies have to abide by. But could POWER Ledger signal the return of trading, though? What will the spade of the Chinese farmer become for these new energy markets?POWER Ledger intends to create a peer-to-peer marketplace for people to buy and sell their renewable energy while still using established electricity and government networks to go about it. Up until now companies create these electricity networks and they sell their own products on there. But now there are essentially new networks forming where peers can share their goods directly, with the authority being in the network instead of the central service provider/business.POWER ledger is an inspiring example of a company trying to reframe our relationship to energy by connecting packets of energy to their token. What might this look like for the ECO Coin? Can we connect ecological assets to a token to better balance ecology and economy? [post_title] => The return of trade: Blockchain technology is enabling trade to make a fierce comeback [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => return-of-trade [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-17 11:38:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-17 10:38:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81211 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 79824 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2018-01-10 10:42:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-10 09:42:20 [post_content] => They say that money makes the world go round. But how does it work, and how has it changed over time? While developing the ECO Coin, we’ve been thinking a great deal of money, past and present. From the origins of civilization up to present day, economy has gone through countless shakeups, and yet we tend to take our current way of thinking about money for granted. Welcome to the sixth and final part of The Story of Money: Bits.Some might have thought that the credit card represented the pinnacle of abstraction for money, a handful of plastic that could represent almost any amount of money. But in recent years, possibilities have expanded with the introduction of digital cash - money taking the form of bits and bytes. With the rise of the Internet, an increasing number of transactions were already taking place online, through banks own web services and independent sites like PayPal. The next big breakthrough was Bitcoin.Bitcoin was first released to the world in 2009 by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No bank or government controls or backs the currency making it a peer to peer, decentralised currency. The currency is secured by people all over the world through a process called mining. Mining is essentially using computers to solve hard mathematical problems that help secure the Bitcoin network. This mining wastes a lot of energy.It’s the first example of a growing category of money known as cryptocurrency. Bitcoin runs on a blockchain which you can think of as a ledger or spreadsheet that everyone can see but once data has been added to the spreadsheet it can never be changed. This blockchain technology can be used not only for recording money transactions but for recording any information. Bitcoin has many benefits but it is still finding its purpose in the world. Currently most people who buy Bitcoins do so for speculative reasons (i.e. they think it will have more value tomorrow). The blockchain technology and cryptographic models are a huge leap forward for money but they are yet to be fully explored, especially from a sustainable perspective.The ECO Coin, a project initiated by Next Nature Network, intends to harness this technology to help create a more sustainable future. The age of bits is also an age of environmental precarity. We’ve seen that money can have countless different relationships with the world around it. It can incentivize certain actions over others, and even determine our way of living. Yet we are often careless about what kind of actions we are encouraging.So how does it work? The ECO Coin is a currency from planet Earth which rewards people for their environmentally good actions. It’s not a worldwide cryptocurrency yet, but it has already been trailed at living labs in The Netherlands letting over 50.000 people earn and spend ECO coins. Cycled to work instead of driving? Ate a meat-free lunch? Remembered to turn the lights off? You can earn ECO Coins. And the ECO Coin is intended to be spent on products and services which also emphasize sustainability. The idea is to create a positive feedback loop with the end goal of balancing our economy and our ecology.And that's a wrap! Want to read the entire series in full? Make sure to join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => The Story of Money: Bits [post_excerpt] => The story of money: an accessible roadmap from prehistory to digital age, from cows to credit, from gold mining to bitcoin mining. The final episode: bits. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => story-of-money-bits [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-15 10:30:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-15 09:30:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=79824/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 79318 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2018-01-04 10:00:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-04 09:00:22 [post_content] => They say that money makes the world go round. But how does it work, and how has it changed over time? While developing the ECO Coin, we’ve been thinking a great deal of money, past and present. From the origins of civilization up to present day, economy has gone through countless shakeups, and yet we tend to take our current way of thinking about money for granted. Welcome to the fifth part of The Story of Money: Plastic.The era of plastic money is also the era of credit. Like paper money, the idea of a credit card begins with a promise. In this case, the promise is not “we owe you”, but “we trust you to pay us back, even if you have no real money to pay with right now”. The idea of credit cards originated with individual businesses offering it to loyal customers. Think of a regular at the local bar who maintains a tab so that he can always get a drink, even when he has no cash on hand.The first credit cards were not plastic - nor were they even cards. Businesses began by handing out coins or metal plates as symbols of credits. Eventually it was found more practical to start handing out paper cards. But as time went on, busy customers who frequented a large selection of shops found themselves carrying around an inordinate amount of these cards.One of the first companies to try to solve this inconvenience, in 1950, was the Diners Club. This service allowed diners at a selection of New York restaurants to pay by credit, on the condition that the debt was paid off at the end of each month. Eight years later, the Bank of America took the next step: a credit card that did not require the consumer to pay at the end of each month. This was the enterprise that eventually became Visa.The idea of credit was shifting from a privileged trust relationship between individuals, to a more abstract category. Now, people could essentially pull money out of thin air, but careless spenders were and are still often saddled with considerable debt. Almost everyone now carries a little plastic card that represents an indefinite amount of money - but the situation is precarious. Where does money go next?Next week: BitsPART 1 LivestockPART 2 ShellsPART 3 Gold, PART 3: Paper_______________________Do you want to stay up to date about the ECO Coin and latest next nature news? Join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => The Story of Money: Plastic [post_excerpt] => The story of money: an accessible roadmap from prehistory to digital age, from cows to credit, from gold mining to bitcoin mining. This episode: plastic. 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A recent lip filler trend blew up on social media. 'Devil lips', or Octopus lips, have attracted divided opinion online. When the body modification hit Instagram, some spectators found the change in natural lip structure oddly attractive, to others it seemed completely ridiculous, and one beauty expert point blank dismissed them as dangerous, criticizing anyone who promoted the trend.

It is still unclear whether the fillers are a photo shop stunt or even surgically possible. Yet, a number of online influencers soon appeared to be sporting the new look - and we cannot underestimate their impact in the offline world. Just last year Instagram announced it would remove a range of filters that promote cosmetic surgery amid mental health concerns.

Additionally, plastic surgeons have revealed how their clients have not only been motivated by Instagram images, but use them as a visual reference for their requests. Also, remember how in 2018 US teens were seeking cosmetic surgery to look like their favorite Snapchat filter? What instances like this reveal is how, once again, beauty ideals find their way from online to offline spaces.

So, what are the limits of our abilities to transform ourselves and escape our biological constraints? Has the 'Instagram face',with its symmetrical, full-pouted lips, become an exhausted and predictable plastic surgery narrative? Does the devil/octopus lip trend indicate the beginning of new cosmetic preference that goes beyond exaggerated human characteristics, and towards the aesthetics of other-worldly creatures?

Release your inner devil, or octopus, it seems. Are new body modifications blurring the real with the fantastical, and will these transgressive aesthetics lead to more variety in self-expression, or just a different kind of homogeneity? What will the future of humans look like? Less human caricature and more species ambiguous? Only time will tell...

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