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Tech meets Art at Wits

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The creative relationship between hardware, software and art will be discovered, examined and explored as the Fak’ugesi Arts Residency returns as part of the 2015 Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival.

The Fak’ugesi Residency will once again bring together the best local and international creative technologists for festival goers to enjoy.

This year, the Wits Art Museum Basement Gallery will be transformed into an inspired ‘Fak’ugesi Lab’ for the entire three week duration of the festival. During this time, resident artists will engage visitors and run workshops with the public in the development of a final installation that responds to the theme: “Futurist visions of Johannesburg: uncovering place and space, physical and virtual responses to ‘now’ for African socio-cultural technologies of the future.”

Tegan Bristow at the Digital Arts Division at Wits and Irini Papadimitriou, a technology arts curator with Watermans and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London have developed this year’s residency with support from the SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015, a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture and the British Council. In the spirit of the evolving partnership with Wits Art Museum, Watermans and Fak’ugesi Festival, Ling Tan and Kasia Molga, two UK based creative technologists will join forces with Jepchumba and Nathan Gates, two Africa based creative technologists to collaborate on the development of this year’s theme. In addition to the residency and exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, the residents will also participate at the annual Digital Performance Weekender Festival at Watermans in the UK later this year.

The not-to-be-missed 2015 line-up includes UK based, Ling Tan – a designer, maker, coder and trained architect will be exploring the modes of interaction between the people and the spaces of Braamfontein using wearable and mobile technology.

Also joining the Arts Residency from the UK is Kasia Molga, a media artist and environmentalist. Molga will be working with the intersection of art, science and technology in a bid to challenge our relationships with the city with its green and man-made spaces.

Jepchumba, who originates from Kenya, will be feature as the resident “African Digital Artist”. With a background in digital art, online development and social media strategy, Jepchumba will examine how young people envision themselves in the creative futures of the city, join her at the museum to “Meet Your Future Selfie”.

South Africa based Nathan Gates joins the Artist Residency line-up as the second African artist. Gates’ interests include the domestication of knowledge at the hands of digital technologies. During the residency he will explore processes of creation in thinking about the future of Johannesburg.

Fak’ugesi Festival Director, Prof Christo Doherty, describes the residency as an exciting evolution of the first event pioneered at last year’s Festival.  “In 2015, we are seeing the development and extension of the residency concept that builds on the lessons learnt and the relationships established at last year’s Festival.  We look forward to a vibrant public engagement and challenging creative collaboration around the theme of futurist visions of Johannesburg.”

The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will run from 21 August to 13 September in Braamfontein.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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