From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy - "A former academic mathematician and ex-hedge fund quant exposes flaws in how information is used to assess everything from creditworthiness to policing tactics, with results that cause damage both financially and to the fabric of society. Programmed biases and a lack of feedback are among the concerns behind the clever and apt title of Cathy O'Neil's book: Weapons of Math Destruction." [more inside]
Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not prices - "The city had more housing starts in 2014 than the whole of England. Can Japan's capital offer lessons to other world cities?" (via) [more inside]
Just print money and give it to everyone by Chris Arnade: "The usual answer to why we don't do this is that it isn't politically feasible and there is no precedent. 1) That has never stopped bank bailouts, which often require a great deal of political and regulatory ingenuity to jam through. (TARP cough TARP) 2) It is a symptom of a system built by and for the bankers to benefit themselves. It is the equivalent of saying, 'We can't do it because we have never wanted to do it'. That we don't do it this way isn't just a small economic quibble with no impact. The most visceral anger I hear from voters across the country is directed at bank bailouts, which they see as evidence of a rigged system. They are right. The system is rigged in the sense that our primary method to stimulate the economy also conveniently bails out bankers." (previously; via) [more inside]
Maia Szalavitz [mefi's own maias] talks about her new book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (transcript) - "We have this idea that if we are just cruel enough and mean enough and tough enough to people with addiction, that they will suddenly wake up and stop, and that is not the case."
"Autism is seen like some sort of mental superpower where we can see math in the air. In my experience, this isn’t really the case." - Dispelling some myths about the autistic wunderkind programmer. Also: Why you might not want to get TOO excited about autism employment initiatives. Autism FAQ
The first-ever YIMBY conference took place in Boulder, CO, and drew many attendees who are dedicated to building better cities and more housing (both market-rate and affordable). Those who support the YIMBY movement believe that Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) influence pushes housing costs higher and creates more displacement in cities. While the housing shortage is well-documented in places like San Francisco and Seattle, many other cities around the globe are feeling upward pressure on housing costs as more residents move from suburban areas to cities. [more inside]
"I was asked recently by a friend to meet some people from her church in the US who were visiting Uganda on a mission trip. The aim of the meeting was to convince them that supporting and visiting orphanages was doing more harm than good." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
When CBS announced it was developing a grown-up Nancy Drew series and that the titular heroine would not be Caucasian, people's ears perked up. When Sarah Shahi (born Aahoo Jahansouz Shahi, to an Iranian father and Persian-Spanish mother) was announced as the new Nancy, the buzz grew. But then CBS didn't order the pilot to series, allegedly because it "skewed too female for CBS’ schedule" (CBS Television Studios hasn't killed the show yet, though, and is shopping it to other outlets). The AV Club's Myles McNutt takes a look at why it feels like Drew was cancelled, despite never actually being a TV series in a look at how the Internet has made television development into a narrative of its own.
ActualDog is making a game about rectangular pink dogs. This is the development log, which is six pages of amazing gifs of rectangular pink dogs doing rectangular pink dog stuff.
Free Basics: Facebook's Biggest Setback From Zuckerberg’s vantage point, high above the connected world he had helped create, India was a largely blank map. [more inside]
World After Capital by Albert Wenger [Work in Progress; GitHub; GitBook; PDF; FAQ] - "Technological progress has shifted scarcity for humanity. When we were foragers, food was scarce. During the agrarian age, it was land. Following the industrial revolution, capital became scarce. With digital technologies scarcity is shifting from capital to attention. World After Capital suggests ways to expand economic, informational and psychological freedom to go from an industrial to a knowledge society." (previously)
You may be familiar with JSFiddle and CodePen, but there are similar tools for a variety of languages, some more practical than others. [more inside]
an introduction to fiat money (pdf) by Steve Randy Waldman:* - "Self-reinforcing bootstrap dynamics hold as strongly for a king's token as it would for any other thing, but much more stably so, since the king can reinforce and assure the stability of his token so long as he retains the political capacity to coerce or persuade payment of tax." (via) [more inside]
As developers, we all have preferences in the tools we use for work: a powerful machine, one (or two) large screens, having the freedom to choose our OS, our IDE, etc.... Yet in most companies, we rarely pay the the same level of attention to keyboards.
Helicopter drops might not be far away - "Central banks could be given the power to send money, ideally in electronic form, to every adult citizen. Would this add to demand? Absolutely."
Kim-Mai Cutler: Nothing Like This Has Ever Happened Before - "San Francisco Bay Area poverty rates in all nine counties have increased in the last economic cycle, even with the Facebook and Twitter IPOs and private tech boom. The main transfer mechanism is land and housing costs, as rising rents and evictions push service and other low-wage workers to the brink. [Henry] George's solution was a single land tax that would replace all other government revenue sources. If an owner wanted to develop their property to make it more useful or productive, George argued that they should have the right to keep the value from those efforts. But increases in the value of underlying land were created by — and ultimately belonged to — the public at large." (previously: 1,2,3) [more inside]
Researchers find software repository GitHub approved code written by women at a higher rate than code written by men, but only if the gender was not disclosed. (slGrauniad) [more inside]
Thinking about learning a new programming language? How about a functional language with support for test-driven development and a snazzy visual interface, already deployed on millions of computers around the world? I'm speaking, of course, about Excel. In a 2014 Strange Loop talk, Felienne discusses the virtues of the Excel programming language (which is Turing complete, if you were wondering).
25 years ago, Paul M. Romer's oft-cited article: "Endogenous Technological Change" (pdf) was published in The Journal of Political Economy. In it, he tried to explain how technological progress and knowledge creation affected the dynamics of growth. Romer’s model (pdf) became the "primary engine that fueled a decade-long re-examination of long-term growth in economics." This past October, Dr. Romer posted 7 follow-up blog entries to his historic paper, in order to 'revisit the basics,' starting with: Nonrival Goods After 25 Years. [more inside]
10 things to know about progress in international development (.pdf) Around the world, amazing progress is being made. More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, with major gains made in health and education and in other areas that contribute to human well-being.
Lots of problems remain of course. And you can still be very poor and not be below the $1.25 (in $2005) line. But a big deal.
Lots of problems remain of course. And you can still be very poor and not be below the $1.25 (in $2005) line. But a big deal.
Bug Man Pete and I are out on the front porch at Hank Dietle’s Tavern, the last roadhouse in Montgomery County, watching the traffic crawl by on Rockville Pike. An exterminator by trade, he’s finished battling vermin for the day and is ready for a few cold ones. A pitcher of draft beer is on the table, and a lit Maverick cigarette is in his hand. He’s feeling good, as he usually is at Dietle’s. [He] has been coming here for almost half of his 56 years. But people like him have been coming to Dietle’s for a century. They were here when the Pike was a rural toll road. They were here when cold, cheap beers were illegal. They were here when Metro dug its tunnels underneath and when a gleaming new mall went up across the road. Now that the mall has been shuttered, they’re still here. -- Washingtonian Magazine on the Last Roadside Divebar in Suburbia.
It's Payback Time for Women - "Society is getting a free ride on our unrewarded contributions to the perpetuation of the human race." (via) [more inside]
Two months in, Porter Ranch [California] gas leak compared to BP Gulf oil spill: More than 1,800 families have been relocated by the gas company and more than 1,000 remain on a waiting list. Some say they can’t remember a displacement of residents this large since the Northridge earthquake in 1994, when 20,000 people were left homeless. Two local elementary schools have been impacted, with nearly 2,000 schoolchildren and staff slated to be moved to other schools in January. Enough methane gas is being released to fill the Empire State building each day, state officials have said, and the concern has even reached the Federal Aviation Administration, which issued temporary flight restrictions over the area for small aircraft and helicopters. [more inside]
The Frankenburb: Retrofitting most suburbs is less likely than having a few successful ones remain as they are while many more simply fail outright.
"the [UCLA Game Lab] fosters research and development in not only computer or video games, but also physical, tabletop, and other game forms. Known for its annual Game Art Festival at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, California, the lab supports the production and exhibition of student work, but it also curates and promotes vanguard game design from around the world. Through its tripartite mission to push the envelope of game aesthetics, game context, and game genres, the lab nurtures game projects that often adapt contentious, controversial subjects not found (overtly, anyway) in many commercial games: issues of politics, gender and identity, industry and commerce, the environment, experiences of alterity, the silly and the surreal…. In short, all that composes lived experience becomes fair game, so to speak, for adaptation.." -- Playfully Subversive: the Many Roles of Adaptation in Making Games at the UCLA Game Lab by David O'Grady [more inside]
The Future of (Post)Capitalism - "Paul Mason shows how, from the ashes of the recent financial crisis, we have the chance to create a more socially just and sustainable global economy." (previously; via) [more inside]
"Cold Little Bird," a very good and very disturbing story by Ben Marcus. [SLNYer]
Where do ‘good’ or pro-social institutions come from ? Why does the capacity for collective action and cooperative behaviour vary so much across the world today ? How do some populations transcend tribalism to form a civil society ? How do you “get to Denmark”?
Counting the closures of rural inns, high-street noise boxes, sticky-carpet boozers of the backstreets, it can be said that roughly 30 pubs shut every week in the UK; a rate of decline that, as one group of worried analysts has calculated, would mean total elimination of the British pub by the 2040s.[sl longform grauniad] [more inside]
In the midst of Portland, Oregon's ongoing building boom, one property in the Eastmoreland neighborhood has drawn special notice, as it’s home to three giant sequoias over 100 years old. When a local developer announced plans to cut them down to build two new homes, a coalition of neighbors and tree lovers banded together to raise $900,000 to buy the property. (A tree-sitter, perhaps unsurprisingly, has also been involved.) Things weren't looking good until an unexpected ally stepped in: South Park’s Matt Stone.
FINLAND: New Government Commits to a Basic Income Experiment - "The Finnish government of Juha Sipilä is considering a pilot project that would give everyone of working age a basic income."[1,2,3] (via) [more inside]
Fenlason dubbed his clone Hack for two reasons: "One definition was 'a quick [computer] hack because I don't have access to Rogue'. The other was 'hack-n-slash', a reference to one of the styles of playing Dungeons and Dragons." - A chapter long excerpt from David Craddock's Dungeon Hacks, a new book on the history of the Roguelike RPG.
In case you missed it Ethereum announced its first developer release a week ago. What is Ethereum? According to the video it's a "planetary scale computer powered by blockchain technology." Given the breathlessness, some skepticism is in order, but what if it purports to do on the tin is true? [more inside]
Earlier today, the US Olympic committee dropped the Boston 2024 bid. Local website Universal Hub provided extensive coverage of the ill-fated bid, from its beginnings to today's end. [more inside]
Shared Prosperity, Common Wealth, National Equity and a Citizen's Dividend: Nirit Peled takes a look at social experiments in basic incomes for VPRO Tegenlicht, a Dutch public television documentary series. Starting with a German crowdfunded UBI chosen by raffle -- kind of like the opposite of Le Guin's Omelas (or Shirley Jackson's Lottery in reverse) -- the focus moves on to Albert Wenger who wants to disconnect work from income not only as automation progresses but to accelerate the process. Then it's on to Guy Standing who has conducted basic income experiments in India and Namibia (pdf) and is trying to get one off the ground in Groningen (Utrecht apparently is also a go). Finally, a stop in Alaska to ask some of its residents about their views on the state-owned Permanent Fund. This last part brings to mind the question: just what is wealth anyway? [more inside]
Inspired by Dwarf Fortress and No Man's Sky, Josh Newland writes about procedural generation of game worlds at Gamasutra and presents his Unity/WebGL game project.
In this script, a 189,000-square-foot big-box store plays the role of “progress” and an old-fashioned, last-of-its-breed drive-in in plays the part of “nostalgia.” Their conflict, like many in the movies, is perfectly framed to represent something greater: the struggle for the identity of a small town. What, in fact, does Maryville, TN want to be? How does "the peaceful side of the Smokies" grow while maintaining that identity — and connecting thousands of tourists to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
A short documentary (30min) that introduces ten of the worlds most ambitious megaprojects currently under development and paints a picture of the astonishing scale and political landscape of ongoing globalisation (SLYT). [more inside]
Tired of waiting for IMF and World Bank recognition of its financial muscle, China stepped aside to lead the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) inviting the rest of BRIC to join as cofounders. Unexpectedly, there's been a bit of a global stampede to get in an application as founding member. Here's a helpful infographic. And here are some widely divergent points of view pontificating on the geopolitics of finance.
12 minute video on India’s Experiment in Basic Income Grants "cash transfers given to all citizens to ensure that they have a minimal income". [more inside]
Aurion looks to be a standard and mechanically unremarkable retro action RPG with heavy Japanese design influences. But its design and feel are unmistakably fresh, offering a bold color palette and interesting unit designs. Its fiction is rooted in stories of exploitation and division, and in a desire for harmony.This review of Cameroon's Kiro’o Games latest release is just one of the increasingly visible ways Africa's game developers are beginning to gain traction in their domestic and international markets. Last fall, Lagos hosted the inaugural West African Gaming Expo, bringing together startups, gamers, developers and investors for the first time. Games range from mobile only, extremely local - smash the mosquito or drive your matatu like a maniac - to educational - to full fledged RPG like Kiro'o's Aurion. Women are as much a part of this nascent industry, breaking barriers and encouraging others to join. Watch this space.