At the Facebook F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced that businesses would build chatbots on the Messenger platform, bringing the already strong hype around chatbots to a fever pitch. Chatbots, some argue, are the solution for all our problems. But are chatbots really the solution for everything? Or is it just an attempt to have a "next big thing" in order to generate more cash? [more inside]
We’re approaching a point where technological progress will become so fast that everyday human intelligence will be unable to follow it. The Playboy Interview with Ray Kurzweil.
When Rape Is Broadcast Live On The Internet by Rossalyn Warren [Buzzfeed News] Sexual assault, domestic abuse, and attempted murder are among the crimes recently captured on live video services. BuzzFeed News uncovered one apparent incident of a rape aired in real time and asked what it means for the companies that host this content. [more inside]
“Many of the Africans entrepreneurs I encounter represent the elite of their society,” Burfield told me. “They have received world-class educations, but aren’t interested in following in the family business. When combined with members of the African diaspora starting to return home, and ex-pats looking for the big new problems to tackle, most people would be amazed by how many entrepreneurs I encounter in Africa did their undergrad in great institutions around the world, or are self-taught from online courses and hackathons here. These are world-class entrepreneurs.”
A draft of a highly anticipated Senate encryption bill was leaked to The Hill late on Thursday night, sparking a swift backlash from technology and privacy groups even before the legislation has been introduced. [more inside]
Virtual Reality, a tech geek dream for decades, was long hobbled by high latency, clunky hardware, and perennially absurd reports on network news. That all changed in 2011, when Palmer Luckey, then 18, built the first Oculus Rift prototype in his parents' garage with iPhone repair money. Awed by its powerful sense of presence, developer John Carmack became a fan and demoed it at E3. The ensuing Kickstarter campaign shattered all fundraising goals, and Facebook controversially bought the rights for a whopping $2 billion -- alienating erstwhile partner Valve Software, the iconic creators of Half-Life/Portal/Steam. A Cambrian explosion of headsets followed: Morpheus, HoloLens, Google Cardboard, Gear VR. But perhaps most interesting is Valve's own counter-project: a breathtaking "room scale" VR set-up with Tron-like "Chaperone" and tracked motion controls called the HTC Vive. With this week's commercial launch of Rift and Vive bringing us to the threshold of a new interactive medium, look inside for guides, notes, and killer apps for this, the stunning arrival of consumer VR. [more inside]
"For eight years, Sepúlveda, now 31, says he traveled the continent rigging major political campaigns... Many of Sepúlveda’s efforts were unsuccessful, but he has enough wins that he might be able to claim as much influence over the political direction of modern Latin America as anyone in the 21st century."
Wikimedia and Facebook have given Angolans free access to their websites, but not to the rest of the internet. So, naturally, Angolans have started hiding pirated movies and music in Wikipedia articles and linking to them on closed Facebook groups, creating a totally free and clandestine file sharing network in a country where mobile internet data is extremely expensive.Vice
The case for optimism on climate change - "I'll finish with this story. When I was 13 years old, I heard that proposal by President Kennedy to land a person on the Moon and bring him back safely in 10 years. And I heard adults of that day and time say, 'That's reckless, expensive, may well fail.' But eight years and two months later, in the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, there was great cheer that went up in NASA's mission control in Houston. Here's a little-known fact about that: the average age of the systems engineers, the controllers in the room that day, was 26, which means, among other things, their age, when they heard that challenge, was 18." (via; previously) [more inside]
The Incredible Machine (1960s, slyt)
The three party system - "There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism (defined in more detail below). Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons." [more inside]
An entrepreneur tries to start a company and raise venture capital in Silicon Valley — and then finds out she is pregnant.
Kodak's Analog Renaissance with Super 8 Camera
"Kodak’s Super 8 project tells an interesting tale about opportunity and value in today’s post-digital economy."
"Kodak’s Super 8 project tells an interesting tale about opportunity and value in today’s post-digital economy."
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]
What is Design Fiction?
"the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. That’s the best definition we’ve come up with. The important word there is diegetic. It means you’re thinking very seriously about potential objects and services and trying to get people to concentrate on those rather than entire worlds or political trends or geopolitical strategies. It’s not a kind of fiction. It’s a kind of design. It tells worlds rather than stories." — Bruce SterlingExamples of Diegetic Prototypes in Design Fiction. [more inside]
St. Louis turns to predictive policing software: "At a time when communities are crying out for justice," Crockford told me, "I never heard anyone in one of these communities say, ‘I think police need to use more computers!’"
The Leap: The Improbable Transformation of a Punk Pioneer (mp3) - "James Williamson is a successful tech executive who's been working in Silicon Valley for decades. But it turns out Williamson had a secret, something that no one working with him knew. He was a pioneer in a type of music that is about as far from the tech world as you can get." [more inside]
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World - "With interviewees ranging from Elon Musk to a gaming addict, Werner Herzog presents the web in all its wildness and utopian potential in this dizzying documentary." (via)
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]
More U.S. military drones are crashing than ever... Driving the increase was a mysterious surge in mishaps involving the Air Force’s newest and most advanced “hunter-killer” drone, the Reaper, which has become the Pentagon’s favored weapon for conducting surveillance and airstrikes against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other militant groups. From the Washington Post, January 19, 2016.
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]
Want a frozen pint of ice cream from your favorite artisanal creamery delivered by helicopter to your suite at the Burj Dubai at 11PM tonight? San Francisco startup Magic claims that they will arrange any request for $100 per hour, plus expenses.
Venture capitalist Paul Graham starts 2016 with an essay on Economic Inequality
Since the 1970s, economic inequality in the US has increased dramatically. And in particular, the rich have gotten a lot richer. Some worry this is a sign the country is broken. I'm interested in the topic because I am a manufacturer of economic inequality. I've become an expert on how to increase economic inequality, and I've spent the past decade working hard to do it.[more inside]
Sci-Fi Author (and Metafilter's own) Charlie Stross has an interesting thought experiment: Could you get to a technological society without the use of writing? And if so, what would that look like?
A two-part essay by Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post on the growing unease among some technologists. [more inside]
There were times when we practically lived at the Shark Tank. We’d be there for two weeks, spending most of the time living in the catwalks above the ice. We’d have all of our computers, work area, and everything up there... The initial test of the RF system was frankly scary. We saw that this repeater was bigger than we had hoped it would be. So rather than a half dollar buried in the puck, we were starting to think this was going to be a puck-shaped piece of electronics painted black. And that was scary to us.First-Hand Recollections of the development of the FoxTrax hockey puck tracking system
One day Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney googled herself with a reporter friend sitting next to her. An ad popped up inquiring about her arrest record. She had never been arrested. "It must be because you have one of those Black Names!" the friend said. "That's impossible," she replied, "Computers can't be racist." But then she started doing research. [more inside]
At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen and commenters are answering the question, "If you had the power to make civilization unlearn one technology or theory in use today, what would it be?" Leading candidates include nuclear weapons, cigarettes, the AK-47, and Twitter.
Take Flight [New York Times] [Magazine] The year’s best actors lift off in a series of tributes to the ultimate Hollywood magic trick. To watch in virtual reality on your phone, download our app. [more inside]
Feminist Frequency (the website created by pop culture critic and Gamergate scourge Anita Sarkeesian) has published a guide for protecting yourself against harassment in digital spaces.
The state of California just announced that the new technology underpinning its Child Welfare System [pdf] won't be the usual "IT Solution" bought up in one big lump to follow a 4000-page specification. Instead, it's going to be built as a series of smaller modular projects driven by user needs, drawing on agile methodologies, a wider range of vendors, and, wherever possible, open standards and open source software. The decision, made in collaboration with Code for America and the federal government, sets an important precedent for how governments on all levels can get past the pitfalls of the standard procurement model. [more inside]
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen the scooter before. It’s sort of a phenomenon.... It’s been on the Tonight Show, and showed up at the NBA Finals. Every time anyone uploads a video or picture of this scooter, the commenters all want to know two things: What’s that called, and where can I buy it? That’s where it gets weird.Wired digs into the world of generic segways without handlebars, often called hoverboards, while NPR's Planet Money comes to a similar conclusion, and actually digs inside one of the two-wheeled machines (bonus: not their take-apart, but someone else's), both finding the Hovertrax Kickstarter and related video from 2013.
The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein [The Public Domain Review] Professor Sharon Ruston surveys the scientific background to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, considering contemporary investigations into resuscitation, galvanism, and the possibility of states between life and death.
The inconveniences of daily life are not the significant problems.Bret Victor: What can a technologist do about climate change?
The world that scrolls past you on Twitter is not the real world.
You cannot calibrate your sense of what’s valuable and necessary to the current fashions in your field.
Remember the prototype lunar rover that was believed to be scrapped but was recovered by a junkyard owner? It just failed to sell at auction, and could be yours if you have an amount of money more than $30000 burning a hole in your pocket.
Ever since the the Villa dei Papiri and its cache of at least 800 papyrus scrolls was discovered in Herculaneum in 1752, this potential treasure trove of information and insight into the classical world has fascinated scholars with what it could possibly contain. The difficulty has been in how to read them without destroying them. As John Seabrook describes for The New Yorker: "One scroll was peeled apart into many fragments; the other dried up and then, like a disaster in slow motion, split apart into more than three hundred pieces." Now, thanks to new imaging techniques, the contents of the scrolls could—slowly—be revealed.
Marcin Wichary writes (among other things) articles about crazy, complicated computer bugs and what they say about the world. Come to read about how a bug in Google's famous Pac-Man doodle led to all manner of chaos, stay to learn how a confluence of history, typography, and OS weirdness broke the Polish S (previously), or how a fluke of CSS unearthed a decades-old font. [more inside]
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
" Chinese emperors of the Tang Dynasty liked their ice cream a special way: Fermented buffalo or goat milk was heated, then thickened with flour and seasoned with camphor, which made it flake like snow. For good measure fragments of reptile brain were added, along with an eyeball or two." - "It Ought To Be Called Vice Cream" - Austerity Kitchen on the social and technological history of Ice Cream.
Rewrite the rules to benefit everyone, not just the wealthy - "If there's one thing Joseph Stiglitz wants to say about inequality, it's that it has been a choice, not an unexpected, unfortunate economic outcome. That's unnerving, but it also means that citizens and politicians have the opportunity to fix the problem before it gets worse." (via) [more inside]
Sony has announced that it will stop its production of Betamax video tapes in March of next year. [more inside]
Three years ago, the people living in the Ochiichagwe'Babigo'Ining Ojibway Nation in Ontario would crowd in each other’s homes and outside the band office to access what little internet the community had. There was dial-up, there was expensive cellular data, and there was some service from an internet provider in a neighboring town; when the network went down, it would sometimes take weeks for a technician to come and fix the issue. The community’s kids—itching to get their gaming systems online and scroll through Facebook on their phones—weren’t having it. [more inside]