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]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
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]
Google will be folding its Chrome operating system into Android, according to The Wall Street Journal and independently confirmed by The Verge. Google is denying this, according to The Guardian, saying it is "committed to Chrome OS and it is likely Android and Chrome OS will co-exist with tighter integration between the two for the foreseeable future". Chromebook-like small laptops running Android such as the Pixel C are not uncommon, though they tend to dual-purpose as tablets and be more expensive than machines running the browser based operating system.
To commemorate the last decade’s worth of failures, we organized and analyzed the data we’ve collected. We cannot claim—nor can anyone, really—to have a definitive, comprehensive database of debacles. Instead, from the incidents we have chronicled, we handpicked the most interesting and illustrative examples of big IT systems and projects gone awry and created the five interactives featured here. Each reveals different emerging patterns and lessons. Dive in to see what we’ve found. One big takeaway: While it’s impossible to say whether IT failures are more frequent now than in the past, it does seem that the aggregate consequences are worse. [more inside]
Medium's Steven Levy asks for ideas on how to end age discrimination in tech companies. Readers respond. [more inside]
The TI-83 graphic calculator is still a standby for mathematics education in America. This Mic.com article looks at some of the causes and effects of that fact. [more inside]
Violet Blue, a technology journalist and sex blogger, describes how she has been locked out of her Facebook account and cannot access it without providing a government ID.
Last weekend, as I sat locked out of my Facebook account ‘for security reasons’ (and you tagged me in something, not knowing I can’t respond), my friend’s boss Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the United Nations. He talked about plans to expand Facebook use into refugee camps, and made no pretensions about how this would be used to benefit his company. I personally know what this will do. [...] De-anonymizing refugees usually precedes murder on a grand scale.[more inside]
Everyone you know will be able to rate you on the terrifying ‘Yelp for people’ — whether you want them to or not
"I found this collection of outtakes in my archive. I shot these interviews on the streets of New York in the late 70s when I was doing a documentary on the coming of the information age." - Man on the street interviews with New Yorkers in 1979 about science, technology, corporate influence, computers, and paperwork. (SLYT 5:45)
"I Am Fundi" is a short documentary depicting the education system in Uganda and the measures that the organization, Fundibots, is taking to create change. Victor, a Fundi teacher with a challenging past, is changing the future of Uganda by preparing and instilling excitement for science in young children so that when they grow, they will be confident, supported, and prepared for contemporary practices and technological advances.via
A short series from the Guardian.
What we eat
How we eat it
How we grow it
How we cook it
How we share it
What we eat
How we eat it
How we grow it
How we cook it
How we share it
"I got out, and it’s not too late for you." - Sarah Nyberg on being the subject of an online hate mob. Meanwhile Zoe Quinn talks about sympathy for her abusers, and actions turned out to have consequences for internet troll Joshua Goldberg.
Uber would like to buy your robotics department Today’s early-stage inquiry — so-called basic research, the Level 1 work, where scientists are still puzzling over fundamental questions — is financed almost exclusively by the federal government. It’s too far out, too speculative, to attract much investment; it isn’t clear if anyone will make any money on it. This wasn’t always the case.
WSJ Personal Tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler: We Need the Right to Repair our Gadgets. [more inside]
In a very real way, what people tuck into their pockets signals what they care about. "Pockets matter because they’re personal. What we wear at our waists is at least as intimate as what we wear on our wrists, and what we’ve worn there over the centuries tells us a lot about who we are, how we’ve changed, and how we’ve stayed the same. We’re greedy; we’re vain; we’re hungry; we’re late. We want to start fires and listen to a thousand songs."
Growing out of the 2002 NTK Festival of Inappropriate Technology, Opentech is a one-day conference in London on the topic of open source and open data in its broadest sense. Speakers have included Danny O’Brien (of NTK fame), Bill Thompson, Suw Charman-Anderson and many others, and the conference has launched or promoted several important UK tech organisations and campaigns including the Open Rights Group and Ada Lovelace Day. [more inside]
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]
Mention Vocaloid, and most people think of this. But this is also a Vocaloid. As is this, and this. (warning: Youtube-heavy) [more inside]
Remembering Tandem Computers: "Tandem was an archetype Silicon Valley company with stock options, an emphasis on taking chances, a recognition that sometimes the answer lies in a place where no one else has thought to go." The company was founded in 1974 by Jimmy Treybig. Though largely forgotten today, Tandem's surviving legacy is the NonStop line of servers, now owned by Hewlett-Packard.
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
How Ted Benson hacked Amazon Dash (the $5 WiFi enabled single product order button) to track baby data.
Kodak’s First Digital Moment
“It only took 50 milliseconds to capture the image, but it took 23 seconds to record it to the tape,” Mr. Sasson said. “I’d pop the cassette tape out, hand it to my assistant and he put it in our playback unit. About 30 seconds later, up popped the 100 pixel by 100 pixel black and white image.”
Daniel Dennett, known for having previously explained thinking, religion, and consciousness, recently spoke at the Royal Institution where he did a most excellent job of explaining memes [1-hour video].
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.
My statistical analysis shows patterns indicative of vote manipulation in machines. The manipulation is relatively small, compared with the inherent variability of election results, but it is consistent. [...W]e have a serious pervasive and systematic problem with electronic voting machines. [more inside]