The problem with AI right now is that its achievements are greatly over-hyped. That's not to say those achievements aren't real, but they don't mean what people think they mean. Read more...
Uber has built a great service. Why do they feel the need to use dirty tricks to succeed?
Tim O’Reilly has said that Uber is an example of designing for how the world ought to be. Their app works well, their cars are clean, their drivers are pleasant, and they usually arrive quickly. But more goes into the experience of a company than just an app. Corporate behavior is also part of the company’s design; perhaps not as noticeable as their Android or iPhone app, but a very real part. That’s where Uber falls down. They have increasingly been a bad actor, on many counts:
- Coercing their black car (Uber) drivers into driving for the low cost UberX service, which is much less profitable.
- Being disingenuous about the economics of driving for them. Justin Singer does an excellent job of deconstructing their claims. $90,000/year for a 40-hour work week? Think $40K. For a 70-hour work week.
- Badmouthing a competitor (Lyft) that is raising capital. As Fred Wilson says, this practice may be common, but it’s unethical and unproductive.
- Predatory (“surge”) pricing during peak hours, as much as seven times normal prices.
- Playing fast and loose with drivers’ background checks.
- And now one of their senior VPs has suggested researching and exposing the private lives of reporters who criticize them. He’s apologized, and said he never meant anything of the sort. Right. It’s not what you apologize for that counts; it’s not doing stuff you need to apologize for in the first place.
Mary Treseler talks about O'Reilly's new design investigation, and Trina Chiasson talks about typography and visualization.
In this week’s Radar Podcast episode, I talk with Mary Treseler, director of strategic content at O’Reilly, about our new investigation into experience design and how it’s shaping our future. Treseler notes a couple of key factors driving the investigation:
“What I’m seeing here and what I’ve been watching is the focus move from technology to design. Experience design or interaction design has always been around, but there are a couple of factors that are really pushing it into the spotlight. One being that we’re seeing more widespread support of design as a corporate asset, as something that could be a competitive advantage to businesses. The other is the Internet of Things, looking at the convergence of the digital and physical worlds, and what that means for designers and how they can impact the future.”
If you really want to understand the effect data is having, you need the models.
Writing my post about AI and summoning the demon led me to re-read a number of articles on Cathy O’Neil’s excellent mathbabe blog. I highlighted a point Cathy has made consistently: if you’re not careful, modelling has a nasty way of enshrining prejudice with a veneer of “science” and “math.”
Cathy has consistently made another point that’s a corollary of her argument about enshrining prejudice. At O’Reilly, we talk a lot about open data. But it’s not just the data that has to be open: it’s also the models. (There are too many must-read articles on Cathy’s blog to link to; you’ll have to find the rest on your own.)
You can have all the crime data you want, all the real estate data you want, all the student performance data you want, all the medical data you want, but if you don’t know what models are being used to generate results, you don’t have much. Read more…
Does the way a brain is wired determine how we think and behave? Recent research points to a resounding yes.
One of the age-old questions has been whether the way a brain is wired, negating other attributes such as intracellular systems biology, will give rise to how we think and how we behave. We are not at the point yet to answer that question regarding the human brain. However, by using the well-mapped connectome of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans, shown above), we were able to answer this question as a resounding yes, at least for simpler animals. Using a simple robot (a Lego Mindstorms EV3) and connecting sensors on the robot to stimulate specific simulated sensory neurons in an artificial connectome, and condensing worm muscle excitation to move a left and right motor on the robot, we observed worm-like behaviors in the robot based purely on environmental factors. Read more…
We could soon have lab-grown hamburgers, not in the $300,000 range but in the $10 range — would you eat one?
That was the call I got from a scientist entrepreneur friend of mine, John Schloendorn, the CEO of Gene and Cell Technologies. He’d been working on potential regenerative medicine therapies and tinkering with bioreactors to grow human cell lines. He left the lab for the weekend, and then something went wrong with one of his bioreactors: something got stuck in it.
“So, I was wondering what happened with my bioreactor and how this big chunk of plastic had gotten in there and ruined my cytokine production run. I was pulling it out, and I thought it was was weird because it was floppy. I threw it in the garbage. A little later, after thinking about it, I realized it wasn’t plastic and pulled it out of the garbage.” Read more…
Christina Agapakis explores the microbiological matrix that binds everything from pecorino to people.
This is part of our investigation into synthetic biology and bioengineering. For more, download the new BioCoder Fall 2014 issue here.
Good luck trying to jam Christina Agapakis into any kind of vocational box. Her CV cites disparate accomplishments as a scientist, writer, and artist — and teacher. Imparting highly technical information in a compelling, even revelatory way seems part of, well, her DNA. She can’t not do it. Moreover, her career arc represents a syncretic impulse that characterizes her general outlook on life.
“A friend is starting a group called Doctors without Disciplinary Borders, and I’m joining it,” says Agapakis. “It captures the spirit of my work pretty well.”
Agapakis is first and foremost a synthetic biologist and a microbiologist, but she’s not particularly happy with the way the synthetic biology narrative has played out. She thinks biocoding is inadequately explained by its practitioners and deeply misunderstood by the lay public, raising excessive expectations and misunderstandings about what synthetic biology can do. The discipline’s message would be better communicated, she believes, if metaphors grounded in biology rather than computers were employed. Read more…