Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.
We Robot Conference Roundup — videos of talks on How to Engage the Public on the Ethics and Governance of Lethal Autonomous Weapons and other subjects. (You had my attention at “lethal autonomous weapons.”)
The Reality of AR/VR Business Models (TechCrunch) — list of potential revenue streams and superficial analysis of what they might look like in practice: hardware, e-commerce, advertising, mobile data/voice, in-app purchases, subscriptions, enterprise/b2b, and premium apps.
SpeechKITT — open source flexible GUI for interacting with Speech Recognition in your web app.
The Humanities Majors Designing AI Interactions — who else are you going to get to do it? As in fiction, the AI writers for virtual assistants dream up a life story for their bots. Writers for medical and productivity apps make character decisions such as whether bots should be workaholics, eager beavers or self-effacing. “You have to develop an entire backstory — even if you never use it,” Ewing said.
SCHAFT’s Bipedal Robot — not an Austin Powers reference, but a clever working proof-of-concept. In theory, bipedalism allows robots to go wherever we can (versus, say, a Dalek).
Deep Learning Book — text finished, prepping print production via MIT Press. Why are you using HTML format for the drafts? This format is a sort of weak DRM required by our contract with MIT Press. It’s intended to discourage unauthorized copying/editing of the book.
Fairness in Machine Learning — read this fabulous presentation. Most ML objective functions create models accurate for the majority class at the expense of the protected class. One way to encode “fairness” might be to require similar/equal error rates for protected classes as for the majority population.
A Recent Discussion about DRM (Joi Ito) — strong arguments against including Digital Rights Management in W3C’s web standards (I can’t believe we’re still debating this; it’s such a self-evidently terrible idea to bake disempowerment into web standards).
U.S. Textile Industry Turns to Tech as Gateway to Revival — Warwick Mills is joining the Defense Department, universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and nearly 50 other companies in an ambitious $320 million project to push the American textile industry into the digital age. Key to the plan is a technical ingredient: embedding a variety of tiny semiconductors and sensors into fabrics that can see, hear, communicate, store energy, warm or cool a person, or monitor the wearer’s health.
Squeezing AI into Mobile Systems (IEEE Spectrum) — Sze, working with Joel Emer, also an MIT computer science professor and senior distinguished research scientist at Nvidia, developed Eyeriss, the first custom chip designed to run a state-of-the-art convolutional neural network. They showed they could run AlexNet, a particularly demanding algorithm, using less than one-tenth the energy of a typical mobile GPU: instead of consuming 5 to 10 watts, Eyeriss used 0.3 W.
The 8-Bit Game That Makes Statistics Addictive (The Atlantic) — that game is Guess The Correlation. “As a researcher, you read papers and a lot of the time, you eyeball the figures without even reading the text,” he says. “You see a plot—it could even be your own plot—and make a judgment based on it. Contrary to what people believe, they’re not very good at this. And I have the data to prove that.”
cello — home page for the Verilogish programming language to design computational circuits in living cells.
Internet of Bricked Discontinued Things (BusinessInsider) — Shutting down Revolv does not mean that Nest is ceasing to support its products, leaving them vulnerable to bugs and other unpatched issues. It means that the $300 devices and accompanying apps will stop working completely.
Quantified Baby — The idea of self-tracking for children raises thorny questions of control and consent, Nafus said. Among hard-core practitioners, the idea has not really taken off, even as related products have started hitting the market.
Centaurs Not Butlers (Matt Jones) — In competitive chess, teams of human and non-human intelligences are referred to as ‘Centaurs’ How might we create teams of human and non-human intelligences in the service of better designed systems, products, environments?
Casino-Funded In-Game War — this was just the opening round of what could be the largest military mobilization in that game’s history. Digging deeper into the subject, we’ve been able to chart the rise of a new in-game faction, called the Moneybadger Coalition, a group of thousands of players being bankrolled by an online casino. (via BoingBoing)
More Chinese Mobile UI Trends — This year, Microsoft China released an AI chatbot called 小冰 (xiǎobīng) that has been popular. She’s accessible via the web, via a standalone app, via WeChat, via Cortana, and through a dedicated button in Xiaomi’s own seldom-used messaging app. It’s fun to toss annoying questions at her and see how she responds. Some people even confide in her. She’s kind of the love child of Siri, ELIZA, and Cleverbot.
Accountable Machines — Some of the proposals discussed at our workshop included having machine learning processes verify the outcomes of algorithmic decisions and provide transparency, and that systems should be designed to permit auditing as well as to audit other related systems. To me this appeared as an especially accountable version of bureaucracy, where results from each system’s accounting dynamically report up through an iterative (but still accountable) chain of command. This is not bureaucratic in the sense of inventing process for its own sake, but it is bureaucratic in the sense that it establishes many processes of accountability that are the responsibility of entities who report to one another through a structure where trust is related to the capacity to validate decisions.
Russia Bans Queue — banned the Polish board game that recreates the experience of life under Communism. Games that are simulations are effective educational experiences, too effective for Russia.
Tech Economies Must Still Make Things (Vaclav Smil) — Bill Gates’s favorite scientist/policy analyst weighs in on the next economy. Take away manufacturing and you’re left with…selfies.
On the Impending Crypto Monoculture (Peter Gutmann) — A number of IETF standards groups are currently in the process of applying the second-system effect to redesigning their crypto protocols. A major feature of these changes includes the dropping of traditional encryption algorithms and mechanisms like RSA, DH, ECDH/ECDSA, SHA-2, and AES, for a completely different set of mechanisms, including Curve25519 (designed by Dan Bernstein et al), EdDSA (Bernstein and colleagues), Poly1305 (Bernstein again) and ChaCha20 (by, you guessed it, Bernstein). What’s more, the reference implementations of these algorithms also come from Dan Bernstein (again with help from others), leading to a never-before-seen crypto monoculture in which it’s possible that the entire algorithm suite used by a security protocol, and the entire implementation of that suite, all originate from one person. How on earth did it come to this?
Deep Learning for Analytical Engine — This repository contains an implementation of a convolutional neural network as a program for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, capable of recognizing handwritten digits to a high degree of accuracy (98.5% if provided with a sufficient amount of training data and left running sufficiently long).
Supervisor Trees in Go — A well-structured Erlang program is broken into multiple independent pieces that communicate via messages, and when a piece crashes, the supervisor of that piece automatically restarts it. […] Even as I have been writing suture, I have on occasion been astonished to flip my screen over to the console of Go program I’ve written with suture, and been surprised to discover that it’s actually been merrily crashing away during my manual testing, but soldiering on so well I didn’t even know.
Developing Quantum Annealer Driven Data Discovery (Joseph Dulny III, Michael Kim) — In this paper, we gain novel insights into the application of quantum annealing (QA) to machine learning (ML) through experiments in natural language processing (NLP), seizure prediction, and linear separability testing.