Harmonizing the four factors that regulate our society

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Cory Doctorow on his work with the EFF, reforming the DMCA, and better IoT business models.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

Gobbling_Market_by_EH_Shepard

In this week’s Radar Podcast, I sit down with science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger, Cory Doctorow. We talk about pitfalls in the Internet of Things and his work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), including work to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — the source of many of those IoT pitfalls. Doctorow also talks about why we should treat human beings as things that are good at sensing as opposed to things that need to be sensed.

Here are a few snippets from our conversation:

In the absence of any other confounding factors, obnoxious stuff that vendors do tends to self-correct, but there’s an important confounding factor, which is that in 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In order to try and contain unauthorized copying, they made it a felony to break a lock that protects access to a copyrighted work or to tell people information that they could use to break that lock.

I’m way more worried about the fact that the [DMCA] law also criminalizes disclosing information about vulnerabilities in these systems.

Lawrence Lessig, who was on our board for many years and is a great friend and fellow of Electronic Frontier Foundation, talks about how there are four factors that regulate our society. There’s code, what’s technologically possible. There is law, what’s allowed. There’s norms, what’s socially acceptable. And then there are markets, what’s profitable. In many cases, the right thing is profitable and also socially acceptable and legal and also technologically possible. Every now and again you run up against areas where one or more of those factors just aren’t in harmony.

Read more…

Comment

Pattern recognition and sports data

The O'Reilly Data Show Podcast: Award-winning journalist David Epstein on the (data) science of sports.

Sign-up now to receive a free download of the new O’Reilly report “Data Analytics in Sports: How Playing with Data Transforms the Game” when it publishes this fall.

Julien_Vervaecke_and_Maurice_Geldhof

Julien Vervaecke and Maurice Geldhof smoking a cigarette at the 1927 Tour de France. Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons.

One of my favorite books from the last few years is David Epstein’s engaging tour through sports science using examples and stories from a wide variety of athletic endeavors. Epstein draws on examples from individual sports (including track and field, winter sports) and major U.S. team sports (baseball, basketball, and American football), and uses the latest research to explain how data and science are being used to improve athletic performance.

In a recent episode of the O’Reilly Data Show Podcast, I spoke with Epstein about his book, data science and sports, and his recent series of articles detailing suspicious practices at one of the world’s premier track and field training programs (the Oregon Project).

Nature/nurture and hardware/software

Epstein’s book contains examples of sports where athletes with certain physical attributes start off with an advantage. In relation to that, we discussed feature selection and feature engineering — the relative importance of factors like training methods, technique, genes, equipment, and diet — topics which Epstein has written about and studied extensively:

One of the most important findings in sports genetics is that your ability to improve with respect to a certain training program is mediated by your genes, so it’s really important to find the kind of training program that’s best tailored to your physiology. … The skills it takes for team sports, these perceptual skills, nobody is born with those. Those are completely software, to use the computer analogy. But it turns out that once the software is downloaded, it’s like a computer. While your hardware doesn’t do anything alone without software, once you’ve got the software, the hardware actually makes a lot of a difference in how good of an operating machine you have. It can be obscured when people don’t study it correctly, which is why I took on some of the 10,000 hours stuff. Read more…

Comment

Designing beyond screens to augment the full human sensorium

A new reality is coming that will forever change the way we engage with our surroundings.

Register now for Solid Amsterdam, our conference exploring the intersections of manufacturing, design, hardware, software, and business strategy. The event will take place in Amsterdam on October 28, 2015.

640px-Medieval_bakerVirtual Reality (VR) strives to recreate the physical world in a virtual one. Augmented Reality (AR), on the other hand, can bring the digital into the physical world to create a hybrid reality. AR offers new ways of applying technology to immerse ourselves in our physical reality (rather than being removed from it), and even enhance it.

Interacting with screens is a big part of our everyday modern reality. We spend a great amount of time engaging with our world and each other through two-dimensional screens, whether via a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The world we live in, however, is three-dimensional and not flat: it is physical and involves the use of multiple senses. AR presents the opportunity to design beyond the screens we use today and create new experiences that better embody the full human sensorium.

In my last Radar article, I looked at how AR, wearable tech, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are augmenting the human experience. I highlighted how computer vision and new types of sensors are being combined to change the way we interact with and understand our surroundings. Here, I’ll look at how this can be extended by integrating the human senses beyond the visual — such as touch, taste, and smell — to further augment our reality. Read more…

Comment

Imagining a future biology

We need to nurture our imaginations to fuel the biological revolution.

Download the new issue of BioCoder, our newsletter covering the biological revolution.

625px-RitrattoMuseoFerranteImperatoI recently took part in a panel at Engineering Biology for Science & Industry, where I talked about the path biology is taking as it becomes more and more of an engineering discipline, and how understanding the path electronics followed will help us build our own hopes and dreams for the biological revolution.

In 1901, Marconi started the age of radio, and really the age of electronics, with the “first” trans-atlantic radio transmission. It’s an interesting starting point, because important as this event was, there’s good reason to believe that it never really happened. We know a fair amount about the equipment and the frequencies Marconi was using: we know how much power he was transmitting (a lot), how sensitive his receiver was (awful), and how good his antenna was (not very).

We can compute the path loss for a signal transmitted from Cornwall to Newfoundland, subtract that from the strength of the signal he transmitted, and compare that to the sensitivity of the receiver. If you do that, you have to conclude that Marconi’s famous reception probably never happened. If he succeeded, it was by means of a fortunate accident: there are several possible explanations for how a radio signal could have made it to Marconi’s site in Newfoundland. All of these involve phenomenon that Marconi couldn’t have known about. If he succeeded, his equipment, along with the radio waves themselves, were behaving in ways that weren’t understood at the time, though whether he understood what was happening makes no difference. So, when he heard that morse code S, did he really hear it? Did he imagine it? Did he lie? Or was he very lucky? Read more…

Comment

Design for success: Manage business and user goals

Laura Klein on what makes a successful designer and how we should measure the success of product designs.

The_Silk_Merchant,_Japan_by_Robert_Frederick_Blum,_1892

Register for the UX Design for Growth — Improving User Conversion training session with Laura Klein. In this online, interactive training workshop, Klein, author of “UX for Lean Startups,” will teach you to design for product growth.

Designers have become more and more integral to the success of their organizations. This increase in visibility and responsibility requires new skills, a greater understanding of the goals of the business, the ability to work with a wider variety of stakeholders within the organization, and new ways to measure the success of design work. I recently spoke with Laura Klein, designer, researcher, engineer, and author of UX for Lean Startups and the popular design blog Users Know, about these topics.

Understanding the goals of the business

In discussing the essential skill set for designers today, Klein explains why designers need to understand what their organization is trying to accomplish and why they should get comfortable working with people outside of the design team:

I think nowadays we really have to understand what the business goals are and also what the user goals are, and how those two things can work together to make a great experience for the customer that also helps the business. … More and more, we’re really working on cross-functional teams, which I think is wonderful. It might mean that we’re working with a marketing person and an engineer or several engineers, and a product manager. We’re no longer just working off in our little silos with all the other designers, when all we have to do is talk design. We’re working with a really diverse group of people … I think it’s better for products, but it does mean we have to know how to communicate with more types of people. Learning how to do that can be incredibly important.

Read more…

Comment

A little AI in lots of things: Our most promising future with tech

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: David Rose on enchanting objects, avoiding cognitive overload, and our future relationship with tech.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast to track the technologies and people that will shape our world in the years to come.

612px-Paul_Klee,_Swiss_-_Fish_Magic_-_Google_Art_Project

In this episode of the Radar Podcast, I chat with David Rose, an entrepreneur, MIT Media Lab instructor, and author of Enchanted Objects. We talk about which objects we should enchant, and how to avoid being overwhelmed by object communication and cognitive overload.

Rose also weighs in on the AI debate and outlines the four potential ways he sees the Internet of Things shaking out.

Here are a few snippets from our conversation:

I’ve been a fan of magic and of studying the tropes that magicians have used to control the emotional arc of a trick, for example, and I think enchantment, for me, sort of sets a high bar for designers to consider not just the mechanism of what’s happening, but also consider how people are engaged — and are people delighted? What’s their emotional reaction to whatever the new connectivity or new sensor or new display is that’s in one of these objects?

Those phenomenon of using light and pattern and texture are all pre-attentive — meaning your brain process them in parallel; it’s non-distracting; it happens in less than 250 milliseconds. That’s the design space for the best types of interactions with objects because they don’t tend to overwhelm you, and you don’t perceive them as being a cognitive load because they aren’t a cognitive load.

Read more…

Comment