The Trolley and the Psychopath — Not only does a “utilitarian” response (“just kill the fat guy”) not actually reflect a utilitarian outlook, it may actually be driven by broad antisocial tendencies, such as lowered empathy and a reduced aversion to causing someone harm. Questionably expanding scope of claims in the behavioural philosophy research. (via Ed Yong)
Exploit Exercises — a variety of virtual machines, documentation, and challenges that can be used to learn about a variety of computer security issues, such as privilege escalation, vulnerability analysis, exploit development, debugging, reverse engineering, and general cyber security issues.
How to Make Moonshots (Astro Teller) — Expecting a person to be a reliable backup for the [self-driving car] system was a fallacy. Once people trust the system, they trust it. Our success was itself a failure. We came quickly to the conclusion that we needed to make it clear to ourselves that the human was not a reliable backup — the car had to always be able to handle the situation. And the best way to make that clear was to design a car with no steering wheel — a car that could drive itself all of the time, from point A to point B, at the push of a button.
Billion-Dollar Math (Bloomberg) — There’s a new buzzword, “decacorn,” for those over $10 billion, which includes Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Uber. It’s a made-up word based on a creature that doesn’t exist. “If you wake up in a room full of unicorns, you are dreaming,” Todd Dagres, a founding partner at Spark Capital, recently told Bloomberg News. Not just cute seeing our industry explained to the unwashed, but it’s the first time I’d seen decacorn. (The weather’s just dandy in my cave, thanks for asking).
What Impactful Engineering Leadership Looks Like — aside from the ugliness of “impactful,” notable for good advice. “When engineering management is done right, you’re focusing on three big things,” she says. “You’re directly supporting the people on your team; you’re managing execution and coordination across teams; and you’re stepping back to observe and evolve the broader organization and its processes as it grows.”
cxxnet — “a fast, concise, distributed deep learning framework” that scales beyond a single GPU.
Sirius — UMich open source “intelligent Personal Assistant” (aka Siri, Cortana, Google Now, etc.). Text recognition, image recognition, query processing components. They hope it’ll be a focal point for research in the area, the way that open source operating systems have focused university research.
MIT DragonBot Evolving to Teach Kids (IEEE Spectrum) — they’re moving from “Wizard of Oz” (humans-behind-the-scenes) control to autonomous operation. Lovely example of Flintstoning in a robotics context.
Personal Assistants Coming (Robohub) — 2015 is the year physical products will be coming to market and available for experimentation and testing. Pepper ships in the summer in Japan, JIBO ships preorders in Q3, as does Cubic in the fall and EmoSpark in the summer. […]The key to the outcome of this race is whether a general purpose AI will be able to steer people through their digital world, or whether users would rather navigate to applications that are specialists (such as American Airlines or Dominos Pizza).
Ex Machine: When Turing Meets the Bechdel Test — The Bechdel Test is useful for more than examining gender representation. It can be our Turing Test for creating believable alien or artificial life forms. If you look at our filmic or cultural representations of the other or alien, then you have to be struck by the singular nature of them all. From Frankenstein to Big Hero 6, do they have any reality without the central human characters? No, they are alone. Even Alien is alone. At least in Frankenstein, it is the utter aloneness of the new form that is the whole story. Films that have pushed the envelope are few. And doing a quick mental check, one was left feeling empathy for the ‘others’ in only a couple, like Westworld, BladeRunner, and Planet of the Apes, and the books of writers like Brin and Cherryh.
Valve’s SteamVR — What these two experiences shared was an overpowering sense of intimacy with the virtual space. This is brought home again and again in the demos, and its impact is profound. The smallness of the space you can move around – 15 feet square – is almost a virtue in this respect, because it focuses you on your immediate surroundings in a way the vast majority of video games don’t, and which has much more in common with real life.
The Web’s Grain (Frank Chimero) — What would happen if we stopped treating the web like a blank canvas to paint on, and instead like a material to build with?
Bruce Sterling on Convergence of Humans and Machines — I like to use the terms “cognition” and “computation”. Cognition is something that happens in brains, physical, biological brains. Computation is a thing that happens with software strings on electronic tracks that are inscribed out of silicon and put on fibre board. They are not the same thing, and saying that makes the same mistake as in earlier times, when people said that human thought was like a steam engine.
Smart Pocket Watch — I love to see people trying different design experiences. This is beautiful. And built on Firefox OS!
Knowledge-Based Trust (PDF) — Google research paper on how to assess factual accuracy of web page content. It was bad enough when Google incentivised people to make content-free pages. Next there’ll be a reward for scamming bogus facts into Google’s facts database.
#NoEstimates — Allspaw also points out that the yearning to break the bonds of estimation is nothing new — he’s fond of quoting a passage from The Unwritten Laws of Engineering, a 1944 manual which says that engineers “habitually try to dodge the irksome responsibility for making commitments.” All of Allspaw’s segment is genius.
Old Fashioned Snapchat — get a few drinks in any brand advertiser and they’ll admit that the number one reason they know that brand advertising works is that, if they stop, sales inevitably drop.
GPG and Me (Moxie Marlinspike) — Even though GPG has been around for almost 20 years, there are only ~50,000 keys in the “strong set,” and less than 4 million keys have ever been published to the SKS keyserver pool ever. By today’s standards, that’s a shockingly small user base for a month of activity, much less 20 years. This was a great talk at Webstock this year.
How Machine Learning Ate Microsoft (Infoworld) — Azure ML didn’t merely take the machine learning algorithms MSR had already handed over to product teams and stick them into a drag-and-drop visual designer. Microsoft has made the functionality available to developers who know the R statistical programming language and Python, which together are widely used in academic machine learning. Microsoft plans to integrate Azure ML closely with Revolution Analytics, the R startup it recently acquired.
Reset (Rowan Simpson) — It was a bit chilling to go back over a whole years worth of tweets and discover how many of them were just junk. Visiting the water cooler is fine, but somebody who spends all day there has no right to talk of being full.
Google’s AI Brain — on the subject of Google’s AI ethics committee … Q: Will you eventually release the names? A: Potentially. That’s something also to be discussed. Q: Transparency is important in this too. A: Sure, sure. Such reassuring.
AVA is now Open Source (Laura Bell) — Assessment, Visualization and Analysis of human organisational information security risk. AVA maps the realities of your organisation, its structures and behaviors. This map of people and interconnected entities can then be tested using a unique suite of customisable, on-demand, and scheduled information security awareness tests.
Deep Learning for Torch (Facebook) — Facebook AI Research open sources faster deep learning modules for Torch, a scientific computing framework with wide support for machine learning algorithms.
Future of the AI-Powered Application (Matt Turck) — we’re about to witness the emergence of a number of deeply focused AI-powered applications that will achieve commercial success by solving in a definitive manner very specific issues. (via Matt Webb)
gibber — a creative coding environment for audiovisual performance and composition. It contains features for audio synthesis and musical sequencing, 2d drawing, 3d scene construction and manipulation, and live-coding shaders. If you’re looking for more ways to interest teens in code …
Smartest Cities Rely on Citizen Cunning and Unglamorous Technology (The Guardian) — vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation.
Introduction to the Modern Brain-Computer Interface Design (UCSD) — The lectures were first given by Christian Kothe (SCCN/UCSD) in 2012 at University of Osnabrueck within the Cognitive Science curriculum and have now been recorded in the form of an open online course. The course includes basics of EEG, BCI, signal processing, machine learning, and also contains tutorials on using BCILAB and the lab streaming layer software.
The growing role of software architects: “Architecture has become much more interesting now because it’s become more encompassing," says Neal Ford, software architect and meme wrangler at ThoughtWorks.