Norbert Weiner (The Atlantic) — His fears for the future stemmed from two fundamental convictions: We humans can’t resist selfishly misusing the powers our machines give us, to the detriment of our fellow humans and the planet; and there’s a good chance we couldn’t control our machines even if we wanted to, because they already move too fast and because increasingly we’re building them to make decisions on their own. To believe otherwise, Wiener repeatedly warned, represents a dangerous, potentially fatal, lack of humility.
Open Ephys — open source/open hardware tools for neuro research. (via IEEE)
Why is StackOverflow So Negative of Late? — my current theory is that social activities (sites, events, etc.) are journeys for cohorts. Newcomers don’t get as much from it, and the original cohort don’t enjoy newcomers. Social sites tend to rock at first until They arrive and ruin it for all. cf Burning Man. Newcomers will have to start their own site/event, but if they never get critical mass of the A-grade people who joined the first wave, their own event may fail.
Behavioural Economics and Public Policy (Financial Times) — interesting how A/B trials revealed that implementations of Cialdini’s social proof didn’t test as well as non-social-proof persuasive techniques. More useful than something that claims to be the right answer is knowing when you’re closer to the right answer. (via Mind Hacks)
Halide Language — open source programming language designed to make it easier to write high-performance image processing code on modern machines. Its current front end is embedded in C++. Compiler targets include x86/SSE, ARM v7/NEON, CUDA, Native Client, and OpenCL.
Connected for a Purpose (Jim Stogdill) — At a recent conference, an executive at a major auto manufacturer described his company’s efforts to digitize their line-up like this: “We’re basically wrapping a two-ton car around an iPad. Eloquent critique of the Internet of Shallow Things.
Why Nate Silver Can’t Explain It All — Data extrapolation is a very impressive trick when performed with skill and grace, like ice sculpting or analytical philosophy, but it doesn’t come equipped with the humility we should demand from our writers. Would be a shame for Nate Silver to become Malcolm Gladwell: nice stories but they don’t really hold up.
Gender and VR (danah boyd) — Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on. Great article, especially notable for there are more sex hormones on the retina than in anywhere else in the body except for the gonads.
Even The Innocent Should Worry About Sex Offender Apps (Quartz) — And when data becomes compressed by third parties, when it gets flattened out into one single data stream, your present and your past collide with potentially huge ramifications for your future. When it comes to personal data—of any kind—we not only need to consider what it will be used for but how that data will be represented, and what such representation might mean for us and others. Data policies are like justice systems: either you suffer a few innocent people being wrongly condemned (bad uses of open data0, or your system permits some wrongdoers to escape (mould grows in the dark).
Understanding Understanding Source Code with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (PDF) — we observed 17 participants inside an fMRI scanner while they were comprehending short source-code snippets, which we contrasted with locating syntax error. We found a clear, distinct activation pattern of five brain regions, which are related to working memory, attention, and language processing. I’m wary of fMRI studies but welcome more studies that try to identify what we do when we code. (Or, in this case, identify syntax errors—if they wanted to observe real programming, they’d watch subjects creating syntax errors) (via Slashdot)
Oobleck Security (O’Reilly Radar) — if you missed or skimmed this, go back and reread it. The future will be defined by the objects that turn on us. 50s scifi was so close but instead of human-shaped positronic robots, it’ll be our cars, HVAC systems, light bulbs, and TVs. Reminds me of the excellent Old Paint by Megan Lindholm.
Most Winning A/B Test Results are Illusory (PDF) — Statisticians have known for almost a hundred years how to ensure that experimenters don’t get misled by their experiments […] I’ll show how these methods ensure equally robust results when applied to A/B testing.
App Trains You to See Farther (Popular Mechanics) — UltimEyes exercises the visual cortex, the part of our brain that controls vision. Brain researchers have discovered that the visual cortex breaks down the incoming information from our eyes into fuzzy patterns called Gabor stimuli. The theory behind UltimEyes is that by directly confronting the eyes with Gabor stimuli, you can train your brain to process them more efficiently—which, over time, improves your brain’s ability to create clear vision at farther distances. The app shows you ever fuzzier and fainter Gabor stimuli.
Software in 2014 (Tim Bray) — a good state of the world, much of which I agree with. Client-side: Things are bad. You have to build everything three times: Web, iOS, Android. We’re talent-starved, this is egregious waste, and it’s really hurting us.
IBM Struggles to Turn Watson Into Big Business (WSJ) — cognition services harder to onboard than seemed. It smells suspiciously like expert systems from the 1980s, but with more complex analytics on the inside. Analytic skill isn’t the problem for these applications, though, it’s the pain of getting domain knowledge into the system in the first place. This is where G’s web crawl and massive structured general knowledge is going to be a key accelerant.
Reading This May Harm Your Computer (SSRN) — Internet users face large numbers of security warnings, which they mostly ignore. To improve risk communication, warnings must be fewer but better. We report an experiment on whether compliance can be increased by using some of the social-psychological techniques the scammers themselves use, namely appeal to authority, social compliance, concrete threats and vague threats. We also investigated whether users turned off browser malware warnings (or would have, had they known how).
Launching the Wolfram Connected Devices Project — Wolfram Alpha is cognition-as-a-service, which they hope to embed in devices. This data-powered Brain-in-the-Cloud play will pit them against Google, but G wants to own the devices and the apps and the eyeballs that watch them … interesting times ahead!
How the USA Almost Killed the Internet (Wired) — “At first we were in an arms race with sophisticated criminals,” says Eric Grosse, Google’s head of security. “Then we found ourselves in an arms race with certain nation-state actors [with a reputation for cyberattacks]. And now we’re in an arms race with the best nation-state actors.”
Intel Edison — SD-card sized, with low-power 22nm 400MHz Intel Quark processor with two cores, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
N00b 2 L33t, Now With Graphs (Tom Stafford) — open science research validating many of the findings on learning, tested experimentally via games. In the present study, we analyzed data from a very large sample (N = 854,064) of players of an online game involving rapid perception, decision making, and motor responding. Use of game data allowed us to connect, for the first time, rich details of training history with measures of performance from participants engaged for a sustained amount of time in effortful practice. We showed that lawful relations exist between practice amount and subsequent performance, and between practice spacing and subsequent performance. Our methodology allowed an in situ confirmation of results long established in the experimental literature on skill acquisition. Additionally, we showed that greater initial variation in performance is linked to higher subsequent performance, a result we link to the exploration/exploitation trade-off from the computational framework of reinforcement learning.
WebGraph — a framework for graph compression aimed at studying web graphs. It provides simple ways to manage very large graphs, exploiting modern compression techniques. (via Ben Lorica)
Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins — You’ll need to add features to the game itself: learn how to build plugins for your own Minecraft server using the Java programming language. You don’t need to know anything about programming to get started—-this book will teach you everything you need to know! Shameless Christmas stocking bait! (via Greg Borenstein)