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)
pineapple.io — attempt to crowdsource rankings for tutorials for important products, so you’re not picking your way through Google search results littered with tutorials written by incompetent illiterates for past versions of the software.
BBC Forum — American social psychologist Aleks Krotoski has been looking at how the internet affects the way we talk to ourselves. Podcast (available for next 30 days) from BBC. (via Vaughan Bell)
Why Can’t My Computer Understand Me (New Yorker) — using anaphora as the basis of an intelligence test, as example of what AI should be striving for. It’s not just that contemporary A.I. hasn’t solved these kinds of problems yet; it’s that contemporary A.I. has largely forgotten about them. In Levesque’s view, the field of artificial intelligence has fallen into a trap of “serial silver bulletism,” always looking to the next big thing, whether it’s expert systems or Big Data, but never painstakingly analyzing all of the subtle and deep knowledge that ordinary human beings possess. That’s a gargantuan task— “more like scaling a mountain than shoveling a driveway,” as Levesque writes. But it’s what the field needs to do.
Reducing the Roots of Some Evil (Etsy) — Based on our first two months of data we have removed a number of unused CA certificates from some pilot systems to test the effects, and will run CAWatch for a full six months to build up a more comprehensive view of what CAs are in active use. Sign of how broken the CA system for SSL is. (via Alex Dong)
Announcing Evan’s Awesome A/B Tools — I am calling these tools awesome because they are intuitive, visual, and easy-to-use. Unlike other online statistical calculators you’ve probably seen, they’ll help you understand what’s going on “under the hood” of common statistical tests, and by providing ample visual context, they make it easy for you to explain p-values and confidence intervals to your boss. (And they’re free!)
Memory Allocation in Brains (PDF) — The results reviewed here suggest that there are competitive mechanisms that affect memory allocation. For example, new dentate gyrus neurons, amygdala cells with higher excitability, and synapses near previously potentiated synapses seem to have the competitive edge over other cells and synapses and thus affect memory allocation with time scales of weeks, hours, and minutes. Are all memory allocation mechanisms competitive, or are there mechanisms of memory allocation that do not involve competition? Even though it is difficult to resolve this question at the current time, it is important to note that most mechanisms of memory allocation in computers do not involve competition. Does the dissector use a slab allocator? Tip your waiter, try the veal.
Living Foundries (DARPA) — one motivating, widespread and currently intractable problem is that of corrosion/materials degradation. The DoD must operate in all environments, including some of the most corrosively aggressive on Earth, and do so with increasingly complex heterogeneous materials systems. This multifaceted and ubiquitous problem costs the DoD approximately $23 Billion per year. The ability to truly program and engineer biology, would enable the capability to design and engineer systems to rapidly and dynamically prevent, seek out, identify and repair corrosion/materials degradation. (via Motley Fool)