How Will We Live? — we tend to imbue technology with the ideals of the people who have created it, and the messages of those who market it. However, creators and marketeers only ever set the affordances and suggest a use case. A technology’s true impact will always be defined by those who use it. Whether that’s knitting groups or fascist regimes, technology becomes an amplifier and accelerator of the social, cultural, and political values of the groups who use it, not those who made it. And it will continue to be used in ways you can never imagine.
Fortunate People Say No (Ian Bogost) — you have to say ‘yes’ for a long while before you can earn the right to say ‘no.’ Even then, you usually can’t say ‘no’ at whim. By the time you can say ‘no’ indiscriminately, then you’re already so super-privileged that being able to say ‘no’ is not a prerequisite of success, but a result of it. (via Austin Kleon) (via Cory Doctorow)
The Thing From The Future (Stuart Candy) — a game for creating thought-provoking artifacts from the future. Design fiction idea generator, in other words.
Apple’s Incredible Platform Advantage (Steve Cheney) — the best people in chip design no longer want to work at Intel or Qualcomm. They want to work at Apple. I have plenty of friends in the Valley who affirm this. Sure Apple products are cooler. But Apple has also surpassed Intel in performance. This is insane. A device company – which makes CPUs for internal use – surpassing Intel, the world’s largest chip maker that practically invented the CPU and has thousands of customers.
Data Center’s Days are Numbered — Adrian Cockroft says, the investments going into bolstering security on AWS and other clouds are set to pay off to the point where within five years, “it will be impossible to get security certification if you’re not running in the cloud because the tools designed for data centers are sloppily put together and can’t offer the auditing for PCI and other regulators.”
A Peek Inside IBM’s R&D Lab — IBM still has a physics department, but at this point, almost every physicist is somehow linked to a product plan or customer plan.
The Hit Charade (MIT TR) — Spotify’s deep-learning system still has to be trained using millions of example songs, and it would be perplexed by a bold new style of music. What’s more, such algorithms cannot arrange songs in a creative way. Nor can they distinguish between a truly original piece and yet another me-too imitation of a popular sound. Johnson acknowledges this limitation, and he says human expertise will remain a key part of Spotify’s algorithms for the foreseeable future.
The Future of War is the Distant Past (John Birmingham) — the Naval Academy is hedging against the future by creating cybersecurity midshipmen, and by requiring every midshipman to learn how to do celestial navigation.
What Happens Next Will Amaze You (Maciej Ceglowski) — the next in Maciej’s amazing series of keynotes, where he’s building a convincing case for fixing the Web.
Ashley Madison’s Fembot Con (Gizmodo) — As documents from company e-mails now reveal, 80% of first purchases on Ashley Madison were a result of a man trying to contact a bot, or reading a message from one.
Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot (Nautilus) — As the psychologist George Lowenstein and colleagues have argued, in a phenomenon they termed “projection bias,” people “tend to exaggerate the degree to which their future tastes will resemble their current tastes.”
Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm (Quartz) — The robotic arm is connected by wires that link up to the wearer’s motor cortex — the part of the brain that controls muscle movement — and sensory cortex, which identifies tactile sensations when you touch things. The wires from the motor cortex allow the wearer to control the motion of the robot arm, and pressure sensors in the arm that connect back into the sensory cortex give the wearer the sensation that they are touching something.
The Apex Book of World SF 4 (Amazon) — if SF invents the future by shaping and directing our imagination, and if you believe that non-American cultures will ascend over time, then it behooves you to sample this collection of SF from beyond the usual. (via Cory Doctorow)
Making Huge Projects Work (Amy Hoy) — the description of her workflow for modest and monster projects was useful to me, and may be to you as well. I think the real question is “where do we get an Alex of our own?” [Note: swearing]
Women in Science Fiction Bundle — pay-what-you-want bundle of SF written by women. SF shapes invention, but it’s often a future filled with square-jawed men and chiseled Space Desperados, with women relegated to incidental roles. And lo, the sci-tech industry evolved brogrammers. This bundle is a good start toward a cure. Dare to imagine a future where women are people, too. (via Cory Doctorow)
The Realities of a $50 Smartphone (Engadget) — it can be done, but it literally won’t be pretty. If this thought experiment has revealed anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as a profit in the Android world any more.
The Pocket Lab — a wireless sensor for smartphones that measures acceleration, force, angular velocity, magnetic field, pressure, altitude, and temperature.
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.
Machine Learning Done Wrong — When dealing with small amounts of data, it’s reasonable to try as many algorithms as possible and to pick the best one since the cost of experimentation is low. But as we hit “big data,” it pays off to analyze the data upfront and then design the modeling pipeline (pre-processing, modeling, optimization algorithm, evaluation, productionization) accordingly.
Ten Simple Rules for Lifelong Learning According to Richard Hamming (PLoScompBio) — Exponential growth of the amount of knowledge is a central feature of the modern era. As Hamming points out, since the time of Isaac Newton (1642/3-1726/7), the total amount of knowledge (including but not limited to technical fields) has doubled about every 17 years. At the same time, the half-life of technical knowledge has been estimated to be about 15 years. If the total amount of knowledge available today is x, then in 15 years the total amount of knowledge can be expected to be nearly 2x, while the amount of knowledge that has become obsolete will be about 0.5x. This means that the total amount of knowledge thought to be valid has increased from x to nearly 1.5x. Taken together, this means that if your daughter or son was born when you were 34 years old, the amount of knowledge she or he will be faced with on entering university at age 17 will be more than twice the amount you faced when you started college.
Adopting Microservices at Netflix: Lessons for Architectural Design — you want to think of servers like cattle, not pets. If you have a machine in production that performs a specialized function, and you know it by name, and everyone gets sad when it goes down, it’s a pet. Instead you should think of your servers like a herd of cows. What you care about is how many gallons of milk you get. If one day you notice you’re getting less milk than usual, you find out which cows aren’t producing well and replace them. People for Ethical Treatment of Iron, your time has come!
Your Job is Not to Write Code (Laura Klein) — I know what you’re thinking. This will all take so long! I’ll be so much less effective! This isn’t true. You’ll be far more effective because you will actually be doing your job. Amen to it all.
Duplicate SSH Keys Everywhere — It looks like all devices with the fingerprint are Dropbear SSH instances that have been deployed by Telefonica de Espana. It appears that some of their networking equipment comes set up with SSH by default, and the manufacturer decided to reuse the same operating system image across all devices.
Style.ONS — UK govt style guide covers the elements of writing about statistics. It aims to make statistical content more open and understandable, based on editorial research and best practice. (via Hadley Beeman)
Warren Ellis on the Apple Watch — I, personally, want to put a gold chain on my phone, pop it into a waistcoat pocket, and refer to it as my “digital fob watch” whenever I check the time on it. Just to make the point in as snotty and high-handed a way as possible: This is the decadent end of the current innovation cycle, the part where people stop having new ideas and start adding filigree and extra orifices to the stuff we’ve got and call it the future.