John Horton Conway (The Guardian) — These were two separate areas of study that Conway had arrived at by two different paths. So, there’s no reason for them to be linked. But somehow, through the force of his personality, and the intensity of his passion, he bent the mathematical universe to his will. Fascinating profile, taken from a new book.
MIT Self-Assembly Lab — multi-material 3D/4D printing, advances in materials science, and new capabilities in simulation/optimization software […] made it possible to fully program a wide range of materials to change shape, appearance, or other property, on demand.
Kalman Filter — an algorithm that uses a series of measurements observed over time, containing statistical noise and other inaccuracies, and produces estimates of unknown variables that tend to be more precise than those based on a single measurement alone.
Interview with Bruce Sterling — Singapore is like a science fictional society without the fiction. Dubai is like a science fictional society without the science. […] Robots just don’t want to live. They’re inventions, not creatures; they don’t have any appetites or enthusiasms. I don’t think they’d maintain themselves very long without our relentlessly pushing them uphill against their own lifeless entropy. They’re just not entities in the same sense that we are entities; they don’t have much skin in our game. They don’t care and they can’t be bothered. We don’t yet understand how and why we ourselves care and bother, so we’d be hard put to install that capacity inside our robot vacuum cleaners.
Japan’s Robot Revolution — Fugitt said Japan’s weakness was in application and deployment of its advanced technologies. “The Japanese expect other countries and people to appreciate their technology, but they’re inwardly focused. If it doesn’t make sense to them, they typically don’t do it,” he said, citing the example of Japanese advanced wheelchairs having 100 kilogram weight limits. […] South Korea could be a threat [to Japan’s lead in robotics] if the chaebol opened up [and shared technologies], but I don’t see it happening. The U.S. will come in and disrupt things; they’ll cause chaos in a particular market and then run away.
A World Without Work (The Atlantic) — In 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “If men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.” […] Technology creates some jobs too, but the creative half of creative destruction is easily overstated. Nine out of 10 workers today are in occupations that existed 100 years ago, and just 5% of the jobs generated between 1993 and 2013 came from “high tech” sectors like computing, software, and telecommunications.
How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking (Amazon) — Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God. (via Pam Fox)
What Turing Himself Said About the Imitation Game (IEEE) — fascinating history. The second myth is that Turing predicted a machine would pass his test around the beginning of this century. What he actually said on the radio in 1952 was that it would be “at least 100 years” before a machine would stand any chance with (as Newman put it) “no questions barred.”
Running Effective Retrospectives — Each change to the team’s workflow is treated as a scientific experiment, whereby a hypothesis is formed, data collected, and expectations compared with actual results.
Pocket Guide to DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals (Robohub) — The robots will start in a vehicle, drive to a simulated disaster building, and then they’ll have to open doors, walk on rubble, and use tools. Finally, they’ll have to climb a flight of stairs. The fastest team with the same amount of points for completing tasks will win. The main issues teams will face are communications with their robot and battery life: “Even the best batteries are still roughly 10 times less energy-dense than the kinds of fuels we all use to get around,” said Pratt.
Monolith First — echoes the idea that platforms should come from successful apps (the way AWS emerged from operating the Amazon store) rather than be designed before use.
Building a More Assured Hardware Security Module (PDF) — proposal for An open source reference design for HSMs; Scalable, first cut in an FPGA and CPU, later allow higher speed options; Composable, e.g. “Give me a key store and signer suitable for DNSsec”; Reasonable assurance by being open, diverse design team, and an increasingly assured tool-chain. See cryptech.is for more info.
How to Design Applied Filters — The most frequently observed issue during usability testing were filtering values changing placement when the user applied them – either to another position in the list of filtering values (typically the top) or to an “Applied filters” summary overview. During testing, the subjects were often confounded as they noticed that the filtering value they just clicked was suddenly “no longer there.”
Twitter Heron — a real-time analytics platform that is fully API-compatible with Storm […] At Twitter, Heron is used as our primary streaming system, running hundreds of development and production topologies. Since Heron is efficient in terms of resource usage, after migrating all Twitter’s topologies to it we’ve seen an overall 3x reduction in hardware, causing a significant improvement in our infrastructure efficiency.
Bayesian Truth Serum — a scoring system for eliciting and evaluating subjective opinions from a group of respondents, in situations where the user of the method has no independent means of evaluating respondents’ honesty or their ability. It leverages respondents’ predictions about how other respondents will answer the same questions. Through these predictions, respondents reveal their meta-knowledge, which is knowledge of what other people know.
The Basic AI Drives (PDF) — Surely, no harm could come from building a chess-playing robot, could it? In this paper, we argue that such a robot will indeed be dangerous unless it is designed very carefully. Without special precautions, it will resist being turned off, will try to break into other machines and make copies of itself, and will try to acquire resources without regard for anyone else’s safety. These potentially harmful behaviors will occur not because they were programmed in at the start, but because of the intrinsic nature of goal-driven systems.
PreTTY — how to take a good-looking screencap of your terminal app in action.
Welcome to the Age of Infrastructure (Annalee Newitz) — The Internet isn’t that thing in there, inside your little glowing box. It’s in your washing machine, kitchen appliances, pet feeder, your internal organs, your car, your streets, the very walls of your house. You use your wearable to interface with the world out there.
More Tools for Managing and Reproducing Complex Data Projects (Ben Lorica) — As I survey the landscape, the types of tools remain the same, but interfaces continue to improve, and domain specific languages (DSLs) are starting to appear in the context of data projects. One interesting trend is that popular user interface models are being adapted to different sets of data professionals (e.g. workflow tools for business users).
A/A Testing — In an A/A test, you run a test using the exact same options for both “variants” in your test. That’s right, there’s no difference between “A” and “B” in an A/A test. It sounds stupid, until you see the “results.” (via Nelson Minar)
NSA Declares War on General-Purpose Computing (BoingBoing) — NSA director Michael S Rogers says his agency wants “front doors” to all cryptography used in the USA, so that no one can have secrets it can’t spy on — but what he really means is that he wants to be in charge of which software can run on any general purpose computer.
P Values are not Error Probabilities (PDF) — In particular, we illustrate how this mixing of statistical testing methodologies has resulted in widespread confusion over the interpretation of p values (evidential measures) and α levels (measures of error). We demonstrate that this confusion was a problem between the Fisherian and Neyman–Pearson camps, is not uncommon among statisticians, is prevalent in statistics textbooks, and is well nigh universal in the pages of leading (marketing) journals. This mass confusion, in turn, has rendered applications of classical statistical testing all but meaningless among applied researchers.
Modern Methods for Sentiment Analysis — Recently, Google developed a method called Word2Vec that captures the context of words, while at the same time reducing the size of the data. Gentle introduction, with code.
The Internet of Things That Do What You Tell Them: Cory Doctorow passionately explains how computers are already entwined in our lives, which means laws that support lock-in are much more than inconveniences.