Old-School PC Fonts — definitive collection of ripped-from-the-BIOS fonts from the various types of PCs. Your eyes will ache with nostalgia. (Or, if you’re a young gun, wondering how anybody wrote code with fonts like that) (my terminal font is VT220 because it makes me happy and productive)
Cognitive Load: Brain Gems — We distill the latest behavioural economics & consumer psychology research down into helpful little brain gems.
Chimera (Paper a Day) — the authors summarise six main lessons learned while building Chimera: (1) Things break down at large scale; (2) Both learning and hand-crafted rules are critical; (3) Crowdsourcing is critical, but must be closely monitored; (4) Crowdsourcing must be coupled with in-house analysts and developers; (5) Outsourcing does not work at a very large scale; (6) Hybrid human-machine systems are here to stay.
Microsoft Embedding Research — To break down the walls between its research group and the rest of the company, Microsoft reassigned about half of its more than 1,000 research staff in September 2014 to a new group called MSR NExT. Its focus is on projects with greater impact to the company rather than pure research. Meanwhile, the other half of Microsoft Research is getting pushed to find more significant ways it can contribute to the company’s products. The challenge is how to avoid short-term thinking from your research team. For instance, Facebook assigns some staff to focus on long-term research, and Google’s DeepMind group in London conducts pure AI research without immediate commercial considerations.
Google’s Go-Playing AI — The key to AlphaGo is reducing the enormous search space to something more manageable. To do this, it combines a state-of-the-art tree search with two deep neural networks, each of which contains many layers with millions of neuron-like connections. One neural network, the “policy network,” predicts the next move, and is used to narrow the search to consider only the moves most likely to lead to a win. The other neural network, the “value network,” is then used to reduce the depth of the search tree — estimating the winner in each position in place of searching all the way to the end of the game.
What Paul Graham is Missing About Inequality (Tim O’Reilly) — When a startup doesn’t have an underlying business model that will eventually produce real revenues and profits, and the only way for its founders to get rich is to sell to another company or to investors, you have to ask yourself whether that startup is really just a financial instrument, not that dissimilar to the CDOs of the 2008 financial crisis — a way of extracting value from the economy without actually creating it.
Trust vs Transparency (PDF) — explanation facilities
can potentially drop both a user’s confidence and make the process of search more stressful. Aka “few takers for sausage factory tours.” (via ACM Queue)
The Mortality of Companies — Geoffrey West paper: we show that the mortality of publicly traded companies manifests an approximately constant hazard rate over long periods of observation. This regularity indicates that mortality rates are independent of a company’s age. We show that the typical half-life of a publicly traded company is about a decade, regardless of business sector.
Gizmo — a microservice toolkit in Golang from NYT. (via InfoQ)
Intellectual Need and Problem-Free Activity in the Mathematics Classroom (PDF) — Although this is not an empirical study, we use data from observed high school algebra classrooms to illustrate four categories of activity students engage in while feeling little or no intellectual need. We present multiple examples for each category in order to draw out different nuances of the activity, and we contrast the observed situations with ones that would provide various types of intellectual need. Finally, we offer general suggestions for teaching with intellectual need.
Sensors Slip into the Brain and then Dissolve When Done (IEEE Spectrum) — pressure and temperature monitors, intended to be implanted in the brain, that completely dissolve within a few weeks. The news, published as a research letter in the journal Nature, described a demonstration of the devices in rats, using soluble wires to transmit the signals, as well as the demonstration of a wireless version, though the data transmission circuit, at this point, is not completely resorbable. The research was published as a letter to Nature.
GCHQ Proposes Surveillable Voice Call Encryption (The Register) — unsurprising, but should reiterate AGAIN that state security services would like us to live in the panopticon. Therefore, don’t let the buggers anywhere near the reins of our communication systems.
These Tricks Make Virtual Reality Feel Real — Scientists are exploiting the natural inaccuracies in people’s own proprioception, via a technique called “redirected walking,” to create the perception of space where none exists. With redirected walking, […] users can sense they are exploring the twisting byways of a virtual city when in reality they are simply walking in circles inside a lab.Original Redirect Walking paper.
Experience with Rules-Based Programming for Distributed Concurrent Fault-Tolerant Code (A Paper a Day) — To demonstrate applicability outside of the RAMCloud system, the team also re-wrote the Hadoop Map-Reduce job scheduler (which uses a traditional event-based state machine approach) using rules. The original code has three state machines containing 34 states with 163 different transitions, about 2,250 lines of code in total. The rules-based re-implementation required 19 rules in 3 tasks with a total of 117 lines of code and comments. Rules-based systems are powerful and underused.
OpenFace — open source face recognition software using deep neural networks.
Berkeley’s Intro-to-AI Materials — We designed these projects with three goals in mind. The projects allow students to visualize the results of the techniques they implement. They also contain code examples and clear directions, but do not force students to wade through undue amounts of scaffolding. Finally, Pac-Man provides a challenging problem environment that demands creative solutions; real-world AI problems are challenging, and Pac-Man is, too.
Tesla Model S Can Now Drive Without You (TechCrunch) — the upside of the Internet of Things is that objects get smarter while you sleep. (In fairness, they can also be pwned by Ukrainian teenagers while you sleep.)
Replacing Judgement with Algorithms (Bruce Schneier) — We can get the benefits of automatic algorithmic systems while avoiding the dangers. It’s not even hard. Transparency and oversight with accountability.
How to Hire (Henry Ward) — this isn’t holy writ for everyone, but the clear way in which he lays out how he thinks about hiring should be a model to all managers, even those who disagree with his specific recommendations.
From the Ground Up: Reasoning About Distributed Systems in the Real World (Tyler Treat) — When we try to provide semantics like guaranteed, exactly-once, and ordered message delivery, we usually end up with something that’s over-engineered, difficult to deploy and operate, fragile, and slow. What is the upside to all of this? Something that makes your life easier as a developer when things go perfectly well, but the reality is things don’t go perfectly well most of the time. Instead, you end up getting paged at 1 a.m. trying to figure out why RabbitMQ told your monitoring everything is awesome while proceeding to take a dump in your front yard. An approachable argument for shifting some consistency checks to application layer so the infrastructure can be simpler.
3D Printed Ceramics to 1700°C (Ars Technica) — The key step used in the new work is to replace the standard polymers used to create ceramics with a chemical that polymerizes when exposed to UV light. (These can have a variety of chemistries; the authors list thiol, vinyl, acrylate, methacrylate, and epoxy groups.) This means they’re able to be polymerized using a fairly standard 3D printer setup. In fact, the paper lists the model number of the version the authors bought from a different company.
Guesstimate — spreadsheet for things that aren’t certain.
Is Caffeine a Cognitive Enhancer? (PDF) — Two general mechanisms may account for most of the observed effects of caffeine on performance: (1) an indirect, non-specific ‘arousal’ or ‘processing resources’ factor, presumably explaining why the effects of caffeine are generally most pronounced when task performance is sustained or degraded under suboptimal conditions; and (2) a more direct and specific ‘perceptual-motor’ speed or efficiency factor that may explain why, under optimal conditions, some aspects of human performance and information processing, in particular those related to sensation, perception, motor preparation, and execution, are more sensitive to caffeine effects than those related to cognition, memory, and learning. See also Smith 2005‘s caffeine led to a more positive mood and improved performance on a number of tasks. Different effects of caffeine were seen depending on the person’s level of arousal. Linear effects of caffeine dose were also observed. This is evidence against the argument that behavioral changes due to caffeine are merely the reversal of negative effects of a long period of caffeine abstinence. (via cogsci.stackexchange.com)
On Stars and Thinking Things Through (Courtney Johnston) — Matt (to my eyes, anyway) doesn’t have a singular ‘thing’: he has this kind of spangly web of interests and skills that coalesces around a line of enquiry and results in the making or doing of a thing, and these things in turn become part of that web and generate further experiments and thinking. Seconded.
Human-like Robot — and just like a real woman, the first paragraphs about the robot focus on soft skin and flowing brunette hair not how well she does her job. Progress!