Equality Takes Work — Women do not prefer saying less: They anticipate the treatment they will receive when they say more.
Bitcoin as Politics: Distributed Right-Wing Extremism — The lack of any thorough, non-conspiratorial analysis of existing financial systems means that bitcoin fails to embody any true alternative to them. The reasons for this have little to do with technology and everything to do with the existing systems in which bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are embedded, systems that instantiate the forms of social power that cannot be eliminated through either wishful thinking or technical or even political evasion: the rich and powerful will not become poor and powerless simply because other people decide to operate alternate economies of exchange. […] Because it operates without such an account, bitcoin’s real utility and purpose (and that of the cryptocurrency movement in general) can be better understood as a “program” for recruiting uninformed citizens into a neoliberal anti-government politics, understanding the nature and effects of which requires just the attention to political theory and history that bitcoin enthusiasts rail against. So … not a fan, then?
We Robot Conference Roundup — videos of talks on How to Engage the Public on the Ethics and Governance of Lethal Autonomous Weapons and other subjects. (You had my attention at “lethal autonomous weapons.”)
The Reality of AR/VR Business Models (TechCrunch) — list of potential revenue streams and superficial analysis of what they might look like in practice: hardware, e-commerce, advertising, mobile data/voice, in-app purchases, subscriptions, enterprise/b2b, and premium apps.
SpeechKITT — open source flexible GUI for interacting with Speech Recognition in your web app.
The Humanities Majors Designing AI Interactions — who else are you going to get to do it? As in fiction, the AI writers for virtual assistants dream up a life story for their bots. Writers for medical and productivity apps make character decisions such as whether bots should be workaholics, eager beavers or self-effacing. “You have to develop an entire backstory — even if you never use it,” Ewing said.
SCHAFT’s Bipedal Robot — not an Austin Powers reference, but a clever working proof-of-concept. In theory, bipedalism allows robots to go wherever we can (versus, say, a Dalek).
HCI Pioneers — Ben Schneiderman’s photo collection, acknowledging pioneers in the field. (via CCC Blog)
A Burglar’s Guide to the City (BLDGBLOG) — For the past several years, I’ve been writing a book about the relationship between burglary and architecture. Burglary, as it happens, requires architecture: it is a spatial crime. Without buildings, burglary, in its current legal form, could not exist. Committing it requires an inside and an outside; it’s impossible without boundaries, thresholds, windows, and walls. In fact, one needn’t steal anything at all to be a burglar. In a sense, as a crime, it is part of the built environment; the design of any structure always implies a way to break into it. Connection to computer security left as exercise to the reader.
Trial by Machine (Roth) — The current landscape of mechanized proof, liability, and punishment suffers from predictable but underscrutinized automation pathologies: hidden subjectivities and errors in “black box” processes; distorted decision-making through oversimplified — and often dramatically inaccurate — proxies for blameworthiness; the compromise of values protected by human safety valves, such as dignity, equity, and mercy; and even too little mechanization where machines might be a powerful debiasing tool but where little political incentive exists for its development or deployment. […] The article ultimately proposes a systems approach – “trial by cyborg” – that safeguards against automation pathologies while interrogating conspicuous absences in mechanization through “equitable surveillance” and other means. (via Marginal Revolution)
Distributed Ledger Technology: Blackett Review (gov.uk) — Distributed ledgers can provide new ways of assuring ownership and provenance for goods and intellectual property. For example, Everledger provides a distributed ledger that assures the identity of diamonds, from being mined and cut to being sold and insured. In a market with a relatively high level of paper forgery, it makes attribution more efficient, and has the potential to reduce fraud and prevent “blood diamonds” from entering the market. Report includes recommendations for policy makers. (via Dan Hill)
Ten More Years! — my brand spanking new chip card from a UK issuer not only arrived with a 2000s app of a 1990s implementation of a 1980s product (debit) on 1970s chip, it also came with a 1960s magnetic stripe on it and a 1950s PAN with a 1940s signature panel on the back. It’s no wonder it seems a little out of place in the modern world.
The Paradox of Human Performance (YouTube) — Human dexterity and agility vastly exceed that of contemporary robots. Yet, humans have vastly slower “hardware” (e.g. muscles) and “wetware” (e.g. neurons). How can this paradox be resolved? Slow actuators and long communication delays require predictive control based on some form of internal model—but what form? (via Robohub)
Human Traffickers Using RFID Chips (NPR) — It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money. “It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It’s an RFID chip. It’s used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody’s pet that they owned.”
Software Maintenance is an Anti-Pattern — Governments often use two anti-patterns when sustaining software: equating the “first release” with “complete” and moving to reduce sustaining staff too early; and how a reduction of staff is managed when a reduction in budget is appropriate.
Cloud Latency and Autonomous Robots (Ars Technica) — “Accessing a cloud computer takes too long. The half-second time delay is too noticeable to a human,” says Ishiguro, an award-winning roboticist at Osaka University in Japan. “In real life, you never wait half a second for someone to respond. People answer much quicker than that.” Tech moves in cycles, from distributed to centralized and back again. As with mobile phones, the question becomes, “what is the right location for this functionality?” It’s folly to imagine everything belongs in the same place.
Chat as UI (Alistair Croll) — The surface area of the interface is almost untestable. The UI is the log file. Every user interaction is also a survey. Chat is a great interface for the Internet of Things. It remains to be seen how many deep and meaningfuls I want to have with my fridge.
Brain Modem — a tiny sensor that travels through blood vessels, lodges in the brain and records neural activity. The “stentrode” (stent + electrode) is the size of a paperclip, and Melbourne researchers (funded by DARPA) have made the first successful animal trials.
Robots in American Law — This article closely examines a half century of case law involving robots. […] The first set highlights the role of robots as the objects of American law. Among other issues, courts have had to decide whether robots represent something “animate” for purposes of import tariffs, whether robots can “perform” as that term is understood in the context of a state tax on performance halls, and whether a salvage team “possesses” a shipwreck it visits with an unmanned submarine. (via BoingBoing)
Amazing Biomimetic Anthropomorphic Hand (Spectrum IEEE) — First, they laser scanned a human skeleton hand, and then 3D-printed artificial bones to match, which allowed them to duplicate the unfixed joint axes that we have […] The final parts to UW’s hand are the muscles, which are made up of an array of 10 Dynamixel servos, whose cable routing closely mimics the carpal tunnel of a human hand. Amazing detail!
Life Insurance Can Gattaca You (FastCo) — “Unfortunately after carefully reviewing your application, we regret that we are unable to provide you with coverage because of your positive BRCA 1 gene,” the letter reads. In the U.S., about one in 400 women have a BRCA 1 or 2 gene, which is associated with increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Nissan’s Self-Parking Office Chairs — clever hack, but thought-provoking: will we have an auto-navigating office chair before the self-driving auto revolution arrives? Because, you know, my day isn’t sedentary enough as it is …
The Man Behind the Robot Revolution — profile of the man behind Willow Garage. Why he and it are interesting: Although the now defunct research-lab-startup hybrid might not ring any bells to you now, it was one of the most influential forces in modern robotics. The freewheeling robot collective jump-started the current race to apply robotics components like computer vision, manipulation, and autonomy into applications for everything from drones and autonomous cars to warehouse operations at places like Google, Amazon, and car companies like BMW. Google alone acquired three of the robot companies spawned by Willow.
NSA’s Lousy Evaluation of Drone Strike Algorithm Effectiveness (Ars Technica) — vastly overstating the quality of the predictions. The 0.008% false positive rate would be remarkably low for traditional business applications. This kind of rate is acceptable where the consequences are displaying an ad to the wrong person, or charging someone a premium price by accident. However, even 0.008% of the Pakistani population still corresponds to 15,000 people potentially being misclassified as “terrorists” and targeted by the military—not to mention innocent bystanders or first responders who happen to get in the way. Security guru Bruce Schneier agreed. “Government uses of big data are inherently different from corporate uses,” he told Ars. “The accuracy requirements mean that the same technology doesn’t work. If Google makes a mistake, people see an ad for a car they don’t want to buy. If the government makes a mistake, they kill innocents.” (via Cory Doctorow)
Washers and Screws (YouTube) — this chap is making his own clock from scratch, and here he is making his own washers and screws. Sometimes another person’s obsession can be calming. (via Greg Sadetsky)
ROScon 2015 Recap with Videos (Robohub) — Shuttleworth suggests that robotics developers really need two things at this point: a robust Internet of Things infrastructure, followed by the addition of dynamic mobility that robots represent. However, software is a much more realistic business proposition for a robotics startup, especially if you leverage open source to create a developer community around your product and let others innovate through what you’ve built.
Getting Deep Speech to Work in Mandarin (Baidu SVAIL) — TIL that some of the preprocessing traditionally used in speech-to-text systems throws away pitch information necessary to decode tonal languages like Mandarin. Deep Speech doesn’t use specialized features like MFCCs. We train directly from the spectrogram of the input audio signal. The spectrogram is a fairly general representation of an audio signal. The neural network is able to learn directly which information is relevant from the input, so we didn’t need to change anything about the features to move from English speech recognition to Mandarin speech recognition. Their model works better than humans at decoding short text such as queries.