- Ant Algorithms for Discrete Optimization (Adrian Colyer) — Stigmergy is the generic term for the stimulation of workers by the performance they have achieved – for example, termite nest-building works in a similar way. Stigmergy is a form of indirect communication “mediated by physical modifications of environmental states which are only locally accessible to the communicating agents.
- How to Write a Git Commit Message (Chris Beams) — A diff will tell you what changed, but only the commit message can properly tell you why.
- Deep Belief Networks at the Heart of NASA Image Classification — The two new labeled satellite data sets were put to the test with a modified deep-belief-networks-driven approach, ultimately. The results show classification accuracy of 97.95%, which performed better than the unmodified pure deep belief networks, convolutional neural networks, and stacked de-noising auto-encoders by around 11%.
- The Consequences of An Insightful Algorithm (Carina C. Zona) — We design software for humans. Balancing human needs and business specs can be tough. It’s crucial that we learn how to build in systematic empathy. (via Rowan Crawford)
Open Source BigTable, Robots Lost, Changing the World, Secrecy Binge
- Accumulo — NSA’s BigTable implementation, released as an Apache project.
- How the Robots Lost (Business Week) — the decline of high-frequency trading profits (basically, markets worked and imbalances in speed and knowledge have been corrected). Notable for the regulators getting access to the technology that the traders had: Last fall the SEC said it would pay Tradeworx, a high-frequency trading firm, $2.5 million to use its data collection system as the basic platform for a new surveillance operation. Code-named Midas (Market Information Data Analytics System), it scours the market for data from all 13 public exchanges. Midas went live in February. The SEC can now detect anomalous situations in the market, such as a trader spamming an exchange with thousands of fake orders, before they show up on blogs like Nanex and ZeroHedge. If Midas sees something odd, Berman’s team can look at trading data on a deeper level, millisecond by millisecond.
- PRISM: Surprised? (Danny O’Brien) — I really don’t agree with the people who think “We don’t have the collective will”, as though there’s some magical way things got done in the past when everyone was in accord and surprised all the time. It’s always hard work to change the world. Endless, dull hard work. Ten years later, when you’ve freed the slaves or beat the Nazis everyone is like “WHY CAN’T IT BE AS EASY TO CHANGE THIS AS THAT WAS, BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS. I GUESS WE’RE ALL JUST SHEEPLE THESE DAYS.”
- What We Don’t Know About Spying on Citizens is Scarier Than What We Do Know (Bruce Schneier) — The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing. Open source BigTable implementation: free. Data gathering operation around it: $20M/year. Irony in having the extent of authoritarian Big Brother government secrecy questioned just as a whistleblower’s military trial is held “off the record”: priceless.
Is it in the bits or atoms?
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
— Arthur C. Clarke
I spent Wednesday at Penn Medicine’s Connected Health event in Philadelphia. We saw an array of technologies that wouldn’t even have been imaginable when I came into this world. Mobile telepresence systems, tele surgery, the ability to remotely detect depression with merely a phone and its analysis, real-time remote glucose monitoring, and on and on.
But nothing in technology surprises me anymore. I have Meh’monia, a condition wherein all of the magic and surprise has been drained out of technology, probably by Apple. Today I expect anything that can be imagined to be possible, available, and to be executed beautifully.
A tiny but powerful computer in my pocket with greater than VGA screen resolution? Meh. Glasses with interactive heads up display? I’ll take the designer version. Hall-roaming robots that bring me my meds and let me make video calls to my family? I saw that on the Jetsons.
On my way home I dropped in at the Penn Museum and spent an hour roaming the collection. Two days later the magic I’m still thinking about is the magic in those galleries. Atoms arranged with human intellect (and vast amounts of human labor) into form with awe-inspiring scale and beauty. Many of the objects on display left me transfixed.
I can believe that almost anything can be designed and manufactured in modern facilities with modern methods, but the idea of a perfect 50-pound crystal sphere emerging from a piece of rock with nothing but years of hand labor seems like magic to modern me. As does a 12-ton sphinx of red granite that was quarried 600 miles from where it was carved.
The technology of our virtual world, which until very recently inspired such a sense of magic in me, has become the every day. And for me at least, those artifacts of a previous physical world now seem like the work of ancient magicians.
Drone Burnout, Middle-Class IoT, ePUB Interactive Fiction, and Minecraft Booming
- High Levels of Burnout in US Drone Pilots (NPR) — 17 percent of active duty drone pilots surveyed are thought to be “clinically distressed.” The Air Force says this means the pilots’ stress level has crossed a threshold where it’s now affecting the pilots’ work and family. A large majority of the pilots said they’re not getting any counseling for their stress. (via Beta Knowledge)
- The Internet of Middle-Class Things (Russell Davies) — my mind keeps returning to this: you know, commercially, that a technology has succeeded when it’s used for inane middle-class tasks.
- First Draft of the Revolution (Liza Daly) — interactive fiction, playable on the web and as epub book. Very nice use of the technology!
- Minecraft for Raspberry Pi — see also Minecraft augmented reality for iOS. Minecraft is Lego for kids, and it can be a gateway drug to coding.
NeoVictorian Computing, Participatory Budgeting, Micro Thrusters, and Geopositioning Accuracy
- NeoVictorian Computing (Mark Bernstein) — read this! I think we all woke up one day to find ourselves living in the software factory. The floor is hard, from time to time it gets very cold at night, and they say the factory is going to close and move somewhere else. […] The Arts & Crafts movement failed in consumer goods, but it could succeed in software. (via James Governor)
- Participatory Budgeting — research shows participation is more effective than penalties in taxation compliance. Participation is more effective than penalties in almost everything.
- MIT-Developed Microthrusters — a flat, compact square — much like a computer chip — covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions. Together, the array of spiky tips creates a small puff of charged particles that can help propel a shoebox-sized satellite forward. You say satellite, but it’s only a matter of time until this powers a DIY RC rocket with a camera payload. (via Hacker News)
- Yelp Checkins to Measure Geopositioning Accuracy Across Phones — By analyzing millions of data points, we can easily see how, on average, different platforms perform. iPhones consistently have the most accurate positioning, with a fairly small accuracy radius. Android phones are often inaccurate, but reliably reported that inaccuracy. And finally, iPods using Wi-Fi positioning proved the least accurate and usually reported incorrect accuracy radii.
Technological schizophrenia is an American tradition.
Steve Jobs and Ted Kaczynski represent the extreme poles of a deep-seated ambivalence in our attitudes toward technology. It's an ambivalence that's been a part of American history, and part of the American psyche, since the beginning.
Gamification is Bullshit, Design for Impact, Public Domain, and Network Analysis
- Gamification is Bullshit (Ian Bogost) — [G]amification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway. Bullshitters are many things, but they are not stupid. The rhetorical power of the word “gamification” is enormous, and it does precisely what the bullshitters want: it takes games—a mysterious, magical, powerful medium that has captured the attention of millions of people—and it makes them accessible in the context of contemporary business.
- Design for (Real) Social Impact (Vimeo) — single best talk I’ve seen on making philanthropy effective. (via Rowan Simpson)
- The Public Domain Review — an online weekly journal dedicated to treasures that have entered the public domain and articles on them. The home page currently features: Boris Karloff in “Last of the Mohicans”, the Boston Revolution in psychotherapy, “Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?”, the Orson Welles audio show, “100 Years of The Secret Garden”, a feature on a 1300 year old illustrated work on the Book of Revelations, and more.
- SNAP — the Stanford Network Analysis Platform, a library for network and graph analysis. (via Joshua Schachter)
A new Pew survey emphasizes the Internet's importance in civil society.
A new survey released released this week by the Pew Research Center's Internet and Life Project shed new light on the role of the Internet as a platform for collective action. A panel at the State of the Internet Conference discussed the findings, driving home the increasing integration of our online and offline lives.