The world these days


Purchase data tips off babies and divorce

A few old stories (from 2012 and 2010), but the references come up from time to time: how supermarket loyalty programs know you’re pregnant and how credit card companies can predict divorce.

Ilya



  • Bloomberg Businessweek: Germ-killing brands now want to sell you germs. I remember reading about David Whitlock’s experiments with ammonia-eating bacteria years ago and have been fascinated by this ever since. Exciting to see that it’s still progressing.




  • Logic Magazine: An interview with an anonymous algorithmic trader. Some interesting points on how difficult it is to prove your algorithm works, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to: in order to sell your fund, you need a narrative, and simply saying you have AI can be enough. Also, did you know that: “JP Morgan Chase employs 50,000 technologists, two-thirds of which are software engineers. That’s more engineers than many big tech firms; Facebook, for example, employs about 30,000 people total.”









  • Justin O’Beirne: Google’s map moat. A fascinating look at how Google has developed Maps. The byproduct of two byproducts thing (“areas of interest” derived from satellite and streetview photos) blew me away.

Why being mid-digital revolution leads to absurd questions and terminology

Three ways to think about the post-digital age. “In the pre-digital age, products generally did one thing well — whether that was a DVD player, a TV, a magazine — and in the post-digital age everything will work — consumers will move seamlessly between devices, personalisation will be real, data will be secure.”

“The digital world doesn’t really exist any more, Goodwin said: asking a teenager how much time they spend on the internet makes no sense to them — you have to explain what the internet is, when it starts when it stops. “But that has no relevance — it would be like asking us how much time we spend with electricity every day.”

Emphasising the point, he continued: “There is no such thing as online dating, it is just dating in 2018. There is no such thing as mobile banking, it is just how you do banking if you’re not an idiot.

Ilya




Are Meltdown, Spectre and Krack inevitable phenomena of complexity out of control?

This week’s processor vulnerabilities, purported to affect nearly every device made in the past 20 years, and last year’s Krack vulnerability in wifi make me think of Vernor Vinge’s reluctantly posited explanation on why the Singularity may not happen.

Ilya



  • Fizzy is blockchain-based insurance against flight delays and a great example of how smart contracts can be used. The flight delay insurance is recorded in the Ethereum blockchain. This smart contract is connected to global air traffic databases, so as soon as a delay of more than two hours is observed, compensation is triggered automatically.

The discovery and loss of the cure to scurvy

I just re-read Maciej Cegłowski’s excellent essay on the discovery and loss of the remedy to scurvy.

Incidentally, I’ve seen scurvy used as a case study of how theory colours evidence (or directs the interpretation of it) before in Lukas Vermeer’s talk Creating data: a boat filled with sauerkraut.

There are loads of quotable passages, but rather than try to condense a great read into a few snippets, I’ll share a somewhat ancillary tidbit:

[T]echnological progress in one area can lead to surprising regressions. I mentioned how the advent of steam travel made it possible to accidentally replace an effective antiscorbutic with an ineffective one. An even starker example was the rash of cases of infantile scurvy that afflicted upper class families in the late 19th century. This outbreak was the direct result of another technological development, the pasteurization of cow’s milk. The procedure made milk vastly safer for infants to drink, but also destroyed vitamin C. For poorer children, who tended to be breast-fed and quickly weaned onto adult foods, this was not an issue, but the wealthy infants fed a special diet of cooked cereals and milk were at grave risk.

The essay contained two words new to me: antiscorbutic — having the effect of preventing or curing scurvy; and austral — of or coming from the south.

Ilya






Strange Horizons: Freshly Remember’d — Kirk drift

Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift. An epic essay on how Star Trek’s original captain is so misremembered — and why it matters.

It starts off with a bang:

Good parties diverge widely; all bad parties are bad in the same way. I am trapped at a dull dinner following a dull talk. […] The man sitting across from me and a little down the way, a bellicose bore of vague continental origin, is execrable. He is somehow attached to a mild woman who is actually supposed to be here: a shy, seemingly blameless new grad student who perpetually smiles apologetically on his behalf, in an attempt to excuse whatever he’s just said. […] We reach the point of no return when the omnijerk (really I suspect there’s just one vast eldritch horror sitting in another dimension that extrudes its thousand tentacles into our own, and that each one of This Guy is merely an insignificant manifestation of the beast: they couldn’t all be so boring in precisely the same way by chance, surely) decides to voice some Dinner Party Opinions on original-series Star Trek. God knows why. It’s not five seconds before he’s on ‘Kirk and the green women’. He’s mocking the retrosexist trope, but smiling a little weirdly while doing it. His own insufficiently private enjoyment is peeking out, like a semi-erection on his face. […] “You’re thinking of Pike,” I say. “The captain in the unaired pilot. Some of that footage got reused for a later story, which made Pike into a previous captain of the Enterprise. And it never actually happened — it was a hallucination sequence designed by aliens who didn’t know what they were doing in order to tempt Pike. He rejected it.”

The essay is persuasive, funny and rich with examples that made me go and re-watch some of the episodes mentioned. I’ve cherrypicked a few fragments that resonated with me, but you should really read it in full. (It will take some time.)

Why can’t we see what’s in front of us? Why can’t we read? Why do we remember green women, molested, when there weren’t any, and the wrong “three little words”? Why has Kirk Drift occurred, affecting this character and this text? I contend this is not just random mismemory, but a sort of motivated, non-accidental, culture-wide process of forgetting. It’s the result of a kyriarchal tendency in reception and in memory that affects not only the reboots, but even our ability to see what happens in a text. Even when it’s right before our eyes, we can’t see Star Trek for our idea of it.

It’s not just about Kirk:

Kirk Drift is strongly at work in our popular histories as well as our texts. We are always being robbed of our radical inheritance: of black stories, of queer stories, of rupture.

Emphasis mine:

The “Zapp Brannigan says Trump quotes” meme is not in and of itself anything like so directly, screamingly incorrect. It is, however, exemplary of the drift to toxic masculinity that made these ridiculous figures possible. If Brannigan is a parody of heroism, he must necessarily also represent an actual idea of it, and what art reflects it also helps create. The fail condition of subversion/parody is reification. We have laughed Zapp Brannigan right into the White House.

There’s a fascinating contemplation over what’s worth forgetting but ultimately the author makes the case for the importance of a diverse memory:

If history is written by the winners, then people with power will always be the ones who control what is remembered, and marginal people’s truths and histories will be what is occluded. It is thus now. We cannot live without memory (and to do so would be to live without meaning). Given this, it becomes a question of what survives.

Ilya
  • Reminiscent of Lonelygirl15, That Poppy is very Gibsonesque. Welcome to Poppy’s World.
  • Revenge of the lunch lady, a fantastic long read of “how an unassuming bureaucrat outsmarted Jamie Oliver and pulled off an honest-to-god miracle in one of America’s unhealthiest cities.”



  • Rutger Bregman: “We could cut the working week by a third”. Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists, “could yet revitalise progressive thought around the globe. His solutions are quite simple and staunchly set against current trends: we should institute a universal basic income for everyone that covers minimum living expenses — say around £12,000 a year; the working week should be shortened to 15 hours; borders should be opened and migrants allowed to move wherever they choose.”




  • YOLO real-time object detection is pretty amazing.


  • Vanity Fair: The rise and rise of the spornosexual.
    “Vulgarity, like sex, is never ironic. Which is why hipsters, the anti-sexual wing of metrosexuality, hate spornosexuals. Which shades into the general, historical English (middle class) problem with bodies and pleasure. And the particular discomfort with the ‘open’, ‘passive’, neediness of today’s male’s desire to be desired.” —Mark Simpson, originator of the terms
  • Home
  • About
  • Preferences


This category in RSS

June 2019

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

 

 

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

May   Jul

Beared souls

caught together