“Soylent is a crowd-powered interface: one that embeds workers from Mechanical Turk into Microsoft Word.
Today’s user interfaces are limited: they only support tasks when we know how to write matching algorithms or interface designs. Microsoft Word is good at laying out your document, but poor at understanding writing and suggesting edits to it. But, it is now feasible to embed on-demand human computation within interactive systems. Crowd workers on services like Amazon Mechanical Turk will do tasks for very small amounts of money. Soylent is a word processor with a crowd inside: an add-in to Microsoft Word that uses crowd contributions to perform interactive document shortening, proofreading, and human-language macros. Underlying Soylent is a new programming design pattern called Find-Fix-Verify that splits tasks into a series of generation and review stages to control costs and increase quality.”—Soylent: A Word Processor with a Crowd Inside
Data tax would work like pollution tax, the report’s authors propose. The report was written by Nicolas Colin, an advisor to the government and founder and former CEO of a digital marketing company, and Pierre Collin, a tax auditor. The more personal data collected, the more tax would be attracted, the authors propose. But more than sheer quantity will be taken into account.
The taxation would be on the premise that the holiday photos of a Facebook user and the search history of a Google user both count as “work” that that the user has done for those companies, because it is a product against which those companies can (and do) sell advertising.
“I couldn’t really begin to say why, but in the process of working myself up to buying an iPad I became slightly addicted to these strange, homemade videos, with their mildly intoxicating mixture of smugness and exhilaration. I started off watching iPad unboxings, and then worked my way haphazardly outward toward the fringes of the technological orbit: to webcam footage of people unboxing leatherette iPhone cases, Kindle reading lights, limited-edition Nintendo DS replacement styluses. I saw a well-heeled New Jerseyite named Lance Linton unbox a Dualit brushed-steel toaster; I saw a nervous and bespectacled Irish schoolboy unbox a Russell Hobbs Glass Touch cordless kettle; I saw a tracksuited and baseball-capped East Londoner unbox a Gamucci Micro V2 Electronic Cigarette starter kit; I saw a pallid old Texan unbox something called a Medtronic Carelink Monitor, a modem-linked device whereby cardiac patients can send data from their pacemakers to their doctors; I saw a young American kid loquaciously unpacking first a stapler (‘contoured for handheld use’), then, in a companion-piece video, the separately-sold staples with which he intended to load it. I saw every conceivable consumer durable unsheathed and admired, I saw the broken labyrinth of the Internet itself, and I saw the face of the free market, saw my face and my viscera reflected back in it, saw your face, and I felt dizzy. Mostly, though, I just saw a lot of Apple products and Sony games consoles being taken out of their boxes and exhaustively talked about by young American men.”—Every Man His Own Shopping Channel | The Dublin Review
“True to pugnacious form, Dimon came out fighting. He took on Paul Singer, the hedge fund manager who has been critical of banks’ opaqueness and complexity, denying that there is anything about JP Morgan’s balance sheet that the public – or the regulators – can’t find out from reading the information it discloses. “You don’t know how aircraft engines work, either!” he shot back at Singer.”—
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is hoping to implement a global infrastructure for storing mission-critical objects and payloads at the “bottom of the sea”—a kind of stationary, underwater FedEx that will release mission-critical packages for rendezvous with passing U.S. warships and UAVs.
It’s called the Upward Falling Payloads program.
The “concept,” according to DARPA, “centers on developing deployable, unmanned, distributed systems that lie on the deep-ocean floor in special containers for years at a time. These deep-sea nodes would then be woken up remotely when needed and recalled to the surface. In other words, they ‘fall upward.’” This requires innovative new technologies for “extended survival of nodes under extreme ocean pressure, communications to wake-up the nodes after years of sleep, and efficient launch of payloads to the surface.”
As Popular Science describes it, it’s a sleeping archive of “‘upward falling’ robots that can hide on the seafloor for years [and] launch on demand.”
“We live in a time when the loneliest place in any debate is the middle, and the argument over technology’s role in our future is no exception. The relentless onslaught of novelties technological and otherwise is tilting individuals and institutions alike towards becoming Engineers or Druids. It is a pressure we must resist, for to be either a Druid or an Engineer is to be a fool. Druids can’t revive the past, and Engineers cannot build technologies that do not carry hidden trouble.”—“The Coming Fight Between Engineers And Druids” by Paul Saffo, in Edge: What should be we worried about?. (via betaknowledge)
The critic Michael J. Arlen recognized the profound moral implications of this arrangement more than 40 years ago: the manner in which, for example, the propagandistic early coverage of Vietnam helped build public support for the war. Like Trow, Arlen regarded television not as a window onto the actual state of the world but a set of corporate-carved keyholes offering fragmented and often misleading visions.
It’s painful to read Trow or Arlen today because their intuitions about the effects of visual mass media have proved so eerily prescient. Our latest innovation, the Internet, was hailed as an information highway that would help us manage the world’s complexity. In theory, it grants all of us tremendous narrative power, by providing instant access to our assembled archive of human knowledge and endeavor.
In practice, the Internet functions more frequently as a hive of distraction, a simulated world through which most of us flit from one context to the next, from Facebook post to Tumblr feed to YouTube clip, from ego moment to snarky rant to carnal wormhole. The pleasures of surfing the Web — a retreat from sustained attention and self-reflection — are the opposite of those offered by a novel.
We haven’t lost the capacity to tell stories. Artists and journalists and academics still work heroically to make sense of the world. But theirs are niche products, operating on the margins of a popular culture dominated by glittering fantasies of violence and fame. On a grand scale, we’ve traded perspective for immediacy, depth for speed, emotion for sensation, the panoramic vision of a narrator for a series of bright beckoning keyholes.
As just a very basic investigative measure, once investigators acquired a forensic image of Bob’s desktop workstation, we worked to carve as many recoverable files out of unallocated disk space as possible. This would help to identify whether there had been malicious software on the system that may have been deleted. It would also serve to illustrate Bob’s work habits and potentially reveal anything he inadvertently downloaded onto his system. What we found surprised us – hundreds of .pdf invoices from a third party contractor/developer in (you guessed it) Shenyang, China.
As it turns out, Bob had simply outsourced his own job to a Chinese consulting firm. Bob spent less that one fifth of his six-figure salary for a Chinese firm to do his job for him. Authentication was no problem, he physically FedExed his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday. It would appear that he was working an average 9 to 5 work day. Investigators checked his web browsing history, and that told the whole story.
Two years ago, Brown attempted to teach Watson the Urban Dictionary. The popular website contains definitions for terms ranging from Internet abbreviations like OMG, short for “Oh, my God,” to slang such as “hot mess.”
But Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity — which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bullshit” in an answer to a researcher’s query.
Ultimately, Brown’s 35-person team developed a filter to keep Watson from swearing and scraped the Urban Dictionary from its memory. But the trial proves just how thorny it will be to get artificial intelligence to communicate naturally. Brown is now training Watson as a diagnostic tool for hospitals.
You might not care much about fine dining or coffee. But you probably do value the skills of the artisan and might well believe that food is one of the ever-dwindling number of domains where individual human flair and creativity cannot be bettered by the mass-produced and mechanised. If so, you should care about the challenge to your assumptions that the rise of capsule coffee represents. […]
Ever since Alan Turing first suggested that we might be able to build a computer with an intelligence that could not be distinguished from a human’s, people have been trying to carve out a domain of activity that must be forever distinctly human. Chess grandmasters were once held up as exemplars of exactly what computers could not do. But after IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated the world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, this was quietly forgotten, and we looked instead to creativity, believing it absurd to think that a computer program could surpass Hamlet or Beethoven’s late string quartets.
With the benefit of hindsight, it now seems obvious that chess is just the kind of thing that computers could do well. The advent of capsule systems heralds pretty much the same realisation for espresso coffee. Coffee-making lends itself to automation, since all the key variables are strictly controllable. Technically, it’s relatively easy to get hold of the best coffee beans, roast them at the right temperature for the right time, grind them to the right fineness, and then vacuum-seal the right quantity for one shot. From that point on, the coffee will not degrade, effectively being as fresh once the machine pierces the capsule as it was when it went in. Then it’s a matter of hiring leading coffee experts, throwing millions of pounds of R&D at a crack team of engineers, and building a machine that will force the right amount of water through the coffee at the right temperature and pressure.
Mazurczyk and his colleagues Maciej Karaś and Krzysztof Szczypiorski analysed Skype data traffic during calls and discovered an opportunity in the way Skype “transmits” silence. Rather than send no data between spoken words, Skype sends 70-bit-long data packets instead of the 130-bit ones that carry speech.
The team hijacks these silence packets, injecting encrypted message data into some of them. The Skype receiver simply ignores the secret-message data, but it can nevertheless be decoded at the other end, the team has found. “The secret data is indistinguishable from silence-period traffic, so detection of SkypeHide is very difficult,” says Mazurczyk. They found they could transmit secret text, audio or video during Skype calls at a rate of almost 1 kilobit per second alongside phone calls.
“Anonymous has set up a WhiteHouse.gov online petition to try and make distributed denial of service attacks a protected form of free speech. The group of hacktivists argues that the practise is akin to the “occupy” protests, with online participators disrupting access to a website in the same way that protesters would disrupt access to a building. Anonymous also asks that anyone jailed for performing DDoS attacks be released and have the charge expunged from their record.”—Anonymous petitions the White House to make DDoS attacks a legal form of protesting | The Verge
“The Bicholim Conflict" of 1640-41, described in detail in the online piece assessed as a "good article", has been unearthed not as an episode of Goan history, but a tale by a mischievous user. Added to the site in July 2007, the entry was only uncovered as a lie by another eagle-eyed user in December. "After careful consideration and some research, I have come to the conclusion that this article is a hoax—a clever and elaborate hoax," wrote user "ShelfSkewed", who found the sources cited also did not exist. The fantasy conflict has been added to Wikipedia’s list of hoaxes that have dogged the site since it was founded in 2001, such as non-existent Indonesian island Bunaka and Gaius Flavius Antoninus, supposed assassin of Julius Caesar.”—Wikipedia’s ‘Goan war’ unmasked as elaborate hoax
Like Bitly, Twitter has a great real-time data set and very smart data scientists and engineers. But instead of relying on a primarily computational solution, Twitter treats real-time search more like a CAPTCHA problem. With this kind of messy data, lots of human brains can find meaning much faster and more accurately than lots of lines of code. So Twitter uses a real-time computation system called Storm to identify search spikes, then Mechanical Turk (Amazon’s crowdsourcing online platform for small jobs) to farm out annotating that data to human beings all over the world. The annotations basically take the spiking search term and tag it for relevance and intent. A human annotator (Twitter calls them “judges”) can tell Twitter’s systems whether searches for “Stanford” refer to a university or to its football team, or that searches for “Big Bird” aren’t primarily referencing a children’s show, but a political debate. This helps Twitter make trending topics smarter and more coherent.
But here’s the dark stroke of genius behind using huge masses of people to help sort out the meaning of Twitter searches: part of the judges’ task is also to match spiking search terms with pictures, events, and other categories that can help Twitter serve up relevant advertising. “For example, suppose our evaluators tell us that [Big Bird] is related to politics; the next time someone performs this search, we know to surface ads by @barackobama or @mittromney, not ads about Dora the Explorer.” The judges are like little focus groups that match intent with revenue.