Despite the fact that there always seems to be a moment of crisis for something, the strength of this article, other than providing an excellent viewpoint, is the reading list at the end.
If democracy depends on informed citizens, democracy is in trouble. This is a moment of crisis for many institutions, including higher education, especially in disciplines such as English, philosophy, and history, which promise to prepare students as citizens. To prepare students for a world where information is filtered by computers, we will need a stronger alliance between the humanities and math. This alliance has two reciprocal parts: cultural criticism of the mathematical models shaping our world, and mathematical inquiry about culture.
Traditional humanistic skills remain important, of course: we still need to scrutinize assumptions and evaluate arguments. But the challenges that confront 21st-century citizens are not always arguments that come one by one to be evaluated. Information is more likely to come in cascades, guided both by networks of friends and by statistical models that anticipate our preferences. Evaluating sources one by one won’t necessarily tell us whether these computational and social systems are giving us a biased picture. Instead, we need to think about samples and models—in other words, about math. Mathematics may once have seemed a specialized scientific tool. But in the 21st century, culture and politics are increasingly pervaded by the automated form of statistical inference called “machine learning.” Students who don’t understand it will struggle to understand everyday life.
Reading articles such often makes me wonder what life will be like for the children chronically absent from school (6600 in Newfoundland and Labrador) and those who suffer from PEI’s shocking literacy rates. It’s not even about participating in a global economy anymore, it’s about understanding the world around them.
During travel between China and Taiwan I was a little too aggressive with my packing and my beloved Apple Wireless keyboard’s aluminum casing got bent, resulting in a duck tape and paper fix to make it level. I’ve been looking for a replacement ever since, especially recently as it has been getting increasingly wonky these past few months. I have a couple Logitech K380’s which are nice, but they don’t have as nice a typing experience as the Apple. This is primarily due to their silly round keycaps which provide too small a target for a chicken pecker typist like myself. I hate Apple’s newest bluetooth keyboard, and especially don’t appreciate its high price.
I’ve always been interested in mechanical keyboards or anything that approximated the feel of the Apple ADB Keyboards of old, but always hesitated due to price. That is until Amazon had a flash sale on the Redragon USB keyboard pictured above.
Initial reaction is extreme dislike. Apples and Logitechs keyboards have a nice slope starting in the front which feels comfortable over long periods. There is no such slope on the Redragon, which forces me to continuously hold my arms at a weird angle. Otherwise, the left of the space bar function keys are mapped differently than every other keyboard I have ever used. Overriding years of muscle memory might be too great a challenge.
Luckily the cost of this experiment wasn’t too high and perhaps someone on Kijiji will give it a new home.
Without going into too much detail, our labrador Lulu is having problems related to having terminal cancer. While giving her a bath in our tub she lost control of her bowels creating an awful mess. After I got her cleaned up and out of the tub, she proceeded to urinate on the floor and on my foot. That’s the ugly sad scene.
During all this I was communicating with my wife, asking her to bring home new bandages (Lulu also injured her foot and it’s bleeding profusely) via Siri on my iPhone. I didn’t want to touch my phone with the potential of poopy hands.
I sometimes use colorful language.
Well, as it turns out Siri made a mistake, but only when I sent the messages to my wife that had colorful language.
Though I have a number of contacts named Sheryl in my contacts app., the mistake wasn’t in sending to the wrong Sheryl. The mistake was in sending to a contact named Carol, which has a similar ending sound to Sheryl.
Unfortunately, Carol also happens to be my former director who I haven’t talked to in 2 or more years.
Under the auspices of Time Well Spent, Harris is leading a movement to change the fundamentals of software design. He is rallying product designers to adopt a “Hippocratic oath” for software that, he explains, would check the practice of “exposing people’s psychological vulnerabilities” and restore “agency” to users. “There needs to be new ratings, new criteria, new design standards, new certification standards,” he says. “There is a way to design based not on addiction.”
While some blame our collective tech addiction on personal failings, like weak willpower, Harris points a finger at the software itself. That itch to glance at our phone is a natural reaction to apps and websites engineered to get us scrolling as frequently as possible. The attention economy, which showers profits on companies that seize our focus, has kicked off what Harris calls a “race to the bottom of the brain stem.” “You could say that it’s my responsibility” to exert self-control when it comes to digital usage, he explains, “but that’s not acknowledging that there’s a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down whatever responsibility I can maintain.” In short, we’ve lost control of our relationship with technology because technology has become better at controlling us.
The Binge Breaker
In 1992 Bill McKibben “spent many months of forty hour weeks” attempting to watch twenty-four hours of television as recorded on ninety-one cable stations in Virginia (at the time, the most in the world). He wrote up his findings in the book, “The Age of Missing Information.”
“We believe that we live in the ‘age of information.’” he writes. “That there has been an information ‘explosion,’ an information ‘revolution.’ While in a certain narrow sense this is the case, in many important ways just the opposite is true. We also live at a moment of deep ignorance, when vital knowledge that humans have always possessed about who we are and where we live seems beyond our reach. An Unenlightenment. An age of missing information.”
The result of months of early morning noise becomes apparent. The above is one of many new electric car charging stations on the NetDragon campus. Small electric vehicles and scooters are everywhere in Fuzhou and area. However they have made it happen, it’s something that Taiwan, and parts of Canada could stand to emulate.
“It was tempting to dismiss the disquiet about the future as a timeless part of human nature. Maybe, as Horowitz suggests, it came from our desire for an external event to unleash personal change. Or as a reaction against living in a world of constant change (source).”
This is an interesting read as I sit here drinking my coffee on the tip of a new year.
It’s hard to believe you’d have an economy at all if you gave pink slips to more than half the labor force. But that—in slow motion—is what the industrial revolution did to the workforce of the early 19th century. Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines. But the displaced workers did not sit idle. Instead, automation created hundreds of millions of jobs in entirely new fields.
This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines. Most of what you do will not be possible without them. And there will be a blurry line between what you do and what they do. You might no longer think of it as a job, at least at first, because anything that seems like drudgery will be done by robots.
We need to let robots take over. They will do jobs we have been doing, and do them much better than we can. They will do jobs we can’t do at all. They will do jobs we never imagined even needed to be done. And they will help us discover new jobs for ourselves, new tasks that expand who we are. They will let us focus on becoming more human than we were.
Let the robots take the jobs, and let them help us dream up new work that matters.
Wired: Better Than Human
A paper by Rafael Ballagas, Jan Borchers Michael Rohs, and Jennifer G. Sheridan.
Mark Weiser envisioned ubiquitous computing as a world where computation and communication would be conveniently at hand and distributed throughout our everyday environment.  As mobile phones are rapidly becoming more powerful, this is beginning to become reality. Your mobile phone is the first truly pervasive computer. It helps you to both keep in touch with others and to manage everyday tasks. Consequently, it’s always with you. Technological trends result in ever more features packed into this small, convenient form factor. Smart phones can already see, hear, and sense their environment. But, as Weiser pointed out: “Prototype tabs, pads and boards are just the beginning of ubiquitous computing. The real power of the concept comes not from any one of these devices; it emerges from the interaction of all of them.” Therefore, we will show how modern mobile phones (Weiser’s tabs) can interact with their environment – especially large situated displays (Weiser’s boards).
The emerging capabilities of smart phones are fueling a rise in the use of mobile phones as input devices to the resources available in the environment such as situated displays, vending machines, and home appliances. The ubiquity of mobile phones gives them great potential to be the default physical interface for ubiquitous computing applications. This would provide the foundation for new interaction paradigms, similar to the way the mouse and keyboard on desktop systems enabled the WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointers) paradigm of the graphical user interface to emerge. However, before this potential is realized, we must find interaction techniques that are intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable for applications in the ubiquitous computing domain.
In this article, we survey the different interaction techniques that use mobile phones as input devices to ubiquitous computing environments, including two techniques that we have developed ourselves. We use the word “smart phone” to describe an en-hanced mobile phone. In our analysis, we blur the line between smart phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), such as the PalmPilot, because the feature sets continue to converge.
The Smart Phone: A Ubiquitous Input Device Paper (.pdf)
This past Monday I had problems with my wireless network which prevented me from having access to the internet. I thought at the time it was a problem with my isp, as I had thought many times before, but playing with the settings created a voila moment, miraculously allowing network access.
Yesterday for some inexplicable reason I could not access a site that I use to run a web app.. In fact half of the sites I use, all on the same server, are unreachable – the other half are fine. All of these use the same block of IP addresses. I can’t continue with the work I was doing 5 minutes before the outage.
Is this the 21st century equivalent of my car won’t start?
Our increasing dependence on complex magical systems like the internet for our livelyhood makes me wonder what would happen if there were extended outages or increased unreliability at just the worst possible moment. I can’t get to work and there is no ‘internet bus’ to take me there.
An interesting presentation created by Applied Materials that covers the basics to making a Semiconductor chip. How could I have lived and worked in Taiwan for years without this detailed knowledge?
Applied Materials, Inc. – How to Make a Chip. Via Core77’s Design Blog
My internet connection here at kelake world hq has been crapping out regularly lately. It’s like a tap where someone is controlling the regular flow of bits and bytes to my wireless network. One second we are blazing full speed ahead, the next nothing. In practice this means incomplete page loads and a constant refreshing of the browser. Not the most efficient use of my time.
This illustrates one thing I hate about technology. Everything in my office, except the printer, has been designed to be easy to use. The technology has been hidden from view behind a gui and elegant hardware screen. But this ease of use is an illusion. The technology hidden from view is immensely complicated and prone to all kinds of errors. It isn’t as easy as trouble shooting a leaky facet (though in Taiwan even that can be difficult). Where do I start and how much time will I waste trying to solve this problem?
Like many I will sit here, curse, and hope that this magical tool will somehow rid itself of all the problems that affect it.
A CBC report from 1993 on a global phenomenon called ‘Internet’. Do you remember what it was like to be online back in 1993? I remember being a moderator of a hugely popular bbs hosted on dana.edu servers. Community spaces were much different then, surprisingly more restrained, and likely partially because of the ‘magic’ of the experience the relationships were far closer than anything I have experienced since.
YouTube is my new television.
Heres the link to the original CBC archive page.
Deadline call for works: 1st of July 2006 – see call
Public Private Interface workshop: 10th to 13th of June.
Mobile troops workshop: 13th to 16th of September
Conference: 10th and 11th of November 2006
Exhibition opening and performance: 10th of November.
In our everyday life we constantly have to cope more or less successfully
with interfaces. We use the mobile phone, the mp3 player, and our laptop,
in order to gain access to the digital part of our life. In recent years
this situation has lead to the creation of new interdisciplinary subjects
like “Interaction Design” or “Physical Computing”.
We live between two worlds, our physical environment and the digital
space. Technology and its digital space are our second nature and the
interfaces are our points of access to this technosphere.
Since artists started working with technology they have been developing
interfaces and modes of interaction. The interface itself became an
The project INTERFACE and SOCIETY investigates how artists deal with
the transformation of our everyday life through technical interfaces.
With the rapid technological development a thoroughly critique of the
interface towards society is necessary.
The role of the artist is thereby crucial. S/he has the freedom to
deal with technologies and interfaces beyond functionality and usability.
The project INTERFACE and SOCIETY is looking at this development
with a special focus on the artistic contribution.
INTERFACE and SOCIETY is an umbrella for a range of activities
throughout 2006 at Ateleir Nord in Oslo.
“Whatever it is called, and wherever it is used, this simple, accessible technology alters the way in which individuals conduct their everyday lives. It has extensive implications for the cultures and societies in which it is used; it changes the nature of communication, and affects identities and relationships. It affects the development of social structures and economic activities, and has considerable bearing on its users’ perceptions of themselves and their world.
This report is informed by the interests, themes, and methodologies of several areas of study, including psychology, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and philosophy. While such interdisciplinary approaches are common to many studies of the cultural effects of technological change, few of the models and hypotheses developed in relation to other new communications technologies can be applied to the mobile without the risk of obscuring what is truly novel in the wireless world. The mobile needs a fresh start and an open mind. ”
Read the Motorola study authored by Dr Sadie Plant (.pdf file).
I’ve been meaning to share this since I first saw these panoramas a little over a week ago. Go to the Panoramas.dk, a truly wonderful site, and have a look at the panoramas for Taipei City on News Years Eve 2005. These pictures are great pieces of evidence of social change on a grand scale.
On New Years Eve 2005 the shopping centers and department stores in the Hsinyi district of Taipei extended their hours, keeping the area lit, for the reported 400,000 people who were present to watch the spectacular fireworks display coming from the Taipei 101 building. I really wish I could have been there.
What is remarkable about these images, and the panoramas are nice in their own right, is how it illustrates something in which we take part in and witness on a daily basis – but we never see it to this scale or degree. A high percentage of the people in the image are all recording the event via their pocket sized or cell phone digital cameras. Technology in this case has become a remarkable enabler, allowing a large group of people to record a special moment in their lives and potentially sharing instantly with an expotentially larger group of people via mms, services like Flickr, blogs, and old fashioned in person photo sharing.
This is pretty special and powerful. If the services remain available and open it goes beyond simply recording and sharing special events. The people become the big brother watching over the “powers that be” with the ability to record and report transgressions – that’s allot of eyes on the ground.
None of this new of course. It’s just seeing it on this scale that blew me away.
It’s a terribly academic sounding title – it’s all that came to mind at the moment.