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Posts tagged computers

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"Re-kindling," plywood, ink, spray paint, and acrylic paint, by Shawn Smith, 2008 :: via Waxy.org
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from "Glitch Trading," by Tim Maly, Quiet Babylon, 8 May 2010

The point is that 60% of stock trades are being done by machines, operating according to a set of algorithms and inputs, which (I’m pretty sure) do not include natural language parsing of the news.

Yet whenever the stock market makes a move, the financial press constructs post hoc narratives that explain what’s happened as a reaction to the news of the day, as if the news is what was was motivating the trades. For example, here’s Reuters confidently explaining today’s nose-dive in terms of various events that made headlines, none of which are a computer glitch. (15 minutes later, Reuters tweeted the alternate explanation.)

This fascinates me. Most stock market trading is being done by machines, but the stories we tell ourselves are about humans responding to new information. You can’t interview an algorithm about why it made a certain choice. In the absence of that knowledge, it seems clear that the financial press just makes educated guesses and acts as if correlation is causation. It’s speculative fiction.

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"Lander," mixed paint and used computer parts (2010), by Nick Gentry :: via Wired.com Gadget Lab
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It seems to me that the best way to instantly raise your standard of living is to live in the past. If you subsist entirely on two-year-old entertainment, and the corresponding two-year-old technology used to power it, you’re cutting your fun budget in half, freeing up that money for more exciting expenditures like parking meters and postage.

The problem is that it’s hard living out of sync with the world around you. Just ask the Amish or Bill Cosby.

Nate:
customer review for Proloquo2Go (itunes store link), 4 August 2009 :: see also "Insurers Fight Speech-Impairment Remedy," by Ashlee Vance, The New York Times, 14 September 2009
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????? My daughter is 23 and has been using augmentative communication devices since she was a little girl. We have used devices from several different companies, so we are pretty experienced. This is, by far, the easiest to program. There are lots of preprogrammed categories, so it is possible to start communicating right away, without doing anything other than downloading it. ... After years of dragging around a 4–7 pound communication device that looks sort of 'clinical', it's really cool to have a small iPod touch and a speaker (all of 15 ounces!) to bring with us. ... My daughter has enough things to separate her from her peers. It's nice to have something for a change that's the same as other people are using. Can't say enough good about it!!!

Nate:
from "Google Books: A Metadata Train Wreck," by Geoff Nunberg, Language Log, 29 August 2009

Then there are the classification errors. William Dwight Whitney's 1891 Century Dictionary is classified as "Family & Relationships," along with Mencken's The American Language. A French edition of Hamlet and a Japanese edition of Madame Bovary both classified as "Antiques & Collectibles." An edition of Moby Dick is classed under "Computers": a biography of Mae West classified as "Religion"; The Cat Lover's Book of Fascinating Facts falls under "Technology & Engineering." A 1975 reprint of a classic topology text is "Didactic Poetry"; the medievalist journal Speculum is classified "Health & Fitness."

excerpt Looks like work
Nate:
from "Lights! Camera! Inaction!," by Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times Magazine, 29 May 2009

Anyone who has followed fantasy football or an eBay auction at the office — and gotten away with it — knows that many of our everyday activities now look like work. Typing and scrolling and peering at a computer, you could be doing anything: e-mail, accounting, short-selling, browsing porn, buying uranium, getting divorced.

This odd accident of life online — the increasing visual homogeneity of our behaviors — may be a boon to procrastinators, hobbyists and multitaskers. But it has some victims. I don’t mean bosses concerned with productivity (who cares about them?). The crowd truly stymied by the merging of human activities are filmmakers. If fighting now looks like making up now looks like booking travel, as it does when people conduct their affairs online, how do film directors make human action both dramatic to viewers and roughly true to life?

Nate:
from "Pitch Perfect," by Jace Clayton, Frieze Magazine, May 2009 :: via NYTimes.com Idea of the Day video via kottke.org

Vocal runs that would sound bizarre without Auto-Tune have become necessary to create some now-common effects. The plug-in facilitates something analogous to a human-machine duet. Raskin has recorded with countless major vocalists, including best-selling rapper Lil Wayne. He says that, ‘99 per cent of all pop music has corrective Auto-Tuning.’ But when artists flamboyantly foreground its use, they sing and simultaneously listen to themselves being processed. Lil Wayne records with Auto-Tune on – no untreated vocal version exists. In an era of powerful computers that allow one to audition all manner of effects on vocals after the recording session, recording direct with Auto-Tune means full commitment. There is no longer an original ‘naked’ version. This is a cyborg embrace. In Cyborg Manifesto (1991), Donna Haraway notes that ‘the relation between organism and machine has been a border war.’ Auto-Tune’s creative deployment is fully compatible with her ‘argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.’

Nate:
"Computer Beats Kerouac, Man," a NYTimes.com Ideas blog post, 8 December 2008 :: scroll video from WBUR

Literature | How would Jack Kerouac cope with Microsoft Word? Not very well, a blogger imagines, for “the birth of the computer has led, largely, to the death of the genuine stream of consciousness novel.” It “allows us to delete, shift sections around and continually edit, in the way that Kerouac, writing on his lengthy scrolls [for “On the Road”], could not.” [Guardian]

Nate:
from "Theses on Netflix," by Tom Slee, Whimsley, 24 November 2008 :: thanks Koranteng

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Recommender systems can increase the experience of diversity. By drawing attention to items individuals have not found by themselves, they can lead to new experiences. But individual diversity is different from overall diversity. Some systems can increase both individual and overall diversity. Other systems increase individual diversity but, at the same time, prompt consumers to be increasingly similar to each other. Their selections then come from an increasingly narrow range of items….

XI

The word “community” is widely used in conjunction with recommender systems, but they do little to build communities. Their use is essentially an individual, isolated act. Groups and networks are as important in the creation and experience of culture as individuals. Recommender systems will play a role in how culture is experienced, but they are not necessarily a strong force pushing us either towards or away from a healthy culture.

XII

Recommender systems only filter culture, in various ways; the point is to create environments in which culture can prosper.

Nate:
from "Temporary Becomes Permanent," by Kevin Kelly, The Long Now Blog, 13 August 2008

Very few infrastructure details begin with the idea that they will last 1,000 years. Strange as it sounds it is very likely that some basic software running inside computers  today will be running in computers 500 years from now. We see that conservation in cells, where very primitive metabolic cycles present in archaic cells are still operating in cells today. All the fancy “recent” improvements run upon them. One could imagine that in 5 centuries, parts of unix will be found operating in servers.  But it is clear that no one would be more surprised than the creators of unix. Most creations, including software, are written in less than optimal conditions. Creators always have the idea that they will go back later to fix the many known imperfections. Of course they are never fixed because the shipped rev is “good enough” — and so the temporary good enough becomes a permanent good enough.

Nate:
a post by Alexander Ross, The Long Now Blog, 13 July 2008

I recently came across these amazing data driven globes from Yale’s G-Econ group.  The one above represents population density, but their tool allows for all kinds of data to drive the topology from average rainfall to distance from coastlines.