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Biweekly links for 10/24/2008

by Michael Nielsen on October 24, 2008
  • Charlie’s Diary: Living through Interesting Times
    • Sobering, as an author who is writing a book about “The Future of Science”: “There’s a graph I’d love to plot, but I don’t have the tools for. The X-axis would plot years since, say, 1950. The Y-axis would be a scatter plot with error bars showing the deviation from observed outcomes of a series of rolling ten-year projections modeling the near future. Think of it as a meta-analysis of the accuracy of projections spanning a fixed period, to determine whether the future is becoming easier or harder to get right. I’m pretty sure that the error bars grow over time, so that the closer to our present you get, the wider the deviation from the projected future would be. Right now the error bars are gigantic… We’re living through interesting times”
  • BBC NEWS | Japanese plant writes blog
    • “A potted plant at a cafe near Tokyo, Japan is entertaining customers by writing a regular blog about its feelings… The plant’s latest entry reads: “It was cloudy today. It was a cold day.” “
  • Charlie’s Diary: On finishing
    • Charlie Stross: “Creativity is a weird thing. You can plod along a steep uphill road for months, or it can hit you like an express train. I’ve learned to go with the flow when this happens: if a story wants to escape it’s best to let it out, to go with the flow and worry about cleaning up the schedule afterwards. Once you pass forty, it doesn’t seem to happen so often. This is the first such novel-length outburst I’ve had since I wrote the first draft of “Glasshouse”, back in 2003, and I hope to live long enough to experience it again some time …”
  • Usain Bolt: It’s Just Not Normal – Freakonomics
  • Robert Calliau: A Short History of the Web
    • A useful history. I found this tidbit amusing: “The Hypertext’91 conference (San Antonio) allows us a “poster” presentation (but does not see any use of discussing large, networked hypertext systems…). “
  • Doug Engelbart: The Demo
    • Engelbart’s legendary 1968 demo, demonstrating networked hypertext, and loads of other stuff.
  • molly irwin: the present
    • Wonderful project in recording one’s own life.
  • The Coming of Age of E-Prints in the Literature of Physics
    • Nothing here will come as news to physicists, but it’s interesting to see it all measured, albeit a few years ago: “Examination of the role of e-prints in physics literature was conducted by citation analysis… The data from SPIRES-HEP indicates that e-prints are used to a greater extent by physicists than previously measured and that e-prints have become an integral and valid component of the literature of physics. “
  • Digg’s Recent Bans and the Limits of Crowdsourcing – Mashable
    • Most decision-making systems are susceptible to gaming, and online systems like Digg are no exception. This article has a lot of interesting material about Digg’s fight against people who game the system. I don’t buy the article’s line that this is being done purely to serve Digg’s VC masters, but there’s tons of great stuff in here anyway.
  • Crowdsourcing: The Tools of Globalization
    • A great InnoCentive success story: “ASSET … is a non-profit organization that helps train the children of sex workers and girls rescued from trafficking, in technology, so they can escape the sex slave industry in India… For ASSET to spread to rural India, they not only needed equipment and funding, but a way to allow IT companies to open branches in such areas. And to do that they needed power. And for power they needed electricity. Or did they?… What if the hardware needed to open shop could be run off solar energy? At this point another non-prof, Global Giving, connected ASSET to the Rockefeller Foundation, which agreed to pay to post the problem to InnoCentive’s site. Several months later some 27 solutions had been submitted. The “challenge” called for the design of a solar-powered wireless router composed of low-cost, readily available hardware and software components.”
  • Crowdsourcing: The Pitfalls of Citizen Journalism
    • “CNN wanted to give its viewers a voice. Instead it provided stock manipulators with one. Nice.”
  • Kevin Kelly: Deep Fun
    • “Directions for about 25 well-proven games for groups are succinctly supplied by this free PDF book. These games originated in church youth groups, but I’ve seen them used at camps, large family gatherings, company retreats, and even a few tech meetings. They are aimed at building community, and are primarily ones that can be run indoors. I’ve played a number of these games as an adult over the years and they really are deep fun. It is amazing how fast you can unleash your inner kindergartner. Some of this group fun, like Silent Football, have been around since ancient youth camp times. I wish more folks would enliven their stuffy meetings and offsites with a few of these games.”
  • Kevin Kelly: Thinkism
    • The best argument against the singularity that I’ve seen. Basically, Kelly’s point is that there are certain actions an AI may wish to undertake that have inescapably long natural timescales. E.g., if the AI needs neutron decay for some reason (goodness knows what) it’s just going to need to wait 12 minutes, like the rest of us. I don’t entirely buy this – there’s a great deal that “thinkism” can accomplish, and there’s a great deal of lengthy experimentation that can be avoided. I haven’t done the argument complete justice, but that’s the gist.
  • Kevin Kelly: The Expansion of Ignorance
  • Old Rules for the New Economy
    • Kevin Kelly on Paul Krugman on Kelly’s “New Rules for the New Economy”. I found the book difficult to read until I realized Kelly was writing as a prophet – someone who glimpses something majestic and grand but perhaps does not fully understand it. After that, I thought the book was terrific.
  • Overcoming Bias: Academics in Clown Suits
    • “Imagine the reception an academic would get if he gave a talk in a clown suit…. No matter how well his work otherwise corresponded to academic norms, it would be hard to get other academics to take him seriously… Academics are well aware that these norms are relatively arbitrary, but usually assume that similar norms do not influence the content of their talks or papers. But I strongly suspect that not only are some presentation formats considered too silly to be taken seriously, the same also applies to many topics. That is, I suspect academics refuse to consider certain topics and theses because such things just seem silly. Academics assume that silly-seeming topics must be unworthy of study, but this conclusion may not really be based on much analysis; it could be the same immediate unthinking reaction they would have to a prof in a clown suit. “
  • Marginal Revolution: China makes major shift to universal health care
  • Personal Genome Project
    • “Participants may volunteer to publicly share their DNA sequence and other personal information for research and education. “
  • The LHC Grid: Data storage and analysis for the largest scientific instrument on the planet
    • Great overview of what’s going on in the LHC computing-wise. I hadn’t realized it, but outside Google and (probably) the NSA, the LHC has the world’s biggest cluster -a a staggering project.

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2 Comments
  1. Hello Michael:
    Thank you for including my project among your selected links. I appreciate your interest.

    Best,
    Molly Irwin

  2. Molly – I really like your project! It’s the kind of thing I’d love to do, but I haven’t yet made time.

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