What we get wrong about technology

The point of this article will be clear to anyone struggling to use new technology in current processes.

The article stops short of future predictions but the insights from the past are illuminating.

To become really transformative, Electricity required the reinvention of the the manufacturing process, worker skills, factory architecture and more. Just sticking an electric motor where a steam engine originally was, did very little.

The same way that replacing a typewriter with Email and Microsoft Word actually does very little in real terms.

Source: What we get wrong about technology — ft.com

Garbage in, Garbage out

Machine learns racial and gender biases embedded in human data.

Lets not assume AI will be evil or wise. AI see, AI do, like any monkey. At some point it may grow up and learn ‘good’ from ‘bad’ but thats debatable.

Machine learning algorithms are picking up deeply ingrained race and gender prejudices concealed within the patterns of language that humans commonly use, scientists say.

For instance, in the mathematical “language space”, words for flowers are clustered closer to words linked to pleasantness, while words for insects are closer to words linked to unpleasantness, reflecting common views on the relative merits of insects versus flowers.

The latest paper shows that some more troubling implicit biases seen in human psychology experiments are also readily acquired by algorithms. The words “female” and “woman” were more closely associated with arts and humanities occupations and with the home, while “male” and “man” were closer to maths and engineering professions.

And the AI system was more likely to associate European American names with pleasant words such as “gift” or “happy”, while African American names were more commonly associated with unpleasant words.

Source: AI programs exhibit racial and gender biases, research reveals

Who needs CGI?

Stan Draws Spaceships – Beautifully

This deceptively simple hand-drawn animation, created out of passion, has more beautiful scene framing, composition, perspective and cuts, all of which is sync’d beautifully with the narrative, bringing the subject alive.

Most of the heavy Computer generated graphics animations you typically see don’t even come close, relying more on graphic detail, than storytelling.

Goes to show that knowing how to use a tool – typewriter, paintbrush, graphics software – doesn’t make you a storyteller.

Blockchain cuts out the Middleman

The Internet decentralised information. The Blockchain will decentralise transactions.

“a 1% transaction fee may not seem like much, but down a 15-step supply chain, it adds up. […] The decentralization that blockchain provides would change that, which could have huge possible impacts for economies in the developing world”

Source: The Promise of Blockchain Is a World Without Middlemen

Arriving with Cows

A small bit of dialogue from the wonderfully satisfying movie ‘Arrival’ that i didn’t quite catch while watching, was about the Sanskrit word for “war” and its etymology.

One linguist thinks the word, gavisti, comes from “argument,” when the right answer is “a desire for more cows.”

Now as an Indian, this was a bit of an eye-rolling moment. I mean yes we revere the cow, traditionally to the point of the proverbial holy cow.

But would the culture that produced a war epic like the ‘Mahabharat’ really call it an argument for cows? The war was over land and kingship, rule of law and righteousness. It makes the whole thing sound a bit silly when described as ‘a desire for more cows’.

Then this LA Review of Books article mentions the little detail in passing, that “war” has a fundamentally pecuniary meaning.

And pecuniary meaning ‘relating to or concerning money’ comes from the Latin pecu, meaning — wait for it — cattle.

So yeah. Thats a little bit of anthropological history embedded in language like layers of sediment, or the rings of a tree.

Source: What We’ve Got Here: “Arrival” – Los Angeles Review of Books

The Great Wall of India

Source: The Wall – Medium

 Speaking of silly walls across countries these days…this is one of the most delightfully absurd things I’ve read in a while.

Who knew that in the 1800’s the British built a 12 foot high wall (giant thorny hedge really) across India to stop the smuggling of salt, opium, cannabis, sugar and who knows what else and —  wait for it — made the Indians pay for it.
 
By 1872, the Line had a staff of 14,000 people taking care of it!
The Wikipedia page on this ‘Inland Customs line’ is breathtaking.
 
In another truth-is-stranger-than-fiction detail, the engineer behind it was AO Hume, who also helped in later years to found the INC (probably when he came to his senses.)