Re: Cloud-Powered Facial Recognition Is Terrifying

In the posting Cloud-Powered Facial Recognition Is Terrifying a commentator noted that at 98% accuracy the facial recognition software would have 200,000 false positives per year for a typical airport. This is an inconvenience. The terrifying part is that you also have to consider the false negatives. Assume (for ease of calculation) that 1% of the population are terrorists. Within a population of 1,000,000 there are 10,000 terrorists. Within that, 2% of terrorists will not be recognized and 200 of them will be allowed to fly. Boom! It really doesn't matter what the real ratio of terrorists to non-terrorists is. What matters is the human costs of a false negative.

Comment on David Ascher's posting "Am I reading these trends right?"

My comment on David Ascher's posting is Am I reading these trends right?

What if the big 5 are perceived as "magazines." That is, if you look at what the big 5 are doing it is little more than gaining an audience by offering remarkable content. When you buy a magazine you don't think about the conveyance, the staples or glue bound, high-resolution images on paper. The same will happen with tablets and other hardware. You pickup the "Vogue tablet" to read its curated content. And "Maker tablet" to read its. I am sure there will be national and international standards shaping a convergence of software and hardware as these "magazines" accumulate. Just as there is, today, an international standard for shower-curtain rings.

What if the singularity is not centered on intelligence but instead on population

I attending Verner Vinge's lecture at URI on Tuesday night. He talked mostly about the art and mechanics of writing science fiction and a little about the "singularity." Like Ray Kurzweil, he sees the singularity as the appearance of super-human intelligence. He is a little more open, it seems to me, as to whether this is embodied within humans or wholly non-human. (As a side note, I like Jessie Schell's definition where the singularity is the point at which the future is unpredictable because the future changes come, to human perception, instantaneously.) My question to Vinge was
"What if the singularity is not centered on intelligence but instead on population. Nano beings that's population grows (near instantaneously) to consume all the planets resources."
Unfortunately, it was not one picked by the moderator and so I will have to answer this myself.

Act locally

The following is a comment made within Facebook's walls that I want to share further.

At heart I am a socialist. I live in the USA but was raised in the UK. I firmly believe that it is our government's only obligation to protect its citizens, culture, and environment. To that end, education should always be available to all. Health care should be available to all. A functioning natural environment should be available to all. A robust and varied culture should be available to all. Everything else is a means to these ends.

But this is not the country we live in. Since the 1970's we have had a government ever more focused on "job creation". And this has been expressed time and time again as enabling corporate growth and capital gains growth. We have have 40 years of this messaging. That is 2 generations. The message is firmly planted in the citizen's psyche. The problem is that this is a lie. And worse, a bold faced lie if you just open your eyes and look beyond our territorial boarders. We are a insular people.

Since the height of US world dominance in the 1950s the US population has doubled. We had 150M citizens then and now we have 300M. Our focus has also changed from local solutions/problems to national solutions/problems. (We do, after all, have a national, homogenizing media.) A solution for 300M people is more than twice as difficult than one for 150M people. And, generally, whatever the solution is it is likely wrong. As Henry David Thoreau (kind'a) said "why do I care about the weather in Texas when I live in Rhode Island."

So, this is a long aside to my belief that we should not focus on solving our local problem at the national level. We can solve them locally for RI. There is no reason why RI can not have universal health care. There is no reason why RI can not have free higher education. There is no reason why RI can not give economic aid. RI has to make sure that this is all accumulated in an equitable way to past, present, and future citizens. But I feel this can be done.

To do it, however, we have to take action.

Video-game studies have serious flaws : Nature News

Video-game studies have serious flaws : Nature News is a good review of of the studies of video game effects on children & young adults.

"Boot and his colleagues say that none of the studies they examined avoided all of the methodological pitfalls, and that this raises doubts about the cumulative evidence that action video games enhance cognition. Boot stresses that the studies' claims are not necessarily wrong — but although the available evidence is promising, it is not compelling enough for researchers to draw strong conclusions legitimately."

Programming options for kids – Boing Boing

Here is my comment Programming options for kids – Boing Boing

To some degree the language does not matter. What matters is that the kid is ready for the abstract thinking required for programming and that he or she wants to program. My son, then 10, spent a week programming w/ Scratch. He enjoyed it but then abandoned it because there was no relationship between his life and what he could do within Scratch. If Scratch connected to the outside world (think Maker and Instructables here) he would have continued further (I think). Kids think of programming like drawing a specific picture or building a play structure. I do it now and I am done. For them, it is not an intellectual journey.

Basecamp and linking to Google Docs content

Basecamp does not have a means of listing links to external content. It does allow for uploading and so you can use this facility to have links to external content. I needed this for a small project that uses Basecamp to coordinate activities and Google Docs to hold content. The "link" to external content is encoded in an HTML document. For example,
      var url = "URL";
  <body onload="window.location.href=url">
    <p>Automatically redirecting the browser to <script>document.write("<a href=\""+url+"\">"+xml_encode(url)+"</a>")</script>.</p>

Replace TITLE with the title of the content and URL with the URL to the content. (Don't forget to XML encode any HTML entities in the title and JavaScript escape any special characters in the URL.)  Save this document to a file and then upload this file to Basecamp. When a user selects the uploaded file in Basecamp the user's browser will be redirected to the content at the URL.  A lighter weight version of the HTML content is simply 

<body onload="window.location.href='URL'"/>

Why do many programmers insist that non-graphical tools are superior to GUIs?

The Quora question is Why do many programmers insist that non-graphical tools are superior to GUIs? and the simple answer is that programmers work extensively with the names of things -- machines, directories, files, packages, classes, methods, functions, variables, language statements, fields, tables, actions, commands, etc. And so any tool that that lets me use names as navigation to the named thing or things related to the named thing is preferable.