Distract yourself from the apocalypse with this article about a laptop with three screens

A nice piece from Al Monk, which suggests more to me that he’s getting older and more cynical, than that we are actually facing a full scale innovation apocalypse. I really liked this observation in particular, about the new MacBook Pro…

…that treats its user with such disdain that it’s foregone the decades old convention for memorable and efficient keyboard shortcuts and replaced them with a tiny screen where you peck at primary functions with your fingers.

I too am not overly impressed by what I’ve seen of the new MacBook Pro, but hadn’t considered that the new little touch strip was in effect competing with the use of keyboard shortcuts which I’ve always been a fan of. In this respect it’s like the strip is a step back in full UI potential. 

Distract yourself from the apocalypse with this article about a laptop with three screens

The Risk of Discovery

A fairly succinct piece on the reality (and necessity / guarantee) of making mistakes on the path toward something great. Also a valuable spin on our perception of Isaac Newton: Classically thought of as a pure scientific genius, but who was also into alchemy and theology. 

In Newton’s day the three problems seemed roughly equally promising. No one knew yet what the payoff would be for inventing what we now call physics; if they had, more people would have been working on it. And alchemy and theology were still then in the category Marc Andreessen would describe as “huge, if true.”

It’s as if we need to believe that smart people are infallible and were single minded toward the truths or successes that they become recognised for. There’s something fragile feeling about knowing the mistakes of the people we look up to. Maybe stemming from the feeling we imbue by default in our parents when we are young. Imagine how scary it would be for a young child to really understand that their parents are flawed and making it up as they go along. Better that we all trust that the people in charge, and that we celebrate for their genius, are truly special, rather than lucky or flukes of circumstance.  

The Risk of Discovery

Curbing the kilogram’s weight-loss programme – BBC News

More on the “scandalous” story about the original kilogram losing weight and needing the BIPM to find a better definition that an old physical lump of metal. Spoiler: It’s nearly been settled that a new definition will be agreed in terms of the Planck constant and two silicon-28 spheres… 


Curbing the kilogram’s weight-loss programme – BBC News

Apply for brown tourist signs on roads that Highways England manage – GOV.UK

That’s the way to do it (regarding the end of this post about brown signs in France)! Good old GDS and British officiousness. And as I wondered for France, it seems like the whole thing is done in the UK by one single national agency:

Once Highways England receives your deposit they will arrange for detailed design work to be carried out.

I wonder if there’s a dedicated design team that does the icons, or just a predetermined set that they reuse. If the former, I wonder how long the design process takes, how many meetings and icon brainstorming sessions they run, who signs off, and if there are any frustrated creatives trying to push the envelope and think outside the brown box? 

“And the D&AD award for brown sign iconography innovation goes to…”

Apply for brown tourist signs on roads that Highways England manage – GOV.UK

The “432 Hz vs. 440 Hz” conspiracy theory

Thinking lots on fake news and, things that have seemed like it for longer that that term has been so popular, and conspiracy theories are feeling of the same basic ilk. Case in point this amazing example. So well deconstructed and debunked here, but look how much it takes to clearly do so, vs. how little it takes to make craziness like this up in the first place. Kind of against the laws of physics, that so much energy can be generated out of from so little ill thought. 

The “432 Hz vs. 440 Hz” conspiracy theory

Snapchat spectacles worn by UK surgeon while operating – BBC News

1. I still can’t get over how much more positive and intrigued the reporting of Snapchat Spectacles has been after the whole Google Glass Glassholes overreaction. "We have inequalities in medical education in different countries – I’m looking for ways we can use cutting-edge technology in relatively low-cost gadgets to teach people everywhere,“. This was on offer with Google Glass, and in a even more functional fashion. 

2. Is it not a bit dangerous impair your view when operating? "We rigorously tested them beforehand to see what the view was like and whether they impinged my view at all. It was a superficial operation and the glasses didn’t restrict me,” But surely any impairment at all is too much for surgery? 

3. Perhaps it’s just the price point and toy like nature that makes Spectacles seem different to Glass? “Since the spectacles cannot stream footage directly to the internet, the operation was captured in 10 second chunks that each took about half a minute to get online.”. Experiences like this make it much more cumbersome, but also make it seem like the user is innovating perhaps, working hard to record and share. Maybe Glass was too effortless and instant. 

4. Maybe Glass just prepared and softened us for Spectacles.  

5. Anyone else think this Doctor looks familiar

Snapchat spectacles worn by UK surgeon while operating – BBC News

Japan tracks dementia patients with QR codes attached to fingernails – BBC News

An interesting use of QR codes. Feels a little odd ethically, but mostly helpful and beneficial for a vulnerable groups of people. Interesting too that they went for visual QR codes rather than hidden / less invisible RFID or similar. Maybe this is just cheaper and the visible nature works well as a signpost. Also more reliable perhaps? 

Japan tracks dementia patients with QR codes attached to fingernails – BBC News

Media in the Age of Algorithms – What’s The Future?

A good read from Tim O’Reilly. Could easily spend a day digging deeper into his references and further links. Some highlights for me (emphasis mine):

The essence of algorithm design is not to eliminate all error, but to make results robust in the face of error.

Accepting that mistakes are going to be made and that issues will arise. Robust is a great word for talking about design. Should be used more. 

But the answer is not for Facebook to put journalists to work weeding out the good from the bad. It is to understand, in the same way that they’ve so successfully divined the features that lead to higher engagement, how to build algorithms that take into account “truth” as well as popularity.

This whole fake news issue has so many interesting angles and causes. Truth vs. Entertainment. Important vs. Popular. Making these decisions yourself, given time to consider and discuss is hard enough, let along writing code that will do the job for us. There are parallels here for me to the dangers of AI that feature at the end of Part 2 of the Wait But Why post about AI. It’s so hard to not anthropomorphise artificial intelligence, and expect it to have morals or understand nuances of what we intend. FB engineers must fully have expected and intend that popular posts would have been good. Crikey, imagine if the Facebook news feed algorithm were to develop artificial super intelligence – search this page for the story of Turry and see what I mean.

With Panda, Google took a big enough revenue hit via some partners that Google actually needed to disclose Panda as a material impact on an earnings call. But I believe it was the right decision to launch Panda, both for the long-term trust of our users and for a better ecosystem for publishers.

Here’s the rub. The bottom line. Whatever you call it. For Google to do ‘the right’ thing, to build trust, and make things better in the long-term it meant they would take a financial hit. They had to tell investors, warm them, practically seek permission to do the right thing. For all that’s said about right and wrong and true and popular, it’s misdirected to blame Facebook or even Breitbart when everyone is ultimately just trying to keep profits and projections pointing upwards. Any solution to fake news will only cost those who make it, and those who benefit from the trickle down economics. Remember, any of us with toy portfolios containing Google or Facebook, or a pension fund with equity investments in similar, then we’re in some way on the receiving end of click bait revenue. 

Media in the Age of Algorithms – What’s The Future?