A few of the many things that interested us this week.
How the products we know got their names. From the New York Times Magazine, an interesting story about product namers and naming. We all chuckle about drug names, but "The F.D.A.’s guide on Best Practices in Developing Propriety Names for Drugs is a dense 33 pages."
Attention is the hard currency of cyberspace. A quote from a fascinating article on computer sensing of emotion from facial expressions, We Know How You Feel. From the article: “There are three major fungible resources that we as individuals have. The first is money, the second is time, and the third is attention. Attention is the least explored.” What's your comfort with this?
Not long ago, Verizon drafted plans for a media console packed with sensors, including a thermographic camera (to measure body temperature), an infrared laser (to gauge depth), and a multi-array microphone. By scanning a room, the system could determine the occupants’ age, gender, weight, height, skin color, hair length, facial features, mannerisms, what language they spoke, and whether they had an accent. It could identify pets, furniture, paintings, even a bag of chips. It could track “ambient actions”: eating, exercising, reading, sleeping, cuddling, cleaning, playing a musical instrument. It could probe other devices—to learn what a person might be browsing on the Web, or writing in an e-mail. It could scan for affect, tracking moments of laughter or argument. All this data would then shape the console’s choice of TV ads. A marital fight might prompt an ad for a counsellor. Signs of stress might prompt ads for aromatherapy candles. Upbeat humming might prompt ads “configured to target happy people.” The system could then broadcast the ads to every device in the room.
God is in the algorithms. "The algorithm has taken on a particularly mythical role in our technology-obsessed era, one that has allowed it wear the garb of divinity."
Machine learning, deep learning. "Does it sound scary to you that Hassabis is envisioning a giant artificial brain that sucks up the world’s information, structures it into a form it understands, and then takes action? Well, it’s kind of scary to Hassabis, too. At least to the point where he acknowledges that the advanced techniques his own group is pioneering may lead to a problem where AI gets out of human control, or at least becomes so powerful that its uses might best be constrained."
Among the disrupted. Great article, must read. "Every technology is used before it is completely understood. There is always a lag between an innovation and the apprehension of its consequences. We are living in that lag, and it is a right time to keep our heads and reflect. We have much to gain and much to lose."
What will work look like in 2030? We'll come back to this later.