- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly photoblogs about her trip to Berlin.
- Dead Things reports on a recent study that unraveled the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.
- James Nicoll notes that his niece and nephew will each be performing theatre in Toronto.
- Language Hat has an interesting link to interviews of coders as if they were translators.
- Marginal Revolution looks at Chinese video game competitions and Chinese tours to Soviet revolutionary sites.
- Steve Munro shares photos of the old Kitchener trolleybus.
- Roads and Kingdoms shares the story of the Ramadan drummer of Coney Island.
- Savage Minds shares an essay arguing that photographers should get their subjects' consent and receive renumeration.
- Torontoist shares photos of the Trans March.
- blogTO describes the changing designs of TTC maps over the past generations.
- Cody Delistraty links to an article of his contrasting and comparing Donald Trump to Louis XIV.
- Marginal Revolution shares facts about Qatar in this time of its issues.
- Peter Rukavina describes the latest innovations in his homebrew blogging.
- Towleroad notes the sad anniversary of the Pulse massacre in Orlando.
- Window on Eurasia argues that there is still potent for Idel-Ural, a coalition of non-Russian minorities by the Volga.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell examines how Labour and the Tories made use of Big Data, and how Labour did much better.
- blogTO notes that the old HMV store in the Dufferin Mall is now a fidget spinner store. This has gone viral.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her week in Paris.
- Centauri Dreams notes one paper examining the complex formation of the dense TRAPPIST-1 system.
- Far Outliers reports from early 20th century Albania, about how tribal and language and ethnic identities overlap, and not.
- Language Log notes efforts to promote Cantonese in the face of Mandarin.
- The LRB Blog wonders if May's electoral defeat might lead to the United Kingdom changing its Brexit trajectory.
- Marginal Revolution notes that cars have more complex computer programming these days than fighter jets.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the counter-cyclical Brazilian fiscal cap still makes no sense.
- Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is edging towards an acknowledgement of its involvement in the Ukrainian war.
- Beyond the Beyond notes an image of a wooden model of Babbage's difference engine.
- James Bow talks about the soundtrack he has made for his new book.
- Centauri Dreams considers ways astronomers can detect photosynthesis on exoplanets and shares images of Fomalhaut's debris disk.
- Crooked Timber looks at fidget spinners in the context of discrimination against people with disabilities.
- D-Brief notes that Boyajian's Star began dimming over the weekend.
- Far Outliers reports on a 1917 trip by zeppelin to German East Africa.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that there is good reason to be concerned about health issues for older presidential candidates.
- The NYRB Daily reports on Hungary's official war against Central European University.
- The Russian Demographics Blog notes the origins of modern immigration to Russia in internal Soviet migration.
- Savage Minds shares an ethnographer's account of what it is like to look to see her people (the Sherpas of Nepal) described.
- Strange Maps shares a map speculating as to what the world will look like when it is 4 degrees warmer.
- The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the US Congress does not have authority over immigration.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Russia's population will be concentrated around Moscow, compares Chechnya's position vis-à-vis Russia to Puerto Rico's versus the United States, and looks at new Ukrainian legislation against Russian churches and Russian social networks.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes how Evelyn Waugh's writings on the Horn of Africa anticipate the "Friedman unit", the "a measurement of time defined as how long it will take until things are OK in Iraq".
- blogTO notes a threat to some of Liberty Village's historic buildings through development.
- Centauri Dreams looks at planetary formation around close binary SDSS 1557, which includes a white dwarf.
- False Steps' Paul Drye announces a new book project, They Played the Game, which looks at how different baseball players overlooked in our history might have become stars had things gone differently.
- Language Hat looks at the linguistic differences between the two Koreas.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the exploitation of Syrian refugees by Turkish garment manufacturers.
- The LRB Blog examines the phenomenon of myth-making regarding Sweden.
- The Map Room Blog links to a website sharing the stories of cartographers.
- The NYRB Daily notes the chaos that Trump will be bringing to American immigration law.
- Peter Rukavina talks about his experience as a library hacker.
- Supernova Condensate is optimistic about the potential of Space X to actually inaugurate an era of space tourism.
The Canadian Broadcasting Centre's Ivan Harris Gallery is hidden away from the CBC Museum, behind the escalator leading to the Centre's food court. My attention was caught by the vintage technology on display, by the RCA TK-76 A camera that enabled mobile news gathering in the late 1970s, or the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 that could transmit as many as ten pages of text (!) from the field.
- At Apostrophen, 'Nathan Smith writes about the status of his various writing projects.
- Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling links to an article examining pieces of software that have shaped modern music.
- blogTO notes the expansion of the Drake Hotel to a new Junction site. Clearly the Drake is becoming a brand.
- Citizen Science Salon looks at how Internet users can help fight illegal fishing in the Pacific.
- Crooked Timber asks readers for new Doctor Who candidates.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper finding that the presence of Proxima Centauri would not have inhibited planetary formation around Alpha Centauri A and B.
- The LRB Blog notes the growing fear among Muslims in the diaspora.
- The Map Room Blog shares a reimagined map of the Paris metro.
- The Volokh Conspiracy and Towleroad have very different opinions on the nomination of Neil Gorusch to the US Supreme Court.
- Transit Toronto reports on the reopening of the TTC parking lot at Yorkdale.
- Whatever's John Sclazi responds to the past two weeks of Trump-related chaos, and is not impressed.
- Window on Eurasia notes that the Russian Orthodox Church carries itself as an embattled minority because it is one, and looks at the future of Russian federalism in regards to Tatarstan.
- blogTO notes that TTC tunnels will get WiFi in 2018.
- Border Thinking's Laura Augustín shares some of Edvard Munch's brothel paintings.
- Centauri Dreams looks at the latest science on fast radio bursts.
- Dangerous Minds shares some of the sexy covers of Yugoslavian computer magazine Računari.
- Dead Things looks at the latest research into dinosaur eggs.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that a high surface magnetic field in a red giant star indicates a recent swallowing of a planet.
- Language Log shares an ad for a portable smog mask from China.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with the idea of NAFTA being of general benefit to Mexico.
- Torontoist looks at the history of Toronto General Hospital.
- Window on Eurasia is skeptical about an American proposal for Ukraine, and suggests Ossetian reunification within Russia is the next annexation likely to be made by Russia.
Inverse features Joe Carmichael's interview with artificial intelligence pioneer Jürgen Schmidhuber, who claims that we've been making artificially intelligent programs since 1991. His argument actually does make a weird kind of sense, but I'm far from being an expert in the field. What do experts say?
There's much more at Inverse.
You claim that some A.I.s are already conscious. Could you explain why?
I would like to claim we had little, rudimentary, conscious learning systems for at least 25 years. Back then, already, I proposed rather general learning systems consisting of two modules.
One of them, a recurrent network controller, learns to translate incoming data — such as video and pain signals from the pain sensors, and hunger information from the hunger sensors — into actions. For example, whenever the battery’s low, there’s negative numbers coming from the hunger sensors. The network learns to translate all these incoming inputs into action sequences that lead to success. For example, reach the charging station in time whenever the battery is low, but without bumping into obstacles such as chairs or tables, such that you don’t wake up these pain sensors.
The agent’s goal is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain until the end of its lifetime. This goal is very simple to specify, but it’s hard to achieve because you have to learn a lot. Consider a little baby, which has to learn for many years how the world works, and how to interact with it to achieve goals.
Since 1990, our agents have tried to do the same thing, using an additional recurrent network — an unsupervised module, which essentially tries to predict what is going to happen. It looks at all the actions ever executed, and all the observations coming in, and uses that experience to learn to predict the next thing given the history so far. Because it’s a recurrent network, it can learn to predict the future — to a certain extent — in the form of regularities, with something called predictive coding.
There's much more at Inverse.
- blogTO notes that a Vancouver nerd bar is opening up shop in Toronto.
- Dangerous Minds provides its readers with a take on an upcoming Tom of Finland biopic.
- The Dragon's Tales notes that Enceladus seems altogether too hot and notes that dwarf planet Makemake seems to have a surprisingly uniform surface.
- Far Outliers looks at Afghanistan and Poland at the end of the 1970s.
- Language Log explores the evolution of the term "dongle".
- Marginal Revolution wonders if Donald Trump is guided by his thinking in the 1980s about a Soviet-American condominium.
- Torontoist looks at the Toronto's century house plaques come to be.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Russian media outside of Russia are gaining in influence and talks about modern Russia as a new sort of "evil empire".
Joe. My. God. and Towleroad each respond to the untimely death of George Michael.
Bloomberg View's Adam Minter argues that China's erratic and often repressive official policies leave it poorly positioned to copy, or import, Silicon Valley.
At first glance, China does seem like a logical destination for talented tech workers. For years, its government has offered them lucrative incentives to come to Chinese universities and companies. Its online population is the world's largest, and the local e-commerce market is booming. Private and public research budgets are increasing quickly. Recently, there's been steady growth in Chinese returning home after earning degrees overseas.
So what's not to like?
The biggest problem is government control of the internet. For a software developer, the inconvenience goes well beyond not being able to access YouTube during coffee breaks. It means that key software libraries and tools are often inaccessible. In 2013, China blocked Github, a globally important open-source depository and collaboration tool, thereby forcing developers to seek workarounds. Using a virtual private network to "tunnel" through the blockades is one popular option. But VPNs slow uploads, downloads and collaboration. That slowness, in turn, can pose security risks: In 2015, hundreds of developers opted to use infected iOS software tools rather than spend days downloading legit versions from Apple Inc.
And it isn't just developers who suffer. Among the restricted sites in China is Google Scholar, a tool that indexes online peer-reviewed studies, conference proceedings, books and other research material into an easily accessible format. It's become a crucial database for academics around the world, and Chinese researchers -- even those with VPNs -- struggle to use it. The situation grew so dire this summer that several state-run news outlets published complaints from Chinese scientists, with one practically begging the nationalist Global Times newspaper: "We hope the government can relax supervision for academic purposes."
The cumulative impact of these restrictions is significant. Scientists unable to keep up with what researchers in other countries are publishing are destined to be left behind, which is one reason China is having difficulty luring foreign scholars to its universities. Programmers who can't take advantage of the sites and tools that make development a global effort are destined to write software customized solely for the Chinese market.
The Atlantic's Ronald Brownstein looks at the huge gap, in social and economic terms both, between California's Silicon Valley and incoming President Donald Trump.
The political gulf between Donald Trump and the high-tech community he has summoned to a meeting in New York City on Wednesday might be comparable to the technological distance between the latest cutting-edge smartphone and a Commodore 64 personal computer.
While Hillary Clinton, by most accounts, did not stir up as much enthusiasm as President Obama did among this group, the resistance to Trump across the technology industry was widespread and powerful—whether measured by votes, campaign contributions, or endorsements. The list of tech-world notables who endorsed Trump essentially began and ended with Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and libertarian investor who also bankrolled the lawsuit from wrestler Hulk Hogan that bankrupted Gawker Media.
The barriers between Trump and the technology world span both values—the industry emphatically leans left on social issues—and interests. Trump’s hostility to immigration, opposition to free trade, and resistance to replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources to combat climate change all clash directly with the constellation of technology industries that rely on importing talent from around the world, sell their products across the globe, and have invested heavily in developing clean-energy alternatives to oil, gas, and coal. Tech leaders are also bracing for Trump to attempt to unravel the net-neutrality rules that Obama’s Federal Communications Commission adopted, and to push against the privacy standards many industry leaders have sought to maintain.
During the campaign, Trump in turn lashed Apple for manufacturing too many of its products overseas. Stephen Bannon, the former chief executive of Breitbart—who has emerged as the ideological synthesizer of Trump’s worldview—has touted Democrats’ courtship of the technology industry as evidence the party had abandoned heartland workers for coastal elites. As Bannon recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”
Across this DMZ of mutual suspicion, financial support for Trump from the technology industry barely registered as trace amounts.
- Apostrophen's 'Natha Smith talks about his tradition of the stuffed Christmas stocking.
- Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling talks about the decline of the Pebble wearables.
- blogTO lists some of the hot new bookstores in Toronto.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about some of her family's traditions.
- The Dragon's Tales looks at the ancient history of rice cultivation in the Indus Valley Civilization.
- Joe. My. God. notes the willingness of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation to recognize same-sex marriages.
- Language Log shares a photo of an unusual multi-script ad from East Asia.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the Russian involvement in the American election and its import.
- Marginal Revolution links to a book about the transition in China's financial sector.
- Window on Eurasia reports on efforts to revive the moribund and very complex Caucasian of Ubykh.
Yesterday's issue of The New York Times featured an article by Farhad Manjoo prophesying the end of the "gadget", non-smartphone devices capable of doing anything from tracking fitness to filming underwater scenes. Smartphone technology has displaced it.
What happened to gadgets? It’s a fascinating story about tech progress, international manufacturing and shifting consumer preferences, and it all ends in a sad punch line: Great gadget companies are now having a harder time than ever getting off the ground. The gadget age is over — and even if that’s a kind of progress, because software now fills many of our needs, the great gadget apocalypse is bound to make the tech world, and your life, a little less fun.
Things were never easy for gadgets. The lives of gadgets have always been nasty, brutish and short. One year a gadget would be the Must Have of the Year, and the next year it would be old news. But that was the cycle, and it was fine, because there would always be another gadget.
Then things got even worse. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Thing That Does Everything emerged from Cupertino, Calif. That was almost 10 years ago now. You know what I’m talking about: the iPhone. We knew the Thing was going to be big, but we didn’t know it would be this big. When the Thing threatened to eat up all the gadgets, nobody thought it would really happen. We still had hope that some gadgets would stick around.
And for a while, they did. For a while, it even looked as if we would have a gadget renaissance. “Gadgets are back,” said The Verge. People created websites where customers would pay to get gadgets that hadn’t even been made yet. They called it Kickstarter. You want a gadget? Pay for someone to make it! What a world.
People started making gadgets that you could wear. They started making gadgets for your house, gadgets to control your heating and cooling, gadgets to help you sleep. Imagine that! A gadget, for when you weren’t even awake. What a world. There were even gadgets that would make other gadgets. And that’s not even getting to the gadgets that could fly!
But now the companies making flying gadgets are crashing back to earth. Look at 3D Robotics, the company founded by Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, which ripped through $100 million to start a consumer drone company that ended up not selling many drones.
CBC News' Matthew Braga reports on the slow uptake of smartwatch technology. What is the point of owning one, coming to think of it?
This time last year, tech companies were busy hyping what they hoped to be the next big thing in consumer tech.
Apple had just unveiled the Apple Watch. Samsung was promoting the Gear S2. LG, Lenovo and Huawei, amongst others, had partnered with Google to launch new smartwatches of their own, powered by software called Android Wear.
But today, it's clear that smartwatches haven't caught on with consumers quite as fast as tech companies had hoped.
So far, "there's not a great use case for a smartwatch," said Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst with market intelligence firm IDC, who studies mobile technology. "A lot of what these devices can do, they're essentially just mimicking the phone."
The challenges have taken a toll on some of the competitors. Pebble, an early entrant to the smartwatch game, announced this week the sale of its software assets to the fitness tech company Fitbit, which has been working on a smartwatch of its own. Pebble said the company would be dissolved.
Spacing Toronto's Chris Bateman tells a fascinating story. It's difficult of me to imagine a time when these devices were so very new.
In 1949, a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Toronto began building a machine no-one in Canada, and few in the world, had ever seen before.
The University of Toronto Electronic Computer Mark I—UTEC for short—was to become the first and only functional computer in the country, but first it had to be constructed entirely from scratch and many of its core components invented.
“It will be able to read figures, write them down, and come up with the correct answer to a poser in calculus,” the Globe and Mail told its readers of the fantastic machine being planned by the university.
“It will be able to compute income taxes; to tell the trend of business at an electrified glance; to play a passable game of chess, and maybe even to forecast weather months in advance. Any of these operations will be done in less than a second.”
In the late 1940s, practically all major scientific and mathematical number crunching was conducted by the human mind with assistance from mechanical calculators.
The invention of even the most basic electronic computer (by today’s standards) promised to open the door to a new world of discovery and innovation. Calculations that would previously have taken years could be done in hours or minutes.
“The computer is actually an aid to, not a substitute for, the human brain,” the Globe and Mail reassured. “It will only be as good as the men who operate it, and will be able to do only what it is told to do.”
- Bad Astronomy notes a new census of galaxies finding that there are two trillion in the universe.
- blogTO reports on a new twin condo tower proposed for downtown Toronto.
- The Dragon's Tales reports on findings suggesting Earth barely escaped a third snowball period.
- Joe. My. God. notes that no one wants to stay in Trump's new Washington D.C. hotel.
- Language Hat notes the effort to revive the language of the Miami.
- Language Log notes pervasive censorship in China.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money dissects the idea of "locker room talk".
- Marginal Revolution looks at Thailand.
- The NYRB Daily considers the Bob Dylan Nobel prize.
- The Planetary Society Blog's Jason Davis interviews the makers of the revamped Antares cargo robot.
- Towleroad features a guest essay by Hillary Clinton's honorary gay nephew.
- The Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr looks at the future directions of computer crime law in the United States.
- Whatever's John Scalzi notes that the GOP doomed itself.
- Window on Eurasia considers the problem of melting permafrost in the Russian North.
- Arnold Zwicky engages with an article on gay/straight friendships.
- Astrobeat U>notes the vulnerability of Florida's Space Coast to Hurricane Matthews.
- D-Brief notes that the Voyager probes are the most distant US government-owned computers still in service.
- Dangerous Minds shares high-heeled tentacle shoes.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that a President Trump would enable anything the Congressional Republicans wanted.
- The LRB Blog notes Vancouver's fentanyl crisis.
- The NYR Daily reports on the lives of dissidents harassed by extralegal detentions.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer maps the recent Columbian referendum and finds that areas beset by FARC actually voted for the peace plan.
- Gay porn star and sometime political radical Colby Kelly, Towleroad noted, is going to vote for Trump in order to push forward the revolution.
- Window on Eurasia looks at religious developments in the former Soviet Union.
- Beyond the Beyond's notes the imminent end of Moore's law.
- Centauri Dreams imagines what a stellified gas giant might look like.
- D-Brief notes Ceres' lack of large craters and looks at how New Zealand is declaring war on invasive fauna.
- The Dragon's Gaze looks at Venus analog Gliese 832d.
- Joe. My. God. notes intensifying scrutiny of Trump's Russian links.
- Language Log looks at the portmanteaux used in the Japanese language.
- The LRB Blog notes Erdogan's many voices.
- Marginal Revolution argues that slow economic growth will not undermine the Chinese system.
- Steve Munro looks at the effects of construction on the 501 Queen.
- The Planetary Society Blog looks at the final landing site of the Rosetta probe.
- pollotenchegg maps wages across Ukraine.
- Savage Minds reports how war can fragment families, looking to Ukraine.
- Transit Toroto notes GO Transit's adding of new double-decker buses.
- The Volokh Conspiracy considers the thesis that Trump is a consequence of the breakdown of traditional political parties.
- Window on Eurasia looks at Daghestan's restriction of movement of "potential" criminals.
- The Yorkshire Ranter searches for a statistical link between austerity and Brexit.