- At The Big Picture, the Boston Globe shares some of its best photos from September.
- Drone 360 notes that drones are being used to track polar bear populations.
- The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas notes how people too often abandon moral responsibility to the machines which administer algorithms with real-world consequences.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the remarkable story of hockey star Jaromir Jagr.
- The Map Room Blog shares an official guide to map-making from Austria-Hungary.
- The NYR Daily notes how official Myanmar has invented Rohingya violent extremism out of practically nothing.
- Roads and Kingdoms shows readers where you can eat kosher in Mexico City.
- Whatever's John Scalzi shares a tweetstorm of his talking about the problems with daily word totals for writers.
- Universe Today reports on the potential game-changing nature of a hyperloop connecting Toronto and Montréal.
- Hacking of the brain is an obvious risk of two-way brain/Internet interfaces. From VICE.
- Puerto Rico's ongoing economic crisis has only been worsened by Hurricane Maria. Bloomberg reports.
- The problem with the German economy, strong as it may be now, is that not enough has been invested in the future. Bloomberg warns.
- Neanderthals, like contemporary humans, had the sort of prolonged childhoods which lend themselves to intelligence. National Geographic reports.
- The cool chill water of oceans is starting to be used to cool data centres. VICE reports.
- Brazil is set to embark on a substantial process to restore Amazonian rainforest. VICE reports.
- The Dawn probe found evidence of subsurface ice on rocky asteroid-belt protoplanet Vesta. Universe Today reports.
- At least nine exoplanets now known to us could detect the Earth if inhabited by civilizations with our tech levels. Motherboard reports.
- Ernie Smith examines how the CD-ROM, that ephemeral media preceding the Internet, killed off the classical encyclopedia of our youth.
- Are robots, and roboticization, practical solutions to falling working-age populations? Joseph Chamie is unconvinced, at the Inter Press Service.
- The Volokh Conspiracy looks at the remarkable new algorithms which can distinguish between straights and LGBTQ people via facepics.
- James Bow writes about the latest computer purchase he has made.
- Far Outliers notes the scarily minimalist goals of the American occupation in early post-war Japan.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that The Nation is not exactly covering itself in glory with its pro-Putin coverage of late.
- Drew Rowsome quite likes the new musical endeavours of Adore Delano.
- Starts With A Bang's Ethan Siegel notes how stars--and which stars--make elements heavier than iron.
- Transit Toronto notes the impending partial resumption of streetcar service on Queen Street.
- Dangerous Minds points readers to Cindy Sherman's Instagram account. ("_cindysherman_", if you are interested.)
- Language Hat takes note of a rare early 20th century Judaeo-Urdu manuscript.
- Language Log lists some of the many, many words and phrases banned from Internet usage in China.
- The argument made at Lawyers, Guns and Money about Trump's many cognitive defects is frightening. How can he be president?
- The LRB Blog <"a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/
08/03/lynsey-hanley/labour-and- traditional-voters/">notes that many traditional Labour voters, contra fears, are in fact willing to vote for non-ethnocratic policies.
- The NYR Daily describes a book of photos with companion essays by Teju Cole that I like.
- Of course, as Roads and Kingdom notes, there is such a thing as pho craft beer in Vietnam.
- Peter Rukavina notes
- Towleroad notes a love duet between Kele Okereke and Olly Alexander.
- The Volokh Conspiracy seems unconvinced by the charges against Kronos programmer Marcus Hutchins.
- 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.