Monthly Archives: November 2014

For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/28/2014

A look at the names of classes taught at ITP is both intriguing and confusing. Some class names are puns, like “Cloud Commuting,” or “Drawing on Everything.” Some are poetic, like “Cabinets of Wonder,” “Sensitive Buildings,” and “Talking Fabrics.” And some are downright incomprehensible, like “Cooking with Sound,” and “Lean Launchpad.” One ITP class, called “Redial,” teaches students how to hack the phone system and requires them to sign a legal waiver before enrolling.

This playful, project-based approach to teaching tech literacy is how ITP itself operates. “I’ve always felt you’re going to get further with whimsy and hope, rather than fear,” O’Sullivan said. The challenge is to get the students to ignore their fear of failure and try as many new things as possible during their four semesters. “The key thing about play,” O’Sullivan said, “is that it makes failure look like a good thing.”

The trend among the students is to take not only what they’ve learned, but how they’ve learned it, package it as a gadget or an app, and release it to the world.

2. How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating An Alternate Reality
With The Google Glass experiment winding down for an eventual retooling and Oculus Rift almost ready to make it’s appearance, the next generation is quietly toiling away to make something even cooler.


“It’s not holography, it’s not stereoscopic 3-D,” he says. “You don’t need a giant robot to hold it over your head, you don’t need to be at home to use it. It’s not made from off-the-shelf parts. It’s not a cellphone in a View-Master.”

The best description we have so far comes from the company’s press release: “Using our Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signalâ„¢, imagine being able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world.”

In an article that largely flew under the radar, John Markoff of The New York Times actually went to see the technology in person back in July. He wrote that he did indeed see a 3D creature floating in midair, through “an elaborate viewer that resembles something from an optometrist’s office.” It’s big, in other words. Markoff also confirmed that the device projects digital light fields onto the viewer’s retina.

3. Fitbit Takes The Stand As Expert Witness

The first known court case using Fitbit activity data is underway. A law firm in Canada is using a client’s Fitbit history in a personal injury claim. The plaintiff was injured four years ago when she was a personal trainer, and her lawyers now want to use her Fitbit data to show that her activity levels are still lower than the baseline for someone of her age and profession to show that she deserves compensation.

Medical research on the relationship between exercise, sleep, diet, and health is moving extremely rapidly. The decisions about what is “normal” and “healthy” that these companies come to depends on which research they’re using. Who is defining what constitutes the “average” healthy person? This contextual information isn’t generally visible. Analytics companies aren’t required to reveal which data sets they are using and how they are being analyzed.

The current lawsuit is an example of Fitbit data being used to support a plaintiff in an injury case, but wearables data could just as easily be used by insurers to deny disability claims, or by prosecutors seeking a rich source of self-incriminating evidence. As the CEO of Vivametrica, Dr. Rich Hu, told Forbes, insurers can’t force claimants to wear Fitbits. But they can request a court order from anyone who stores wearable data to release it. Will it change people’s relationship to their wearable device when they know that it can be an informant? These devices can give their own interpretation of your daily activity, sleep, and moods, and that analysis may be seen to carry more evidentiary weight than the owner’s experience.

4. Flowing With The Stresses Of Others

Imagine you’re rowing a boat on a foggy lake, and out of the fog comes another boat that crashes into you! At first you’re angry at the fool who crashed into you — what was he thinking! You just painted the boat. But then you notice the boat is empty, and the anger leaves … you’ll have to repaint the boat, that’s all, and you just row around the empty boat. But if there were a person steering the boat, we’d be angry!

Here’s the thing: the boat is always empty. Whenever we interact with other people who might “do something to us” (be rude, ignore us, be too demanding, break our favorite coffee cup, etc.), we’re bumping into an empty boat. We just think there’s some fool in that boat who should have known better, but really it’s just a boat bumping into us, no harm intended by the boat.

That’s a hard lesson to learn, because we tend to imbue the actions of others with a story of their intentions, and how they should have acted instead. We think they’re out to get us, or they should base their lives around being considerate to us and not offending us. But really they’re just doing their thing, without bad intent, and the boat just happens to bump into us.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” – Voltaire 

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For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/25/2014

Well, I missed my Friday 11/20 newsletter but I had a good reason… My daughter Olivia was born on 11/19 and I decided enjoy our first day with her instead of newslettering.

Now that she is home and everyone is doing well (and sleep is starting to happen) back we go to the links and thinking. This one is fairly kid/education focused.

Welcome to life Olivia. We are going to have a lot of fun together.

1. How To Land Your Kid In Therapy – Or: Perfect Is Worse Than Good Enough.

At first, I’ll admit, I was skeptical of their reports. Childhoods generally aren’t perfect—and if theirs had been, why would these people feel so lost and unsure of themselves? It went against everything I’d learned in my training.

But after working with these patients over time, I came to believe that no florid denial or distortion was going on. They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life. Parents who had driven carpools, and helped with homework each night, and intervened when there was a bully at school or a birthday invitation not received, and had gotten them tutors when they struggled in math, and music lessons when they expressed an interest in guitar (but let them quit when they lost that interest), and talked through their feelings when they broke the rules, instead of punishing them (“logical consequences” always stood in for punishment). In short, these were parents who had always been “attuned,” as we therapists like to say, and had made sure to guide my patients through any and all trials and tribulations of childhood. As an overwhelmed parent myself, I’d sit in session and secretly wonder how these fabulous parents had done it all.

Until, one day, another question occurred to me: Was it possible these parents had done too much?

2. I Can See The Matrix (if the Matrix were the media advertising landscape). One aspect of Media Literacy in  K – 12 Education.

“Who’s the target audience?” asks the teacher.

“Boys— our age,” responds a student. “They only showed boys in this ad.”

“And the music— it was like rap music, sung by boys,” chimes in another. “It’s sung in a kind of agressive way,” the student continues. “And the words, ‘In Yo’ Mouth’— that reminds me of ‘In Yo’ Face!'”

“What’s a synonym for ‘In Yo’ Face?'” asks the teacher, feigning ignorance.

The class erupts in laughter, and a chorus of replies follow as children call out their synonyms. The teacher flips open the thesaurus and adds some additional words: defiance, bravado, dare.

The teacher changes the pace. “In your notebooks, everybody take five minutes and write down one or two reasons why the producer chose this phrase for the Lego Mini Waffles campaign.” Notebooks fly open, pens get located and students get quickly down to writing. This is clearly something they have been doing regularly in this class. After five minutes, he asks students to read their ideas aloud. Six hands are in the air.

A dark-haired girl begins to read. “The producer wants to show that eating Lego Mini Waffles is a way of showing independence, being defiant.”

“The producer wants kids to think it’s cool to eat breakfast on the run, not with a plate, not sitting down,” reads another student.

“The producer might want to link Lego Mini Waffles with the attitude of ‘In Yo’ Face!’ because that daring attitude is so popular with kids nowadays,” says another boy.

After a few more such interpretations, the teacher wraps up the lesson. “So sometimes commercials can use people’s feelings— like defiance— to link to their products. For your critical viewing project tonight at home, I’d like you to look for a commercial that uses bravado — especially kids defying adults. If you find one, write down the name of a commercial and be prepared to describe it to us tomorrow.”

3. Ask Not What Your Toys Can Do – On Toys Enabling Open Ended Play

The highlight of my son’s speech therapy was always the bag of toys. Years ago, when he was a toddler and the therapist came to our house, he’d wait patiently as she took out one toy at a time and used each to help build language skills. Anxious to boost his progress, I watched her work and wrote down the name of her “tools.” I would then run to Toys R Us—and almost always, I would walk out empty-handed.

Toy stores, it turns out, are the worst place to buy toys. The educational aisle is even more upsetting, filled with battery-operated toys with cartridges, sounds, and styluses. What toy stores (and parents) need to understand better is that for a product to be an effective learning tool, the child has to be able to use it to make inquiries and attempt to answer them. However, in the case of educational toys, it’s the machine that is asking all the questions.

You will go out into the world, and nothing will be fair. It will shock you. You will have to figure out which battles are worth fighting for and you will realize everything in your life will be a choice. You will have the choice to fight or not to fight. You will have the choice to blend in or stand out. There will be moments when you will need to be brave. Moments when you will need to listen instead of speak, and moments when you will need to speak instead of listen- and you will need to know the difference. You will need to figure out how to love yourself, others and the world- in that order. Your heart will get blasted into a million pieces and, this will be one of those moments you will need to be brave, you will need to put it back together using yourself, others and the world- the very same things that shattered your heart to pieces in the first place. You will have the choice to let your defeats, embarrassments and failures define and weaken you, or make you a more empathetic and courageous human being.


“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” – Shakespeare

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For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/18/2014

1. On Innovation And It’s Discontents

As we enter an age of exponential growth it will be magical to some and terrifying to others. Our current present is one in which science fiction becomes reality on a regular basis.

An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less. (Schuetz receives tons of smartphones that are only a season or two old.)

The closure of the failure loop has sent uncomfortable ripples through the economy. When a product or company is no longer valued in the marketplace, there are typically thousands of workers whose own market value diminishes, too. Our breakneck pace of innovation can be seen in stock-market volatility and other boardroom metrics, but it can also be measured in unemployment checks, in divorces and involuntary moves and in promising careers turned stagnant. Every derelict product that makes its way into Weird Stuff exists as part of a massive ecosystem of human lives — of engineers and manufacturers; sales people and marketing departments; logistics planners and truck drivers — that has shared in this process of failure.

Hat tip to Jake Brewer (@jakebrewer) for the link.

2. On The Rise Of Freelance Cyber-Mercenaries And The Military-Internet Complex

 Endgame is one of a small but growing number of boutique cyber mercenaries that specialize in what security professionals euphemistically call “active defense.” It’s a somewhat misleading term, since this kind of defense doesn’t entail just erecting firewalls or installing antivirus software. It can also mean launching a pre-emptive or retaliatory strike. Endgame doesn’t conduct the attack, but the intelligence it provides can give clients the information they need to carry out their own strikes. It’s illegal for a company to launch a cyberattack, but not for a government agency. According to three sources familiar with Endgame’s business, nearly all of its customers are U.S. government agencies. According to security researchers and former government officials, one of Endgame’s biggest customers is the National Security Agency. The company is also known to sell to the CIA, Cyber Command, and the British intelligence services. But since 2013, executives have sought to grow the company’s commercial business and have struck deals with marquee technology companies and banks.

To date, no American company has been willing to say that it engages in offensive cyber operations designed to steal information or destroy an adversary’s system. But former intelligence officials say “hack-backs”—that is, breaking into the intruder’s computer, which is illegal in the United States—are occurring, even if they’re not advertised. “It is illegal. It is going on,” says a former senior NSA official, now a corporate consultant. “It’s happening with very good legal advice. But I would not advise a client to try it.”

3. On The Rise And Fall Of John DeLorean

By 1999 John DeLorean was bankrupt and swimming in $85 million debt, but he still hoped that his namesake De Lorean car would eventually come back into style. The thought wasn’t entirely absurd – Volkswagen was enjoying phenomenal success with its ‘new’ Beetle and the retro-styled PT Cruiser was a hit for Chrysler. Then again the De Lorean Motor Company’s signature car, the DMC-12, only had a ten to 11-month run of less than 9,000 cars. In other words, the 1982 De Lorean car was retro by 1983. By 1985 the De Lorean was a joke in Back to the Future, so dated it made for a perfect time machine.

The timeline of DeLorean’s personal history is so tied to the history of automobiles that, even after his death in 2005 (at age 80, after suffering complications from a stroke), his various supporters and detractors are still debating his accomplishments and foibles. Both lists are long. Some argue for the flashy and obvious, such as the DMC-12’s gull-wing doors and rust proof stainless steel body. Others point to a design accomplishment that is far more ubiquitous but rarely attributed to DeLorean: the lane-change turn signal.

4. On Comcast, Net-Neutrality, Hot Dogs, and Oligopoly

This is an excellent write up on how the free market system works and how it has broken down when it comes to ISPs. I do wish it were written a little more politically neutral and less “us vs. them”, but oh well. Adoption of anything into the class of utility has been contested over time. The Internet is a utility for today’s population.

This practice is not only new; until this year, it was also considered illegal.  One of the basic design principles of the World Wide Web (according to its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee) is the idea that network owners may charge individuals to access their networks, and may charge them for data use, but, once individuals are on the network, the network must treat all data equally.  Comcast cannot decide to delay your download of a YouTube video in order to make more room on the network for your neighbor to download the same video from; you both paid equally for network access for the same amount of data, so the network must treat your data equally.  Without this principle, much of the internet breaks down.  It stops being an open network facilitated by service providers – who merely connect you to whatever data you want, anywhere on the network – but becomes a closed network shaped and ultimately controlled by service providers – who drive you toward a limited number of ISP-owned services and content streams that wouldn’t surive in the online free market free-for-all we have today.  That principle – a core design at the very heart of the World Wide Web and all the brilliant competition and innovation that has come from it – is called Network Neutrality.

“Everyone can read. The illiterate of the 21st century will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

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For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/14/2014

Marcy put it more bluntly: “Everybody,” he said, “said I was crazy.”

Fast-forward to February of 2014, when NASA’s Kepler mission announced the discovery of 715 (715!) exoplanets. (A “planet bonanza,” NASA called it.) The new-to-us bodies orbit more than 300 stars. At least some of them—like Kepler 186-f—are strikingly similar to Earth.

Kepler launched in 2009, with a mission to survey more than 100,000
stars that are similar to our sun for the fluctuations in brightness that may be produced by planetary transits. The goal was to obtain an estimate of the percentage of stars with potentially habitable planets. And while the Kepler telescope experienced a fairly heartbreaking mechanical failure earlier this year, making it unable to continue the search for new exoplanets, it’s striking how much we learned from Kepler during the short time it operated. We’re stilllearning from it. (Even though NASA couldn’t find a way to repair Kepler,engineers figured out how to repurpose the telescope so that faraway planet detection is still possible.)

Consider Knack, a tiny start-up based in Silicon Valley. Knack makes app-based video games, among them Dungeon Scrawl, a quest game requiring the player to navigate a maze and solve puzzles, and Wasabi Waiter, which involves delivering the right sushi to the right customer at an increasingly crowded happy hour. These games aren’t just for play: they’ve been designed by a team of neuroscientists, psychologists, and data scientists to suss out human potential. Play one of them for just 20 minutes, says Guy Halfteck, Knack’s founder, and you’ll generate several megabytes of data, exponentially more than what’s collected by the SAT or a personality test. How long you hesitate before taking every action, the sequence of actions you take, how you solve problems—all of these factors and many more are logged as you play, and then are used to analyze your creativity, your persistence, your capacity to learn quickly from mistakes, your ability to prioritize, and even your social intelligence and personality. The end result, Halfteck says, is a high-resolution portrait of your psyche and intellect, and an assessment of your potential as a leader or an innovator.
3. Emotional Attachment To Toys Is Informing The Design Of Future Robots

The Furby, launched in the 1990s, was designed to evoke similar emotions. Furry, talkative and exhaustingly needy, Furbies yearned for love and care. In this Radiolab podcast, Furby co-creator Caleb Chung explains that Furbies were designed to appeal to human beings’ innate sense of compassion by sounding scared when held upside down, or by quivering at loud noises.

Quaint, you might think, and something that only small children would do. But consider the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who gave funerals to combat robots when they were irreparably damaged. That machines provoke strong emotional connections with us is not the preserve of children.

“Dope is not really a magical boost as much as it is a way to control against declines,” Hamilton writes. Doping meant that cyclists finally could train as hard as they wanted. It was the means by which pudgy underdogs could compete with natural wonders. “People think doping is for lazy people who want to avoid hard work,” Hamilton writes. For many riders, the opposite was true:
EPO granted the ability to suffer more; to push yourself farther and harder than you’d ever imagined, in both training and racing. It rewarded precisely what I was good at: having a great work ethic, pushing myself to the limit and past it. I felt almost giddy: this was a new landscape. I began to see races differently. They weren’t rolls of the genetic dice, or who happened to be on form that day. They didn’t depend on who you were. They depended on what you did—how hard you worked, how attentive and professional you were in your preparation.
This is a long way from the exploits of genial old men living among the pristine pines of northern Finland. It is a vision of sports in which the object of competition is to use science, intelligence, and sheer will to conquer natural difference. Hamilton and Armstrong may simply be athletes who regard this kind of achievement as worthier than the gold medals of a man with the dumb luck to be born with a random genetic mutation.
“What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” – Warren Buffett

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For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/11/2014

Now, there’s a reason why privacy is so craved universally and instinctively. It isn’t just a reflexive movement like breathing air or drinking water. The reason is that when we’re in a state where we can be monitored, where we can be watched, our behavior changes dramatically. The range of behavioral options that we consider when we think we’re being watched severely reduce. This is just a fact of human nature that has been recognized in social science and in literature and in religion and in virtually every field of discipline. There are dozens of psychological studies that prove that when somebody knows that they might be watched, the behavior they engage in is vastly more conformist and compliant. Human shame is a very powerful motivator, as is the desire to avoid it, and that’s the reason why people, when they’re in a state of being watched, make decisions not that are the byproduct of their own agency but that are about the expectations that others have of them or the mandates of societal orthodoxy.

This realization was exploited most powerfully for pragmatic ends by the 18th- century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who set out to resolve an important problem ushered in by the industrial age, where, for the first time, institutions had become so large and centralized that they were no longer able to monitor and therefore control each one of their individual members, and the solution that he devised was an architectural design originally intended to be implemented in prisons that he called the panopticon, the primary attribute of which was the construction of an enormous tower in the center of the institution where whoever controlled the institution could at any moment watch any of the inmates, although they couldn’t watch all of them at all times. And crucial to this design was that the inmates could not actually see into the panopticon, into the tower, and so they never knew if they were being watched or even when. And what made him so excited about this discovery was that that would mean that the prisoners would have to assume that they were being watched at any given moment, which would be the ultimate enforcer for obedience and compliance. The 20th-century French philosopher Michel Foucault realized that that model could be used not just for prisons but for every institution that seeks to control human behavior: schools, hospitals, factories, workplaces. And what he said was that this mindset, this framework discovered by Bentham, was the key means of societal control for modern, Western societies, which no longer need the overt weapons of tyranny — punishing or imprisoning or killing dissidents, or legally compelling loyalty to a particular party — because mass surveillance creates a prison in the mind that is a much more subtle though much more effective means of fostering compliance with social norms or with social orthodoxy, much more effective than brute force could ever be.

Panopticon” by Jeremy Bentham – The works of Jeremy Bentham vol. IV, 172-3. Licensed under Public domain viaWikimedia Commons.

Somewhat ironically Jeremy Bentham was also the founder of Utilitarianism which holds its founding concept as “that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing total benefit and reducing suffering or the negatives.”

2. All Technology is Assistive

Well — it’s worth saying again: All technology is assistive technology.Honestly — what technology are you using that’s not assistive? Your smartphone? Your eyeglasses? Headphones? And those three examples alone are assisting you in multiple registers: They’re enabling or augmenting a sensory experience, say, or providing navigational information. But they’re also allowing you to decide whether to be available for approach in public, or not; to check out or in on a conversation or meeting in a bunch of subtle ways; to identify, by your choice of brand or look, with one culture group and not another.

Making a persistent, overt distinction about “assistive tech” embodies the second-tier do-gooderism and banality that still dominate design work targeted toward “special needs.” “Assistive technology” implies a separate species of tools designed exclusively for those people with a rather narrow set of diagnostic “impairments” — impairments, in other words, that have been culturally designated as needing special attention, as being particularly, grossly abnormal. But are you sure your phone isn’t a crutch, as it were, for a whole lot of unexamined needs?

3. If you give a girl a puzzle

I hold a vision of being an “anti-princess dad” but I haven’t met my daughter yet and I’m of the belief she’ll let me know what kind of dad she needs me to be.

Attack the media and marketing that sell girls short, yes. Challenge a generation of parents who fail to think critically about the media and toys they provide their children. But let’s back off the attacks on girls and how they do girlhood.

There is a difference between a girl-centric business using “girl power” as a marketing gimmick and a business centered in authentic girl empowerment. May I suggest we think twice about bashing the intellectual capabilities of girls who play with Barbies, enjoy fashion and glam, or who by genetic lottery fit the beauty norm? None of those things are mutually exclusive to also liking or being good at STEM pursuits.

My Friends, fashion dolls are not the hill you want to die on. While definitely an imperfect toy that require parents to assist with unpacking messages, insisting fashion dolls are the root cause of the Failure of Girls demonstrates a profound lack in understanding how girls really play and think.

EVERY GIRL has a scientist inside of her. Girls are not the problem, we are. We’ve forgotten how to draw the curiosity out of her, we’ve stopping expecting it from her, and we’ve stopped giving her opportunities to explore it, experiment with it, and expand on it. We’ve listened to what the media wants us to believe about our troubled girls, and bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Girls know better, they are waiting for the rest of us to catch up.

4. Robot Deer Outsmart Illegal Hunters

If only Africa had the funds to deploy some robot decoy rhinos or gorillas…

Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are using realistic-looking robotic deer to catch poachers hunting illegally or during closed season.

The decoys can take as many as 1,000 shots before they need to be replaced according to officials, and operators are able to control their ear, tail and head movements from up to 50 feet away.

The Miami Herald reports that one man was arrested this weekend after shooting a robotic deer that police had set up as part of an operation targeting road-hunting activity.

“He crossed a ditch and walked up toward the fence carrying a rifle,” states an FWC report. “He placed the rifle on the fence to steady himself and shot at the replica.”

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” – Chesterton

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For Your Consideration : 4 Links : 11/7/2014

JC Herz reports on the strange bedfellows to be found when you’re into “measurable, observable, repeatable” benchmarks.

“CrossFit’s a filter,” Dymmel says of the connections forged under the pull-up bar. “It’s the ability to suffer. Are they mailing it in on the workouts? Or are they really working hard?”

By design, CrossFit pushes people out of their comfort zones. The workouts are humbling. This in itself makes the whole notion of CrossFit anathema to people who’d rather not challenge themselves to physical ordeals in public, or perform less than perfectly in front of others. But then, the ability to miss a lift and be OK with it also squares with the Silicon Valley tech culture. “The ability to fail and fail well and be OK with it” is what appeals to Lisa Rutherford, a serial entrepreneur in Palo Alto.

2. When Bad Things Happen To Good Robots

I had no idea there was a place called the Hadal Zone.

“Nereus was lost doing what she was designed to do, exploring the deepest reaches of the ocean with a basket full of samples and a control room filled with scientists interacting actively for the first time with the Hadal seafloor. I am still stunned in disbelief by the whole experience and I feel as if I have lost a child. I’d greet Nereus each morning on deck, and wave goodbye to her as she was released to her long commute down to work each dive. She will be missed greatly.”

3. The App that would end math homework or: “The evolution of the calculator”

Dan Meyer, a former math teacher and Stanford PhD student in math education, summarized this hope in a recent blog post about PhotoMath. “It’s conceivable PhotoMath could be great for problems with verbs like ‘compute,’ ‘solve,’ and ‘evaluate.’ In some alternate universe where technology didn’t disappoint and PhotoMath worked perfectly, all the most fun verbs would then be left behind: ‘justify,’ ‘argue,’ ‘model,’ ‘generalize,’ ‘estimate,’ ‘construct,’ etc,” Meyer wrote. “In that alternate universe, we could quickly evaluate the value of our assignments: ‘Could PhotoMath solve this? Then why are we wasting our time?’”

In other words, we should root for both a perfect robot equation solver and hope that it catalyzes innovation in math education. But, as Meyer hints, the technology does disappoint. The ways the app doesn’t work paint a miniature portrait of what will be so confounding about a world laced with artificial intelligence produced by today’s tech industry.

4. E.B. White’s letter to a man who had lost faith in humanity – March 30, 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

E. B. White


“One technology doesn’t replace another, it complements. Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” – Stephen Fry

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