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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