by Stephen Downes
Feb 21, 2017
After reading this I was motivated to look up how a toilet works on YouTube. I'm fairly confident I understand the mechanics, but I don't really have an explanation. Why doesn't the bowl simple lose water when the flapper is opened; why does the water rush out as though it is being sucked out of the toilet? Everything in the toilet is actually pulled uphill. I think it has something to do with pressure differentials or gravity (the way a siphon does) but I'm not sure, and the videos didn't help me. And that's why this article is interesting. Knowing the facts doesn't give me the explanation, which is why a mere presentation of the facts doesn't change (or inform) opinions. "Confronting and working through the complicated details of an issue... may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes."
This is a pretty good overview of the current bot ecosystem (which contains far more than bots) along with a good graphic drawing out the major contenders and relations between them. "Bots use artificial intelligence to converse in human terms, usually through a lightweight messaging interface like Slack or Facebook Messenger, or a voice interface like Amazon Echo or Google Assistant. Since late 2015, bots have been the subject of immense excitement in the belief that they might replace mobile apps for many tasks and provide a flexible and natural interface for sophisticated AI technology."
If a library isn't really useful for storing books any more (because who needs books when entire libraries can be stored on a single flash drive?) then what can we do with the space? In this article Robert Schuetz suggests using it to create a makerspace (what we used to call a project room, workshop or lab). "School media centers provide open, flexible space," he writes. "Collaboration, interaction, and hands-on engagement need space for versatility and movement. Visible, transparent learning will ignite curiosity and interest from teachers and students." At a time when governments are closing schools maybe they should be thinking of providing better community support instead.
I spent an hour last night searching for a planet. I did not discover one. I did, however, look at lot of bad photographs of stars (at least, to me they were bad photographs; they might be state of the art for all I know). It's a project called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. Basically they show you sequences of four photos from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope. Spot the moving dot and you win the prize of being the person to discover the mysterious tenth planet. What's interesting about this project is that it requires the human eye (and human pattern detection).
Celebrating the fail is the new win. This is the core value being embraced by 4chan members, alt-right supporters and Trump voters. That's the thesis of this insightful and well-argued essay by almost-loser Dale Beran in this long but engaging read. Those who hold to the (often empty) promise higher education offers should consider this perspective. It forms part of the narrative of failure that defines a substantial body of young men, the same men who constitute things like Anonymous and Gamergate. I am not sympathetic with the 4chan perspective, but I can understand it, having lived through the same broken promises, the same periods of extended unemployment, the same challenges and the same frustrations. But instead of embracing failure I embraced diversity and equality, and found myself a cause to fight for.
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