Technology Review



Google's New Brain Could Have a Big Impact
Tom Simonite Tom Simonite, Technology ReviewTechnology Review, 2012/07/02

Google's 'Knowledge Graph' project has a lot of potential, but some problems as well. On the one hand, "The Knowledge Graph can be thought of as a vast database that allows Google's software to connect facts on people, places, and things to one another." On the other hand, "'They've released a deliberately closed solution,' he says, contrasting that with Facebook's own knowledge store known as the Open Graph, a public resource that software can use to access information on music, movies, recipes, and more."

Today: Total:75 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Dreamworks Wants to Animate the Web
Tim SimoniteTim Simonite, Technology ReviewTechnology Review, 2011/11/17

Maybe Second Life was just ahead of its time? It's tempting to say so when watching the popularity of sites like Minecraft and World of Warcraft. And now, two more indications. The first is an article about Dreamworks's desire to "animate the web." According to the article, "that push will start next year, when DreamWorks will start to spin out its latest 3-D animation technology into the world of the social Web. That technology was developed in concert with Intel." And in the other story, an OpenSim provider is announcing that subscribers will be able to montize their virtual worlds. In their blog, they announce the opening of public worlds and the beginnings of in-world commerce. Both items via James OReilly on Facebook. Today: Total:48 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Will Ebooks Destroy the Democratizing Effects of Reading?
Christopher MimsChristopher Mims, Technology ReviewTechnology Review, 2011/09/22

I mentioned this item during my talk today. What oh what will poor people do if we have no books? What happens to them if we close down the libraries? "Imagine Abraham Lincoln, born in a log cabin, raised in poverty, self-taught from a small cache of books, being stymied in his early education by the lack of an e-reader." Let's leave aside the fact that you can buy an e-reader with a library of classics for a hundred dollars or so, an amount in today's dollars equivalent to what Lincoln would have paid for just one book. Today's impoverished Lincoln or Dylan would simply walk down to the local Community Access Point and take advantage of the billions of works online (a collection that includes every classic novel, most newspapers and magazines, and of course my own website). How ridiculous to overpay to buy and store paper books when far better access can be provided electronically. Don't be fooled by the publishers' last-gasp locked-down ebooks. They aren't the future. Open (or at least, very inexpensive) access is. Today: Total:55 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Building a Brain On a Silicon Chip
Duncan Graham-RoweDuncan Graham-Rowe, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

Technology Review is often a little too "golly gee whiz" for my tastes, but overlooking the inevitable hyperbole there is still a lot to interest us in this story about the construction of neural nets on a chip. "The hope is that recreating the structure of the brain in computer form may help to further our understanding of how to develop massively parallel, powerful new computers, says Meier." Today: Total:54 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A Musical Score for Disease
Jennifer ChuJennifer Chu, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

"When set to music, colon cancer sounds kind of eerie." That's the opening sentence of this article, that describes a computer program that "translates protein and gene expression into music." Disease sounds disharmonious while healthy samples sound more harmonious. Applications outside of medicine include any monitoring of large data sets, such as those from the stream of information that is always present in air-traffic control. I like startling ideas - new possibilities are just around the corner. -GW Today: Total:61 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Brain Games: Do New Controllers That Purport to Interpret Brain Activity Really Work?
Emily SingerEmily Singer, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

The latest interfaces for gamers are devices that sense brain waves and use them to control game play. Two California companies and their products are described in this article, along with some skeptical comments from neuroscientists. A side use of this technology is the development of software and hardware for people with disabilities to control equipment and their environment. The deployment of technology like this and the Wii remote control suggests that the use of keyboards for controlling computers is going to be diminished in the near future. -GW Today: Total:43 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A Robot That Learns to Use Tools
Kristina GrifantiniKristina Grifantini, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

A robot developed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reminds me of myself at 7 years old. Whenever I received a new toy, I would tear it apart to see how it worked. The UMass Mobile Manipulator, or UMan, "pushes objects around on a table to see how they move. Once it identifies an object's moving parts, it begins to experiment with it, manipulating it to perform tasks." Intelligent robots have been developing slowly, and are able to learn basic tasks. Japan is the leading country in this field - one professor has designed a robot in his own image, and by wearing motion sensors, can deliver lectures at the university through the robot, even though he is miles away. "The robot is a spitting image of the professor, and it even has a bit of stage presence: It can accurately mimic Mr. Ishiguro's posture, lip movements, and vocal tics." I'm not sure this is really progress... -GW Today: Total:53 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Future of the Web
Kristina GrifantiniKristina Grifantini, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

This article from Technology Review consists of 13 different visions of the future of the Web over the next 5 to 10 years. They range from the pessimistic "total end of privacy" to the optimistic "developer empowerment". The most common theme is the "mobile web" and perhaps the most unlikely is "we will all have chips in our brains". Lots of lengthy comments for this post, so it would be a good one to generate discussion. -GW Today: Total:29 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Money Trouble in Second Life
Erica NaoneErica Naone, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

"Well, there goes the Second Life economy." That was my reaction after gambling was banned in Second Life a couple of weeks ago. "Claiming it means the end of the economy is a bit premature," said a commentator. Hardly. According to today's report, following a run on Second Life banks, "the entire Second Life economy--which could affect more than 8.5 million players--is in trouble." Via Liberal; Education Today. Meanwhile, Second Life is still reeling from the drubbing it took as Chris Anderson explains the feeling of emptiness and why he gave up on Second Life. Today: Total:41 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Marvin Minsky on Common Sense and Computers That Emote
Wade RoushWade Roush, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

Marvin Minsky gets at what is in my view the core problem with most mechanistic (and virtually all rule-based) theories of learning: " the kinds of AI projects that have been happening for the last 30 or 40 years have had almost no reflective thinking at all." Right. You can practice all you want, but if there is no means to allow this to actually change your understanding, the practice is of no use. But what does 'reflection' amount to in a rule-based system? Especially one where rules are 'innate' or hard-wired in the mind? If you are told what to do, or told what is true, where is the mechanism for changing this? Reflection (crucially) entails autonomy. Via George Siemens. Today: Total:40 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The People Own Ideas!
Lawrence LessigLawrence Lessig, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

The core of Lessig's reasoning in the copyright debate: "Not only is the reach of the law dramatically larger because copyright now regulates all rather than a minority of work, but the effective scope of the law is dramatically larger because copyright regulates all uses rather than just some." Richard Epstein replies to Lessig in the same issue, posing an argument Lessig praises but which I find painfully bad. Today: Total:36 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The People Own Ideas!
Lawrence LessigLawrence Lessig, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

The point of this introductory essay is to shake readers from their complacancy about copyright. "This is the control that the free-culture movement fears. Theoretically, digital technologies give the law the right to regulate culture to an unprecedented extent. DRM will turn that theory into practice. Do we know enough to conclude that the benefits of that practice will outweigh the costs? Do we even know enough to understand the costs?" Today: Total:30 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Infinite Library
Wade RoushWade Roush, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

The librarians' dilemma: "Once the knowledge now trapped on the printed page moves onto the Web, where people can retrieve it from their homes, offices, and dorm rooms, ­libraries could turn into lonely caverns inhabited mainly by ­preservationists." This article looks at projects like Google Scholar and Internet Archive, both of which are massive repositories of digital content open to public access and contrasts it with projects like Corbis, a private image library. “This organization got its start by digitizing what was in the public domain and essentially putting it under private control,” says Kahle. “The same thing could happen with digital literature. In fact, it’s the default case.” The librarians' role, to me, is to prevent this from happening. And it is in managing and protecting the public trust that librarians and libraries have a role to play in the future. Today: Total:32 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Selling Online Content—25 Cents at a Time
Henry JenkinsHenry Jenkins, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

Another response to Clay Shirkey's article, this one enthusiastically endorsing the inflated price of twenty-five cents per comic (try a tenth of that, or less), and like Scott McCloud's article, touting the Bit Pass payment system. Today: Total:45 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Networking From the Rooftop
Erico GuizzoErico Guizzo, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

Interesting article about the development of a wireless "mesh" network at MIT. The idea of such a network is to provide internet access over a wider area without wires. "'We want to understand how a whole bunch of computers with short-range radios can self-configure a network, forming order out of chaos,' says computer science professor Robert Morris, who coordinates the project. The network has now more than 30 nodes in a 4-square kilometer area surrounding the MIT campus. 'We hope to reach a hundred nodes within a few months,' he says." Today: Total:37 [Comment] [Direct Link]

In Defense of University Patent Licensing
Ashley J. StevensAshley J. Stevens, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

This article defends the use of patents by colleges and universities to protect inventions created by their faculty. To its credit, it identifies the grounds for recent objections to the practice and meets them on those terms. In response to the charge that patents violate traditional academic openness, for example, the author responds that " Academic patents have nothing to do with preventing openness. By definition, a patent is an open document available to teach the world what its inventor has learned." The author also argues - with some force - that non-exclusive licensing means that no inventions are ever commercially developed. "For 30 years after World War II, the United States had precisely the policy of nonexclusive licensing... Under this system, no drug that the government owned rights to was ever developed and became available to the public." Today: Total:30 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Untapped Networks
UnknownUnknown, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

The subject of this interview, Columbia University sociologist Duncan Watts, offers some insights worth sharing about the nature of software and networks. The Mircosoft approach to software design, he argues, is flawed because it's centralized and homogeneous. Even a small flaw - like the Code Red virus - takes down the whole system. Decentralized networks, by contrast, are not vulnerable because they offer multiple ways to do the same thing, multiple pathways, like the internet. "People have a local view of the world. I have my friends, and everyone else is 'out there' somewhere—I don’t know about them or care about them and certainly can’t affect them. The science of networks is the antithesis of that world view. You affect things out there and they affect you." Today: Total:44 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Creating a Culture of Ideas
Nicholas NegroponteNicholas Negroponte, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

There's a lot just under the surface of this engaging article. "To build a nation of innovators," asserts the author, "we should focus on youth, diversity, and collaboration." Well to build a nation of anything you need youth; the more salient points lie in the direction of diversity and collaboration. Well, mostly diversity. It's a hard thing to get right, because people inherently fear that which is different. Hence, "our biggest challenge in stimulating a creative culture is finding ways to encourage multiple points of views." Well, yeah, but diversity means a lot more than traditional dances and colourful costumes. I would submit that diversity requires at a minimum linguistic differences, religious difference, and philosophical difference. Is the United States ready for that? Is Canada? "The ability to make big leaps of thought is a common denominator among the originators of breakthrough ideas. Usually this ability resides in people with very wide backgrounds, multidisciplinary minds, and a broad spectrum of experiences. Family influences, role models, travel, and living in diverse settings are obvious contributors, as are educational systems and the way cultures value youth and perspective. As a society, we can shape some of these. Some we can’t. A key to ensuring a stream of big ideas is accepting these messy truths about the origin of ideas and continuing to reward innovation and celebrate emerging technologies." Read this article. Today: Total:42 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Treating Viewers as Criminals
Henry JenkinsHenry Jenkins, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

Commentary on the ongoing debates concerning fair use. A couple of good quotes: "Name-calling is the last resort of once powerful institutions that are finding themselves losing control in the face of rapid media change," and " the networks do not and never have had contracts with consumers, compensating us for the labor we perform in watching commercials." Today: Total:44 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Spy, Then Innovate
Michael SchrageMichael Schrage, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

It's offensive, but the author has a point. To understand how people actually use things like software, you have to spy on them. Because if you ask them, they'll lie, and if you put them in a testing environment, they'll do what they think you want them to do. But spying on them is, of course, a breach of human rights. Or, at least, it will be - until the economics look good. Today: Total:28 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Wal-Mart Trumps Moore's Law
Michael SchrageMichael Schrage, Technology ReviewTechnology Review,

OK, it's not exactly how I would make the point, but it's a point that needs to be made again and again - or so it seems - when talking with educators. It doesn't matter how much dazzle there is in your delivery if you price it out of reach of the WalMart generation. Educational institutions need to integrate new technologies not merely at the delivery level but deep within the organizational structure of instruction, and always with the dictate, "everyday low prices." Today: Total:40 [Comment] [Direct Link]


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