Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Monday Medley

What we read while everyone said “winning”…

  • The Obama Administration’s decision not to defend a federal law (the Defense of Marriage Act) is not unprecedented.

How Does Watson Know What Watson Knows?

Watson, the IBM supercomputer designed to play Jeopardy!, made his television debut yesterday, and while the game may not be over, it was a very auspicious start. Watson is currently tied with one of Jeopardy’s most successful champions, Brad Rutter, and is currently leading the most famous contestant ever, Ken Jennings.

This is pretty amazing on a lot of levels. Computers have been “smart” for a very long time (dating back to at least whenever we started teaching them chess), but Watson takes it to another level. For one, it’s worth pointing out that Watson is not connected to the Internet. In other words, Watson is storing all of the information it has for itself. More impressive, the computer can understand the intricacies of human language better than any other machine, since it has to not only generate information, but also generate the specific piece of information that the clue is looking for. Not to mention the fact that Jeopardy! clues are known for being full of wordplay and allusions that seem particularly troubling for a computer to digest.

While all this is impressive and important to the world of artificial intelligence, I’m more interested in another epistemological component of Watson’s thought process: How does Watson know what it knows? Continue reading

Malcolm Gladwell, Egypt, and Social Media

With all that is going on in Egypt and all over the rest of the Arab world, Malcolm Gladwell is focusing on the most important thing: He’s making sure nobody gives Twitter and Facebook too much credit for this, since we all know that social media is useless when it comes to affecting social change:

“But surely the least interesting fact about them is that some of the protesters may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another. Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along. Barely anyone in East Germany in the nineteen-eighties had a phone—and they ended up with hundreds of thousands of people in central Leipzig and brought down a regime that we all thought would last another hundred years—and in the French Revolution the crowd in the streets spoke to one another with that strange, today largely unknown instrument known as the human voice.”

Is there something weaker than straw? I am honestly flabbergasted that someone as bright as Gladwell wrote these words. NOBODY IS CLAIMING THAT SOCIAL MEDIA INVENTED SOCIAL PROTESTS. STOP ARGUING WITH A CLAIM NOBODY ON THE PLANET HAS EVER ONCE MADE. This is like saying, “People got from one place to another before cars. Our ancestors who crossed the Bering Straight had nothing but their own two feet! So who gives a shit about a cars?” Continue reading

iPad Inevitability

I will not be getting an iPad. For one, I can’t afford one. But even if I could, I don’t really see the value of it. It’s too big to carry around comfortably, and most of its functions seem like they can be performed by other tools. It functions as an e-reader, but the Kindle and other devices supposedly have better screens for reading. You can play music on it, but it’s much bigger and more cumbersome than an iPod, and you can’t share libraries on the same network like you can with a laptop. You can do things like type and watch videos on this, but not as well as you can do them on a laptop or an actual TV, and the iPad makes them only marginally more convenient.

Can I see the value of being able to watch Parks & Recreation on the subway? I guess, but I’d probably rather just wait until I get home. Basically, I can’t see the iPad allowing me to perform any function I currently crave.

But here’s the thing: I know that, eventually, I’m going to get one. Continue reading

Alternative Journalistic Models

John writes, “Technology has so dramatically decreased the lag-time between one person knowing something and everyone knowing it (Brown himself has a joke about re-tweets counting as plagiarism), that I wonder if ‘breaking a story’ is eventually going to be one of those outdated achievements….”  This is an interesting question, but I think just as interesting of a question is if the net amount of journalistic information available will decrease as the result of aggregation, blogging, and other technological developments. We already are seeing newspapers, magazines, and other news organizations cutting back on foreign correspondents and new hires. But, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that, in the long-run, less information will be available. It may simply be provided through a different means. The journalistic model will change. Here are four possible alternatives to the current model for information gathering*:
Continue reading