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The Conversation #49 — Scott Douglas

People think that the Civil Rights Movement and all big epochal move­ments involve con­science, and they do. They also involve con­scious­ness. I mean, you can’t strug­gle against what you’re unaware off, right? The Klan as the icon­ic car­ri­ers of vio­lence, the Bull Connor of the icon­ic south­ern white male resis­tance, George Wallace the icon­ic neopop­ulist racist. You know, these were his­toric fig­ures in myth and real­i­ty. But we wouldn’t get to what they rep­re­sent­ed till much later.

Jonny Sun and Jonathan Zittrain on Joke Tweets, Memes, and Being an Alien Online

I think I kind of have float­ed through the world feel­ing like an out­sider and feel­ing a bit like an alien, I guess. And along the way I’ve met so many oth­er peo­ple who have felt like that too, and I think this is a cel­e­bra­tion of that kind of diver­si­ty and of that kind of outsiderdom.

Language as a Signature of the Flexible Human Mind

To under­stand human nature, I focus on human lan­guage and what it can reveal about how we think. Unlike oth­er ani­mals, humans can com­mu­ni­cate an infi­nite num­ber of thoughts through lan­guage. And one rea­son that lan­guage is pow­er­ful is because we can use each of our words flex­i­bly, with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent meanings.

Amdahl to Zipf: The Physics of Software

There are all of these won­der­ful laws that peo­ple have dis­cov­ered and refined and pro­posed and proved over the years. And some of these laws can apply to the soft­ware projects and the teams and the com­mu­ni­ties that we work in every day.

The Conversation #38 — Alexa Clay

I think at a fun­da­men­tal lev­el I just believe in human agency. And I think that every­one should feel like they can par­tic­i­pate and shape the econ­o­my, rather than feel like they’re expe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms of the econ­o­my. When the reces­sion hap­pened, there was all this chat­ter around well, the Fed is going to do this. Or the banks are going to do this. And gov­ern­ment is going to do this. And there was no nar­ra­tive around what peo­ple are going to do.

The Conversation #21 — Robert Zubrin

So long as we’re lim­it­ed to one plan­et, ulti­mate­ly our resources are lim­it­ed. And there­fore every per­son in the world is com­pet­ing with every oth­er per­son in the world for a piece of a finite pie. Okay, and every new per­son born is a threat, every nation is fun­da­men­tal­ly the ene­my of every oth­er nation, every race of every oth­er race, and the only ques­tion is how do we kill them.

How Thinking about Translation Can Help You Think about Bots

The com­mon­ly asked ques­tions is, Does this bot sound human?” And the ques­tion that I think is a lit­tle bit more inter­est­ing is why do so many bots that win the Loebner Prize sound pret­ty much exact­ly the same? They’re real­ly sim­i­lar to each oth­er. Maybe they all have a par­tic­u­lar type of default human being in mind, the peo­ple who design these bots. But if so, who is this par­tic­u­lar mys­te­ri­ous default human being?

Uncreative Writing

With the rise of the Web, writ­ing has met its pho­tog­ra­phy. And by that I mean writ­ing has encoun­tered a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to what hap­pened uh, to paint­ing with the inven­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy. A tech­nol­o­gy so much bet­ter at repli­cat­ing real­i­ty that in order to sur­vive, paint­ing had to ors— or, uh, alter its course radically.

An Xiao Mina at Biased Data

When we think about net­work graphs and we talk about how the net­work effects that make up an impor­tant part of how social move­ments and how infor­ma­tion is dis­trib­uted online, there’s this assump­tion in those visu­al­iza­tions that every node in that net­work is equal. But very often, and you can slice data in many dif­fer­ent way, the lan­guages that we speak actu­al­ly lim­it the net­works that we have access to and that we’re inter­act­ing with. 

Biased Data Panel Discussion

I think that we need a rad­i­cal design change. And I might ask if I were teach­ing an HCI class or design class with you, I would say, How are you going to design this so that not one life is lost?” What if that were the design imper­a­tive rather than what’s your IPO going to be?

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