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Michael Feathers: Unconditional Programming
Control structures have been around nearly as long as programming but it's hard for me to see them as more than an annoyance.  Over and over again, I find that better code has fewer if-statements, fewer switches, and fewer loops.  Often this happens because developers are using languages with better abstractions.  They aren't consciously trying to avoid control structures but they do. 

If we are working in an object-oriented language, we can replace switch-statements with polymorphi...
development  design  complexity 
4 days ago by bookmarks
Internal 'clock' makes some people age faster and die younger – regardless of lifestyle | Science | The Guardian
Scientists have found the most definitive evidence yet that some people are destined to age quicker and die younger than others - regardless of their lifestyle.

The findings could explain the seemingly random and unfair way that death is sometimes dealt out, and raise the intriguing future possibility of being able to extend the natural human lifespan.

“You get people who are vegan, sleep 10 hours a day, have a low-stress job, and still end up dying young,” said Steve Horvath, a biostatistician who led the research at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’ve shown some people have a faster innate ageing rate.”
DNA  ageing  epigenetics  biology  science  complexity  genetics  gene  microbiome  longevity 
7 days ago by asterisk2a
Life at the Edge of Sight — Scott Chimileski, Roberto Kolter | Harvard University Press
Microbes create medicines, filter waste water, and clean pollution. They give cheese funky flavors, wines complex aromas, and bread a nutty crumb. Life at the Edge of Sight is a stunning visual exploration of the inhabitants of an invisible world, from the pioneering findings of a seventeenth-century visionary to magnificent close-ups of the inner workings and cooperative communities of Earth’s most prolific organisms.

Using cutting-edge imaging technologies, Scott Chimileski and Roberto Kolter lead readers through breakthroughs and unresolved questions scientists hope microbes will answer soon. They explain how microbial studies have clarified the origins of life on Earth, guided thinking about possible life on other planets, unlocked evolutionary mechanisms, and helped explain the functioning of complex ecosystems. Microbes have been harnessed to increase crop yields and promote human health.

But equally impressive, Life at the Edge of Sight opens a beautiful new frontier for readers to explore through words and images. We learn that there is more microbial biodiversity on a single frond of duckweed floating in a Delft canal than the diversity of plants and animals that biologists find in tropical rainforests. Colonies with millions of microbes can produce an array of pigments that put an artist’s palette to shame. The microbial world is ancient and ever-changing, buried in fossils and driven by cellular reactions operating in quadrillionths of a second. All other organisms have evolved within this universe of microbes, yielding intricate beneficial symbioses. With two experts as guides, the invisible microbial world awaits in plain sight.

https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-beautiful-intelligence-of-bacteria-and-other-microbes-20171113/
book  collective_animal_behavior  collective_cognition  complexity  self_organization  social_behavior  biology 
8 days ago by rvenkat
'STELLA Report from the SNAFUcatchers Workshop on Coping With Complexity', March 14-16 2017
'A consortium workshop of high end techs reviewed postmortems to better understand how engineers cope with the complexity of anomalies (SNAFU and SNAFU catching episodes) and how to support them. These cases reveal common themes regarding factors that produce resilient performances. The themes that emerge also highlight opportunities to move forward.'

The 'Dark debt' concept is interesting here.
complexity  postmortems  dark-debt  technical-debt  resilience  reliability  systems  snafu  reports  toread  stella  john-allspaw 
10 days ago by jm
Adventures in lifelong learning: Towards an Anti-Fascist Curriculum
"Yesterday's Warsaw demonstrations were shocking in their scale (60,000 nationalists marched on Poland's independence day; many calling for 'a white Europe of brotherly nations'), but were also disturbing in the way that, whilst confronted with new displays of far-right extremism almost daily - we just don't seem shocked enough. Fascism is like that, of course. It is out-there in the Charlottesville marches, echoed in the words of Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, yet it is also insidious. It creeps into lives - and becomes normalised in our language and behaviours. As Umberto Eco wrote in 'Ur-Fascism' (1995, p.8), 'Fascism..can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – every day, in every part of the world.'

The warning signs

I won't use this blog to attempt to summarise important political discussions or try to analyse fascism in any detail; I am not a historian. But given the international rise of the far-right I believe that, as educators, we have a duty to be sensitive to these shifts and as a result should be reshaping our curricula and pedagogy to take account of it.

According to Merriam Webster, fascism is 'a political philosophy, movement, or regime... that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition'. Eco suggests a list of features that are typical of what he calls Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. As he states, 'These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it'. The first principle, that fascism derives from individual or social frustration, is enough in itself to set alarm bells ringing. Four other key features are:

1.The cult of tradition. The desire to return to a better age, and a fear of modernism: 'Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message'. (It should be noted that the first thing that fascist states seize is the curriculum).

2. Irrationalism, and the promotion of action over thought. 'Distrust of the intellectual world'.

3. Fear of difference (fascism is racist by definition). 'The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.'

4. The fostering of a spirit of war, heroism and machismo. 'Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual 8 habits, from chastity to homosexuality).'

An anti-fascist curriculum

I suggest here that an anti-fascist curriculum should take account of warning signs such as Eco's, and should also pay heed to Lawrence Britt's 'Fourteen signs of fascism' which include Cronyism and Corruption, the suppression of organised labour, obsession with national security and identification of scapegoats as a unifying cause.

The word 'curriculum' here refers to more than just the syllabus; it incorporates all influences on a child (or adult's) education (buildings, pedagogy, classroom management, the implicit and explicit things that are taught). As teachers we often distract ourselves from the bigger picture; arguments about the specifics of practice give a sense that our classrooms operate as micro-entities, where children are unaffected by the social dysfunction surrounding them. Managing behaviour is seen as a battle of 'them versus us,' and the 'othering' of pupils causes us to neglect the development of our own self-awareness. For this reason, such a curriculum can only start with the teacher.

Below are a few ideas for what an anti-fascist curriculum manifesto might practically include. It can only ever be a guideline; wanting it to become policy or enacted in some way defeats the object of a movement that should sit outside the state. Likewise, it should not dictate the behaviour of teachers, only act as a stimulus that has the potential, not to make large-scale change, but to spark a 'line of flight' that disrupts the status quo. If any of the manifesto chimes with you or you want send any thoughts or ideas as I continue to extend it, please do not hesitate to comment or get in touch with me.

Towards an Anti-Fascist Curriculum - A Manifesto for Educators

1. We start by examining the 'fascist inside us all.'

“The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” (Foucoult, 1983)

We recognise our own interior desire for power and accept our responsibility as educators to reflect on this with others in spirit of critical challenge. We undertake critically reflective processes that make us question our own assumptions and prejudices, such as tests of cognitive dissonance to expose gender, race, age, disability bias, and intersections of these and other identities. We examine our own values, as individuals and within our organisations and consider the roots of these and their influences on our practice. Our reflective activity extends to our roles as leaders; we aim to continually refine and develop ourselves as human beings, alongside our students.

2. We promote difference over uniformity.

This includes de-centring the Enlightenment idea of the 'perfect human' in order to augment the voices of oppressed 'others'. We celebrate the living knowledge of our students, and examine the genealogy of the subjects we teach to decolonise and diversify our curricula. We make efforts to connect with others globally to inform our practice and maintain perspective. We challenge the threat of toxic masculinity through deliberate educational approaches which liberate men and boys from the need to conform to 'gender-specific' ideals (which further male supremacy). We reflect on our own privilege.

3. We accept complexity and uncertainty.

Whilst welcoming research-informed practice, we reject the fetishisation of science and the search for the 'ultimate truths' of education theory, which can limit educational autonomy.

4. We resist the reduction of 'education' to instrumentalism.

We widen the purpose of education to take into account the socialisation and subjectification of our students (Biesta, 2010). We believe in education as the practice of freedom (hooks, 1994) and consider each subject we teach as a potential vehicle to promote agency and social justice.

5. We are pro-social, critical pedagogues.

We use teaching methods that place an emphasis on the building of community, togetherness and belonging, which have a strong critical and reflective focus. Specific teaching innovations may include philosophical inquiry, restorative practice and thinking environments (and would include the implementation of critical digital pedagogies)."
fascism  sfsh  2017  education  uniformity  difference  complexity  cv  uncertainty  instrumentalism  schools  learning  freedom  community  togetherness  belonging  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  bellhoooks  teaching  howweteach  openstudioproject  lcproject  restorativejustice  thinking  socialization  agency  socialjustice  science  scienticsm  autonomy  truth  enlightenment  humansism  othering  others  decolonization  diversity  curriculum  masculinity  gender  race  reflection  disability  power  responsibility  canon  love  exploitation  xenophobia  irrationalism  action  machismo  war  heroism  nationalism  tradition  modernism  cronyism  corruption  classroommanagement  manifesto  foucault  supremacy  patriarchy  privilege  disabilities 
10 days ago by robertogreco
Show your support | Educationforward
"Education has to change – to move forward – so that our schools and students can face the unprecedented challenges of the future, with confidence, capability and compassion.

We believe:

1. That schools should be judged on a much broader set of outcomes (e.g. students’ resourcefulness; their ability to engage with political, economic and ecological issues; their confidence with digital technologies; their enjoyment of reading) than they currently face;

2. That the voices of parents, families, and students should be central to process of education policy formulation;

3. That students who neither want, nor need, to go to university should not be made to feel inadequate or failures by an overly narrow and overly academic curriculum;

4. That high-stakes testing has gone too far, has caused too much stress and anxiety to teachers and students, and is a wholly inadequate means of assessing a student’s full range of talents;

5. That the way teachers teach should foster more than the ability to recall snippets of knowledge – the future will ask students not simply what they know, but what they can do with what they know, how they critically evaluate data, and what to do when they don’t know what to do ;

6. That the knowledge that will matter to students in the mid-21st century will be very different to the knowledge that is currently considered core – re-thinking a curriculum fit for the future is an urgent, widespread concern;

7. That providing evidence of learning has attempted to become ‘teacher-proof’, whilst teaching to the test has become endemic. We have to trust teacher judgements more and invest in their professional development;

8. That too many people cast the debate around education in binary terms, despite the growing numbers of schools whose students get good grades and develop confidence, capability and self-direction in their learning.We need to learn from these schools so that their practices can spread like wildfire;

9. That politicians should focus their energies less on cherry-picking evidence to support their entrenched views, and more on the fundamental purpose of education. We need to improve, and deepen, the quality of public debate around schooling;

10. That we live in times of turbulence and anxiety, where truth is a casualty of intolerance. Education has to help people strengthen their dispositions to tolerate uncertainty, to think carefully about complex issues, to understand the position of others and, where necessary, to disagree gracefully. This matters – not just for our communities and our children’s well-being, but for the future of our world."
education  change  sfsh  outcomes  resourcefulness  policy  schools  acadmemics  testing  standardizedtesting  stress  anxiety  teaching  learning  society  howweteach  howelearn  knowledge  tcsnmy  openstudioproject  lcproject  curriculum  purpose  schooling  turbulence  intolerance  truth  uncertainty  complexity  understanding  grace  disagreement  uk 
10 days ago by robertogreco
The Domino Effect
Generally, predictive services are not predictive so much as reliant on someone else having been in your position before — if you search for the contents of your fridge, odds are someone else will have previously cooked these items together, but you will have sift through their results yourself. The appealing complications of actually cooking a meal remain messy, inconvenient, and human. Apps encourage us not to improvise and trust ourselves, but to undertake the process of itemizing and analyzing our ingredients as data for machines to process; to think of ourselves as a component of the machine itself. These tools simplify our lives on the condition that we simplify ourselves for them.

Ordering in is meant to outsource problems — and labor — to other parties: You pay for other people to buy ingredients, prepare them, and bring them to your door. That workforce is largely invisible, and interfaces like those employed by Seamless or UberEats are designed to conceal the labors of the unknowable number of people involved in preparing your food, making the process appear as little more than a hand-off at the door. These apps make a contradictory promise: to simplify the multipart process involved in creating a meal to a series of clicks, while offering enough options to satisfy an infinite number of cravings. You agree to meet the interface somewhere between what you want and what it knows how to offer, until you want what it knows how to offer.

To narrow down thousands of options to a usable interface, food delivery apps ask that you filter results by category, and encourage you to declare your preferences — even the Domino’s Twitter ordering mechanism is dependent on a customer having registered a preferred order that can later be triggered with an emoji. All these shortcuts and conventions add up to a rudimentary language: a series of words and tics that can be used across ordering interfaces. Grubhub’s lingo is virtually indistinguishable from Seamless, with which it merged in 2013, and insofar as multiple delivery apps are a nuisance for users and restaurants alike, this may presage further consolidation. Nevertheless, these linguistic conventions have emerged with the bare minimum of centralized coordination; this phenomenon reflects the flattening effect of culinary interfaces on how we talk about food.

Food delivery interfaces have the habit of reducing epicurean decisions to practical ones, as if buying a meal were no different from buying a mop. But food isn’t just about ingredients; it’s about desire. If rationalizing food consumption were desirable in more than theory, Soylent would be more than a niche taste. The persistence of ideas like “comfort food” speak to its emotional resonance; what do you feel like having for dinner may be the most common phrase in relationships for this very reason. We consume the associations we’ve made with a meal, memories of the times we consumed it, as well as those we prepared it with, those who prepared it for us.

The language of app interfaces makes the complex processes of desiring and preparing food feel like completing a personality test: You simply check off a series of preferences and receive the right meal for you, as if the app’s magic alone had summoned it. This same sort of abstraction holds for other sensory experiences: Spotify’s playlists can be said to flatten the context in which a song was created, trading the artist’s ideas, intentions, cultural cues and environs for preset “moods” generated by the service, while offering artists paltry remuneration. These vitamin-like “moods” then impose categories of experience onto the listener. As we learn to map our desires onto these interfaces, we absorb their vocabulary; human experience is delimited, incrementally, by the limitations of our machines.

These interfaces appropriate both experience and effort, repurposing unseen human labor as machine magic. Food apps, with chatty text, friendly logos, and humanesque voices, are gussied up as our friends in the kitchen — always friends, and never domestic help. No one is working for you, only empowering you to make your own decisions, based on your own tastes, as your tastes slowly shift in a direction that suits the logic of a database. Taste and labor are linked in this domain: Abstracting away the reality of labor creates a permission structure in which you’re more comfortable asking for what you think you want. Perhaps what we want is just to avoid the reality of human contingencies, the reality of other people.
Philosophy  db  Complexity  Interface 
12 days ago by walt74

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