!write!technologist   39

Amazon’s Clever Machines Are Moving From the Warehouse to Headquarters - Bloomberg
Amazon began automating retail team jobs several years ago. Under an initiative called “hands off the wheel,” the company shifted tasks like forecasting demand, ordering inventory and negotiating prices to algorithms, people familiar with the matter say. At first, humans could easily override the machine’s decisions. For instance, if a brand notified Amazon about an upcoming marketing blitz for a product, an Amazon manager could increase the order in anticipation of demand the algorithm didn’t expect. But such tinkering was increasingly discouraged as the machines proved their precision, the people say. Anyone overriding the machines had to justify their decision, and the push to automate made them reluctant.
A key turning point came in 2015 when the value of goods sold through the marketplace exceeded those sold by the retail team, the people say. The retail team, which had far more employees, watched its importance fade and money funneled into projects like Amazon Web Services and Alexa. It didn’t help that the marketplace generated twice the operating profit margin of the retail business—10 percent versus 5 percent, according to a person familiar with the company’s finances. In many international markets, the retail team has never turned a profit, the person says.


in the “biz relationships don’t matter that much when you got massive scale” storyline
!write!scale  %stats  #t#automation  !write!technologist  !write!utopia  #$#labor  #$#logistics  #t#ml  !write!dystopia 
6 days ago by lemeb
The Netflix Binge Factory
Netflix doesn’t necessarily care if you binge-watch an entire season of a show within a couple days of it launching. “We’re not trying to encourage that,” Sarandos says. “The completion of a single episode is a more important trigger. We wouldn’t be looking at, ‘Are people plowing through it in the first weekend?,’ because the number of people who do that is pretty slim.” But one metric I heard repeatedly during my visits to Netflix was 28-day viewership — basically how many people completed a full season of a show within the first four weeks it’s on the service. Sarandos also tells me the company looks at which shows new subscribers watch first: It lets them know if a show is driving people to sign up for Netflix.
#$#entertainment  !write!technologist  #$#innov  %stats  %longform  %journalism 
7 days ago by lemeb
Inside Anduril, Palmer Luckey's Bid to Build A Border Wall
As Luckey and his team see it, Lattice will become not just a system for securing the border but a general platform for geographic near-omniscience. With the aid of artificial intelligence, it aims to synthesize data from potentially thousands of sensors and local databases

...
It struck me after I’d wrapped up my visits with Anduril that, aside from the drug smugglers they helped intercept on the border, I had not heard the founders mention the people who might get caught in their omniscient zone. What is the right way to treat those individuals? What of the children and parents who are now being torn apart while crossing? Those are social and political questions, not technical specifications. But it is increasingly the case that the people who build new technologies trigger political consequences.

Though tech companies have been taking their knocks lately, even the ones now under the most scrutiny were launched in a glow of idealism. We once dreamed that an era of ultraconnected and infinitely empowering tech would solve the kinds of problems that lead people to flee their own countries or that propel terrorists or nations to attack. Those problems didn’t end. It now seems obvious that tech was never going to make us better human beings; we are still our flawed selves. Instead, those same technologies that once seemed full of promise are finding their way into all-too-human clashes—led by a company named after an avenging sword.
%longform  #surveillance  !write!technologist  !write!dystopia 
8 days ago by lemeb
This Man Is Building an Armada of Saildrones to Conquer the Ocean - Bloomberg
Engineer and adventurer Richard Jenkins has made oceangoing robots that could revolutionize fishing, drilling, and environmental science. His aim: a thousand of them.


every industry is revolutizonized by smartphone, one at a time. what a time to be alive.
!write!utopia  !write!technologist  *whatatime  #t#beyondsv 
4 weeks ago by lemeb
Google’s Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering - The Verge
Google has built a multibillion-dollar business out of knowing everything about its users. Now, a video produced within Google and obtained by The Verge offers a stunningly ambitious and unsettling look at how some at the company envision using that information in the future.

The video was made in late 2016 by Nick Foster, the head of design at X (formerly Google X), and shared internally within Google. It imagines a future of total data collection, where Google helps nudge users into alignment with their goals, custom-prints personalized devices to collect more data, and even guides the behavior of entire populations to solve global problems like poverty and disease.

!write!dystopia  !write!technologist 
4 weeks ago by lemeb
Father John Misty rates the Red Hot Chili Peppers, marriage and smartphones - YouTube
there is definitely going to be like... one or two generations from now... they're like "wanna see an impression of my parents? uuuh *air-types on his fake smartphone*"
!write!technologist 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
Watching the watchers in Silicon Valley
I have rarely in my career encountered so much secrecy. Sometimes a PR person emails to gauge my interest in writing about a company even before revealing its name or exactly what it does. I have interviewed startup founders who refuse to disclose details about their business model. This kind of stealth hampers public accountability. Firms that are unwilling to share details about their technology have been known to lure journalists into overhyping their potential. The media dubbed Elizabeth Holmes at Theranos the “next Steve Jobs”: she sat for interviews and photo shoots without ever revealing many details about her firm’s technology. Earlier this year America’s securities regulator charged her with deceiving investors. When visiting tech firms, reporters are asked to sign non-disclosure agreements on iPads as they check in. I used to remind the receptionists that the very purpose of my visit was to disclose information, but they couldn’t care less. After they let us in, most tech companies make us wear badges around our necks to alert everyone to our presence (danger! Journalist on the loose!). At Facebook, the lanyard is red. It feels like a scarlet letter.
!write!readthenews  !write!technologist 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity - The Atlantic
how has slack gotten 34% of women in technical roles without a head of diversity?
For one thing, the company has, since 2015, proactively sought out candidates from outside traditional programmer pipelines like Stanford and MIT, recruiting through all-women’s coding camps like Hackbright, as well as programs that focus on training black and Latino programmers such as Code2040. Recruiters are trained to look at skills rather than a candidate’s university pedigree. In 2015, Slack worked with Textio, a company that analyzes job descriptions to ensure they appeal to the widest possible audience. (Slack’s job descriptions feature phrases like “care deeply” and “lasting relationships,” which statistically draw more applications from women. Microsoft’s, by contrast, feature words like “insatiably” and “competing.” Amazon’s keywords: “maniacal” and “wickedly.")
!write!technologist  !write!utopia  #techpol  #diversity 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
(paywall) The Tech Company Comcast Should Buy Instead of Sky — The Information
Instead of pursuing European pay TV firm Sky, Comcast should go after Spotify, whose subscription business fits with the cable business and which could help Comcast compete better with Amazon


i... am not sure anything will help comcast get sustainable. it’s hard to disentangle yourself from a predatory biz model.
!write!technologist  #$#innov  #t#cable  #$#monopoly 
7 weeks ago by lemeb
Security Researcher on FB
“In many ways, Facebook is like the Exxon of our time — an indispensable tool that everyone despises — Exxon, maybe Comcast, and now Facebook; there’s not a lot of brands like that.”

Marlinspike compared Facebook’s latest plans for protecting privacy to an underwater camera that an Exxon might use to show an offshore rig leaking oil into the ocean. “After enough oil spills, we started investing in solar and battery technology … now we need to find our digital solar and batteries to invest in,” he said.


good take. the damage of the fb scandal is not a short-term but a long-term one.
!write!technologist  ~fb 
8 weeks ago by lemeb
The Abolition of Boredom
Today, I open more apps in a day than I am able to close—and they keep accumulating like digital equivalents of New Yorkers massing on the coffee table. In addition to reading, I communicate through iMessage, email, Facebook messenger, Twitter, Instagram, and countless other platforms with everyone from old classmates to best friends and families to perfect strangers. I am never lonely. There is simply too much content, let alone contact, to ever again feel bored again. I know that this comes at a steep price, but I am also grateful. There is so much interesting stuff out there. We cannot begin to engage with it fully, and all in all, this is a good problem.
!write!technologist  %contrarian 
8 weeks ago by lemeb
Mark Zuckerberg’s long game: the next billion
filloux on how facebook will be ok: (1) it has a lot of new users to tap into and (2):
unlike in Western countries, these regions [facebook’s new markets] are likely to remain regulation-free for quite a while. Exactly in the same way that Big Tobacco has been free to fill the lungs of Asian of African populations, with little interference from local health administrations, Facebook will have a free hand to lock up these markets. (If you find my comparison with the tobacco industry exaggerated, just ask the Rohingyas or people in the Philippines about the toxicity of Facebook to democracy — or read this Bloomberg Business Week piece, “What happens when the government uses Facebook as a weapon?”)


yeaaaah! the following paragraph begins by mentioning fb management’s “moral flexibility”, especially wrt/ china. what an understatement.
!write!technologist  ~fb 
8 weeks ago by lemeb
It's time to rebuild the web - O'Reilly Media
The web was never supposed to be a few walled gardens of concentrated content owned by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and a few other major publishers. It was supposed to be a cacophony of different sites and voices. And it would be easy to rebuild this cacophony—indeed, it never really died. There are plenty of individual sites out there still, and they provide some (should I say most?) of the really valuable content on the web. The problem with the megasites is that they select and present "relevant" content to us. Much as we may complain about Facebook, selecting relevant content from an ocean of random sites is an important service. It's easy for me to imagine relatives and friends building their own sites for baby pictures, announcements, and general talk. That's what we did in the 90s. But would we go to the trouble of reading those all those sites? Probably not. I didn't in the 90s, and neither did you.


and then:
Could someone build an RSS reader that made the web of independent sites as approachable as Facebook? I don't see why not—and users would have complete control over what they see.
!write!utopia  !write!technologist 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
New EU Privacy Law May Weaken Security — Krebs on Security
Companies around the globe are scrambling to comply with new European privacy regulations that take effect a little more than three months from now. But many security experts are worried that the changes being ushered in by the rush to adhere to the law may make it more difficult to track down cybercriminals and less likely that organizations will be willing to share data about new online threats.

(...) In a bid to help domain registrars comply with the GDPR regulations, ICANN has floated several proposals, all of which would redact some of the registrant data from WHOIS records. Its mildest proposal would remove the registrant’s name, email, and phone number, while allowing self-certified 3rd parties to request access to said data at the approval of a higher authority — such as the registrar used to register the domain name.

(...) Certainly as the Internet matures and big companies develop ever more intrusive ways to hoover up data on consumers, we also need to rein in the most egregious practices while giving Internet users more robust tools to protect and preserve their privacy. In the context of Internet security and the privacy principles envisioned in the GDPR, however, I’m worried that cybercriminals may end up being the biggest beneficiaries of this new law.
#gdpr  !write!technologist 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
The Missing Building Blocks of the Web – Anil Dash – Medium
Though the world wide web has been around for more than a quarter century, people have been theorizing about hypertext and linked documents and a global network of apps for at least 75 years, and perhaps longer. And while some of those ideas are now obsolete, or were hopelessly academic as concepts, or seem incredibly obvious in a world where we’re all on the web every day, the time is perfect to revisit a few of the overlooked gems from past eras. Perhaps modern versions of these concepts could be what helps us rebuild the web into something that has the potential, excitement, and openness that got so many of us excited about it in the first place.


yeah, maybe.
!tech!humancomputing  !write!technologist  %theory  *theoryoffrontend 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
Letter to an Aspiring Intellectual by Paul J. Griffiths | Articles | First Things
What you want to think about, then, I suspect, what inflames your intellectual appetite, are difficult and large questions: topics with a long history of being thought and written about, and topics whose complexity is sufficient to require a life’s worth of thought. What should you do in order to prepare yourself for such a life?

The first requirement is that you find something to think about. This may be easy to arrive at, or almost impossibly difficult. It’s something like falling in love. There’s an infinite number of topics you might think about, just as there’s an almost infinite number of people you might fall in love with. But in neither case is the choice made by consulting all possibilities and choosing among them. You can only love what you see, and what you see is given, in large part, by location and chance. Among those you see are some you love; and among them, perhaps, is some particular one with whom you’d like your life to be intertwined. So with topics for thought. Your gaze is drawn, a flirtation begins, you learn more, you find some interlocutors, and, sometimes before you know it, your topic is before you and your intellectual course is set. There’s no algorithm for this: It’ll happen or it won’t.
!me  !write!technologist  %philosophy  %words 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
FOSTA-SESTA, a law intended to curb sex trafficking, threatens the internet’s future - Vox
But FOSTA-SESTA creates an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers would be responsible if third parties are found to be posting ads for prostitution — including consensual sex work — on their platforms. The goal of this is supposed to be that policing online prostitution rings gets easier. What FOSTA-SESTA has actually done, however, is create confusion and immediate repercussions among a range of internet sites as they grapple with the ruling’s sweeping language.


a long, good explainer in vox

makes me think about scale though
%explainer  !write!technologist  !write!scale 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
Smartphone Apps Know Too Much. We Need to Fix Permissions | WIRED
“The number of [control] settings have increased, but they’re basically bundling a bunch of decisions together and forcing users to make impossible decisions,” Sadey says. “The apps might need it for functionality, but it might also share it with marketers and advertisers alike.”

It’s also not made super clear to people what happens when they revoke access to something they previously gave permission to. (...)

“One of the things that’s really lacking right now in permissions is not only consent, not only informed consent, but ongoing consent,” says Gennie Gebhart, a privacy researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “If Facebook is going to store your call and text logs, in perpetuity, that requires more than a single click-through.”


i’m not sure how this is easily solvable though
!tech!practicalprivacy  !tech!humancomputing  !write!technologist 
9 weeks ago by lemeb
Research Blog: Looking to Listen: Audio-Visual Speech Separation
In “Looking to Listen at the Cocktail Party”, we present a deep learning audio-visual model for isolating a single speech signal from a mixture of sounds such as other voices and background noise. In this work, we are able to computationally produce videos in which speech of specific people is enhanced while all other sounds are suppressed.


i’m sure the chinese government is elated to know that’s now possible

to be fair, that’s a great technology for a lot of stuff. maybe it’ll make super easy to separate voice from audio in songs. (well, it’s also possible that stems marketplaces will rise before that.)
#surveillance  #t#ml  !write!technologist 
9 weeks ago by lemeb

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