Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Should You Use Blockchain?

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

A tweeted argument by @gravislizard on November 6, 2017

Almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983

Amber-screen library computer in 1998: type in two words and hit F3. search results appear instantly.
Now: type in two words, wait for an AJAX popup. get a throbber for five seconds. oops you pressed a key, your results are erased
One of the things that makes me steaming mad is how the entire field of web apps ignores 100% of learned lessons from desktop apps

Data in webpages in 2017 is distressingly fragile. go to google maps and try and find an action that *doesn’t* erase what you’re doing
Drag the map even a pixel? it erases all your results and closes the infobox you were looking at.

You have a list of interesting locations on the screen but you want to figure out how far they are from the center of town? you can’t.
You can open a new tab, do the search there, then flip back and forth manually in the browser. there’s no other way.
That is to say, once the data’s up on the screen, you *can’t add to it*. which is one of the core functions of computers, generally.
One of the primary reasons computers were *created* was to cross reference data. that is nearly impossible in most software now.

Maps are a particularly hot item for this. christ, what about looking at a map ISN’T about cross ref’ing data? it’s the WHOLE POINT
You have a start and a finish and need to integrate that with geography and roads. and gmaps, bing, etc. are all the worst choice for this.
You are, literally, better off taking a screenshot of the map, dropping it in ms paint and manually plotting there.
Gmaps wildly thrashes the map around every time you do anything. Any time you search, almost any time you click on anything it’s a bewildering whirl of colors and shapes that has gotten worse every six months for 15 years and in doing so it has made humans worse and worse and worse at doing things that computers were created to replace and improve
In 1998 if you were planning a trip you might have gotten out a paper road map and put marks on it for interesting locations along the way
With online maps you CAN do that, but the entire process is built assuming you already know everywhere you’re going
It APPEARS to be what you want – you can keep putting in locations and it’ll keep plotting them – but in truth it’s not at all
The process you WANT: pick your start and end. now start searching for places in between. Your start and end are saved.
When you find someplace interesting, add it to your list. Keep doing that, keep searching and adding.
Search far and wide. Search for cities and then click around inside them. Read reviews. Do street view.
When you’re all done, you go back to your plotted trip and start laying out the chosen locations and optimizing your path.
You can do this with a paper map. You can’t do this with gmaps. So you just don’t do it.
You do something halfass and unsatisfying instead, using multiple tabs or a text file you save addresses in or some shit

You don’t even realize why the process is frustrating because it’s just The Way It Is.
And everything on computers is like this. It’s just How It Is now. You can’t fail quickly and iterate.
On the library computer in 1998 I could retry searches over and over and over until I found what I was looking for because it was quick
Now I have to wait for a huge page to load, wait while the page elements shift all over, GOD FORBID i click on anything while its loading
how many times have i typed in a search box, seen what i wanted pop up as i was typing, go to click on it, then have it disappear

I make no secret of hating the mouse. I think it’s a crime. I think it’s stifling humanitys progress, a gimmick we can’t get over.
The mouse is the CueCat except it didn’t get ridiculed and reviled as it should have been. It’s inappropriate for almost everything we do.
There’s no reason for Twitter to use a mouse. There’s nothing mousey about this website, not a damn thing
Mice are for rapidly navigating through a complex and unstructured set of objects, like an app with dozens of options and input types

The Elephant In The Room

Friday, October 6th, 2017

This "Elephant in the room" is the perfect model to explain why the hierarchy is a wrong answer to complex issues. Imagine that all these "experts" will go and make their report to a minister who, while not having been confronted with field realities, will have to build a synthesis, then make a decision for the whole community.

AI Myths

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Compete with Intelligence and Agility

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

In a recent article, Justin Bariso (@JustinJBariso) published a mail Elon Musk (@elonmusk) sent to Tesla employees a few years ago.

Subject: Communication Within Tesla

There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.

Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.

Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.

One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.

Thanks,
Elon

Fluid reflections on keeping a solid center

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Nearly a year from now, Maria Popova (alias @brainpicker), published a list of 10 advices from 10 years of her famous web site Brain Pickings ; as she puts it:

I first set down some of these core beliefs, written largely as notes to myself that may or may not be useful to others.

I think that they may be useful… hope you agree… whatever, here they are:

  1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for "negative capability." We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our "opinions" based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, "I don’t know." But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
  2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, "prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like." Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
  3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
  4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

    Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?

  5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
  6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, "how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
  7. "Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time." This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
  8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.
  9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is "to lift people up, not lower them down" — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.
  10. Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis — in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.

Perceptions of Probability

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Great way to display the fuzzy perceptions of probability attached to natural language expressions.

From github.com/zonination

As the Mayor of Pittsburgh

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

This tweet made my day…

This other one too. As you can see, it was the first tweet ever from the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Past, Present and Future of AI

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Amazing panel, moderated by Diane Greene, at Google I/O ’17 about "Past, Present and Future of AI". Françoise Beaufays, Fei-Fei Li (@drfeifei), Fernanda Viégas (@viegasf) and Daphne Koller (@DaphneKoller) depict, in a truly insightful and "buzz free" way, what AI already can achieve and has the potential to become.

The whole panel is really worth watching. I selected some great sentences from Fei-Fei Li, mainly because they are less domain specific, hence easier to understand in isolation (at 8:18).


Around 2010, thanks to the convergence of the maturing of statistical Machine Learning tools, the convergence of big data brought to us by the Internet and by the sensors and the convergence of computing to more better hardware, these three pillars came together and lifted AI from the in vitro stage into what I call the in vivo stage. AI in vivo is where IA is making a real impact to the world.


It’s just the beginning. Every single industry that we see at Cloud Google is going to a transformation because of data, because of AI and Machine Learning and this is what I see as the historical moment… AI is going to impact and transform the field.


But I also do wanna say it’s just the beginning. The tools and the technologies we have developed in the field of AI are really the first few drops of water in a vast ocean of what AI can do. We cannot over promise but there should be tremendous excitement that we can do a lot of more work to make this AI in vivo happen.

Ransomware

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

A huge ransomware attack is currently having most MD in the UK going back to paper and pencil. There are good reasons to imagine that it will eventually get worse in the future ;-)

Maybe it is the proper time to (re)read "AI and the fridge".

As for Wannacrypt, if you want to patch an old machine (XP, Vista or 2003 server), use this link.

On Trump’s Mental State

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017


In a letter to the editor published on February 14, 2017 on the New York Times’ web site, an eminent psychiatrist demurs on Trump’s mental state:

Fevered media speculation about Donald Trump’s psychological motivations and psychiatric diagnosis has recently encouraged mental health professionals to disregard the usual ethical constraints against diagnosing public figures at a distance. They have sponsored several petitions and a Feb. 14 letter to The New York Times suggesting that Mr. Trump is incapable, on psychiatric grounds, of serving as president.

Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.

Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).

Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.

His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.

ALLEN FRANCES

Coronado, Calif.


The writer, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical College, was chairman of the task force that wrote the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (D.S.M.-IV).

Flags, Countries & Stereotypes

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Nice project by by Russian art director Kirill Zaytsev that smartly mixes country flags and stereotypes. Here are my favorites:

What patients should ask their physicians when ordered a new drug

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Great list, from a paper by Ranit Mishori (@ranitmd), of questions to ask your physician to when ordered a new drug:

  • What is this medication, and why am I taking it?
  • Are there non-pharmacologic options to treat this condition?
  • How long do I need to be on it?
  • What are the benefits of continuing to take it?
  • What are the possible harms of using that medication?
  • Do any of my medications interact with any another?
  • Can I lower the doses of any of these medications?
  • Which of my medications are more likely to be nonbeneficial considering my age, my other medical conditions and my life expectancy?
  • Are there any medications I can get off completely?

Isabella Mocks Donald

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Surrounded by female colleagues, Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lövin signs a climate bill in a way that clearly mocks a well known picture where Donald Trump, with all-male colleagues around, signed a decree barring US federal funding for foreign NGOs that support abortion.

No need to say that neither Trump, nor his fans, will get the point. But the real issue is actually not there. Let’s hope that those who can smile at this picture can detect others with a similar inner joy and build together a genuine meshed society.

I wish Isabella smiled.

Hula Hoop

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Just discovered Julie Winegard… looks like this year, in spite of recent Trumpisms could be pretty poetic after all if they decide to make Hula hoop again.

America First

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Screen-And-Treat to Prevent Diabetes Doomed to Fail

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Larry Husten (@cardiobrief) just commented on a large new systematic review and meta-analysis published in The BMJ. In short, his point is that screen and treat strategies to prevent type 2 diabetes are doomed to failure unless screening is supplemented by broader public health approaches.

In his paper, Larry Husten quotes Victor Montori (@vmontori) who, when asked to comment on the BMJ study, expressed a trully hindsightful opinion:

It is so hard to articulate the issues because there is obvious good in preventing bad things, but let’s give this another go:

  • Type 2 diabetes is a bad thing when it reduces the quality of your life, because of its symptoms, complications or the burden of its treatment.
  • So preventing diabetes is obviously a good thing.
  • The scale of diabetes is huge and the proportion of people who live one step before that diagnosis is very large. (The review shows we will disagree in labeling who exactly is one step closer to the diagnosis depending on what definitions we choose and the ideology behind the definition selection.)
  • Individuals who choose to live more actively and eat healthier meals do better and delay diabetes, but they do so by swimming against the current, which explains the very high rates of drop offs and "failures."
  • The response should be massive in scale and persistent in time directed at the determinants of the environments, at the environments themselves, and at the lifestyles that emerge as people adapt to those environments. These changes should make healthier lifestyles the easy default —= the direction of the current that drags those who are and are not interested in swimming.
  • Screen and treat is a clinical response, individual, one-at-a-time. It seems ideally suited to people who already are chronic patients by virtue of their comorbidities and thus are already in the healthcare system as it requires the resources of the healthcare system for its success. However, any clinical success leaves the determinants of the environments and the environments unchanged, guaranteeing a steady stream of candidates for screen and treat forever. Furthermore, patients with prediabetes who "fail" to improve with lifestyle interventions may be considered candidates for diabetes drugs like metformin – in essence they are preventing the diagnosis of diabetes by ensuring they get treatment for diabetes instead— a lousy proposition.
  • Meanwhile people bemoan the low quality of treatment of type 2 diabetes, in part because of lack of time, training, and resources. These are lacks from the same system we are ready to load with people who screen positive for prediabetes. And since the epidemic hits the underserved hardest (suggesting again problems with the contexts in which people try to make a living rather than a massive epidemic of poor judgment among the poor and socioeconomically distressed) and these folks have trouble getting healthcare in the first place, a solution reliant on healthcare access, if effective, would make disparities in the incidence of diabetes worse.
  • Thus, we need solutions that don’t leave the conditions that have created the epidemic intact, making the efforts of those set on improving their lifestyle often seem futile in the long run, producing more at-risk people, burdening the sick-care system with healthy people seeking wellness. In all these ways, policies of screen and treat are accidentally (I hope) cruel, particularly toward the sick and the needy, people living "in the shadows of life."
  • I wholeheartedly endorse the priority of preventing type 2 diabetes, but effective sustainable solutions are more likely to be found through evidence-informed deliberative democracy (the population version of shared decision making). The work there is to determine the kind of environments we want — for ourselves and our children — and the public health policies that must be implemented to realize them.
  • Those who seek a more expedient solution to match the urgency of the problem would do best to start this long-term process as soon as possible rather than waste time, attention, and resources, in palliating the problem one screen-and-treated patient at a time.


Emphasis (bold) is mine.

Complex vs Complicated

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Two pictures to start this new year well. First, by John Saddington (@8BIT), The Emotional Journey of Creating Anything Great. Actually, it applies to creating anything at all; the greatness is about ending joyfully, but lame (or simply ordinary) creations mostly share the same path. The real message here is "look at what happens the days, months or years after the glorious instant when you decide that Yes You Can" :-)

The second picture, by Niels Pflaeging (@Complexitools), delineates a clear separation between the keywords to be used in our current complex universe versus the concepts that have always been used in (only) complicated environments. The blue domain is the place where "Puzzle Makers" can keep working as usual while the red area describes a world that already shifted to a highly networked universe. Better embrace the red… if you are not to retire really soon ;-)

Harold Jarche’s Best Finds in 2016

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Harold Jarche (@hjarche) shares its best finds in 2016, and I specially liked his "quotes" chapter:

@Tom_Peters: "Presidents rarely get good advice. Every ‘presenter’ presents a totally biased solution–often suppressing competing evidence."

@atduskgreg: "Machine learning is automated bureaucracy. It spits back the systemic biases we feed it in feature vectors, training sets, reward functions."

"The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots." ‐ H.L. Mencken via @normsmusic

@HughCards: "As the Internet makes everything cheaper, access to real networks (Harvard, Wall St., Silicon Valley etc) gets even more expensive."

"Power not only corrupts, it addicts." ‐ Ursula Le Guin via @ndcollaborative

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." ‐ Marcus Aurelius via @MickFealty

Michèle Morgan

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

The most beautiful eyes in cinema were permanently closed this morning… and it makes me sad because I must confess that I have always considered Michèle Morgan as very close from the perfect woman.


Image from Passage to Marseille (1944)


Portrait by Ernest Bachrach (1940)


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