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Gentlemachines
What's new at the crossroads of culture, technology and science
Curated by Artur Alves
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Basic Science, Innovation by design and other myths of science and technology

Basic Science, Innovation by design and other myths of science and technology | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Does scientific research drive innovation? Not very often, argues Matt Ridley: Technological evolution has a momentum of its own, and it has little to do with the abstractions of the lab.
Artur Alves's insight:

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The implications of this new way of seeing technology—as an autonomous, evolving entity that continues to progress whoever is in charge—are startling. People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa. Short of bumping off half the population, there is little that we can do to stop it from happening, and even that might not work.


(...)


Politicians believe that innovation can be turned on and off like a tap: You start with pure scientific insights, which then get translated into applied science, which in turn become useful technology. So what you must do, as a patriotic legislator, is to ensure that there is a ready supply of money to scientists on the top floor of their ivory towers, and lo and behold, technology will come clanking out of the pipe at the bottom of the tower.

This linear model of how science drives innovation and prosperity goes right back to Francis Bacon, the early 17th-century philosopher and statesman who urged England to catch up with the Portuguese in their use of science to drive discovery and commercial gain. Supposedly Prince Henry the Navigator in the 15th century had invested heavily in mapmaking, nautical skills and navigation, which resulted in the exploration of Africa and great gains from trade. That is what Bacon wanted to copy.

Yet recent scholarship has exposed this tale as a myth, or rather a piece of Prince Henry’s propaganda. Like most innovation, Portugal’s navigational advances came about by trial and error among sailors, not by speculation among astronomers and cartographers. If anything, the scientists were driven by the needs of the explorers rather than the other way around.


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The Textbook Is Dying. Meet the Artificially Intelligent Software That’s Replacing It. 

The Textbook Is Dying. Meet the Artificially Intelligent Software That’s Replacing It.  | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Artificially intelligent software is replacing the textbook—and reshaping American education.
Artur Alves's insight:

The rise of adaptive learning in connected classrooms.

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ALEKS starts everyone at the same point. But from the moment students begin to answer the practice questions that it automatically generates for them, ALEKS’ machine-learning algorithms are analyzing their responses to figure out which concepts they understand and which they don’t. A few wrong answers to a given type of question, and the program may prompt them to read some background materials, watch a short video lecture, or view some hints on what they might be doing wrong. But if they’re breezing through a set of questions on, say, linear inequalities, it may whisk them on to polynomials and factoring. Master that, and ALEKS will ask if they’re ready to take a test. Pass, and they’re on to exponents—unless they’d prefer to take a detour into a different topic, like data analysis and probability. So long as they’ve mastered the prerequisites, which topic comes next is up to them.

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What is NASA's plan for landing humans on Mars? - CSMonitor.com

What is NASA's plan for landing humans on Mars? - CSMonitor.com | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
NASA's main long-term spaceflight goal is to land human astronauts on Mars. What steps is the space agency taking to get there?
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Silk Road and the reluctant king of the hidden internet – Henry Farrell – Aeon

Silk Road and the reluctant king of the hidden internet – Henry Farrell – Aeon | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The Silk Road might have started as a libertarian experiment, but it was doomed to end as a fiefdom run by pirate kings
Artur Alves's insight:

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This hidden internet is a product of debates among technology-obsessed libertarians in the 1990s. These radicals hoped to combine cryptography and the internet into a universal solvent that would corrupt the bonds of government tyranny. New currencies, based on recent cryptographic advances, would undermine traditional fiat money, seizing the cash nexus from the grasp of the state. ‘Mix networks’, where everyone’s identity was hidden by multiple layers of encryption, would allow people to talk and engage in economic exchange without the government being able to see.

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So much talk about 'the brain' in education is meaningless

So much talk about 'the brain' in education is meaningless | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Beyond the creation of some lucrative learning tools, talking about "the brain" in education doesn't mean much as teachers can't measure what's going on up there.
Artur Alves's insight:
« The next time you read something about neuroscience and education, there are a few simple questions you can ask to inoculate yourself against ultimately meaningless propositions: Can I replace the word “brain” with the word “student” without losing any meaning? If so, there is no need to defer to neuroscience. Is this finding new? Or has it been a part of successful teaching practice for years? If the latter, there is no need to defer to neuroscience. What type of research is being used to prove the point? If the answer is psychological, educational or otherwise behavioural, there is no need to defer to neuroscience. Does the proposed outcome represent a truly meaningful and measurable value? If the answer is no, there is no need to defer to neuroscience. «
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This Changes Everything: Naomi Klein & Avi Lewis Film Re-imagines Vast Challenge of Climate Change | Democracy Now!

This Changes Everything: Naomi Klein & Avi Lewis Film Re-imagines Vast Challenge of Climate Change | Democracy Now! | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
As we mark the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, one of the most destructive storms in the nation’s history, are we prepared for another extreme weather event, which researchers say are becoming more frequent with the effects of climate change?
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Gigabytes of user data from hack of Patreon donations site dumped online

Gigabytes of user data from hack of Patreon donations site dumped online | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The inclusion of source code and databases suggests breach was extensive.
Artur Alves's insight:

Hacking and publishing user data for fun and profit continues to erode trusted networks. This time, it was Patreon, a crowdfunding service used by artists, journalists, etc.

 

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Hackers have published almost 15 gigabytes' worth of password data, donation records, and source code taken during the recent hack of the Patreon funding website.

At least passwords were encrypted with 2048-bit RSA, hashed via bcrypt, and salted.

The data has been circulating in various online locations and was reposted here by someone who said it wasn't immediately possible to confirm the authenticity of the data. Security researcher Troy Hunt has since downloaded the archive file, inspected its contents, and concluded that they almost certainly came from Patreon servers. He said the amount and type of data posted by the hackers suggest the breach was more extensive and potentially damaging to users than he previously assumed.

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How Ottawa's war on data threatens all that we know about Canada

How Ottawa's war on data threatens all that we know about Canada | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Records deleted, burned, tossed in Dumpsters. A Maclean's investigation on the crisis in government data.
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“WikiGate” raises questions about Wikipedia’s commitment to open access | Ars Technica

“WikiGate” raises questions about Wikipedia’s commitment to open access | Ars Technica | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Jimmy Wales asked to reconsider arrangement with paywalled science publisher Elsevier.
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Wikipedians reach out to academics

Wikipedians reach out to academics | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
London conference discusses efforts by the online encyclopaedia to enlist the help of scientists.
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Socially controversial science topics on Wikipedia draw edit wars

Socially controversial science topics on Wikipedia draw edit wars | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The accuracy of what you see depends on whether people are happy about a topic.
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All About Searching The Deep Web

All About Searching The Deep Web | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Some think it’s where sexual deviants access child pornography or devoted drug users go to purchase their substance of choice. Others see it quite differently as a marketplace completely void of personal information – the first of its kind. While both arguments hold water, the real questions is – what implications does a completely anonymous deep web have on society?
Artur Alves's insight:
A collection of resources on the famed and maligned Deep Web.
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The Drone Papers - The Intercept

The Drone Papers - The Intercept | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents, provided by a whistleblower, offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars.

Artur Alves's insight:

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The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret slides that provides a window into the inner workings of the U.S. military’s kill/capture operations at a key time in the evolution of the drone wars — between 2011 and 2013. The documents, which also outline the internal views of special operations forces on the shortcomings and flaws of the drone program, were provided by a source within the intelligence community who worked on the types of operations and programs described in the slides. The Intercept granted the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers. The stories in this series will refer to the source as “the source.

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The Internet's Dark Ages

The Internet's Dark Ages | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
If a Pulitzer-nominated 34-part series of investigative journalism can vanish from the web, anything can.
Artur Alves's insight:

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Digital information itself has all kinds of advantages. It can be read by machines, sorted and analyzed in massive quantities, and disseminated instantaneously. “Except when it goes, it really goes,” said Jason Scott, an archivist and historian for the Internet Archive. “It’s gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it’s gone, there is just zero recourse.”

There are exceptions. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has a trove of cached web pages going back to 1996. Scott and his colleagues are saving tens of petabytes of data, chasing an ideal that doubles as their motto: Universal Access to All Knowledge. The trove they’ve built is extraordinary, but it’s far from comprehensive. Today’s web is more dynamic than ever and therefore more at-risk than it sometimes seems.

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On Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich

On Chernobyl,  by Svetlana Alexievich | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Svetlana Alexievich, author of Voices from Chernobyl, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2015. Here is an excerpt from the book, translated by n+1 editor Keith Gessen, that was first published on the website in March 2011.
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Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.

Stop Googling. Let’s Talk. | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
What have we done to face-to-face conversation?
Artur Alves's insight:

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Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.

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The rise of the zero-day market | Ars Technica UK

The rise of the zero-day market | Ars Technica UK | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Just as defenders find their feet, lawmakers move to outlaw security research entirely.
Artur Alves's insight:
« he main problem with writing about the zero-day market is that, by necessity, no one really talks about zero-days. Researchers don't want to discuss them until they've been sold or disclosed, and the prospective buyer doesn't want to talk about it because that would completely defeat the point. Fortunately, thanks to the work of intrepid security journalists, leaked e-mails, and reformed hackers who speak about their past experiences, it's possible to build up a pretty solid picture of the current zero-day market. For the most part, there are three outcomes for a fresh zero-day: it's publicly disclosed, it's privately disclosed to the software vendor (sometimes for a significant bounty), or it's sold to a third party. That third party could be offensive (Hacking Team, Zerodium), defensive (ZDI), or both. Sometimes the zero-day will be used directly by the third party; in other cases, it might be acquired by a broker who is trying to shop around a bunch of useful zero-days. Zero-days are often sold on the Dark Web, where the combination of Tor and Bitcoin allow buyers and sellers to operate anonymously. They are far less numerous today than a few years ago, but some trading still occurs on normal Web cybercrime forums. (Security reporter Brian Krebs has written extensively about one of the most famous cybercrime forums: Darkode.) «
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The future of cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and beyond : Nature News & Comment

The future of cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and beyond : Nature News & Comment | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The digital currency has caused any number of headaches for law enforcement. Now entrepreneurs and academics are scrambling to build a better version.
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GamerGate: A Culture War for People Who Don't Play Video Games | The New Republic

GamerGate: A Culture War for People Who Don't Play Video Games | The New Republic | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The culture war's newest front? Gaming.
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Facebook’s dominance deepens | openDemocracy

Facebook’s dominance deepens | openDemocracy | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

Two recent Facebook initiatives, “Instant Articles” and “internet.org” are set to entrench the firm’s dominance. Is this a moral monopoly in the making?

Artur Alves's insight:

«Many online platforms are eager to up their market share by controlling more of what their users see. Almost none have made quite as much progress on this as Facebook. I here describe two recent innovations from the firm, “Instant Articles” and “internet.org” to give a sense of Facebook’s capacity to shape the communications landscape.

A great number of the key measures of social network market share point to Facebook's dominance, including as a source of media traffic. Whether the term'monopoly' is accurate here is an unnecessary complexity. For the purposes of this discussion, the immense market position it enjoys in managing the public's communications is sufficient to warrant questioning the classification of its service.

This is a story of media hegemony on an unprecedented scale. It is about the free flow of information as key to democracy and the trouble we have effectively engaging that as a society.«

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BBC - Culture - How cats won the internet

BBC - Culture - How cats won the internet | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

The ubiquitous clips of frolicking felines reveal much about our attitudes to beauty and the absurd. They should give us hope, writes Maria Bustillos.

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Using Technology to Break the Speed Barrier of Reading

Using Technology to Break the Speed Barrier of Reading | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
New research suggests that one of humanity’s most important inventions can be improved
Artur Alves's insight:
« Though smartphones hadn’t yet been invented when they did their original research in the late 1980’s, Gadi Geiger and Gerome Lettvin at MIT, as well as Keith Rayner and his colleagues at UMass Amherst, discovered instances of individuals whose struggles with reading were diminished by restricting the span of text processed during reading. And later, when the use of computers, smartphones, and e-readers became commonplace, more people began to notice this short-line effect, including many non-scientists like David Knight who was inspired to create a web process to help people shorten lines, he called “Friendly Type,” based on this effect. Other beneficial format modifications were also discovered. For example, Marco Zorzi and his colleagues in Italy and France showed in 2012 that when letter spacing is increased to reduce crowding, children with dyslexia read more effectively. «
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Almost No One Sided with #GamerGate: A Research Paper on the Internet's Reaction to Last Year's Mob

Almost No One Sided with #GamerGate: A Research Paper on the Internet's Reaction to Last Year's Mob | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
An analysis of #GamerGate press coverage
Artur Alves's insight:
« Breitbart was the only publication in the data set that published content that was consistently pro-GamerGate. Any other websites that heavily favored GamerGate were simply too obscure to fit the selection criteria. Compared to the other pro-GG sources gathered in this study, Breitbart‘s support of GamerGate was so much more radical and overt. Rather than reporting on GamerGate neutrally by covering all sides of the story, the publication instead posted dozens of tabloid-like reports against journalists, feminists, and other critics of GamerGate. Breitbart published 60 articles on this subject. «
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