Author Archives: ulysse

How FIFA affects real-life football

 

Ibrahimovic said that he would ‘often spot solutions in the games that I then parlayed into real life’ as a young player. Mats Hummels, the Bayern Munich and Germany defender, has suggested that ‘maybe some people use what they learn in FIFA when they find themselves on a pitch.’

And this is from Jason Kottke. You’ll find more references on his post

 

The battle of Aleppo is creating a disgusting future for war

Not that war is pretty anyway…

Usually, I try to keep it chill on the Sundry Letter, but as history unfolds, one must take note. 

The Battle of Solferino that took place in June 1859 left 40 000 Italian, French and Austrian soldiers dead or wounded. Henry Dunant was there and he spent his time tending to the wounded. The reflections he wrote then led to the founding of the Red Cross.

Paul Mason for The Guardian

Solferino inspired the principle that hospitals and army medical personnel are not a legitimate target in war. Today, with the bombing of hospitals by the Russians in Syria, the Saudis in Yemen and the Americans in Afghanistan, those who provide medical aid in war believe that principle is in ruins.

You’re actually a terrible lie detector, but here’s how to get better

Art Markman for Fast Company:

So if you’re in a high-stakes situation, it makes sense to try and be more vigilant about whether you’re hearing the truth. But even then, many of us look for the wrong signals. In fact, researchers have found that when we consciously try to catch someone in a lie, we get much worse at it. Our unconscious lie-detection instincts are more reliable than our conscious ones.

Oddly enough, I really thought the inverse was true. 

Land ownership and digital products

Maximum geek alert. Here’s Rebekah Cox, original designer of the News Feed pattern for Facebook and Quora, using the image of physical land ownership to explain the digital platform wars: 

Land ownership couldn’t exist without violence. Violence to take the land and violence—or at least the threat of violence—to keep the land. Systems have been created to keep that violence to a minimum: courts, property lines, rules, regulations, police, lawyers, deeds, sales, etc. New laws are created to compensate for new abuses: height restrictions, offsets, building permits, etc. But where lawyers fail, sheriffs are there with guns for enforcement.

There is no digital land equivalent. Products like Facebook and Twitter are platforms and the foundation on which you build your parcel is your profile but for the most part it grows without harming others. Your gaining friends and followers and likes and retweets should not detract from other’s opportunity to do so. By and large, the ‘battles’ are between the major platforms themselves. Snapchat innovates, Facebook-owned Instagram clones. Actual violence is avoided entirely.

● Authority, LSD & hippies: the advent of the personal computer

NewImage

Yes, Alan Turing is “the father” of modern computer science.

Without him, no modern algorithms, no contemporary concepts of computation.

But what about the personal computer? I’m talking about the one I’m using right now to type those words.

And the web — how you’re reading these words.

So, yes. We do stand on the shoulder of giants.

But the people who made the personal computer possible were science-fiction loving, long-haired hippies.

As Steward Brand — founder of the Whole Earth Catalog — puts it, in a 1995 article for Time Magazine:

‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Do it yourself,’ we said, happily perverting J.F.K.’s Inaugural exhortation. Our ethic of self-reliance came partly from science fiction. We all read Robert Heinlein’s epic Stranger in a Strange Land as well as his libertarian screed-novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Hippies and nerds alike reveled in Heinlein’s contempt for centralized authority. To this day, computer scientists and technicians are almost universally science-fiction fans. And ever since the 1950s, for reasons that are unclear to me, science fiction has been almost universally libertarian in outlook.

So the answer to the perennial question “why are all computer science geeks Star Wars fans?” you have the answer here.

Vintage science-fiction books have anti-authoritarian slants that appealed to young people in the sixties and seventies.

First then, the rejection of authority.

In his 1984 book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Steven Levy enshrined the hacker ethic — the political beliefs that motivated the creation and promotion of personal computers by said hippies:

  1. “Access to computers should be unlimited and total.”
  2. “All information should be free.”
  3. “Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.”
  4. “You can create art and beauty on a computer.”
  5. “Computers can change your life for the better.”

So the idea is that the books brought the original enthusiasm.

What brought the vision?

Can we go as far as arguing that LSD  — “turn on, tune in and drop out”, a phrase popularised by Timothy Leary — is what enabled these people to create machines that would set them free? If not, where does the inspiration to make the necessary abstractions computers require come from?

For instance, do all the people using IBM’s application Lotus know that it is based on Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet software created by Mitch Kapor, a transcendental meditation teacher, hence the name Lotus?

My point is that the invention of personal computers has a political origin, unlike the invention of the lightbulb — but please let me know if I’m wrong.

The people responsible for the promotion of computers rejected the ideas of authority that led to the horrors of the 20th century. Aided by drugs and the smooth climate of California, new ideas popped into their open minds.

Somewhere along the road, though, it went a bit sour.

Initially, Steve Jobs was a different creature that what is known of him in popular culture today:

In the 1960s and early ’70s, the first generation of hackers emerged in university computer-science departments. They transformed mainframes into virtual personal computers, using a technique called time sharing that provided widespread access to computers. Then in the late ’70s, the second generation invented and manufactured the personal computer. These nonacademic hackers were hard-core counterculture types – like Steve Jobs, a Beatle-haired hippie who had dropped out of Reed College, and Steve Wozniak, a Hewlett-Packard engineer. Before their success with Apple, both Steves developed and sold “blue boxes,” outlaw devices for making free telephone calls. Their contemporary and early collaborator, Lee Felsenstein, who designed the first portable computer, known as the Osborne 1, was a New Left radical who wrote for the renowned underground paper the Berkeley Barb.

In 1995, as Brand wrote this article, I’m sure he wouldn’t know that in 2016, scores of people would despise Steve Jobs for his wrongdoings — ranging from how he treated his own daughter, to the closed nature of the Apple ecosystem and the despicable way the iPhone is manufactured by Foxconn.

I understand the betrayal computer scientists may feel today.

Jobs took their ideas, applied a healthy dose of human-centred design and marketed them to death.

Brand concludes his piece (again, written in 1995) with a hopeful vision that unfortunately — as iOS & Android, Facebook and overall progress of social media cement our entrance into the 21st century — is not unfolding as he intended:

Our generation proved in cyberspace that where self-reliance leads, resilience follows, and where generosity leads, prosperity follows. If that dynamic continues, and everything so far suggests that it will, then the information age will bear the distinctive mark of the countercultural ’60s well into the new millennium.

The Internet-equipped smartphone created a new frontier for computer science. Everyone has a computer in their pocket and people can see their loved ones’ faces from across the globe in the blink of an eye with software like Skype. Closed distribution models (Google Play and App Store) are hurdles.

But!

But the Internet enables anyone to learn new skills — do you want to learn how to code? How to fix an oven? How to write in Portuguese? — and the Internet enables anyone to then sell their skills by means of products or services. If you’re not into making software, you can use it to advance yourself or your business. And if you’re into making software, it is up to you and I to make it useful — politically and economically.

People like Aaron Swartz, that Brand wouldn’t have known, are the ones behind new, public technologies like RSS and other standards. They are part of the fourth generation of hackers he mentioned in his Time article.

We have the tools and the information. Our cleverness will help us cut through the chaotic noise to only get the delightful juice of the signal.

Next time you boot your computer, maybe you’ll think of its history, maybe you won’t.

Now though, you can’t say you didn’t know.

P.S Original pieces (categorised in “Commentary”) will now be preceded by a black circle, ●.

Biz Stone on the future of search

Biz Stone cofounded Twitter about 10 years ago. Now, he’s building Jelly, some kind of mix between Google and Quora. There’s an interesting bit on this Josh Elman article from TechCrunch

The future of search lies with human conversations, not a list of links. Traditional web search excels at providing ranked search results, but results can be dated or only tangentially relevant, and search engines can’t answer subjective questions. Humans, in contrast, can provide direct and relevant answers to complicated questions. Biz believes that tapping into a network of people is the best way to find answers utilizing network intelligence to search and find the most pertinent and useful information.

And also a pro tip for entrepreneurs: 

In his pursuit of building Jelly, Biz learned the valuable lesson that every company should be prepared for massive viral growth. When he first launched Jelly, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and they had about a million downloads in a just few days. But his team wasn’t prepared for the influx of users — they had yet to generate enough helpful content and create an engagement loop to keep users coming back, which ultimately stagnated its growth. ‘If you do it right, then it’s great. If you don’t have the right stuff in place, you just blow it,’ shares Biz. ‘Don’t turn on the tools of the trade for growth until you have a system to capture and make use of that growth.’

Audi vehicles to talk to U.S. traffic signals in first for industry

Audi’s system allows the vehicle to display a countdown before a red light turns to green. Knowing how much time one has before the light changes to green will relieve much of the anxiety of waiting, Malhotra said.

The countdown will also appear on the dashboard if the vehicle determines it will not be able to make an approaching light before it turns red, to allow the driver to begin to brake.

While waiting for a red light to turn green, the display will disappear a few seconds before the light turns green, forcing drivers to pay attention to the intersection and determine when it is safe to proceed, said Malhotra.

The future is now. Here’s the link for the article on Reuters

What Germany and Belarus give to Olympics gold medalists

According to Fox Sports Australia, Croatia, Great Britain, Norway and Sweden are among nations that pay no financial incentive for winning gold, while other countries offer alternative bait — like military exemptions (South Korea), a lifetime supply of beer (Germany) and unlimited sausages (Belarus).

So, the four German gold medalists in Rio so far can wash down their $20,000 bonuses with a metric ton of Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbiers while making friends with potential Belarusian sausage kings.

Here’s the article on Yahoo! Sports

Don’t pee on your jellyfish sting and other venom tips

Dr. Christie Wilcox for Quartz:

I’ve watched tentacles from box jellies and Portuguese man o’ war react to urine. And more often than not, the solution causes their venomous stinging cells to fire. Though the intensity of the reaction varies along with the urine itself, at best, urine is inert, at which point you might as well use seawater instead. And at worst, pee causes so much stinging that the jelly would almost certainly inject more venom into you.

Douse the sting with vinegar!

So here’s what you should do: keep your pants zipped and stash a bottle of vinegar in the car instead. Treating the wound with vinegar causes the jellyfish’s stinging cells to become fixed and unable to fire.

And snakes?

Venomous snakes are some of the most dangerous venomous animals, capable of delivering large amounts of potentially lethal toxins with a single bite. Because snake venom can be so dangerous, I can see why people began to think that removing the venom before it spread through the body could save victims’ lives. But why we then settled on the idea that the best way to solve the problem is to suck on the wound to draw the venom into our own mouth is beyond me.

Unfortunately, a lot of proposed ways of removing venom, from suction devices to cutting around a bite (“lancing”), don’t work. Once snake venom is injected in the body, it immediately goes to work, hitchhiking in the blood to get around. It only takes 60 seconds for your blood to travel all the way around your body—so you’re never going to get to all of the venom before it’s spread.

i.e just go get help!