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    Bret Victor here discusses his notion that the primary challenge in building modern ‘Maker’ projects usually has less to do with putting the thing together and more to do with understanding behavior. For example, a robot that avoids light might not be technically complex to build so much as technically complex to design and optimize its behavior. As such he recommends makerspaces move away from a ‘machine tool club’ model and more towards a workshop for providing tools to analyze and predict behavior in the physical world.

    I don’t know how much I agree with him on that particular point, but I did find the design ideas interesting.

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      I found this document interesting for its captivating description of the mystic vein of Hinduism. More relevant perhaps to us, this take has a transcendent quality that borders on being kin to the implicit doctrines taught by singularitans:

      “Is man a tiny boat in a tempest, raised one moment on the foamy crest of a billow and dashed down into a yawning chasm the next, rolling to and fro at the mercy of good and bad actions–a powerless, helpless wreck in an ever-raging, ever-rushing, uncompromising current of cause and effect; a little moth placed under the wheel of causation which rolls on crushing everything in its way and waits not for the widow’s tears or the orphan’s cry? The heart sinks at the idea, yet this is the law of Nature. Is there no hope? Is there no escape?–was the cry that went up from the bottom of the heart of despair. It reached the throne of mercy, and words of hope and consolation came down and inspired a Vedic sage, and he stood up before the world and in trumpet voice proclaimed the glad tidings: “Hear, ye children of immortal bliss! even ye that reside in higher spheres! I have found the Ancient One who is beyond all darkness, all delusion: knowing Him alone you shall be saved from death over again.” “Children of immortal bliss” –what a sweet, what a hopeful name! Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name–heirs of immortal bliss–yea, the Hindu refuses to call you sinners. Ye are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth–sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter. Thus it is that the Vedas proclaim not a dreadful combination of unforgiving laws, not an endless prison of cause and effect, but that at the head of all these laws, in and through every particle of matter and force, stands One “by whose command the wind blows, the fire burns, the clouds rain, and death stalks upon the earth.””

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        So, the most relevant bit is this and I think it’s key that the average LWer comes to understand it:

        “The first thing I noticed was that every once in a while the classifier would spit something out as ‘I don’t know what category this is’ and you’d look at it and it would be what we’re calling this fringe stuff. That quite surprised me. How can this classifier that was tuned to figure out category be seemingly detecting quality? “[Outliers] also show up in the stop word distribution, even if the stop words are just catching the style and not the content! They’re writing in a style which is deviating, in a way. […] “What it’s saying is that people who go through a certain training and who read these articles and who write these articles learn to write in a very specific language. This language, this mode of writing and the frequency with which they use terms and in conjunctions and all of the rest is very characteristic to people who have a certain training. The people from outside that community are just not emulating that. They don’t come from the same training and so this thing shows up in ways you wouldn’t necessarily guess. They’re combining two willy-nilly subjects from different fields and so that gets spit out.”

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          “During the winter of 1901, the brothers began to question the aerodynamic data on which they were basing their designs. They decided to start over and develop their own data base with which they would design their aircraft. They built a wind tunnel and began to test their own models. They developed an ingenious balance system to compare the performance of different models. They tested over two hundred different wings and airfoil sections in different combinations to improve the performance of their gliders The data they obtained more correctly described the flight characteristics which they observed with their gliders. By early 1902 the Wrights had developed the most accurate and complete set of aerodynamic data in the world. “

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            “Bronze players know neither themselves nor their enemies. They are therefore incapable of winning except against someone equally ill-informed, that is, other bronzies. The biggest issue bronzies have is that they just don’t know how to play. It’s not specific things that they need to learn. They don’t need to learn timings or build orders. They don’t need to know how to shift queue commands or how to hotkey armies. They just need to, in the broadest possible of terms, know what to do. They need a goal, a direction, a game plan, some idea, however vague, of where they want the game to progress and what results they want their actions to produce. They feel like they’re just going along for the ride, that the things happening in the game are totally beyond their control.” What I perceive to be bronze players’ largest problem is that they act without introspection. Or any sort of thinking at all, really. They appear to be simply doing things just for the sake of doing them. One of the most aggravating things when trying to teach someone is asking them the question, “why did you do that?” and having them respond, “I don’t know.” If decisions are made without reasons behind them, improvement will never happen; it cannot happen. So not only do they not know why they are doing what they are doing, they are also not considering why it’s not working. What they gain from their mistakes is not the question “How could I have foreseen that the enemies would be there?” but instead the statement “Oh, I guess the enemies were there.” There is no consideration beyond acknowledging that the event happened. It is perceived as mere happenstance, some sort of random occurrence from which no meaning could be derived. There is no self-reflection, and so no attempt to fix the error. It seems to me, from my noobish standpoint, that the biggest skill to be gained is having an idea of what you can do, what your enemies can do, and with that information deciding what is the correct course of action to take.”

            Emphasis mine.

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              So the first time I read this post, what struck me was that I think what would be really interesting is genuine works of computer science fiction. For example, there is a dearth of Science Fiction exploring HCI concepts. Probably the most interesting I can think of off the top of my head is Dennou Coil, which is in fact excellent.

              We need more science fiction stories that seriously take into account different ways of using computers, where that isn’t incidental to the main plot.

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                exploring HCI concepts

                Dennou Coil

                Tell us more about it does this!

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                  Well, it’s kind of hard to explain Dennou Coil in a few lines I think. Trying to compress it down to a sentence: Dennou Coil is an anime that presents a plausible subculture that could develop with unobtrusive Alternate Reality glasses. And it’s very much presenting the concept, worldview and all from a childs perspective. I think this is actually a sort of hidden genius because in modern media it’s very fashionable to focus on the dangers and the deviants, you know what if someone uses Google Glass to record you at the beach. And while that kind of issue gets touched on in Dennou Coil, it’s an adult sort of concern that’s relegated to the background.

                  What results is this sort of interesting mesh between superstition and science fiction that treads a very fine line between possibility and outright fabrication. The aesthetic theme of Dennou Coil is basically the Missingno glitch in the original pokemon games, dangerous behavior of a complicated technology that the agents experiencing it simply aren’t in a real position to understand. So instead they understand it through the traditional ways of human understanding, stories and rumors and myths. In that sense, it’s a deeper meditation on HCI than say just thinking about the raw mechanics of how something should work to be ergonomic. Perhaps it’s best summed up as being Human(s) with Computers Interaction rather than a focus on the individual ‘user’.

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                Excerpt from Jason Scott’s excellent BBS: The Documentary that outlines the recruitment process old phreaker bulletin boards would use. Along with a lot about their culture and why people would get together and make these things. I found it tied very well into my research with FortForecast, since it is an example of a bunch of people over a computer network accomplishing productive tasks. (Though interestingly enough, a lot of these interviews feature multiple friends together, implying a sort of hybrid dynamic like we have with WL where some people know each other offline but others don’t.)

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                  Those early memories of being selfish, that I had – they had never been properly integrated with later memories of doing unselfish things. I had desperately tried to do all kinds of stuff to prove to myself that I wasn’t an entirely worthless person, but no matter how many positive examples I accumulated, it didn’t entirely solve the problem. As long as the negative memories were split off into their own unit, my attention might always swing to them, even if I had a lot of positive memories on the other side.

                  So I took those negative memories and integrated them together with the positive ones.

                  One thing I wonder about this is if it’s something that’s variant across people who are Episodic or Diachronic. Because if you don’t have the default notion that things current-you does are intrinsically an update on things past-you did, then I could see how you might get disjoint sets of feelings about yourself like this.

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                    One good example of this thing is the moderation heuristics I use for banning people on the #lesswrong IRC channel. I could put them in the guidelines, but I don’t because they consistently identify trolls long before anyone else calls it. I pretty much always call troll first, and I’m pretty much always right.

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                      This is an excellent review! I just purchased and read this book as well and I concur with all your points. Identitarian politics, transgressive politics, the various online communities, Gamergate, Milo, etc; Nagle did her damn homework on everything.

                      On your opinion at the end, where you say “Where this book falls short, in my opinion, is in drawing connections between the online struggle of the alt-right and actual electoral outcomes” and “Nagle is remarkably short of evidence of alt-right online ideology translating into offline action.”

                      I don’t think this is necessarily at the fault of Nagle. In my opinion, the data needed isn’t available because simply not enough time has passed for these things to be seen in the physical world. Its only been several months since the election. I think it will be a few more years before we are able to draw any meaningful conclusions.

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                        We don’t have data per se, but we do have a healthy dose of anecdote:

                        “ I arrived semi-early at 3:30 or so, the line moved like molasses even after the doors opened at 4:00. People drove by us with signs bearing anti-Trump slogans like “Get Hate Out Of My State”. A lady drove by and stopped to ask us what everybody was in line for, I shouted that the line was for a Trump rally. She nodded and drove off. A young man behind me shouted after her that she was a cuck.

                        . . .

                        Turning the corner the full extent of the protest crowd became clear. It was massive, holding white and black or yellow and black signs with a wide variety of slogans. These I have on video so I can quote them directly: “Everett Stands United Against Trump”, “No Anti-Semites In The White House”, “Bigots Should Be Stripped Of Power”, “No Hate In The White House”, “Filipino Lives Matter, who will make the lumpia?”, “Say NOPE to the DOPE” where the “O” has been replaced with Donald Trump’s face. As we stepped toward this crowd (which threw at least one death threat at me) a dedicated volunteer stood stood there to remind us ‘not to feed the trolls’. “

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                          Those are both good anecdotes and I’ve updated my review with a link to your post, indicating that rallies and other campaign events provide a plausible mechanism for transmission of alt-right ideas and ideology into the mainstream political discourse.

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                          the data needed isn’t available because simply not enough time has passed for these things to be seen in the physical world

                          This is perhaps true, but Nagle doesn’t really do a good job of laying out any hypotheses as to how online activity can translate into offline activism and ideology. Even when she talks about the left, she doesn’t really talk about how online activity directly translated into offline protest. She takes it as a given that the direction of influence runs one way: from online memes to offline ideology. I think it’s more nuanced than that, and that there is influence going in both directions.

                          As the book stands, Nagle has laid out the sources of many of the online alt-right memes and how they interact and left it up to us to work out how those memes turn into offline action. I’m certainly not ungrateful for that. I think what she’s done has importance. But it’s not the whole story.

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                          In this essay Cory Doctorow describes his thesis that the Internet of Things puts devices on a new kind of physics. Physics where the world changes according to who and what is observing it, thus enabling new and potentially pernicious forms of cheating. It’s an interesting idea from an angle I hadn’t considered before.

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                            Is anyone using the Android version? I installed it on my phone but it doesn’t seem to ever ping me on its own even when I set average ping interval down to 1 minutes.

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                              Yeah I never tried the official software. It seems sufficiently easy to write your own that I figured I’d rather do that. I’ve also been considering writing an “experience sampling over SMS” sort of app. https://eprints.qut.edu.au/45974/2/45974.pdf

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                              I’ve long wanted some kind of ‘automatic’ time tracker, but tracking time is not an obvious problem with computers and humans in the mix. This approach does something quite clever. Much like the profiler for a complicated application which simply asks what the current frame is at different points in time to estimate performance; this application asks what you’re doing at your computer at random intervals to estimate what you really spend your time on.

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                                I don’t know how far this essay goes on the ‘useful’ axis (though the origins of the phrase ‘cuckold’ makes an appearance), rather this essay gives a brief flavor into the bizarre practical life of 17th century England. This is a time period we generally have understanding of in the popular culture through stereotypes and distortions, whereas this story is the truth as we know it from medieval court records. Fascinating.

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                                  Very long, but a truly excellent essay. What I like so much about it is that unlike most ‘pop history of science’ articles, this one dispenses with the snarky tone that allows the reader to feel oh-so-much-smarter than their ancestors. Instead it takes the high road, making it clear exactly why it would have been difficult to discover the true cause of scurvy even for intelligent competent people.

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                                    This was cyberpunk enough when these guys did it, but I expect with the release of the new iPhone we may see a spate of similar stories on the horizon, considering that the latest model includes a kinect-esque device inside for facial recognition:

                                    https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/12/iphone-x-basically-has-a-kinect-on-the-front-to-enable-faceid/

                                    Going forward we may begin to see 3D scanning take on the sort of easy convenience that will make it very common, employed in a wider variety of fields than previously considered. For example, we’re now entering the stage where it’s feasible that a volunteer at the local historical society could scan artifacts without any investment in new equipment.

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                                      Ok, I just got around to reading this. I only have one comment:

                                      It’s amusing how Gearbox has accidentally stumbled onto creating one single, minute, narrow instance of something that Blizzard cranks out, with casual ease, over and over, in a steady stream for years and years on end.

                                      (In other words: yeah, some people are well aware of all of these principles—which is why those people have subscriber numbers in the double-digit millions, and huge, Olympus-sized mountains of cash.)

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                                        Yup. It’s funny too because he talks about fun and addiction in this essay, and kind of starts to conflate them a bit at points. I was especially annoyed with his admonition that “fun isn’t enough”, because my favorite game at the time was Halo 3, and I thought Halo 3 was a lot of fun in a way that MMO’s rarely were. Moreover I felt that I could explain the principles of what made Halo 3 fun precisely because I’d had so much experience tweaking the experience through forge. So I’d always wanted to write a response essay about what makes something fun, but never quite got around to it.

                                        Maybe I should, since you said you’d like to see more of my Halo stuff.

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                                        Good essay. I would add this caveat:

                                        Sometimes, someone asks you for advice of level N. However, what you know, and what the one who asks you either does not know or does not want to acknowledge, is that no advice of level N will suffice, for their situation; the flaw in their approach is on level N+1.

                                        (Example: “The wheels aren’t holding the car up; what sort of bolt should I use to ensure that they hold?” —when the problem is that the car has three wheels instead of four; no kind of bolt will fix that problem.)

                                        Such cases are difficult. You know that no advice you give on level N will work, but no advice you give on level N+1 will be accepted.

                                        Being open to being told that this is the case, is, I think, a critical part of being rational.

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                                          Yes. That is an excellent succinct summary of one of the major things I wanted to get across with this essay but didn’t state explicitly within it.

                                          Do you mind if I add it in directly to the wiki page?

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                                            Go for it.

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                                          This is one of my favorite essays ever. In it Steve Yegge analyzes how a series of fortunate mishaps created an addictive feedback loop in the endgame of Borderlands that caused a subculture to form. Some highlights:

                                          • The section on token economies.
                                          • A lot of pretty biting (and insightful) usability and design commentary. For example at the end he points out that players follow the path of least resistance so don’t worry too much about creating a bazillion varied experiences as long as the core game is well put together.
                                          • The writing is really good, in fact I’ve used this essay before for pointers on how to write in a way that is amusing and maintains interest.
                                          • Interesting side commentaries on video game design stuff.
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                                            I have seen a lot of bus and van overhauls. I really like this one because it goes for maximum functionality, efficiency and cost saving. If I was to do this myself someday, this is exactly what mine would look like. Good Job!

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                                              Well I wouldn’t pat myself on the back too hard, since after all this isn’t my overhaul. ;)

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