The Ghosts in Their Machines

"Let me get philosophical for a minute. In a human world, life is made interesting by serendipity," Yellin told me. "The more complexity you add to a machine world, you're adding serendipity that you couldn't imagine. Perry Mason is going to happen. These ghosts in the machine are always going to be a by-product of the complexity. And sometimes we call it a bug and sometimes we call it a feature."

Todd Yellen, Vice President of Product Innovation at Netflix, quoted here.

""What stunned Quoc V. Le is that the software has learned to pick out features in things like paper shredders that people can't easily spot – you've seen one shredder, you've seen them all, practically. But not so for Google's monster.

Learning "how to engineer features to recognize that that's a shredder – that's very complicated," he explained. "I spent a lot of thoughts on it and couldn't do it."

Many of Quoc's pals had trouble identifying paper shredders when he showed them pictures of the machines, he said. The computer system has a greater success rate, and he isn't quite sure how he could write program to do this.

At this point in the presentation another Googler who was sitting next to our humble El Reg hack burst out laughing, gasping: "Wow.""

Jack Clark commenting on Google's deep learning systems for The Register.


Two articles, both dealing with the peculiarities of algorithms that their human creators can no longer understand.

Pair with All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.

Pointing, Narratives and Making Research Real

And of course there is a deeper story that binds all her narrative finds together: one about the mysterious relationship between people and things. We impose narratives upon objects, we extract narratives from them, and we save narratives within them. Spivack could have written a brand-new book exploring that idea in many thousands of original words. But there’s something powerful in telling that story by, instead, pointing; it’s arguably more powerful, in fact, and it certainly isn’t easy to do it well.

Pulled from a great article by Rob Walker exploring the challenges and rewards of curating narratives from eBay listings. Pair with the Significant Objects project.

If everything is a remix, the future is already here, it makes sense that the most impactful research for innovation, the research that helps organisations connect with a new opportunity, points to tangible signals of possibility. It sure as hell doesn't float on a cloud of theoretical ambiguity.

San Francisco, New York... London?

When I go to California I am reminded that there is still some room in the world. People on the West Coast like to create absences and see who fills them. In New York, someone always wants to be standing where you are standing. Or to put it another way, the Bay makes the boxes and New York fills them in.

Paul Ford

So what are we doing in London?

It's not a city of absences, nor is it one of box filling or, indeed, ticking.

But there's a humanity to the creativity here that I see the West Coast struggle with.

Could culture and technology make more comfortable bedfellows in London?