I am not a believer in the AI singularity — the rapture of the nerds — that is, in the possibility of building a brain-in-a-box that will self-improve its own capabilities until it outstrips our ability to keep up. What CS professor and fellow SF author Vernor Vinge described as “the last invention humans will ever need to make”. But I do think we’re going to keep building more and more complicated, systems that are opaque rather than transparent, and that launder our unspoken prejudices and encode them in our social environment. As our widely-deployed neural processors get more powerful, the decisions they take will become harder and harder to question or oppose. And that’s the real threat of AI — not killer robots, but “computer says no” without recourse to appeal.
After reading this account of a wonderfully surreal text adventure game, you’ll probably want to play AI Dungeon 2:
A PhD student named Nathan trained the neural net on classic dungeon crawling games, and playing it is strangely surreal, repetitive, and mesmerizing, like dreaming about playing one of the games it was trained on.
Also, can I just say how nice this reading experience is—the typography, the arresting image …I like it.
The web embodies principles of openness and portability and access that best align with the needs, and frankly the purpose, of the cultural heritage sector.
Aaron’s talk from the 2019 Museums and the Web conference.
In 2019 the web is not “sexy” anymore and compared to native platforms it can sometimes seems lacking, but I think that speaks as much to people’s desire for something “new” as it does to any apples to apples comparison. On measure – and that’s the important part: on measure – the web affords a better and more sustainable framework for the cultural heritage to work in than any of the shifting agendas of the various platform vendors.
I find myself doing pseudo code before I write real code, sure, but I also leave it in place sometimes in code comments.
A short, snappy web book on product development from Ryan Singer at Basecamp.
Like Resilient Web Design, the whole thing is online for free (really free, not “give us your email address” free).
A very thoughtful post by Hidde that draws a useful distinction between the “internals” of a component (the inner workings of a React component, Vue component, or web component) and the code that wires those components together (the business logic):
I really like working on the detailed stuff that affects users: useful keyboard navigation, sensible focus management, good semantics. But I appreciate not every developer does. I have started to think this may be a helpful separation: some people work on good internals and user experience, others on code that just uses those components and deals with data and caching and solid architecture. Both are valid things, both need love. Maybe we can use the divide for good?
The coming GDPR storm:
Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, is expected to circulate her decisions on some cases by July or August, with final rulings made by the end of the year.
(That’s my sister-in-law, that is.)
I linked to this a while back but now this great half hour documentary by Jessica Yu is ready and you can watch the whole thing online: Tim Berners-Lee, the birth of the web, and where the web has gone since.
In the scenes describing the early web, there’s footage of the recreated Line Mode Browser—how cool is that‽
This is a great explanation of the difference between the
:lang CSS selectors. I wouldn’t even have thought’ve the differences so this is really valuable to me.
In which Matthew disects a multiple choice quiz that uses CSS to do some clever logic, using the
:checked pseudo-class and
An online museum of sounds—the recordings of analogue machines.
This is an interesting tool: mess around with styles on any site inside Chrome’s dev tools, and then hit a button to have the updated styles saved to a URL (a Gist on Github).
This strikes me as a sensible way of thinking about machine learning: it’s like when we got relational databases—suddenly we could do more, quicker, and easier …but it doesn’t require us to treat the technology like it’s magic.
An important parallel here is that though relational databases had economy of scale effects, there were limited network or ‘winner takes all’ effects. The database being used by company A doesn’t get better if company B buys the same database software from the same vendor: Safeway’s database doesn’t get better if Caterpillar buys the same one. Much the same actually applies to machine learning: machine learning is all about data, but data is highly specific to particular applications. More handwriting data will make a handwriting recognizer better, and more gas turbine data will make a system that predicts failures in gas turbines better, but the one doesn’t help with the other. Data isn’t fungible.
A really deep dive into the
lang attribute, and the
:lang() pseudo-class (hitherto unknown to me). This is all proving really useful for a little side project I’m working on.
I love this idea (and implementation)—instead of treating braille signage as something “separate but equal”, this typeface attempts to unify lettering and braille into one.
Braille Neue is a universal typeface that combines braille with existing characters. This typeface communicates to both the sighted and blind people in the same space.
A deep dive into the
:focus pseudo-class and why it’s important.
That’s the web I want; a place with spare corners where un-monetisable enthusiasms can be preserved, even if they’ve not been updated for seven years.
Training a neural network to do front-end development.
I didn’t understand any of this.