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.
Monday, December 16th, 2019
Wednesday, November 27th, 2019
Lynn gives a step-by-step walkthrough of the latest amazing redesign of her website. There’s so much joy and craft in here, with real attention to detail—I love it!
Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
Taking the idea of the Clock of the Long Now and applying it to a twitterbot:
Software may not be as well suited as a finely engineered clock to operate on these sorts of geological scales, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to put some of the 10,000 year clock’s design principles to work.
The bot will almost certainly fall foul of Twitter’s API changes long before the next tweet-chime is due, but it’s still fascinating to see the clock’s principles applied to software: longevity, maintainability, transparency, evolvability, and scalability.
Software tends to stay in operation longer than we think it will when we first wrote it, and the wearing effects of entropy within it and its ecosystem often take their toll more quickly and more destructively than we could imagine. You don’t need to be thinking on a scale of 10,000 years to make applying these principles a good idea.
Tuesday, June 19th, 2018
A terrific cautionary look at the history of machine learning and artificial intelligence from the new laugh-a-minute book by James.
Saturday, February 24th, 2018
Luke Stevens is trying to get untangle the very mixed signals being sent from different parts of Google around AMP’s goals. The response he got—before getting shut down—is very telling in its hubris and arrogance.
I believe the people working on the AMP format are well-intentioned, but I also believe they have conflated the best interests of Google with the best interests of the web.
Monday, January 1st, 2018
Monday, October 2nd, 2017
Amber has been investigating which image formats make sense for which situations.
Choosing image format is only one step towards optimising images on the web. There are many, many other steps to consider, and so, so much to learn!
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Google’s datadump makes for a fascinating—and worrying—bit of data dumpster diving.
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
From Kornel, the genius who gave us ImageOptim, comes another Mac desktop tool for optimising PNGs, this time converting 24-bit PNG to 8-bit with full alpha channel.
Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
I'm kicking myself that I didn't know about this little Fireworks trick.
Monday, February 23rd, 2009
Can the concept of free culture be applied to wine? Ryan O'Connell thinks so.
Saturday, January 31st, 2009
In the preface to my book DOM Scripting, the first of my acknowledgments is a
In these days of RESTful APIs, there are even more sources to be viewed. Whilst deconstructing a message from the oracle of Fielding, Paul gives some straightforward advice on being true to the ideals of REST, including this:
Above all, don’t kill the bookmarking experience and testing with bog-standard, service-ignorant browsers.
Replace the word “testing” with “viewing source” and that single sentence encapsulates the baseline support I expect from a web browser.
In recent years, the bookmarking aspect has been suffering not through any fault of the browsers but because of overzealous use of Ajax and through the actions of developers using POST when they should be using GET.
Equally worrying, I’ve noticed that the second piece of functionality—viewing source—is also under threat in some circumstances. Here the problem lies with the web browser, specifically Safari. Entering the URL for an RSS file, or following a hypertext reference to an RSS file, will not display the contents of that resource. Instead, Safari attempts to be “smart” and reformats the resource into a nicely presented document.
Now, I understand the reasoning for this. Most people don’t want to be confronted with a page of XML elements. But the problem with Safari’s implementation is that it breaks its own View Source functionality. Viewing source on a reformatted RSS feed in Safari will display the HTML used to present the feed, not the feed itself. Firefox 3 offers a better compromise. Like Safari, it reformats RSS feeds into a readable presentation in the browser. But crucially, if you view source, you will see the original RSS …the source.
I’ll leave you with some writings on the importance of View Source through the ages:
Saturday, April 5th, 2008
Good design is invisible. Rebecca points out why Twitter is very good social design indeed.