Friday, June 7, 2013

7/6/2013: Weekend Reading Links Part 1



The weekly links page for weekend reading materials is now becoming a regular feature of this blog. Why? Because in my daily life I am privileged to come across a number of fascinating things - science and arts related - and these are simply worth sharing. Also because art and science are more important in value to humanity than economics (the bit of economics that is beyond science-art overlap, or, as I call it, applied economics). And finally, because it is often fun to tease out bits of my own thinking on the matters of art (and less so on the matters of science).

So here's this week's list in no particular order.


Since my days at IBM I came to appreciate the complex nature of data visualisation. Prior to my days at IBM I came to appreciate the value of visualisation in shaping our understanding of the world when information about the world is transmitted to us by means of data. Now, here's an article that added to my understanding of visualisation as a tool for shaping the long-term future of the world: http://venturebeat.com/2013/06/07/sparkon-releases-future-visualization-engine-to-help-kids-choose-a-career/ . Why is it important to me? Ok:

  1. It contains direct links to human capital (sorry, err… I know, no economics)
  2. If visualisation is about narrating the world, making it more comprehensible, then visualisation is also capable of altering the world around us by altering our understanding of it. That is second-order loop of causality: world causes data, which causes (via visualisation) our understanding which in turn causes us to interact with the world and thus cause data… If we take the visualisation as a tool for directly shaping human choice of careers, fields of study, inquiry etc, then the visualisation over time becomes the first order shaper of the world, right? Scary… You bet:
  3. The entire idea of shaping (via any specifically designated tool) one's future, as in "Let’s say your strongest “career personality type” is artistic follows by enterprising, you are extroverted, and you are passionate about art and video games. Sparkon suggests a range of jobs that bring all these together, like video game designer or art director, and suggests majors and skill sets that are useful for these areas. The engine then suggests specific videos, like “careers in the video game industry,” computer programming, or graphic design. There are also more general videos about college and SAT preparation, communication and leadership etc… Students can create a Netflix-style queue with recommended videos, and parents can also get involved by monitoring their kids’ progress to see what they are exploring." Missing something? Oh, yes, Sparkon won't really suggest you become an artist, cause you know… "there's no money in that". Now, imagine the world where humans are discouraged from making any errors by constantly being steered / selected into a stream of activities and information determined by a machine?.. Here comes Sparkon generation of drones?


Next, back to Venice Biennale:
"When I got out I felt I had escaped from the suffocating embrace of a revenant worthy of De Chirico. But this remake is perfectly in tune with the market of today now that the fairs have given up on the fuchsia and chrome-yellows of Murakami and Koons and have taken to showing off the pauperish neutrals of the Seventies. It is a much more radical product than the efforts of the young neo-conceptualists, but highly fashionable at a time when collecting is wearing the hair-shirt of the most hypocritical of penitents."

What?! Ah, yes, yes… that's about current reconstruction of the 1969 exhibition http://www.veniceconnected.com/node/29046. The review of it - the source of the quote - is here: http://www.theartnewspaper.com/reviews/The-Prada-Biennale-show-Creative-Energy-turned-into-Dead-Fetishism/29836 . Comes August, I am looking forward to being as suffocated by the embrace of the exhibition as I was suffocated by the embrace of the review, just as I am certain to be suffocated by the Venice stuffed by the 30+ degrees sun heated bodies of tourists, who usually leave Biennale the last on the list of amusements worth attending…


The art of displaying dead art (point above) is different from the art of feeding dead art to a dead dictator… and the latter doesn't quite offer the promise of the excitement of the former. Except when the dead dictator is Kim Jong-Wong-Bi-Din-Dong-Il of North Korea. Fascinating and fantastic account of Kim's favourite sushi chef depicted in a lengthy interview in http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201306/kim-jong-il-sushi-chef-kenji-fujimoto-adam-johnson-2013?currentPage=1

My favourite rhetorical bit: "And guesthouse is code for a series of palaces decorated with cold marble, silver-braided bedspreads, ice purple paintings of kimilsungia blossoms, and ceilings airbrushed with the cran-apple mist of sunset, as if Liberace's jet had crashed into Lenin's tomb." My favourite human bit: Fujimoto's two abandoned families. It has to be a rare twist of fate in which one abandons his two daughters and a spouse to serve the dictator in exchange for having a family that he subsequently condemns to labour camps by escaping the dictator… and so on… do read!


Science or fiction? http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/06/06/take-that-nsa-scientists-hide-communications-using-a-hole-in-time/ So basic idea is there are holes in time (not only the ones that follow copious consumption of alcohol) and you can hide stuff in them (well, for now, no white elephants - ease off, politicians with any plans). My favourite quote: "In practice, this system isn’t perfect." No sh*t, Sherlocks…


New stuff on 'how planets are formed' http://www.siliconrepublic.com/innovation/item/32967-astronomers-discover-comet/ Predictably, nothing new on why planets are formed… but that is a different topic.


On the way we know stuff, plus the way we communicate, a very interesting paper from Cornell University "Social Media and Information Overload: Survey Results" (http://arxiv.org/abs/1306.0813) looks at information flows via user-generated media, "such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter' based on smallish sample of 587 participants in a UK survey. "Participants who experience information overload are those who engage less frequently with the media, rather than those who have fewer posts to read." Kind of obvious: less you engage, bigger is build up of unanswered communications. "Microbloggers complain of information overload to the greatest extent. Two thirds of Twitter-users have felt that they receive too many posts, and over half of Twitter-users have felt the need for a tool to filter out the irrelevant posts." I have no idea how I would have answered their survey… maybe because I feel that I am more surveys-overloaded than twitter-overloaded?


Much is written by humanity on the topic of happiness. So much so that even the Guardian (a miserably Lefty paper) has gotten to the topic, let alone the economists (the latter also more often than not read the Guardian, which is clearly correlated with both being unhappy on average more than non-economist and so on…) Read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/31/secret-happiness-complicated-research?INTCMP=SRCH - it is somewhat 'all over the place' and not too deep, but is interesting nonetheless. And when you finished, read



And thereafter, come back to this page…


Last week, I posted links to several articles on the proof of the theorem that postulates that gaps between prime numbers are bounded (see: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2013/05/2552013-saturday-reading-links.html). Here's a human story behind the proof author:
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/05/twin-primes/ - worth a read.


In contrast, here's the design for much-awaited Lego House design: http://aboutus.lego.com/en-gb/news-room/2013/june/the-right-look-for-a-lego-house/ and, argue with me on this, but I think it is banal. Made even more banal by monochromatic white, which is so 'not Lego' and thus expected in the world of reverse psychology of asymmetric innovation - aka the world of on-line aesthetics.


Stay tuned for more reading links once the kids are put into their beds...



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