January 2018

Medical breakthrough: Cure for obesity or license to overeat?

I was interested to see different takes on the 'net concerning a bit of recent medical research.  The research involves inhibiting expression of a gene called RCAN1, which seems to regulate body fat.  Long story short, research suggests that inhibiting this gene in mice allows them to remain "thin" in spite of eating a diet in excess of their normal requirements.

The question naturally arises: What does this mean for humans?

Robo grocery delivery?

I was intrigued to read a piece by Joe Dysart in the Communications of the ACM concerning food delivery by self-driving vehicles.  According to the article, there are a number of start-ups working on delivering food parcels to people's doors or curbs using driverless delivery vans.

Is the Mac back or on its way out?

Apple recently held a big event in which it updated a number of its non-iPhone products, namely the MacBook Air, the Mac Mini, and the iPad Pro. 

For the first two, this update is the first in several years.  As Will Oremus points out in his take on the event, this fact cannot help but suggest that these devices are on their way out:

But for the Macs, it feels less like a golden age than the golden years.

Fraud in absentee balloting and e-voting

An "anti-crime" community group called Wake Up Surrey in Surrey, B.C., has alleged that there is a "well-coordinated election fraud scheme underway within the South Asian community" there. 

Would AI gun dectectors protect US schools?

In a recent piece in FastCompany, Jeremy Hsu discusses the pros and cons of a system called Shielded Students, which relies on a high-tech gun detection system to prevent shooters from getting into schools.

Deportation and genetics: Fairness and probabilities

Vicky Mochama notes that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been using genetic testing to determine where to deport certain would-be migrants to Canada

Is almond milk fake milk?

Kate Yoder of Grist reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering the matter of plant milk.  More specifically, the US dairy industry is trying to get the agency to create regulation restricting the term "milk" to the product of lactation, e.g., cow's milk.  Such a rule would ban the application of "milk" to plant-based liquids, e.g., almond milk.

Is ShotSpotter good for Toronto?

The news came in quick succession this week.  First, Toronto was considering adoption of the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system.  Then, Toronto had decided to adopt it.  As the latter article pointed out, after a spate

Technology and authenticity in The Incredibles 2: A hidden message?

I had the pleasure to see The Incredibles 2 this weekend.  It was an enjoyable movie and a worthy sequel to the original Incredibles, in spite of the 14 years it took to bring out. (Spoiler alert!)

As with the original movie, an important theme of the sequel is the relationship between technology and the self.  The first film featured a conflict between superheroes and a hyper-technological villain named Syndrome. 

The conscience of Silicon Valley

There has been much uproar lately in Silicon Valley, April Glaser writes in an interesting piece in Slate.  Employees at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, and others, have expressed disapproval of their companies' involvement with police surveillance, military technology, or refugee policy.  Their efforts have apparently had an impact on corporate decisions.

The eyes have it: Facebook to introduce a blink removal tool for online pics

An interesting piece by Sophie Werthan in Slate reports that Facebook is developing a tool to change pictures so that closed eyes appear to be open.

In technical terms, the tool employs an Artificial Intelligence technique that learns to insert realistic, open eyes where closed ones are detected in photos.  The point is to help overcome disappointment when users blink in what would otherwise be a nice picture of them.

Accommodationism and universalism in design

As often happens, a couple of postings on other web sites make for an interesting comparison.  The postings concern how disabled or non-standard people have been accommodated in the built environment.

Review: Make it new—The history of Silicon Valley design

Barry Katz, professor of Industrial and Interaction Design at California College of the Arts, has written a book that, at 200 pages, conveys a worthy and instructive history of consumer design as it has applied and evolved in the famous Silicon Valley.

Self-driving cars and technology solutionism?

In a recent Wired post, Aarian Marshall makes the point that there are several ways of accomplishing the goal of making roadways safer for the people in them.  Many jurisdictions have adopted "vision zero" plans to reduce traffic injuries.  That is, they aspire to reducing traffic fatalities to none through various safety measures.

Wakanda as a technotopia

I recently had the opportunity to watch the latest instalment in the Marvel movie universe, that is, The Black Panther.  The movie concerns the eponymous superhero, who hails from a hidden, high-tech kingdom in middle Africa, called Wakanda.  After the death of his father, prince T'Challa must prove that he deserves to ascend the throne and to determine the future course for the kingdom.

AI: Good or bad?

I was intrigued by a couple of videos that I came across today.  These videos concern the merits and accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems.  They provide an interesting contrast in approaches that we may adopt about the increasing role of AI in our lives.

Bike battles by James Longhurst

In a recent post about telegraph delivery boys, I noted that their employers were reluctant to take responsibility for collisions between them and pedestrians.  This, and many other points about the history of cycling on the roadways of the United States are related in "Bike battles" by James Longhurst of the University of Wisconsin.

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