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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Software

Wednesday February 21 2018

One of the photos illustrating this report:

image

Can we please have a Lego London?

I just typed “lego london” into google, not expecting anything helpful.  A Lego cow in London.  Lego shops in London.  General Legonic activity of all kinds, in London.  I did not expect to be told, right at the top of the list, about making London in miniature, out of Lego.  But, I was immediately shown this:

image

Cancel my request for Lego London.  It already exists, and it is very bad.  Indeed, I would say that using Lego to mimic a very particular looking thing on a tiny scale is the very essence of what Lego is bad at doing, and the fact that Lego seems to spend so much of its time and trouble and focus and resources doing this exact thing spells its long-term doom.  The whole point of Lego, surely, is that you can make everything – everything, that is to say, that you can make out of it – with a few generic shaped objects.  Just like the Meccano of my youth, in other words, but architectural rather than mechanical.  A big Tower Bridge, yes, good idea.  A big Big Ben, not bad.  But tiny versions of these, stupid and totally unrealistic? See above.  Stupid.

For that, what you need is a 3D printer. And the smaller you make your small buildings, the more of them you can have in one spread.

A subset of them could be made to be exactly the right size for making buildings to attach to miniature railway layouts.  So, do railway modellers use 3D printers, to make, not trains, but train layout appendages?  It would make sense.

I just image googled railway modelling 3d printer, and got mostly 3D printed trains and train bits, rather than architecture.

Could making such models be the domestically owned 3D printer killer app?  Because so far, a domestically owned 3D printer killer app has been conspicuous by its total absence, and any company which has tried to make its fortune making domestically owned 3D printers has gone bust.  Such modelling – trains and houses and mountains and stuff - was all the rage when I was a kid, but all that has since been replaced by computer games.  But might not those computer games in their turn come to seem rather dated?  As is not the making of things now returning to the rich countries again, now that the computer guys are applying their wizardry to stuff-making?  Conceivably, toys may some time soon become three dimensional and material again, with swarms of robot cars and lorries replacing the trains.

Probably not, because things seldom just come back into style like that, any more than dance bands ever did or ever will.  More likely, the kid’s games of the future will involve some variation on virtual reality, which is to say they’ll be computer games only more so.  If so, we might see a further reduction in the crime rate (see below).

Tuesday February 20 2018

These are experts whom I want to believe, so I do!:

Violent video games may actually reduce crime as aggressive players are “too busy” shooting virtual enemies to cause trouble in the real world, experts claim.

I have long believed that television caused crime waves, in each country it arrived in, by immobilising the respectable classes inside their respectable homes and handing the world’s public spaces over to non-television-owning ne’er-do-wells, every night.  It is not the sex-and-vi0lence-on-telly that causes the crime.  It is the near total absence of these things.  Violent people were repelled by telly, because it was so abysmally well-behaved.

I myself have spent a huge proportion of my life watching television.  Had television not existed, I would have been out in public places fighting crime, by looking like I might notice it and then give evidence against the ne’er-do-wells committing it.

But now, with the rise of video games, it is the ne’er-do-wells who are busy playing video games.  Video games are not well-behaved.  You get to kill people, and to commit grand theft upon autos.  If duty calls, it calls on you to kill yet more people.

Presumably, this evening, the public places are all deserted.  I wouldn’t know.  I am watching television.

Wednesday January 24 2018

Yeah, another.  (See also: this one.) This time it was brief, and to the point, whatever point that was:

PHP has encountered an Access Violation at 7C8108EB

I don’t know how long that was the solitary message being sent out by this blog, but that was it.

It has become a priority for me to set up a new blog, powered by Wordpress, and I need someone who knows Wordpress to help me do that.  In exchange for money.  Anyone interested?  Anyone know anyone who might be interested?

This blog being this blog, I am pretty confident that the answer, here, will be: Comments (0).  This posting is more in the way of a memo to self.  This is the thing I now need to be cracking on with.

Tuesday January 23 2018

I haven’t taken many photos of people in silhouette, but I should do it more, because it is a really good way to photo people.  Maybe the problem is that a person has to be in the dark with lots of light behind him or her, and if you are like me and you just photo people out in the open, and you let the lighting be an act of God, so to speak, God only very rarely obliges with a silhouette.

But God did so oblige, on Jan 5th, which was the day I also took the first four of yesterday’s photos.  This photoer was under Blackfriars Bridge and hence in darkness, and behind him, we observe the Millennium Bridge, artistically out-of-focus:

image

See also this photo, taken indoors, of Christopher Snowdon.

Does face recognition software work with silhouettes?  I just shoved that question into google, but answer came there none.

Saturday January 20 2018

By which I mean that the content is what it is, but that the loading up is either very slow or, from time to time, non-existent.

If you had been trying to view this blog today, this is what you would have seen:

image

I cranked up BMdotcom on my mobile, just to make sure it wasn’t my computer that was in some mysterious way causing this.  It wasn’t.

And yes, I cheated with the timing of this posting.  I actually stuck this up in the small hours of Monday morning, and backdated the date.  If this bothers you, have your lawyers call my lawyers.

Conversations are now ongoing about not only how to get fewer such collapses, but also about how to speed up the loading, to the point where a decent number of people might consider reading it, again, or even for the first time.  What I am thinking I will do is set up a new Wordpress blog, and leave this as Classic Brian, or some such thing.

Tuesday December 26 2017

After that trip to Primrose Hill with GodDaughter2, when my camera stopped cooperating, and I later got it working again, I went back there, on my own.  I couldn’t be content until I had taken as many photos there as I would like to have taken on the previous visit.

One of the better photos I took on that second trip, of photoers photoing, was this:

image

Is that guy photoing his photoer lady-friend, as she photos the view?  Judging by the red blob on his screen, which has got to be her bright red rucksack, I would say: yes he is.  What a peculiar man, wanting to take a photo like that.

Joking aside, there is something else about my camera that troubles me, besides having spent a day thinking it was completely bust.  Do you remember that day earlier this year when the sky turned yellow, because of some North African dust storm, or some such thing.  Well, when my camera is set on automatic - and when I use it it is always set on automatic – it does this all the time.  Everything comes out yellower than it should.  Blues are diminished into white.  The merest suggesting of actual yellow is intensified.  Not good.

The above photo, effective though I think it is, illustrates this only too clearly.  Notice how even my photo of the guy’s screen has his sky bluer than my version of the sky.  Which means that his screen must have been very blue.

I tried reading the camera manual, but unfortunately this is written in a Serbo-Croation dialect of Sanskrit.  Not one word of it makes any sense to me at all.  And I tried fiddling around with the camera itself, without any success.  I couldn’t even find anywhere on the www where I might be able to ask my question, and more to the point, maybe get some worthwhile answers.  Help.  I realise that Boxing day is not a good day to be saying such a thing, but I say it anyway.  By the time anyone gets around to reading this, the problem is unlikely to have gone away.

Friday December 15 2017

Incoming from Rob Fisher: link to a piece in the Independent, about machine learning applied to old telescope data is finding new planets.

Quote:

A computer was trained to look through the data from the Kepler space telescope, and look for signals that might belong to planets. And it found new planets within existing systems, by spotting signals that seemed to indicate something of interest but were too weak to have been spotted by humans.

That suggests that there might be whole worlds and solar systems hiding within the data we’ve already collected, but which we had not noticed because there are simply so many signals to pick through. Kepler has collected four-years of data from looking at the sky and 150,000 stars – far more than humans could ever look through.

So, exactly what were these weak signals?

The new planets – just like all of the thousands found by Kepler – were spotted by watching the sky for light coming from the stars. When planets pass in front of their stars, scientists can register the dimming as they go, and use the speed and characteristics of that dimming to work out what the solar system might actually look like.

Much of that work relies on pattern recognition, which until now has been done by scientists looking through the data. But the new findings are the result of work between Nasa and Google, which trained machine learning algorithms to learn to spot those patterns itself and so pick through the data much more quickly.

This is good.  Keep Skynet busy with harmless hobbies.

Maybe not.  Getting Skynet to compile a huge and exhaustive list of all the places in the universe where biology-based life might be, after biology-based life on this planet has been taken care of.

This is maybe how the robot holocaust will happen.  We will have been telling them to “take care of” us and our fellow creatures.  But they’ll have been watching too many gangster movies, and ...

Thursday December 14 2017

My camera has conked out.  The autofocussing is refusing to autofocus.  Which is nasty.  And even nastier given that I only found out about this when I was trying, with it, to take photos, this afternoon, like this one:

image

That’s from the top of Primrose Hill, as photoed by my mobile phone, which is a Google Nexus 4.  That one wasn’t too bad, but most of the phone-photos I phone-photoed with this annoying gadget, truly good only for telling me where I am and how soon I will reach my tube destination and what the cricket scores are, were rubbish.

Here is one of the few other good ones, taken from one of the bridges over the Regent’s Canal:

image

That red boat is the Feng Shang Princess.

GodDaughter 2 was with me.  Since I couldn’t take lots of photos, there was nothing for it, I had to make do with talking to her.  And also listening to her.  Which worked out quite well.

Wednesday December 06 2017

I am trying once again to clear open windows from my computer.  Two days ago I referred to something very interesting that had been hanging around for some time on my computer screen.  I am now doing this again.

This photo explains it pretty well:

image

This appeared at Dezeen early in October, and I’ve been meaning to mention it hear ever since.

You want more?  Here you go:

An app has launched that allows users to instantly identify artworks and access information about them, by simply scanning them with a smartphone.

Smartify launched at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last week. It has been described by its creators as “a Shazam for the art world”, because - like the app that can identify any music track - it can reveal the title and artist of thousands of artworks.

It does so by cross-referencing them with a vast database that the company is constantly updating.

There was a time when art galleries and museums would try to stop you taking photos, but those days are pretty much gone.  It was the smartphoners what done this, because there are just too many of them to stop with their photoing, and anyway this can’t be done because you can never really tell whether they are taking photos or whether they are just doing social media with their mates or catching up on their emails.  This app will end this argument for ever.  People are just not going to tolerate being told that they mustn’t use this in an art gallery, and if they do use it, its use will look exactly like they are photoing.  The key to stopping photoing is that you have to know when it is happening.

Monday December 04 2017

This article (which is based on and which links to this article) has been an open window on my computer for over a month now, because it struck me as being so very interesting.

These reports concern recent research into the impact upon the world of online dating.  Mostly good impacts.  Two impacts in particular are pointed to.

First, online dating seems to facilitate more interracial relationships and interracial marriages.  There is definitely a correlation between online dating and interracial relationships.  This research strongly suggests that the link is causal.  Online dating gets people past racial barriers.

Second, the relationships it facilitates tend to last longer and be more solid.

If I believe both of the above effects to be not only very important, but also to be true, this is because both effects make so much sense to me.

The first effect concerns taste in mere appearances.  Suppose you inhabit a world where a relationship between you and someone ethnically different is somewhat taboo, the chances are you won’t be sufficiently acquainted with many fanciable people of a different ethnic group to be able to do anything about it.  But if a dating app asks, bluntly: Do you like the look of this person, or of this person, or of this person? - then your answers will crash right through such racial boundaries, provided only that you personally would like them to.  Relationships across racial boundaries become a simple matter of individual taste.  Your “friends” can just stay right out of it.

But then, once strong relationships across racial boundaries stop being the stuff of movies, because they are so rare, and become quite common, all those “friends” are just going to have to live with it, or stop being your friends.  Chances are, they’ll be fine with it.

I do not believe it to be coincidence that the one marriage in my circle of friends which I know for certain to have started on the internet is also one that crosses what would, when I was a lot younger, have been a racial barrier.

The second effect bears strongly on the kinds of fundamentals that can ruin a marriage in the longer run, and also get you through a racial barrier in the short run.  These fundamentals are, well: fundamentals.  Fundamentals like beliefs about what life is about and for, what marriage means and how sex should and should not be done, what is right and wrong politically or ideologically or spiritually, and so on.  These are the kinds of things that also, along with superficial racial preferences, get declared that little bit earlier, when you do computer dating, rather than turning around to bite you, two years into that relationship with a more local bod who merely looked great and had a nice sounding voice and wore nice clothes.  And you get a bigger choice, which enables you to pick dating partners with more similar beliefs about those fundamentals.  Even if such fundamentals aren’t stated in full up front, they are often at least referred to early on, and form the basis of early conversations, rather than just erupting later, in the heat of some perhaps seemingly trivial drama.

That interracial marriage I referred to above also anecdotally confirms everything in the above paragraph, about those fundamentals.  How they both looked to each other was a nice bonus, but it was fundamentals that really brought them together for the long run.

The one big negative I can see happening here is that if all of the above is right, then the tendency will be reinforced for society to divide up into groups who all agree with each other about fundamentals. The much discussed “bubble” effect of the internet will be greatly reinforced.  Regular touch with people who hold to other beliefs will become rather rarer, because marriages used to be more common across such fundamental belief boundaries but are now becoming less so.  And that could be a big negative in a lot of ways.

A way to sum up what is happening here is that society is continuing to be tribal, but that the tribes will now be based more on beliefs and less on biological and genetic similarities and connections.

I should say that I have not myself ever done computer dating.  I would welcome comments on the above from people who have.

I note with a small spasm of pleasure that one of the researchers who did the research alluded to, Josue Ortega, is based at Essex University, of which I am a graduate and of which I have fond memories.

Sunday November 26 2017

Earlier today I was at a party, and sitting in on the party was Alexa, the cylindrical robot from Amazon.  So, one of us asked Alexa to tell us a Dirty Joke.  Alexa replied: “Why do you call a chicken covered in dirt crossing the road?” Answer, although I didn’t hear if Alexa actually said this or merely assumed that we’d get it: a dirty joke.

Not bad.  And funny because, although a joke involving dirt, it is not a dirty joke in the sense of there being any sexual innuendo involved.

But, was Alexa trying to tell a joke?  Or merely trying to do as she was told, without in any way understanding what the thing she was being told to do actually meant?  I know, Alexa never “understands” anything.  She’s a machine, with no consciousness.  But, you surely know what I mean.

Another rather perfunctory posting.  But, I spent quite a lot of my day going to a party, partying, and getting back from the party.  I may, although I promise nothing, do better tomorrow.

Monday November 20 2017

Ten years ago today, in a posting entitled Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance, I showed a photo, of some magazines on display:

image

But all I showed of that photo was the magazines bit, because, as the above title makes clear, that was the bit I was interested in:

image

Funny.  Still.

But now, the bit at the bottom, where the maps are, seems just as interesting, because, now, so very dated.

image

Celebrity romance has, with arrival of social media, just got that bit more public, having been very public even in 2007.  But those maps!  Where have all the maps gone?  Gone to smartphones every one.

Which just goes to show: If in doubt, take the photo! The more trivial and ephemeral it may seem at the time, the more likely it is to be of interest in a decade’s time.

Monday October 02 2017

This blog having been in business for well over a decade, an obvious blog post genre is ten-years-ago-today.  This one’s actually more like ten-years-ago-plus-about-a-fortnight, but who, apart from me, is counting?:

imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

What I think this clutch of photos captures rather well is the sheer fun that digital photography unleashed, around that time.  I was a photoer-having-fun and so were all the other photoers.

Digital photography wasn’t completely new at that moment.  It had already been around for several years.  But what my photo-archives tell me is that this is about when it started getting seriously good.  This was when the rubbish-to-okay success rate (simply from the point of view of things like blurriness) of the average mostly-automatic-setting photoer like me, or of the photoer in the above photos, started climbing from something like ten percent to more like fifty percent.  We weren’t yet at the fifty percent and still climbing rate.  Or, we only were if the light was very strong and there was no moving.  (That came around five years later.) But these kids frollicking about outside Westminster Abbey were keeping still for their camera and therefore also for mine, and as you can see, there was plenty of bright sunlight sloshing about that day.  So their pictures were probably okay, just as mine of them were.

Also, ten years ago was well before the face recognition problem kicked in.  Then, I had no problem about posting recognisable photos of people.  I also have no problem with the recognisable faces above, because these kids were making a rather undignified spectacle of themselves outside a major place of worship.  Which is fine.  God loves fun, or why would He have created so much of it?  But: the above recognisable faces, all those years ago, are fair game for my blog, I say.

Thursday September 28 2017

I am continuing to read Martin Gayford’s conversations with Hockney book, and it is proving to be most diverting.

Gayford begins the chapter he entitles “Seeing more clearly” with this intriguing anecdote about Picasso, which was related to him by Picasso’s biographer, John Richardson:

Lucien Clergue, the photographer, knew Picasso incredibly well. The other day he said to me, ‘You know, Picasso saved my life.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Yes, it was after a bullfight, in Aries.’ Lucien said he had been feeling fine, had lost a bit of weight but wasn’t worried. Out of the blue Picasso said to him, ‘You go instantly to a hospital.’ Lucien asked ‘Why?’ Picasso said ‘You’ve got something seriously wrong with you.’ Lucien was damned if he was going to do it, but Jacqueline
[Picasso’s wife] added, ‘When Pablo says that, for God’s sake go.’ So he went, and the doctors had him taken straight into the operating theatre. They said he had an extremely rare type of peritonitis, which is lethal. The bad thing about it is that it doesn’t manifest itself in pain, it just kills you. ...

Hockney’s reaction to this is to say, yes, this is because Picasso spent a huge amount of time looking at faces, really looking, the way you only do if you are someone who paints pictures of faces.  Picasso could therefore see signs that others wouldn’t.

I’m not the only one to have found this a very striking story.

If it’s right, it occurs to me that maybe face recognition software ought to be able to make similar diagnoses, if not now, then quite soon.  Excuse me while I try to discover if the www agrees.

Partially.  It seems that face recognition software can already spot rare genetic disorders.  Whether it can spot the onset of rare diseases in people previously unafflicted, I could not learn.  But I bet, if it doesn’t yet perform such tricks, that it soon will.

Thursday August 17 2017

World’s first autonomous cargo ship to set sail in 2018

This kind of echoes my guess, several years ago now, that robot lorries are a better immediate bet than robot cars, because lorries do lots of quantifiable work to which only slight improvements will make a big difference, and because motorways are highly controlled places.  Ships do lots of quantifiable work, and the sea is also, nowadays (after centuries of it being the ultimate arena of anarchy), a highly controlled place.

And maybe they could make such a ship out of:

Unsinkable aluminum foam

Then there’s this:

NASA’s Next Great X-Plane Will Try to Revolutionize Electric Flight

Although you just know, from that “try to”, that (although you never know (and I actually don’t know at all)) they won’t.  But, they’ll learn lots of little stuff.  Most tech seems to be the gradual accumulation of relatively small improvements, which, when they add them up, as they do from time to time, over time, add up to one of those revolutions.

Such as all the revolutions which are now happening or which are about to happen because: 

Oil and Gas Innovation Goes Well Beyond Fracking

This is an article which quotes gobs from another article which is behind a paywall, which is helpful and frustrating at the same time.  I have no problem with people charging for internet stuff, but there is not a lot of point in linking to it from a blog.

But the basic message is that the plunge in the price of energy that the Americans have recently contrived didn’t just happen because of the Big Thing that is fracking.  It also consisted, and continues to consist, of lots of smaller innovations, of the sort that those electric airplane guys will be finding out while failing to revolutionise electric airplanes, and then passing on to their fellow techies.

Quote:

There are three trends driving the new energy revolution: smarter management of complex systems, more sophisticated data analytics, and automation. The first trend has allowed companies to become much more efficient while drilling for oil and gas in ever more complex geological environments … Simpler, standardized designs make drilling and production platforms easier to replicate, less expensive, and less likely to suffer costly delays and over-runs in construction. […]

Oil companies … have begun to use complex algorithms to analyze massive amounts of data, making it easier for them to find oil and gas and to manage production … The industry has also begun to use data analytics for “predictive maintenance,” reducing unplanned downtime by analyzing historical data to predict equipment failures before they happen. […]

Soon, intelligent automated systems will enable remote drilling, controlled almost entirely by a handful of high-tech workers in onshore data rooms hundreds of miles away … In the future, automation, along with better data analytics, will make it easier to manage the variation in supplies that comes from using renewable sources such as wind and solar energy and more complex, decentralized grids. It can also make the grid more reliable.

That being from the stuff behind the paywall, quoted at the other end of the above link.

Several years ago now, I had a Last Friday talk saying pretty much exactly this.  This talk happened just after the price of energy had halved, but before most of the rest of the world had realised.

There are, as always, a lot or things wrong with the world just now.  But stagnant technology is not one of these things.