Holidays are here, but before I leave for a few weeks (do not expect a lot of content during the rest of August), there are a few cool links that I want to share. Let’s start:
Useless hacks are always the coolest. Controlling your sofa with a Wii nunchuck? Why would you want to do that, you might be thinking. Simple answer: because you can.
Hoverboard Powered Sofa Is Fun And A Bit Dangerous, on Hackaday
Really interesting piece on one of the most technical (and relevant) aspects of warfare since WWI. It is impossible to mobilize your army if you cannot communicate precisely and fast with them. Also, modern warfare has increased in both speed and scale, covering nationwide operations that evolve in hours instead of weeks/months. After all, you cannot destroy your enemies aircrafts if you cannot locate them, you cannot orchestrate an attack if your soldiers are isolated, etc.
The article cover all of these topics with the case study of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and how the electronic warfare has been developing on the field for the past few months.
The Fall and Rise of Russian Electronic Warfare, on IEEE Spectrum
Cool visualization of the data from the paper “A cross-verified database of notable people, 3500BC-2018AD” were the authors gathered information from Wikipedia and Wikidata about notable individuals. Here, the ‘notability’ index was calculated based on the number of editions in the Wikipedia page of each individual, the length of their biographies, the number of views of their pages, and the amount of personal information about them (age, birth location, etc.).
Notable people, on tjukanovt.github
A cross-verified database of notable people, 3500BC-2018AD, on Scientific Data
Social media died, all hail social media
A couple articles on the changes we have been seeing from the social media giants in the past few years. Not long ago, Facebook announced that their newsfeed will shift from a network-based content delivery (i.e., you see what your networks shares/posts), to an algorithmic one (i.e., an algorithm decides what you see when you enter the platform). This is not a new trend, and it has been influenced mostly by the rise of TikTok, where teenagers (mostly) and not so young people (growing everyday) spend hours mindlessly watching stuff that the app “magically” decides it was what you needed to watch. While some of the conclusions of the articles seem a bit debatable, they are interesting reads nonetheless. It is also curious to see that both were published on Medium, a place that started with a clear goal of quality writing over quantity and clickbait texts, but never really managed to take off.
It is a trend I despise, but that should not come as a surprise (I am writing a blog in 2022). While there are a few benefits in this model (you get to see stuff that you would have never seen in the endless sea of information that the internet has become), the pitfalls are immense. Recommender systems are a black box, and it is not clear at all how the content is promoted (and what content is not promoted at all). It seems to me that the core idea is to maximize the time you spent on the platform, because that maximizes the amount of advertisements they can show you (which is their main source of income). This means that engaging content is prefered to quality content, which is a terrible principle to follow (look at what happened with clickbait in newspapers, etc.).
However, while it seems that this is the future of the internet, I have been watching some signs of people trying to go back to simpler times. Times where they were the owners of their content, decided what to consume by themselves, and shared interests with fewer audiences in a much more meaningful manner. People still consume specialized blogs, podcasting has been growing nonstop for the past few years, and hardcore communities flourish in both Reddit and Discord (in fact, many people have started adding the term “reddit” to their searchs on google to escape from nonsensical promoted results and to get information from real people). I like to think that there is another path out there, a path that we will be able to follow, evading the pitfall of algorithmic systems. Let’s see if we succeed.
The End of Social Media, on mignano.medium
Video may have killed the radio star, but algorithms killed social networks, on medium/enrique-dans
Organ harvesting cloned embryos
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, it would be amazing to have the possibility to access any organ transplant in case you need it, without the fear of rejection. On the other hand, I have read enough science-fiction to fear the social effects of doing such a thing. I am thinking about The Island movie, the emperors storyline in the Foundation tv show, or the sleeves in Altered Carbon, all of which present terrible dystopian futures.
“We view the embryo as the best 3D bio printer,” says Hanna. “It’s the best entity to make organs and proper tissue.”
This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting, on the MIT technology review
And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!
Featured image: Cleon dynasty – Foundation