AI Sportswriters brewing coffee 1890s style

This months WIRED magazine, which I insist on receiving by mail, had some great articles.  I also read books made out of paper, so if you are Generation Y or later you may just want to go to WIRED website and read these articles for free.

Anyway, onto my WIRED roundup with: Fewer Voters, Better Elections by Joshua Darvis.  Scrap the one vote per person system and run it like clinical trials where 100,000 people are randomly selected to vote.  This is certainly one way to implement voting reform… Personally, I think it would be interesting to have a different representative system.  Currently, congressional representatives in the U.S. are elected based on a geographical area, with the idea being that particular elected official accurately represents his or her

Almost All the Wired Magazines Ever Published
I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but I do keep my WIREDs.  This is not my collection, but maybe one day…(Photo credit from flickr: outtacontext)

constituents based on location.  But what about if we had representatives based on profession?  I feel that I agree with more software engineers than I do my neighbors.  Passing thought experiments for sure as I doubt any reform is up-and-coming in the voting arena.

In a short product review, apparently the Bodum Bistro 11001 Coffeemaker is the thing to get these days.  Me, I’ve switched to a french press.  Mainly out of necessity since in my current living arrangement, I do not have a counter.  Essentially coffee makers are expensive heating elements.  They look nice, but basically they drip water and then keep it hot.  So, $250 seems a bit steep for me when there are cheaper ways to heat water.  I also use a burr grinder and keep my coffee in a mason jar.  I’m suddenly realizing I’m living in the 1890s, or in Portland.

Lastly, Steven Levy, of Hackers fame, writes of rise of AI in sports reporting in the Rise of the Robot Reporter.  As I learned from my Game AI class last quarter, there is a lot of active research in AI generated narrative (stories).  In the game world, this allows games like Skyrim to have unlimited quests and to be never-ending (story! sorry… couldn’t resist. Where are the actors in that movie now?!).  The idea with the robo-reporter is that for sports stories, which are very data-centric, the AI would generate the post-game article.  Once the AI is aware of the rules of the game, it would then know what plays were pivotal and be able to detect the turning point of the game.  The story would then be written prior to the teams shaking hands.

Narrative generation is not yet human-quality, so there is no near-term fear that robots will take over sports journalist jobs.  However it provides a great starting point for writing the article.  But what I find more interesting is its applicability into video games.  Imagine an online game, I’m thinking a MMORPG type, where battles won and lost are documented by in-game newspapers, written by AIs.  Did you just make the leader board?  You can read a detailed article about it in the Daily Paper.  This could even be provided as paid downloadable content.  Everybody has a newspaper from the day they were born, but how about a copy of paper from Skyrim on that day?

Now, if I could only find a way to get my hands on the new german WIRED. Maybe when I go to Germany in June I’ll have to hunt down a copy…

The Hacker Way

Facebook (ala Mark Zuckerberg) filed their Registration Statement, the S-1, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week.  It made plenty of news, primarily for the expected $5 billion dollars it is looking to raise, for a total valuation of Facebook for something like $100 billion.  This is all good news if you are one of the lucky ones in the Initial Public Offering (IPO), and since I’m not, this really does nothing for me.  What I do find interesting though, is a brief statement in the Facebook S-1, a short but critical aside, on the Hacker Way.

The Hacker Way as described in the S-1, is a commitment to the MIT hacker culture of the 1970s, which was also the premise of a book by Steven Levy (regular WIRED contributor), Hackers.  This (sub)culture even has an official emblem and an unofficial anthropologist.  All of this is documented in an essay by Eric S. Raymond (said anthropologist) “How to become a Hacker.”

The main tenants of the ethos are (from Levy’s book, Hackers):

  1. Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way
    English: A "glider" from Conway's Ga...
    Hacker Emblem via Wikipedia

    the world works—should be unlimited and total.

  2. All information should be free.
  3. Mistrust authority — promote decentralization.
  4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not criteria such as degrees, age, race, sex, or position.
  5. You can create art and beauty on a computer.
  6. Computers can change your life for the better.

These generally agreed upon set of values have inspired some great works.  Richard Stallman and the GNU\Linux Project, which is a great free (as in speech and in beer) operating system.  Eric Raymond even has a book called Hackers and Painters, talking to point number 5.  The Hacker Way is also internationally accepted.  There is a German artist, Aram Bartholl, in the true Hacker Way, who shows how to turn code directly into art.  While number 3 may get some eyebrows, it is really talking to decentralization of information.  Which, is why most of the Internet loving crowd are fired up about things like SOPA.

Not surprisingly, both Steven Levy and the NY Times pick up on Zuckerberg’s comments.  And while I’m not a Facebook fan, nor did I like the movie, I do tip my hat to Mark for committing to this ethos in the S-1.  As Facebook goes public, we’ll see how well they stay on target.  There are some that believe that the even the once well-intentioned Google has strayed from the path, especially with their recent privacy setting merges.  But it is clear that the Hacker Way is the standard to which those that claim the title are judged.

Inspired by the S-1, but more as a tribute to the ethos behind it, I have decided on a tagline for my blog.  I was waiting to get some data points, and as one can see, I only have two categories.  I think this works, and ties in my insistent use of the blog’s title:

fortune datko

Cookies of wisdom on books and culture along the Hacker Way.