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August 30, 2016

Party tech policies

Clinton policy page home page

Clinton Tech and Innovation policy

Trump policy home page

Trump’s Tech and Innovation policy

I did a Google search on “ technology” and likewise for innovation and couldn’t find a tech policy on his site, although he does support the GOP platform which mentions innovation:

Libertarian Party

I couldn’t find a tech policy per se, but their platform mentions supporting uncensored and unregulated media and tech, privacy, and the use of innovative tech to protect the environment.

Green Party

The party platform doesn’t have a top-level tech policy, but there’s a subsection of the” Advanced Technology and Defense Conversion” section that talks about telecommunications, and one about Open Source Software.

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August 14, 2016

The World According to TED

Here’s some info about the 2,200 TED Talks based largely on the tags that TED supplies on its Web site; the data are a few months old. Keep in mind that I am grossly incompetent at this, so I’ve included the SQL queries I used to derive this information so you can see how wrong I’ve gone and can laugh and laugh.

Number of unique tags

378 of ’em

SELECT count( DISTINCT(tag) ) FROM tags

Most popular tags

# of talks tagged


628 technology
481 science
472 culture
454 global issues
368 design
363 TEDx
308 business
286 entertainment
201 arts
175 education
165 health
164 politics
164 creativity
141 art
130 economics
127 medicine
125 biology
122 music
122 TED Fellows
118 brain
111 social change
108 invention
106 storytelling
105 environment
105 cities
103 innovation
103 future
101 activism
93 children
92 history
92 health care
91 collaboration
91 war
90 communication
88 psychology
86 women
83 photography
81 animals
80 Africa
78 society
78 humor
76 performance
74 computers
72 exploration
72 life
69 architecture
67 nature
66 humanity
64 oceans
63 community
59 sustainability
59 Internet
58 film

SELECT count(tag),tag
FROM tags GROUP BY tag ORDER BY count(tag) desc;

Tags used only once or twice

1 Criminal Justice
1 refugees
1 South America
1 farming
1 Moon
1 Addiction
1 testing
1 3d printing
1 vulnerability
1 grammar
1 augmented reality
1 Themes
1 Speakers
1 cloud
1t skateboarding
2 painting
2 mining
2 origami
2 evil
2 nuclear weapons
2 pandemic
2 conservation
2 funny
2 television
2 urban

SELECT COUNT( tag ) , tag
FROM tags

Most viewed talks

Quite possibly wrong.

999910   A new kind of job market
999152   How to grow a tiny forest anywhere
998939   I believe we evolved from aquatic apes
998234   Is anatomy destiny?
998218   Get your next eye exam on a smartphone
997791   How Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place for li…
997437   Anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon
997409   How butterflies self-medicate
996048   A powerful poem about what it feels like to be tra…
995980   A Magna Carta for the web
995836   Seas of plastic
995023   How synchronized hammer strikes could generate nu…
994892   The lost art of democratic debate
994208   My wish: Protect our oceans
993977   Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.
993519   The sound the universe makes
991659   Creative houses from reclaimed stuff
991413   Our century’s greatest injustice
991107   How to read the genome and build a human being
990965   Watson, Jeopardy and me, the obsolete know-it-all
990621   The birth of Wikipedia
989093   Institutions vs. collaboration
989009   Are we ready for neo-evolution?
988772   How art, technology and design inform creative lea…
988724   The shrimp with a kick!
988671   How we cut youth violence in Boston by 79 percent
988000   Design for people, not awards
98784   Let’s bridge the digital divide!
985947   A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory.
985910   Augmented reality, techno-magic

select times_seen,title from talks
order by times_seen desc;

Tags of the most popular talks


There’s a very good chance I got the sql wrong on this.


Total times viewed

culture 838422406
technology 786923853
science 643447348
business 502015257
global issues 496430414
TEDx 455208451
entertainment 454656101
design 438630037
education 300884017
psychology 254105678
creativity 253564686
brain 247466263
arts 237680317
health 229849451
economics 170768562
politics 167696727
music 156026971
happiness 152902998
storytelling 152901475
art 150698303
biology 150041947
medicine 148259678
children 145085756
humor 135238512
TED Fellows 132508655
innovation 131199988
invention 131005556
work 128498631
social change 126931374
performance 126748070
communication 123383482
photography 117563973
women 112713285
TED Brain Trust 112432190
society 110938282
future 107266930
leadership 105273096
environment 105248603
activism 102566309
life 101140951
cities 101137670
demo 99763884
history 99190820
animals 97888183
evolution 96694769
computers 96482674
collaboration 95467954
health care 89321143
humanity 86872761
writing 83887498
war 82927410
nature 82570058
success 82167936

SELECT DISTINCT tags.tag , sum(talks.times_seen) FROM tags
INNER JOIN talks ON tags.talkid = talks.talkid
GROUP BY tags.tag
ORDER BY SUM( talks.times_seen ) DESC
LIMIT 3,53;

Tags of least popular talks

HIV 425898
refugees 600837
skateboarding 636577
chautauqua 685869
South America 750182
grammar 798075
cello 1067130
vulnerability 1161544
Criminal Justice 1169914
augmented reality 1173622
vocals 1294926
painting 1458681
3d printing 1533524
Moon 1648828
cloud 1722064
nuclear weapons 1770997
oil 1881325
pandemic 1916790
One Laptop Per Child 2041228
glacier 2152056
conservation 2292578
urban 2298278
origami 2356218
television 2400358
microfinance 2473192
mining 2548989
charter for compassion 2820656
street art 3166364
TED-Ed 3192662
wind energy 3235963
epidemiology 3266959
ants 3295524
state-building 3479554
solar 3548619
Guns 3575760
apes 3595746
Addiction 4216103
mobility 4229741
code 4428049
geology 4581536
New York 4614232
Brand 4661846
rocket science 4669955
cyborg 4689850
capitalism 4745782
primates 4771987
machine learning 4915396
natural disaster 4990286
nuclear energy 5001603
meme 5066551
novel 5120690
immigration 5350061
Vaccines 5374354

same as above, but ascending

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May 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, DailyKos

DailyKos is fourteen years old today. In honor of this, they’re pointing at their birth photo.

It’s changed a lot in 14 years, but hasn’t swerved from its core principles: News and ideas for Democrats, in an open, conversational forum, with a strong commitment to building a community and getting shit done.

DailyKos is absolutely one of my go-to sites. Here’s some of what I like about it:

It is open about its commitment to Democratic values, but it is also fact based. For example, if an economic report isn’t where we’d like, DailyKos doesn’t try to put a happy face on it. It instead tries to figure out what’s going wrong and how it can be addressed. If this means criticizing Democrats all the way up to President Obama, they do it.

DailyKos has remained true to the vision of blogging as a way of democratizing voice. While the site has an excellent staff of paid writers — each of whom has her or his own voice — there are also thousands of bloggers at the site. The site has community-based ways of featuring them on the front page. This gives a real sense that site is ours.

Humor is part of the daily life of DailyKos.

Markos keeps his eye on the ball. The site is about helping Democrats win in order to advance progressive values. In March Markos decided that it’s time for the site to turn away from Bernie supporters doing the Republicans’ job for them by attacking Hillary in nasty, irrational ways. Supporting Bernie is fine. Open criticism of Hillary is fine. More than fine. We need to be alert to her limitations as well as to the ways in which Trump will attack her. But name-calling, personal attacks, or conspiracy theories about Vince Foster at this point will not help the progressive cause. As Markos says, there are plenty of other places on the Web for that sort of thing. So, you’ll still find people at the site fervently backing Bernie, and plenty of criticism and concern about Hillary. But not the sort of angry jeremiad that tears us apart.

The site does not get lost in the presidential horse race. It focuses also on state and local elections.

DailyKos is a fascinating hybrid of commitment and evidence-based dialogue. Here’s looking to many more years of it.

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May 4, 2016

Too slow, Treyarch

I am far from the first person to notice this, but it really pisses me off.

Treyarch, the creators of Call of Duty, in the latest version let’s us decide to play as a woman. Other games have been doing this for a long time. So, have half a yay, Treyarch. Nevertheless, your player’s gender is not reflected in the script. There’s an argument I don’t want to have about whether this makes sense; it really just comes down to bucks.

But what really pisses me, and many other people, off is this character choice screen:

character model screen

This was an incredibly expensive game to design. The graphics are awesome, the sets are amazingly detailed. In single-player campaign mode, it’s a full length action movie—albeit not a very good one—and is budgeted like one.

But Treyarch couldn’t be bothered to spend $2.50 more to add some non-white faces to the roster. Really?

Here’s a fairly random screen shot I picked up from the Web.

typical scene

Keep in mind that this is about one sixth the resolution you get on a gaming PC. Treyarch can add intense detail to a gun or piece of shrapnel but can’t be troubled to design a few faces that aren’t white?

We’ve got a word for people who assume that the white race is the “real” race.

Not ok, Treyarch.


April 22, 2016

Isaac Newton, Number One Ok Smart Guy

Until close to Newton’s time, the stars had been accepted as a fixed background to the motions of the Earth and the rest of the solar system. The idea developed that they might be bodies like our sun, but even through a telescope they still looked like luminous points, revealing nothing of their size. Newton found a way to tackle this problem (System 596). He noted that a prominent (first magnitude) star looked about as bright as Saturn. He knew how far away Saturn is; and also knew that we see Saturn by the sunlight that it scatters back towards us. Given that the intensity of light from a source falls off as the inverse square of the distance, he could calculate how far away a star like our sun would have to be to look as bright by direct radiation as Saturn does by reflected light. His result, expressed in modern terms, was about ten lightyears, which is absolutely of the right order of magnitude.”

A.P. French, “”Isaac Newton, Explorer of the Real World,” pp. 50-77, in Stayer, Marcia Sweet, ed., Newton’s Dream. Montreal, CA: MQUP, 1988.

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April 15, 2016

Revolutions in common sense

…the great world historian Immanuel Wallerstein…argues that for the last quarter millennium or so, revolutions have consisted above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense.

This is from David Graeber‘s 2013 book The Democracy Project, excerpted that year at The Baffler.

The excerpt argues that the 1960’s political movement did not fail. It changed expectations by changing our sense of what’s possible. One effect of this: it limited the ability of American politicians to blithely engage in foreign wars for a full generation…and then changed the way we engage in those wars, albeit not necessarily for the better.

Obviously we can argue about this. But that’s not my main interest in the excerpt. Rather, I’m interested in the power of changes in common sense, which I’m taking to mean our most basic ideas about how the world is put together, how it could be put together, and how it should be put together.

This is the very core of my fascination with technology for the past thirty years. It’s why I studied the history of philosophy before that.

And btw, this is not technodeterminism. “The link between technology and common sense is indirect, but real”The link between technology and common sense is indirect, but real: new tech opens new possibilities. We seize those opportunities based on non-technological motivations and understandings. When tech is radically different enough that new strategies successfully exploit those opportunities, we can learn a new common sense from those strategies. That is, in my view, what has been happening for the past twenty years.

Anyway, I now I have three books to read: Something by Wallerstein, The Democracy Project, and Graeber’s early work, Debt.


A tip of the haat to Jaap Van Till for pointing me to this. His recent post on the current French protests fills an important gaap in American media coverage. (I tease because I love :)


April 12, 2016

The Ice Caps are Melting – Ho ho!

Tiny Tim would have been 84 today.

He was my mother’s younger cousin…an innocent, gentle, and very genuine soul.

The song is by Bill Dorsey about whom little is known. But what is known, the Internet has unearthed.


March 17, 2016

Public editing in and with the public

Mike Ananny has a post at Nieman Lab that I hope the NY Times editorial board reads. It argues that the next public editor (what we used to call an ombudsperson) is deeply versed in digital life, from algorithms to social media. Amen.

Thiis timely because the current public editor, Margaret Sullivan, is leaving the Times to become a columnist for the Washington Post. I think she has done an excellent job in a very difficult position, and I’m sorry to see her leave that position.

But that does make this a good time for the Times to re-think not just the competencies of a public editor, but also the modality of the position.

Currently the public sees the public editor as a columnist who stands between them and the editorial staff of the paper. She writes on behalf of the readers, explaining and adjudicating. It is a challenging job, to say the least.

But this role should be broadened so that it includes not just the public editor but the public at large. Let the public editor continue to write blog posts — Sullivan’s have been good examples of the form. But also let the public have its say in more than comments on the posts. As a blogger, the public editor can only discuss only a small percentage of the concerns that readers have.

To scale this, the Times could set up an open forum in which the public can raise topics that readers can discuss and upvote. Or, perhaps a Stackoverflow sort of board would work. No matter how it’s done, the public would get to raise issues, and the public would get to discuss and promote (or demote) issues . Most of the issues are likely to be handled by the readers talking amongst themselves, but the public editor would watch carefully to see where she needs to step in.

Maybe those implementations would fail or spin out of control. But there is very likely a way to scale the conversation so that readers are far more engaged in what they would increasingly see as their paper.


March 16, 2016

Advanced advanced Google search

Suppose you want to find pages that use the word “Disneyland” as a link, as in: Disneyland?

I looked and looked but could not find a way to do that at Google. The first return at Google for the query “google advanced search” takes you to a form where you can construct a more finicky search than normal. The Google help page for advanced search has some interesting operators, but not what I need. Limiting my exploration to (advanced search I could find no explanation of how to do this.

Fortunately, Gary Stock knows more about this than I do. He told me about “inanchor.” Once you know what to look for, you can find some well-hidden Google pages that mention it, such as this aging Google Sites page. Inanchor gets close to what I’m looking for. In fact, for my particular purposes, it’s better.

The following query will return all the pages linked to by the word “Disneyland”:


For example, if you click on the link in the first paragraph of this post, you’ll go not to but to a page about Disney’s role in tightening copyright restrictions. If you run the inanchor query, that page about copyright will show up in the results, because it is a page linked to by the word “Disneyland.” In other words, you don’t get back a list of the pages that contain a link that uses the word “Disneyland”; you get back the pages that those pages link to.

A better example might help. If you search for:

inanchor:”most likeable person ever”

you’ll find the pages people have pointed to with a Most Likeable Person Ever link. (“allinanchor” searches for links containing the words that follow in any order.)

I’m not 100% sure inanchor actually works because I don’t see a way to get the pages that contain the links. Maybe I’ll ask Gary.

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March 13, 2016

You can be inauthentic, but can you be authentic?

I’ve always had a problem with the concept of authenticity.

Authenticity is usually taken to mean that you are being who you truly are. But that “truly” implies that you have something like an essence, and that essence is somehow apart from how you behave, particularly in public.

In ordinary parlance, that essence seems to be some set of personality traits: you act nice but you’re really not, so you’re inauthentic.

In philosophy, that essence tends to be more universal, even if it’s self-abnegating. For example, for Heidegger to be authentic is to accept that one is thrown into a world not of one’s making, that we are going to die, that we are groundless, etc. For Sartre, our essence is to be free to choose, and to be authentic is to choose with full commitment while recognizing that that choice is baseless.

However you slice it, being authentic rests upon beliefs about what’s “really real” about us. We often conceptualize this as being true to our inner self. But our selves are fully social. Our private selves are temporary deprivations of our social selves. Even when we’re alone, the rest of the world is still with us as that which we will return to, and that which brought us to where we are.

In any case. authenticity isn’t something we can try for. “’Be authentic’ is not helpful advice.”“Be authentic” is not helpful advice. “Be sincere” can be helpful because we do have thoughts and opinions that we can keep private. We have at least some control over whether we lie, flatter, fib, prevaricate, or shade the truth. Sincerity applies to acts of speaking. Authenticity applies to our selves, to our being. I don’t find it to be a helpful concept, term, or piece of advice.

But, even if authenticity isn’t a useful concept, the concept of inauthenticity has lots of uses. It captures something we’ve all observed in others, although I’m not sure we can observe it in ourselves. I’ve met people I’d probably call inauthentic. They seem to be pretending to be brave or caring. If through drugs or therapy they were to change, I might notice it and even come to trust it. I might even say, “S/he seems more authentic these days.” But what I really mean is, “S/he isn’t as inauthentic as she used to be.”

For the rest of the people I know, I wouldn’t know what I meant if I called them authentic. For inauthenticity is our natural state: a measure of distance from our actions, thoughts, and even feelings. We are not creatures of pure reflex. That wedge keeps us from being who we “really” are, because that distance is who we are.

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