What Tom Whitwell learned this year

Here are my selected bits and pieces from a longer list:

“Artificial intelligence systems pretending to be female are often subjected to the same sorts of online harassment as women.” [Jacqueline Feldman]

Swintec is a company in New Jersey that sells up to 5,000 typewriters a year to prisoners in the US. Their typewriters have clear plastic covers so inmates can’t hide anything inside. Transparent TVs, CD players and Walkmen are also available. [Daniel A Gross]

In the UK, marriages between couples over 65 have risen 46% over the last decade. [Cassie Werber]

A cryptocurrency mining company called Genesis Mining is growing so fast that they rent Boeing 747s to ship graphics cards to their Bitcoin mines in Iceland. [Joon Ian Wong]

Dana Lewis from Alabama built herself an artificial pancreas from off-the-shelf parts. Her design is open source, so people with diabetes can hack together solutions more quickly than drug companies. [Lee Roop]

In August, Virginia Tech built a fake driverless van — with the driver hidden inside the seat — to see how other drivers would react. Their reaction: “This is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.” [Adam Tuss] (Fluxx have also been experimenting with fake autonomous vehicles in Cambridge)

Women are eight times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is an alcoholic. [Sean Illing]

Men travelling first class tend to weigh more than those in economy, while for women the reverse is true. [Lucy Hooker]

Facebook employs a dozen people to delete abuse and spam from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. [Sarah Frier]

Pro tip: Ask your current customers “What nearly stopped you buying from us?” [Karl Blanks]

Here is the full list, Tom has an excellent algorithm for building the list.


"Women are eight times more likely to ask Google if their husband is gay than if he is an alcoholic. "

How many from the first group are joking and how many in the second are serious?

Why ask the second question if they probably already know the answer?


What is the point of 'joking' with a Google search?

"Google, is my husband gay?"

msgkings: most people have friends. when you ask a google question you are often asking in an effort to understand what your friends are going through. There is no "joking" involved.
People talk a lot about "joking" but very few people spend more than 10 minutes a day "joking". Think about it.
As women sometimes get fatter, they often wonder if their husbands are uninterested. They do not want to specifically ask: does my husband struggle to find me attractive after I have gained an extra 70 pounds.
God bless their hearts: I for one would have no problem finding my wife attractive if she gained an extra 70 pounds (assuming she started at a biologically normal level).
As women get older, they often wonder if their husbands are uninterested in them, and vice versa.
Almost all men have the capacity to continue to love their wives throughout all the years that follow a marriage. That is what living life as a decent human being means, and who would want any other kind of life?
The question answers itself.
I hope this has been a useful comment.
Life is difficult, from one point of view, but very easy from another point of view.

"Facebook employs a dozen people to delete abuse and spam from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page." Maybe Mark should not be allowed to post anymore.

Ha ha.

But talk about glaring evidence of an unsolved problem with your technology platform...

Ha, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought of it that way.

"In the UK, marriages between couples over 65 have risen 46% over the last decade": postwar baby boomers now in their 60s and 70s.

Story. I was working in an old folks home installing something. Pretty dreary place for the most part. An elderly woman shuffled up to me with a big smile and said I'm getting married! followed by an older gentleman who looked like the cat who ate the bird. They were both in their 80's. They had a ceremony and lived happily ever after.

Had she established whether he was gay or alcoholic?

Well it's England so you don't need a google search to know he's gay.

Each year, 28 million tonnes of dust (100,000 lorries’ worth) is picked up by wind from the Sahara desert, carried across the Atlantic and dropped on the Amazon basin. Some of the dust, from an ancient lake bed in Chad, is loaded with phosphorus, a crucial nutrient for the trees in the Amazon rainforest.

That's interesting but what do either of these units of measure mean? Crazy Brits!

Perhaps "a lorry's worth" is to the UK as "a football field" is to the US.

They would be bloody big lorries.

They're articulated.

We don't know the full environmental costs of mining ethereum, much less how the smelting and refining processes affect worker safety and long term heath. Worse, the collapse of a tailings dam or underground workings on such a tectonically active and ecologically frail island could have devastating consequences to the Icelandic people.

More seriously, I wonder what the computational opportunity costs are?


“Artificial intelligence systems pretending to be female are often subjected to the same sorts of online harassment as women.”

I drilled down into the article to find some context or substantiation to this claim, and came up empty handed.

Assume Thiago Truth Seeker Fake Brazilian? Fake Human? is a chat bot, and is the subject of some abuse: Was it justified? Was it expected?

My first assumption about online harasment of female chatbots is that they are wasting peoples time, because their contributions to the subject are negligible, but their word count high, and some people get irritated and give them a piece of their mind.

For example on this blog, "Hazel Meade" does not seem to be the target of much criticism, despite being a woman posting in a (middle aged) boys club, whereas Art Deco and Mulp receive a decent amount of negative comments and contempt. Should we from this assume that the marginalrevolution.com commenters are not sexist, but ageist?

Or should we assume people online get the responses they have earned?

Don't assume that- my comments here are worth millions, but I've yet to be paid a cent.

Yes that is part of it. Art is high IQ and highly informed along with having the vices of age crotchinees and pedantry.

Hazel is mostly ignored because she writes and thinks like a high school journaler- how on earth can you argue with much less embarrass some at that level of thinking. Certain things make Hazel tingle and she shills for those relentlessly.

Hazel is a pretty solid commenter. You won't get much past her. She does get odd about race stuff though, throws the libertarian theme out the window.

You mean artificial intelligence systems pretending to be female "asked for it"?

There is no way to tell, as no examples were provided in the article, however, my experience with automated attendants is that they provide a negative value, similar as the upgrades in Excel since 2003 have been of dubious or negative value for me, who is a light user.

But I would not dismiss the possibility that the AFI "asked for it"!

So that is it: victim-blaming.

Is that what Brazil has come to, dehumanizing us all, by anthropomorphizing silly computer programs?

"In Silicon Valley, startups that result in a successful exit have an average founding age of 47 years."

This was the most interesting to me, but it makes sense. I could never understand why so many people I went to college with thought starting a startup after college was a reasonable thing to do. Unless you're exceptional you know nothing next to nothing about what the real world is like and even less about what a profitable business looks like. Probably why the ideas most of my peers came up with (and got funded) were inane.

Doesn't this suggest that the successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley learned something while working for someone else, then went on her own to exploit whatever she learned. Of course, California law disfavors restrictive covenants, one major reason tech start-ups locate in California. I don't practice in California, so I don't know how this shakes out. Several years ago the major tech firms were accused of collusion (i.e., in not hiring each other's employees). From the investor's perspective, I would think an investor would be reluctant to invest in a start-up where the technology may have been taken from another firm where the founder once worked. After all, the investor wouldn't want the technology of the companies in which she invests to be taken and used in some other start-up in which she doesn't have an investment. In other words, I suspect that Silicon Valley isn't the wild-west it's often depicted to be.

I would guess the highest probability of success startups are the ones which solve a problem that a big company (or more than one big company has). The best way to identify that problem is to have worked for that big company and encountered the problem. As the two of you point out, having learned something at a big company helps too.

The startups we read about, however, are the ones which solve problems that millions of teens and post-teens have (generally variations on "who can do this thing my mom used to do for me?"), and it's not surprising that a lot of those companies are founded by people with that experience.

Well, you don't have a mortgage or kids so you can afford for it to bit make money for a year or two.

"One Friday in May 2017, Solar panels in the UK generated more energy than all eight of our nuclear power stations."

Easily fixed by removing some of those graphite rods cluttering up the reactor cores.

With enough government intervention, you can get any result you want, particularly if the government's thumb is on the scale. (At one point, the UK government would promise you £1,100+ per year for 25 years for installing solar panels.)

Of course, government intervention often leads to other problems that requires further government invervention.

"National Grid said last month that it may have to pay wind farms and conventional power plants to reduce output over the summer to prevent high levels of solar generation from destabilising the system. "

Oh, yeah, such as that.

Yes, but with government backing, I think I could make it very silly.
Monty Python

Uber is the most lossmaking private company in tech history. [Leslie Hook]

My question is when do investors drop Uber? The mobile phone app/tax service is obvious market win but Uber continues to grow by losing gobs of money. Lyft is almost break even and seems the mobile app could easily be created/sold to any local taxi service. So it seems like the Uber idea was great and market changing but it is losing gobs of money and they are getting in trouble for corporation spying.

At this point, I don't see how Uber ever gets a whiff of Big Tech monopoly profits like Facebook, Google and Apple. So I am not sure when investors are getting their money back anytime soon. (It could possibly be like Amazon but that still has relatively small profit.)

Comments for this post are closed