I expected Watson’s bag of cognitive tricks to be fairly shallow, but I felt an uneasy sense of familiarity as its programmers briefed us before the big match: The computer’s techniques for unraveling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine. That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson’s case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words. It rigorously checks the top hits against all the contextual information it can muster: the category name; the kind of answer being sought; the time, place, and gender hinted at in the clue; and so on. And when it feels “sure” enough, it decides to buzz. This is all an instant, intuitive process for a human Jeopardy! player, but I felt convinced that under the hood my brain was doing more or less the same thing.

Indeed, playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face. Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It’s very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman.

“Where Google’s services represented things I care about — discovery, curiosity, and transparency — Facebook represents that I don’t care about — narrowing, nattering, tribalism, etc. More than not caring, these are mostly things for which I have active contempt, as they represent the antithesis of curiosity and openness, things that Google (mostly) facilitates, and that Facebook (mostly) doesn’t.”
Silence Smart Phones at Thanksgiving Dinner with a Foldable Faraday Cage - Technology Review

Faraday cages are not anyone’s idea of bleeding-edge tech—they were invented in 1836. But as we all brace ourselves for Thanksgiving family dinners rendered even more awkward by buzzing iPhones and texting teenagers, the signal-blocking “phonekerchief” may be a tech accessory whose time has come.
The idea is simple, according to designer Ingrid Zweifel: the phonekerchief weaves ultrafine metal threads into a normal hankie to create a “soft Faraday cage” around your Crackberry or iTeat, snuffing out its wireless connection and letting everyone at the table know you care more about enjoying their company than checking in to Grandma’s house on Foursquare.

Silence Smart Phones at Thanksgiving Dinner with a Foldable Faraday Cage - Technology Review

Faraday cages are not anyone’s idea of bleeding-edge tech—they were invented in 1836. But as we all brace ourselves for Thanksgiving family dinners rendered even more awkward by buzzing iPhones and texting teenagers, the signal-blocking “phonekerchief” may be a tech accessory whose time has come.

The idea is simple, according to designer Ingrid Zweifel: the phonekerchief weaves ultrafine metal threads into a normal hankie to create a “soft Faraday cage” around your Crackberry or iTeat, snuffing out its wireless connection and letting everyone at the table know you care more about enjoying their company than checking in to Grandma’s house on Foursquare.

Android voice recognition Demo Slam

“[Amazon] started selling diapers in the summer of 2006, just a year after Diapers.com debuted. When Quidsi launched Soap.com in July, adding an additional 25,000 products to their lineup, the site was strafed almost from the minute it went live by price bots dispatched by Amazon. Quidsi network operators watched in amazement as Amazon pinged their site to find out what they were charging for each of the 25,000 new items they initially offered, and then adjusted its prices accordingly. Bharara and Lore knew that would happen. ‘If we put something on sale, we usually see Amazon respond in a couple of hours,’ says Bharara.”

What Amazon Fears Most: Diapers

The Diapers.com story is one of my favorite startup stories.

We Need An Internet Bill of Rights (And Fast)

continuations:

I have met Senator Patrick Leahy in person several times and owe him a personal debt of gratitude.  Over the years I have been impressed by how he has conducted himself in politics.  He is, however, dead wrong in his introduction of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) act together with Senator Orin Hatch of Utah and sadly also co-sponsored by New York’s Chuck Schumer.   COICA essentially establishes Internet Blacklists and gives ISPs immunity when they enforce the blacklists, meaning you can’t sue your ISP for suppressing a site that is on the blacklist.  The current version of the bill proposes two separate blacklists: one that can be added to only by courts and another that can be added to by Attorney Generals.  Sites would be added, according to the bill, if they are dedicated to infringing activity, such as making lots of copyrighted material available for download. 

Everybody should read this great summary of the bill and why it is a bad idea.   After reading that I would encourage you to sign the petition to stop the bill (on the same page).  I also encourage everyone to check out this powerful view of who has been lobbying in support of COICA.  If you have been paying attention to this set of issues, the name of the bill will also ring a bell.  With its use of the word “counterfeits” it is clearly linked to the equally misguided international effort known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which I have decried previously.

Now just to give you some idea of how incredibly bad an idea this is.  Imagine a future conversation between Attorney Generals and oh say Craigslist.  AGs:  “We’ll have you added to the Blacklist”  CL: “We are not infringing any copyrights” AGs: “You can fight that in court - *after* the entire country has lost access to your site.”  The power of threatened law suits alone was enough to get Craigslist to shutter its perfectly legal adult services section — now imagine the change in the balance of power if there is a way to eradicate a site from the Internet.

If you care about freedom and democracy you do not want to give the government a wholesale way to shut down access to sites on the Internet.  The potential downside from abuses of such as system far outweigh the upside to copyright holders.  We badly need an Internet Bill of Rights that codifies basic notions of freedom of access so that we don’t have to fight this fight over and over again.

Takes 4 seconds. Do it.