“Actually, there’s no secret. One simply pulls the cork out of the bottle, waits three minutes, and two thousand or more years of Scottish craftsmanship does the rest.”

  • INTERVIEWER: Let’s start with obsession. You seem to have an obsessive way of repeatedly playing out permutations of a certain set of emblems and concerns. Things like the winding down of time, car crashes, birds and flying, drained swimming pools, airports, abandoned buildings, Ronald Reagan . . .
  • BALLARD: I think you’re completely right. I would say that I quite consciously rely on my obsessions in all my work, that I deliberately set up an obsessional frame of mind. In a paradoxical way, this leaves one free of the subject of the obsession. It’s like picking up an ashtray and staring so hard at it that one becomes obsessed by its contours, angles, texture, et cetera, and forgets that it is an ashtray—a glass dish for stubbing out cigarettes.
  • INTERVIEWER: So you rely on the magnetism of an obsession as a way of proceeding?
  • BALLARD: Yes, so the unity of the enterprise is forever there. A whole universe can be bounded in a nutshell. Of course, why one chooses certain topics as the subject for one’s obsessions is a different matter. Why was I obsessed by car crashes? It’s such a peculiar idea.
  • INTERVIEWER: Yes, why were you?
  • BALLARD: Presumably all obsessions are extreme metaphors waiting to be born. That whole private mythology, in which I believe totally, is a collaboration between one’s conscious mind and those obsessions that, one by one, present themselves as stepping-stones.

from the Paris Review

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How Does Your Phone Know This Is A Dog?

Last year, we (a couple of people who knew nothing about how voice search works) set out to make a video about the research that’s gone into teaching computers to recognize speech and understand language.

Making the video was eye-opening and brain-opening. It introduced us to concepts we’d never heard of – like machine learning and artificial neural networks – and ever since, we’ve been kind of fascinated by them. Machine learning, in particular, is a very active area of Computer Science research, with far-ranging applications beyond voice search – like machine translationimage recognition and description, and Google Voice transcription.

So… still curious to know more (and having just started this project) we found Google researchers Greg Corrado and Christopher Olahand ambushed them with our machine learning questions.

More Here

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Crash

“We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind—mass merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identities within the realm of consumer goods, the preempting of any free or original imaginative response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.”

J.G. Ballard

Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming

“Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading…It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and it’s foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.”

Neil Gaimen

 

Women in games are not a technology problem

“Look, technology is not the problem here. Thinking of male characters as “default” and female characters as “extra” is the problem, as is a history of poor representation in games meaning there are fewer existing assets that can be reused. You fix that by recognising that it’s not a tech issue. You fix it with planning, with remedial work so that you have as many stock female assets as stock male ones, with processes that don’t place the ability to fiddle with a character’s weapon loadout ahead of their gender. You can’t fix that with polygons. You fix that with people.”

Mary Hamilton