phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Facebook M is made out of contractorswww.buzzfeed.com

BuzzFeed’s Mat Honan decided to try out Facebook’s new Messenger-based digital assistant, M.

Facebook M is just a person with a phone.
Facebook M is just a person with a phone.

And what do you know, sending parrots via mobile phone is a thing that you can do in 2015.

Honan talked to a woman from the parrot-renting company, Happy Birds, about what it’s like to receive a request from M. Turns out it’s just a person with a phone.

“She said, ‘I’m doing it for someone else.’ She said ‘well, it’s for my boss’ friend.’”

There was another indicator, however, that this was a legitimate request. Just after the woman claiming to be M called Happy Birds, the company received an identical request through GigSalad — an online platform where performers and event services can connect with interested clients.

This wasn’t the only time I saw evidence of M turning to independent contractors on other platforms to execute requests. When I tried to get it to send a Minion to my colleague Katie Notopolous (she loves Minions) it helpfully offered that “I am able to set up a Tasker with Task Rabbit to go purchase a minion costume and can come interact and entertain for 20-30 min at a rate of $150 for the hour.” (I deemed this too expensive.)

In fact, much of M’s real-word efforts seem to run on contractors. Facebook confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the trainers are all independent contractors. Which to some extent answers the question of how Facebook can scale this up, before M becomes fully automated. It will take an army of humans, each doing small tasks. Simply put, before Facebook can make its robot act like lots of humans, it needs a lot of humans to act like robots.

See also: The Weird Robot Hotel

Link via Casey

Bushwick Galleries (October 25, 2015)

The Author of the Acacia Seedsinterconnected.org

This Ursula K. Le Guin story is so good!

No known dialect of Ant employs any verbal person except the third person singular and plural and the first person plural. In this text, only the root forms of the verbs are used; so there is no way to decide whether the passage was intended to be an autobiography or a manifesto.

Seeds 14-22

Long are the tunnels. Longer is the untunneled. No tunnel reaches the end of the untunneled. The untunneled goes on farther than we can go in ten days [i.e., forever]. Praise!

The mark translated “Praise!” is half of the customary salutation “Praise the Queen!” or “Long live the Queen!” or “Huzza for the Queen!”—but the word/mark signifying “Queen” has been omitted.

Thanks to Matt Webb for transcribing it from The Compass Rose. You can also listen to Le Guin reading the latter half of the essay (with an additional footnote!) in a 2014 talk.

Link via Hugo Reinert

The paralyzed rat is not walkingwww.reuters.com

I’ve seen this video going around, advancing the idea that science has enabled a paralyzed rat to walk. This follows on some other impressive medical feats like the brain-controlled robotic arm.

The thing that struck me in the video, though, is that the rat is moving involuntarily. The rat’s body is walking, but it’s an advanced QWOP-style computer algorithm that’s in control. To me this research seems more similar to those creepy Boston Dynamics robots than other advances in rehabilitative medicine.

The rat, in this case, is just a meat-based robot. Now watch the video with that in mind, watch the spasms of the front legs, and the cooing encouragement from the lab tech. Creepy right?

Link