erik lundegaard

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Sunday June 24, 2018

Antisocial Network

“Facebook has filed thousands of patent applications since it went public in 2012. One of them describes using forward-facing cameras to analyze your expressions and detect whether you‘re bored or surprised by what you see on your feed. Another contemplates using your phone’s microphone to determine which TV show you‘re watching. Others imagine systems to guess whether you’re getting married soon, predict your socioeconomic status and track how much you‘re sleeping.

”A review of hundreds of Facebook’s patent applications reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users' lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether you‘re in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians you’re talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die.“

— the lede to Sahil Chinoy's piece, “What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook,” in today‘s New York Times.

What are the 7 Creepy Patents? They involve:

  1. Predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship (Don't we already tell them this?)
  2. Using your posts and messages to infer personality traits—and thus ads
  3. Using posts, IMs, and credit card transactions to predict major life events
  4. Gving your camera a unique signature to further figure out your relationships (who else uploads your photos, etc.)
  5. Using phone mic to guess TV-watching habits. And more?
  6. Using phone to track weekly routine
  7. Using phone to track relationships

Yeah, they're not making me feel safer. Then again, who is? 

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Posted at 07:33 AM on Jun 24, 2018 in category Technology
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Monday June 18, 2018

Oh, THAT Robert Redford

IMDb needs to fix its algorithms. Seriously. There's tons of them that just make you do a double-take. I came across this one this morning:

Robert Redford known for on IMDb

“Who's Robert Redford again?”

“You know. He was the producer of ‘The Company You Keep,’ starring Shia LeBeouf.”

“Oh, right.”

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Posted at 09:43 AM on Jun 18, 2018 in category Technology
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Saturday May 13, 2017

IMDb Needs to Fix Its 'Known For' Algorithm

I know. Not exactly high on the list of things the world needs to fix. Even so.

As you probably know, on each of its pages for any movie/TV person (star, cameraman, casting, set decoration, best boy, doesn't matter), IMDb.com lists four movies he/she is “known for.” Robert Redford, for example, is known for, in this order, “The Sting,” “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid,” “All the President's Men,” and “Out of Africa.” Seems about right. For Audrey Hepburn, it's “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” “My Fair Lady,” “Roman Holiday” and “Sabrina.” Again: Yep. 

But there are a few bugs in the system. Here's Steven Spielberg:

Steven Spielberg: Known for on IMDb

Right. Not “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T.” or “Jurassic Park.” Not “Lincoln.” 

I get the first two. But “Catch Me If You Can” and “A.I.”? Really? 

Then you notice the role they've assigned to him for each of these movies: producer. And it all begins to make sense. 

According to IMDb, its algorithm assigns a “weight” to every credit in someone's CV. These include, among others:

  • “The job performed on the title (a credit as director will have more weight than a credit as production assistant).”
  • “The frequency of credits for a particular job in the context of the person's filmography (writing credits may have more weight for someone who is more frequently credited as a writer than as a producer)”

It's this second that's the problem with Spielberg. He currently has 162 credits as a producer. He has 56 as a director. Apparently this means that IMDb, the most popular repository of movie information we have, sees Spielberg, the most popular movie director of all time, as primarily a producer. And since Spielberg didn't become a producer until the late '70s and early '80s, that eliminates movies such as “Jaws” and “Raiders” from “Known For” contention. (Oddly, he was a producer for “E.T.” so I'm not sure why “Catch Me” and “A.I.” trump that.) 

The same is true on IMDb with other great directors who produce. In this universe, Martin Scorsese is “known for” being: 1) producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” 2) director of “Goodfellas,” 3) producer of “Shutter Island” and 4) director of “The Departed.” “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”? Whatevs.

Actors who produce? Tom Hanks is primarily known for ... “The Da Vinci Code.” Drew Barrymore is primarily known for ... “Donnie Darko.”

Algorithms are tough, and IMDb's gets a lot right. But there are still a few bugs in the system. 

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Posted at 07:36 AM on May 13, 2017 in category Technology
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Sunday May 01, 2016

Quote of the Day

“In the United States, most banks take special precautions with their Swift computers, building multiple firewalls to isolate the system from the bank's other networks and keeping the machines physically isolated in a separate locked room.

”But elsewhere, some banks take far fewer precautions. ... The central bank in Bangladesh, by some accounts, employed fewer protections against cyberattacks than many other large banks. The bank, for example, used $10 routers and no firewalls, according to news reports.“

-- from ”Hackers' $81 Million Sneak Attack on World Banking" on the front page of the New York Times. 

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Posted at 07:29 AM on May 01, 2016 in category Technology
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Saturday May 23, 2015

You, Robot

I've been asking this question of friend and strangers for a while now: Which jobs do you think won't get digitized away in 10, 20, 30 years? 

According to Barbara Ehrenreich in her review of two books, “Rise of the Robots” by Martin Ford and “Shadow Work” by Craig Lambert, the answer is: Not many. She skips over the ones we've already lost (printer, photographer) to concentrate on the ones we're beginning to lose (secretaries, travel agents, customer service in general). She quotes an expert predicting that in 10 years, “90 percent of articles will be computer generated.” She writes about college grads floundering and the longterm unemployed giving up, and why that is:

All of this has happened by choice, though not the choice of the average citizen and worker. In the wake of the recession, Ford writes, many companies decided that “ever-advancing information technology” allows them to operate successfully without rehiring the people they had laid off. And there should be no doubt that technology is advancing in the direction of full unemployment. Ford quotes the co-founder of a start-up dedicated to the automation of gourmet hamburger production: “Our device isn't meant to make employees more efficient. It's meant to completely obviate them.”

Near the end of the piece, Ehrenreich, author of “Nickel and Dimed,” gets apocalyptic:

If middle-class jobs keep disappearing as wealth piles up at the top, Martin Ford predicts, economic mobility will 'become nonexistent': 'The plutocracy would shut itself away in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones.' We have seen this movie; in fact, in one form or another — from 'Elysium' to 'The Hunger Games' — we've been seeing it again and again.

As I wrote five years ago, in a review of a different movie, we're all cutters now. We just don't seem to know it. Or how bad it'll get. 

I, Robot

Step away from the job or the girl gets it. 

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Posted at 11:15 AM on May 23, 2015 in category Technology
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