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Big Data: a non-theory about everything

“Instead of looking through telescopes and microscopes, researchers are increasingly interrogating the world through large-scale, complex instruments and systems that relay observations to large databases to be processed and stored as information and knowledge in computers” (449). This is how geographers Harvey Miller and Michael Goodchild describe Big Data in their critical article “Data-driven geography.” They add that this data flow amounts to more data than … Continue reading

Big data metaphysics

Anyone with a personal computer knows about the problem with data, not least its tendency to grow at an unnerving rate, take up space, demand upgrades, and clog bandwidth as it gets moved around. Emails and tweets are data, so are picture files, music tracks, and movies. Sometimes we store it, or it flows through our world as … Continue reading

Big corpus

UK publishers produce over 180,000 books each year. (About one third are in digital formats.) So that’s a lot of words, even before the outputs of other countries are taken into account, and all the other words generated online — self published, or unpublished — and journal, magazine and newspaper articles. These large text corpuses are more than … Continue reading

Data waste

Four years ago when excitement about the 3D role-playing environment SecondLife was in full frenzy, a group of us constructed a playground promontory on the edge of the University’s main island. We built walls that changed their surface patterns and moved about in response to signals from mobile phones (in physical life). It was a … Continue reading

Hacking the city of the future

What happens when hackers get hacked? The headquarters of the US National Security Agency (NSA) is located between the cities of Washington and Baltimore. Amongst its many operations the NSA develops hacking tools for spying on other countries. But some of these tools leaked out, and earlier this year were turned on the city of … Continue reading

Eliminate the impossible

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” said Sherlock Holmes, in The Sign of Four, ch. 6 (1889). One of the ways to eliminate the impossible is to first enumerate everything that can be enumerated — probable or not. René Descartes said something similar. His last rule for … Continue reading

Architecture’s pragmatic turn

There was once a linguistic turn. The philosopher Richard Bernstein describes the ascent after WWII of analytical philosophy with its focus on plain language and clear argumentation, as it pushed aside other philosophy deemed imprecise and speculative. But now we have entered the pragmatic turn. Bernstein published a book in 2010 entitled just that: The … Continue reading

AI revisited

John Lee and I sat down to talk about AI (artificial intelligence). Both of us were involved in the field in so far as it related to computer-aided design. That experience dates back to the 1980s. In our conversation we touched on how the AI focus has changed since the 1980s. We started by identifying … Continue reading

The death of a public life

You can be excused for thinking that social media presents imperfect insights into human nature. US political comedian Bill Maher excoriated the public personas social media users present online — their polite, politically correct, family-friendly, “prissy” avatars, whose great “super power” is that they remember birthdays! “If you want to know who someone really is … Continue reading

Calculating belief

In previous posts I referenced C.S. Peirce’s (1839-1914) concept of abduction, or evidential reasoning, i.e. establishing the support a particular proposition (hypothesis) has from evidence. The theories of the Presbyterian minister/statistician Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) has relevance here. Peirce knew of Bayes’s work on probability though he didn’t support Bayes’s approach to mathematical reasoning. Never-the-less, Bayesian … Continue reading

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