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robertogreco : optimization   13

Optimize What? • Commune
"Silicon Valley is full of the stupidest geniuses you’ll ever meet. The problem begins in the classrooms where computer science is taught."



"In higher education and research, the situation is similar, if further removed from the harsh realities of technocapitalism. Computer science in the academy is a minefield of contradictions: a Stanford undergraduate may attend class and learn how to extract information from users during the day, then later attend an evening meeting of the student organization CS+Social Good, where they will build a website for a local nonprofit. Meanwhile, a researcher who attended last year’s Conference on Economics and Computation would have sat through a talk on maximizing ad revenue, then perhaps participated the next morning in a new workshop on “mechanism design for social good.”

It is in this climate that we, too, must construct our vision for computer science and its applications. We might as well start from scratch: in a recent article for Tribune, Wendy Liu calls to “abolish Silicon Valley.” By this she means not the naive rejection of high technology, but the transformation of the industry into one funded, owned, and controlled by workers and the broader society—a people’s technology sector.

Silicon Valley, however, does not exist in an intellectual vacuum; it depends on a certain type of computer science discipline. Therefore, a people’s remake of the Valley will require a people’s computer science. Can we envision this? Today, computer science departments don’t just generate capitalist realism—they are themselves ruled by it. Only those research topics that carry implications for profit extraction or military applications are deemed worthy of investigation. There is no escaping the reach of this intellectual-cultural regime; even the most aloof theoreticians feel the need to justify their work by lining their paper introductions and grant proposals with spurious connections to the latest industry fads. Those who are more idealistic or indignant (or tenured) insist that the academy carve out space for “useless” research as well. However, this dichotomy between “industry applications” and “pure research” ignores the material reality that research funding comes largely from corporate behemoths and defense agencies, and that contemporary computer science is a political enterprise regardless of its wishful apolitical intentions.

In place of this suffocating ideological fog, what we must construct is a notion of communist realism in science: that only projects in direct or indirect service to people and planet will have any hope of being funded, of receiving the esteem of the research community, or even of being considered intellectually interesting. What would a communist computer science look like? Can we imagine researchers devising algorithms for participatory economic planning? Machine learning for estimating socially necessary labor time? Decentralized protocols for coordinating supply chains between communes?

Allin Cottrell and Paul Cockshott, two of the few contemporary academics who tackle problems of computational economics in non-market settings, had this to say in a 1993 paper:
Our investigations enable us to identify one component of the problem (with economic planning): the material conditions (computational technology) for effective socialist planning of a complex peacetime economy were not realized before, say, the mid-1980s. If we are right, the most notorious features of the Soviet economy (chronically incoherent plans, recurrent shortages and surpluses, lack of responsiveness to consumer demand), while in part the result of misguided policies, were to some degree inevitable consequences of the attempt to operate a system of central planning before its time. The irony is obvious: socialism was being rejected at the very moment when it was becoming a real possibility.


Politically, much has changed since these words were written. The takeaway for contemporary readers is not necessarily that we should devote ourselves to central planning once more; rather, it’s that our moment carries a unique mixture of ideological impasse and emancipatory potential, ironically both driven in large part by technological development. The cold science of computation seems to declare that social progress is over—there can only be technological progress. Yet if we manage to wrest control of technology from Silicon Valley and the Ivory Tower, the possibilities for postcapitalist society are seemingly endless. The twenty-first-century tech workers’ movement, a hopeful vehicle for delivering us towards such prospects, is nascent—but it is increasingly a force to be reckoned with, and, at the risk of getting carried away, we should start imagining the future we wish to inhabit. It’s time we began conceptualizing, and perhaps prototyping, computation and information in a workers’ world. It’s time to start conceiving of a new left-wing science."
engineering  problemsolving  capitalism  computers  politics  technology  jimmywu  2019  optimization  efficiency  allincottrell  paulcockshott  siliconvalley  techosolutionism  technocapitalism  computation  wendyliu  compsci  ideology 
april 2019 by robertogreco
How to Build Castles in the Air – Teachers Going Gradeless
"One of the more profound ironies of “going gradeless” is realizing just how fundamental grades are to the architecture of schools.

Grades undergird nearly everything we do in education. By threatening late penalties and administering one-shot assessments, we focus our famously distracted students on the task at hand. By regularly updating our online gradebooks, we provide an ongoing snapshot of student performance so precise it can be calculated to the hundredths place.

Grades inform our curriculum and instruction too. Because so much rides on them, it’s essential we build upon the rock of “objective” data, not the shifting sands of human judgment. Thus, we limit ourselves to those kinds of learning that can be easily measured and quantified. A multiple choice quiz testing students’ knowledge of literary devices can be reliably scored by your 10-year-old daughter (not saying I’ve ever done that). A stack of bubble sheets can be scanned on your way out of the building for the summer. Check your results online in the driveway, then go inside and make yourself a margarita.

If you want to evaluate something more complex, like writing, you had better develop an iron-clad rubric and engage in some serious range-finding sessions with your colleagues. Don’t put anything subjective like creativity or risk taking on that rubric — you’re already on shaky ground as it is. Make sure to provide an especially strict template so that the essay is fully prepared to “meet its maker.” Word choice, punctuation, sentence variety, quote incorporation — these are the nuts and bolts of writing. If the Hemingway Editor can’t see it, isn’t it just your opinion?

Hopefully, you see the irony here. Grades don’t communicate achievement; most contain a vast idiosyncratic array of weights, curves, point values, and penalties. Nor do they motivate students much beyond what it takes to maintain a respectable GPA. And by forcing us to focus on so-called objective measures, grades have us trade that which is most meaningful for that which is merely demonstrable: recall, algorithm use, anything that can be reified into a rubric. Grading reforms have sometimes succeeded in making these numbers, levels, and letters more meaningful, but more often than not it is the learning that suffers, as we continually herd our rich, interconnected disciplines into the gradebook’s endless succession of separate cells.

So, as I’ve said before, grades are not great. Nor are the ancillary tools, tests, structures, and strategies that support them. But as anyone who has gone gradeless can tell you, grades don’t just magically go away, leaving us free to fan the flames of intrinsic motivation and student passion. Grades remain the very foundation on which we build. Most gradeless teachers must enter a grade at the end of each marking period and, even if we didn’t, our whole educational enterprise is overshadowed by the specter of college admissions and scholarships. And since grades and tests rank so high in those determinations, we kid ourselves in thinking we’ve escaped their influence.

Even in a hypothetical environment without these extrinsic stresses, students are still subject to a myriad of influences, not the least of which being the tech industry with its constant bombardment of notifications and nudges. This industry, which spends billions engineering apps for maximum engagement, has already rendered the comparatively modest inducements of traditional schooling laughable. Still, the rhetoric of autonomy, passion, and engagement always seems to take this in stride, as if the Buddha — not billionaires — is behind this ever-expanding universe.

Let’s go one more step further, though, and imagine a world without the tech industry. Surely that would be a world in which the “inner mounting flame” of student passion could flourish.

But complete freedom, autonomy, and agency is not a neutral or even acceptable foundation for education. The notion of a blank slate on which to continuously project one’s passion, innovation, or genius is seriously flawed. Sherri Spelic, examining the related rhetoric of design thinking, points out how “neoliberal enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and start-up culture” does little to address “social dilemmas fueled by historic inequality and stratification.” In other words, blank spaces — including the supposed blank space of going gradeless — are usually little more than blind spots. And often these blind spots are where our more marginalized students fall through the cracks.

Even if we were able provide widespread, equitable access to springboards of self-expression, autonomy, and innovation, what then? To what extent are we all unwittingly falling into a larger neoliberal trap that, in the words of Byung-Chul Han, turns each of us into an “auto-exploiting labourer in his or her own enterprise”?
Today, we do not deem ourselves subjugated subjects, but rather projects: always refashioning and reinventing ourselves. A sense of freedom attends passing from the state of subject to that of project. All the same, this projection amounts to a form of compulsion and constraint — indeed, to a more efficient kind of subjectification and subjugation. As a project deeming itself free of external and alien limitations, the I is now subjugating itself to internal limitations and self-constraints, which are taking the form of compulsive achievement and optimization.


One doesn’t have to look too far to find the rhetoric of “harnessing student passion” and “self-regulated learners” to understand the paradoxical truth of this statement. This vision of education, in addition to constituting a new strategy of control, also undermines any sense of classrooms as communities of care and locations of resistance.
@hhschiaravalli:

A5. Watch out for our tendency to lionize those who peddle extreme personalization, individual passion, entrepreneurial mindsets. So many of these undermine any sense of collective identity, responsibility, solidarity #tg2chat


Clearly, not all intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is created equal. Perhaps instead of framing the issue in these terms, we should see it as a question of commitment or capitulation.

Commitment entails a robust willingness to construct change around what Gert Biesta describes as fundamental questions of “content, purpose, and relationship.” It requires that we find ways to better communicate and support student learning, produce more equitable results, and, yes, sometimes shield students from outside influences. Contrary to the soaring rhetoric of intrinsic motivation, none of this will happen by itself.

Capitulation means shirking this responsibility, submerging it in the reductive comfort of numbers or in neoliberal notions of autonomy.

Framing going gradeless through the lens of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, then, is not only misleading and limited, it’s harmful. No teacher — gradeless or otherwise — can avoid the task of finding humane ways to leverage each of these in the service of greater goals. Even if we could, there are other interests, much more powerful, much more entrenched, and much better funded than us always ready to rush into that vacuum.

To resist these forces, we will need to use everything in our power to find and imagine new structures and strategies, building our castles in air on firm foundations."
grades  grading  equity  morivation  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  measurement  schools  schooling  learning  howwelearn  socialjustice  neoliberalism  arthurchiaravalli  subjectivity  objectivity  systemsthinking  education  unschooling  deschooling  assessment  accountability  subjectification  subjugation  achievement  optimization  efficiency  tests  testing  standardization  control  teaching  howweteach  2018  resistance  gertbiesta  capitulation  responsibility  structure  strategy  pedagogy  gpa  ranking  sherrispelic  byung-chulhan  compulsion  constraint  self-regulation  passion  identity  solidarity  personalization  collectivism  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Click Here to Save Education: Evgeny Morozov and Ed-Tech Solutionism
"This flight from thinking and the urge to replace human judgments with timeless truths produced by algorithms is the underlying driving force of solutionism. Bruno Latour distinguishes between “matters of facts,” the old unrealistic way of presenting all knowledge claims as stable, natural, and apolitical, and “matters of concern,” a more realistic mode that recognizes that knowledge claims are usually partial and reflect a particular set of problems, interests, and agendas. For Latour, one way to reform our political system is to acknowledge that knowledge is made of matters of concern and to identify all those affected by such matters; the proliferation of self-tracking—and the displacement of thinking by numbers—risks forever grounding us in the matters-of-fact paradigm. Once we abandon thinking for optimizing, it becomes much more difficult not only to enact but to actually imagine possible reforms of the system being “measured” and “tracked.”"

“Technostructuralists,” he argues, “view information technologies ‘neither as technologies of freedom nor of tyranny but primarily as technologies of power that lock into existing or emerging technostructures of power.’ Thus, any given technology is allowed to centralize and decentralize, homogenize and pluralize, empower and disempower simultaneously.”

"I’ve been told quite often that I’m too negative. Too critical. Too unsupportive of education technology entrepreneurship. Too loud. Too mean. And lately, I’ve wanted to retort, "Maybe. But I’m no Evgeny Morozov” — even though, truth be told, I think ed-tech desperately needs one. Ed-tech, once so deeply grounded in progressive educational theory and practice, has been largely emptied of both."
audreywatters  2013  evgenymorozov  technology  solutionism  technosolutionism  education  mattersoffacts  mattersofconcern  criticalthinking  quantifiedself  knowledge  brunolatour  optimization  efficience  scale  questions  questioning  edtech  technostructuralism  kevinkelly  janmcgonigal  jeffjarvis  clayshirky  timoreilly  timwu  books  problemsolving  problemdefining 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Over Optimized | Quiet Babylon
"I keep thinking about the impending extinction of the Cavendish Banana a… mono-culture… propelled to the #1 spot when the previous favourite, the Gros Michel Banana was wiped out, also by disease. And of the injuries (careful about clicking that link) sustained by Super-G skiers when their highly optimized gear turns against them during a crash. And of Koalas which have evolved to eat a tree no one else eats and who will die off when the trees do.

Then I think about apples which come in a variety of types, casual skiers who make it to the bottom of the hill eventually and raccoons who will eat just about anything. These are all generalists that manage to thrive in a variety of areas, and seem to be pretty good at adapting to massive changes to their environments."

"…When things are stable, specialization and optimization is the recipe for success. When things are bumpy, allowing some of the inefficiency that comes from flexibility is probably the thing that will let you survive."
2008  timmaly  markets  inefficiency  overoptimization  adaptability  resilience  survival  slack  optimization  sustainability  animals  raccoons  koalas  skiing  diversity  bananas  apples  generalists  specialization 
november 2012 by robertogreco
best websites for kindle - kinstant
"The Kindle includes a built-in web browser, but most websites are not easily viewed on the Kindle's grayscale e-Ink screen. Kinstant helps Kindle owners get more mileage out of their devices: by connecting them to Kindle-compatible websites, and by filtering sites to achieve faster download speeds."
kindle  browser  internet  online  books  web  mobile  2011  kinstant  optimization  via:preoccupations  browsers 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero - Your Shit, My Stuff, Goldilocks, and Making the Bed You Sleep In
"There’s no name for this way of thinking, but if I had to steal a term, I’d use Merlin Mann’s Appropriatism. It’s not minimalism, it’s not maximalist, it’s just-right-ism. Goldilocks was on to something. The idea sits somewhere in the middle, exactly at the crux of whatever works the best with the least amount. The core precept of all of it is this:

“Add things until it starts sucking, take things away until it stops getting better.”

We’re looking for that sweet spot, the thing that fits just right, plus or minus zero. With that said, this isn’t a zen, simple living blog post. By being an apostle for nothingness, we lose touch with reality. Philosophy is worthless if it is not practical. My intent is to be helpful and useful, not dogmatic. Your mileage may vary, if only because of differing needs."
frankchimero  merlinmann  appropriatism  minimalism  steadfast  hot-swap  access  optimization  freedom  personalization  needs  needsassessment  fit  beauty  utility 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Self-organizing map - Wikipedia
"A self-organizing map (SOM) or self-organizing feature map (SOFM) is a type of artificial neural network that is trained using unsupervised learning to produce a low-dimensional (typically two-dimensional), discretized representation of the input space of the training samples, called a map. Self-organizing maps are different from other artificial neural networks in the sense that they use a neighborhood function to preserve the topological properties of the input space."
maps  mathematics  networks  optimization  datamining  database  clustering  classification  algorithms  ai  learning  programming  research  statistics  visualization  neuralnetworks  mapping  som  self-organizingmaps 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Panic Blog » ShrinkIt 1.1
"ShrinkIt is a simple, small, Panic-internal tool (for Mac OS X Snow Leopard) that will automate the process of stripping needless metadata from PDFs by re-saving them using Apple’s PDF processor. For app resources and icons that aren’t using high-end Illustrator features, this should be lossless — Apple’s PDF code is not compressing anything, just removing cruft. Simply drop a bunch of files (not folders) onto it — such as the contents of your app’s Resources folder — to have it find the PDFs and do its magic. The original files will be renamed with the prefix “_org_” for backup safety. That’s it!"
shrinkit  adobe  mac  osx  optimization  utilities  pdf  freeware  panic  software  applications  macosx  compression  free 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: The Pivotal Education "Innovation" of the Decade
"I'm generally of the view that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to education, and a lot of standard discourse about "change" is really just pendulum-swinging. But I think there is at least one new thing from the past decade (in US public, primary and secondary education) which deserves special mention: schools completely and unabashedly optimized to increase the scores on two (or three or one) specific tests, especially new schools built from the ground up for that specific purpose....Honorable Mention #1: Broad Academy
innovation  education  testing  assessment  optimization  olpc  broadacademy  microsoft  tomhoffman  2009  00s  2008 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Let's make the web faster - Google Code
"There are many ways to make websites run faster. In this section, you can discover performance best practices that real web professionals employ in their everyday work. These practices have improved the user experience for millions of users and we hope they are useful for other web developers."
google  webdev  webdesign  tips  speed  optimization  bestpractices  javascript  tutorial  css  html  code  programming  web  development  tutorials  performance  coding  php  design 
august 2009 by robertogreco
smush it!
"Image optimization is an art that not many people master. There are many good image editing tools that allow us to get the best visual result for a certain file size but "under the hood" a lot more optimization can be done. Smushit.com is a service that goes beyond the limitations of Photoshop, Fireworks & Co. It uses image format specific non-lossy image optimization tools to squeeze the last bytes out of your images - without changing their look or visual quality. You'll get a report of how many bytes you can save by optimizing your images and all the changed images as a single zip for download."
webtools  onlinetoolkit  images  imageoptimization  yahoo  compression  optimization  webdesign  webdev  technology  performance 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Mobile Internet - O'Reilly Radar
"(1) mobile is huge, (2) iPhone is worth developing for, (3) here's why other platforms' mobile experience sucks, and (4) what you can do to fix it. The two slides that really stood out were on points 1 and 2."
mobile  iphone  trends  internet  web  phones  optimization  oreilly  css  browser  statistics  webdesign  webdev  browsers 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Performance Research, Part 5: iPhone Cacheability - Making it Stick » Yahoo! User Interface Blog
"This article, co-written by Wayne Shea, is the fifth in a series of articles describing experiments conducted to learn more about optimizing web page performance."
iphone  browser  browsing  webapp  webdesign  webdev  performance  mobile  phones  programming  caching  optimization  browsers 
april 2008 by robertogreco

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