In the News 02.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 02.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 02.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 02.08.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How Amazon Rebuilt Itself Around Artificial Intelligence

In early 2014, Srikanth Thirumalai met with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Thirumalai, a computer scientist who’d left IBM in 2005 to head Amazon’s recommendations team, had come to propose a sweeping new plan for incorporating the latest advances in artificial intelligence into his division.

He arrived armed with a “six-pager.” Bezos had long ago decreed that products and services proposed to him must be limited to that length, and include a speculative press release describing the finished product, service, or initiative. Now Bezos was leaning on his deputies to transform the company into an AI powerhouse. Amazon’s product recommendations had been infused with AI since the company’s very early days, as had areas as disparate as its shipping schedules and the robots zipping around its warehouses. But in recent years, there has been a revolution in the field; machine learning has become much more effective, especially in a supercharged form known as deep learning. It has led to dramatic gains in computer vision, speech, and natural language processing.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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Like Warhol But for 2018

Poppy has a foot. It might not seem like an important characteristic to note about an ambulatory human being, but in the context of Poppy, the strange, viral YouTube star and pop singer, the existence of this foot is a huge relief. Most people are acquainted with Poppy only through her disquieting videos about being on the internet, which tend to be a torso-only sort of deal. Their David Lynch–meets–Hello Kitty vibe can leave the viewer in a haze of slack-jawed, head-cocked confusion, unsure if Poppy even has toes. I first experience Poppy’s actual, physical presence in Park City during Sundance, where she’s performing songs from her October album, Poppy.Computer, at a party in a YouTube-sponsored house. As I watch her, I become hyperfocused on her foot, the right one specifically. It’s an anchor in reality, the spinning top in Inception. When the foot, in its pointy-toed silver kitten heel, taps in time to the music, or wobbles a bit through the choreography, or makes solid contact with the ground, it’s proof that Poppy is part of the corporeal world and not a manifestation of the digital one, like Alexa with legs or Tumblr-feels with flesh.

Poppy’s videos, of which there are over 300, often get millions of views, average roughly a minute in length, and feature her — hair the exact color of milk, skin the same hue as the asylum-white backdrop she usually stands against — serving micro-monologues to the camera while an eerie song plays. They are all directed, produced, and co-written by her collaborator-slash-Svengali-figure Titanic Sinclair, an equally blond and self-aware millennial. Poppy seems to exist in order to satirize a specific sort of social-media-driven fame. Take, for example, a recent Poppy video titled “Selena Gomez”: “Do you think about followers,” she asks in a monotone purr. “There’s a number by my name? Do you have a number after your name? … Why does Selena Gomez have so many numbers?” (Selena Gomez is the most-followed celebrity on Instagram.) That video has 2.5 million views.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut


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What Science Is Like In North Korea

When Kim Hyeongsoo, 53, got his degree in biology, he hoped to be part of a team that conducted research of global significance. But Hyeongsoo was born in North Korea, which had a different mission for him: figure out how Great Leader Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il could eat without getting fat.

The Kims “asked us to identify how they can excrete what they eat without any absorption of calories,” Hyeongsoo told me through a translator.

He and his fellow food scientists worked at a heavily guarded facility, where every project had to be approved by the regime, he said, and they had little access to international science. They tried to understand diseases such as hardening of the arteries, cerebral thrombosis, and cerebral hemorrhage, without the benefit of being able to build on knowledge that is widespread throughout the rest of the world. Hyeongsoo told me he worked at the Mansumugang (Long Life Health) Institute from 1990 to 1995, and that it employed 100 scientists and 30 assistants and animal caretakers at the time. The scientists studied life extension and weight management for the ruling Kim family, even as food was scarce for the average citizen.

Read the rest of this article at: The Outline

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Donald Glover Has Always Been Ten Steps Ahead

People like Donald Glover aren’t supposed to exist; shows like Atlanta aren’t supposed to get made. And yet here we are, in the early days of anno Domini 2018, witnessing Glover and Atlanta happen at the same time. Looking back now, I find it hard to imagine the pitch—a show about a Princeton dropout who wants to be a rap manager?—although of course Glover remembers, because going from idea to episode 101 took years. “I remember seeing an interview where Dave Chappelle was talking about how it was important to him that the show was personal,” Glover told me. “So I just focused on making it more and more personal. We shopped it around to all these places. I didn’t get too specific about what the show was, because I just felt like trying to explain it was going to be a hard sell.” And it was. Numerous networks passed; in the end, FX was the only one that didn’t blink. “It was a Trojan horse to be able to just tell stories,” Glover said. “I’m just not a person who wants to give people what they want, because I’m more complicated than that.”

Now no one in Hollywood can get enough of Donald Glover or Atlanta. The show that everyone in town rejected is the one everyone invokes to get their ideas greenlit, a show that is shorthand for once-in-a-generation originality. Glover told me a story about someone who had recently pitched a show. The network’s idea: “Is there a way to make this into the Mexican Atlanta?” he said. “Which I thought was, like, kind of—I guess on a certain level is flattering.” But it belies a critical lack of imagination. A hit doesn’t become a hit based on what it’s made of; the sum has to be greater than its parts. “It’s not an A-to-B-type thing,” Glover said. “You can’t take the bones of something and then just, like, direct it, like, something else.” A show has to be its own thing. At thirty-four, Glover has made a career of frustrating people’s expectations of him. After Atlanta’s debut season, Glover earned a pair of Emmys and a twin set of Golden Globes—the former making him the first African-American to win for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. He’s more successful than anybody his age has any right to be, and it’s because of his creative energy and curiosity. “I’m way farther up this never-ending mountain than I thought I would ever be,” he told me. “Not that I thought that I’d never be there.”

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

The Death Of Clothing

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The apparel industry has a big problem. At a time when the economy is growing, unemployment is low, wages are rebounding and consumers are eager to buy, Americans are spending less and less on clothing.

The woes of retailers are often blamed on Inc. and its vise grip on e-commerce shoppers. Consumers glued to their phones would rather browse online instead of venturing out to their local malls, and that’s crushed sales and hastened the bankruptcies of brick-and-mortar stalwarts from American Apparel to Wet Seal.

But that’s not the whole story. The apparel industry seems to have no solution to the dwindling dollars Americans devote to their closets. Many upstarts promising to revolutionize the industry drift away with barely a whimper. Who needs fashion these days when you can express yourself through social media? Why buy that pricey new dress when you could fund a weekend getaway instead?

Apparel has simply lost its appeal. And there doesn’t seem to be a savior in sight. As a result, more and more apparel companies—from big-name department stores to trendy online startups—are folding.

The ingredients for this demise have been brewing for decades. In 1977, clothing accounted for 6.2 percent of U.S. household spending, according to government statistics. Four decades later, it’s plummeted to half that.

Apparel is being displaced by travel, eating out and activities—what’s routinely lumped together as “experiences”—which have grown to 18 percent of purchases. Technology alone, including data charges and media content, accounts for 3.4 percent of spending. That now tops all clothing and footwear expenditures.

Several reasons are behind this shift. Some are beyond the control of apparel companies, as societal changes drove different shopping behavior. But missteps by these companies along the way have hastened the death of clothing.

It used to be that office workers needed suits and ties or pleated pants, long skirts and heels to get through the week. By the early 1990s, that seemed to change. The genesis is debatable, but many chalk it up to tech firms in Silicon Valley pushing a business-casual look dominated by khakis. That trickled into other industries, as casual Fridays became common. Now, office apparel is just as casual on Monday as on Friday for many workers.

Over the past five years, there has been a 10 percentage point spike in employers that permit casual dress any day of the week. The upshot of this is that Americans increasingly need just one wardrobe, because there is so little differentiation between what people wear to work and on the weekends.

Neckties are disappearing, even in industries such as finance. Sneakers can be worn to any occasion, including weddings and religious services. And about half of Americans say they can wear jeans to their professional offices, according to a survey by NPD Group.

It’s easy to see why this is bad news for apparel companies. When you cut out an entire category of attire, there’s less need to buy new clothes when fashions change. When there’s a hot new color or pattern, maybe a twentysomething buys one new blouse to stay on trend and wears it to work and out at night. Before, she might have purchased two pieces, one for each setting.

There’s been general deflation in the clothing industry. Apparel has become cheaper to make in recent years, especially as more production shifts to less expensive labor markets.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @brothervellies;; @brightonkeller

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