Links for December 26, 2016

2016: The Year the Internet Became Real

Yet somewhere along the way, we just ended up enriching Silicon Valley companies with all of our personal content and our shares and our likes, and now have nothing to show for it but a gaping hole in our privacy big enough for petty bullies and political enemies alike to drive a truck through. We still say “IRL” to distinguish between talking to people digitally and talking in person, but the fact is the internet became the primary site of real life, sometime when we weren’t looking.

Amazon Customer’s review of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

So here you are on Amazon’s web page, reading about Cathy O’Neil’s new book, Weapons of Math Destruction. Amazon hopes you buy the book (and so do I, it’s great!). But Amazon also hopes it can sell you some other books while you’re here. That’s why, in a prominent place on the page, you see a section entitled:

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

This section is Amazon’s way of using what it knows – which book you’re looking at, and sales data collected across all its customers – to recommend other books that you might be interested in. It’s a very simple, and successful, example of a predictive model: data goes in, some computation happens, a prediction comes out. What makes this a good model?

‘Clean your desk’ : My Amazon interview experience

After similarly Big Brother’ing around for a while, I’m asked to raise my laptop and show my desk through the webcam, which I do. At this point I was told:

“Clean your desk.”

I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly.

“Clean your desk, please. Your institution [Amazon] has mandated that there cannot be any written material next to you while you take the exam.”

A Peacock Spider Christmas