KFC’s facial-recognition stereotyping machine

Once stereotypes are embedded in The Algorithm, what chance to any of us have?

KFC wants to find out: 

The two companies are opening a new restaurant in Beijing “which employs facial recognition to make recommendations about what customers might order, based on factors like their age, gender and facial expression. Image recognition installed at the KFC will scan customer faces, seeking to infer moods, and guess other information including gender and age in order to inform their recommendation.”

People will use this. Not because it’s better. But because of the novelty. Imagine an online quiz, but without all of that dreadful hard work. And then imagine that after Facebook reveals your house to be House Targaryan, you were handed a 1500-calorie lunch.

I can’t imagine that this will be successful…at first. Eventually, things like this will work their way into the everyday world. The question is whether customers will see any of the benefit.

(via macdrifter)

Indie Microblogging: owning your short-form writing

Manton Reece is launching an independent platform for microblogging:

Do you remember how the web used to work? How the web was supposed to work?

In the earlier days of the web, we always published to our own web site. If you weren’t happy with your web host, or they went out of business, you could move your files and your domain name, and nothing would break.

Today, most writing instead goes into a small number of centralized social networking sites, where you can’t move your content, advertisements and fake news are everywhere, and if one of these sites fails, your content disappears from the internet. Too many sites have gone away and taken our posts and photos with them.

Check out the Kickstarter page. It might not work. But neither will Twitter.

The First Cyberwar

Martin Belam at the Guardian thinks we’re living through the world’s first cyber war:

This always makes me wonder what broader patterns we might be missing in our own lives, and I’ve come round to thinking that we might already be living through the first world cyberwar – it’s just that we haven’t acknowledged or named it yet.

Really interesting article. Though I’m not sure this is going to be something that starts and stops like conventional wars. He mentions espionage in the article, which feels like a better parallel. Just as there are always spies doing spy work, there will always be states hacking other states.

There’s no way to prevent it, it’s difficult to know when it’s happened, and there doesn’t seem to be any real deterrent.

Getting Back to Basics

I like gadgets. I like notebooks. I like pens. I like backpacks. And oh boy, do I love apps.

I have a bit of a gear problem.

And in a podcast cue and RSS reader full of people who like to talk about the latest and greatest of everything from Apple gear to note taking to creative work, sometimes it’s nice to have a counter. An angel on the opposite shoulder from the devil.

Patrick Rhone is good for that. He’s the voice of simplicity. Of quiet calm. He stands out from the frantic storm of newness and upgrading and always searching for some kind of new way to hack one’s life.

In a piece he wrote about continuing to use his iPhone 5 in the wake of yet another iPhone release, he relates to the Amish and their technology: 

You see, it is not that the Amish shun modern technology. It’s that they take a very long, mindful, and considered approach as to what technology to adopt, weigh the pros and cons of how it might affect them, their homes, their communities, their way of life and if any of those trade-offs are worth it. Phones, for instance, are fine — as long as they’re not in the home and used only when absolutely necessary. And, if it’s not in any one home, then why not just have one phone in a central location that the whole community can use? So, one can see from this example that really what is at stake with the Amish approach is a question of true value — beyond the material — that every technology must pass and only applied in specific ways in order to be adopted.

I write about this because I’ve found myself over-building systems for work. I’ve been using too many tools, and I’ve been spending far too much time trying to find a better way to do X,Y or Z. Especially Z. Especially if Z works on iOS.

Enough with the Fiddling!

I have notes and saved links and blurbs of text in way too many apps. It’s become difficult to find information that I’ve captured. I’m also at a loss for how to deal with a lot of what lands in my email inbox. When I find an article that I want to read later, it can wind up in any number of different places. I have too many options for what to do with it all, so I put it everywhere. And then I can find it nowhere.

I have too many email apps. Too many ways to make outlines or mind maps. I have apps hanging around that have been waiting to revolutionize how I work since I downloaded them months ago. I have apps for automation and list making and WOW do I have a lot of text editors.

I have text editors with automation built in. I have text editors meant for writing books. I have text editors with built in previews, and text editors that can publish to websites, and text editors that sync to Dropbox, but also text editors that have their own built in libraries that sync through iCloud. I also have text editors that are meant to send text to other text editors.

A giant warehouse of spatulas for every occasion.
Thousands to choose from in every shape, size, and color.
And because we eliminate the middle man, we can sell all our spatulas factory direct to you.
Where do you go if you want to buy name brand spatulas at a fraction of retail cost?
Spatula City!
Spatula City!

It’s time to streamline … to get back to basics. Develop a way of working and stick with it.

And somehow try to stay away from the new and flashy and loud.

What I Want From Technology

I’ve been recently accused of being a “gadget guy.” Yes, I happened to be writing on an iPad using a Bluetooth keyboard. And my iPhone was laying next to the iPad. A MacBook Pro was closed on my desk. And my watch sometimes needs to be rebooted.

There is a mountain of evidence against me. And if you come between us, I’ll kill you. But it’s not codependency, and I not a gadget guy. Come on…

OK. I do my fare share of unnecessary fiddling with gadgets. But it does prove to be helpful more than other people realize.

Parenting is Hard.

My wife and I have two young boys. 2 and 6. Which is like having three additional full time jobs on top of working.

Sonos and Apple Music make it easy to put on music that we like without having to browse or even make decisions.1 It’s incredibly useful when there’s spaghetti flying through the air and we want to get some music going.

I can glance at my Apple Watch to know if it’s going to be raining soon or if it’s hot enough that the kids are going to catch on fire in long pants.

Using an iPad Pro as my primary work device has helped by reducing the amount of maintenance and meta nonsense that come with a traditional OS, and it means that any other screen I pick up is essentially the same. My phone, my iPad Air 2…they are all almost identical to the iPad Pro. Same apps, same data, same settings. They have become different sized windows into the same computer.

Setting our coffee maker to automatically brew at a specific time in the morning is essentional now that our six-year-old has to be at the bus stop before the sun comes up.

No, it’s not revolutionary or new. But this is the kind of thing that I want more of from technology.

I’m not excited about VR or AR or any of the other Rs. I can’t yet see the benefit.

There’s nothing so compelling going on in home automation that would make it worth the headache. Right now, it seems like it’s mostly about lights that change color.

I don’t need a video game system or a blue ray player or a fridge that I can see from my phone. It’s all frivolous. Additional time commitments. More things to set up and maintain. More things to think about.

Less wow, and more utility.

We need tech that helps us keep our shit together while we raise our kids and maintain our jobs and keep our house from being reclaimed by the earth. Help us get more done without having to think about it. Anything that helps us take time back is a winner.


  1. Amazon Echo is supposed to be even faster, but we’re in deep with Apple’s ecosystem, and haven’t made that leap yet.