Hive Mindstein

David Basanta's blog has an interesting thread (quite a few of them actually).  Here's the setup but you should read the original post, including the Wired article:
Apparently, some people are seeing some potential in cloud computing not just as an aid to science but as a completely new approach to do it. An article in Wired magazine argues precisely that. With the provocative title of The end of theory, the article concludes that, with plenty of data and clever algorithms (like those developed by Google), it is possible to obtain patterns that could be used to predict outcomes…and all that without the need of scientific models.
If I told you I had a massively parallel device which takes in huge amounts of raw data and finds patterns via computation to make predictions, would you be able to tell if I was speaking of a computer cloud or a human brain? Anderson's postulate about the end of theory is as specious as the…

Crowdsourcing Election Verification

I take it as accepted fact at this point that the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election would have gone to John Kerry if everyone who attempted to vote that day were able to and all the votes were counted correctly.  Here's the the Wikipedia entry on the subject and here's a documentary to get you started. Regardless of your political leanings or party affiliations, there's hardly a more important issue if you believe in some form of democracy.  As we run up to the 2008 elections, you should be very concerned that the problems have not been adequately addressed, despite all the various voting reform and voting rights initiatives. While there may be nothing you can do do assure that your vote is counted properly in 2008, there are some ways you can keep a verified record of your vote, which is a necessary precondition for fixing the broken system:
  1. Vote absentee.  Not only does this eliminate a whole set of irregularities having to do

Complex Links: TED

I attended the TED Conference this year for the first time.  It was a transformative experience, one that I hope everyone can have in some form or another before too long.  One way to simulate being there is watch as many of these incredible talks from past TED conferences as you can in a short period of time.  If you are inspired, check out the TED Prize and how you can be a part of a growing global meta-movement for positive change in the world. I will be blogging about things that piqued my interest at TED, but below are some cool links that I came away with:

X Prize Annuity Funds

In the March 9, 2008 Sunday Magazine section of the NY Times, Freakonomics authors, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt wrote about an idea I shared with them (with my permission of course). Given all of the interest and critique that's resulted, I am posting the original conception below and encourage you to express your thoughts about the project either in the comments here or on the Freakonomics blog. If you are interested in becoming involved beyond just providing public input, just say so in your comment and I will contact you directly. Big Problems There are some very big problems in the world that can be solved but only if there is collective will to do so. Global warming, curing cancer, poverty traps, and so on. Free markets alone cannot get us there because of inherent externalities and insufficient market structure geared towards the problems at hand. One way this has been addressed is via internalizing externalities (e.g. pollution markets). But such an approach…

Mechanical Turk

A few months ago, on a different blog I posted a method for reading books for free on Amazon. Hopefully they didn't take offense to this but rather saw it for what I did which was a way to get people interested in a book enough to want to purchase it. But just in case Amazon has any hard feelings, I will make amends here by plugging one of their little-known but extremely powerful services called Mechanical Turk. Mechanical Turk is matchmaker between people who have spare time do to tasks that humans are good at and people (or organizations) that need such tasks done. These HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) range from doing research to giving opinions for a survey to beta testing a website to giving advice on a travel destination to whatever you can dream up. If you want a task done, you simply post a HIT description, determine how many different people you want to respond and how much you…