>Science-Fiction: “More Tales of Pirx the Pilot”

Recently someone sent me a link to a movie based on one of Stanislaw Lem’s stories from the collection “More Tales of Pirx the Pilot”. The story is titled “The Inquest” and it is about Pirx commanding a space flight with a crew of humans and androids. His task is to evaluate the performance of the non-human crew members.

As you can imagine the test does not go entirely as expected and it results in the inquest.

There was a funny comment made by one of the non-humans in the course of the story, he said of humans: “.. your democracy is the rule of connivers, elected by cretins. ”

Another story I re-read in this collection is called “The Hunt”. This one takes place on the Moon, where a damaged mining robot has to be found and disabled. Pirx, who is stopped on the Moon few days, is drafted to lead the expedition.

I have read these stories long time ago, but I always enjoy re-reading them.


> Non-Fiction: “In The Plex”

This is a book by Steven Levy about the Google – the company. I especially enjoyed reading about early days of Google, which was started at Stamford University and then operated from a rented house (including garage).  The rise of Google was pretty amazing, all starting from the insight that importance of pages shown in search result should be based on how many other pages link to them.

Interestingly, Google was not making a lot money from search, even after it became the dominant search engine. Only when they invented and built the AdWords advertising system the money began to roll in. And that hasn’t stopped (witness latest quarterly report).

From computing point of view, I think that Google is fundamentally changing how software is built. At Google you build software that runs on 100,000 machines at once – the “normal” development methods don’t really apply here.

BTW, did you know that Google is the biggest manufacturer of servers? They make more of them than Dell or HP. They also build them from cheapest components. With that many machines changes of a hardware failure are quite high  and the software needs to account for that.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s neat to have a peek at the wizards behind the Google curtain.

More on the Filter Bubble

On C-Span there is a show called “After Word”. Today I saw an episode in which Eli Pariser, the  author of “The Filter Bubble”, was interviewed by Clay Sharky. I only caught the second half of the show, but you can watch the entire thing here.

One observation made by Clay Sharky was that current filtering is mostly “supply” driven – that is the companies like Google or Facebook, use the info about you to decide what to show you on the internet. What is missing is the “demand” side – that is you having the ability to direct the search for things.

One possible exception today is Twitter. As Eli Pariser suggested, you can subscribe to Tweeter feeds of people who’s views you disagree with, and though that you will be able to get a better sense of what is happening outside your filter bubble.