Category Archives: Ideas

The Vignelli Canon

A won­der­ful, short book of the rules (κανών: kanón, mean­ing a rule) of design cho­sen and illus­trat­ed by Mas­si­mo Vignel­li and his wife Lel­la. Down­load it here. I have always said that there are three aspects in Design that are impor­tant to me: Seman­tic, Syn­tac­tic and Prag­mat­ic. That is: the mean­ing of the design, the […]

Recognising phoney on-line reviews

Sur­prise, sur­prise! The mar­ket­ing val­ue of pos­i­tive on-line user-reviews has cre­at­ed an indus­try of liars-for-hire, ready to pimp any prod­uct with phoney “user” endorse­ments. Hotels, cafs, pub­lish­ers, music labels and (hor­ror!) even blog­gers can read­i­ly find cut-price on-line tes­ti­mo­ni­al­ists to pimp their prod­uct on sites like Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s a good chance we’ll fail to […]

Collaborate or control

The task of eco­nom­ic sci­ence, since Adam Smith, has been to explain the ori­gins of wealth. John Kay observes that the the­o­ry most favoured, even by Smith—that pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is ‘almost’ all that matters—is not by any means the only expla­na­tion for per­son­al wealth. Nor is it, his­tor­i­cal­ly, the most suc­cess­ful expla­na­tion (because the arbiters of […]

The tough go shopping

Can you real­ly doubt that the Aus­tralian econ­o­my will resume its recent strong growth in a year or so? Are you wor­ried that the rapid accu­mu­la­tion of wealth in the vast, still-poor economies of Chi­na, India and cen­tral Asia might be about to sud­den­ly stop? Do you fear that Aus­tralian firms will nev­er again be […]

Smoking and climate change

Mal­colm Turn­bull, in a recent speech invent­ed a para­ble about a fool­hardy smok­er to illus­trate his claim that con­test­ing the views of the “best sci­en­tists” on man-made cli­­mate-change is an “attack on sci­ence”. But does this para­ble make sense? Should we con­sid­er the the claimed “con­sen­sus” of sci­ence-pol­i­­cy bod­ies on dan­ger­ous glob­al warm­ing to be […]

The new future of old age

Elementary “Watson”

The IBM project that this week led to a spec­tac­u­lar demon­stra­tion of machine Ques­tion Answer­ing (yet anoth­er “QA” acronym) has a lot of seri­ous com­put­ing sci­ence behind it. Much of that technology—although none of the tech­niques, naturally—is lucid­ly explained in a recent arti­cle in AI Mag­a­zine. The over­ar­ch­ing prin­ci­ples in Deep­QA are mas­sive par­al­lelism, many […]