Profile

Cover photo
Joel Webber
Works at FullStory
Attended Georgia Institute of Technology
Lives in Atlanta, GA
6,845 followers|2,179,743 views
AboutPostsCollectionsPhotosYouTubeReviews

Stream

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
While I agree with many of the author's points, I'm less certain of the "risk and conformity" hypothesis towards the end. I suspect he has an overly-simplistic model of the way scientific technological actually occurs in the real world -- progress in any given domain is seldom linear; it happens in a kind of punctuated equilibrium.

This usually results in wildly-incorrect predictions of the future. E.g., we went from horses to cars to the 747 in about 60 years, so clearly we'll have flying cars by the year 2000. Except we don't, because transportation technology mostly plateaued in the 60s. In this case, we extrapolated linearly while completely ignoring the non-linear limitations that we were piling up against.

Meanwhile, very few managed to predict the incredible rate of progress in information processing, dating from roughly the same point. This is unsurprising, as extrapolating linearly from 1900-1960 would lead you to believe that we'd just have better collating and tabulating machines by 2000. Instead, the growth was wildly super-linear. At some point, this will likely plateau for some time, leading to still more incorrect predictions.

It's not hard to find similar patterns in fundamental physics, agricultural technology, medicine, and other domains. And eventually we'll break out of each of these equilibria, often as the result of a breakthrough in an unrelated domain, that no one saw coming. And so it goes.

Note that this view of the problem is similar to Tyler Cowen's hypothesis that we've "grabbed all the low-hanging fruit", referenced in the linked article. Except that's also too simplistic -- each domain has its own fruit, but progress in one domain can lift up others, bringing new fruit into reach. These complex interactions, I suspect, are the primary reason that both the idealists (flying cars soon!) and the naysayers (we've invented everything already!) are invariably proven wrong.
 
Quite interesting and provoking thoughts on technological progress. 
Are we on a plateau ?
Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?
13 comments on original post
10
Matt Harmon's profile photoTau-Mu Yi's profile photoDaniel Egnor's profile photo
14 comments
 
We ain't got self driving cars quite yet.
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
Simple fact: The legality of being rude or disrespectful to the police is well established in US law and precedent. It may not be the best idea, especially if you're a member of a minority, but it unequivocally legal. Think of this next time you're asking yourself "what someone did to piss off the cop", who later ended up beaten or killed.

Many cops actually do what they're trained to do -- deescalate -- when faced with an angry citizen. But sadly, very many do not, but rather tend to escalate the situation even more badly. This must change. It's not too much to ask for our police to behave professionally.
U.S. courts have made this clear again and again and again.
28
1
M Sinclair Stevens's profile photogeorge oloo's profile photo
 
"What did you do to provoke him?" The question universally asked of the abused no matter what the situation: domestic violence, rape, police brutality.

Apparently the abused person pushes the trigger and the violent offender is an innocent mechanism, without agency, volition, conscience, humanity, or self-control.
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
I've pulled a bit of this trick in various forms. For princesses, make them start running their bit of the feudal system. It's pretty easy to bring up some unpleasant truths if you need to, to make them think a little about where products and labor actually come from.

Lately for me it's been mermaids. Sometimes you can pull the princess thing in this case, because they are, of course, usually "princess mermaids" (why the hell not?). But otherwise I start asking really practical questions about what/how she eats (mmmm, raw fish and keep underwater), whether books and lights work down there, and how on earth they keep drinks in those goblets they're always "drinking" from. At least I can get a little bit of physics out of that discussion before she waves me away with "magic" :)
18
2
Robert Cooper's profile photoM Sinclair Stevens's profile photoSachin Shekhar R's profile photoFlorian Loitsch's profile photo
6 comments
 
While it's nice to expand the definition of princess to include civic responsibilities as well as inherited rights, it would be nicer to re-open the choices to all kinds of roles. When I was growing up, the distinction was between adult and child more than boy and girl. There were eight of us, 5 girls and 3 boys and our toys from chemistry sets, to microscopes, puzzles, books. art supplies, Lincoln logs, Barbie dolls, and GI Joes, electric trains, and slot cars were really a free-for-all (that is, shared family toys).

The girls in my family did don ballet tutus and tiaras but they were just as likely to play a super villain to the boys' "Batman", or a spy to the boys' "Man from UNCLE", or a cowgirl (like Annie Oakley and Dale Evans), or an astronaut (like on Star Trek or Lost in Space), or solve mysteries like Nancy Drew, or a pilot like Amelia Earhart, or a teacher like Anne Sullivan.

It's sadly been a short journey from "pink and sparkly, especially for girls" to "only girls can play with pink and sparkly" to "if it's not pink and sparkly, it's for boys."
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
Anaïs on her first trip to Paris.

Now if I can just figure out how to get her to carry my baggage, too...
33
Benjamin van den Berg's profile photoJoel Webber's profile photoPhilippe Beaudoin's profile photo
20 comments
 
When it comes to language, Montreal couldn't differ more from Quebec City! When I was going to school (in the 80s, in a small town) I didn't know anyone who spoke english! Even my english teacher (classes only started when I was ~9 yo) wasn't a native speaker. He was pretty awful actually. My parents watched movies in English sometimes, but that's about the only exposure I got.

I picked up most of what I know starting in CEGEP (our pre-college, 17-18yo) -- where I was finally forced to read some English novels -- and university, where english textbooks were cheaper and where I was forced to write english papers (but a French thesis, go figure).

I improved significantly after spending three years doing my postdoc in Vancouver. This was 6 years ago. My kids are very lucky in comparison. :)
Add a comment...
Have him in circles
6,845 people
Marcos Paulo's profile photo
Dhanraj gurung.'s profile photo
Joao Rodrigues's profile photo
Jack Ware's profile photo
Daniel Murphy's profile photo
larry FOREST's profile photo
sagar allamdas's profile photo
phsar lucky's profile photo
Hà Thành Nguyễn's profile photo

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
Thought for the day -- if you oppose modern genetic modification of food crops, you should be aware of the following:

Many common crop varietals have been produced using what I'll call "old-school genetic modification". In this process, we take a plant's germ cells and beat the hell out of them with mutagenic chemicals and/or highly ionizing radiation (e.g., gamma radiation from nuclear reactions). This creates lots of completely random mutations in the plant's DNA, and you simply cross your fingers that some of them will be beneficial. This has been common since around the '20s, and includes many crops currently labeled "organic".

Preferring that process to modern, surgical genetic modification can be thought of as preferring being shot with a shotgun to having endoscopic laser surgery. Sure, the shotgun might accidentally fix something, but...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation_breeding
20
7
Eric Richardson's profile photoKary Duque's profile photoThomas McGuire's profile photoBrandon “Innomen” Sergent's profile photo
10 comments
 
You also need to understand the full impact of GMO not just the part about the plant produced. Some GMO plants make pesticides (way worse for people and the planet) unnecessary:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/opinion/sunday/how-i-got-converted-to-gmo-food.html?_r=0
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
FitBit while playing the drums: recipe for inaccurate readings.
21
1
Dave Robinson's profile photoEmanuele Ziglioli's profile photoJoel Webber's profile photoTau-Mu Yi's profile photo
8 comments
 
This is actually a Surge, so it does have GPS, but sadly it's not on all the time (only during explicitly logged workouts). It's highly accurate in that mode.

It's step counting that's problematic. This watch is much better than the Moto 360 I tried for a while, even though the latter was working in conjunction with the phone to presumably give better results (it sure blew the phone's battery quickly, so they must have been doing something together). That one would register many steps when driving over bumpy roads with my MINI's tight suspension. So far, this is the only case that's been a problem for the Surge.

I do wish that playing the drums was anywhere near as efficient exercise as running. But I've seen way too many fat drummers to believe that :)
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
Read this. If you're already convinced, you'll still learn something. If you're on the fence, perhaps you'll learn enough about what's on both sides of the fence to make a decision. And if you're on the other side of the fence, maybe, just maybe, you'll take the time to peer over the edge long enough to consider the intricacies of the problem, rather than just assuming without evidence that you're where you need to be.

The simple fact that we all need to internalize is this: There are no easy answers. There was never any "perfect state of nature" we could return to, where our foods were all whole, perfect, and healthy. We've been fighting starvation, malnutrition, diseases, pests, and plants that don't actually want to be eaten, from day one. We've been dramatically changing the plants we rely on for food, using methods far more disruptive than direct generic modification, also from the beginning. The sooner we accept this, and engage in healthy, honest debate about these subjects, the sooner we can get on with feeding and caring for the billions of people on our planet who will continue to suffer without improvement in the status quo.
 
Direct to the point of aggression, but incredibly informative and well-researched article about GMO foods, worth reading by both sides.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/07/are_gmos_safe_yes_the_case_against_them_is_full_of_fraud_lies_and_errors.html

Let me explain why I think GMO opponents should read this article, despite the fact that its tone will feel hostile:
(1) The author shares many of the goals of GMO opponents.  At one point he lists values like "environmental protection, public health, community agriculture" as worthy.
(2) The author is not a blind shill for GMOs.  The last section of the article looks at how they've been involved in increased herbicide resistance.  This isn't done as a concession to opponents but as a serious illustration of the complexities involved in the topic.
(3) This is not a mere opinion piece.  The article contains literally hundreds of links to studies and other literature, from both sides, so that interested parties are welcome to go further down the rabbit hole.  In fact I can't recall another article I've read on the internet with so many source links embedded in it.
(4) The consequences are important.  Opposing GMOs could mean you get dosed with more pesticides, that companies like Monsanto make more money, that the environment is harmed, and that people die of malnutrition.  Many of these are precisely the sorts of outcomes that GMO opponents fear GMOs will lead to, which means that determining what course of action will actually cause them is in everyone's interest.

Overall, the article is a damning indictment of most aspects of the anti-GMO campaign.  The section on Bt corn in particular demonstrates a blatant willingness on the part of organizations like Greenpeace to simultaneously put forth contradictory arguments, presumably in hopes that someone will believe at least one of them.  It also highlights a number of cases of arguing that (genetically-engineered) Bt production is dangerous by using data that actually came from studies on Bt sprays -- the very thing that would be used far more if the GMO corn wasn't grown.

The problem with opposing GMOs is that it focuses on a tool rather than focusing on an outcome.  As the article repeatedly makes clear, labeling GMOs doesn't actually tell you what you want to know: it doesn't tell you that your food is safer, or that the environment has been helped, or that local or needy growers rather than large corporations have made money.  Instead, fighting over GMOs wastes time, money and energy that could be used to address these problems, and it actively harms a number of beneficial cases.
Is genetically engineered food dangerous? Many people seem to think it is. In the past five years, companies have submitted more than 27,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which certifies goods that are free of genetically modified organisms. Last year, sales of such products nearly tripled. Whole Foods will soon...
View original post
22
6
Michael Prentice's profile photoTau-Mu Yi's profile photoMichael Philpott's profile photoRohit Korrapolu's profile photo
8 comments
 
+Tau-Mu Yi​​ that's what's so frustrating -- get into a debate on GMOs with just about anyone, and they often end up saying "yeah, but... Monsanto!" It's hard to argue with, unless the person you're debating is willing to be very thoughtful and rational in the debate. It's very difficult to get people to separate such orthogonal points.
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
Now that's what I call a French recycling bin.

Full disclosure: my contribution to this bin is exceedingly limited :)
12
Alex Rudnick's profile photo
 
Joyeux 14 juillet!
 ·  Translate
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
I continue to be amazed at the things we're getting convnets to do, that traditionally require tweaking the hell out of complex algorithms by hand.

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction: At some point, when it becomes tractable to run these things in real-time, on more modest hardware, convnet-based algorithms are going to blow the doors off of all existing video compression.

Think of it like this: Take the frames of a video, and train your network to predict frame Fn+1 from Fn. Feed it F0 and let it go. It'll go off the rails at some point, but that's what keyframes are for, and I'd be willing to bet that it would be much easier to determine optimal keyframe placement with such an algorithm. And while training these networks could be really expensive (though so was MPEG compression back in the day), playback would be fairly cheap, as you just have to run the network in feed-forward mode.

Now consider how a video-conference system would work, if it were constantly being trained (and the network parameters being updated on both ends): It wouldn't surprise me at all if the network started inferring and predicting individual participants' likely motions. This would be a bit like the network "learning your doppelganger", who would take your place for a few moments at a time, in the face of network hiccups.

The failure mode could be... interesting... as your doppelganger acts on your behalf just long enough to badly misstate your intent. Kind of creepy, but fun to think about!
 
Give Google’s DeepStereo algorithm two images of a scene and it will synthesize a third image from a different point of view.
View original post
23
5
Davy K.M's profile photoEmmanuel Astier's profile photoGoodwin Lawlor's profile photoTau-Mu Yi's profile photo
4 comments
 
The performance of these Deep ConvNets on image processing tasks is truly impressive. Of course, the challenge is their fragility to perturbations that cause them to go off their tracks.
Add a comment...

Joel Webber

Shared publicly  - 
 
"I’m not suggesting that everyone who uses disclaimers at the end of emails immediately run out and order the IT staff to delete them."

I am. They're obnoxious, pointless, and force me to scroll through needless reams of horseshit every time such a person responds to a thread. Please stop doing this, and if you're in a position to remove "auto signatures" from a work email server that does this, then for the love of Dog please turn it off!
17
2
Joel Webber's profile photoPeter van der Linden's profile photoSaptarshi Chakraborty's profile photoJürgen Christoffel's profile photo
11 comments
 
A little unfair, in that it was the act of a 3rd party that precipitated the email breach.  
On the other hand, (they will say) you should have anticipated that it was possible for a valid recipient to force the failure.  
Your "license" could have transferred the ice-cream responsibility to each recipient you sent to, and further bound them to pass on the same binding +Kelly Norton.
Add a comment...
Joel's Collections
People
Have him in circles
6,845 people
Marcos Paulo's profile photo
Dhanraj gurung.'s profile photo
Joao Rodrigues's profile photo
Jack Ware's profile photo
Daniel Murphy's profile photo
larry FOREST's profile photo
sagar allamdas's profile photo
phsar lucky's profile photo
Hà Thành Nguyễn's profile photo
Work
Occupation
Senior Bit Twiddler
Employment
  • FullStory
    Founder, 2012 - present
  • Google
    2005 - 2012
  • Lotus Development
    Intern, 1991 - 1992
  • Pixel Technologies
    1992 - 1994
  • Heuristic Park
    1995 - 1997
  • Holistic Design
    1997 - 2000
  • AppForge
    2000 - 2002
  • Innuvo
    2002 - 2005
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Atlanta, GA
Contact Information
Home
Mobile
404.425.9779
Email
Address
153 Ponce de Leon Ct Decatur, GA 30030 USA
Work
Email
Story
Tagline
Dad. Software Geek. Xoogler. Reformed Game Programmer. Drummer.
Education
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
    Computer Science, 1990 - 1998
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Birthday
February 3
Relationship
Married
Great selection, helpful and knowledgeable staff, and storytime is a godsend for those of us with little ones. They're also great about bringing authors in for book signings and to meet the kids.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
We've been going to carpe diem since it opened, and have always loved it. I don't know where reviewers who didn't like the food went, but it must not have been the same restaurant. We've never had a problem with the service, either.
Public - 5 years ago
reviewed 5 years ago
2 reviews
Map
Map
Map