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Will Brockman
Works at Google
Attended University of California San Diego
Lives in Boston area
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Will Brockman

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Here's the video of the Google I/O keynote with more details about the project I've been working on lately: expanding Google in Education to include Nexus tablets, and in particular opening  Google Play for Education. Starting at 1:24:24 here: Google I/O 2013: Keynote
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Will Brockman

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Felix Salmon is trenchant: building skyscrapers on low-lying ground because your models tell you it's safe is an excellent analogy to betting your bank on complicated derivatives because your models tell you it's safe.
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Will Brockman

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I enjoyed reading Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes, editor-at-large of The Nation and host of an MSNBC show. The big weakness of this book is that it doesn't summarize tidily; but there are lots of great sections. Here's one of my favorites, called "Open Secrets".

He's just been arguing that there is a Gresham's law ("bad money drives out good") of results-driven organizations: if cheaters are not dealt with, then all the rewards wind up going to cheaters, so only cheaters will remain.  Two "surefire tip-offs" of this devolution, he says, are the open secret and the inside joke. Here are two traders at Enron:

" 'He just f---s California. He steals money from California to the tune of about a million.'
   'Will you rephrase that?'
   'OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day.' "

And here's Jose Canseco on steroids in baseball:

"...the trainers would jokingly call the steroid injections 'B12 shots,' and soon the players had picked up on that little code name too.... 'I need to go in and get a B12 shot,' a player would say, and everyone would laugh."

Investment bankers during the housing boom:

"Get the deal closed, if there's a problem later on, it was just another case of 'IBGYBG' - 'I'll be gone, you'll be gone.' "

Hayes summarizes: "What ties together these internal communications is the lurking, nagging presence of a conscience. In each case and in dozens others, the perpetrator tips his hand that he knows what he's doing isn't quite on the up-and-up. The inside joke [is] a kind of moral defense, a way for the agents of a fraud to distance themselves from their own culpability." 

So I'm making a mental note-to-self: if you ever see these signs anyplace you work, get out!
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Good suggestion, done, and done.
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Will Brockman

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Delighted to be able to share what my team and I have been working on lately.
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I first read that as an edible dispenser for (photographic) film....
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Will Brockman

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How does the material of a spoon affect the taste of the food? Apparently a copper spoon was great with a mango relish, but made grapefruit taste nasty.
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When I was a kid at summer camp we had those little plastic tubs of ice cream that we aid with the little wooden vaguely spoon-shaped sticks. And of course it tasted like wood because you're eating it with a wood stick.

As a college student I bought one in La Verde's [the MIT grocery store] and ate it with a plastic spoon. I was surprised how much it still tasted like wood. That was some grainy ice cream.
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Have him in circles
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I'm delighted to be able to share the project that I've been working on: Google Play for Education was announced as part of the Google I/O keynote this year.
 
We’ll soon be launching Google Play for Education, a new destination for students and teachers to access highly engaging educational content and tools. Developers, find out how to get started: goo.gl/T7QYK. Educators, sign up to learn more: goo.gl/YxRDM. #GooglePlay #Education   #IO13  
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Linda Brockman's profile photoMurray Brockman's profile photo
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Dear Will, thank you for sharing the Google Play for Education program with me. I'm not at present teaching in a formal way, although I relish my degree in education, as I think it was the perfect place for me to learn about teaching and learning. As an example, I was remembering how well I still can recall some of the Bible stories my mother used to read nightly to Donna and me  when we were young (before Ed and Betsy). One factor in remembering some of the Old Testament Bible stories for me (as in the cautionary fairy tales) is that if you can associate strong feelings such as fear with the learning, it willbe remembered much longer. A scary Bible story we loved was Balthazar's  feast. We knew it would end in his death, but the writing on the wall during the feast was frightening every time we picked that story out to be read that night.  This is just one example which occurs throughout children's literature, and I have no idea whether or how you've included reading in your teaching apps. But the idea about feelings and memories came to me as I read about you program, so I thought I'd pass it on.

I hope this program receives the attention it deserves.  Much love, Linda
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Will Brockman

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We've launched NGram Viewer 2.0! Have fun, everyone...
 
We've launched the Ngram Viewer 2.0!  http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2012/10/ngram-viewer-20.html
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How can I get a high resolution Ngram graph by using the Ngram Viewer 2.0?
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Will Brockman

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A very nice essay on the distress of the privileged, starting from a great analogy.  The winning strategy, Doug Muder concludes, is to balance justice with compassion: "Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world."
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+Lori Kenschaft You might find this interesting.
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Will Brockman

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Henry Farrell and Cosma Rohilla Shalizi present a very interesting take on democracy, markets, and hierarchies. Instead of talking about which institutions best deliver justice or stability, they ask: are these institutions "useful in helping us to solve difficult social problems"?

These authors argue that "democracy will on average do the job a lot better than the other two ways", and view "different forms of collective information processing on the Internet as experiments that democracies can learn from".

I'm not familiar enough with the discussion that this paper is part of to have any useful opinion on its merits, but it's an engaging read, and thought-provoking.
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rif a. saurous's profile photoThomas Colthurst's profile photo
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Correction:  the factor of 1/2 in the hierarchy analysis is bogus.  The actual number of expected superiors is (log_d n) - 1/d + epsilon for a "complete" hierarchy.
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Will Brockman

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New books by N.K. Jemisin and Daniel Abraham coming out in May. I'd missed the first of this Daniel Abraham series (The Dagger and the Coin).

Younger readers of fantasy will likely be interested in at least one of the new books here as well - Kristin Cashore (Graceling series), John Flanagan (Ranger's Apprentice spinoff series), Rick Riordan (Cane chronicles).
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Lucy Hadden's profile photoMeg Muckenhoupt's profile photoGeoff Cohen's profile photo
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+Meg Muckenhoupt Agreed. Lots of requests to minuteman last night. (And I'm kind of liking their search ranking -- there must be lots of books called "Enchantress" or something very much like it, but the top hit was the about-to-come-out one with all the requests.)
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Have him in circles
556 people
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Software engineer
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  • Google
    Software engineer, present
  • Broad Institute
  • General Dynamics
  • Environmental Research Institute of Michigan
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I'm a software engineer at Google, and a former mathematician. I've worked in fields ranging from radar to genomics.
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  • University of California San Diego
  • Harvard University
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William Brockman