spring, Princeton University

Is the ratio of bookstores to cash checking stores an indication of the quality of a neighborhood?

Check Cashing places are horrible, predatory establishments—often owned by big name banks, by the way—that feed off the misfortune of poor working people. And bookstores are for people who read for fun, a.k.a., “the rich” in today’s messed up world.Bookstores vs. Check Cashing Places

Some thoughts from Olaf on the often used (misused) term, “photographic process”.

To summarize, your emotions, happiness, sadness, peace or anxiety –are all part of you – and they should become an important part of your seeing. Don’t be afraid to use your mood, honeyed or not, to observe, see and create. And never, ever use the mantra “enjoy the process” as an excuse. After all, if you are a photographer, great imagery should always be your goal.Olaf

Shirley Elkin thinks that modern photography is hindered by a devotion to the past.

It seems that technology moves too fast for our own taste: In comparison to the photos of the past, the sharp and precise digital imagery modern cameras produce seem to be lacking character. And so we imbue them with a sense of authenticity through vintage filters, creating a mashup of old and new that’s neither there nor quite here.

Taste is obviously subjective and there’s nothing wrong with vintage optics, but it goes to show how our taste is under the spell of a bygone era: While photo engineers crank out new technology for more life-like photos, we edit the imperfections back in. Our very idea of what makes a beautiful photograph is anchored in the past, even though the present gives us plenty to explore.Lars Mensel

spring, Princeton University

Human rights and the West.

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organised violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.Ismael Lagardienne

Undocumented workers in New Jersey:

They commit no crime by simply being here without “proper papers”; they are like jaywalkers who walked across the borderOpinion: Complex Truths Versus Simple Thinking About the Undocumented

Will autonomous vehicles save lives or kill us all?

The problem with a long-tailed phenomenon is that the longer we looked at it, the less we understood what to expect. The more we sampled, the bigger the average turned out to be. Why should we think that stopping at 1 billion samples will be enough?

To see these numbers in more vivid terms, imagine that we are considering using some new technology that appears to be quite beneficial. The technology is being considered to combat some problem that kills about 36,000 people per year. (This is the number of traffic-related deaths in the United States in 2012.) We cannot calculate exactly how many people will die once the new technology is introduced, but we can perform some simulations and see how they come out. Suppose that each number sampled above corresponds to the number of people who will die in one year with the technology in place (in one run of the simulation). The big question here is: Should the new technology be introduced?

According to the sampling above, most of the time, we would get well below 100 deaths per year with the new technology, which would be phenomenally better than the current 36,000. In fact, the simulations show that 99.9 percent of the time, we would get well below 10,000 deaths. So that looks terrific. Unfortunately, the simulations also show us that there is a one-in-a-thousand chance of getting 1 million deaths, which would be indescribably horrible. And if that were not all, there also appears to be a one-in-a-million chance of wiping out all of humanity. Not so good after all!Common Sense, the Turing Test, and the Quest for Real AI

Seward Johnson's mystery “Newspaper Reader” located at Princeton's Battle Monument park., read

Stop worrying about your cameras, software, autofocus, etc.,– just go out and shoot. Remember it is 95% your seeing and 5% your gear (I am being generous here).Back to the Future – from the X100F to X100

Well said. Most of us don’t have a need to photograph unicorns traveling at light speed.

The poverty of personal analytics is that we buy into the corporately sponsored dogma of our age: everything we do and think is meaningless unless other people ‘like’ it, too.The Folly of Personal Analytics