You can’t judge a book by its cover – if you’re a robot

 

Back in September, a report suggested that robots will have eliminated 6% of jobs in the US by 2021. Fortunately for book designers, it doesn’t look as if androids are about to take over cover design any time soon. MIT Technology Review points us towards a new machine-vision algorithm dreamed up by academics at Kyushu University in Japan. In a new paper, Brian Kenji Iwana and Seiichi Uchida explain how they trained a deep neural network “to predict the genre of a book based on the visual clues provided by its cover”.

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70s dinner party food: If only we’d had Instagram back then

 

This was the era of the showboat dinner party, where the upwardly mobile British family would invite peers and colleagues into their homes in a bid to wow them via high-voltage, brightly coloured three-course extravaganzas. It was a time of meals that didn’t just taste out of this world, they looked out of this world, too. In the current climate of clean-eating, social media fascism, the 70s seem to signify a happier, more honest time. We want something that has the balls to be shamelessly, completely and proudly crap. We want a good, old-fashioned 70s dinner party.

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How do I tell my daughter that her online ‘truth’ is a conspiracy theory?

 

This confusion about the truth usually begins to disappear as children grow up and see that there are not only observable facts, but also collectively observable knowledge that is difficult to verify but must nevertheless be taken on trust. The idea that the Earth is (roughly) a sphere and orbits the sun is pretty much universally accepted, but very few know the science that proves it. It is taken as a matter of faith as part of our established store of knowledge. It struck me as I argued with my daughter that the collective store of trusted knowledge is dwindling, despite the so-called information revolution. Adults, like children, tend towards the irrational, and the internet has become an immense tool for facilitating that tendency.

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Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness – The New York Times

 

BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week. “Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear. “No one, I…” And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair. Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week. About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people.

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John Lewis unveils Christmas ad starring a dog on a trampoline

 

The retailer will employ a host of innovative social media tools to help encourage sharing and interaction as the battle for hearts and minds in the run-up to the biggest shopping period of the year becomes increasingly digital. These include a tie-up with Snapchat, which will allow UK users of the messaging app to use a Buster lens on Thursday, so they can snap portraits with comedy dog ears and nose. After that, the filter will pop up when Snapchat is used in a John Lewis store. Until Sunday 13 November, customers will be able to use special Twitter stickers that pop up when they use the hashtag #bouncebounce to personalise their photos with Buster and the other animals. Visitors to John Lewis’s Oxford Street store will be able to try a virtual reality version of the trampoline, where they can bounce alongside the animals using Oculus Rift goggles.

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Why the Kenwood Chef is heavier than it needs to be – and other design tricks

 

Sir Kenneth Grange, who redesigned Ken Wood’s original mixer in the 1960s (and created more besides, from Kodak cameras to Intercity trains), has revealed that he made the appliance with a particularly heavy material to give it a sense of quality. “We read a lot into the weight of things so, when you pick something up, in that moment you make an assumption about its value,” the inventor says in The Brits Who Designed the Modern World, a BBC documentary.

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How Ghana’s top fantasy coffin artist has put the fun in funeral

 

“People celebrate death in Ghana. At a funeral, we have a passion for the person leaving us – there are a lot of people, and a lot of noise,” says Jacob, 28, who has worked with his father for eight years. Far from seeing their work as morbid, Jacob says the coffins are celebratory and reflect west African attitudes to death. “It reminds people that life continues after death, that when someone dies they will go on in the afterlife, so it is important that they go in style.”

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The 10 lies ​about Black Friday’s consumerist circle of hell

 

Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent. From now until closing time on Christmas Eve, we are destined to fall towards an existential abyss. Some of us are fated to experience an unpleasant altercation with another shopper on Black Friday over the last discounted PS4 in a warehouse on the North Circular. Others will be on our knees in Hamleys begging the assistant to check again in the storeroom to see if they have that on-trend Zoomer Chimp, a £119.99 plastic robotic ape that comes complete with voice command recognition and – please God, no – 100-plus tricks. And then, sometime around 10am on Christmas Day, our nation will be united by a warm fuzzy feeling. What’s that feeling called again? Buyer’s remorse. Walter Benjamin … ‘the “modern” [is] the time of hell’ the Frankfurt School leader wrote. Photograph: Alamy Walter Benjamin … ‘the “modern” [is] the time of hell’ the Frankfurt School leader wrote. Photograph: Alamy One thing I’ve learned in researching the lives of that bunch of mostly dead neo-Marxist German Jews called the Frankfurt School is that shopping isn’t so much a satisfying pastime that boosts the economy as a burning wheel of Ixion on which we are bound until death secures our release. “The ‘modern’ [is] the time of hell,” wrote Walter Benjamin, the brains behind the Frankfurt School operation, in his critique of consumer capitalism, The Arcades Project. He wasn’t writing about Saturday at 5pm in Toys R Us, but he could have been. Here then are 10 lies about shopping to help you escape the seasonal consumerist circle of hell so appalling that even Dante didn’t dare imagine it.

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ASA bans Heinz Beanz’s Can Song advert for safety concerns

 

A Heinz TV advert teaching viewers how to use cans of its baked beans to drum out a song has been banned for being dangerous for children to copy. The commercial, which used the strapline “Learn the #CanSong, featured children, teenagers and adults using Heinz Beanz tins to drum out the rhythm of song. Nine viewers lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority that the advert encouraged “unsafe practice”, with six believing that it could be dangerous for children to emulate.

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The UK craft sector isn’t a ‘hipster’ economy. It’s sparking innovation | Rosy Greenlees | Opinion | The Guardian

 

The craft and making sector has created the basis for the disruptive collaboration that led to breakthroughs such as 3D printing, the application of prosthetics in surgery, and the design of the wearable technologies set to revolutionise our clothing. Craft and making can be artisanal but the myth swallowed by policymakers is that it is little more than this. A cute, niche sector. But Britain has quietly built up a £3.4bn making economy, influencing everything from the automotive industry to smartphones. It is also reshaping the way larger brands produce and engage with customers. Companies ranging from Adidas to Ikea have set up design units based on the craft innovation model. Ikea’s Space10 development in Copenhagen, for instance, is specifically based on the idea of collective co-creation. The second myth is that this new craft industry is not an employer, instead being a small ecosystem of makers and curators. Yes, the sector has not given birth to any super-companies yet but neither has the much-vaunted UK tech sector. Instead both have created not corporate monoliths but hundreds, maybe thousands, of small, highly specialised firms that are transforming our economy and the relationship between producer and consumer.

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