Deep inside Google, a small team has been trying to solve a problem that’s easy for any schmuck around the watercooler but frighteningly difficult for the world’s most data-rich company: telling a story.
… Smarr and his teammates — product designer Brett Lider and user experience designer Clement Ng — set a task for themselves. They wanted to create software that would have rhythm and flow like “actual storytelling.” Actual human storytelling.
The product is called Stories, and it takes photos users upload and automatically packages them up into narratives.
Maybe that sounds easy, but that’s because you’re a human. Teaching a machine a sense of narrative and place isn’t quite so easy, even using all of the information that Google knows about a user.
So, I spent time with the Google team that built Stories. I learned how they did it and began to consider what that says about computers’ ability to understand the human world enough to help us live in it.
Here is an in-depth article from The Atlantic about the Google+ Stories feature our team has been working on for the past year or so.
Even though Joseph, Brett, and myself were the only ones at the interview, there were many more people involved that brought Stories to life and made it possible. I’m humbled to be working with such an talented team on this amazing project.
Claude Lev-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques. The underlying philosophy of liberalism, and the consumer culture it generates, condensed into nine sentences:
In Martinique, I had visited rustic and neglected rum-distilleries where the equipment and the methods used had not changed since the eighteenth century. In Puerto Rico, on the other hand, in the factories of the company which enjoys a virtual monopoly over the whole of the sugar production, I was faced by a display of white enamel tanks and chromium piping. Yet the various kinds of Martinique rum, as I tasted them in front of ancient wooden vats thickly encrusted with waste matter, were mellow and scented, whereas those of Puerto Rico are coarse and harsh. We may suppose, then, that the subtlety of the Martinique rums is dependent on impurities the continuance of which is encouraged by the archaic method of production. To me, this contrast illustrates the paradox of civilization: its charms are due essentially to the various residues it carries along with it, although this does not absolve us of the obligation to purify the stream. By being doubly in the right, we are admitting our mistake. We are right to be rational and to try to increase our production and so keep manufacturing costs down. But we are also right to cherish those very imperfections we are endeavouring to eliminate. Social life consists in destroying that which gives it its savour.
“It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.”—Nicholas Sparks
“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
I told Miyazaki I love the “gratuitous motion” in his films; instead of every movement being dictated by the story, sometimes people will just sit for a moment, or they will sigh, or look in a running stream, or do something extra, not to advance the story but only to give the sense of time and place and who they are.
“We have a word for that in Japanese,” he said. “It’s called ma. Emptiness. It’s there intentionally.”
Is that like the “pillow words” that separate phrases in Japanese poetry?
“I don’t think it’s like the pillow word.” He clapped his hands three or four times. “The time in between my clapping is ma. If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness. But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.”
Among those who disagreed with the commercial were right-wing group One Million Moms, which said its members were “highly offended” by Nabisco’s “disrespect of millions of American families by supporting the homosexual agenda,” and the American Decency Organization, who compared the company to Satan.
“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”—Hilary J Smith, Wild Awake
Sometimes, we forget that going into new territories and feeling uncomfortable about the unfamiliar is often what we need in order to grow and learn. You’re not going anywhere if you keep staying in your comfort zone.
The biggest regrets we have are the decisions we don’t make because we think we’re guaranteed something. We choose college because we think we’re guaranteed a job. We choose staying home because we think not traveling guarantees more money. We choose not leaving our hometown because we think it guarantees us friends and comfort. We choose to stay in unfulfilling relationships because we think it guarantees we will never be alone.
And then we are confronted with the reality that none of this was ever guaranteed, and we only gave up on the thrill of our dreams because we were too afraid to see what else was possible. We convinced ourselves that we were investing in something, when all we were doing was excusing our cowardice.
Photographer Adam Magyar took a high speed camera and recorded everything as his subway train car was getting into the station. Here’s the result in three spellbinding clips, part of his film Stainless, in three different cities: New York, Berlin and Tokyo.
A country in which more organisations are run for the benefit of their members and customers rather than shareholders would be a very real place where success is more equitable, not a utopia where failure is impossible.
Mutuals offer a realistic vision of a better society that we can create without a revolution, without even an alternative model to the market economy. Capitalism is not the problem, it’s the actors in the capitalist system.
“Of course, you never really forget anyone, but you certainly release them. You stop allowing their history to have any meaning for you today. You let them change their haircut, let them move, let them fall in love again. And when you see this person you have let go, you realize that there is no reason to be sad. The person you knew exists somewhere, but you are separated by too much time to reach them again.”—Chelsea Fagan, How We Let People Go