Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

How Poetry and Math Intersect

Nat says: The debate of “art versus science” is probably one you’ve heard before. I thought I’d share this article because it went in a direction I didn’t expect. The article refers to the use of poetry in making math more accessible, but it also refers to the mathematician Emmy Noether and a poem that was written in her name. Noether was a pioneering mathematician, but is often forgotten in history because of her gender and the time period in which she lived. In the article, the poem “My Dance is Mathematics”, by Joanne Growney, discusses this very thing, with one section being:

If a woman’s dance is mathematics,
she dances alone.

Mothers said, “Don’t tease. That strange one’s heart
is kind. She helps her mother with the house
and cannot help her curious mind.”

In one view, Growney uses poetry to point out gender differences in math, and in another, uses poetry as a gateway for making math accessible. Growney herself has a PhD in mathematics and believes that both formats convey multiple meanings. When working as a professor, she even used poetry as an avenue to help her students emotionally connect with mathematics. What I found interesting about Growney’s views is that she tries to unite two perceived opposite things, and I couldn’t help but make parallels to my own context.

In no way, shape or form do I consider myself to be a mathematical person, but I find it ironic that my undergraduate degree was in psychology, which is predominately statistics, whilst my honours degree was in poetry. In my current work I am looking at the stories that are told at the people-technology intersection; technology which requires mathematical and statistical thinking for its creation in order for it to then be used and perceived. Weirder still is that in my research I am taking a hermeneutic view on the world, which is the philosophy of interpretation. This word, with its Latin origins of hermeneuein, was used in Ancient Greek philosophy to refer to Hermes, who was the messenger of the Gods — the translator between worlds.

Have I secretly, much like Growney, seen an intersecting relationship between math and poetry — people and technology, all along? Perhaps finding meaning in opposition is the point entirely. I remember my honours supervisor telling me that if you want to write a poem about Summer, write it in the midst of Winter. And in my current PhD context I have been told not to look at technology as an entity, but instead explore what it reveals about us as human beings. Maybe we all need to see the poetry-math unity as something of meaning.


Big change coming to the way we fly

Helen says: As a lover of travel I enjoy following technology developments in the airline industry. I came across a trial that commenced this month in Sydney where selected Qantas international passengers are testing new biometrics technology. This innovation could see big changes to the customer airport experience with your face becoming your passport. A person will be able to move through the check-in stages, access lounges and board a flight without presenting their passport or boarding pass. For now, documents will still need to be presented at immigration but it may be just a matter of time before passports to become a thing of the past.

This technology promises to improve speed and convenience at the airport for customers, unless maybe you are travelling with your identical twin, but it could also contribute to improved customer safety when it comes to terror threats. On the flip side is the compromise to our privacy and herein lies the conundrum. Whilst the technology still needs a lot of refining, Governments are struggling to come up with suitable regulations that ensure data is not abused, our privacy is protected, and at the same time give us uncompromised security. This article covers some of the key concerns and highlights some of the challenges facing legislators in trying to get the balance right.


You’re approaching an intersection. A child runs out. What happens next is up to technology

Driverless cars could make our roads safer and reduce congestion. But the algorithms driving them will also have to make life-or-death decisions.

Joel says: This is a great article posted on the ABC this week that also acts as an interactive social experiment, asking you the same questions the people developing the AI and machine learning components of automated cars must ask themselves everyday.

Currently Australian law states that all motor vehicles must have a person behind the wheel controlling the vehicle. But with driverless cars just over the horizon, manufacturing companies and government agencies are now at the stage where they need to develop a legal framework for when machines are totally in control. Understandably, Australians are looking to our overseas counterparts for guidance: with many of the leading car manufacturers residing in Germany, they have been at the forefront of developing the ‘rules’ their cars AI will have to abide by.

In crude terms, the German rules specify that if a crash is unavoidable, a car would be programmed to hurt the fewest people possible. The machine’s algorithms wouldn’t consider a person’s family ties, profession, fame, criminal record, gender, age or any other factors.

Meaning if you are travelling in the vehicle alone and a group of jay walkers take to the streets, your vehicle would run you off the road rather than maintain its path. This has obviously got some people worried about jumping on board with automated vehicles but the rules are very much in question – Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finke asks “It’s a sensible rule, but is it the right rule?”

I recommend reading the whole piece over on the ABC site. It’s a great discussion about AI that promotes discussion about some ethical issues. There are also a number of interactive questions you can answer and see how many others share the same views.


The 10 Commandments of UX

Jakkii says: This is a great, light-hearted and quick read for the UX designers out there – and for those with an interest in design, including human-centred design and design thinking. It starts out with an absolute cracker – and something so very important:

I. You are not the user

It is so simple. Yet it’s easy to fall into the trap of “I don’t do x so why would anyone else”. UX is about the users, and users will think and act in ways that will defy your expectations without fail. Knowing it is not enough, you need techniques to turn that awareness into methodologies and actions (eg Empathy and Journey Maps).

It’s not just relevant in UX, either – even in design thinking, we see design approaches to problems that make assumptions about people (‘users’) based on the attitudes, ideas, behaviours and expectations of the designers, not necessarily the users – or other users. It’s often an ongoing battle in any design project to keep people focused on the people at the heart of the problem, and why research is so important – it allows us to understand users, develop empathy, and gather evidence (data) to support user-focused design decisions.

The remaining 9 commandments touch on topics like assumptions, research, accessibility and inclusion, ethics, and openness. Read the full commandments at the link below, and let us know what you think! Which commandment stood out most for you?


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: Intrapreneurship, marshmallows and why it’s hard to recall an idea. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week:

The myth of the intrapreneur

Why network effects matter less than they used to

Giving up on the triple bottom line

We got the ‘marshmallow test’ wrong

The Stanford Prison Experiment takedown

Other stories we bring up:

The lifespan of a lie -the Stanford prison experiment

Future Frontiers report: Preparing for the best and worst of times

The new “Cohort Effects in Children’s Delay of Gratification” paper

The Psychology Reproducibility Project

The Google Assistant can help you do some stuff demo



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