$1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping)

An excerpt from Michael Eisen’s Amazon’s $23,698,655.93 book about flies,

A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).

I sent a screen capture to the author – who was appropriately amused and intrigued. But I doubt even he would argue the book is worth THAT much.

At first I thought it was a joke – a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each being offered for well over a million dollars. And the two sellers seemed not only legit, but fairly big time (over 8,000 and 125,000 ratings in the last year respectively). The prices looked random – suggesting they were set by a computer. But how did they get so out of whack? […]

Amazon retailers are increasingly using algorithmic pricing (something Amazon itself does on a large scale), with a number of companies offering pricing algorithms/services to retailers. Both [of the sellers] were clearly using automatic pricing – employing algorithms that didn’t have a built-in sanity check on the prices they produced. […]

What’s fascinating about all this is both the seemingly endless possibilities for both chaos and mischief… as soon as it was clear what was going on here, I and the people I talked to about this couldn’t help but start thinking about ways to exploit our ability to predict how others would price their books down to the 5th significant digit – especially when they were clearly not paying careful attention to what their algorithms were doing.

Amazon’s $23,698,655.93 book about flies, by Michael Eisen, 22 April 2011 (excerpt, with light edits)

Amazon and human beings

More than any of the other fearsome five, Amazon does not seem to care much for human beings. Sure, it needs humans to purchase, sell, pack, and ship its products (for now). But if you visit the site and see the kinds of things it has for sale — a wall decal of an older Asian man, a $23 million book about flies, a heroin-themed cell-phone case — it seems clear that Amazon not only finds humans confusing, it does not particularly like them at all. Amazon may not have the killer robots to be Skynet (yet). But it already has the contempt for humans.
Which Giant Tech Company Is Winning the Race to Be Skynet?, by Max Read, 3 August 2017. Vulture.com published this article as part of their “dark futures week”. The story about the $23 million book about flies is here.

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and LeBron James meet in a bar

Elon Musk: I'm going to use my wealth to fund ... space travel!

Jeff Bezos: I'm going to use my wealth to fund ... space travel!

LeBron James: I'm going to use my wealth to ... build a public school that helps students and their parents!
Feminazgûl (@jkyles10), 31 July 2019, (with 134k likes). LeBron James, an American basketball star, donated funds to open the I Promise school for at-risk students in the Akron, Ohio public school system. See Students at LeBron James' I Promise School generating 'extraordinary' results, by Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today, 12 April 2019. Also see NY Times LeBron James Opened a School That Was Considered an Experiment. It’s Showing Promise.

Forged by fantasy

[French football manager Arsène Wenger's] assertion several years ago that [Lionel] Messi was a "PlayStation footballer” was meant more as an explanation than an insult: Messi does things that seem to belong on a pixelated screen because that is, in part, how he has learned to see the game […] His conception of what is possible and what is not was forged by fantasy.”
How Video Games Are Changing the Way Soccer Is Played, by Rory Smith, New York Times, 13 October 2016.
I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.
Greta Thunberg to [US] Congress: ‘You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry’, by Lauren Gambino, The Guardian, 17 September 2019

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist who has galvanized young people across the world to strike for more action to combat the impact of global warming, politely reminded them that she was a student, not a scientist – or a senator.

“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.

“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”

In remarks meant for Congress as a whole, she said: “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”.

There's Waldo

Screen grab from  There’s Waldo is a robot that finds Waldo , redpepper, 8 August 2018

Screen grab from There’s Waldo is a robot that finds Waldo, redpepper, 8 August 2018

Built by creative agency redpepper, There’s Waldo zeroes in and finds Waldo with a sniper-like accuracy. The metal robotic arm is a Raspberry Pi-controlled uArm Swift Pro which is equipped with a Vision Camera Kit that allows for facial recognition. The camera takes a photo of the page, which then uses OpenCV to find the possible Waldo faces in the photo. The faces are then sent to be analyzed by Google’s AutoML Vision service, which has been trained on photos of Waldo. If the robot determines a match with 95 percent confidence or higher, it’ll point to all the Waldos it can find on the page.

Or suffer the consequences

It’s working… But the question is, is it working fast enough? Paraphrasing the great abolitionist leader Theodore Parker, Martin Luther King Jr. used to regularly end his speeches with the phrase “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The line was a favorite of Obama’s too, and for all three men it meant the same thing: “This may take a while, but we’re going to win.” For most political fights, it is the simultaneously frustrating and inspiring truth. But not for climate change. The arc of the physical universe appears to be short, and it bends toward heat. Win soon or suffer the consequences. 

Impossible fantasies

“Dungeons & Dragons allows you to live out impossible fantasies, like that of medical professionals who listen to you when you want healing.

In a scene right now where my disabled wizard talks to @elibyronbaldrsn’s dwarf cleric and honestly it’s the most affirming and validating doctor conversation I’ve ever had.”
Tweet (since deleted, or I can't find it except for a screen grab) from Ana Mardoll (@AnaMardoll), August 5, 2018

The Garden of Eden is no more

“‘I am quite literally from another age,’ Attenborough told an audience of business leaders, politicians and other delegates. ‘I was born during the Holocene – the 12,000 [year] period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations.’ […]

‘The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more.’”
Sir David Attenborough has warned that “the Garden of Eden is no more”, by Graeme Wearden, reporting from Davos; The Guardian, 21 January 2019.