There are a lot of comments here about how this is futurist doom & gloom. And it certainly could be. But the difference between the doom of the past and the doom of now is that we now have working, commercial examples of the robots that could replace humans. It was theory before... now it's just a matter of economy of scale and refinement.
CGP Gray did an excellent piece on this already.
To be perfectly honest, databases make sense when you access thousands of records multiple times a second.
Computer configuration is accessing a couple dozen records multiple times a day. There is NO performance reason that this can't be done with the same text files we have used for years.
Please note: I'm only addressing the last sentence of your post. I do agree that existing tools handled dynamic configuration poorly. I simply take exception that 'dynamic' must automatically mean 'database'.
This is ludicrous. He should get an A on the assignment... it was completely convincing apparently, despite the inclusion of a pet dinosaur. The school administration and cops were all convinced. The kid should put it on his fucking college resume: "Turned in a story that was so well written I got arrested for the fictitious deed."
Alternately, his college application could be, "I got this excellent ACT score despite being taught in a school that doesn't realize Dinosaurs are extinct."
I don't like Facebook. I don't use Facebook (despite pressure). But that doesn't mean I think Facebook's publicised test was abusive. It was a standard A/B test, done by website owners everywhere, all the time, from the smallest to the largest. If you reword it slightly, all the negative connotations vanish:
Users seemed to enjoy the newsfeed more when we adjusted the filter algorithm to prefer positive (rather than negative) content.
Said this way it sounds just like any other test (Google changing their rankings, an advertiser tweaking their wording), and that's because it is. Communication is about changing someone's thoughts and emotions... that's the definition of communication at the most basic level. Just because Facebook can quantify these changes and put them into numeric form does not mean that the changes they made are any more ominous that any other advertising message ever made since the dawn of time.
You may have read the article (dubitable), but you didn't watch the video or read the SIGGRAPH paper. They demonstrate a browsing tool that enables you to, for example, find an average nose nearly instantly. You can then filter the thousands or millions of images to find specific cat breeds, poses, situations, or colors in seconds.
The tool is called average explorer, and it allows a user to interactively explore a vast set of image data quickly and efficiently. The one picture you describe was a single click in the explorer.
You did the equivalent of saying "Wow, I can make a black dot on a white canvas. That's not very exciting." when presented a single click with a single tool in Photoshop.
What frustrates and upsets me is that before Snowden, I would have looked at this as a fluff piece about technology, with some mild nagging doubts about how it could be misused.
Now I see them as NSA whitewashing propaganda, with mild nagging doubts that maybe the original poster had no agenda and it really is a tech fluff article.