This week → After the Big Now ⊗ The word for web is forest ⊗ Place, commerce, boundaries, and the commons ⊗ Making common sense ⊗ Ushering in the era of “Beneficial Intelligence”
A year ago → The most clicked link in issue No.142 was SOLARPUNK: Life in the future beyond the rusted chrome of yestermorrow by Jay Springett.
Fabien Girardin on Greenfield’s Big Now, “the enhanced and deepened sense of simultaneity—of the world’s massive parallelism—that certain digital artifacts lend us.” He looks at how the speed of efficiency has had consequence on the rest of society, the cybernetic loops accelerating the flow of information, our waining attention, and how we forget the value of a slower pace, of thinking slowly. In kind of a nice wink to that last idea, it’s funny that I only now happened on the piece, which is from 2017. It’s also worth noting that since then the pandemic has been an opportunity for many to (re)discover ways of negotiating time other than speed.
Speed and scale have become the prime indicators of economic success and have been transferred to professionals to do what they are already doing in less time and therefore cheaper. Incubators, accelerators, catapults, sprints, scale-ups are part of contemporary settings and methods for teams to innovate in the Big Now economy. […]
In the Big Now, the pool of instantaneous information has dramatically increased, however the pool of available understanding of what that information means has not. […]
[R]egardless of current methodological trends, creativity rarely emerges rapidly. Many ideas need time to mature, they need different contexts or mindsets to get stronger. […]
The next version of the Internet cannot only mirror the ways these companies operate. It cannot only focus on making people as efficient and busy as possible.
Claire L. Evans for the newly launched New_ Public Magazine and their decentralization issue. A beautiful parallel between Suzanne Simard’s research and various discoveries concerning what others have dubbed the “wood wide web,” and our own planet-spanning network. As we understand more and more of the collaboration between trees, it would be a good idea to also use it as inspiration for the internet, to stop clear-cutting the network, to run away from mono-species culture, and to rewild the diversity of ways of being online.
[L]ike a struggling forest, the web is no longer healthy. It has been wounded and depleted in the pursuit of profit. Going online today is not an invigorating walk through a green woodland—it’s rush-hour traffic alongside a freeway median of diseased trees, littered with the detritus of late capitalism. […]
Tech and social media giants have clear-cut the web, privileging high-value crops—viral content, controversy, and clickbait—over a healthier ecosystem of people, opinions, and perspectives. […]
“[L]ibrarians are what the internet is aching for—people on task to care about the past, with respect to the past and also to what it shall bequeath to the future.” Can we reimagine libraries for the digital age?” […]
To build resilient decentralized networks, let us create “Mother nodes”—sites in the network bearing a responsibility of care. We’ve built institutions like these before: consider public libraries, which serve both as bearers of cultural memory and as generous sources of nutrients for our minds and communities.
The original title of this list of thoughts by L. M. Sacasas was “Notes From the Metaverse,” which is why I kept it in my back pocket for a couple of weeks (spread the Metaverse talk a bit more thinly in the newsletter) and why I changed the title, so some of you won’t skip over ;-).
It’s a really great list of thoughts on much more than the Metaverse, firstly with the four words in my title (lifted from the piece), but also orality, commerce colonizing more and more of our experience, attention space, surveillance, and the ‘attentional commons.’
It also fits quite well with the two articles above, recognizing the encroachment of commerce, rethinking the speed at which we do things, and fighting against the destruction of ‘network ecosystems’ can all be seen as aspects of a certain view of society and the internet, one that looks and cares for humanity before markets.
Private life was sequestered from public spaces, work was clearly distinguished from home, reason and emotions were distinct, as were mind and body, nature and the human, fact and value, etc. First under the aegis of electronic and then digital media, these sharp lines were harder if not impossible to sustain. […]
“It shouldn’t be too much to ask for spaces in one’s life that can remain sacrosanct, where we’re not subject to surveillance, where we’re not targeted for sales, where what we make doesn’t have to be immediately commodified and what we do can remain resistant to measure …” […]
A commons is not a public space. A commons is a space which is established by custom. […]
So, to put this another way, the metaverse would do for common sense, as Arendt understands it, what enclosure did to the commons. Having our perception of the world increasingly mediated by proprietary technologies that immerse us in ever more sophisticated realms of digital simulacra is a way of surrendering the experience of a shared reality with others.
More → Sacasas mentions a piece by Drew Austin a couple of times, it also reminds me of this more recent one. It’s members only but let me share a couple of quotes from The Airport Lounge City because I think we’ll come back to that insight going forward.
American Express doesn’t need a metaverse. They can just carve it out of meatspace. […]
The final form of the physical store is an environment where prospective or existing customers just hang out, marinating in the brand without necessarily buying anything while inside.
I’m somewhat dubious of the level of enthusiasm the author shows for OpenAI’s neural networks CLIP and DALL-E. But beyond that, it’s an intriguing consideration of logical, iconic, and distributed representation, how humans use them in different ways, how perhaps they are a good framing for different machine learning implementations, how common sense is used in these reflections but also in our daily lives.
This way of representing the world is less familiar than logical and iconic, but arguably the most common. It treats common sense not as a matter of knowing things about the world, but a matter of doing things in the world. […]
Both kinds of representation are expressive, but logical representations cannot capture relations between elements without adding more information, whereas iconic representations cannot depict elements non-relationally. […]
These distributed representations, in this sense, have a kind of tunnel vision — they represent what elements are most essential for the task and leave out the rest. But this goes for both biological and artificial networks, as well as logical and iconic representations; no representation can represent everything.
Another older piece, this one from 2016, sent to me by Michelle Kasprzak following my own Intelligences Dispatch, and with good reason. The text was commissioned for the 2016 edition of the GOGBOT Festival: Post-Singularity, so I’m going to go out on a (rather solid) limb and say that it likely takes the post-singularity for granted more than Kasprzak usually would. From there though, an excellent consideration of supposedly superior AIs, ethics, art, other intelligences, and our control and understanding of what ‘we’ create.
More broadly, I’m especially taking note of her phrases “free from a uniform agenda, artists and designers can imagine where we can go and question our vision at each step,” and “technology and culture make meaning together.” The perspective(s) of art on technology is something I’m increasingly attentive to for sensemaking opportunities, in part thanks to HOLO’s work and in particular their collaborations with MUTEK, like The MUTEK Recorder. (Since everything is connected, Evans who wrote the second piece above also hosted said Recorder.)
[A]s Stephen Hawking also remarked, it’s critically important to “…shift the goal of AI from creating pure undirected artificial intelligence to creating beneficial intelligence.” […]
Artistic pioneer Remko Scha, who believed that art could be created by machines, demands that we conceive of our algorithms and machines as equal partners, as collaborators. […]
This historical case underscores the notion that we are impressive builders, but we are also in competition with dozens of other known and unknown species on this earth — some of whom will be our own creations, post-Singularity.
No.189 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 🗺 🤯 🤯 🤯 🤩 🤩 🤩 This is astonishing. Drop a pin anywhere in the continental US and you get bird’s eye view flying over satellite images all the way to its destination. My first click was in eastern Wyoming, which flew me all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Not that far west of there, start from Shoup, Idaho and you fly through the Rockies and down the Columbia river. River Runner (Via Christopher Butler.)
- 🇦🇺 🇫🇷 🏙 ☀️ 🎥 Sure to appear as a setting for sci-fi film, this 2015 building in Sydney features a “system made up of 40 motorised heliostats and 320 reflective mirror panels which captures and redirects sunlight into retail spaces and landscaped terraces.” One Central Park - Heliostat and Reflector System. If you're into architecture, I also encourage you to watch this quick take or this interview with Simon Parsons, Executive Director at PTW Architects and his thinking on using common and simple building techniques to achieve innovative results.
- 🤩 🔗 Excellent supply chain 🧵 by Matthew Hockenberry, including loads of pointers to various articles. What’s going on with global supply chains? (aka “why are we running out of everthing,” “why is shipping so slow,” “why are things more expensive”).
- 😍 12 new posters for The French Dispatch feature each of its characters within the wonderful world of print journalism. “The creative team behind the posters, along with Wes Anderson, took their creative cues from The New Yorker and the act of print reportage.”
- 📚 Also from 2016 (what’s going on in my feeds !?!?!?) Punctuation in novels. When we think of novels, of newspapers… by Adam J Calhoun shows that novels can look very distinct visually, even when looking only at punctuation. Great work!
- 🎥 🐑 Really loved listening to this guy. Guerilla Grazing and Ingenious Off-Grid Living. “Aaron Fletcher, a traveling shepherd who has been “guerrilla grazing” and living off the land for 12 years.”
- 🌳 🏗 The Promise of Carbon-Neutral Steel. “If the technique were widely employed, it could cut the steel industry’s emissions by ninety per cent, and our global emissions by nearly six per cent. That’s a big step toward saving the world.”
- 🤔 Social media influencer/model created from artificial intelligence lands 100 sponsorships. “‘Rozy’ is a virtual human that was created Sidus Studio X last year in August. Her age will forever be 22, and she has been keeping an active presence online as a real human since December of last year. In particular, this virtual human began gaining much attention as she appeared in an advertisement for Shinhan Life in July.”
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