Newsletter No.232 — Sep 04, 2022

Beyond Hyperanthropomorphism ⊗ Mars Is Irrelevant to Us Now ⊗ A Machine for Thinking

This week → Beyond hyperanthropomorphism ⊗ Mars is irrelevant to us now ⊗ A machine for thinking: How Douglas Engelbart predicted the future of computing ⊗ AI and the limits of language

A year ago → A favourite in issue No.186 was Technological Lessons from the Pandemic by Z.M.L.

Quick note: I seem to have gotten around the Gmail sp!m issue, and actually hit some open rate numbers last week that I hadn’t in a while. Beyond the filtering issue, styles were also stripped away, which made the newsletter look a bit shit. You can have a look at properly styled No.230 and No.231 on the website and this one should be back to normal, thanks for your patience.


Two of the featured articles below are, roughly, about the ‘intelligence’ in ‘Artificial Intelligence.’ Both are, in different ways, about the words we use for what, in the hope of better ‘placing’ what is actually there, so that we can better think of the potentials and dangers. Those reflections around language are important and there are a few good ones around, including those two but also The model is the message from before my summer break. I tend to use the term ‘synthetic’ quite a bit, and that use overlaps with some of their arguments, so I thought I’d recap some ideas here before we get to the articles. Btw, my preference for ‘synthetic’ is very similar to Bratton’s in Planetary sapience.

The metaverse is misrepresented and/or largely hype. ‘Synthetic reality’ is more interesting to me. By which I mean recreations of aspects of reality, either to enhance experiences (in video games for example, or art in VR, etc.), or to enhance our ability to represent reality (like in special effects, digital twins, etc.).

Artificial Intelligence is misrepresented and/or largely hype. ‘Synthetic intelligence’ is more interesting to me. By which I mean roughly everything we currently call AI, minus the part where people believe it’s producing something akin to actual intelligence. Yes, that often turns into semantic debates, but the real tools and possibilities are more intriguing to me and powerful enough (now or in the medium term) to be worth investigation and critique, without going into megalomania and fears of Artificial General Intelligence.

Finally, ‘Synthetic media’ is kind of an intersection of both, where AI models are used to create text, images, and videos based on billions of pieces of human-made media.