Raising your Artificial Intelligence ⊗ Vannevar Bush engineered the 20th Century ⊗ Dominion

No.316 — Books for understanding degrowth ⊗ Eyes on the Future ⊗ Can Artificial Intelligence rethink art?

Raising your Artificial Intelligence ⊗ Vannevar Bush engineered the 20th Century ⊗ Dominion
Guest artist: Mériol Lehmann — arbres, chemin saint-jacques, saint-pierre-de-joliette

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How to raise your Artificial Intelligence

In the Los Angeles Review of Books, an excellent interview with professors Alison Gopnik and Melanie Mitchell, where they discuss the nuanced nature of intelligence in AI systems and challenge the notion of human-like intelligence in current large language models (LLMs). They propose that AI systems actively engaging with the world to develop their own mental models could be a way forward, and explore the concept of caregiving as a framework for advancing AI development, highlighting the need for humans to guide and regulate the evolution of Artificial Intelligence.

Clear language and new angles provide useful ways for thinking of AI. The most salient point for me came at the beginning, where Gopnik says that instead of seeing LLMs as intelligent agents, “a much better way of thinking about them is as a technology that allows humans to access information from many other humans and use that information to make decisions.” She also believes that “we should think of them as cultural technologies, like the printing press or the internet.” I’ll mention again Herndon’s framing of AI as Collective Intelligence, both are pointing in similar directions, focusing on the idea of training data as so much knowledge that can be more easily—if currently imperfectly—accessed through LLMs, rather than on any perceived intelligence.

At the moment, AI is just generating lots of text and pictures in a pretty random way. And if we’re going to be able to use it effectively, we’re going to have to develop the kinds of norms and regulations that we developed for other technologies. […]

I think it’s fair to say that the consensus among people who study human intelligence is that there’s a much bigger gap between human and artificial intelligence, and that the real risks we should pay attention to are not the far-off existential risks of AI agents taking over but rather the more mundane risks of misinformation and other bad stuff showing up on the internet. […]

I think that’s why Silicon Valley people often worry about what AI is going to do. Corporations maximizing shareholder value is the metaphor they’re using to think about AI systems. […]

Very often, a better way of thinking about what an intelligent system does is that it tries to maintain homeostasis. It tries to keep things in a stable place where it can survive, rather than trying to get as many resources as it possibly can.

How Vannevar Bush engineered the 20th Century

For some reason, I don’t tire of reading about the history of computing and the various ways in which prominent figures from various fields were intertwined and influencing each other through the decades. I liked this piece because it covered more ground than just the usual memex topic.

Vannevar Bush was a key figure in the Manhattan Project, published an article that kind of anticipated the creation of hypertext, and influenced the development of the personal computer and the web. His creation of research contracts transformed relations between government, academia, and industry.

“In the 1940s, despite his busy schedule with the Manhattan Project, Bush set aside time to envision and build working models of a desktop ‘memory extender,’ or memex, to assist professionals in managing information and making decisions.” He also “believed that human consciousness could be enhanced through computational aids and that the automation of routine cognitive tasks could liberate human minds to concentrate and solve more difficult problems.”

As a professor and later dean of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he crafted incentives for professors to consult part time for business, setting in motion in the 1920s and 1930s practices now considered essential to science-based industry. […]

Having done so much to enhance and solidify the role of scientists and engineers in the advancement of society, he nevertheless foresaw an uncertain world, where scientific and technological outcomes would also continue to challenge us.


Hugh Desmond, a philosopher and ethicist of science writing for Aeon, considers that humans must grapple with their dual role as part of the animal kingdom and as its dominant force. He explains the ethical dilemma of human dominance over other species and the environment, questioning our responsibility towards them. Desmond explores the tension between egalitarian views, which advocate for equal treatment of animals, and the reality of human dominance and paternalism. He argues for a more honest narrative that acknowledges human dominance, while taking moral responsibility towards other species.

I wonder about the value of such a distinction and whether it would help or refrain us from truly embracing our belonging to nature. Still a worthy read.

Many of the standards of living we take for granted today – even those we might see as basic rights – presuppose our ecological domination of Earth. We don’t realise that this, too, is space that has been appropriated by one species to the detriment of others. […]

The great trends in human history have been driven by new ways of exploiting the environment and turning these resources to ends of our choosing. There is no turning back. […]

Constructs such as nature reserves or endangered species lists are the result of human agency: humans deciding which nonhumans need protection and how they should be protected. […]

The egalitarian narrative, focused on the idea that we are connected to all living creatures, often ignores the inevitability of conflicts and competing interests that arise. Often, the result of this perspective is guilt, shame and despondence.

§ 8 books for understanding degrowth economics. “So you want to learn more about the degrowth movement? What follows is a non-exhaustive list of worthy reads that will help you get your arms around degrowth economics, as well as adjacent ideas that might also inform your thinking.” (Via the RADAR Discord.)

Guest artist
Mériol Lehmann uses photography to question our relationship between nature and culture in this era of ecological upheaval.

Futures, Fictions & Fabulations

Eyes on the Future
“This report provides a literature review of publications authored by numerous external organisations. It summarises 34 signals and trends of emerging technologies and breakthrough innovations across the 11 primary categories of a taxonomy defined by the European Innovation Council (EIC). The authors investigate not only what is deemed most novel in multiple application domains but what is worth the attention of European Union (EU) policy audiences involved with priority-setting and decision-making.”

Designing a vibrant countryside of the future
“The aim of development is to ensure that small municipalities in rural regions have good conditions for many types of business and housing. Promotion of innovation activities requires new kinds of investments and approaches: Living Lab, co-creation and, for example, future-oriented work. The best way to innovate is for actors in different fields to meet each other.”

The hesitant feminist’s Guide to the Future
[Call for papers] “In anticipation of the forthcoming monograph from the Journal of Futures Studies, ‘The Hesitant Feminist’s Guide to the Future,’ authored by Dr. Ivana Milojević, we are pleased to announce a symposium designed to expand and explore the themes discussed in her work.”

Algorithms, Automations & Augmentations

Can Artificial Intelligence rethink art? Should it?
“Birnbaum said that Huyghe was among the artists who — rather than ‘overwhelming us with A.I.-generated nonsense from the internet’ — are interested in exploring ‘places where nature and artificiality merge,’ and where ‘biological systems and artificial systems somehow collaborate, creating visually strange things.’”

A “calculated betrayal of the rights of every person on Earth”
“Last week, ChatGPT creator OpenAI announced that it had appointed retired US Army General and former National Security Administration (NSA) Director Paul Nakasone, who also helmed the military's cybersecurity-focused Cyber Command unit, to its board.”

1-bit LLMs could solve AI’s energy demands
“[Although] LLMs that are cheap, fast, and environmentally friendly, they’ll need to shrink, ideally small enough to run directly on devices like cellphones. ‘Imprecise’ language models [could do just that, they] are smaller, speedier—and nearly as accurate.”


  • 😍 💨 I very rarely link to Kickstarter project but this one is just so slick and intriguing, I had too. Looks like if Dieter Rams had worked with BERG. ambient one - Tracking Air Quality for Your Creative Space by Ambient Works. “Protect your workspace, breathe better and feel better while at work. Monitor and record 4+ air pollutants and get AI powered insights.”
  • 🐇 🏝️ 👏🏼 We had this in The Alpine Review 11 years ago at their beginning, great project still going. Rabbit Island “is 91 acres of forest and sandstone located in Lake Superior. … A conservation easement assures the ecosystem will remain healthy in perpetuity. The island serves as a platform for contemporary art, science, and conservation.”
  • 🤩 ⚡️ 🔮 Very smart update to existing powerlines. Smart Powerline “Neurons” Boost Grid Capacity. “Sensors monitor temperature and electrical current. They also can perform other important tasks on the line such as fault detection and ice monitoring. The data the Neurons collect is then processed in the cloud and delivered to operators so that they can use the full capacity of the transmission lines based on real-time data rather than best guesses as performed from a distance—which often, for safety’s sake, need to be conservative estimates.”
  • 🧬 🔬 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼 Beyond Curie—a design project celebrating women in STEM. “Highlights badass women in science, technology, engineering + mathematics.”
  • 🛵 ⚡️ 👏🏼 🇮🇳 India’s Ather is challenging Chinese imported EV scooters. “Ather Energy, one of the first electric scooter startups in India, dedicated its first five years to research and design innovation to suit local needs. The company has filed 212 patents in India and five others internationally.”
  • 🦾 🏡 🤔 Automated Architecture “is building a global ecosystem of automated micro-factories, to deliver sustainable, affordable and beautiful architecture to millions of people.”
  • 💧 🔋 A ‘liquid battery’ advance. “Waymouth is leading a Stanford team to explore an emerging technology for renewable energy storage: liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs). Hydrogen is already used as fuel or a means for generating electricity, but containing and transporting it is tricky.”

Your Futures Thinking Observatory