Newsletter No.10 — Nov 05, 2017

Sentiers No.10

Heads up: For a couple of reasons related to early writing methods, the first forty-five issues archived here are “pre last review” and haven’t been fully re-reviewed yet. Please forgive typos and miscellaneous mistakes if you see them! They are also less structured than more recent issues and thus haven’t been split into multiple notes. (Yet?)

Issue ten already! I’m having fun so far writing this, although still struggling a bit with finding the time.

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Things that were much praised elsewhere but are getting oldish. Since I haven’t gotten to them yet, might as well include this week:

Ben “Stratechery” Thompson Double Header
Why Facebook Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Buy tbh
Very good analysis of how Facebook is protecting its position by investing in different types of social networks occupying different needs, how that can definitely be seen as monopolistic behaviour when you understand the dynamics of network competition and how user adoption/growth works. As usual, law makers seem to be desperately out of their depth. Finishes with a social graph portability proposal I like.

The consolidation of attention has translated into dominance in digital advertising. Facebook accounted for 77% of revenue growth in digital advertising in the United States in 2016; add in Google and the duopoly’s share of growth was 99%. Even Snapchat, which after rightly rebuffing Facebook’s acquisition offers, IPO’d earlier this year for $24 billion,
… has seen revenue declines, all while Facebook ever more blatantly rips off the product.

Goodbye Gatekeepers
This one looks at gatekeepers, from Weinstein to newspapers, how their business models have been or are being destroyed and how they can reposition themselves.

Most importantly, though, the end of gatekeepers is inevitable: the Internet provides abundance, not scarcity, and power flows from discovery, not distribution.

Looking back on “Platform Cooperativism: Building the Cooperative Internet”
This year’s platform coop conference is coming up in a few days and the P2P Foundation has a great recap of last year’s with loads and loads of links as well as the videos of some of the talks.

In Montréal we’re voting for a mayor today and the best candidate for the job proposed a new metro line, the budget of which is generating some… disagreements. But yes, international reader, you should be interested by this because here’s this great overview of how it would be built using a giant tunnel boring machine, like Barcelona’s Line 9 on which it’s largely based.

++ The streets of Paris are heaped with tiny living jewels

The most common microorganisms littering the streets of the City of Lights are, appropriately, diatoms: single-celled algae that build their elegantly symmetrical cell walls out of glittering silica. But the gutters also contain single-celled organisms that feed on algae, fungal decomposers, and other types of microbes – nearly 6,000 in all.

++ Is your city getting ready for AVs? This is a guide to who’s doing what, where, and how. With lists of cities with pilot programs, cities preparing for such programs and some details on each project.

++ I just love these kinds of places.

atelier LUMA is a think tank, a production workshop, a learning network and an archive for knowledge and tools of the LUMA Foundation. Based in Arles, in the Camargue region, atelier LUMA wants to co-develop new ways of producing and caring for a city and a bioregion, using design as a tool for transition.

The Churn
World’s witnessing a new Gilded Age as billionaires’ wealth swells to $6tn

“We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler said. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about.

I’ll say it again: democracy is not compatible with the existence of a gilded aristocracy whose wealth has unimpeded access to politics

++ Your company will use blockchain in less than 10 years. Lets really, really hope not, because although we always knew that mining Bitcoins was using crazy amounts of electricity, the current sky high pricing means that One Bitcoin Transaction Now Uses as Much Energy as Your House in a Week.

Bitcoin's incredible price run to break over $7,000 this year has sent its overall electricity consumption soaring, as people worldwide bring more energy-hungry computers online to mine the digital currency.

Could Hashgraph be a better option? It looks like it from the … 20 minutes I spent looking at the site and a couple of videos. Hopefully some of the Bitcoin people I like to read, like Jon Evans, will look into it and write something.

Artificial Intelligence (and The Churn I guess)
1/This terrifies me. The researchers go on to make a 3D printed turtle that the machine classifies as a “rifle”, regardless of viewing angle.
A thread following an article which describes how “adversarial objects” can “perturb” an AI’s recognition of images and objects. I am, in turned, perturbed by the implications.
Relates to dazzle camouflage from a few years back. (See CV Dazzle: Camouflage from Face Detection and Avoid Facial Detection Algorithms … With a T-Shirt for example.) Although we already know that recognition will be possible even with a mask as well as using gait. Facial recognition could soon be used to identify masked protesters.

There was the Forum on the Socially Responsible Development of AI in Montréal this week and they came out with this Declaration of Montréal for a responsible development of AI which, on first read, seems to be going in the right direction.

Explore the world of form with Morphology
Some gorgeous map wizardry (and thinking) by the smart people at Mapzen.

There is a visual intelligence that takes place in this exchange. It is the perception of these layered visual forms and elements and the combinations of which contain multiple layers of meaning. The translation of the visual experience of space to a flat surface involves the abstraction and reduction of reality from an experience of place and of the physical phenomenal world.

++ Scientists discover “interstellar object” hurtling through our solar system

We have been waiting for this day for decades," said CNEOS Manager Paul Chodas. "It's long been theorized that such objects exist -- asteroids or comets moving around between the stars and occasionally passing through our solar system -- but this is the first such detection.

++ Global atmospheric CO2 levels hit record high. No comment.

++ Most scientists now reject the idea that the first Americans came by land. Seems there were pre-Clovis arrivals to North America, using a “kelp highway.”
Which was the second mention of kelp for me this week, following these in a wave, looking very Stranger Thingsy.

America is facing an epistemic crisis
Good piece on how the political discourse in the US got to the point where the conservative side (especially) is now completely disconnected from truth and facts, focused on keeping the base exited and afraid and the politicians aligned to the base to keep their seats and power.

If one side rejects the epistemic authority of society’s core institutions and practices, there’s just nothing left to be done. Truth cannot speak for itself, like the voice of God from above. It can only speak through human institutions and practices.

Hillary Clinton and epistemological collapse

Getting caught up in a splinter narrative is actually easier than being appropriately skeptical of the consensus narrative.

++ When you just have to dress like a William Gibson character; The 10 Best Fabric-Innovating Brands in Fashion Today (environmental impact from these “non-dead plants” materials though?).