Newsletter No.2 — Sep 10, 2017

Sentiers No.2

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?)

In the first issue I mentioned the following ones would likely be shorter… and it’s not. So far this actually feels like a good length to cover the highlights of what I’ve read over the week and link to a couple of older things for context. Read to the end, I close with a walk in the forest.
Do hit reply and tell me what you think.

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Our Dystopic Future Present
Turns Out Algorithms Are Racist

Since machine learning and AI operate through collecting, filtering, and then learning from and analyzing existing data, they will replicate existing structural biases unless they are designed explicitly to account for and counteract that. To address this situation, an approach would require a specifically social justice-oriented perspective, one that considers how economics intertwine with gender, race, sexuality, and a host of other factors.

What machines can tell from your face
The (very) worrying state of face recognition, who has access to it and where it’s going.

Silicon Valley has been humbled. But its schemes are as dangerous as ever
Morozov seems quite obsessed with TED but still manages to advance his case for the growing political clout of Silicon Valley and how they are managing the current backlash.

Silicon Valley’s big secret – that the data produced by users of digital platforms often has economic value exceeding the value of the services rendered – is now also out in the open. Free social networking sounds like a good idea – but do you really want to surrender your privacy so that Mark Zuckerberg can run a foundation to rid the world of the problems that his company helps to perpetuate? Not everyone is so sure any longer.

Silicon Valley’s Politics: Liberal, With One Big Exception
The NYT’s Farhad Manjoo presents results from a study which seems to show that Silicon Valley tech founders are largely liberal (closer to Democrats) while being “deeply suspicious of the government’s efforts to regulate business, especially when it comes to labor” (closer to Republicans). According to the study, they are for higher taxes and redistribution. What the author doesn’t talk about is all the work big tech goes through to not pay those taxes. So they are philosophically for higher taxes but do all they can to dodge them…
(I’m aware the former is for personal and the latter for orgs but I’d guess most do the same either way.)

Demon-Haunted World
Cory Doctorow on cheating and cheating with software. From VW Dieselgate to HP printers to mobile phones and now to everything. Also uses the popular (in some circles) analogy of alchemists, hauntings and demons.

All these forms of cheating treat the owner of the device as an enemy of the company that made or sold it, to be thwarted, tricked, or forced into con­ducting their affairs in the best interest of the com­pany’s shareholders. To do this, they run programs and processes that attempt to hide themselves and their nature from their owners, and proxies for their owners (like reviewers and researchers).

Winner-takes all in autonomous cars
Ben Evans with one of those well thought out pieces he has the secret of. Which part of the autonomous cars “stack” has the potential to be seized by one or very few players? Spoiler: he thinks it’s maps and/or driving data.

3D printers start to build factories of the future
The hype around home 3D printing has mostly passed but a lot of interesting directions in industrial additive manufacturing are being pursued, this Economist piece explores a few. This is pretty cool:

First, the machine extrudes a mixture of metal powder and polymers to build up a shape, much as some plastic printers do. When complete, the result goes into an oven. This burns off the polymers and compacts the metal particles by sintering them together at just below their melting point. The outcome is a dense metallic object, rather like one that has been cast the old-fashioned way as a solid chunk of metal.

In Praise of Private Success
Jan Chipchase on the advantage of having a private (low key) success, which leaves you with more flexibility than a very public, type casting kind of success.

The direction is driven by surrounding myself with good people, interesting conversations and curiosity.

What Is Personal Knowledge Management?
On defining Personal Knowledge Management for ourselves. I really loved this bit:

All that matters is following the trail of your own interests and completing the projects that matter to you. These are powerful filters that prevent information overload and make PKM a truly personal enterprise.

I’m writing again
Simon Collison is rethinking his career and seeing some interesting opportunities or questions in a connection between nature and tech.

I’m fascinated by the ways nature informs technology, and the ways technology supports nature. I need to understand how digital consumption affects our mental health, and what we can do to ensure there’s a positive influence.

Shinrin-yoku (‘forest bathing’)
Why forests and rivers are the most potent health tonic around | Aeon Essays
An overview of some evidence showing that spending time in nature is good for our mental and physical health.

Studies showed that just three days and two nights in a wooded place increase the immune system functions that boost feelings of wellbeing for up to seven days.

Open Tabs
How Humans Are Shaping Our Own Evolution • National Geographic
Master of Light: A Close Look at the Paintings of Johannes Vermeer Narrated by Meryl Streep • Video documentary
Living Design • Slidedeck