Newsletter No.28 — Apr 08, 2018

Sentiers No.28

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?)

Hello and welcome back, last week was likely the last break for a little while, thanks for reading.

I’m hoping to keep thinking about the first item below and blog (or even launch) something in that area. Although what I’m writing is still pretty blurry, do hit reply and share your thoughts or links with me around communities and blogging.

Like-minded vs. like-hearted
I’m kind of in love with this post and the author quoted. Not least because it resonated so much with our discussions at Friday’s Les ponts but also because it feels like part of an answer to my reflexion on ‘post-Facebook,’ networks, and community, and sharing, and deeper thinking. Including things like Small b blogging and an ‘RSS Revival’ and maybe Telegram.

… so I made a private Twitter account.
There’s about 100 people there. When I was deciding who do I want to be talking with on social media, I realized it wasn’t necessarily the people who agreed with me about all of my religious beliefs or political beliefs. What I wanted was people who were generous. And kind. And caring. And thoughtful. So that when I said something, they would think about it, rather than just simply react.
Hat tip to Doug Belshaw for the Kleon piece and for his thinking and sharing in general around these topics.

Emmanuel Macron Q&A: France’s President Discusses Artificial Intelligence Strategy
Pretty impressed with the general level of discourse by Macron. I’m really looking forward to how his open rules and values will pan out, and notice how he mentions accountability and responsibility often, a key point in his view of AI in society.
It will be interesting to see this horse race of who attracts AI companies and researchers. Between the business centric US and the ‘surveillance communism’ of China, Canada and now France are positioning themselves as ethical and balanced places to develop AIs. However, they both remain very data poor in front of these two giants. It’s also interesting to (very very loosely) see a parallel with Google-Facebook vs Apple. The US, China, Google, Facebook, and the BATX are data rich but fast and loose in its use. Canada, France, and Apple are data poor(er) but betting on stronger privacy and ethics (broad generalizations I know). This Facebook moment we are living through might be shifting the center of gravity.
On the other hand, like in Canada, a lot of the Macron announcements are related to labs and investments by… Google, Facebook, IBM, and Samsung. Will the intellectual property, money, and power really be where these labs are established? Or back in the pockets of GAFA and friends?

If we want to defend our way to deal with privacy, our collective preference for individual freedom versus technological progress, integrity of human beings and human DNA, if you want to manage your own choice of society, your choice of civilization, you have to be able to be an acting part of this AI revolution. …
I want them to better understand the fact that it is unfeasible to have a world without any responsibility and without a clear democratic accountability.
(I think people like Yanis Varoufakis would take exception with Macron’s “we know democracy” chest beating.)

Related: Canada has pulled off a brain heist

Half Life: The Decay of Knowledge and What to Do About It
Good article at Farnam Street on the evolution of our knowledge, how what we know grows and changes over time at a relatively predictable rate, yet we don’t always take that change into account. Loosely related to something I’ve quoted a few times in recent months: Strong Opinions, Weakly Held.

According to Arbesman, information has a predictable half-life: the time taken for half of it to be replaced or disproved. Over time, one group of facts replaces another. As our tools and knowledge become more advanced, we can discover more — sometimes new things that contradict what we thought we knew, sometimes nuances about old things. Sometimes we discover a whole area that we didn’t know about.

Science fiction, predicting the present, the adjacent possible, and trumpian comic dystopias
Doctorow explaining how scifi only predicts the present. He puts forth an interesting parallel between the way inventions emerge when a series of adjacent technologies make that new thing possible. And the same kind of emergence with scifi stories resonating and becoming popular when there are enough adjacent phenomena.

The future isn't "predictable," in the sense of being inevitable. There are forces that act on the future, and we can diagnose those forces and change the way people think about and mitigate or supercharge these forces with the futures we write—with their warnings and inspirations.

‘Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would’ Is the Most Savage Twitter Thread in Ages
A Medium piece recapping a Twitter hashtag moment. Includes a selection of the participating Tweets. Some are enlightening in the biases they shine a light on and some are just plain hilarious.

Cycling is often more convenient than driving in major cities

In an urban setting, bikes are consistently faster than cars for trips up to 5 km. E-bikes increase that distance to 10 km. Turns out drivers vastly underestimate time spent sitting in traffic, searching for parking, and walking to their final destination.

++ The knee jerk (thought not completely wrong) reaction to piles of Chinese dockless bikes: Bike Share Oversupply in China: Huge Piles of Abandoned and Broken Bicycles and the fantastic “rebuttal” by Henry Grabar on Slate: Astounding photos capture graveyards of unused dockless vehicles in American cities.

The Churn
A Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta, and Security Experts Shudder
On the Atlanta attack but also how unprepared most cities are, how cyber security is not prioritized enough, and how this attack might be a wakeup call for many.

“It’s going to be even more important that local governments look for the no-cost/low-cost, but start considering cybersecurity on the same level as public safety,” said David Jordan, the chief information security officer for Arlington County, Va. “A smart local government will have fire, police and cybersecurity at the same level.”

++ “Want to freak yourself out? I’m gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it” Good thread on what they know about you but it also includes links to where to go to erase that data or reconfigure what you share with those platforms.

++ Fribo: A Robot for People Who Live Alone

As an example, let us assume one friend opened a refrigerator. When [Fribo] receives this event from the server, the robot starts to communicate this to the user by saying, “Oh, someone just opened the refrigerator door. I wonder which food your friend is going to have.”

Look Here!
Trailer for Elevation, a film on how drones will change cities

++ The weird wonders of combining 3D printing with the maths of pinecones and sunflowers. Mesmerizing. Via @MarianneDez.

++ Gorgeous scrap-electronics wearable cyberpunk assemblages from Hiroto Ikeuchi.

++ Fun to look through @accidentallywesanderson on Instagram and on the web: Accidentally Wes Anderson.
“We’re gearing up to explore the unique, the symmetrical, the atypical, the distinctive design and amazing architecture that inspires us all.”

++ Morehshin Allahyari’s 3D-printed project pushes back against ‘digital colonialism’
Superb project. I also mentioned Allahyari way back in No.5 when I saw her speak at Sight & Sound.