Newsletter No.31 — Apr 29, 2018

Sentiers No.31

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?)

Sorry for sending this a bit late, last couple of days didn’t turn out as expected. On the (very) positive side though, next week I’ll be guest editing That’s a huge honour, I’ve been reading Jason pretty much since the beginning and I’ve always been a fan. I’ve said this before here but look at his about page! Twenty years of blogging and doing that for a living since 2005.

So yes, super excited to be doing this, have a look during the week.

What Will Our Society Look Like When Artificial Intelligence Is Everywhere?
I have a few issues with this piece, especially the intro with some very blue sky “belief” parts but there is a lot of useful information and the scenarios are very eye/mind opening in some of the perspective they describe.

It’s very heavy on the AI (as is the tech world in general right now), a lot of the examples in here are purely pattern recognition and, considering Talty mostly takes the advent of a general-singularity-provoking-AI as granted, it would be good to split that GAI from the clearly not intelligent pattern recognition and what could be seen as Augmented Intelligence. In other words, there are at least four types of algorithmic things here, all referred to under the same moniker. It’s like talking about bikes, cars, trucks and trains while calling everything a flying wheeled chariot.

He also waves around the UBI (Universal Basic Income), as many do, with not much digging into how numbers would actually work. Still, a few interesting details; “it is the productivity of AIs and robots that is taxed, not the labor of human beings” (to pay for UBI), the vision for full-AI zones, and communities rejecting it where “Life is hard, though. Since the residents don’t contribute their data to the AI companies, their monthly UBI is a pittance” (it’s not universal then though, is it?). The “AIs running government” might also have benefitted from some more writing around bias, ethics, and their current state in surveillance capitalism.

Note: don’t read this in your reading app, there are multiple “pop over” notes who will appear inline in Instapaper and make the text harder to parse.

We are meaning machines, the solicitor general argues. We give meaning to what AIs create and discover. AIs are computational machines. They don’t share essential pieces of humanhood with us. They belong in another category entirely. […]
The AI remembers your favorite author, and at the mention of her last name, “Austen,” it connects you to a Chinese service that has spent a few hours reading everything Jane Austen wrote and has now managed to mimic her style so well that it can produce new novels indistinguishable from the old ones. You read a fresh Austen work every month, then spend hours talking to your AI about your favorite characters—and the AI’s. It’s not like having a best friend. It’s deeper than that. […]
AIs will work furiously to keep you healthy. Sensors in your home will constantly test your breath for early signs of cancer, and nanobots will swim through your bloodstream, consuming the plaque in your brain and dissolving blood clots before they can give you a stroke or a heart attack. Your Soulband, as well as finding you a lover, will serve as a medical assistant on call 24/7. It will monitor your immune responses, your proteins and metabolites, developing a long-range picture of your health that will give doctors a precise idea of what’s happening inside your body. […]
::Of course living longer will be cool only if the world is actually not a hellscape—and if you live in one of the nice parts.:: […]
“AIs will be fascinated with life and with their origins in our civilization, ::because life and civilization are such a rich source of interesting patterns::,” says Juergen Schmidhuber of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “AIs will be initially highly motivated to protect humans.”

++ Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos
++ Style Is an Algorithm — No one is original anymore, not even you.

Bicycle Urbanism by Design
An excerpt from Mikael Colville-Andersen’s Copenhagenize, with some history of the introduction of cars, some of the outdated models used for speed limits, and the alternate models putting pedestrians and cyclists at the center of decisions.
Btw, from the early part of the piece; I can’t help but see a parallel between what he says concerning the auto industry and city engineers, and big tech and their own engineers. Changing the more open, mixed, and democratic spaces of our streets and changing the more open, mixed, and democratic online spaces.

Finally, the stage was set. The coast was clear of irritating, squishy obstacles; the greatest paradigm shift in the history of our cities was complete. It took less than two decades to reverse 7,000 years of perceiving streets as democratic spaces. We are still suffering from it.
Have a look at this for an impression of our streets early in the arrival of cars: 1911 - A Trip Through New York City.

++ Short case study on “Europe’s longest shared space - a successful street transformation. Mariahilferstr, Vienna.”. We’re not going as far but we’ll be doing something similar in Montréal, the new administration announced their plans this week. Here’s a short video of The Rue Sainte-Catherine project.

++ The 2018 Skyscraper Competition raises questions about the use of speculative, impossible architecture. It’s often interesting or funny to pay attention to the title in the url, the title picked up by Instapaper (or in this case my writing app, Bear), and the title inline. In this case the above is picked up by apps and this is inline: “Architecture fiction is the design world’s clickbait.” Once you look at the images, you’ll understand that the inline title was very apt.

Flickr & The Cultural Record
Good Ben Cerveny thread on the purchase of Flickr and the open culture ideas when it was founded. I love the “generous cultural record” aspect.
“I love how I exhibit my momentary inability to express in the grammar of that very sentence! But seriously, when building the very first bits of flickr, we opted for cc license be default and a folksonomically tagged searchable archive to enable a generous cultural record.”

Record levels of plastic discovered in Arctic sea ice
Your almost weekly reminder that we’re fucking up everything and plastic is ending up everywhere.

Up to 12,000 pieces of microplastic particles were found per litre of sea ice in core samples taken from five regions on trips to the Arctic Ocean – as many as three times higher than levels in previous studies.

++ 🐦 New Caledonian Crows Learn the Functional Properties of Novel Tool Types
++🐴 Horses remember if you smiled or frowned when they last saw you (via @ossington)
++ 🐶 3 Dogs Are Rebuilding Chilean Forests Once Devastated By Fire

The Churn
“Face recognition commercialization:1. Upload a selfie to wechat official account.2. Run Shanghai half-marathon.3. Within hours get back photos of yourself (from 000’s of pics by freelance photographers).4. Pay $1 to buy unwatermarked images.” 🐦

Start surveillance training your kids early: Amazon Created A Version Of Alexa Just For Kids. 😱

Joichi Ito: Innovating by the Seat of Our Pants
I’m revisiting some material around studios as a method of design and research and happened on this short piece again. I quite like the quote and you could probably say exactly the same thing about working today.

I don’t think education is about centralized instruction anymore; rather, it is ::the process establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity::.

++ Gertrude Jeannette, Actor, Director and Cabdriver, Dies at 103
What a life.

Ms. Jeannette, who was also one of the first women to get a motorcycle license in New York, and who later overcame a speech impediment to become a Broadway, film and television actor as well as a playwright, producer and director, died on April 4 at her home in Harlem. She was 103.

++ What’s Wrong With Growing Blobs of Brain Tissue?

++ A catalog of Braun designs (via Ugmonk)

++ Dormio: Interfacing with Dreams to Augment Human Creativity

In this project, we explore ways to augment human creativity by extending, influencing, and capturing dreams in the sleep state in between wakefulness and unconsciousness.