Newsletter No.8 — Oct 22, 2017

Sentiers No.8

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?)

This week is the longest Sentiers so far; although still a manageable length I think. I got some great feedback this week from readers randomly bumped into in town but do hit reply and tell me what you like, what’s less likeable or annoying and what you think of the format.

➼ You are encouraged to forward to a friend and share broadly. Thanks!
➼ Follow me on Twitter at @inevernu.

LEGO’s women of NASA range honours famous females

Intelligence Reconsidered
Fascinating line of thought by Venkatesh Rao. Considering intelligence as something autotelic, an end in itself, something we can enjoy doing instead of something purely functional. How can we understand thinking, intelligence, interestingness and curiosity from that perspective? How could we then think of AI from that same angle? Also covers behaviours and features of autotelic and functional intelligences. I could probably have highlighted half of that article.

Curiosity is an appetite rather than an objective. It can be temporarily satiated, but never exhausted. It is in fact the central appetite for life itself, for creatures with sufficiently large brains.

Rethinking the Internet Metaphors : A Call for Critical Optimism and DIY Utopias
This speech, given by Andres Colmenares at the IAM Weekend, is quite good.

And this is not a call to ignore dystopias. In fact, understanding them is fundamental. But we need a balance in the future’s narratives to feel empowered and encouraged, not just being pessimistic consumers and evangelists of a dark future.

Artificial Intelligence
I’m not planning on including AI so often in the future (I think), but there’s just lots of good and important stuff going on so here we are with this category again.

The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions
Great insights in this piece by Robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks. Multiple reasons why so many AI predictions are based on dodgy understanding, missing information or wishful thinking.

Watch out for arguments about future technology that is magical. Such an argument can never be refuted. It is a faith-based argument, not a scientific argument.

The AI That Has Nothing to Learn From Humans
On AlphaGo Zero, the new DeepMind AI that learned to play Go without “crunching” thousands of human games like its predecessor. Noteworthy, to me anyway, for the fact that it learned with “no data,” I wonder if this points already to opportunities for players other than the data rich GAFA? What also drew my attention is the story aspect, the fact that human players are calling AlphaGo Zero moves “amazing, strange and alien” in part because they can’t construct a story around them, like they do for human strategies.

I think a natural reaction (and the reaction I’m mostly seeing) is that they just sort of give up, and sort of throw their hands up in the opening. Because it’s so hard to try to attach a story about what AlphaGo is doing. You have to be ready to deny a lot of the things that we’ve believed and that have worked for us.

This More Powerful Version of AlphaGo Learns On Its Own

AlphaGo Zero is so-named because it doesn’t need human knowledge to get started, relying solely on that self-play mechanism. The software initially makes moves at random. But it is programmed to know when it has won or lost a game, and to adjust its play to favor moves that lead to victories. A paper published in the journal Nature Thursday describes how 29 million games of self-play made AlphaGo Zero into the most powerful Go player on the planet.

Ideo’s Plan To Stage An AI Revolution

The things we designed were relatively dumb and all of the intelligence in the relationship between us and the artifact came from the human being. Algorithms and technology are taking on their own intelligence. That’s a fundamentally new design problem. We’re designing relationships now as opposed to designing artifacts. How does the traditional discipline of design, the new discipline of data science, and the new technologies of machine learning come together to form these relationships?

Dream factory: the making of Vitsœ’s visionary HQ
Good article mixing architecture and future of work, which I’m including in part because of this quote:

I’m not an architect for a start, I’m a furniture designer. For me it’s all about the dialogue and applied common sense. It’s problem solving.

Twitter 😭
Twitter’s Harassment Problem Is Baked Into Its Design

Twitter’s social problems are exacerbated by the affordances of technology; they’ll need to bring both ongoing human effort and better design decisions to improve the experiences of marginalized people, and therefore everyone, in their public sphere.

One person’s history of Twitter, from beginning to end
Mike Monteiro recapping how Twitter was and how it has devolved. It could have been so much more. Can we go back to a loosely joined network of blogs?

Twitter would have you believe that it’s a beacon of free speech. Biz Stone would have you believe that inaction is principle. I would ask you to consider the voices that have been silenced. The voices that have disappeared from Twitter because of the hatred and the abuse. Those voices aren’t free. Those voices have been caged. Twitter has become an engine for further marginalizing the marginalized. A pretty hate machine.

Universal Basic Income and the Threat of Tyranny
I’m not sure to which degree the author might picking his examples and whether the opposite argument could be made but certainly a very interesting line of thought that I hadn’t seen before concerning UBI.
I.E.: If a country doesn’t need its citizens, as in a purported automated future softened by UBI, would the country actually help its citizens?

A country that generates its wealth from its citizens has no choice but to keep those citizens happy, at least to some degree; a country that generates its wealth from oil wells, only needs to keep a handful of mercenaries happy as they guard the access to those wells.

The Churn
“One like, one unpopular Blockchain/Cryptocurrency opinion”. A long thread on Twitter with multiple problems, myths, quasi religious beliefs, and legal and technical issues with the blockchain.

“If your ‘decentralization’ project will make a handful of people rich if it succeeds, then it’s not really decentralizing, is it?

This is horrible; Huge new screen in London’s Picadilly Circus will display ads based on nearby cars and people.

ThingsCon Fellowship. The great crew at ThingsCon, who are doing good work around IoT and community building, are launching their Fellowship, with some great picks for their first cohort.

Xi Jinping speech: five things you need to know

He acknowledged that happiness was more than just material goods, long believed the key to winning the loyalty of the masses, and said the party would fix the toxic levels of air, water and soil pollution that have plagued China for years.

The Mediterranean Sea of America. The Med overlaid on top of the US. Interesting because we often see comparisons of how small the European continent is, or individual countries, or which cities are at the same latitude, this one mixes all of that and shows that the Mediterranean is actually quite big.

The tiny island the British traded for Manhattan.

🐙 This Octopus-Inspired Super Material Is Like A Natural