The Sublime. Responsible AI. Generative Design. A Green New Deal. The Material of Outcomes. Rams. — No.60

I would like to have more interactions with readers and amongst readers, get some form of collective intelligence going, something perhaps akin to a salon but virtual. Ideally without using a chat or messaging app. Interest? Ideas?

Also, looking at early 2019, I’ve got some availability, hit reply if you want to work together!

At once tiny and huge: what is this feeling we call ‘sublime’?

Considering our relation to nature and the sublime, through the ideas of Kant and Schopenhauer. Connects very well to We Are All Bewildered Machines from a couple of weeks ago in how the awe, bewilderment, and sense of sublime we can get from nature connects us to it and its wonders. Also, worth revisiting Tim Carmody’s systemic sublime.

But sublime pleasure results when a person is able to achieve calm contemplation of an object or environment despite the fact that it appears threatening to the person’s bodily or psychological wellbeing. […]

On the one hand, we have power as cognising subjects – we are creators of a world, a world of subjective experience; and on the other hand, the experience reveals in an intuitive fashion that we are at bottom really unified with all of nature. Nature’s immensity is our immensity; its seeming infinity is our infinity too.

And, in a perhaps weird(ish) connection, this line of thought around the sense of sublime towards nature, this systemic sublime of logistics, and a general sense of borderline dread towards our socio-technical climage-changed world brings me back to pondering this phrase by Eliot Peper:

What does it mean to live a good life in an age of acceleration?


The Declaration – Montreal Responsible AI

Honestly, I knew this was happening and welcomed the discussion but didn’t follow the process very closely so I guess I was, without thinking about it, expecting something like laws or principles towards the technology. This is kind of that but it’s much closer to society than to technology. In a way, the declaration sets principles of what kind of society we want, so that we (or signatories at least) may build AIs striving for those principles. Bold aims, I have to wonder if more tech focused items might have worked better in this setting. Three points of interest for me; talking about privacy and intimacy; the prudence principle; and the inclusion of sustainable development.

The principles of the current declaration are like points on a moral compass that will help guide the development of artificial intelligence towards morally and socially desirable ends. They also offer an ethical framework that promotes internationally recognized human rights in the fields affected by the rollout of artificial intelligence. Taken as a whole, the principles articulated lay the foundation for cultivating social trust towards artificially intelligent systems.

The AI transforming the way aircraft are built

I’ve written about this kind of idea in the past, either under “hybrids” or “centaurs” of human and machine or AI as medium. In this one about generative design, it’s the use of AI to explore hundreds of variations of a design to find the most effective one. You can also attach this to the idea of biomimicry, which usually means copying designs from nature. Here, by being able through multiple iterations to remove all unnecessary material and greatly optimizing, the algorithm comes up with something surprisingly (or is it?) organic.

Not only are these computer-generated designs stronger and lighter than human-crafted solutions but they’re weird – designs that no human would have come up with in the first place. […]

By trawling through an exhaustive set of options, computers typically find ones that a human would have missed. Designers can simply choose from a handful that the software predicts will do the job better than the rest. Humans switch from being creators to curators.


Doing the Doughnut at the G20?

Kate Raworth with some visuals showing how the G20 and some other countries are doing vs “the doughnut” (“a country meeting its people’s essential needs while at the same time ensuring that its use of Earth’s resources remains within its share of the planet’s biophysical boundaries.”) Raworth wants to reframe the idea of developed countries:

We are all developing countries now. The Doughnut challenge turns all countries – including every member of the G20 – into ‘developing countries’ because no country in the world can say that it is even close to meeting the needs of all of its people within the means of the planet. […]

Today’s high-income countries ­– including G20 members like the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU 28 itself – cannot be called developed, given that their resource consumption is greatly overshooting Earth’s boundaries and, in the process, undermining prospects for all other countries.

A Green New Deal Is a Winning Climate Strategy

Robinson Meyer with some of the reasons why a Green New Deal might work for Democrats. Basically: it’s a more enticing vision than regular climate policies, and “green job for anyone who wants one” can be a hook to draw in and then convince voters to defend the deal.

The Green New Deal aims to get us there—and remake the country in the process. It promises to give every American a job in that new economy: installing solar panels, retrofitting coastal infrastructure, manufacturing electric vehicles. In the 1960s, the U.S. pointed the full power of its military-technological industry at going to the moon. Ocasio-Cortez wants to do the same thing, except to save the planet. […]

The BAD problem recognizes that climate change is an interesting challenge. It is scary and massive and apocalyptic, and its attendant disasters (especially hurricanes, wildfires, and floods) make for good TV. But the policies that will address climate change do not pack the same punch. They are technical and technocratic and quite often dull. At the very least, they will never be as immediate as climate change itself.

Solar Mini-Grids Give Nigeria a Power Boost

Always interesting to read about such implementations when remote, underserved areas can jump over some old technologies to something even richer countries are just getting to. (Also quite a bit of detail on the energy mix situation in Nigeria.)

Electricity from the mini-grid costs about 150 to 200 naira per kilowatt-hour compared with 25 to 30 naira from the national grid. However, mini-grid power is still cheaper than fuel for generators and more convenient and reliable. As equipment costs come down and companies add customers, electricity prices could come down. And solar can be more reliable than the national grid.


How Japan is working towards creating a true sharing economy

The demographic conditions of Japan and the fact the bigger “sharing” companies never had a strong foothold makes for a unique setting where various locally grown and unique sharing projects and companies are emerging.

The emergence of these new initiatives across the archipelago could herald a new sharing model that places emphasis on solving social problems instead of just turning a profit. By involving the old — Japan’s traditional concept of commons and its decades-old cooperative sector — along with the new, the country could show the way in building a democratic, cooperative sharing economy.

The Material of Outcomes

Only the slides but enough in there to be very much worth a read. Systems, service design, outcomes, thingness, organizations as conversations…

Also, I didn’t know the platform Linn Vizard used: Notist. Interesting.

Outcomes are not linear; they are dynamic, and are being produced at all stages of design process. […]

Complex systems and service work is never done. There is no mission accomplished.

  • What We’ve Learned from Dieter Rams, and What We’ve Ignored. “If you listen to Rams rather than just look at the elements of his edited world, you will appreciate how his aesthetic and his ethic align. ‘Less, but better, is not a constraint, it is an advantage which allows us more space for our real life.’”
  • Lots of great collaborators in the second issue of Ding Magazine, “A magazine about the Internet and things.” I’m going to have to nitpick though and mention that the design and capturing of the cursor and clicks on their website is a bit odd for a project supported by … Mozilla.
  • Announcing Better Worlds: a science fiction project about hope. Looking forward to this! “10 original fiction stories, five animated adaptations, and five audio adaptations by a diverse roster of science fiction authors who take a more optimistic view of what lies ahead in ways both large and small, fantastical and everyday.”
  • What our science fiction says about us. Nothing super new which is why I’m not featuring it more but a good one on Chinese and Russian scifi as well as Afrofuturism, all within a bit more historical context than “hey they are cool now!”