summing up 93

summing up is a recurring series on topics & insights that compose a large part of my thinking and work. drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.

The future of humanity and technology, by Stephen Fry

Above all, be prepared for the bullshit, as AI is lazily and inaccurately claimed by every advertising agency and app developer. Companies will make nonsensical claims like "our unique and advanced proprietary AI system will monitor and enhance your sleep" or "let our unique AI engine maximize the value of your stock holdings". Yesterday they would have said "our unique and advanced proprietary algorithms" and the day before that they would have said "our unique and advanced proprietary code". But let's face it, they're almost always talking about the most basic software routines. The letters A and I will become degraded and devalued by overuse in every field in which humans work. Coffee machines, light switches, christmas trees will be marketed as AI proficient, AI savvy or AI enabled. But despite this inevitable opportunistic nonsense, reality will bite.

If we thought the Pandora's jar that ruined the utopian dream of the internet contained nasty creatures, just wait till AI has been overrun by the malicious, the greedy, the stupid and the maniacal. We sleepwalked into the internet age and we're now going to sleepwalk into the age of machine intelligence and biological enhancement. How do we make sense of so much futurology screaming in our ears?

Perhaps the most urgent need might seem counterintuitive. While the specialist bodies and institutions I've mentioned are necessary we need surely to redouble our efforts to understand who we humans are before we can begin to grapple with the nature of what machines may or may not be. So the arts and humanities strike me as more important than ever. Because the more machines rise, the more time we will have to be human and fulfill and develop to their uttermost, our true natures.

an outstanding lecture exploring the impact of technology on humanity by looking back at human history in order to understand the present and the future.

We're building a dystopia just to make people click on ads, by Zeynep Tufekci

We use digital platforms because they provide us with great value. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family around the world. I've written about how crucial social media is for social movements. I have studied how these technologies can be used to circumvent censorship around the world. But it's not that the people who run Facebook or Google are maliciously and deliberately trying to make the world more polarized and encourage extremism. I read the many well-intentioned statements that these people put out. But it's not the intent or the statements people in technology make that matter, it's the structures and business models they're building. And that's the core of the problem.

So what can we do? We need to restructure the whole way our digital technology operates. Everything from the way technology is developed to the way the incentives, economic and otherwise, are built into the system. We have to mobilize our technology, our creativity and yes, our politics so that we can build artificial intelligence that supports us in our human goals but that is also constrained by our human values. And I understand this won't be easy. We might not even easily agree on what those terms mean. But if we take seriously how these systems that we depend on for so much operate, I don't see how we can postpone this conversation anymore. We need a digital economy where our data and our attention is not for sale to the highest-bidding authoritarian or demagogue.

no new technology has only a one-sided effect. every technology is always both a burden and a blessing. not either or, but this and that. what bothers me is that we seem to ignore the negative impact of new technologies, justifying this attitude with their positive aspects.

the bullet hole misconception, by daniel g. siegel

If you're never exposed to new ideas and contexts, if you grow up only being shown one way of thinking about the computer and being told that there are no other ways to think about this, you grow up thinking you know what we're doing. We have already fleshed out all the details, improved and optimized everything a computer has to offer. We celebrate alleged innovation and then delegate picking up the broken pieces to society, because it's not our fault – we figured it out already.

We have to tell ourselves that we haven't the faintest idea of what we're doing. We, as a field, haven't the faintest idea of what we're doing. And we have to tell ourselves that everything around us was made up by people that were no smarter than us, so we can change, influence and build things that make a small dent in the universe.

And once we understand that, only then might we be able to do what the early fathers of computing dreamed about: To make humans better – with the help of computers.

the sequel to my previous talk, the lost medium, on bullet holes in world war 2 bombers, page numbering, rotating point of views and how we can escape the present to invent the future.