🔥 Google's AI drive; what AI will do to humans; growth vs prosperity; how tech hijacks minds; new records in temperatures & renewables; skateboards, ducks & psilocybin #63

🔥 Google's AI drive; what AI will do to humans; growth vs prosperity; how tech hijacks minds; new records in temperatures & renewables; skateboards, ducks & psilocybin #63
The Exponential View

How to technology hijacks minds. What  AI will do to humans?  Google & surveillance capitalism. Does growth clash with prosperity? Micropayments & the future of media. Google puts AI into overdrive. The hottest month ever. Shrooming for depression. Bill Gates & Neal Stephenson. And more…

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Dept of the near future (understand our limits special)

😮 Yuval Hariri: AI will create a “useless class” of human READ THIS

💡 “We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first.” Tristan Harris on how technology hijacks minds. GOOD LONG READ (See also: the designer’s Hippocratic oath; and EV#29 on attention.)

💰 Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capital:  “Governmental control is nothing compared to what Google is up to. The company is creating a wholly new genus of capitalism, a systemic coherent new logic of accumulation we should call surveillance capitalism.” EXCELLENT (See also two other examples: how Uber knows when we are willing to pay surge prices & the  FaceOff app in Russian is eliminating privacy & public anonymity.)

🌟 Douglas Rushkoff on how growth became the enemy of prosperity: “Creating authentic value means sharing the means of production.” THOUGHT PROVOKING

💵 David Brin: Is the future of Web content micropayments, not advertising? INTERESTING

💥 The end of code. Will machine intelligence mean a return to 20th century behaviourism? DECENT READ on the future of programming.

Dept of AI & minds

Google had it’s annual IO shindig. For the many EV readers not in the tech industry, it’s become a habit of the tech supergiants (like Apple, Facebook and Google) to hold annual events where they parade their wares to all and sundry. They are weirdly reminiscent of the martial parades of the former Soviet Union.

At IO, AI-enriched products were centre stage. Most fascinating: Google is getting into the custom silicon business. It showed off TPU (or tensor processing unit), a chip dedicated to certain classes of machine learning problems with ‘an order of magnitude power/energy consumption improvement.’)

👍🏽 The Next Platform has good context on the TPU, although details are still scarce.


I’m not a huge believer in whole brain emulation as a path to artificial general intelligence. And yes, I think the Human Brain Project is possibly a misguided endeavour. (Willing to be persuaded!)

Recommend this essay on the problems with how the “information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences.”

Another perspective of the complexity here is the evolving understanding of the gut-brain axis and the relationship of our microbiome to “mental health and even neurological development”.

Grab bag:

👾 Miles Brundage has done some analysis on how rapidly different game-playing algorithms are improving. (Make sure you click the image to see the data.)

🔬 AI learns how to manage Bose-Einstein condensate experiments: “I didn’t expect the machine could learn to do the experiment itself, from scratch, in under an hour”

Autonomous car teaches itself to drive aggressively and powerslide.

Automatic synthesis of realistic images from text descriptions. Interesting research.

Dept of climate change

It’s bad. Very, very bad.

🔥🔥 April 2016 is grotesquely hot, breaching all previous records and continuing an upward trend with a 99% likelihood of being the hottest year on record, and the anomaly hitting +1.5ø C. Arctic sea ice has its furthest May retreat. (Yes, it’s an El Nino year which isn’t making things any better; a cooler La Nina is on the horizon but “humans now control the master switch when it comes to our planet’s thermostat”, writes Emily Becker.)

Climate change impacts are now showing up, including in increased rates of sexual violence against women in poorer countries. And Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysics, argues that climate change might result in more seismic activity - volcanic eruptions and earthquakes - as geological accommodations disequilibriate  with melting ice and escaping methane. There is also the risk of a significant uptick in horrible diseases.

😀 Elsewhere, a huge milestone as Portugal runs on renewables for four days straight. Exponential change looks small at first, four days is the equivalent of 1% which is a substantial waypoint. Germany, a substantially larger economy, had hit 90% renewables last week.

Oil companies were patenting technologies to reduce CO2 emissions in the 1960s.

Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties

What was the greatest American era of innovation? (Lovely photo essay)

Robots have always been taking our jobs. A hundred years of newspaper headlines

💎 Understanding the rise of the global billionaire class (Up 5x NAV in 20 years.)

🇨🇳 New propaganda: The Chinese government may fabricate as many as 488m social media posts a year in order to influence the population. As many as 2m people may work to create them.

Smart drugs are coming to the office

🍄 Ketamine, acid, ecstasy, weed, ayahuasca. Now the plain-old psychedelic mushroom proves it’s efficacy against depression.

Consciousness: “the hard problem is the problem of matter” says Galen Strawson

🇳🇬 Nigerian scrabble champions prefer aggressive short-word play to the braggadocio of length

Three videos for Sunday:

1. Bill Gates goes for a drive with Neal Stephenson in a Tesla Model X. (Shot in 360 video)

2. Some quite remarkable skateboard tricks (and what I imagined California would have been like in the 70s)

3. Police officers escort a family of ducks to the safety of a river.

What you wrote

EV reader Lisa Baird on the comprehensivists: “Knowledge workers with polymathic competencies in multiple disciplines are becoming more and more common”

End note

Thanks to all those fantastic testimonials last week. I really appreciate them. If you still want to send one via Twitter, please do.

Click here and type your own. (You need to keep the @azeem, and ideally the URL, so I see it.)

Have a great Sunday!


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