Can we shape progress? Should we all have a basic income? Will VR lead to ubiquitous solitude? Should you go long on AI? Are extreme climate events more frequent? Does Trump represent the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? How should AI explain itself? Should machines curate art? How cool is graphene?
So very many questions this week. Hope it sparks great conversations!
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Dept of the near future
💡 On progress and historical change. Ada Palmer: “[P]ost colonialism, post industrialization, post Hobbes, we can no longer talk about progress as a unilateral, uncomplicated, good, not without distorting history.” Yet we can have a meaningful, measurable notion of progress. Even if much is driven by Great Forces, like wealth gaps, technology or nationalism, they “are still shaped by human action.” THOUGHT PROVOKING long read. (See also: Simon Kuper: “We need to expand our imaginations. The next catastrophe may take an unprecedented form.”)
🎯 EV reader, Scott Santens: Why we should all have universal basic income: “UBI would be a promise of equal opportunity, not equal outcome, a new starting line set above the poverty line.” Scott reckons it would cost $900bn to give every adult $12k and every child $4k per annum in the US. MUST READ
🤦♂️ Will virtual reality herald a silent, solipsistic future? Smartphones, VR and ride-sharing apps are removing opportunities for human interaction in a worrisome way. INTERESTING
🤖 EV subscriber, Nathan Benaich: Why go long on artificial intelligence SOLID ANALYSIS
🌪 The Actuaries Climate Index shows that extreme weather events are now three times the norm. SCORCHING
🌈 “[P]rior to [a renewal], there must be the disjunctive figure who kills off the old regime.” Nicolas Colin: Trump, or the Twilight of the Conservative Gods CHALLENGING
😱 “A man with illiberal tendencies, a volatile personality and no internal checks is now president. This isn’t going to end well.” writes Peter Wehner, a former Reagan, Bush and Dubya staffer. SOBERING
Exponential Salon: Up close and personal
Our first event of 2017 is a dinner salon on Living and Loving with robots.
Our interlocutor is Dr Kate Devlin, from the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London, who will explore the implications of human-robot relationships as we develop closer connections with AI.
What does getting personal and intimate with robots mean for our physical and emotional wellbeing? Why and how does robot intimacy offer new opportunities for self-expression and freedom, or not?
The event will be participatory and include dinner and drinks and is kindly supported by BGF Ventures.
I think this one is going to be really fascinating. The event is Feb 9th at 1830.
Please sign up now. (You will hit a waitlist, please just add your name to the list and we’ll invite you as slots open.)
Dept of climate change & renewables
Sixteen of the 17 hottest years have come to pass over the past 17 years, and temperatures are rising 10 times faster than during the bounce back from the last ice age.
As the actuarial profession recognises (see above), we’re seeing more and more weather that would previously have been classified as freakish. A Princeton professor reckons that a massive August 2016 dust storm, which grounded flights across the middle east and Levant, was caused by climate change.
Just as well that the combination of declining cost of electric vehicles and potential of novel transportation models is fostering a plethora of innovation in personal transport. Christopher Mims reports from CES on new classes of smart buggies, pseudocars and neobuses that might herald the end of car ownership.
- Kauai island in Hawaii shows that solar+storage is getting pretty competitive. (Very interesting data + charts)
- The cost of lithium-ion batteries for energy storage has declined nearly 20% CAGR between 2010 and 2015. This might encourage a 250-fold increase in battery storage capacity by 2030.
- Indian villagers are knitting jumpers for elephants to protect them from freezing temperatures.
Dept of AI
Explaining why an artificial intelligence system acted the way it did will become increasingly important. In regulated domains (such as healthcare, insurance, automation, policy, law), being able to reverse through a systems chain of reasoning becomes important.
Today there has been a trade-off between performance and explicability. Deep neural nets gave high predictive performance with a voodoo-like explicability. Other models like decision trees are strong on explicability but brittle and often constrained in the kinds of things they predict well. DARPA has a fascinating project on explicable AI and this presentation is a decent literature review of current thinking.
💊 DeepPatient: applying deep neural nets to electronic patient data to predict future disease incidence. Unlike previous prediction approaches, this works across multiple disease domains and at higher prediction rates.
Here is a great overview of how AI is making its way into the design world. Increasingly these tools are available, as intelligence augmentation e.g. Autodesk’s Dreamcatcher or as end-to-end solutions such as Wix’s new AI-infused website designer. Features EV subscribers Samim Winiger and Roelof Pieters.
- Google applies machine learning to curating art. (Link to fun demos)
- Early results of IBM’s neuromorphic chip are promising
- Film director Kirsten Stewart’s paper on semantic style transfer
Small morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
💉 Solid intro to stem cells & recent success stories
Tesla’s autonomous features do reduce crashes by up to 40% according to the NHTSA
💶 Good review of 2016 European VC scene. Two highlights: an increase in deep tech & corporate investing by EV subscriber, Yoram Wijngaarde
Buzzfeed: 559 Facebook users spread Britain First content to hundreds of thousands.
🇯🇵 Japan’s evaporating people. Haunting.
English’s six lost letters
A fitness tracker that doesn’t work on black people
👩💻 Amber Thomas:women said 27% of the words in 2016’s top movies
Graphene has been turned into a superconductor without doping
Milanovic: Is Trump America’s Gorbachev?
I have reintroduced the BOLD SIGNPOSTS after testing the newsletter without them. I’ll monitor the effect for a couple of weeks and see which works better for you.
I am in Copenhagen next week. I am free for breakfast on Friday. So let me know if you can facilitate a group breakfast or discussion.
Have a super week
P.S. Don’t forget you can find Exponential View on Instagram