🔮 AI, our doomsday machine; understanding Uber; computational languages; longevity as a luxury good++ #36

The Exponential View

Is AI the doomsday invention? Facebook’s ambition; understanding Uber and local transit demand; communicating with AI will take more than human language; the manager as artist; COP21 and how to think about climate change; big data bonuses and more.

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Welcome to all the new subscribers to Exponential View this week.

A brief overview of how the newsletter is structured. Four main sections: Dept of Near Future (most interesting, diverse things two read); two deeper dive departments which vary each week (this week, AI & climate change); final section: short morsels for dinner parties (interesting stuff that I wanted to share that might give you something to think about.)

Dept of the near future

🌟 The Doomsday invention: the New Yorker on Nick Bostrom, artificial intelligence and existential risk. STUNNING LONG READ (est 40 mins, make the time, you deserve it)

👍🏽 “Facebook has succeeded because it has continuously found a way to scale—its service, its business, and its ambitions”. EXCELLENT profile of Zuck and his plans for Facebook.

🌟Resist and thrive, Yancey Strickler, CEO of Kickstarter, on what happens in a culture driven to make more and more money, and what to do about it. REPOST FROM LAST WEEK. (This is excellent, if you didn’t read it last week, here is another chance.)

😀 The advertising bubble will burst says Maciej Ceglowolski. Advice for publishers: “Ditch your tracking, show dumb ads that you sell directly (not through a thicket of intermediaries), and beg your readers for mercy.”GREAT READ (See also The Economist on the collapse of newspaper advertising revenue.)

🚕 How did Uber change taxi behaviour in NYC? Analysis of 1.1bn trips - grew the overall size of the market. SPECTACULAR ANALYSIS (Also: Lyft’s leaked financials.)

🙏 The WONDERFUL Esko Kilpi on Product as art, and manager as artist. “Healthy organizations are a concept of relationships to which people are drawn by beauty, values and meaning.”

Dept of pay-it-forward

I curate Azeem’s Exponential Digest on the weekend while my kids do homework. It’s a hobby that needs your support.

So a request to more recent subscribers, please do recommend this to five friends or colleagues who you think would enjoy it. (E-mail recco’s work best but Twitter and Facebook also nice.)

Dept of artificial intelligence

Last week, I was on a podcast with EV readers Murray Shanahan and Tom Standage discussing artificial intelligence and the space of possible minds. If you haven’t heard it, here is the link.

💡 Stephen Wolfram looks at the inter-relationship between language, computation, humans and AIs. **MUST READ **His argument is that human natural human language will be fundamentally limited when it comes to communication with non-human intelligences (shades of Nagel, here). The argument is clearly exposed, and well worth reading.

Artificial intelligence continues to mainstream.

Inside Facebook’s M, AI concierge. GOOD READ (Apparently it isn’t just a Wizard of Oz simulacrum.)

“Sorry, Dave, I can’t do that.” Teaching robots to reject human orders.

Using AI-enabled search to better shop for shoes. (Groan)

Fun video: what it’s like to be driven by Audi’s self-driving car.

Even Ford thinks we’ll see self-driving cars within five years.

Deepmind suggests it has taught an AI to win at Go. Also,  paper on Deepmind’s “Policy Distillation”, a method of generalising task-specific neural networks. Technical.

😸 Cat video: watch a neural network learn how to generate cat images.

Dept of climate chage

Later this month, world leaders gather in Paris for COP21 where they try to come up with an agreement to, basically, save unparalleled human misery from the direct & indirect effects climate change. We’re unlikely to actually render the planet uninhabitable but we may make it pretty unpleasant for a lot of people, and not just the very poor. Let’s hope it works.

🔥 Climate change and national security: “Carbon pollution is a driver that accelerates instability and the social dysfunctions that come along with it…It is only one driver among many, and ..e.ventually the carbon signal will get louder and stand out more clearly.” RECOMMENDED

Thankfully (or at least a small mercy), the clean energy revolution is picking up speed. Great data from Scientific American. (Indeed, 139 nations could go 100% renewable according to a Stanford professor.)

The economic of energy storage are starting to rival conventional.

Even the US energy grid under threat from the effects of climate change.

Yes, 2015 has shattered all known temperature records.

Short morsels for dinner parties

👴🏼 Longevity as a luxury good: the tailored medical concierges of London’s super-rich

Sean Rad, CEO of Tinder, does himself & the tech industry no favours in this interview with my friend @chedwardes. Sarah Lacy responds: “The bros have to go” (paywall)

Blame the Apple watch? Swiss watch exports decline.

We are entering the post-antibiotic era.

Big data is big. IBM, Cisco and Oracle had more than 24,687 open positions requiring Big Data skills in the past 12 months. (Total salary load? >$3bn)

How will blockchain change financial services? Great primer by WEF.

Training pigeons to recognise breast cancer

Using Wifi to power devices wirelessly. (Cool, unless it fries us.)

End notes

I announced this week that I am joining Schbisted to develop new internet-enabled marketplaces. You can read my blog post here.

Exponential View will continue. And as always, I value your commentary, feedback and recommendations.