Welcome to the Exponential View Christmas Surprise.
Our top ten stories of the year with a light dusting of artificial intelligence.
We just couldn’t resist stuffing one last present into your stocking.
Hope you enjoy it!
The top ten stories of the year
In 2016, Exponential View recommended 1882 stories.
So here are the top ten, as judged by ExpoRank, a simple algorithm I designed for the purposes of this list. These represent the top 0.5% of stories. You can click on the little speech bubble by each URL to comment on a story, if you want.
Here they are in ascending order…
One of the key characteristics of complex systems, such as the world’s energy and transport sectors, is that when they change it tends not to be a linear process.
The stories we tell around technology shape both our understanding and the future of technology itself
Don’t get left behind.
Globalization has created great wealth and brought millions out of poverty. Today, a combination of technology, politics, and social pressures seems to be reversing globalization. (Aug 2016).
Economic thinking is changing. If that thesis is correct – and there are many reasons to believe it is – then historical experience suggests policy and politics will change as well. How significant that change will be remains to be seen
Men dominate the design industry. The impact of having such a limited set of voices in the rooms where design decisions are made has far reaching implications.
In the Big Shift, we are all experiencing mounting performance pressure. Our response to that pressure so far has been failing.
Reading applications to Y Combinator is like having access to a crystal ball.
We are living in an era of bundling. The big tech companies — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft — have moved far beyond their original product lines into new territory
Social media has swallowed the news – threatening the funding of public-interest reporting and ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts. But the consequences go far beyond journalism. (Written before the Trump election but after the UK referendum)
There are so many other topics (clean tech, consciousness, blockchain, nanotech, robotics, mobile & AI) that are part of the Exponential View that just didn’t make this 0.5% cut. The most surprising? Nothing on climate change, especially with the North Pole 50 degrees above normal. Must do better next year.
There are archives of all previous issues available here. It would also be great to run a search engine (Algolia?) over the archive, as well as some sort of topic-based analysis. I think this could be a really valuable resource. If you are willing to try, let me know.
Dept of AI
Here is an interesting IEEE Initiative on AI ethics. The programme hopes to ensure technologists are trained and suitably tooled up to prioritize ethical considerations in the design and development of autonomous and intelligent systems. The initiative is chaired by John Havens, a long-time EV reader.
For an understanding of what thoughtful design of autonomous systems is important, have a read of these two pieces of work on the challenge of even specifying a reward function that can’t unintentionally go wrong:
OpenAi’s Jack Clark on faulty reward systems (features a natty video)
On reward hacking & the challenge of devising an objective function for a vacuum cleaning robot, read section four here. (h/t @YasminRazavi)
Another long read, of which I have only read the executive summary, is the outgoing Obama administration’s Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Economy report. One particular passage stood out:
To the degree that AI-driven automation realizes its potential to drive tremendous positive advancement in diverse fields, it will make Americans better off on average. But, there is no guarantee that everyone will benefit. AI-driven changes in the job market in the United States will cause some workers to lose their jobs, even while creating new jobs elsewhere. The economic pain this causes will fall more heavily upon some than on others. Policymakers must consider what can be done to help those families and communities get back on their feet and assemble the tools they need to thrive in the transformed economy and share in its benefits.
The underlying assumption in the Obama work above is that tooling up and thriving in a transformed economy might even remain possible alternatives. Those warning of long-term technological unemployment might take another view.
The message of many of the issues we’ve explored within Exponential View this year has been the risk that all the rewards accrue to a very small number. Think of Yuval Hariri’s notion of the useless class or the frequent challenges to the neoliberal mantra of growth at all costs.
Dept of sit back and listen
On technological unemployment and the wealth of humans
Thanks for all the super recommendations last week. We made great progress towards 14,000 readers.
The 1,882 stories we linked to this year were read by you a total 462,417 times (an increase of 642%). At an average of two mins per story, this comes to 15,413 hours of attention from the most thoughtful people I know.
That is an amazing honour. Thank you.
So with that, signing off 2016 (for real this time!)
😀 🎉 Have a great holiday season and a Happy New Year for 2017.