🔮 The Facebook President; data & democracy; renewables ascendant;  Google's cloud AI ambitions; Chinese airliners, red meat & Mar-a-Lago++ #114

🔮 The Facebook President; data & democracy; renewables ascendant;  Google's cloud AI ambitions; Chinese airliners, red meat & Mar-a-Lago++ #114

Renewables are here to stay. Social media, data and democracy. The first Facebook president. Google's flurry of AI announcements. Some good news from electric vehicles (and bad news from the arctic). Patreon's patronage boom. Cryptocurrency constipation.

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🏁 The big green bang. Must read FT essay on how renewables are now unstoppable. (Unpaywalled summary here.)

🇺🇸 How Trump won. Sue Halpern in NYRB: "Donald Trump is our first Facebook president. His team figured out how to use all the marketing tools of Facebook, as well as Google, the two biggest advertising platforms in the world, to successfully sell a candidate that the majority of Americans did not want."

🎢 Inside Russia's social media war on America.

😵  "Lacks network contacts and in need of help to develop her business contacts". Analysis of how venture capitalists talk about male and female entrepreneurs.

💣 Shopping has gone online & "America’s rich landscape of shops now looks like a dangerous glut"


Yuval Harari calls dataisma new universal narrative that legitimises the power of algorithms and data. With enough computing power, free will (or its appearance) will become obsolete, as most processes, such as democratic elections, fall into the hands of machines to the point of completely excluding humans' biased, inadequately informed opinion. With that, some related stories I spotted this week. (Listen to my conversation with Yuval here.)

The industry that predicts your vote—and then alters it—is still just in its infancy.

How Facebook is making membership a prerequisite to everyday experience.

Affectiva is using advanced computer vision to detect emotions:

We work with a third of the Fortune 500 companies, helping them to understand consumers’ emotional responses to their ads. The problem we were able to solve was to assist them in developing deep emotional content with their customers.

Inquiry in social media targeting in the UK digs deeper into the EU referendum campaign. (See also: Facebook's refusal to work with researchers makes it hard to assess the impact of electioneering on the social network.)

You can now view behavioural attributes Twitter collects or infers about you (including gender).

Uber uses machine learning to segment groups of customers by what they're willing to pay.

Privacy as a commodity of the rich and powerful. **THOUGHT PROVOKING **


Alphabet was particularly busy at its annual Google I/O conference. Google CEO Sundar Pichai says "we are rethinking all our products" for the AI age. (FT paywalled story; Lance Ulanoff's review is reasonable and not paywalled.)

Google's is making its tensor processing unit (TPU) available via a cloud-based grid of 1,000 TPUs. The chip isoptimised for machine learning which is 15-30 times more processing power at 30-80x improvement in TOPS/Watt. Google's own announcement with pretty pictures is here.

Google's word error rate in speech transcription drops to 4.9%, much better than human (and far better than its 8.5% rate of just nine months ago.)

Profiles of 20+ leading women in the AI domain.

Apple acquired LatticeData, an AI-based data extraction firm for $200m. (I wrote about Apple & AI in EV#67.)

EV reader, Frank Chen, has published a brilliant primer on deep learning and artificial intelligence. (Also, great video The Promise of AI.)

FUN: Spencer Chen splices a Google Home advert with the theme to Balderunner.

'Strange' loops could spare Deep Learning one big headache: forgetting its past learning while training against new data. Yann LeCunn calls it "the coolest idea in machine learning in the past twenty years."

Baidu's facial recognition technology helps parents find their long lost children, with 99.7% accuracy.


Volvo plans to stop producing diesels by 2030 and credits Tesla for inspiration.

What are the most effective steps for slowing climate change? (Refrigerant management is number 1.)

Miles of Arctic ice collapse into an "unstoppable disintegration". See also: studying moss at Arctic reveals 50 years of rapid change.

April of 2017 was the second hottest in 137 years climate record.

Vault protecting humanity's most precious seeds breached due to extraordinarily high temperatures. "It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that".


🤢 The worst 100 days in the U.S. presidential history look like this.

💰 Patreon, a platform that supports independent creators, is growing like topsy.

The ultra-low volatility in the VIX is not normal, says Sandy Rattray, creator of the index.

Seven transactions per second is an ever growing limit for cryptocurrencies, as they boom in number.

🥓  N=536,969 study confirms that red meat (and processed meat worst of all) increasing mortality significantly.

👏 18-year-old student from Mexico designs a bra that detects breast cancer.

A British fusion reactor has created its first plasma.

🔬 3D-printed ovaries allow infertile mice to give birth.

Aztec, Sword of Fargoal, Toshinden: if these names evoke any memory, read this article. 🕹️

Theresa May is "reinventing" the Internet; more control to the government.

🌴 Any half-decent hacker could break into Mar-a-Lago.

EV reader, Ian Mombru, on China's first large commercial aircraft, COMAC C919. ✈️

Homo Prospectus vs. Homo Sapiens: "the [human] mind is mainly drawn to the future".

A tale of two Mikes (both subscribers) this week:

  • Mike Bennett launches Sway Democracy, an app designed to foster more civic debate. Have a play.
  • Mike Butcher is hosting one of London's top tech fests, The Europas, next month. I'm speaking on the future of work. Exponential View readers can get a unique 28% discount for Europas tickets by clicking here and quoting EXPONENTIAL.


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