Azeem Azhar’s Weekly Wondermissive: Future, Tech & Society
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Dept of podcasts 🎧
The Exponential View podcast is supported by Spotify.
We need to build a new kind of networked solidarity, as we are in this unprecedented moment of fine grain data about ourselves. The old kinds of ways of building connections and relationships are falling away, and we haven't quite yet as a society figured out what's going to replace that. But we know, from Durkheim, something has to, otherwise societies don't function very well.
I'm in conversation with Gina Neff, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute and at the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford. Gina and I explore the intricacies of self-tracking in a data-abundant economy; we roam the space between sociology and technology as we discuss the value of sociological perspective in tech product development.
Dept of the near future
🔎 “Social media's ability to simultaneously solicit and surveil communication has not only turned the dream of individuali[s]ed, expressive democracy into a fountain of wealth. It has turned it into the foundation of a new kind of authoritarianism” argues Fred Turner in this must-read essay. The "political vision that created social media in the first place... distrusts public ownership and the political process while celebrating engineering as an alternative form of governance." (See also, the Indian government broadened legislation allowing it to intercept and monitor citizen's computers.)
🥟 China has probably become the world’s biggest economy and will reap the benefits that once flowed to the U.S. Excellent perspective from Noah Smith.
✨ A gorgeous long read by Jerry Neumann: Technological innovation, the iTunes case study.
🤦 Facebook facepalm. More details on Facebook's approach to user data, which tells us some new details but also shines more light on a rotten culture. A number of firms are touting the idea of people selling their data—an approach I think cannot be the only approach to tackling personal data on the net. One journalist tried: and secured 0.3 cents for his. Facebook's WhatsApp has a nasty, unchecked and growing paedophilia problem. At the same time, Facebook is building a cryptocurrency team to facilitate person-to-person payments on WhatsApp.
💨 "A couple of decades ago, it was perfectly normal to smoke cigarettes inside... today, very few would do that. I think it’s the same with cars in the city [centre]." Oslo joins many cities banning cars from the centre.
🤖 How to prepare the middle class for automation: Even in the most positive scenarios for automation and the labour force, there will be a difficult adjustment period in which entire classes of people will struggle to find their place in the new economy. How should we tackle it?
Dept of artificial intelligence
How computers got shockingly good at recognising images. An accessible guide to the milestone breakthroughs in 2011/2 which kicked off the current deep learning wave.
💯 Tim Dettmers’ straightforward guide to hardware for deep learning.
📉 Eroom's Law strikes again: Richard Jones argues that Eroom's Law, the observation that R&D productivity in pharma has been falling exponentially, has also struck the semiconductor industry.
Geoff Hinton, one of the lead architects of deep learning, suggested explainability was unimportant in AI systems. Several researchers disagreed.
An overview of the London AI ecosystem.
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
Amazing video of China's click-fraud farms.
💸 A basic income experiment in Germany to launch in 2019.
🌌 NASA’s captivating guide through the life and death of planetary systems.
Pendulum dance. Stunning
How the attempt to turn Silicon Valley into a manufacturing hub for Apple failed.
🧘 The battle of meditation apps.
⛸️ A picture of the 50-mile wide Korolev ice crater on Mars.
As I mentioned last week, I've started my Christmas break so this week is part of the holiday schedule. I also had a really complex house move which naturally led to a few days of total media blackout. The result is a much shorter penultimate Exponential View for 2018.
We have one more cracking issue coming out next week on December 30th.
Next Wednesday, we also have the last episode of the Exponential View podcast of 2018. This is an insanely awesome conversation on the state of artificial intelligence with Jack Clark, the director of policy at OpenAI, and facilitator of the rather brilliant AIIndex. If you haven't yet got into podcasts, give this one a try as well.
If you get some time off around Christmas in your part of the world, have a great break.
See you next week,
P.S. Exponential View readers are up to some amazing stuff. Scroll down!
What you are up to
Congrats to Igor Carron whose optical-chip startup, LightOn, raised $3m to accelerate machine learning performance.
Congrats to the number of EV readers involved in Graphcore which just closed a Series D funding round valuing the ML chip firm at $1.7bn.
Anab Jain and Superflux built a highly experiential simulation of the future of work.
Self-driving pioneer, Antony Lewnadowski, claims to have driven coast-to-coast using his own autonomous vehicle. EV reader, Mark Harris, reports. It is controversial, another EV reader, Alex Roy, an expert on autonomous vehicles himself, is sceptical.
We've heard from nearly 300 of you joining our directory of experts. If you haven't added yourself, please take a moment.