Uber as a social game changer; stop chasing efficiency; the car mistake; the economics of abundance; the limits of understanding; teaching artificial intelligence; unicorns losing their horns; civic maths, pre-crime and clever animals. Happy Sunday!
Please recommend EV: Twitter
Dept of the near future
😠 Umair Haque: “Our noble pursuit of efficiency is becoming something more like a frenzied — and self-destructive — obsession”. THOUGHTFUL
🚗 “The car century was a mistake. It is time to move on.” WORD
🔥 2°C came quickly. The northern hemisphere just hit a terrifying milestone. WORRYING
💎 The economics of abundance. J Bradford DeLong: how do we “develop economic theories to guide societies in an age of abundance?” Economists, grounded in theories of scarcity, may not be best suited for this. INSIGHTFUL. See also: Have we reached ‘peak stuff’ in the UK? Material consumption is down a third in 12 years.
EV reader, Samuel Arbesman: Our creations are now so complex we can’t understand them any more. What comes next? EXCELLENT (two years old, but I just came across it and still relevant).
Dept of artificial intelligence & brains
🎸 Rolling Stone does a BEAUTIFUL intro to AI and robots: “For better or worse, whatever future we create, it will be the one we design and build for ourselves. To paraphrase an old adage about the structure of the universe: It’s humans all the way down.” Not much new here, but a well written seven-minute read.
On the subject of the future, we design and build ourselves, here is a video of a Boston Dynamics robot dog playing with a real dog. Spot the section where the young man operating the robot jokes that he is moving it into ‘battle mode’. And I guess this is the problem, the future we design and build ourselves, would we prefer if the people coding our robots instinctively reached for 'co-operation mode’ rather than 'battle mode’? I’d love to speak to the guy in the video - there is a good discussion to be had about ethical frameworks in AI design.
Facebook is using classic kids story books to teach AIs how to read. The list is rather interesting and does have some old favourites, like Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
But semantic relationships can only be learnt from the data that goes into the system. (Remember word2vec’s crazy abstractions? Or the Google photos’ gorillas catastrophe?) This cross-section of old British and American literature reflects the politics, power dynamics and beliefs of the time. Kipling’s Jungle Book is amongst this canon: a book which has a well-identified and troubling relationship with colonial prejudices and racist undertones. As a parent taking a child through the Jungle Book, we can make the child aware of those dimensions and put it, and Kipling himself, in a wider context. (See also last week’s EV on Priors & Prejudice.)
It would be comforting to know a cultural anthropologist or a critical theorist was embedded with the team providing some kind of lens into the perspectives embedded in those texts. Has Facebook done this? I don’t know but it’s unsettling.
Google’s self-driving car was responsible for a minor accident.
Half of all marketing jobs will be replaced by machine intelligence. (But we don’t know which half, badoom, tish!)
Nervana Systems: Deep-learning-as-a-service.
Dept of unicorns and funding
Unicorns are up, unicorns are down (well, mostly down.)
🐎 Interesting Fenwick research on the typical terms found in Unicorn termsheets. Increase in prevalence of senior liquidation prefs, more ratchets & IPO Blocking, average valuations are down and companies are selling more of themselves.
Powa Technology was a $2.7bn British ‘unicorn’ which imploded. The FT digs into its cap structure and finds not everything was as it seemed. (Gory details abound.)
💰 Equity crowdfunding is dominating early stage funding in the UK. One platform, Seedrs, has put GBP100m through to startups since 2012, a right comparable to many large VC funds. Equity crowdfunding is an increasingly legitimate capital strategy, particularly in the UK, and particularly helpful for those early high-risk discovery stages. Online-only bank, Mondo, raised GBP1m ($1.5m) in 96 seconds.
Dept of animals
Corvids and parrots may demonstrate intelligence capabilities similar to apes. It opens a new avenue of research to understanding how intelligence arises. The average crow brain is 2-3% the weight of an ape brain but with similar capabilities. “What is clear is that the multi-layered mammalian cortex is not required for complex cognition. The absolute brain weight is not relevant for mental abilities, either.”
Chimps appear to have scared rituals. Might they believe in god?
🐯 Amazing story of a bear, lion and tiger who have become inseparable. (Not very exponential, but fun nonetheless.)
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
∯ Teach civic numeracy instead of calculus. EXCELLENT
What if everyone had a robot. Breathless infographic from Nature.
🍄 Spotify uses a legion of hipsters to help curate our music
It is time to consider the implications of non-medical brain enhancement.
Two-third of US generating capacity adds in 2016 will be renewables.
Within a decade, electric vehicles could be cheaper than gasoline vehicles. (Deeper dive into the Bloomberg analysis last week.)
Bitcoin has maxed out. The network is saturated.
👮 Precrime in China: ““It’s very crucial to examine the cause after an act of terror … but what is more important is to predict the upcoming activities” says the chief engineer of the military contractor working on the system.
What you are up to
EV subscriber, Joshua Gans in HBR: “How Much Is Trump Really Disrupting Politics-as-Usual?”
The usual stuff… find me on twitter and drop me a mail if you want to chat :)
P.S. Next week is EV’s first anniversary!