Yuval Harari in conversation. Skills for the future. The Internet as rebundler. Did the Trump campaign weaponise AI? Assessing the pros & cons of algorithms. Electric vehicles up a gear.
So many interesting things this week. Hope it sparks great conversations!
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Dept of the near future
🔮💡 In conversation with Yuval Harari on how the advances in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence will transform humans and human society. **MUST LISTEN. **Yuval’s excellent new book Homo Deus is now available in America. (Buy it here: UK | United States | Germany)
🎓 Hello teamwork. “Cognitive skills in topics like maths and English have long been used as to measure the calibre of a job candidate…non-cognitive skills are also integral to educational performance and success at work – and are becoming increasingly so”, says think-tank, The Hamilton Project. **GOOD READ. **See also George Monbiot exploring alternative models of education. And also, entrepreneur Mark Cuban argues for the coming increase in demand in liberal arts.
📦 The great rebundler. Once internet business models were about unbundling. Today the reverse seems to be true. INSIGHTFUL
🤖 Artificial intelligence has achieved much of its recent success by mimicking biology. Now it must go further.** SUPER **essay by @kellybclancy
🌟 Point: Trump’s campaign team successfully-weaponised AI to provide better insights, more targeted messaging and rapid distribution of information. Counterpoint: Or maybe it wasn’t effective. The jury is still deliberating the real impact of the data-meets-social strategy used by the Trump and Brexit teams.
Sarah Tavel’s “Hierarchy of Engagement” is a GREAT READ for product entrepreneurs.
🔥 Repost of Karl Polanyi’s 1940 lecture: The Breakdown of The International system APPOSITE
Dept of algorithms & AI
One of the themes explored in my discussion with Yuval Harari was the move towards algorithmic management of the world. How, increasingly, algorithms make automated decisions in our everyday lives and in the deep bowels of business and the economy.
📊 Pew Research recently interviewed 1,302 experts on the impacts of algorithms on society in this rather excellent survey. The conclusions: algorithms will go everywhere and that’s mostly a good thing. But we need to be wary about losing our own decision-making prowess, guard against bias, manage filter bubbles and ensure we have oversight of those algorithms.
My take is that correctly designed, algorithmic decision-making will continue to be an incredible boon to human society. However, such algorithms needs to be holistically designed, which means understanding the wider context of a decision including any externalities arising from it. If ‘algorithmic decisions’ are narrowly focused on efficiency for the operator of the algorithm, unintended consequences are likely to abound.
Wired magazine profiles Heliograf, a bot used by Washington Post to generate electoral stories:
In November 2012, it took four employees 25 hours to compile and post just a fraction of the election results manually. In November 2016, Heliograf created more than 500 articles, with little human intervention, that drew more than 500,000 clicks.
This is a far cry from 1995 when my then boss at _The Guardian _clamped together a bunch of scripts to autogenerate weather reports.
DeepMind’s Pathnet has got AI researchers buzzing because it seems to be a precursor to the kind of architecture that could support artificial general intelligence (or AGI). Pathnet combines several hot areas of AI research in a single architecture: meta-learning, reinforcement learning, adversarial & cooperative learning and transfer learning. Carlos Perez has a reasonably accessible overview of it.
Adversarial examples are a datum that can force a machine learning system to make a mistake. It’s an intriguing area of cyber-security, especially as more decision making switches to algorithms. OpenAI has a nice paper on the subject.
- Bill Gates wants to tax robots
- Lovely review of AI-enabled generative design
- Fantastic insight of how Autodesk’s augmented intelligence system co-designed the Elbo chair
- Graphcore’s visualisations of neural networks learning
- Another impressive demo of a self-driving car. This time, drive.ai
Dept of clean tech & EVs
The Economist reckons that electric vehicles are coming faster than we think. New forecasts doubled estimates for the penetration of battery EVs by 2030 to nearly 25%.
My take is that forecasts will soon be revised even further upwards. The historic 13-year replacement cycle for cars in the US (and similar in Europe), is going to come under real pressure are we move towards consumer acceptance, fleet ownership, autonomy and the vicious cycle for petrol-powered cars.
- Consumers are increasingly ready to accept EVs and between “a third and a half of consumers are actually considering electrics when they go into the purchase funnel” according to McKinsey.
- Shared ownership models will mean more vehicles will be owned-and-operated by fleets. Fleet owners will drive their cars harder and replace faster. They will have significant incentives to move electric. (Instant torque, low pollution/tax levels, lower fuel costs).
- Autonomy will increase the incentives to move towards newer cars because it provides a step-change in the driving experience. For fleet owners, autonomy is a boon as it lowers costs, especially on non-controversial routings.
- As I’ve previously argued, in many markets retail petrol (gas) distribution is a tentative endeavour at best. It won’t take much to knock them out of business, and in turn, raise the effective cost of owning an ICE.
- EVs make up 40% of new registrations in Norway
- 🍃 “With the energy transition now on a demand-driven, tech-fueled growth curve, big investors want to get on board” LONG READ on why renewables are no longer ‘alternative’ and why fossil fuels are legacy.
- China is leading the charge on lithium gigafactories - on track to control 62% of global production by 2020.
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
🦊 Claire Wardle has a super taxonomy of fake news.
The Cayla internet-connected doll is a total security risk.
University attacked by its own connected vending machines.
🔺 Scientists manually create triangulene, a new Carbon allotrope.
Electron lifetime is at least 66,000 yottayears (About 10^19 longer than the life of the Universe.)
☭ Russians are more dependent on the State that they were under communism.
Rethinking the firm. “Since markets in the U.S. and other advanced countries have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a smaller number of “superstar” firms, the ability of such firms to influence market rules has also strengthened.”
💶 Joel Mokyr: How did Europe become so rich? A: "a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable”
🦋 Butter is good for you. Probably.
Ok. I didn’t write about Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto for saving the world. To be honest, I didn’t have time to read it (or the many critiques of it.) What I would say is that I’m glad he’s starting to engage with some of the key issues that actually matter. I’ll hold assessment on the manifesto until I actually peruse it.
This week, I’m hoping to catch a few minutes at the demo day for Zeroth.ai, the World’s First AI/ML Accelerator. (I occasionally help Tak, the founder.) Their investor/demo day will be live-streamed and there are only a few seats available. You can sign up to view here.
Have a great mid-February!
P.S. We have some cool things on our Instagram page.
P.P.S. Enjoy feeling less guilty about butter this week :)