Sentiers No.1

AI, climate change, solarpunk, a Babylonian tablet

Here we go, finally joining the internet of newsletters. Better very late than never I guess. Although, technically, I’ve been writing the We Seek newsletter for two years, does that count?

In case you don’t speak/read French: sentiers means paths. I like the idea of finding paths amidst everything that surrounds us, figuring stuff out. It’s also a slight nostalgic nod to The Alpine Review.

This first issue was soft launched to friends on Facebook. Feedback is very much encouraged concerning any and all aspects of the newsletter. I can already say that the next ones will likely be shorter, I just had lots of stuff over the last couple of weeks.


How we respond to autom. will depend on what we decide it means to be a man
By the awesome Laurie Penny. Always read anything PennyRed writes. Always.

A great many men have been trained over countless generations to associate their self-worth with the performance of tasks that are, in a very real sense, robotic—predictable, repetitive, and emotionless. The trouble is that machines are far better at being predictable, repetitive, and emotionless than human beings. What human beings do better are all the other things: We are better at being adaptable, compassionate, and intuitive; better at doing work that involves actually touching and thinking about one another; better at making art and music that elevates us above the animals—better, in short, at keeping each other alive. We have walled off all that work and declared it mostly women’s business, even as exhausted women have begged men to join them.


Artificial intelligence will create new kinds of work
Yet another article conflating decently paid freelancing creative/knowledge work that people choose to do and the gig economy, which is usually a last resort and very low paying. Not the same thing, people! And, this being The Economist, they don’t pay much attention to how problematic it is in their vision that real middle class jobs are / will be replaced by unreliable low paying gig tasks.

Also; How to Regulate Artificial Intelligence. Oren Etzioni’s three rules for AI, inspired by Asimov’s three laws of robotics.


Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem
Very important reminder that climate change is only one aspect of our much broader systemic problem: overshoot. “Enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.”

The effort [of the environmental movement] fell short because it wasn’t able to alter industrial society’s central organizing principle, which is also its fatal flaw: its dogged pursuit of growth at all cost. Now we’re at the point where we must finally either succeed in overcoming growthism or face the failure not just of the environmental movement, but of civilization itself.

Also: Harvey Is What Climate Change Looks Like.


Solarpunk
Not new but still early(ish) so worth keeping an eye out for. Quick intro here:

“Solarpunk is a literary movement, a hashtag, a flag, and a statement of intent about the future we hope to create. It is an imagining wherein all humans live in balance with our finite environment, where local communities thrive, diversity is embraced, and the world is a beautiful green utopia.”
— Remember Cyberpunk? Now “Solarpunk” brings optimism…and viable alternatives

Another intro; Explainer: ‘solarpunk’, or how to be an optimistic radical.

To prove we’re late in the anglo and franco spheres, have a look at this translation from Portuguese of a Solarpunk Anthology originally published in 2012.


3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet rewrites the history of maths
The tablet was originally found by archaeologist and diplomat Edgar Banks, who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

Babylonian mathematics used a base 60, or sexagesimal system, rather than the 10 which is used today. Because 60 is far easier to divide by three, experts studying the tablet, found that the calculations are far more accurate.

If your mind is not blown by this, you should probably unsubscribe right now. 😉

Also in history: Plumbing discovery reveals the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.


Transitory Urbanism
If you read French, this is pretty awesome; Le choix de l’éphémère pour habiter durablement la ville on transitory urbanism in Montréal. Entremise, a local non-profit lobbying and organizing projects to occupy empty—often heritage listed—buildings with transitory occupants. Lots of commonality with the long running Renew Newcastle.


Hindsight
Since I’m not the only for whom it’s “better late than never,” in the hindsight is 20/20 department: Richard Florida is sorry about naming and promoting the creative class. Tony Faddell—of Nest, iPod and iPhone fame—wakes up in cold sweats thinking about the addictive power of the widgets he worked on. Former Googler Tristan Harris is up in arms because Social Media Has Hijacked Our Minds and finally Eli Pariser realizes that filter bubbles also influenced the purveyors of news; “It’s the self-reflexivity of it—the feedback loop of it—that I had missed on the first pass through.”

The problem with online distribution, Pariser believes, is that specific, true information can’t compete with that guy surfing off his roof. “Is the truth loud enough?” he asks. “If the problem is that the truth isn’t loud enough, it points in very different directions than if the problem is that fake news is misleading people.”


Finally, a couple of articles I’ve written recently
Three Simple Learning Practices • We Seek
Singular vs Plural • i.never.nu

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