Sentiers No.12

China and aliens, new institutes, Amazon, and destroying all the things

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I held a lunch & learn last week on the topic of Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM), based in part on Harold Jarche’s Seek, Sense, Share framework. Preparing the slides (with Deckset, you should check it out) made me realize that, other than this here newsletter I recently started, the Sense(making) and Sharing parts of my habits were lacking, something I will work to fix. No huge revelation here, just found it interesting to realize that a known toolkit can also be useful as a kind of audit later on, not just in setting up new habits. Maybe revisiting some of your own processes can yield similar results and lessons.

Sci fi
China’s Race to Find Aliens First
Quite a good long read, mixes China’s new radio dish looking for extraterrestrials, Hugo award winning Chinese sci fi writer Liu Cixin’s views on galactic civilizations, and some historical background on the country’s on and off interest in science through the centuries.

The next generation of observatories is now clicking on, and with them we will zoom into these planets’ atmospheres. seti researchers have been preparing for this moment. In their exile, they have become philosophers of the future. They have tried to imagine what technologies an advanced civilization might use, and what imprints those technologies would make on the observable universe.

++ Angry Optimism in a Drowned World: A Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson.

Algorithms / Stacks / The Churn
Genevieve Bell tackles what it is to be human (and Australian) in a digital world
Super promising new institute.

The real goal of the institute is nothing less than developing a new applied science worthy of the 21st-century tools and technologies at our disposal.

Researchers from Microsoft and Google are creating a more human field of AI research
A second super promising institute. (Note that both are led by women.)
Their research will be focused on: Bias and inclusion, Labor and automation, Rights and liberties, and Safety and critical infrastructure.

++ AI Does Not Have Its Own Intent
Element AI’s CEO on AI vs intent, our own intent, educating populations around “data governance, biases, privacy, machine learning, information vs. data vs. intelligence and intellectual property,” and an AI-First Mindset.

The AI-First Mindset. This mindset means being able to see the world with AI underlying everything, much as we see electricity or the internet. This mindset is taking shape and helping us form new principles for designing different domains like organizations, policy, products and humanitarian programs.

++ Cathy O’Neil, who wrote Weapons of Math Destruction, wrote this opinion piece for the New York Times: Algorithms are a threat to society and so far, academia is asleep at the wheel (Tweet to the article), but the most interesting part might be the back and forth thread with Zeynep Tufekci.

The same Tufekci at TED: We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.

++ The Dystopia Is Already Here
Lists some of the same dystopic articles I’ve included here before + a few others but also a long quote by Neil Postman comparing Orwell and Huxley, small excerpt:

Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

Sacasas decided to keep adding to that page so keep an eye on that link.

++ I’ve seen this in action but never realized the speed and breadth of the changes in a Pinterest feed and didn’t know it happened almost instantaneously for a new account: Digital polarization/disinfo on Pinterest is shockingly fast, shockingly aggressive, and shockingly manipulated by clickbaith commercial entities. I made a video to show how quick it happens. (Mike Caulfield on Twitter)

++ There’s precedent for Amazon competing with so many companies. It doesn’t end well.
Another look at the strategies of Amazon, the repercussions, potential next moves and a quick comparison to GE back in the day.

Modern antitrust theory, rooted in the ideas of “consumer harm” from monopolists’ high prices, misses the threat posed by Amazon, Khan argues. The structural advantages Amazon wields over competitors gives its the ability to price products below cost and restrict access to customers. Over time, Amazon’s stranglehold on the market may degrade product quality, variety, and innovation, and enable exploitive pricing after competitors are eliminated.

Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity
We’re destroying all the things and not making much progress in stopping the… destroying of all the things.

But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.

Seriously, all the thingsPlastics found in stomachs of deepest sea creatures.

++ 😡🇨🇦 Canada’s most shameful environmental secret must not remain hidden

Tar sands have been dubbed the largest – and most destructive – industrial project in human history. And Canada is on the forefront of their exploitation

++ World’s first offshore fish farm arrives in Norway
I had no idea this existed!!

It is 110 metres wide, 68 metres high, can contain 250,000 cubic metres in volume and withstand magnitude 12 earthquakes. About 20,000 sensors allow the marine site to achieve complete automation in monitoring and feeding the fish. The farm can mature up to 1.5 million fish in 14 months.

Jony Ive on Apple Park and his unique, minimalist W* cover.
Honestly, I haven’t read it (yet?) but there are some good pictures of the place and it’s a rare long interview with Jony.

++ The Gulf’s blockbuster new Louvre arrives — and it’s utterly original.
Looks incredible. Queue movie shoots in 3, 2, 1…

The effect is almost otherworldly, an amalgam of memories from Venice to Marrakesh, from sci-fi to Spanish villas, yet it creates from those vaguely familiar images something utterly original.

++ I don’t know much about the vast majority of the projects and people listed here, we should both know more and look into it: A Guide to Fantasy and Science Fiction Made for Black People, by Black People.

++ The Motherboard Guide to Not Getting Hacked.

++ The ‘ultimate’ makerspace as a business is no more. TechShop Closes Doors, Files Bankruptcy.

++ Making a two-legged robot walk is hard enough, but have you ever seen one do a backflip?