Sentiers No.25

Laser focus, Dynamicland, Palantir, Dutch cities, Chinese innovation, and a crazy arctic

Next week is “spring break” over here and I’m taking the week off so No.26 will either be super short, or pushed back a week.

Sharing https://tinyletter.com/sentiers on social or forwarding is much appreciated, thanks in advance!


The Art of Laser Focus
Over the last few years, the idea of digital as material has surfaced a few times, that you should / can treat electronics, code and the web as materials just like wood or stone. That they have a grain and particular properties to work with. The above article reminds me of this but for inner direction and focus. You don’t decide where you are more focused, you discover the direction and the alignment. Your brain and conscience as material.

How do you get to laser state? You loosen control over direction, and “hunt” for the most resonant internal orientation rather than the one aligned with where you think you want to go.

One example of the material thing: Some of these Things are not like the others.


Welcome to the Post-Social Media Era
I mostly agree, though I’m not sure I’d go as far as Peter but I liked this angle:

Social media first undermined the media’s and institutions’ credibility, and now their own.


Tech
“Casual, beautiful moment at @Dynamicland1 … grabbed a joystick from the other room, hooked it to an oscillator and made amazing noises.
We’ve been seeing bits of the Dynamicland environment for a while now, this thread (with images and videos) gives another idea of how it works. Bonkers!

I want to emphasize it is NOT the technology that enables this stuff, it is the SPACE. It’s about having a critical mass of people together and a space full of rich creations that can be grabbed and reappropriated. A space and medium built around combinatorial possibilities.

++ Jack Dorsey of Twitter with a thread about what they want to do for a more civil public conversation
Saying all the right things, we’ll see how much they stick to that and how well they do.

We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.

They are also opening a Health Metrics Proposal Submission process to get some help.

++ Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing tech 😡
The CIA and Peter Thiel are behind that company so this is very wrong but certainly not unexpected.

Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ “strong mayor” model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process.


Cities
‘Living laboratories’: the Dutch cities amassing data on oblivious residents
When even the Dutch are doing stuff like this, you know things are not trending in the right direction. Tracking and surveilling citizens with no permission and, in many cases, very little oversight.

In Silicon Valley, they call it “permissionless innovation”, they believe technological progress should not be stifled by public regulations. For the same reason, they can be secretive about what data is collected in a public space and what it is used for. Often the cities themselves don’t know.

Utrecht has become a tangle of individual pilots and projects, with no central overview of how many cameras and sensors exist, nor what they do.

Some good questions and potential solutions being explored by OpenNorth here; AI in government: for whom, by whom?.

++ Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities. Oh, and another report says that their drivers’ median hourly wage is just $3.37.

++ The header image up top is a cross-section of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, drawn by Tomoyuki Tanaka. Found via Taras Grescoe, you can learn more here and here.


China 🇨🇳
From imitation to innovation: How China became a tech superpower
Nothing mind blowing in this article—except maybe the quote below—but if you haven’t been paying much attention to China, it’s worth a read for a good overview of ‘big tech.’ Makers, DIY, prototyping and IoT are not mentioned and good areas to investigate too. Maybe I’ll throw together a little collection soon.

just two of the 22 private companies in China to reach unicorn status in 2017. “This generation of Chinese entrepreneurs differs from all previous ones in how quickly their companies can achieve unicorn and deca-unicorn status,”


Milieu
Arctic warming: scientists alarmed by ‘crazy’ temperature rises
A heatwave with no sun. Think about that for a minute. An “anomaly among anomalies.”

An alarming heatwave in the sunless winter Arctic is causing blizzards in Europe and forcing scientists to reconsider even their most pessimistic forecasts of climate change.

The Arctic is experiencing an extreme warming event (Twitter moment ‘thread’)

++ Climate change ‘will push European cities towards breaking point’
Basically a series of predictions for horrible flooding and droughts all over Europe in the coming years. Timely as you browse through pictures of Rome under the snow.

All 571 cities studied saw a worsening in heatwaves and the high-impact scenario predicted southern Europe experiencing droughts 14 times worse than today.

++ African elephants are migrating to safety—and telling each other how to get there 🐘

Elephants also have developed sophisticated gestures, sounds, infrasound, and even chemical secretions to relay messages to one another for survival purposes.

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