Sentiers No.32

Economics of AI. Stories. City as character. Schools of Understanding. What I Kottkied.

Welcome to new subscribers coming from my short stint at Kottke.org this week. I hope you enjoyed what I posted there.

To those who didn’t follow, imho I did a pretty darn good job. So after a day away, breezing through the blog this morning, I decided to link to a few in the last section below. I do encourage you to look at the whole list right on the blog. Elsewhere in the newsletter, you’ll find a couple of “K” links, where the main link is the actual article and the “K” is my post.


The economics of artificial intelligence
The economics of AI, how to understand these algorithms as prediction engines, and how our judgment can gain value.

But there are other complements to prediction that have been discussed a lot less frequently. One is human judgment. We use both prediction and judgment to make decisions. We’ve never really unbundled those aspects of decision making before—we usually think of human decision making as a single step. Now we’re unbundling decision making. The machine’s doing the prediction, making the distinct role of judgment in decision making clearer. So as the value of human prediction falls, the value of human judgment goes up because AI doesn’t do judgment—it can only make predictions and then hand them off to a human to use his or her judgment to determine what to do with those predictions.

This is the centaur concept I’ve written about before. We could also link this to the various discussions on ethics, trolley problems, and autonomous killer robots. The judgment angle above doesn’t automatically solve any of these issues but it does provide another way of understanding the split of responsibilities we could envision between AIs and humans. (K)


What Are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook ‘Stories’?
The inimitable Ian Bogost with some thinking on how stories are overtaking social media and how they are perhaps the first true smartphone media format. There’s more on the post but the following quote is really my favorite part. (K)

That name is vestigial now, because it’s only incidental that an iPhone or a Pixel is a telephone. Instead, it’s a frame that surrounds everything that is possible and knowable.


Cities
City as Character (K)

In other words, Ulysses is not an atlas of Dublin, it is a Dublin; Berlin Alexanderplatz, likewise, is a Berlin. These are not novels; they are cities unto themselves, writ in text of stone and concrete. […]

For the reader-flâneur, linearity isn’t important; it’s about wandering through the text and seeing what one sees, letting the city speak.

++ The war against cars will ultimately be won
One of the best examples of “history repeats itself” has to be various cities’ move from cars to pedestrian and bike trafic. Every time the restaurants and many businesses complain and every time they are proven wrong. You’d think that after decades of data this would stop but no, it keeps repeating. Only now in 2018 am I starting to see news of business groups signing on from the beginning. About time. (There are a few good example of results in the piece.)

++ Even though this one; What Makes a Rural Creative Hub: Innovation and the Arts is by Richard Florida and this one; Millennials and the new magnetism of mid-size cities uses generational framing, which I dislike, they are two more “soft signals” prompting me to keep an eye in the direction of mid-size cities. Note that I’ve also seen this kind of piece come up periodically so it’s not new, just two close together.

++ Secret Cities: Manhattan Project National Historical Park (Via oniropolis)
Manhattan Project National Historical Park preserves the classified sites where the Atomic Age dawned.


Schools of Understanding
Honestly, I didn’t get the chance to read everything from these two projects circling around what might be categorized as “Schools of Understanding” but both seem very promising and include a lot of thoughtful thinking.

Distributed Web of Care
This one by Taeyoon Choi looks brilliant and the major reason I haven’t read more is that there’s so much to explore when you start following the links, I keep waiting to eek out a good chunk of time and failing. I’ll try to come back to this but I wanted to share now.

Can we code to care and code carefully? The Distributed Web of Care (DWC) is a research initiative on communication infrastructure, exploring the Distributed Web as a peer-to-peer, alternative web which prioritizes collective agency and individual ownership of data and code. Through collaborations with artists, engineers, social scientists and community organizers, DWC imagines distributed networks as a form of interdependence and stewardship, in critical opposition to the networks that dominate the world today.


School of the Possible
This one is lead by Dave Gray and they’ve been writing up a storm about this project. The link above is to their Medium publication. Start here Introducing the School of the Possible and dig in.

In all the volatility and churn there are many learning opportunities. There are new insights to be gleaned, new business models to understand and adopt, new tools and methods that can accelerate learning and the generate new insights. […]

But unlike their industrial-age ancestors, these “new schools” are rethought, restructured, and redesigned for the digital age, which means they are optimized to discover and teach the theories, methods, skills, tools and practices of the digital age. […]

I want you to join me in creating a new kind of learning institution that’s virtual, connected, and culturally digital: A 21st-century connected ecosystem of practical-minded organizations, researchers, master practitioners, apprentices, customers, tools and methods.

Small caveat is that it all sounds really great but (and this might just be a part I haven’t gotten to yet), as promising as all the words look, I’m not quite sure what this will entail, how it will work.


Miscellany
The water war that will decide the fate of 1 in 8 Americans
This is not good, and only one example of the many existing and coming water conflicts.

The river sustains one in eight Americans — about 40 million people — and millions of acres of farmland. In the next 40 years, the region is expected to add at least 10 million more people, as the region’s rainfall becomes more erratic.

An especially dismal snowpack this past winter has forced a long-simmering dispute over water rights to the fore, one that splits people living above and below Lake Mead.

++ The Expanse’s Belter Language Has Real-World Roots
I just finished up watching The Expanse, which I quite enjoyed. The belter language is a nice way of emphasizing the difference in cultures in this version of the solar system.

++ Volkswagen in talks to manage Didi fleet, co-develop self-driving cars.
++ China’s Dancing Drone Show Just Broke The World Record.


Some of the most Sentiers things I Kottkied last week
All the links below go to the Kottke blog with more notes/context and quotes.

Why humans need stories
On stories, and Gilgamesh, and a culture where men and women speak different dialects.

Multiplicity
A beautiful and fascinating representation of Paris using thousands of photos shared online, clustered by location and similarity.

Athanasius Kircher, “the master of hundred arts”
Renaissance polymath Athanasius Kircher’s great masterworks, Mundus Subterraneus.

Gang Drones swarm FBI hostage raid
“Criminals are often at the forefront of new technologies, early adopters at the very least. This piece at Defense One; A Criminal Gang Used a Drone Swarm To Obstruct an FBI Hostage Raid, provides a few examples of drones being used by gangs.”

Divine Discontent
Ben Thompson on the divine discontent of users and how Apple and Amazon deal with that and disruption.

The Bering Sea’s ice is falling off a cliff
After a much warmer than usual winter, the ice in the Bering Sea, between Alaska and Russia, is at less than 10% of what is considered normal.

New Science from Jupiter
Liquid metallic hydrogen!

Charging speed is no longer an obstacle for electric cars
Charging speed is no longer an obstacle for electric cars. Changes in chargers, batteries, and how they make for an ever more useable package.

Cities flowing like liquids or organized like crystals
Researchers compared city grids to liquids and crystals and found that the “texture” of the grid affect the heat island effect.

Indeed, the fingerprints of cities like Boston and Los Angeles mirror the disorderly atomic structure of liquids and glass, while the likes of Chicago and New York City, with their streets and avenues perpendicular to one another, exhibit a more orderly configuration found in crystals.

Twitter history walk threads
I’m loving this new Twitter thread style; people picking something they want to see, usually a ruin or forgotten place, documenting their walk there and the things they discover. [This one was the most popular thing I blogged last week.]

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