The robots aren’t the problem, the bosses are

In every single one of these cases what has occurred is that those in control of a company have made an active choice to pick the machine over the human – and such machines were largely created to provide these owners with just this choice. The robots did not voice any opinion in the matter. To put it more plainly: the burger flipping robot does not want to replace any human workers (nor for that matter does it want to not replace human workers) because the burger flipping robot does not want anything. The robots aren’t the problem, the bosses are – Librarian Shipwreck

6 reasons to be (technologically) cheerful

No.1

In my experience – and occasionally to my slight disappointment – free e-books available online are of a poor quality. Standard Ebooks, a volunteer not-for-profit effort, are doing something about this.

No.2

Solid is a project, led by Tim Berners-Lee, which aims “to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy.”

One of the issues it looks to negate is ‘vendor lock-in’; or what Jaron Lanier in his book Who Owns The Future calls less diplomatically ‘punishing lock-in’; this is where a user puts data valuable to them into a server but then cannot leave that server as access to their data will be lost.

No.3

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t track you; Ecosia is a search engine which uses the ad revenue it produces from search ads to plant tress. Both seem a good idea because if you can’t (as yet – see no.2) own the data you create you might as well assert some control over the data you put out there, or put the data you do generate to some use.

No.4

OpenStreetCab is an app which lets you compare prices between black cabs, Lyft and Uber (London and New York only currently). While not able to address some fundamental issues with the sector, this app seems at the very least to (re)introduce some competition between the platforms.

No.5

The continuation of RSS readers. I use NewsBlur, but have used Feedly.

No.6

That you are able to own your digital presence:

It’s not yet been a year on from deciding to migrate (most of) my digital presence to WordPress, so I hope I’m not speaking prematurely, but overall I think my decision has been a good one. There have been drawbacks. And when I think of a particular drawback such as the loss of ease at which I can stay in touch with friends, I try to bear the following in mind from the writer Warren Ellis:

My social media are either deleted or shut off in some way, but it’s not hermitage, because friends and comrades know how to reach me. I’ve just turned the volume control down on the world, and I focus on other things, in other ways. It brings me peace, and peace brings me clarity, and clarity brings me energy. Good to go.

 

Reading: Delayed Gratification, Issue 27

Dead Ends

There was an article on AI in last week’s Sunday Times with the headline Robot wars: if we can’t beat them, let’s become them. It’s behind a paywall but some excerpts:

The truth is that Bob, Alice and Tay [AI programs) were straws in a wind that could, one day soon, blow humans off the planet

New machines could soon wipe out millions of jobs

As one technologist put it to me: “You can be confident your laptop isn’t going to strangle you, but it might with the help of your fridge.” We already know what the bad bots can do to our bank accounts

The article carries on in this vein. The writer, Brian Appleyard, does briefly offer up a counter view through Luciano Floridi but concludes:

Maybe he’s right. Or maybe one day soon our cars and fridges or future Bobs, Alices and Tays, talking gibberish, hating feminists and supporting Hitler, will decide that we’re just getting in the way

This type of article (it just so happens to be the most recent one I’ve read, though it is probably the guiltiest) only leads to what Tom Chatfield – a writer whose even handedness when writing about technology I really like – calls the dead end of human vs machine panic. It’s a dead end because it doesn’t encourage conversation, or reasoning, it just serves to set people to anxiety and worry.

 

Stranger than Fiction

In the Financial Times (I know, I know) yesterday there was an article headlined Drama is struggling to match the reality of Donald Trump. It’s behind a paywall unfortunately, but it discusses, albeit briefly, how “satire, theatre and TV shows are challenged with the restless US news agenda”.

Continue reading “Stranger than Fiction”

Money, Money, Money / Must Be Funny

I was left with this feeling that we are all still borrowing money we don’t have to spend on stuff we don’t need – we are still dancing on the deck of the Titanic

As voice-command purchasing is enabled as default on the Echo devices, some viewers’ Alexa units interpreteded Patton’s words as a command, resulting in a series of additional dollhouse dispatches

These two quotes are taken from the new issue of Delayed Gratification, a magazine which again I’d recommend. The first is from Laura Greenfield, a photo journalist, “who has spent 25 years documenting dept, the growth of consumerism and the rise, fall and rise again of the super-rich”; the second from a regular feature in DG, The butterfly effect, which in this issue shows how a derailed banking career in C19 Vienna led to the mass online ordering of dollhouses in January 2017.

Feature followed article and I felt the two quotes, by accident or design, highlighted and complimented each other nicely.

Under No Illusion

To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion. So I’m not just staying off Twitter, I’m cutting back on the news sites in my RSS feed, and deleting browser bookmarks to newspapers. Instead, I am turning more of my attention to monthly magazines, quarterly journals, and books. I’m trying to get a somewhat longer view of things — trying to start thinking about issues one when some of the basic facts about them have been sorted out. Taking the short view has burned me far too many times.

– Alan Jacobs

My copy of the new issue of Delayed Gratification arrived in the post today.

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I began buying it about a year ago and thanks to a subscription bought for me for Christmas by my sister I will be reading it well into this year. It’s difficult to remember what sparked my initial decision to buy it, but the issues Alan Jacobs brings up in this post from earlier this year are definitely similar to the ones bothering me at the time.

Whether Delayed Gratification will usher in a slow news revolution is debatable. Perhaps it’s unimportant. For currently it provides an alternative to the existing news landscape and I’d definitely recommend you buying a copy.