Else 9.2.14: Don’t Worry, The Robots Are Our Friends. But the People?

Blade-Runner_610
“All these moments…will be lost in time…”

Else is back after an extended summer hiatus – thanks for taking the time off with me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to return to this newsletter, but its a good ritual for me to condense and annotate my daily and weekly reading habits, and enough of you have subscribed that I figured you might be missing the updates. I kind of was.

 Like this newsletter? Sign up! 

Read More
Leave a comment on Else 9.2.14: Don’t Worry, The Robots Are Our Friends. But the People?

Why You Need to See ‘Her’ (Or, ‘Her’ Again)

her-poster

A while ago I wrote a piece about Dave Egger’s latest novel The Circle. I gave the post the too-clever-by-twice title of  Why You Should Read The Circle, Even If You Don’t Buy It. While the book had (to my mind) deep flaws, it was far too important to not read.

Before a long flight today, I noticed that The Circle is now in paperback – it’s prominently featured in the JFK terminal bookstores. It reminded me that I enjoyed the novel, even if I found it somewhat disappointing. And it further reminded me that I tend to wait before consuming popular culture interpretations of what I consider to be my story – or perhaps more accurately our story. They so rarely seem to get it right. Of course, I understand there’s no “right” in the first place – so perhaps what I mean is…I feel like I’m going to be disappointed, so I avoid anything that might attempt to interpret the man-machine narrative in a way that maybe, just maybe, might prove me wrong.

Read More
10 Comments on Why You Need to See ‘Her’ (Or, ‘Her’ Again)

Else 5.19.14: I Too, Shall Be Forgotten (At Least By Europe)

Oh-Im-sorry.-I-forgot-I-only-exist-when-you-need-something.(image) If ever you wanted proof we are renegotiating our social contract in the Internet age, this week’s roundup of the best links provides plenty of fodder. Onwards…

The Myths & Realities Of How Of The EU’s New “Right To Be Forgotten” In Google Works – MarketingLand Google and other search engines will have to hew to new EU rules. But how they will be implemented is a big unknown. This looks to be a huge issue moving forward – what is a person’s right to ‘dignity’? In the US, it’s not much. In the EU, far more. But at what price to free speech?

Transparency Reports Database – Silk A roundup of the ever increasing number of transparency reports from digital companies subpoenaed by the US government. This promises to be one fat file a year from now.

Read More
1 Comment on Else 5.19.14: I Too, Shall Be Forgotten (At Least By Europe)

Else 3.31.14: Skulls, Bitcoin, AI, Souls, and Corporate Religion

ieee-spectrum-technological-singularity-thumb(image) If you’re a reader of this newsletter, you’re in elite company. Each week I chose ten or so stories from the score or so that I save to Evernote, and I annotate them after about three glasses of wine on a Sunday night. I make no pretense to be Jason or Dave, instead, this is a way to remember the most important stories of the past week through the filter of “the book.” And when I say “the book,” I mean That Project That Has Haunted Me For More Than Five Years But Is Increasingly Becoming Real. In other words, if you read this newsletter (or post), you’re a true fan of my work. And for that, I am thankful.

This past week was full of gems. The New Yorker reminded us how poignant digital life can be. We struggled with the ethics of 3D printing, even as we reveled in its power to save lives. Oh, and then there’s the singularity, and protecting us from the same. An epic Facebook rant, more Bitcoin, more brain-twisters about who’s a person, alive, dead, or corporate, in our increasingly mashed up world. To the links…

The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf : The New Yorker

Read More
1 Comment on Else 3.31.14: Skulls, Bitcoin, AI, Souls, and Corporate Religion

Else 3.3.14: Is The Internet A Utility?

elecutilThe week was dominated by Google related stories, but the top dialog had to do with the Internet itself. I’m sensing something of a shift in society’s beliefs about the Internet’s central role in our humanity. Five years ago, no one wanted to talk about Internet access as a basic human right. In 2012, the UN called it exactly that. With access consolidating into what looks like a natural monopoly, might regulation as a utility be far behind?

Real Time (Medium) Another, denser version of previous essays asking whether it isn’t time to call the Internet a basic utility. “..the immaterial organisation of the internet has now become the most dominant force on this side of the planet...” Unfortunately, this piece is too dense. Try this one instead: The Internet Is Fucked (TechCrunch) in which the author enjoins: “Go ahead, say it out loud. The internet is a utility.There, you’ve just skipped past a quarter century of regulatory corruption and lawsuits that still rage to this day and arrived directly at the obvious conclusion.” Of course, that created a rejoinder: More? – “The Internet is an incredibly useful tool in modern society, but it isn’t essential to the basic functioning of society. Utilities are.” My take: The Internet is a basic need now for the info-organism we are all becoming. So I’m leaning toward the utility camp, I’m afraid. There’s a new book on the subject, should you be interested.

The Monuments of Tech  (NYTimes.com) A meditation, with far too photos, on the meaning of the campuses built by Google, Twitter, Apple, Facebook. Have you read The Circle yet? Read The Circle. Then read this.

Read More
1 Comment on Else 3.3.14: Is The Internet A Utility?

else 2.17: “Drag the future here and see if we want it”

This week looked at convergence in wearables, how we live with technology today and in the near future, and the possibility that reality is just a mathematical model. As always if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

 

The Plus in Google Plus? It’s Mostly for Google — NYTimes
Even if Plus isn’t where you spend your time, it’s the basis for a consolidated view of your activity across Google. That will  become even more important with time. “With a single Plus account, the company can build a database of your affinities.”

Read More
Leave a comment on else 2.17: “Drag the future here and see if we want it”

else 2.10: “Information that was never designed for a human to see”

This week, we were thinking about data post-language, reading the tea leaves of algorithms, and wondering how to protect the first principles of the web. As always, if you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS. And tweet us links!

 

We’re Leaving — The Bygone BureauI like this take on the discussion of the “post-verbal” in Her as suggesting a time when data supplants language. It was a very brief moment in the movie, but I think it’s at the crux of how we will relate to our machines going forward.

Read More
Leave a comment on else 2.10: “Information that was never designed for a human to see”

Step One: Turn The World To Data. Step Two?

housenumbers1Is the public ready to accept the infinite glance of our own technology? That question springs up nearly everywhere I look these days, from the land rush in “deep learning” and AI companies (here, here, here) to the cultural stir that accompanied Spike Jonze’ Her. The relentless flow of Snowden NSA revelations, commercial data breaches, and our culture’s ongoing battle over personal data further frame the question.

But no single development made me sit up and ponder as much as the recent news that Google’s using neural networks to decode images of street addresses. On its face, the story isn’t that big a deal: Through its Street View program, Google collects a vast set of images, including pictures of actual addresses. This address data is very useful to Google, as the piece notes: “The company uses the images to read house numbers and match them to their geolocation. This physically locates the position of each building in its database.”

In the past, Google has used teams of humans to “read” its street address images – in essence, to render images into actionable data. But using neural network technology, the company has trained computers to extract that data automatically – and with a level of accuracy that meets or beats human operators.Not to mention, it’s a hell of a lot faster, cheaper, and scaleable.

Read More
8 Comments on Step One: Turn The World To Data. Step Two?

else 8.19: Why We Should Replace the Turing Test

433px-Weakness_of_Turing_test_1.svg

(image) Among many other things (we usually add 20-30 items into our book’s Evernote account each week), this past week we read about developments in brain-computer interfaces, and how connecting smart devices introduces new vulnerabilities. We also read about how policy and ethics questions need to catch up with technology that makes surveillance easier. If you want to keep up with what we’re reading/thinking about on a weekly basis, the best way is to subscribe to the “else” feed, either as an email newsletter or through RSS.

 

Read More
Leave a comment on else 8.19: Why We Should Replace the Turing Test