When Will the Planet Be Too Hot For Humans? Much, Much Sooner Than You Imagine.

“Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.”

When Will the Planet Be Too Hot For Humans? Much, Much Sooner Than You Imagine.
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html
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A Blueprint for Coexistence with AI | Very thoughtful piece by Kei Fu Li

“Our coexistence with artificial intelligence hinges on combining what is humanly unattainable—the hugely scaled narrow AI intelligence that will only get better at any given domain—with what we humans can uniquely offer to one another. And that is love. What makes us human is that we can love.

We are far from understanding the human “heart,” let alone replicating it. But we do know that humans are uniquely able to love and be loved. The moment when we see our newborn babies; the feeling of love at first sight; the warm feeling from friends who listen to us empathetically; the feeling of self-actualization when we help someone in need. Loving and being loved are what makes our lives worthwhile.”

A Blueprint for Coexistence with AI | Backchannel
https://www.wired.com/story/a-blueprint-for-coexistence-with-artificial-intelligence/
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Climate Change: Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says? (The Atlantic)

“On the other hand, a strategy for addressing climate change is coming together. The cost of solar and wind energy are plunging worldwide; carmakers are promising to take more of their fleet electric, and the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from human activity has stabilized over the past three years. Decarbonizing will be an arduous and difficult global project—but technological development and government policy are finally bringing it into the realm of the possible.

But on the other, other hand, the Trump administration is methodically and successfully undermining the substance of American climate policy. It has spread untruths about climate science, abandoned the Paris Agreement, and stricken dozens of climate-focused EPA rules from the law books. Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor who has observed climate diplomacy for 30 years, told me that this is one of the most dispiriting moments he can remember—and that he believes Earth is now doomed to warm by more than two degrees Celsius.

That’s the state of the world right now. There are three ongoing shifts and no easy way to synthesize them. The facts don’t lend themselves to an overwhelming vision. Instead, they suggest that the planet’s economic system is in the middle of a difficult and supremely important political battle with itself. As Brad Plumer, a New York Times climate reporter, tweeted last week: There are “two radically opposed visions of the future; [it’s] not yet clear which one will win out.”

It’s into that morass that this week’s New York magazine walks. In a widely shared article, David Wallace-Wells sketches the bleakest possible scenario for global warming. He warns of a planet so awash in greenhouse gas that Brooklyn’s heat waves will rival Bahrain’s. The breadbaskets of China and the United States will enter a debilitating and everlasting drought, he says. And millions of brains will so lack oxygen that they’ll slip into a carbon-induced confusion.”

Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says?
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/07/is-the-earth-really-that-doomed/533112/
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Reining in the dastardly algorithms that are trying to control our lives

“The moment we are unable to recognize whether we feel better because of pleasantries arising from the decisions we made ourselves or because of an artificial environment that an algorithm has created, we are in big trouble. Because at that moment, instead of technology working for us by expanding our world, it has exerted its control to narrow it.

Machine learning on the Web potentially manipulates and constricts our worldview. In the real world, though, it manipulates our bodies and physicality, narrowing the boundaries of our world.”

Reining in the dastardly algorithms that are trying to control our lives
https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/07/09/reining-dastardly-algorithms-trying-control-lives/
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Ends, Means, and Antitrust (nice Stretchery post on the Google fine)

“This is perhaps the most consequential aspect of this case, and I think the European Commission got it exactly right. Last year in Antitrust and Aggregation I explained why the unique dynamics of the Internet push towards dominant players that look very different from the monopolies of the past:

Aggregation Theory is about how business works in a world with zero distribution costs and zero transaction costs; consumers are attracted to an aggregator through the delivery of a superior experience, which attracts modular suppliers, which improves the experience and thus attracts more consumers, and thus more suppliers in the aforementioned virtuous cycle. It is a phenomenon seen across industries including search (Google and web pages), feeds (Facebook and content), shopping (Amazon and retail goods), video (Netflix/YouTube and content creators), transportation (Uber/Didi and drivers), and lodging (Airbnb and rooms, Booking/Expedia and hotels).

The first key antitrust implication of Aggregation Theory is that, thanks to these virtuous cycles, the big get bigger; indeed, all things being equal the equilibrium state in a market covered by Aggregation Theory is monopoly: one aggregator that has captured all of the consumers and all of the suppliers. This monopoly, though, is a lot different than the monopolies of yesteryear: aggregators aren’t limiting consumer choice by controlling supply (like oil) or distribution (like railroads) or infrastructure (like telephone wires); rather, consumers are self-selecting onto the Aggregator’s platform because it’s a better experience.”

Ends, Means, and Antitrust
https://stratechery.com/2017/ends-means-and-antitrust/
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Rise of the machines: who is the ‘internet of things’ good for (via TheGuardian)

“the colonisation of the domestic environment by similarly networked products and services is intended to deliver a very different experience: convenience. The aim of such “smart home” efforts is to short-circuit the process of reflection that stands between having a desire and fulfilling that desire by buying something.”

Rise of the machines: who is the ‘internet of things’ good for?
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/06/internet-of-things-smart-home-smart-city
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The Rise of the Thought Leader - some critical thoughts by Daniel Drezner

“The case against thought leaders, The Ideas Industry shows, is damning. As Drezner notes, some of the marquee names in thought leadership are distinguished by their facile thinking and transparent servility to the wealthy. The biggest idea in Thomas Friedman’s best-known book, The World Is Flat, is, Drezner summarizes, that “to thrive in the global economy, one needs to be ‘special,’ a unique brand like Michael Jordan.” It is more of a marketing principle than a philosophical insight. But “businessmen adore Friedman’s writings on how technology and globalization transform the global economy,” Drezner explains, because his message reinforces their worldview.”

Interesting points here - can't really decide if this is an astute analysis or party a kind of jealousy ... or both ?



A leading Silicon Valley engineer explains why every tech worker needs a humanities education (the power of philosophy)

“It worries me that so many of the builders of technology today are people who haven’t spent time thinking about these larger questions.” Ruefully—and with some embarrassment at my younger self’s condescending attitude toward the humanities—I now wish that I had strived for a proper liberal arts education. That I’d learned how to think critically about the world we live in and how to engage with it. That I’d absorbed lessons about how to identify and interrogate privilege, power structures, structural inequality, and injustice. That I’d had opportunities to debate my peers and develop informed opinions on philosophy and morality. And even more than all of that, I wish I’d even realized that these were worthwhile thoughts to fill my mind with—that all of my engineering work would be contextualized by such subjects.”

A leading Silicon Valley engineer explains why every tech worker needs a humanities education
https://qz.com/1016900/tracy-chou-leading-silicon-valley-engineer-explains-why-every-tech-worker-needs-a-humanities-education/
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The Guardian view on the EU’s Google judgment: firm and fair - made me think!

“The breathtaking fine of €2.4bn that the European commission has imposed on Google for exploiting its virtual monopoly of search is shocking and welcome. It shows that there is at least one polity that is prepared to stand up to the giant tech companies and try to bring them under the rule of the law. The individual countries of Europe are not large enough: Denmark, which has just announced the rather gimmicky appointment of an “ambassador to Silicon Valley”, has a GDP only about two-thirds the size of Facebook’s business. But the EU is big enough and strong enough to act. Further judgments and no doubt further fines are expected in two other cases where Google is accused of steering the market towards its own advertising businesses rather than those of its competitors.

The technology of the mobile internet has been a huge blessing for the world. But where it is not in the hands of undemocratic governments, it is controlled today by multinational advertising companies, which is the business that makes both Google and Facebook their almost incredible profits. However benign their intentions, the sheer size and reach of these companies makes them dangerous. This judgment represents one of the few serious attempts to manage these monopolies. It’s a welcome start.”

The Guardian view on the EU’s Google judgment: firm and fair | Editorial
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/27/guardian-view-eu-google-judgment-fair-fine
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Be Aware, Be Very Aware (Tristan Harris Podcast)

“we should acknowledge that the psychology of our minds work in specific, predictable and persuadable ways with “big holes waiting for things to pop in.” This presents a kind of existential problem because all of us are trapped inside the same psychological architecture and vulnerable to the techniques of persuasion.

“… persuasion is kind of like that. There is something that can subvert my architecture. I can’t close the holes that are in my brain, they are just there for someone to exploit. The best I can do is to become aware of some of them, but then I don’t want to walk around the world being just vigilant all the time of all the ways my buttons are being pressed.”

Tristan Harris says there’s a whole industry dedicated to this “dark art form” that people are not aware of. Consider, for example, that many people, when asked about the rise of big data, are not really all that alarmed that their personal data is out there. The familiar response is: “I’ve got nothing to hide.” But if they realized that this data is used to feed the attention economy and the underlying methods of persuasion that come with it they might be more concerned. What if this dedicated group of engineers develops a type of artificial intelligence that literally knows how to persuade you to do anything?”

Be Aware, Be Very Aware – Slaw
http://www.slaw.ca/2017/06/26/be-aware-be-very-aware/
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