Quotable (#143)

William Faulkner quits his post office job:

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

(Source.)

Quotable (#142)

A cluster of crucial arguments here, launched by an exotic question:

What if artificial intelligence is so unfamiliar that we have a hard time recognising it? Could our machines have become self-aware without our even knowing it? The huge obstacle to addressing such questions is that no one is really sure what consciousness is, let alone whether we’d know it if we saw it. …

Despite decades of focused effort, computer scientists haven’t managed to build an AI system intentionally, so it can’t be easy. For this reason, even those who fret the most about artificial intelligence, such as University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, doubt that AI will catch us completely unawares. And yet, there is reason to think that conscious machines might be a byproduct of some other effort altogether. …

(UF emphasis.)

Quotable (#141)

Barry Silbert (quoted in this in-depth profile):

On a probability, risk-adjusted basis, if I’m going to make a bet on what people want to own if the shit hits the fan, I’m going to want to make a bet on something that’s not being held by all the central governments whose fan is being hit with the shit.

Quotable (#140)

VR as a manipulative medium:

VR for the eyes, while sensational, offers no new information to the viewer. VR is more aptly comparable to 3D televisions than smartphones. […] VR for the hands, on the contrary, empowers humans like never before. If you want a magic thread to follow to find VR gold, just follow the hands. …

There’s a new kind of VR input device that does what the mouse does, but for 3D worlds. It’s called the 1:1 (“one to one”) motion controller. Hold one in your hand, and whichever ways your hand moves, it moves that way in the 3D world. This technology is dead-simple to use, and — most importantly — enables us to do things that we can’t with a mouse or touchscreen. Like the Nintendo Wii controller, perfected. […] This new generation of 1:1 motion controllers, pioneered by the Playstation Move and Razer Hydra, is being brought into maturity by devices like the Oculus Touch and Vive controllers. It is with these new input devices that we see a dimensional difference in what we can do. Mice track our hands with 2 dimensions (x, y). Next generation motion controllers measure not 3, but actually up to 12 dimensions at once (each hand has 3 positional and 3 orientational dimensions). Channeled appropriately, this massively higher dimensional input stream allows us to specify much more simultaneous information to a computer.

We live in a visual culture, and often forget that our hands got us here. […] … As developers begin to take advantage of the 1:1 motion controller, we will see changes that science fiction has yet to predict. Sight is our primary sense, but it’s time we all started paying a little more attention to our hands. It’s how we get things done.

Twitter cuts (#100)

VR rising (from last year, but suddenly topical):


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Bitcoin as SOCI

This is one of the greatest things ever written, period.

‘SOCI’ abbreviates ‘self-organizing collective intelligence’.

The basic dynamics of a SOCI is as follows. It begins as some sort of attractor — some aesthetic sensibility or yearning — that is able to grab the attention and energy of some group of people. Generally one that is very vague and abstract. Some idea or notion that only makes sense to a relatively small group. […] But, and this is the key move, when those people apply their attention and energy to the SOCI, this makes it more real, easier for more people to grasp and to find interesting and valuable. Therefore, more attractive to more people and their attention and energy. […] … If the SOCI has enough capacity within its collective intelligence to resolve the challenge, it “levels up” and expands its ability to attract more attention and energy. If not, then it becomes somewhat bounded (at least for the present) and begins to find the limit of “what it is”.

Greenhal then narrates the story of Bitcoin to date, within this framework. The sheer enormity of the innovation it has introduced emerges starkly.

In conclusion:

My sense is that over just the next five years this new form of SOCI will go through its gestation, birthing and childhood development stages. The result will be a form of collective intelligence that is so much more capable than anything in the current environment that it will sweep away even the most powerful contemporary collective intelligences (in particular both corporations and nation states) in establishing itself as the new dominant form of collective intelligence on the Earth. […] And whoever gets there first will “win” in a fashion that is rarely seen in history.

This will look prophetic not too far down the road.

Quotable (#139)

PHNOM PENH: One of the Khmer Rouge’s top surviving leaders on Wednesday (Feb 18) challenged his life sentence for crimes against humanity and said he had only fought for “social justice” in Cambodia, in rare comments made to a UN-backed court. […] … “What I want to say today and what I want my countrymen to hear is that as an intellectual I have never wanted anything other than social justice for my country,” Khieu Samphan told the court’s seven judges on the final day of the appeal hearing.

Fair enough.

(Via.)

Crypto-Competition

Klint Finley thinks through Apple’s crypto stance as business strategy:

You may see Tim Cook as a champion of privacy or as an enabler of terrorism. Either way, it makes good business sense for Apple to stand up to the FBI.

Apple has been trying to position itself as a protector of privacy, a kind of anti-Google, since long before the FBI’s court order. In 2014, Tim Cook claimed on Charlie Rose that Apple has no way to decrypt messages sent through iMessage (at least as long as you don’t back them up to iCloud). And at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company’s speakers repeatedly emphasized that although apps like Siri store your data, that data stays on your device and isn’t shared with Apple.

That positioning stands in stark contrast to Google, which is heavily dependent on advertising revenue and has an incentive to gather as much user data as possible. Yes, Apple runs the iAds network, so there’s a bit of spin involved in the Cupertino company’s positioning, but it’s true that Google and Apple have very different business models overall. That, combined with the way Apple makes it dead simple to encrypt the data stored on your iPhone or Macbook, has given Apple products a reputation of being secure yet easy to use. Complying with the FBI’s request would jeopardize the company’s image as the paragon of easy security.

Of course there’s also a risk in taking on the FBI. …

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