Twitter cuts (#107)

Concluding paragraph from the embedded link:

The big picture of content monetization on the internet is bright. Not only will pleasurable content like puppy pics be profitable, but educational videos, scientific research, and product designs for 3D printers will all be profitable. The way the world works will change — bitcoin micropayments on the internet enables the birth of the information economy, a social improvement comparable to, but greater than, the transition to the industrial age. The full potential is incomprehensibly large and positive.

It plays down the looming religious war aspect, but it gets the scale right.

Quotable (#151)

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang on recent advances in deep learning:

… The system basically learns by itself using a lot of data and computation. If you keep showing it pictures of an orange, it eventually figures out what an orange is—or a Chihuahua versus a Labrador versus a small pony. Amazing things happened in 2015: Microsoft and Google beat the best human at image recognition for the first time. Baidu beat humans in recognizing two languages. Microsoft and the China University of Technology and Science taught a computer network how to take an IQ test, and it scored better than a college postgraduate. … […] AI has been plodding along for 50 years in research. And all of a sudden last year something happened. This new way of doing AI called deep learning is so tractable, so understandable — a tool you can apply so that you can create one single network to be trained to learn multiple languages and animals and things. And that you and I and some data scientists and engineers can train it. Last year AI went from research concept to engineering application. And all these engineers at Facebook and Google and others are taking this deep learning concept with all these frameworks, which is basically another word for tools, and turning these ideas into things of practical use. And now you’re seeing all these Internet companies announcing these practical uses. All of the industries are just exploding. Two years ago we were talking to 100 companies interested in using deep learning. This year we’re supporting 3,500. We’re talking about medical imaging, financial services, advertising, energy discovery, automotive applications. In two years’ time there has been 35X growth.

Quotable (#150)

Morozov on legimation crisis:

… technology firms are rapidly becoming the default background condition in which our politics itself is conducted. Once Google and Facebook take over the management of essential services, Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum that “there is no alternative” would no longer be a mere slogan but an accurate description of reality.

The worst is that today’s legitimation crisis could be our last. Any discussion of legitimacy presupposes not just the ability to sense injustice but also to imagine and implement a political alternative. Imagination would never be in short supply but the ability to implement things on a large scale is increasingly limited to technology giants. Once this transfer of power is complete, there won’t be a need to buy time any more – the democratic alternative will simply no longer be a feasible option.

Carlota Perez grasps the larger framework of this crisis with more historical realism than Morozov can muster, and thus judges its proportions more accurately. His entire argument is enveloped within hers as a predictable symptom of long-wave rhythms (down to its details of hyper-financialization, de-financialization, and concurrent socio-political upheaval). With that context noted, it’s still worth a read.

RIP Andy Grove

Chip-making giant, and the guy who said:

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.

From Intel’s news release:

Born András Gróf in Budapest, Hungary, Grove immigrated to the United States in 1956-7 having survived Nazi occupation and escaped Soviet repression. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York, completing his Ph.D at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963. After graduation, he was hired by Gordon Moore at Fairchild Semiconductor as a researcher and rose to assistant head of R&D under Moore. When Noyce and Moore left Fairchild to found Intel in 1968, Grove was their first hire. […] Grove played a critical role in the decision to move Intel’s focus from memory chips to microprocessors and led the firm’s transformation into a widely recognized consumer brand. Under his leadership, Intel produced the chips, including the 386 and Pentium, that helped usher in the PC era. The company also increased annual revenues from $1.9 billion to more than $26 billion.

Grove @ Wikipedia.

Obituaries at Fortune, The Verge, Wired, Bloomberg.

Quotable (#149)

A ruined empire on the brink:

All around the Web, in print, and on radio comes the claim that America has entered its “Weimar” phase. Economic collapse, political paralysis, rampant homosexuality, a desperate, disoriented populace open to the ravings of a demagogue – that is the portrait we get of Germany between the end of World War I in 1918 and the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. That is where America is supposedly situated in 2016. […] Yes, Weimar Germany ended badly, horribly so. But …

Much tying-itself-in-knots follows (not entirely uninterestingly).

The historical analogy is far stronger than the apologetic analysis. What Weitz refuses to contemplate, is that the set of outcomes he dogmatically defends as “social progress” is a partisan agenda (the New England Utopia) masquerading as a universal value. What left-liberals see as unambiguous advance looks to everyone else like losing. As the Internet decentralizes media, the progressive narrative monopoly is coming apart in the hurricane, and nostalgic preaching for the old religion won’t glue it back together. Weitz is right about one thing, though: there’s no doubt political developments could be blown in very ugly directions.

It’s chicken (the edge of the cliff version).
Left-Liberals: Stick with our vector for social development, or we’ll all go over the edge.
Mashed-Right: There have been far too many concessions already …

You have to swerve, Weitz pleads. Even if they do this time, they won’t forever, and its already far less obvious that they will. Compared to what we’re used to, that makes it a whole new world.

Quotable (#148)

Contemplating cognitive dependence:

Michael P. Lynch is a philosopher of truth. His fascinating new book, “The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data,” begins with a thought experiment: “Imagine a society where smartphones are miniaturized and hooked directly into a person’s brain.” As thought experiments go, this one isn’t much of a stretch. (“Eventually, you’ll have an implant,” Google’s Larry Page has promised, “where if you think about a fact it will just tell you the answer.”) Now imagine that, after living with these implants for generations, people grow to rely on them, to know what they know and forget how people used to learn — by observation, inquiry, and reason. Then picture this: overnight, an environmental disaster destroys so much of the planet’s electronic-communications grid that everyone’s implant crashes. It would be, Lynch says, as if the whole world had suddenly gone blind. There would be no immediate basis on which to establish the truth of a fact. No one would really know anything anymore, because no one would know how to know. I Google, therefore I am not. […] Lynch thinks we are frighteningly close to this point: blind to proof, no longer able to know. After all, we’re already no longer able to agree about how to know. …