Out of Time

Some realistic questions about prospective machine intelligence regulation:

… we still don’t have a concrete answer about how to effectively regulate the use of algorithms. AI is just another very complex layer added to this already complex discussion, sometimes directly related to “big data” (in the case of deep learning, for example) and other times addressing far bigger questions (in the case of sentient machines, for example).

The UF (accelerationist) response is probably predictable: There isn’t time to reach answers. Acceleration means only (and exactly) that the problem is receding, or escaping. If it would only slow down, everything would be okay. It won’t.

Quotable (#222)

China soaring:

In 2016 the world saw the completion of 128 skyscrapers, up from 114 in 2015, according to the US-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (it defines a skyscraper as being higher than 200 m, or 656 ft). Of those, 84 came from China, a new record for the nation. China has topped the council’s completions list every year for nearly a decade (pdf, p. 2). In 2015 it notched 68 such buildings, also a record in China at the time. […] Shenzhen, a city in southern China known for electronics manufacturing, stood out last year, completing 11 such skyscrapers. That’s more than the US and Australia combined.

(Via, and see related.)

Quotable (#220)

Mother Jones on the other America, that’s poking back through:

Although the DeVoses have rarely commented on how their religious views affect their philanthropy and political activism, their spending speaks volumes. Mother Jones has analyzed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation’s tax filings from 2000 to 2014, as well as the 2001 to 2014 filings from her parents’ charitable organization, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. (Betsy DeVos was vice president of the Prince Foundation during those years.) During that period, the DeVoses spent nearly $100 million in philanthropic giving, and the Princes spent $70 million. While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools and evangelical missions and conservative, free-market think tanks, like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center, that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.

It mostly seems to be looking shockingly good for libertarians. On that:

ADDED: And more.

Mark Fisher RIP

Urbanomic’s obituary is excellent throughout. A telling snippet:

Having unexpectedly had an abstract for a joint conference paper accepted, and following a lengthy train journey, Mark and I began writing our paper the morning before the conference (of course), and a state of panic swiftly morphed into a sleep-deprived, hysterical flow state. It was hugely enjoyable, because Mark was never happier than when swept up in working on something that seemed to be building itself, soliciting further input, coalescing into some unexpected entity before his eyes, suggesting new double-meanings, puns, unexpected connections between the abstract and the empirical, Marvel Comics-style names for as-yet unnamed forces, concepts for unrecognised processes. Then the self-doubt would disappear, the anxiety would dissipate (even if the paper had to be given in a few hours!) and he would be in his element: that outside element, something beyond the strictures of the personal, that fuels enthusiasm and enthralled fascination with what is being ‘channelled’.

Mark Fisher’s life was an extreme manic-depressive roller-coaster, which he constantly sought to cosmically (and socio-politically) rationalize. The upswings were incandescent with a creative energy beyond anything I have ever witnessed (or engaged with). The downswings were hell. Finally, he reached one he was unable to wait-out.

The Ccru was only one stage in his life, though it was of course the one I knew best. His contribution was so complete that it eludes any attempt at isolation. That Ccru happened at all was only due to his absorption into the entity. When he dropped out — during an earlier season in the abyss, around the turn of the Millennium — it was over.

ADDED: An obituary from Simon Reynolds.

Quotable (#219)

The NYT talks to Thiel:

His critics demanded to know how someone who immigrated from Frankfurt to Cleveland as a child could support a campaign so bristling with intolerance. How could a gay man back someone who will probably nominate Supreme Court justices inclined to limit rights for gays and women? How could a futurist support a cave man who champions fossil fuels, puts profits over environmental protection and insists that we can turn back the clock on the effects of globalization on American workers?

“There are reduced expectations for the younger generation, and this is the first time this has happened in American history,” Mr. Thiel says. “Even if there are aspects of Trump that are retro and that seem to be going back to the past, I think a lot of people want to go back to a past that was futuristic …

That “a past that was futuristic” thought could go somewhere — all we need is a name for it.

Quotable (#218)

Timothy Garton Ash on Europe today:

Had I been cryogenically frozen in January 2005, I would have gone to my provisional rest as a happy European. … […] … Cryogenically reanimated in January 2017, I would immediately have died again from shock. For now there is crisis and disintegration wherever I look …