June 5, 2017 – ISSUE #16


Dear Friends,

I had the great honour of working with an awesome bunch of people on the weekend to think through new ideas about the development of an ‘Emerging Media Arts’ curriculum at Megan Elliott’s Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. Awesome opportunity to be involved in something absolutely new.

Hope you can be part of it!


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“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of old ideas” – John Cage

Judah Vs. The Machines, an eight-episode web series that follows comedian Judah Friedlander as he takes on the world’s most sophisticated artificial intelligence systems to see who truly reigns supreme. The series was produced by The Onion, in collaboration with TechCrunch, and is an excellent combination of informative content and hilarity.

The End of Privacy: In part one of a three-part series, a Stanford professor discusses a controversial algorithm that knows more about you than your best friend. In just minutes online, you leave a rich digital trail behind. Data scientist Michal Kosinski developed a powerful algorithm that collects all those digital crumbs and creates a profile of you so intimate it might even surprise your spouse.

“All of us, when we are uploading something, when we are tagging people, when we are commenting, we are basically working for Facebook”. How Facebook’s tentacles reach further than you think. For example, here’s how Data Mining Facebook Messages Can Reveal Substance Abusers. (And here The Guardian exposes The life of a unhappy, underpaid, over-burdened life of Facebook moderator).

In Australia, Facebook offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt worthless, insecure, stressed, defeated, anxious, and like a failure. Welcome to the next phase of Facebook privacy backlash, where the big fear isn’t just what Facebook knows about its users but whether that knowledge can be weaponized in ways those users cannot see, and would never knowingly allow.

In front of a crowd of nearly 200 competition law experts, Andreas Mundt, president of Germany’s antitrust agency, Bundeskartellamt, said he was “deeply convinced privacy is a competition issue.” From Wired, Antitrust Watchdogs Eye Big Tech’s Monopoly on Your Data.

Your every move can be tracked by some feature of Google. When you use the Google search box, the company can track all your search queries and the websites you visit. If you use Google toolbar, the company can watch the amount of time you surf a website. With YouTube, your viewing habits can be tracked. Google’s FriendConnect and Orkut archive your social networks. Google News, Books, Feedburner or Blogger log your reading habits. The writing you produce is stored on Google Docs, and your purchase habits and credit card numbers are captured by Google Checkout. Also gathered are voiceprint and call habits, through Google Voice; travel interests, patterns and place associations, through Google Maps, Google Earth and Google StreetView; medical conditions, medical history and prescription drug use, through Google Health; photos of friends and family, through Google’s Picasa images; and general activities, through Google Calendar. Then, there’s Google Desktop, which, at one point, offered what appeared to be an innocuous feature called “Search Across Computers.” This allowed Google to scan your computer to archive copies of text documents. In other words, just about everything on your PC – love letters, tax returns, business records, bad poetry – was duplicated on a remote Google server. Gmail? They’ve got all your emails on-file.

Nations are beginning to take more seriously the control of their respective information space after years of allowing US-based tech giants Google and Facebook to monopolize and exploit them. Clearly, more is going on at Google than Internet searches. Tony Cartalucci explains the importance of replacing both Google and Facebook.

Earlier this month, The Australian uncovered something that felt like a breach in the social contract: a leaked confidential document prepared by Facebook that revealed the company had offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt worthless, insecure, stressed, defeated, anxious, and like a failure. Welcome to the next phase of Facebook privacy backlash, where the big fear isn’t just what Facebook knows about its users but whether that knowledge can be weaponized in ways those users cannot see, and would never knowingly allow.

As more information about ourselves is captured within Big Data systems by phones, social media platforms, fitness trackers, facial recognition software, and other forms of surveillance, algorithms assign identity markers to us, place us in categories based on correlations to patterns drawn from massive data sets, regardless of whether these correspond to how we think of ourselves.

Here’s a great article from Mishi Choudhary and Columbia professor Eben Moglen on “Digital Colonialism”, arguing that India should use its cost structures and talent base to offer cloud-based services that sell first world consumers their data privacy back to them as an export industry. Fascinating – and a lot of great enlightening points about how the data dictators Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple operate. (The first thing they notice is that the US government sees them as pillars of post-industrial American power, and as an immense national security intelligence resource; therefore, their strategic ally).

In today’s new economy—in which “good” jobs are typically knowledge or technology based—many well-educated and culturally savvy young men are instead choosing to pursue traditionally low-status manual labor occupations as careers. Masters of Craft looks at the renaissance of four such trades: bartending, distilling, barbering, and butchering.

Tackle the ‘frozen middle’ of your organization or face irrelevancy – a Chief Digital Officer shares how she’s enacting transformational change at a banking group and why culture and capability top her priority list. “That frozen middle will resist change like death. It exposes that they have no skills any more. If they’re not going to become craftsman and learn anymore, they need to move on.

MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has launched The Human Factor — an ongoing series of stories and interviews that highlight research on the human dimensions of global challenges. David Mindell, who researches the interaction between automation and human behavior, discusses the interdependence of people, robots, and infrastructure. He concludes: “I’ve long believed MIT needs a new school to address these synthetic, far reaching questions and train students to think in entirely new ways”.

Soylent, the tasteless, colorless “meal replacement powder” tells us something profound about the state of labour in the Silicon Valley tech industry. As Elon Musk has said, “If there was a way that I couldn’t eat so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal.” The New York Times report says “The time wasted by eating is, in Silicon Valley parlance, a ‘pain point’ even for the highest echelon of techie.” Personally, I don’t think this is going to catch on in France or China, where real food is a central and everyday part of culture, anytime soon.

“The Universe is an Intelligence Test” – Timothy Leary

Doug Clinton at TechCrunch explains how to create the most value for the next technology wave. There are three mindsets: 1) If you can create an operating system (OS), create an OS. 2) If you can’t create an OS, optimize a component of the new technology platform. Or 3) If you can’t optimize anything in the new platform, at least disrupt an industry that’s been relatively untouched by technology.

This totally unique mash-up between neuroscience and art shows the stunningly complex beauty of the human brain. Your brain is terrifyingly complicated and is made up of approximately 86 billion neurons which work together as a biological machine. But it takes some real cranium contortion to get your head around what those billions of signals and connected web of cells look like.  Artist and neuroscientist Dr. Greg Dunn combined talents with artist and physicist Dr. Brian Edwards to produce this unprecedented work of wonder.

Here’s a superb set of essays and videos from IEEE on ‘Can We Copy the Brain? A Unique Machine’ – Intensive efforts to re-create human cognition will transform the way we work, learn, and play – well worth poking around the essays and videos here!

Stanford professor Michael Kosinski’s videos (part one is above) – part two: ‘How AI Developed A Mind of Its Own’, and part three: ‘Can We Out Evolve Artificial Intelligence’.

“How do I get started with artificial intelligence?” and “What can I do with AI in my own product or company?” A superb AI summary playbook from Andreesson Horowitz.

25 Examples of A.I. That Will Seem Normal in 2027 – From cooking to dating to art.

Meanwhile, big banks will fall first to AI: China’s most famous VC, Lee Kai-Fu has so much trust in AI’s financial prowess he says, “I don’t trade with humans anymore”. He’s testing three algorithmic trading systems for his own wealth, which trade currencies, arbitrage, and a portfolio of its own choosing. His gamble has paid off: Lee reports that these systems have given an 8x return over his human personal banker, in an interview today with Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney.

Marcelo Rinesi, CTO of the absolutely excellent Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies says “Don’t worry about opaque algorithms; you already don’t know what anything is doing, or why”.

Ian Bogost explores whether Cryptocurrency Might be a Path to Authoritarianism.

Extreme libertarians (supposedly) built blockchain to decentralize government and corporate power (supposedly). It could yet consolidate their control instead.  While David Morris wonders about The Rise of Cryptocurrency Ponzi Schemes – scammers are making big money off people who want in on the latest digital gold rush but don’t understand how the technology works.

On the contrary, Jamie Bartlett visits the Parallel Polis’ annual Hackers Congress and discovers crypto-anarchism, how to use bitcoin, and which industries will be “Ubered” next – that is, transformed into a peer-to-peer industry conducted on an app.

“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced” – John Keats.

I’ve long been a sceptic that Entertainment VR is going anywhere anytime soon (high-cost, low value content) – while IMAX has begun to test VR Arcades, and the LA Times has a special report on ‘Can America’s Movie-going Habit be Saved? The past, present, and uncertain future of the Multiplex’, Variety Magazine explains Why Virtual Reality Will Never Be a Mainstream Entertainment Platform.

On the other hand, Matthais Mccoy-Thompson explains ‘How To Make VR Experiences that Actually Matter’ using Scale, Communication, Immersion, Flexibility, and Interaction.

The Verge’s new column on Immersive Entertainment, Being There, considers theme parks are the inevitable evolution of franchise movies (Disney’s parks business dwarfs its movie business)

VR pioneer Mark Pesce explains why Enterprise VR is the real deal in a report written for PwC (PwC has also released an excellent infographic of the development of the 5 tribes of Machine Learning).

If you haven’t see The Guardian report on the Sex Robot industry, it’s fascinating whether you’re excited or disgusted by it (and it’s very probably NSFW).

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” – Cesar Cruz.

Here’s a great short podcast by Alex Stolz with our friend famed Art Director Alex McDowell (Fight Club, Minority Report, and currently Art Directing the next Star Wars) on ‘Disrupting Film’.

Martin Scorsese writing in the Times Literary Supplement on ‘Standing Up for Cinema’. He’s disagreeing with a reviewer’s opinion that “In a book reader and writer collaborate to produce images, while a film director hands them down.”

The Economist provides a toolkit for predicting the future: To see what lies ahead in technology, look to the past, the present, and the imagined futures of science fiction.

At the same time, The X Prize Foundation assembled a supergroup of some of the world’s best-known science fiction authors to help the organization imagine what the future will look like.  The Science Fiction Advisory Council is made up of 64 advisors, which includes some of the biggest names from the world of science fiction, literature, film, and television – it’s a spectacular list of who’s cool at school (click on each of the names in the bookshelf), and it’s also your reading list that will last you for years!

Meanwhile the Norman Foster Foundation held its first ‘The Future is Now’ forum in Madrid this week. The Foundation is inherently interdisciplinary in scope, with its wide-ranging focus extending from architecture to infrastructure, engineering, technology, cities, the arts, and more. “I describe it as questioning traditional hierarchies and adopting a roundtable approach to creativity,” said Foster in a description of the organization.

MIT Press has just released a new edition of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece ‘Frankenstein’ – “annotated for scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds”.

Probably no-one has changed modern music more, without even writing a song, than Robert Moog and his Moog Synthesizer. Here’s a brilliant 2-part history of the mini-moog which has influenced almost all the music you’ve ever heard. Check out the recent awesome Moogfest and the program themes. Make plans to be there next year. I am.

It’s also noted Moogist Brian Eno’s birthday this week: what do you want – he’s worked with Roxy Music / U2 / Talking Heads / David Byrne (the soundtrack of an exorcism) / David Bowie’s immortal ‘Heroes’ / or even his own original work – my favorite: “I’ll Come Running to Tie your Shoes”)

Our friend Martyn Ware (Human League and Heaven 17) basically pioneered British electronic music with a Moog – here’s a song with a surprising new relevance (and still very cool) “Brothers, Sisters / We don’t need this fascist groove thing”.

To finish the moog meme, it’s also Keith Emerson’s birthday this edition and he probably had the biggest Moog ever constructed for this epic performance by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer of Aaron Copland’s modernist masterpiece ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. Incredible music.

Gotta mention the very great Stephen Patrick Morrissey – the English poet of his generation – and this blistering version of ‘How Soon is Now’ at the Hollywood Bowl.

How about the incredible Grace Jones – Slave to the Rhythm – a super video – and then there’s the amazing genius of early Busta Rhymes – his early videos were masterpieces of visual and vocal genius. Click on both links. You’ll love it.

Birthday person Bob Dylan playing one of the most popular songs ever recorded. “Like a Rolling Stone” recorded here with the, ah, Rolling Stones.

It’s also the remarkable Cate Blanchett’s birthday – here’s Cate Blanchett playing different characters in the masterpiece artwork Manifesto, you’ve got to see it to believe it, and, oh, here’s Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan.

And then there’s Kris Novocelic – Nirvana might have made the mainstream with MTV Unplugged – but they were always a ferocious 3-piece indie guitar band.

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