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Optimization Through Merger

Last month I highlighted the work Elon Musk and his Nerualink team are doing towards connecting the brain directly to a computer via an electrode implanted inside your head.  The goal is straightforward: link the mind to artificial intelligence at the speed of data, without the interface effects of typing, mousing or even speaking to slow things down.

But what if the human brain itself becomes the limitation? Designer Keiichi Matsuda’s 4-minute short film explores the ultimate choice awaiting the worshipers of the “cult of productivity.” Take a watch.

2Fixing the Web

In his book Life After Google, George Gilder describes the macro-trend that the internet has traversed since Tim Berners-Lee drew up the initial plan for the World Wide Web in 1989: from the information-rich wide open frontier of the distributed Net in the early days, to the centralized “walled garden” data farms of today’s Google/Facebook/Amazon world.

Like Gilder, Richard Witt sees the same disturbing trend, and thinks he has the answer.

3The Canary in Democracy’s Coal Mine

Allow me an extended quote from this excellent piece by Damon Linker about Twitter’s unique ability to both influence and illuminate the problems gripping our body politic:

“What Twitter shows us is a real-time ultrasound of the souls of America’s cultural and intellectual elite and its most committed activists — the people in charge of disseminating knowledge and who take the lead in organizing political action in our society. The picture it reveals is ugly, vulgar, shrill, and intolerant, with souls exhibiting an incapacity to deliberate, weigh evidence, and judge judiciously. They display an impulsiveness and unhinged rage at political enemies that is incompatible with reasoned thinking about how we might go about governing ourselves, heal the divisions in our country, and avoid a collapse into civic violence that could usher in tyranny.”

As we used to say in the old days of blogging: read the whole thing.


4“Scale breaks things in human beings.”

The click-bait title screams “Simon Sinek explains the real reason people fall in love!”

Ignore that title, because that’s not what this segment of conversation is really about. What Sinek is actually doing is using love to illustrate the maxim often attributed to Einstein but actually belonging to sociologist William Bruce Cameron: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

What grabbed me, though, is a small moment when Sinek points out how grand scale and relational humanity are incompatible. This is why large organizations always turn bureaucratic over time. The operation is too large at that scale for the humanity of individuals to continue to humanize the organization. This is a particularly fascinating topic when connected to the budding “zebra” movement of start-up entrepreneurs who are saying “no thanks” the to the hyper-growth mindset of the VC funding world and Silicon Valley.


5Rise of the GANs

So, you think the “fake news” of debatable video editing and narrative-driven, click-bait Twitter reporting is a dire threat to the republic? Wait til we have full-blown videos purporting to show exactly what happened in a given situation, featuring normal, everyday people like these folks:

What’s so special about these people? Nothing. It’s their ordinariness that is noteworthy, because none of these people are real people. All of the faces you see here were digitally designed and constructed by an AI algorithm technique known as a generative adversarial network. Every image in that collage is a digital Mr. Potato Head of facial parts, characteristics and data points combined in completely natural looking ways.

Oh, the frauds and social/civic havoc this tech creation will be able to wreak.