The Walkman Was a Machine for Daydreaming


Remembering the Walkman.

I can’t help missing that clunky old device. There’s something more human about technologies that have an intuitive connection between what they look like and what they do. When the tape ribbon moves, the music plays; when the ribbon is wrinkled, the music sounds garbled. This logic is the logic of our own bodies, with organs and limbs whose motions are connected to their functions, and which are susceptible to injury and gradual breakdown.

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Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow — Lenny

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How satellites, drones, and planes are making hedge funds money


Did you know satellite images are being used to count number of ships living ports in China to get a real-time estimate of economic activity? Sometimes, I feel the world is moving just too fast and I am left behind.

Three thousand miles west in Mountain View, California, lies the source of that oil data, a company called Orbital Insight, which, according to its mission statement, finds “truth and transparency” in the world’s rhythms. What that means in practice is that roughly 30 engineers and scientists spend their days sifting through satellite images for information their customers — not just hedge funds but also asset managers, insurance companies, and government agencies — want. The number of ships leaving China’s ports. The total cars parked outside every Lowe’s in the United States. The income distribution of a district in Sri Lanka. In the case of oil volumes, the key is in the shadows.

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Joy Shan — The California Sunday Magazine

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What Happens When We Give up Control of Our Cars?


Malcolm Gladwell warns us about the dangers of autonomous cars.

Words like “autonomous” and “self-driving” mislead because they promise a kind of self-sufficiency on the part of the machine. The autonomous entity is the thing that is supposed to take care of itself. But the coming class of cars does not take care of itself at all. These cars are dependent and, as such, require a larger conversation about what the rules and expectations of that dependency should look like. Once a car belongs to a network, you have to worry about whether the network is safe. Once an algorithm is in command, you have to worry about how the algorithm thinks. We are surrendering control as surely as the first car owners of a century ago did, and when you surrender control, you could end up with a chauffeur problem.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI


Do you worry about AI taking over? In today’s needull, the writer explains in details why AI taking over might not be a likely scenario.

A lot of AI researchers and pundits imagine that the world is already digital, and that simply introducing new AI systems will immediately trickle down to operational changes in the field, in the supply chain, on the factory floor, in the design of products.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The impedance to reconfiguration in automation is shockingly mind-blowingly impervious to flexibility.

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Rodney Brooks

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It’s Getting Hard to Tell If a Painting Was Made by a Computer or a Human


In all aspects of life, machines are slowly taking over. But are we losing out on the essence?

Michael Connor, the artistic director of Rhizome, a non-profit that provides a platform for digital art, agrees. He describes the gap between silicon- and carbon-based artists as wide and deep: “Making art is not the sole role of being an artist. It’s also about creating a body of work, teaching, activism, using social media, building a brand.” He suggests that the picture Elgammal’s algorithm generates is art in the same way that what a Monet forger paints is art: “This kind of algorithm art is like a counterfeit. It’s a weird copy of the human culture that the machine is learning about.” He adds that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: “Like the Roman statues, which are copies of the original Greek figures, even copies can develop an intrinsic value over time.”

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Rene Chun — Artsy

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Why Amazon’s ‘1-Click’ Ordering Was a Game Changer


The 1-Click technology will be remembered as “a very important event in the history of e-commerce,” said Hosanagar. “First, it was a very simple and intuitive system and generated a lot of controversy — could something so simple and obvious be patented? Second, it became an important part of the experience that Amazon offered and became a flag bearer for the convenient shopping experience that Amazon came to be known for. And finally, it showed how e-commerce was as much about technology and data as it was about retail.”

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Nice analysis of Benchmark Capital suit against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

That almost assuredly changed Benchmark’s internal calculus when it came to filing this lawsuit. Does it give the firm a bad reputation, potentially keeping it out of the next Facebook? Unquestionably. The sheer size of Uber though, and the potential return it represents, means that Benchmark is no longer playing an iterated game. The point now is not to get access to the next Facebook: it is to ensure the firm captures its share of the current one.

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Stratechery by Ben Thompson

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