Gosh! And I thought I had strong opinions about markup!
Emily M. Bender:
I dislike the term because “artificial intelligence” suggests that there’s more going on than there is, that these things are autonomous thinking entities rather than tools and simply kinds of automation. If we focus on them as autonomous thinking entities or we spin out that fantasy, it is easier to lose track of the people in the picture, both the people who should be accountable for what the systems are doing and the people whose labor and data are being exploited to create them in the first place.
- Stochastic parrots
- Spicy autocomplete
- Mad Libs
- Magic Eight Ball
And this is worth shouting from the rooftops:
The threat is not the generative “AI” itself. It’s the way that management might choose to use it.
Bosses have certain goals, but don’t want to be blamed for doing what’s necessary to achieve those goals; by hiring consultants, management can say that they were just following independent, expert advice. Even in its current rudimentary form, A.I. has become a way for a company to evade responsibility by saying that it’s just doing what “the algorithm” says, even though it was the company that commissioned the algorithm in the first place.
I’m not very convinced by claims that A.I. poses a danger to humanity because it might develop goals of its own and prevent us from turning it off. However, I do think that A.I. is dangerous inasmuch as it increases the power of capitalism. The doomsday scenario is not a manufacturing A.I. transforming the entire planet into paper clips, as one famous thought experiment has imagined. It’s A.I.-supercharged corporations destroying the environment and the working class in their pursuit of shareholder value. Capitalism is the machine that will do whatever it takes to prevent us from turning it off, and the most successful weapon in its arsenal has been its campaign to prevent us from considering any alternatives.
Mandy takes a deep dive into the treatment of altruism in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.
An exploration of the problems and possible futures of flooding the web with generative AI content.
A great practical website to help you vote tactically in the upcoming local elections.
Writing, both code and prose, for me, is both an end product and an end in itself. I don’t want to automate away the things that give me joy.
And that is something that I’m more and more aware of as I get older – sources of joy. It’s good to diversify them, to keep track of them, because it’s way too easy to run out. Or to end up with just one, and then lose it.
The thing about luddites is that they make good punchlines, but they were all people.
I love just about every answer that Martin Rees gives in this wide-ranging interview.
- A film acknowledges that some people menstruate
- without any characters being ashamed of it
- or being shamed by someone else (without resolution)
I believe we aren’t nostalgic for the technology, or the aesthetic, or even the open web ethos. What we’re nostalgic for is a time when outsiders were given a chance to do something fun, off to the side and left alone, because mainstream culture had no idea what the hell to do with this thing that was right in front of it.
A fascinating interactive journey through biometrics using your face.
The web was born to distribute information on computers, but the technology industry can never leave well enough alone. It needs to make everything into software. To the point that your internet browser is basically no longer a magical book of links but a virtual machine that can simulate a full-fledged computer.
How a writing system went from being a dream (literally) to a reality, codified in unicode.
We are so excited by the idea of machines that can write, and create art, and compose music, with seemingly little regard for how many wells of creativity sit untapped because many of us spend the best hours of our days toiling away, and even more can barely fulfill basic needs for food, shelter, and water. I can’t help but wonder how rich our lives could be if we focused a little more on creating conditions that enable all humans to exercise their creativity as much as we would like robots to be able to.
A profile of Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive in the San Francisco Chronicle.
At its core, and despite its appropriation, Solarpunk imagines a radically different societal and economic structure.
Letters to a Young Technologist is a collection of essays addressed to young technologists, written by a group of young technologists.
Rationality does not work for ethical decisions. It can help you determine means, “what’s the best way to do this” but it can’t determine ends.
It isn’t even that great for means.
An excellent thoughtful piece from Angela Saini (as always):
Popular opinion, “common sense” and the closely related priors of scientific enquiry have never been reliable guides when it comes to decoding human difference. After all, European biologists once thought it was obvious that colour-coded races were different species or breeds that had evolved separately on each continent. It was obvious to taxonomist Carl Linnaeus that monster-like and feral races of humans surely existed somewhere in the world. More recently, neuroscientists were happily insisting that women were innately less intelligent than men because they had smaller brains. A few neuroscientists still do.
History shows that many supposed “facts” about human nature were actually always cultural constructions. Race is one. Gender is another. Now, some researchers believe that sex—generally seen as determined by anatomy, including chromosomes, hormones and genitalia—may to some extent be constructed, too. Binary categories of male and female, they say, certainly don’t fully encompass all the natural variation and complexity that we see in our species.
I’ve lately been trying an exercise where, when reading anything by or about tech companies, I replace uses of the word “infrastructure” with “means of production.”