Weeknotes 111 – on Robophilosophy, augmented life and tech impact.

What happened last week? It was quiet with the graduation students, one is finalizing for graduation this week, another is planning for a green-light this week, two others are have these moment is end of September. I will update the DDL Cities of Things website soon as a project finishes.

Furthermore, we have been planning three ThingsCon events, one happening this week (Don’t be Evil workshop), the other is a Salon in The Hague, and we will also do a session at NGI Policy Summit end of September.

Last thing to mention is the Robophilosophy conference organized by Aarhus University. Interesting to see how they solved the online conference experience. A mixture of live presentations and discussions, and pre-recorded talks. The talks were – as usual with academic conferences – linked to the accepted papers in the program. The discussion sessions tried to combine papers in themes like Design, Moral Robots, Ethics, etc. These sessions were very formatted with strict time-limits for the speakers. That was good to prevent long winding answers, but on the other hand, it did prevent a real discussion to happen IMHO.

I did not have time to follow all sessions. I liked the session of Aimee Van Wynsberghe, John Danaher, Selma Sabanovic. The latter stressed how robots are a means for humans to communicate, and you can in that sense use robots for building communities. Aimee introduced the notion of reciprocity in the interaction with robots, as mean to create social systems. Design for reciprocity should be part of design for HRI (Human-Robot Interactions). I was wondering how this relates to the notion of co-performance that Kuijer and Giaccardi described. I think there is an interesting different approach to look into: with co-performance there is a mutual goal.

Danaher did a good final presentation as he dived into the question how social robots change our values. I don’t have the answer yet. Danaher sketched the roles of robots in relation to agency: from tools (negative agency) to supervised (low agency), interdependent (high agency) and reflective (moral agency). I might need to chew a bit more on this.

In the news I share here I have always some robotics topics, every week new instances of robot companions are introduced so it seems, gradually but surely taking a place in our lives…

The robotics revolution is here, and it's changing how we live

The robotics revolution is here, and it’s changing how we live

In the series mainstream articles indicating the shift in robotics this week one by National Geographic. A pleasurable read: Machines now perform all sorts of tasks: They clean big stores, patrol borders, and help autistic children. But will they make life better for humans?

Some of the examples of this week.

Baemin Introduces an Outdoor Delivery Robot “The City of the Future Became A Reality”

Not sure if I should share this. For me it looks like all the earlier delivery pods, but it is good indication of the continuous development of automated delivery systems.

Wearable Robot Gives Users Super Strength

Exoskeletons are the most concrete instantiation of human-robotic partnerships. This one looks ready for roll-out.

Watch a tiny robot powered by alcohol

Watch a tiny robot powered by alcohol

For the fun but also interesting as example of changing power trains: Beetle-size machine can climb, crawl, and carry heavy objects—all without batteries

A Move for Driverless Mass Transit Hits Speed Bumps

Sharad Agarwal has a prediction about driverless vehicles: “Autonomous public transportation is going to happen,” he says, “and it’s going to happen sooner than with taxis and cars.”

Some interesting articles this week on the more bigger impact, on algo culture, relation to our home and the new city life…

The Uncanniness of Algorithmic Style

It was not so long ago that James Bridle introduced New Aesthetic, and I think we should see these algorithmic cultures as a next iteration. “Algorithms inherently lead to warped, glitchy aesthetics rather than realism.”

Home Body — Real Life

I was not able to read it, but the premise is something I like: “The private home is not an isolated unit, but a living system within a mass of systems, requiring the labor of many”

Paris Will Provide Citizens Everything They Need Within a 15-Minute Radius

I don’t think I shared this concept Paris is introducing before.“Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has outlined an ambitious vision for the future of the French capital. Her 15-Minute City plan focuses on the proximity of workplaces, schools, and amenities for all citizens.”

In discussion sessions on the future city or future mobility, this is a welcome example to share the vision that the next iteration of the city is local community drive.

Data Economy Interfaces: Mediating Relations in Fluid Assemblages – Design Philosophy for Things That Change

I feel a lot with the concept of fluid assemblages, I might have shared the work of Heather Wiltse before. This week she shares a new presentation.

“Everyday connected things have become key sites for the production of behavioral data about people’s lives, enabling corporate actors to predict and control behavior in service of enormous profit under the economic model of surveillance capitalism.” 

And more related to our lock-down life…

Lockdown and discovering new micro-hedonisms

I’m not too much in meditation, self-help culture and mindfulness, but I see if course the trend, the urge of more and more people to operationalize consciousness on mind-body relations. I like the word micro-hedonism and can imagine it can work.

The DNC Is the Best Zoom Meeting of 2020—So Far

The DNC Is the Best Zoom Meeting of 2020—So Far

Did you watch the democratic convention via Zoom? To be honest, I did not, except for some of the speeches that reached the news.I heard multiple respectable journalists being very positive. Good vibes, short and snappy. Let’s see what we can learn “Coast-to-coast roll calls, Billie Eilish, and Meg Whitman’s quick bite—this year’s all-digital Democratic National Convention was a lesson in the new voyeurism.”

To end on a positive note – not… :)

The Digital Economy Is Capitalism at Its Worst

For me this is not a new insight tbh. The connected world brought us close distances to all kinds, made community power possible, but is also very well build for capitalism driven incentive models. Douglas worries for some time via his initiative Team Human’: “We must learn that technology’s problems can’t always be solved with more technology.” With the gig-economy as a clear example.

Nevertheless: have a great week!

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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