Weeknotes 112; on the human-nonhuman partnerships, the fuel of AI, and living in rural clouds

Summer is over so it seems… September sounds at least quite different always.

Let me start this week to congratulate David Valentine with his graduation titled ‘Design for Calibrated Trust for Acceptance of Autonomous Vehicles’ with cum laud. His research into trust in relation to autonomous vehicles is very insightful, and the toolkit is potentially supporting the design teams of this new category of objects. The project is part of the Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

I also attended the PhD Defense of Péter Kun ‘Design Inquiry through Data’ which presents an interesting framework for those that are interested how data and machine learning become part of design practice.

Also last week we had a successful ThingsCon workshop we organized together with Lorna Goulden of IoT Eindhoven on ‘Don’t Be Evil – Building Trustable and Responsible Technology Business. We had an interesting group of participants, Miro worked very well as collaborative tool, and we are definitely planning to continue towards a definition of possible tools to support for instance tranparency and accountability.

The coming week is the final week before I will be off for a couple of weeks of vacation, so I’m planning ahead for some new projects starting with students as part of the research into Things That Predict and Cities of Intelligent Things, and the ThingsCon Salon in The Hague and NGI session. (latter not yet on the website).

Also looking forward to participate in a workshop on Designerly HRI (Human Robot Interface) as part of Ro-man 2020 conference. My contribution is about the potential role of predictive knowledge in the relation with robots.

More on human-nonhuman partnership in the news last week. And more AI. But let start with some quantum philosophy.

Schrödinger’s Cat When Nobody Is Looking

Schrödinger’s Cat When Nobody Is Looking

In case you did not hear of Schrödinger’s cat and the link with quantum theory: “Some of the most perplexing topics in physics revolve around quantum theory. The quandary is seen most famously in the Schrödinger’s…”

Living with the machines…

Quite some articles this week where the relation of humans with non-humans or systems is key subject.

iRobot Unveils Personalized Cleaning Experiences Powered by iRobot Genius™ Home Intelligence

Roomba seems to become more of a partner than a tool for cleaning your home. A vacuum cleaner that you can ask to focus on specific spots etc. Feels like co-performance almost as it is framed, but I guess there will be some steps needed. But interesting.

Advanced Health Smartwatch

Fitbit is becoming more than a step counter. For a longer time, but the introduction of this ‘advanced health watch’ creates a positioning that is a step further towards a health coach.

Amazon Halo: a fitness band and app that scans your body, listens to your voice

Amazon Halo: a fitness band and app that scans your body, listens to your voice

Not sure. Is this a good thing? “Amazon is creating an entirely new fitness band and health service called Halo. The Halo Band is a simple gadget with no display, but the Halo app is more interesting. It can use your camera to create a 3D scan of your body and calculate your body fat. It also listens to the tone of your voice.”

It is super interesting that it is possible, a step towards the human digital twin in all aspects. But do you want to share this with Amazon?

self-playing electric 'circle guitar' can pick at up to 250 bpm

self-playing electric ‘circle guitar’ can pick at up to 250 bpm

I might be biased but I saw a potentially interesting merge of human and machine here. But it might be also just a weird concept in the category ‘complicators’, products that try to solve a problem that did not exist before the solution was there, and making a simple problem complex.

And some on the fuel of the AI engine…

Taming the Tail: Adventures in Improving AI Economics

A tip from the latest newsletter by Benedict Evans (former a16z), “no, data is not oil – it’s expensive and complicated”

The long tail of AI is, in some ways, a measure of the complexity of the problem being solved and the effort needed to tackle it. There are, however, ways to treat the long tail as a first-order concern and build for it.

A Dogfight Renews Concerns About AI’s Lethal Potential

In a lot of the articles I share I am looking into the colaboration of humans and non-humans, but that might be not (always) the case…

Alphabet’s DeepMind pioneered reinforcement learning. A Maryland company used it to create an algorithm that defeated an F-16 pilot in a simulation.

With some good old critique

Why Facebook Is Bad, Twitter Might Be a Little Bit Good, and Social Media Is Rotting Our Brains

Some gurus are around for a long time. And remain sharp and relevant. Not in everything all the time, but nothing wrong to revisit visions and reflect on current times. As I remain following Kevin Kelly. Lanier I did not have followed lately. Deserves a read. 

“Tech oracle Jaron Lanier saw the evils of social media platforms before anyone else. Now he talks about whether Twitter activism really works, how to fix Facebook, and why he won’t be joining Silicon Valley’s overlords in New Zealand.”

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, a New Book by Cory Doctorow

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, a New Book by Cory Doctorow

This must be the longest long read on Medium I have seen. On the other hand, if you frame it as a book, it is short of course. 

“In this short, hyper-charged book, Cory Doctorow breaks down the real problem with surveillance capitalism — and how we can dismantle it.”

Worthwhile reading for sure.


Documentary Coronation by Ai Wei Wei

Documentary Coronation by Ai WeiWei

I put it on my watchlist today. Ai WeiWei is one of my favorite artists that use art mean to critique society. 

“Coronation” (2020) is a documentary film about the lockdown in Wuhan, China, during the Covid-19 outbreak in the spring of 2020.”

To end, our nomad lives in the cloud…

Let me end with some interesting thoughts on our new nomad remote working life. Airbnb is offering a special experience, why not travel around working remote. It is indeed something that has come up sometime. In this nice article Drew Austin is sketching how the cloud might be our new countryside. Linking it to this concept of people from anywhere vs people from somewhere.

Antonio García Martínez on Twitter:

“What COVID is revealing is that the ‘people from anywhere’ (globalist elites for whom a city is merely the backdrop to their striving and consumption) really can lead their lives almost anywhere, leaving the ‘people from somewhere’ to their fate.

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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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