Weeknotes 175; web3 critiques

Welcome to the new week! Now 2022 has started for real. Still, some prediction blogs are dropping but most have been published and we can start monitoring the expectations for web3 and other big stories. And we can say that Wordle has officially become hype overnight with a media frenzy about monetizing on other ideas. Nothing new but it was very quick.

These are not the typical topics I like to focus on in this newsletter though. I try to keep the focus on the phygital (I don’t know about this term), intelligence, post-human societies, and robotics.

One of the signature domains is mobility. We are looking into new concepts for nicer neighborhoods and cities in the field labs related to last-mile mobility including logistics. A lot of aspects come together. There is noticeably an uptake for the concept of a hub as a guiding principle; it is taken on all levels of decision-making as a framing solution. The specific Cities of Things Hub uses specific aspects of self-organizing and orchestrating tech as inspiration. Things as citizens, neighborhood hubs as a trusted partner, or even as a kind of parent, as Jelmer conceptualized in his graduation research in 2020.

Last week the Micromobility online conference was one of the things I planned to visit. I missed it, but I will try to see some of the panels online. Curious if the hub was a topic; Bird is addressing parking as important as riding micromobility.

So far from the updates from last week.

Plans for this week

As mentioned last week, you might check Sensemakers AMS session on Web3, however, it is already fully booked I think. It is a sign of the times that soo many are interested in attending!

On the same day a bit earlier, Digital Society School has its showcases. I know from the time I was connected as an ambassador that it can deliver some inspiring work by the students.

If you are into digital art, good old v2 is having a nice evening on Thursday. Part of celebrating 40 years of history of that institute.

Noticed news from last week

Is Web3 really the next big thing we should strive for? Or do we introduce some face decentralization/democratization?

INFRASTRUCTURE – A good reflectional post on the true decentralising strategies in Web3 preachers…www.profgalloway.com  •  Share
Dirt: I’m not owned!
INFRASTRUCTURE – Another discussion on web3, copyright and the ethics of ownership. dirt.substack.com  •  Share
Web3 had better not be Transaction Cost Hell
INFRASTRUCTURE – A returning topic. Are these new crypto-based systems more about value assets for long-time holding, or replacements for transactional value exchanges replacing cash systems? In the current state, the latter will lead to “The dystopia of ubiquitous micropayments”noahpinion.substack.com  •  Share
Artist patronage using Web3: a sketch of a payment mechanism
INFRASTRUCTURE – Another interesting thought trail by Matt Webb. This time on the highly discussed Web3, or better, on a crypto-based payment system that feels a bit like an NFT on some else’s crypto wallet: “My proposal is that it should be possible to stake my coins with a validator, retaining ownership of the coins as before, but name a separate beneficiary for the yield.”I have to think; would this work? And would it reduce the internet traffic?interconnected.org  •  Share
Economists Pin More Blame on Tech for Rising Inequality
SOCIETY – Is this typical US or generic? “Half or more of the increasing gap in wages among American workers over the last 40 years is attributable to the automation of tasks formerly done by human workers, especially men without college degrees, according to some of his recent research.”www.nytimes.com  •  Share
Jack Dorsey: Block is ‘officially building an open bitcoin mining system’
INFRASTRUCTURE – So “Block founder and CEO Jack Dorsey just confirmed that the company, formerly known as Square, plans to move forward with plans to build a bitcoin mining system.”Curious to find out if it replaces or extends Square as a payment provider.www.cnbc.com  •  Share
Google Research: Themes from 2021 and Beyond
INTELLIGENCE – Google trends are fully focused on ML as part of life with a clear focus on the technical side of it.“Following that long-arc pattern of progress, I think we’ll see a number of exciting advances over the next several years, advances that will ultimately benefit the lives of billions of people with greater impact than ever before.”ai.googleblog.com  •  Share
scientists create the first stretchable and washable battery
INFRASTRUCTURE – Is this a typical slowly then suddenly case? At least something that is coming back time after time; the importance of flexible juice…“The washable battery has already withstood 39 wash cycles, and it works even when stretched to twice its length.”www.designboom.com  •  Share
Here is how your brain understands one voice in a crowd
BEHAVIOR – Is this handy to deal with crowds, or chance to be manipulated. “Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered fresh insight into how the brain might deliberately hear one speaker while shutting out or ignoring another.”www.freethink.com  •  Share
Nudges: four reasons to doubt popular technique to shape people’s behaviour
IMPACT – “Can you really nudge people into washing their hands more? The evidence is far from perfect.”It is a good question. We organized a behavior design meetup for years. There is a lot to design but applying just simple rules (think Cialdini) is too short-sighted. Design is about really understanding.theconversation.com  •  Share
Humans of 2022! Can AI robots be good, evil or have a soul?
INTELLIGENCE – “In reality, no AI has exhibited spiritual awareness. Last year, the Atlantic Council reported that Russian and Ukraine have weaponized AI (Google, Rakuten, and Samsung had Ukrainian AI research centers). With Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s border, it’s a good time to wonder; can AI ever develop into a life form with a soul?”www.timesunion.com  •  Share
LG brings service robot to U.S. market – Produce Blue Book
ROBOTICS – I recognize the conversation language from an SXSW exposition in 2019. And apparently it is rolled out to the market. Slowly then suddenly?www.producebluebook.com  •  Share
China develops world’s largest quadruped bionic robot for delivery, reconnaissance tasks – Global Times
ROBOTICS – Nice how this larger robot looks like a fat animal… “China has developed the world’s largest electric-powered quadruped bionic robot”www.globaltimes.cn  •  Share
Engineer Builds Robot To Insert And Remove Contact Lenses From Your Eyes Perfectly
ROBOTICS – Does this help or endanger the trust in robotics as tools? www.indiatimes.com  •  Share
Nvidia Is Pushing the Limits in Autonomous Driving
AUTONOMOUS – In this video analyst Asit Sharma and contributors Demitri Kalogeropoulos and Jose Najarro discuss a few challenges involved in the new partnership between Nvidia and TuSimple aimed at producing self-driving freight trucks.www.fool.com  •  Share
Drone and self-driving vehicle adoption will create a $4.9B market by 2030
INFRASTRUCTURE – Data… “A report from predicts the drone and self-driving vehicle sector will grow to $4.9 billion by 2030, growing more than 20 percent each year.”Think what you like to think.www.citylogistics.info  •  Share
Local Motors, the company behind Olli, closes its doors – The Robot Report
AUTONOMOUS – Not all developments in self driving vehicles is going well. “After 15 years of operation, Local Motors, the company developing autonomous shuttle Olli, is shutting down due to a lack of funding.”Too early for the real breakthrough?www.therobotreport.com  •  Share
Nuro Reveals Production-Ready Delivery Robot
AUTONOMOUS – Nice to see how the different form factors are evolving. This is a medium-size vehicle, compared to the Starship Technologies carts. Also: check the outside-facing airbag!“Nuro reveals its third-gen delivery robot, one that it intends to start mass-producing. But just where will we see these used first?”www.autoweek.com  •  Share
Canadian vehicle manufacturer creates electric car to mine crypto currency when not in use
CRAZY – “Daymak Inc. reveals a new three-wheeled electric car named Spiritus, allowing consumers to mine cryptocurrency in the vehicle’s downtime.”wccftech.com  •  Share
Disney Moves Toward the Metaverse With Approved US Patent to Create a ‘Virtual-World Simulator’
INFRASTRUCTURE – Why is this interesting? Not for that particular patent imho. It’s a sign though (and there are many more) of how metaverse is now embraced as the new black. The way to secure investments…news.bitcoin.com  •  Share
We’re using our streets all wrong. Could user-generated urbanism be the fix?
CITIES – Removing dead metal from the streets creating more green and pedestrian and cycle space. This is a clear US lens but also a part of cities in transition. User-generated urbanism.“For Bela, user-generated urbanism means that both designers and the people who will use them work together to create better spaces designed for those who will actually be living in them.”www.freethink.com  •  Share

Paper of the week

Before diving into a paper for this week, let me share a lovely little tool: tl;dr papers. Based on the GPT-3 engine it promises “science abstracts for second graders. written by AI.” The tool delivers nice insides in your own or some else’s work. Fun to see, but also as ‘mirror’ on what remains of a paper.

This one was extracted from the paper Products as agents: Metaphors for designing the products of the IoT age (Cila et al, 2017).

made by tldrpapers.com

The tool is rather popular apparently as it is under maintenance now, so I cannot use it for this week’s highlighted paper: a classic one in the design for intelligent objects: Taylor, A. S. (2009, April). Machine intelligence. Already some years old, still relevant. 

“As such, intelligence does not just belong to the province of the human mind, but can emerge in quite different, unexpected forms in things.”

“First, as a general theme, I’ve made a case for rethinking intelligence as both a topic of inquiry and a resource for design in HCI. Second, I’ve shown that the ways intelligence is seen and enacted in things can profoundly influence the interactions between human and machine. Third, I’ve proposed that various innovations in computing machines introduce new ways of thinking about intelligence and, consequently, challenge us to reconsider the human-machine interface. Fourth, I’ve suggested that reflecting on intelligence in these ways opens up a new and, perhaps, radically different set of possibilities for interactive design.”

Find the PDF here.

Have a great week!

Published by


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.