Weeknotes 183; commoning AI

Hi all. You sometimes think that the moment has passed, and you missed the impact. I felt like one of the few that did not catch covid. But it seems there is a final round now, so many people did catch it last week as I heard. And I am one. Luckily that I don’t really feel sick. A light fever, one day chilly, and less energy. And a bit of a cold that can touch my voice. Especially last Friday, just at moment we had the Mozfest workshop… I think it did not really impact the flow and we had a lovely and intimate session.

In the middle of the week, I participated in a session at Amsterdam UAS and had dinner with the group, all on food commoning supported by AI systems, organized by Viktor. The workshop was super rich and triggered some good thoughts on AI systems in relation to commons, distribution, and communities which has a lot of relevance for the field lab projects that focus on Cities of Things neighborhood services. I will keep you updated as soon as there is a publication or report.

one of the activities impersonating the AI and actors

Some online sessions I checked: a Dezeen panel on metaverse and architecture with some great reflections by Liam Young. You might even only check his 5 min introduction starting at 7:40. Behind the scenes of the metaverse, the render sweatshops. Real people that exist on the other side. “No technology has ever really been a solution to anything, it really just exaggerates the conditions that exist”.

Oh and what about the Apple event of last week…?

Upcoming for the week

I did cancel some appointments of course, as part of the covid rulings. I missed last week’s opening of the Arcam exhibition I mentioned earlier. And Superflux at Droog is also still on my list. For the rest, I have not on the calendar. Let me know if I miss something…

You can of course follow SXSW from a distance as I do. I am curious if I will feel the urge next year to go again. Erwin Blom has set up a collective blog for Dutch participants to share their experiences, so check it out if you can read Dutch.

News of last week

Astonishingly Hyperconnected: Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss
CLIMATE – “The Climate change and biodiversity loss are inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing, and one can’t be addressed without the other.” 
SMASH Lab Uses Wearables To Train New Privacy
INTELLIGENCE – “Researchers in the Smart Sensing for Humans Lab have shown that data collected from sensors in smartwatches can quickly train a millimeter-wave doppler to recognize human movements and behaviors.”
The rise of robot dogs
ROBOTICS – “The new CyberDog, costing the same as a flagship smartphone, could be the device that propels us straight into a posthuman future.”Not new of course, but interesting how it is framed by this classical magazine Domus. And it is of course an interesting development that a utilitarian dog (nothing cute) is so cheap now. The copycat of the Spot dog.
Predicting the past with Ithaca | DeepMind
INTELLIGENCE – “In a paper published today in Nature, we jointly introduce Ithaca, the first deep neural network that can restore the missing text of damaged inscriptions, identify their original location, and help establish the date they were created.”There is a category of adventure children’s books and comics based on the heroics of deciphering ancient languages and texts. Not any more…
Possible Outcomes of the Russo-Ukrainian War and China’s Choice – U.S.-China Perception Monitor
CRISIS – I do not share that many articles on the current crisis. There is a lot. This one was interesting to read from another angle; how would the interest of the Chinese influence the crises?
Superflux debuts ‘The Library’ at Dubai’s Museum of the Future
MORE THAN HUMAN – I mentioned the Superflux installation in Amsterdam above. It is a compact statement; this one in Dubai is a bit bigger… “(…) the large scale installation deals with the interconnectedness of the human species with other life forms on the planet, and our duties towards them.” It looks quite visually impressive for sure.
Are blockchain-based DAOs really a utopian revolution in the making?
CRYPTO – The author compares The Dao of Blockchain with the Tao of Pooh. Mainly as wordplay so it seems. Main message: “The only difference is that some members are more equal than others, not because of gender but because they own more of the cryptocurrency tokens and can therefore determine what happens. The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
Zaha Hadid Architects building Metaverse city Liberland
META – Makes a kind of sense: their architecture is spectacular and even maybe driven by external visual impact. On the other hand; are there no specific skills needed? “British architecture firm Zaha Hadid Architects is creating Liberland Meterverse, a virtual “cyber-urban” city in the metaverse where people are able to collaborate across geographies, buy plots of land with cryptocurrency and enter digital buildings as an avatar.
PFP NFTs are hot. Fashion is starting to dress them
PHYSICAL TWIN – “Profile picture NFT owners are adding further clout to their Web 3.0 profiles with branded goods. A luxury opportunity?”The Vogue angle. It seems clear that NFT and fashion is even more extreme part of the nouveau riche quadrant judging the ‘classy’ pictures.
Matt Webb on Twitter:
INFRASTRUCTURE – This new startup HQ of Matt Webb sounds super interesting to know more about. Multiplayer web + architecture meets artist patronage meets web3 meets lo-fi metaverse…
Michael Milford on Twitter
AUTONOMOUS – Living is learning “Delivery robot tries to walk across undried cement”
Minimalist Wordle Grid Art
MEME – Is this the new aesthetics of our times?

Paper of the week

This rather long paper might not be the most accessible to read, as it is diving into foundational issues as the title promises:

Herrmann-Pillath, C. (2017). Foundational Issues of ‘Technosphere Science’–the case for a new scientific discipline. Available at SSRN 3034099

“This paper submits the case for establishing ‘technosphere science’ as an independent scientific discipline that draws on results of many other disciplines, reaching from physics to the humanities, with economics as a major contributing discipline.”

So it introduces the concept of technosphere in response to the Anthropocene we live in now. “This concept provides the foundation for a central ontological notion of technosphere science, distributed agency or ‘agencement’, following Actor-Network-Theory. Agency is no longer seen as a property exclusive to humans, but as emerging from networks of entities, including humans, artefacts and living systems.”

I am not fully convinced by the term technosphere, but it makes sense in the author’s frame:

“(…) the technosphere is the sphere of technology, in which humans play a role, but not necessarily the central role”

Relations are key here again: “In any case, in the technosphere artefacts and human action, mediated by human sense-making and interpretive creativity, are deeply enmeshed with each other.”

Ok, one more: “The question is what kinds of artefacts factually operate as autonomous agents, and which are just components of them. A city might be an autonomous agent, whereas as hammer is not. But once we include humans, the hammer plus a human can be regarded as an autonomous agent: The hammer is a part of the human extended phenotype.”

That was only the beginning of the article. If you are into the relation of humans and nonhuman actors and the relations they have, this might be an inspirational paper to read. To build upon or oppose ;)

Find the PDF here.

See you next 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.