Weeknotes 208; meta acting humanoids

Hi all! Happy animal day! Is that an international thing? I think so. No animals around to treat here, though…

To start with some personal news: this is the first newsletter I send out working at Structural. I have been doing some advising work the last months, so mentioned them before; we decided it would make sense to go full-time. That ends a long affiliation with INFO

For the record, I will continue to work on a couple of projects for Cities of Things Foundation. And plan to keep organizing ThingsCon events. But I am looking forward to putting the focus on the development of Structural.

What is Structural all about? In short, it is a new kind of analysis and design for infrastructures and services. We are helping design Beautiful Contracts, that are mutually beneficial and collectively good. A new way of looking at promises and counter promises. The analyses are based on a language developed by Majid Iqbal and detailed over the past years, now further developed with a young and fresh international team. I am really looking forward to helping to bring this further, create the right tooling and contribute to improving the services of organizations.

To conclude, I think the way of thinking and approach is very applicable to the complex society we live in and the shift from platform economy to protocol economy, prompt-based interactions. It fits in that sense very well my interests in human-technology interactions that this newsletter is about for years.

More from last week

I did attend the panel on Designing the future with Applied Sci-Fi, with potential very good speakers. There were a bit too many sections with too many speakers in too little time to dive deep. Bruce Sterling stressed that Design fiction is designed more than science fiction if it is done well. Anab Jain was indicating how the tools are shaping us, and design fiction can be dangerous even as it creates a mindset that might be partly responsible for the mess we are in now.

CliFi was a new framing and responsible SciFi. Solar punk FTW, Julian Bleecker mentioned.

Alex MacDowell on the practice, future world building for movies. Designers should ignore the scripts. The relationship with clients is something to deal with consciously Radha Misty mentioned as clients can be afraid for the future.

Negative options are more appealing to adopt, which can skew the future reality.

Julian is in favor of creating objects for the future as this makes you better think about the deeper choices. The design fiction is not the deliverable; the conversations about that fiction are.

You can watch the panel here.

Some events for this and next week:

Captured news from last week

Humanoids, other robots, paltech, and more.

Bruce Willis sells his likeness for a deepfake ad
META ACTING – It is a bit unclear how much involvement Bruce had, but it is a nice example of an inverse method acting… “Retired actor Bruce Willis had a “digital twin” made so that his likeness could be inserted into a new project using deepfake tech.“www.freethink.com  •  Share
Meta announces Make-A-Video, which generates video from text 
FAKE MEDIA – The examples of Stable Diffusion are already kind of troubling, Meta adopting it feels even worse. This is not reassuring… “Meta acknowledges that the ability to create photorealistic videos on demand presents certain social hazards. At the bottom of the announcement page, Meta says that all AI-generated video content from Make-A-Video contains a watermark to “help ensure viewers know the video was generated with AI and is not a captured video.”arstechnica.com  •  Share
Amazon has a new plan for its home robot Astro: to guard your life 
HOMEBOT – It has been a year since the first announcement and Astro is still in an experimental stage, Amazon announced more surveillance features: “Amazon also announced a new collaboration between Astro and the Ring home security camera system, called Virtual Security Guard, which would protect areas outside the home from possible break-ins.” Good to emphasize the worries of video doorbells…www.technologyreview.com  •  Share
Elon Musk reveals Optimus TeslaBot prototype during AI Day 2022
NEW HUMANS – Last time it was a robot dress-up human, that was a bit more vivid than this iteration. Most interesting how autonomous it is in interacting. “At Tesla’s AI Day 2022 event, Elon Musk showed a working prototype of its “Optimus” robot. The humanoid robot walked gingerly onstage without a tether and apparently used similar AI to Tesla’s cars.”www.theverge.com  •  Share
Humanoid Robot Market Size to Grow by USD 9.74 Bn, Demand for Enhanced Visibility and Flexibility in Industrial Operations to Drive Growth 
NON-HUMANOID – Always hard to control this kind of predictions, and if Elon’s prediction on prizing is right, this means about half a million droids around the world. “The humanoid robot market is estimated to grow by USD 9.74 billion from 2021 to 2026. In addition, the growth momentum of the market will accelerate at a CAGR of 49.37% during the forecast period.”finance.yahoo.com  •  Share
Stuck on the Streets of San Francisco in a Driverless Car 
AUTONOMOUS – If you are interested in how it feels to be a passenger of no one… “A reporter and a photographer went for a ride in an experimental autonomous vehicle operated by the General Motors subsidiary Cruise. There were bumps in the road.”www.nytimes.com  •  Share
Your Smart Thermostat Isn’t Here to Help You 
CO-PERFORMANCE – I think that every critical IoT follower shared worries when Nest was bought by Google on data intruding. And in academics, the impact of intelligent co-performing tech was exemplified with these devices. Nevertheless, especially in these energy tense times, it is good to make a new balance of stakeholders controlling the ecosystem you are living in… “In each of these scenarios, the smart-thermostat user—that’s you and me—doesn’t play a leading role in the device’s operation. Instead, it’s data aggregators, or utilities, or municipalities, or the manufacturers who sell us these devices on incomplete, if not entirely false, promises.”www.theatlantic.com  •  Share
NYU is building an ultrasonic flood sensor network in New York’s Gowanus neighborhood
CLIMATE – A new market; climate incident warning “A team of researchers from NYU and CUNY are working on expanding a network of street-level sensors to better protect the city against climate change-induced flooding..”www.engadget.com  •  Share
How the Metaverse Will Fundamentally Change the Workplace
META WORK – I am not so sure if this is the likely implementation of metaverses, but interesting to see how architects value it. “Work is one of the most invested areas of development for metaverse applications. Major companies are working to develop their own virtual workspaces, making the future of work increasingly digitally immersive.”popupcity.net  •  Share
Volvo’s EX90 electric SUV will have laser sensors and cameras that can detect drunk driving
AUTONOMOUS – You can think about what your opinion about such a controlling sensing car, but also interesting: if we need these types of systems, the self-driving features are not expected to be functioning well enough. Or is it to avoid slow regulations? “Depending on the driver’s attention, the EX90 will be able to take action when needed. If the driver is distracted, the cameras will pick up on it, and the vehicle will issue a series of warnings intended to bring the focus back on the road.”www.theverge.com  •  Share
Ethereum’s Founder on What Crypto Can — and Can’t — Do – The Ezra Klein Show
WEB3 – In the writing of a report on Web3 and protocol economy, Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum could not be overseen, so extra interesting to listen to this week’s Ezra Klein Show. “When most people hear “crypto,” the first thing they think of is “currencies.” (…) But there’s another side of crypto that gets less attention: the segment of the community that is interested in the way the technology that powers crypto can decentralize decision making, make institutions more transparent and transform the way organizations are governed.”pca.st  •  Share
NFT Trading Volumes Collapse 97% From 2022 Peak 
CRYPTO ART – There are hypes, and there are manias. “Trading volumes in nonfungible tokens have tumbled 97% from a record high in January this year. (…) The fading NFT mania is part of a wider, $2 trillion wipeout in the crypto sector as rapidly tightening monetary policy starves speculative assets of investment flows.”www.bloomberg.com  •  Share
Christie’s launching new platform that will allow for sales to exist fully on the blockchain
CRYPTONICS – NFT mania might be over, the principles are still adopted “The inaugural sale on Christie’s3.0 will consist of nine NFTs by the artist and activist Diana Sinclair”www.theartnewspaper.com  •  Share
DALL-E image generator is now open to everyone
PSA – I am more tending to use Midjourney as the images are artistically more interesting, curious to see if this leads to more popping up of new aesthetics…arstechnica.com  •  Share
kid-friendly & portable turntable ‘PO-80’ is a DIY, lo-fi music maker
SLOW TECH – Years ago, I coached a graduation student that designed a music player for kids based on sharing Spotify list made tangible. One of the elements was NFC rings to carry the lists and share. This TE record maker is a nice step further… “portable turntable PO-80 by teenage engineering & Yuri Suzuki allows users to record on, playback, and cut 5-inch discs for lo-fi sounds.” Also, another nice partnering with an inspiring artist.www.designboom.com  •  Share
The era of fast, cheap genome sequencing is here
MEDICINE – You might be thinking about people sequencing their genomes to find out about their heritage, but “As we look to the next decade, we believe we’re entering the era of genomic medicine going mainstream. To do that requires the next generation of sequencers”arstechnica.com  •  Share

Paper for this week

Some intriguing title “Robots Enact Malignant Stereotypes”.

If you know about the accidents that happened with AI bots, it is not such a strange concept. That is wat the paper is about. Makes sense.

In this paper, we evaluate how ML bias manifests in robots that physically and autonomously act within the world. We audit one of several recently published CLIP-powered robotic manipulation methods, presenting it with objects that have pictures of human faces on the surface which vary across race and gender, alongside task descriptions that contain terms associated with common stereotypes.

(…) we recommend that robot learning methods that physically manifest stereotypes or other harmful outcomes be paused, reworked, or even wound down when appropriate, un- til outcomes can be proven safe, effective, and just. Finally, we discuss comprehensive policy changes and the potential of new interdisciplinary research on topics like Identity Safety Assessment Frameworks and Design Justice to better understand and address these harms.

Hundt, A., Agnew, W., Zeng, V., Kacianka, S., & Gombolay, M. (2022, June). Robots Enact Malignant Stereotypes. In 2022 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency  (pp. 743-756).

Link to paper (PDF)

See you next week!

Posted as newsletter before.

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.