Weeknotes 219; empathy in AI

Hi all! The word is out; Revue will be discontinued by the new Twitter management from 18th January… So I need to relocate this newsletter to another tool. I still need to decide which one. Substack I am already using for the Cities of Things newsletter (which highly needs an update). Or I should follow the advice of Erwin and go for Ghost, which is a bit more expensive, though. Or good old TinyLetter? EmailOctopus we are using now for ThingsCon, a Mailchimp clone. I (re)post this newsletter also always to my blog Targetisnew.com via WordPress, not ideal as newsletter I think though. Anyhow, a nice task for the holiday break. And building a new routine authoring this email…

Speaking on Twitter, I noticed earlier; I am not keeping track of all the rumble around Elon’s Twitter. Changes can be changed tomorrow. All in all, it is a reason to focus more on the Mastodon account; there is a lot more engagement with the posts there now. And the number of users is ramping up fast.

Helpful AI

Just got noticed: I got off the waiting list for the Notion AI helpful writing tool. No time for extended testing before finishing this newsletter will let you know more later. One of the functions is to summarise texts. Like this one of the paper description below: ”We studied autonomous e-commerce delivery vehicles & scenarios in France, with an international perspective. This article outlines their state of practice & potential in regular & exceptional circumstances.”

It is part of the Helpful AI tooling that is popping up everywhere. Matt Webb shared the first prototype of a tool that support meetings with transcribing and more. His reflections on the consequences of 24/7 transcribing all your conversations are worth reading too. How will that change our self-image?


Predictions for 2023, that time of year has started too. Like these:


Empathy in the Age of AI 
LIVING AI – “AI will require a more subtle application of these principles. By and large, anthropomorphism and anthropofabulation distract us from seeing AI as it actually is. As AI grows more intelligent and our understanding of it deepens, our relationship to it will necessarily change. By 2050, the world may need a Jane Goodall for robots. But for now, projecting humanity onto technology obscures more than it reveals.”
The internet wants to be fragmented 
DIGITAL LIFE – Breaking out of the rat race of moving all of our life to the internet “What these rising apps and platforms all share is fragmentation. Whether it’s intentional self-sorting into like-minded or community-moderated groups or the natural fragmentation that comes from a bunch of different people watching their own algorithmically curated video feeds, these apps all have a way of separating people based on who they want to talk to and what they want to be exposed to.”
What Does Copyright Say about Generative Models?
GEN AI – “Copyright protects outputs of creative processes, not inputs. You can copyright a work you produced, whether that’s a computer program, a literary work, music, or an image.”
I Built an AI Chatbot Based On My Favorite Podcast
TOOLING FUTURES – Starting with this question: “Unfortunately, the episodes are also very long—each one averages a few hours. I often have a specific question related to something that he’s already covered, but it’s a pain to go back and try to find the answer by scrubbing through old episodes.”A tool was made with AI to unlock knowledge differently. AI (and alike) as a means for bottom-up toolmaking is a powerful road ahead.
ChatGPT and the Imagenet moment 
GEN AI CRITICS – Reflections of Benedict Evans on the generative AI impact, in line with earlier opinions.“ML system could make lots more ‘disco’ music, and it could make punk if you described it specifically enough (again, prompt engineering), but it wouldn’t know it was time for a change and it wouldn’t know that punk would express that need.”
Polite delivery robot thanks couple who free it from icy street
AUTONOMOUS – Life stories, Xmas is near… “It took them both aback by saying “thank you, have a good day” before rolling away.“
Uber Eats launches robot delivery service in Miami AUTONOMOUS – “The next time you order a meal from Uber Eats, it may be delivered by a robot – at least if you live in Miami.”edition.cnn.com  •  Share
Waymo’s driverless robotaxis are now doing airport trips in Phoenix 
AUTONOMOUS – “Waymo is expanding its service area in Phoenix and San Francisco and is expanding its rider-only, fully driverless vehicles to the Phoenix airport.”
The Amazon machine
LOGISTICS – Not a new topic to address but the attractive presentation of research “Every year, Amazon ships hundreds of millions of parcels in Germany. Just a few clicks and a little later, the delivery driver is at your door. An investigation by CORRECTIV.Lokal takes a look behind the scenes of the logistics chain and shows a system built on pressure, surveillance, and extreme stress. An insight into the gears of a machine where no idling is allowed.”
Why we still believe in the future
META – This is marketing of course, but still… “While our VR devices and software get most of the public attention, we are directing about half of our Reality Labs operating expenses towards our AR initiatives.. This involves one of the most ambitious R&D operations in the world today, focused on building a truly revolutionary new kind of computing platform.”As a side note, last week I wore an Oculus of the new generation with cameras on board that could mix the real images with the VR, it definitely a different experience.
New battery is cheaper than lithium-ion with four times the capacity
JUICE – Always good to see developments in battery tech “A new type of room temperature sodium-sulfur (RT Na-S) battery could help solve the renewable energy storage problem.”
Google can now read your doctor’s bad handwriting 
RACE TO THE BOTTOM – “A number of doctors write medicine prescriptions in haste. Google says it is working with pharmacists to work out that handwriting.”My thoughts: we are getting worse in writing as we don’t need to write that often anymore; this will not become better with this technology.
Seventeen Amazon Echo devices are now compatible with Matter 
STUFF THAT MATTER – Amazon is embracing Matter standard in the first line of products. “Matter’s new universal connectivity standard aims to simplify buying, setting up, and using smart home devices in a number of ways. Notably, it acts as a common language, so, for example, Amazon’s smart home devices can work with others from different platforms and ecosystems, like Google’s or Apple’s.”It will be more interesting to see what applications and services will make use of this exchange, but this is a first step indeed.
Metamathematics: Foundations & Physicalization
FUNDAMENTALS – Curious, not sure though if I will manage to read this: “the book takes the reader on an unprecedented intellectual journey to the center of some of the deepest questions about mathematics and its nature—and points the way to a new understanding of the foundations and future of mathematics, taking a major step beyond ideas from Plato, Kant, Hilbert, Gödel and others.”Aiming high…

Paper for the week

Let’s check autonomous delivery in another culture and market; France.

To understand the state of practice and future potential of autonomous vehicles for e-commerce delivery in cities, we carried out desk and field research on the topic. This article structures the different types of autonomous e-commerce delivery vehicles and scenarios and discusses their state of practice and potential in ordinary as well as in exceptional circumstances. The study focusses on France, against a comprehensive international backdrop.

Rai, H. B., Touami, S., & Dablanc, L. (2022). Autonomous e-commerce delivery in ordinary and exceptional circumstances. The French case. Research in Transportation Business & Management, 100774.

(link to paper)

See you in 2023!

Next week will be a holiday break. Enjoy Xmas or other celebrations ending the year!

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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.