I skipped a week as I announced two weeks ago, as I was on a short city trip to the French harbour city of Le Havre. The urban development of the city has an interesting story as it was rebuilt after World War II when the centre of town was almost completely destroyed by bombings. The overall design by Auguste Perret is interesting to explore. Next to that, there is a lot of street art that is extended every year in Un Eté Du Havre. Not so much on tech I cover mainly in this newsletter. However, it was nice to see how the micro-mobility is integrated, and scooters have designated docking stations now. Much better.
Did the world change in the last two weeks? AI is still developing rapidly. And our relation to it is still a learning curve. From the always insightful newsletter of Benedict Evans, some reflections on a corporate lawyer that asked ChatGPT for legal precedents, and got something that looked like it but would not stand court… Benedict makes this right statement, not blaming the lawyer per se, but more the design of OpenAI:
Let’s do a short update, a week of working on AI roadmaps and mocking up the future functionality. Next to thinking about possibilities, it is also about making choices in what role the AI will play in the overall assisting or ‘consulting’ (I was triggered by the title of this article, which might be not living up to the piece itself, maybe). In the news of last week (down below), there was enough to connect to this question too.
Hi all! First, let me apologise for sending this newsletter one day later than usual. We decided to enter a grant proposal quite late, and the deadline was yesterday, so I needed to eat in the hours I normally spend completing the newsletter (Monday evening and -nite).
Nevertheless, here we are. As an update of activities, that proposal is a follow-up of some good conversations on our AI roadmap that is key to Structural’s services. Of course, the interlanguage we are developing specifically connects the collaborative work of human and machine analysis. Let me know if you want to know more; happy to extend.
I don’t know your experiences; I got delayed listening to all the tech podcasts. I need s strategy for choosing a tech cast diet. Hardfork, Sharptech, Vergecast, Dithering, Pivot, the topics are often the same (Bluesky was last week’s hot topics) but they have different angles. Maybe I should allow myself a diet of one of all per week. To prevent I have no time for other things, like events.
As with every week, first, a quick look back at the week. Here in the Netherlands, Kings Day was there, and I celebrated it for the first time in 25 years or so in Rotterdam (or better said, not in Amsterdam). That had a special reason. Partly as the king visited the city I live in most of my time. Not that I am a specific supporter of the monarchy, but we were curious to see what was happening in town. Next to that, and evenly important, as mentioned last week, the project of Cities of Things on the Rotterdam field lab has a focus on the neighbourhood Afrikaanderwijk, and that is where the king’s family started the tour. So in the different sessions, the think tank of neighbourhood citizens created a test case for the Wijkbot to connect to the King’s Day activities, collecting waste by moving around. Not at the moment of the king’s parade, which was security-wise not a good idea, but after during the party in the park. The experiment worked well; the party was not that busy, but the people that were there did respond well. And we learned a bit about interacting with the bystanders and communicating the functions.
Hi y’all! I hope you have a good week. We have the yearly nationwide street party happening here – King’s Day – and this year, I might be around the place where the King is visiting as it is in Rotterdam. His route starts at the location of our field lab project in Afrikaanderwijk. We (or better, the team of citizens from the neighbourhood) have prepared an instance of the Wijkbot specifically for that day. Or better, using the moment to bring the activities under attention. The Wijkbot will show how it aims to generate new resources from materials that others call waste. We built that ‘robot’ with the prototype kit and will operate it after the King leaves the neighbourhood.
Funny enough, there is a research project from Cornell Uni in the US that is also using these interactions to research robots in public environments. The goals are a bit different, the approach is comparable.
We did a workshop at Smart & Social Fest in Rotterdam last Friday with about 20 interested professionals. We took a short walk with the collecting bot to discuss topics about function and governance. We will process the input later.
At Structural, we worked hard to complete the first iteration of the tooling, both through testing the software and filling it with a real case building a promise framework and ‘beautiful contracts’ for the research pilot we do.
In the contracting domain, AI is also becoming a differentiator. Ironclad showed their AI assisting tools for contract workflow management at a live event I followed online.
Generative Agents: Interactive Simulacra of Human Behavior – Midjourney
A shorter week after Easter, and next to that I combined a visit to STRP on Friday as I was in Eindhoven for the ThingsCon Salon we organised. For the third time, we teamed up with the Eindhoven community; it has been a while since the last in-person Salon was before Covid. This time we planned it as a side program of STRP. That made it easy for me to visit the STRP activities before. I liked this edition; with several nice art installations on the Art of Listening.
The Salon was also very inspiring, with three good speakers offering a mix of insights. All on listening profiles, sensing homes and bringing data to life. The theme of Listening Things about our personal space that is becoming more and more a sensing environment with the silent IoT revolution. With the new standard of Matter, it will be even easier to add consciously connected devices to our homes. As Lorna mentioned, back in 2010, when we both were present at the launch of The Council Internet of Things, initiated by Rob van Kranenburg (read about the impact), we were in a session on the impact of the smart home on the sense of personal space (organised by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino). How listening is part of acoustic biotopes is what Elif showed in her research. How the sensor data is made tangible and given meaning is the work of CleverFranke, and Bob showed how this could work in a smart home context. Our relationship with the tech surrounding us is changing, something that can be clearly experienced in the years of student projects with the IoT Sandbox, a scale model of a home that is triggering new forms of ideas to interact through the physicality of the data. Home IoT is a growing system, Joep showed us.
Our relationship with our more or less connected home will change even more if that relationship becomes more intelligent. See all the news again this week; agency becomes the topic of the coming time…
That it goes fast and holds dangers is alone interesting to watch. The double exponential curve of AI training AI with humans in and out of the loop. But is more interesting to explore how to organise the consequences. Democracies might need to be reshaped.
An example of the impact; AlphaPersuade. AI is not only training how to become a better player, as in AlphaGo. It is training against itself to become a better persuader.
Hi all! First of all, welcome to the new subscribers. Sometimes I forget to say this, but it’s great to have you. In an earlier edition, I took some time to explain what to expect from these newsletters. In short, there are four recurring elements every week:
Updates on things I did or noticed in general from last week, such as an event I visited or a major news story.
Next, I look at the calendar of events that reached me in one way or another.
The biggest chunk is a list of articles from the news that captured my attention. I try to annotate these a bit to explain why they could be an interesting read.
I close with an academic paper that I would like to read, either one from the past that I have read or a recent one that is often on my to-read list.
Still, GPT-4 is the talk of the town, and people start playing with it, finding out what its capacities are. I did use it for the first time as a coder; I did not before with 3, but it worked quite well. As a prototype tool and a way to tinker and visualise thoughts. Designing the most complex interface of the platform we are building with Structural helps to demo some interfaces. With a paragraph description and 15 min thinking and iterating, I had something that fulfilled that need. Nothing will ever be used, but as a think piece, it works very well.
Another week is full of AI news. Steered, of course, by that big happening in Austin as mentioned last week, it was a moment to announce new versions (GPT-4, Baidu, Claude), or integrations of AI in tools (Google, Office, Linkedin), language models (PaLM from Google). While Microsoft is getting extra attention, laying off the Responsible AI Team. Pretty sure GPT-4 was the most anticipated and discussed. The CEO did an impressive demo where the more conceptual thinking capabilities and the visual capturing stole the show. And now it is passing the bar exams with high numbers. Creating a -still quite ugly- functioning website from a sketch on paper was impressive.