Weeknotes 212; system of the world

Hi all! Welcome back to another weekly update looking back at some of the interesting news bit (imho), interesting events, and more that captured my attention.

We had an official handover last week of Twitter to a new ‘Chief Twit’ Elon Musk. I’m a happy user of the platform since the first moment I start using it in early 2017. I was never the manic sharer or chatter, but I have met numerous interesting people; it is still a great inspiring channel for interesting articles and opinions, and I like to capture the inspiring talks or new insights from less inspiring ones. I created my own lens with a list of people I like to follow and hardly use the algorithmic suggested stream. 

Why all this on Twitter? There was some unrest, of course, after Elon Musk had made his definite move. Will it stay the open and interesting space? Will the clickbait-driven negative space return? Hard to predict at this moment. Some interesting takes are shared below.

I am not trusting Elon for a balanced, safe space for everyone. The only hope I have is that he might understand that the value is not the clickbait opinion market space but the creative community that unlocks new interactions, new ideas, and more connections. Hope that is hard to believe, of course. The best outcome would be a more intelligent platform or better, open protocols again with a smarter business model.

AI for Good

Enough for now. I just returned from the 2nd edition of AI for Good, as I announced last week. Organized by one of the subscribers of this newsletter (check out his own “Super Vision”), Laurens Vreekamp. I know his focus on AI in journalism and beyond, but did not know what to expect from this evening. The speaker line-up was very interesting. Dasha Simons from IBM and David Graus from Randstad bringing AI ethics into practice in a corporate environment, and Oumaima Hajri from a research background. I am not doing a detailed report but more general reflections. The theme of AI for good was more translated into AI not doing badly. Time was too short to dive into the depth of balancing between client interest and AI impact in a consultancy firm like IBM or stimulating a different work dividing system stimulated by just AI for a recruiting firm. They both showed, however, how the first steps are taken to bring more awareness in teams and organizations. Oumaima did a great job of stressing the bias dilemmas driven by power structures.

The evening opened more questions to address the next editions (which is nice). Especially how to relate to initiating AI systems that gain importance in the processes of organizations. Current tooling can help us to make the tensions clear, as the poet of Aaron Mirck made through prompting Copy.ai with the minutes of the talks. It can already deliver fun and sometimes unexpected insights, but still rather biased.

As I wrote down as thoughts while listening to Dasha Simons; we are all convinced of the importance of explainability, transparency, and even interpretability, all focused on making the system responsible and, with them, the makers of the system. But what about the responsibility of the users? Are they also part of the equation, should they be responsible too? As the AI (or what term we use) is continuous learning and shaping, the prompts we give are more than a means to retrieve the best results; it is also part of the upbringing of the AI. We are, as users, also responsible for good AI as the producers are.

Events to visit

Ok, this was a lengthy introduction. It was fresh top of my mind. The meetup is back as an evening habit. Let’s see what else you could visit this or next week:

News of last week

Next to Twitter news, the usual mix of robotics, autonomous tech, things, etc.

Continue reading Weeknotes 212; system of the world

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.

Continue reading Weeknotes 175; web3 critiques

Weeknotes 174; robotics as consumer electronics

Hi all! If you are just returning from a holiday break, welcome back! As announced last week, the publishing moment for this newsletter will be Tuesday at 7 am from now on as I am pretty sure I will be able to make that every week. The contents of this newsletter, including a new item at the end: paper of the week

  • Updates from last week
  • Plans for this week
  • Noticed news from last week
  • Paper of the week

Updates from last week

Slow and quiet week to start in the new year. I noticed a lot of people are in vacation mode still. I used the week to look a bit ahead to the year, writing a first draft manifesto for Cities of Things and a plan for quarterly events. More on that soon I hope. I also visited the Amsterdam Light Festival and I think it was even busier than in times without lockdowns. Or it seems so. It is a reprise edition so most of the pieces I had seen before, but still a good occasion for a 7 km walk through the city. Magere Brug and Darth Fisher are the highlights for me I think.

We completed also the after movie of ThingsCon 2021 which gives a good impression of the very nice event. We start planning our next event soon and maybe set a date. You can subscribe to our newsletter to keep updated specifically.

Plans for this week

More meetings this week. Some in-person even planned. The field lab projects of Cities of Things are progressing.

As mentioned last week, I plan to attend parts of Micromobility World 2022 as it is an online event again, taking place here in the evening due to time zones. Friday TU Delft will have its yearly Dies Natalis. This year a lot of buzz was initiated by some old alumni for the wrong reasons (imho). Not going into the details, if you find it interesting you can read this overview.

To plan for next week: Sensemakers on Web3.

Noticed news of last week

Let’s make a selection of CES-related news, I add a few introductions that go beyond the gadget phase. Even without some big players’ live present, there was quite some news. Some I shared already last week as it was announced before.

Continue reading Weeknotes 174; robotics as consumer electronics

2022; groundhog iterations into the new year

Traditions. Looking ahead into the new year. It is a fine tradition I think. Not to pretend to be able to make predictions all right, it is not a competition, but set your mind in another mode.
Last year I did more than ever forecasts on developments in mobility and energy, autonomous systems, and mailboxes, all furthermore in the future, like 2030, 2040, or 2050 even. Doing these is always arbitrary too. You try to spot bigger developments and weak signals as the innovations for the next 20 years started today, and the future is a continuum, meaning that a future state is a framing of a moment on a future time.

It is also said before: some of the consequences of turning society into a virus defense mode is like a speeding up of longer predicted changes like e-commerce, homework, video calling replacing normal call, and more. But other developments were frustrated; the mobility hubs with social communicating are setback with everyone working from home.

So what to say about 2021 2022? Let me first set a frame; I am focusing on our relationship with intelligent and autonomous operating technology. The Cities of Things Lab that we have been building and will continue to bring into practice with a field lab is the context of the explorations. Nevertheless, I like to keep a broad spectrum to watch, as everything is connected, and the weak signals can be found in all kinds of changes.

Continue reading 2022; groundhog iterations into the new year

Weeknotes 173; a new year

Happy new year! Thanks for being a reader this year again. I hope I will be able to serve you inspiration and useful links again this year via this newsletter (thanks Stacey for the nice words on Twitter!). I am always thinking about the format of this newsletter. Balancing between a personal update on my activities and the impressions of the news. I think the latter is the most important for you readers, but some context is nice too I reckon, as it is a personal newsletter after all :-) 

Personal updates

Sharing my calendar of events and reporting on the ones I visited will remain an important part. Adding personal reflections to the articles and reasoning why it is interesting to share is something I think is important.

These updates remain also a source for my Monthly reflections on the Cities of Things that I post in a separate newsletter (thanks Peet for the nice words on Linkedin!). One of my work-related new year’s resolutions is to establish a manifesto(-like) document for the Cities of Things (collection of objects make intelligence, relations over nodes, sharing goals, value power of non-human contributions, to name some top-of-mind). Will feed back into this newsletter too.

So let’s dive into the new year together, and as a slight change of formatting: let me use some headings for different parts (adding ‘personal updates’ now).

Continue reading Weeknotes 173; a new year

Weeknotes 172; predictive systems

Happy holiday break! At least, that is it for me. So this week I skip a full newsletter but I share the articles I captured during the week roughly. Normally I use my Sunday evening and Monday to go through the newsletters and RSS feeds of last week, but I respect my holidays… I finished a planned-to-be-Monthly update though for Cities of Things. It feels it can use some more work but I share it as a moment of refecting; the Web3-ownership model deserves fleshing out more; we had some first thought exchange at General Seminar of last week on stewardship vs ownership vs responsibility. I might update the post later ;-)

For now let me wish you a great year-ending although we are still in a lockdown here, so no big parties and no fireworks… See you in 2022!

10 – predictive systems shaping an ownership economy
“In this reflective blog I like to dive into one of the fundamental concepts of Cities of Things that is touched upon in several posts but deserve a specific fleshing out I think; the active and initiating role of the bottom-up based network of objects that builds a Cities of Things, what makes a Cities of Things stand out other smart city concepts.”
The Web3 Renaissance: A Golden Age for Content – by Li Jin
Good overview of the shift Web3 is all about, and a starting point for reflection.
‘Starting to freak us out’: Robot’s realistic response stuns engineers – NZ Herald
“Engineers behind a new Ameca robot have admitted its realism was ‘freaky’” It is by design I would say…
Mobileye Launches Pilot For Autonomous, On-Demand Car Service In Paris
“Riders will be able to use the service through Moovit, the Israeli smart transit data company Intel bought last year.”

Back with full edition next week!

Weeknotes 171; simulations of life

Hi all! The year is almost ending. Christmas is around the corner for those who celebrate that (or just visit family etc), here in the Netherlands we are again in a lockdown for a brace for the impact of Omicron as we are still not fully recovered from the last waves… It is a pity. Reading the news and zooming in on Teams does not change that much, but it is definitely not energizing. Let’s make the best of it…

Last week -on that note- we celebrate a belated ‘Sinterklaas’ or early Xmas gifting party with INFO colleagues on a distance. Next to buying the right gifts and making a nice poem, as one does in this tradition, getting the gifts on time at the houses through the post was an extra challenge. It was good fun, as good as it can get!

Furthermore, we discussed plans for the CityLab010 project together with Rotterdam UAS. Preparing the first prototypes, planning student projects, and the kick-off. Did I mention here before that this project was selected? Very nice and looking forward to starting!

We also discussed a bit on the field lab MUC AMS’s next steps. Planning meetings in-person is getting harder again, hope the lockdowns will be released in a couple of months at least.

In this last week before the holiday break we meet with the two master graduation students to update on their projects -one on designing safe routes in a surveilled city space, and one on predictive knowledge for pension planning- and we have a session for the public-private partnership research project of Waag on the design layer in the public stack. On Wednesday I will join the General Seminar session on the topic “Web3 WTF!?”.

I did not see anything else to put on the event calendar in this first lockdown week. In the news last week another mix of topics on robots, autonomy, transformations, and the first trend reports for 2022 start dropping.

Continue reading Weeknotes 171; simulations of life

Weeknotes 170; learning from robots

Happy Tuesday (yes a slight delayed). Thanks for subscribing!

Last week was for an important part dedicated to ThingsCon preparations. The student competition was as big as last year and the evening program was an experiment to organize in a different tool than the usual Zoom or Big Bleu Button. SpatialChat worked rather well for shaping an environment that did not feel like the usual online space, you can really wander around and meet people, have a chat in one corner etc. Also, the presentations of the student projects in a Spatial exhibition worked very well. The staging environment can use some more interaction, but it also worked pretty well. So happy to have made the decision to organize even without the in-person program we were looking forward to so much… Hopefully we can do that again next year in an edition just before summer.

I expect/hope we will have an after-movie ready next week, or before the Christmas break at the latest.

We are running towards the end of the year, so I don’t think there are a lot of events or meetups to visit. I just ran into a short session organized by David ‘New World Same Human’ Mattin, reflecting on the trends of the coming year I think. It is that time of year, see also the first article below.

That is the one thing I ran into, maybe I should check some of the talks that are still in my ‘watch later youtube list, like Neil Stephenson, a documentary on the first smartphoneMorozovRethinking HumanityWiny Maas

Or just read all the articles of last week. Via Revue.

Weeknotes 169; meta deep dive

Hi all. Welcome to this week’s update. This is a short one and a bit delayed; I have had some ‘extra’ meetings on Monday and no time to reschedule the writing… Next week I promise to do a complete edition again!

Organizing a conference is always a lot of work. ThingsCon 2021 is a smaller edition than usual in time, and fully online, but it does not make it less work. Especially as we have a great program of course. And the student competition is just like other years; 20 projects entered from different places and countries. And we have chosen to use a new tool that possibly will deliver a different type of online event: SpatialChat. Setting this up including a student exhibition is nice to explore. Feel warmly invited to register to join! The exhibition opens at 14:00 CET, the speaker’s program start 17:30. Thanks to CLICKNL participation is free.

So I leave the look back, for now, will cover it next week. But I did save some interesting articles from last week for myself to read, so let me share these with you too! See you next week!

Read the news via Revue.

The alienating consequences of things that predict

This article is published as chapter of the ThingsCon Report ‘The State of Responsible IoT; Small Escapes from Surveillance Capitalism’, December 2019

Things become networks, autonomous things with their own agency as result of the developments in artificial intelligence. The character of things is changing into things that predict, that have more knowledge than the human where it interacts with. Things are building a new kind of relations with humans, predictive relations. What is the consequence of these predictive relations on the interaction with humans? Will the things that know more than we humans do, help us understand the complex world, or will the things start to prescribe behavior to us without we even know? What is the role of predictive relations in the design practice of the future designer?

This notion of predictive relations is linked to earlier research in the research program PACT (Partnerships in Cities of Things) and the work in the Connected Everyday Lab by Elisa Giaccardi and others. The notion that we will have affective things that draw conclusions from the interaction things have with humans, and combine these with buildup knowledge from the network, is illustrated in the provocation by Iohanna Nicenboim and Elisa Giaccardi called Affective Things.[1]

In a paper (M. L. Lupetti, Smit, & Cila, 2018) we described some near future scenarios how things connect to existing data and cloud services in the smart city and act in concert with people. In a few specific scenarios we sketched how these relations may play out. From a pizza delivery pod that know so much of the background information in combination with historical data on orders, that it can become an affective thing, starting a dialogue on the situation of the person ordering the pizza. She used to order always 2 pizzas but lately the orders became one pizza and combining with other behavior the conclusion is drawn the relationship with the boyfriend of the girl is ended. The delivery pod takes here a new role as good friend, a shoulder to cry on. A role that can do no harm if it stays within the domain of that one interaction. The links to other behavior in other situations indicates though that this is not the actual situation.

Figure 1; a new relation with autonomous things. Illustration by M.L. Lupetti from (M. L. Lupetti et al., 2018)

Another example describes a future public transport situation, based on a system of smaller transport pods that have a flexible route planning for going from A to B. This means that the pods don’t follow fixed routes and the travel time is severely reduced. But there is a catch. The system is not only flexible in the journey mapping, the planning is also taken into account who is travelling and including the social status of the person traveling. The service is there for planning its routes via a combination of actual efficiency in the route and the priorities. Consequence is that the journey time is hard to predict for the individual traveler. Creating more transparency in the decision making is key in building citizen robotic systems that are trusted by human citizens (M. Lupetti, Bendor, & Giaccardi, 2019).

The fundament of this future society

What is defining these systems to happen? The first driver is the digitizing of our world in all aspects. We have deconstructed our cities with increments of buildings or structures into a layered model where the basic layer is the physical layer. On top of that we have a digital layer that is connected to databases and computing capabilities. Entities can be physical or digital, and are using the digital layer to be assembled to a state in a service. This is the fluid assemblage (Redström & Wiltse, 2018). Not only can these assemblages be defined at the moment of use or interact, also the physical layer functions differently. Instead of setting the stage it is a blank sheet with the right components. Kitchin & Dodge described this situation as a Code/space (Kitchin & Dodge, 2011), a space where the digital computing layer has become crucial in defining the functionalities. No computing layer means no functionality. Something that already can be seen in ultimo at an airport. In the deconstructed city the services offered are totally open for interpretation but at the same time the control of that layer is more and more limited to a selective number of players.

The thing itself is changing too into an intelligent artefact. It connects with an existing network, collect real-time data and act proactively. And most interesting, it has a social behavior. These things take their own role in our society, things are citizens.

Predicting and prescripting

That things are becoming networked objects behaving as fluid assemblages is the start. These things can adapt to the data in the network and the interaction with other things and humans. This creates a situation that the thing has more knowledge on possible future developments than the human can have based on the combination of observation and anticipation. Anticipation is here based on knowledge from experience or learned interpretations. If we let loose of a ball we understand it will fall to the ground. When that same ball is an autonomous operating ball[2] it can connect to the network and things start to predict outcomes, it means that it will feed forward on situations we did not anticipate.

The more complex the behavior of the thing is the more anticipation on expected results is steering the interaction. The more complex the thing the more depending we will be on the predictions made.

In the future we will shift continuously between the simulated future and the now. Think on simple examples as the weather app that is predicting rain based on radar data and sensors is ruling our perception of the exception of becoming wet when going outside more than the judgement of the real rain situation. And more specific the example of a Tesla that is predicting an accident and taking the initiative to brake before the first accident is really happening[3].

We are entering here an interesting domain of tension; what is ruling, the predictive system that helps us to understand the complex world, or a system that is prescribing our behavior?

Figure 2: model of predictive relations and how the decentralized system is informing user to make decisions (a) or prescribing behavior (b)

If the things will form a framework for our decisions, will we transfer agency to the system of things? And if we do so, will that limit our own agency? This is no question; we are already put more trust in systems to keep knowledge and remove this knowledge from our memories. Google is the ultimo assistant. And this is an example what dependency entails. The filter bubble has become a recognized concept. What we think is true is depending on what tools like Google present to us.

As soon as we start to experience this disconnect from real world and (pre)scripted life alienation is a possible outcome. We feel disconnected from the devices as the working is more defined in the decentralised system than in the direct working. This even can cause physical unease (Bean, 2019).

A new design space

The interplay of predictions and actions creates a complex interrelated design space. Predictive behavior shapes our mental model on the acting of the thing. At the same time our actions shape the digital model of the thing. In a first model of predictive relations the interplay of the human and the autonomous operating thing is deconstructed into a combination of pattern recognition, interactions with a digital representation of the thing and knowledge from probable futures generated by similar instances in the network.

Figure 3; visualization of the hypothesis of the working of predictive relations

For designers of physical things, the span of control is already extending from the physical instance to the digital service that is incorporated or unlocked via the physical artefact. With the notion of predictive relations there is a need for designing contextual rule-based behavior. The choices made in the design defines the distribution of agency between system, thing and human. Systems of things form an entity on its own and the design is both influencing the system as the things, as it is influencing the interplay of the thing and the human. To deal with this complexity the default acting might be to automate the system behavior with machine learning and AI. But what does that mean for our position in that system. Can we keep a set of responsible rules? We like to work with known knowns and known unknowns[4]. But what is the consequence for the way we design if we need to do this for unknown knowns?

Notes

[1] Read more on the project at https://iohanna.com/Affective-Things-More-than-Human-Design, last accessed 6 November 2019

[2] Art project https://dispotheque.org/en/le-23eme-joueur last accessed 6 November 2019

[3] More on the specific event at https://www.engadget.com/2016/12/28/tesla-autopilot-predicts-crash (last accessed 30 July 2019)

[4] Referring here to a infamous speech by Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense speaking in 2002 in a news briefing, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns, last accessed 6 November 2019

References

Bean, J. (2019). Nest Rage. Interactions, 26(May-June 2019), 1.

Kitchin, R., & Dodge, M. (2011). Code/Space, Software and Everyday Life: The MIT Press.

Lupetti, M., Bendor, R., & Giaccardi, E. (2019). Robot Citizenship: A Design Perspective.

Lupetti, M. L., Smit, I., & Cila, N. (2018). Near future cities of things: addressing dilemmas through design fiction. Paper presented at the NordiCHI, Oslo.

Redström, J., & Wiltse, H. (2018). Changing Things : The Future of Objects in a Digital World. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

[1] Referring here to a infamous speech by Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense speaking in 2002 in a news briefing, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns, last accessed 6 November 2019