Are We Dumb Terminals?


The social architecture of our relationship with data is broken. But we’ve overcome this problem before. We should do it again.

(cross posted from Searchblog)

God, “innovation.” First banalized by undereducated entrepreneurs in the oughts, then ground to pablum by corporate grammarians over the past decade, “innovation” — at least when applied to business — deserves an unheralded etymological death.

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Laying the Pipes of a Post-Advertising World


The shift from brands and advertising to pipes and subscriptions is inevitable — and well underway. Want proof? Look to Disney.

Terms like ‘Disneyflix’ and ‘Apple Prime’ essentially describe how the most powerful global brand owners are coming to terms with the new rules of engagement. This is not just another story of new versus old, it’s a fundamental shift in the natural order of consumerism. Brands have traditionally been prized, while distribution has been more commoditized. The ‘must have’ things held the power. But if the pipes into people’s lives have become more powerful than the products that go through them, then we’re in the beginning of a new era. and the change is just beginning.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Brands to Pipes.

Why would the utility of pipes beat the romance of brands? It’s easy to misinterpret our love of convenience as love for brands. People are promiscuous, and even our favorite brands can be replaced if something better asserts itself.

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Nation State At the Crossroads


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Whither thou goest, I will go

There is a notion worth revisiting: are nation states nearing their end as our preferred scale of the political and socio-economic organisation? This idea lies in contrast with the “end of history” theory of modernity, first posited by the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

I’ve found the question of evolving the nation-state fascinating since the early 1990s when I first came across ideas of decentralised forms of organisation enabled by new electronic networks (and was contemporaneously studying political institutions and models of governance).

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Efforts to Nationalise AI, and Why We Need to Stop Calling it “AI Race”


Photo by Ciprian Pardău on Unsplash

Much of the work done in AI is of the intangible quality, and will drive spillovers

French President Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to make France an AI leader and avoid “dystopia”, supported by €1.5bn in investment. France is not the first country to surge ambitiously towards establishing itself as a “leader” in AI. Putin famously stated that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world”. China has a three-year action plan to establish itself at the top. Canada’s Trudeau discussed on multiple occasions the consequences of automation, and the opportunities of artificial intelligence. Macron demonstrates nuanced understanding of the opportunity — both technological and social — of artificial intelligence in this must-read interview.

This sort of thing can only help capitalise on the value of these technologies. I do believe that cultural and intellectual diversity (and France has those when arrayed with China and the US) can only help in the development of appropriate AI systems. The equivalent UK number is only about £75m (€85m), which is a pity considering the nation’s intellectual heritage across both humanities and technology domains, and bottom-up appetite for the Internet over the past 30 years. More importantly, few world leaders have expressed such adroitness with this sea change than Macron has.

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The Three Horsemen of Facebook’s Datapocalypse


Photo by Jamie Kern on Unsplash (modified).

Market dominance, the business model, and internal culture: Mark should learn from Microsoft.

I’ve written extensively about Facebook in Exponential View for the past three years. (In fact, you can see everything I’ve written about Facebook at this link).

Nearly two years ago (EV#60), I wrote:

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How oil came to control the world


Let’s talk about oil (Part II)

J.D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, became the world’s first billionaire in 1916. It wasn’t Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate, or Cornelius Vanderbilt, the transportation mogul, or J.P. Morgan, the legendary banker. It was Rockefeller. And this was even considering the fact that oil had largely been used only for machinery, medicine, and lighting up to that point, and transportation only came into the mix in the early 1900s.

Oil has since become the most important commodity, ever. In fact, almost every major geopolitical event in the past century can be tied to oil.

How did oil get to be so important?

A strategic military resource

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The Day the Algorithm Died


It’s not just Facebook. The Internet has failed as a public forum.

When in doubt, blame the robots. As Facebook has fallen from grace and struggled to reconcile its role in spreading propaganda and stoking political anger, the company has proposed a familiar solution:

If the algorithm has failed, let’s just build a better algorithm.

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Stop Waiting for the Singularity. It Started 200 Years Ago.


The Industrial Revolution is the most transformative event in human history. It is the true Singularity — and you’re living through it.

In recent years a bunch of technologists have pushed a once fringe idea into the mainstream. That idea is the Singularity.

For most in Silicon Valley and beyond, the Singularity has come to mean one thing: a future event in which humankind merges with artificial superintelligence, sparking a new era for us as a species that is definitively different from anything that has come before.

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Will Banks Legislate What Congress Can’t?


Money Quote Feb. 20 2018

A remarkable test case for the concept of “Business Must Lead.”

The theme of this year’s Shift Forum is “Business must lead.” The phrase is simple, but the ideas behind it are complicated: How might business actually take a larger, more positive role in the public sphere? Just in time for next week’s event comes a perfect example of “business leading” thinking — in the form of a column from Andrew Ross Sorkin.

In the piece, Sorkin acknowledges that our policymakers and politicians have utterly failed to execute their duties when it comes to gun control. A strong majority of Americans believe that sale of assault weaponry should be limited or banned, but the brute force of NRA money has stopped sensible legislation from moving forward. So how could business step in and lead? Sorkin argues that banks could ban the processing of transactions related to assault weapons — just as they already have with cryptocurrencies. In the case of bitcoin and its peers, banks claim they are protecting their customers from potential harm. And what could be more harmful to customers than, well…death?

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Why Driverless Cars Won’t Be Better Than Humans: A Sports Analogy


If you read my blog on the regular, then you already know I’m gaming you with the headline. But, whether you’re a newcomer or a frequent reader, rejoice in this rare respite: for today, we’re not talking urban planning or transportation policy or corporate chicanery.

We’re talking basketball. We love that basketball.

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