Daily Bits May 8th, 2017

The Guardian carries a mind-blowing examination of human motivations, by Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens, definitely worth reading). As usual, his writing is packed with tangential observations that change the way you see things.

For instance, virtual reality has been a part of our lives for a very long time:

“The idea of finding meaning in life by playing virtual reality games is of course common not just to religions, but also to secular ideologies and lifestyles. Consumerism too is a virtual reality game. You gain points by acquiring new cars, buying expensive brands, and taking vacations abroad, and if you have more points than everybody else, you tell yourself you won the game.”

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Wired published another eye-opening article in which Kevin Kelly shows us that we do not really know what “intelligence” means. And that, almost certainly, there is not just one type. So, predictions of the impact of “artificial intelligence” are most likely based on false assumptions.

“When we invented artificial flying we were inspired by biological modes of flying, primarily flapping wings. But the flying we invented — propellers bolted to a wide fixed wing — was a new mode of flying unknown in our biological world. It is alien flying. Similarly, we will invent whole new modes of thinking that do not exist in nature. In many cases they will be new, narrow, “small,” specific modes for specific jobs — perhaps a type of reasoning only useful in statistics and probability.”

Yet in the article, Kevin also makes some assumptions. For instance:

“You cannot optimize every dimension. You can only have tradeoffs.”

How can he be so sure? (He does acknowledge that he might be wrong – a sure sign of intelligence.)

Any thinking about intelligence, artificial or not, has to be accepted as conjecture – because we just don’t know. We don’t understand why we think, let alone how. As science progresses we will know more, but I doubt we’ll ever fully understand it, or even be able to measure it.

I find that strangely comforting.

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My article on CoinDesk this week, on the possible implementation of blockchain technology in Kenya’s M-Akiba bond platform (which I wrote about here). For the first time, the government issued an infrastructure bond aimed at retail investors – it could only be bought via the mobile phone M-Pesa app (which over half the population has downloaded).

Could Kenya’s bond program be the catalyst for getting blockchain into the hands of the man on the street?

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This is mind-boggling: the Guggenheim Museum is now sharing over 200 art books, for free, through the Internet Archive. To browse through. At any time. I know what I’m doing this weekend… (Via Colossal.)

via Colossal
via Colossal


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