Notes for November 10th 2023

Song of the week:

  • "Big tech on trial" is a trope that's been out there a lot in the last week or two. What's funny is that I have an RSS feed for tech, and a lot of them are running with a headline akin to "Is Google's reckoning finally here?" We built Google (and other big tech companies) as darlings, all while building a guillotine in the background for these kinds of weeks.
  • AI regulation feels like it's coming. Rules around what AI should or should not do feels right to me, though AI is not my field. But I think a lot of the regulation on AI will look and feel broader than AI itself. Because the principles around how you regulate AI is similar to how you regulate humans, but with a more aggressive concern on how quickly and how wide a net AI can cast when it comes to generative content. Even Zuckerberg noted on Meta's earnings call this week that he reckons his "feed apps" (Facebook, Threads and Instagram) will be dominated by AI-generated content in future. He's probably right. And this is something that needs to be positioned better. I don't think you can regulate it away. But we do need to educate people on what these platforms are doing, what AI models are targeting you and why.
    • AI being used as a tool to help you buy the best shirt for a wedding is a wonderful tool. But AI being used to interject political discourse to force an election one way or the other is abjectly dangerous.
  • This week I stuck a Swytch electric motor (and accompanying battery etc.) to my old Tokyobike. It's a bike that I've not cycled much in the last few years because I'm so accustomed to my electric Van Moof. But now, this is pretty good. Like, really good. A whole new lease of life brought to a simple, old bike frame built for city riding. I'm excited to get out there with it. It's also immensely enjoyable to adjust/fix things on that bike given it has standard parts. Whereas my Van Moof is absolutely impossible to tinker with.
  • In the early twentieth century, philosopher John Rawls created a fascinating thought experiment. I think it's super poignant today because we're facing down the barrel of a new world with AI, etc. etc.
    • Imagine you are given the opportunity to design an ideal society. Give it all the rules and structures that you feel appropriate. Once you've done that, repeat the exercise. But in the second round, you have to adhere to these two axioms: 1) after setting up the system, you will be reborn into the world you designed with no memory of having designed it. 2) you will be randomly assigned a gender, race, age, wealth, intelligence, and ability level.
    • What would your ideal society look like?
  • About a year ago last week, Mastodon went wild with new user acquisition as a result of Musk buying Twitter. I noticed a lot of folks celebrating and rejoicing their escape from what became of Twitter. Good for them. And good for Musk for forcing these micro communities to exist.
    • I still wish we all utilised IRC more, though!