Humans and Algorithms Work Together

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #366. I posted the following this week.

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The power of A.I.: Cancer detection, digital twins and an ‘A.I. god’

A bit longer (27:22) than I like to share here at the top in DL, but this segment from Meet The Press raises ethical and philosophical questions about the role of AI in society and the potential risks and benefits of its development.

The video covers three topics: how A.I. can help detect cancer earlier and more accurately, how A.I. can create digital twins of humans and objects that can simulate real-world scenarios, and how some people are making an A.I. god that can answer any question and provide moral guidance.

Humans and Algorithms Work Together — So Study Them Together

J. Nathan Matias argues for the need for a new science of human-algorithm behavior. Matias discusses the challenges and opportunities of governing adaptive algorithms that change in response to people’s actions, and proposes four steps to developing this science: classify patterns of human-algorithm behavior, explain how and why they occur, forecast and intervene to prevent harms, and diversify the research community.

Why this matters. As a digitally literate person, you could participate in projects that monitor and report the effects of algorithms on your online experience. You can voice your opinions and issues to the creators and regulators of these platforms. One example of such a project is YouTube Regrets by Mozilla Foundation, which lets you report problematic video recommendations.

Care about book bans? You should be following this lawsuit.

Escambia County, Florida’s book bans are the subject of an opinion article by Michelle Goldberg and a lawsuit by PEN America, Penguin Random House, and others. The plaintiffs argue that the bans are unconstitutional and discriminate against books by nonwhite and LGBTQ+ authors. The outcome of the lawsuit could have national repercussions for book bans, free speech, and student rights.

Learn more about the recent surge of state laws that threaten school and library staff with prison or fines for giving obscene or harmful books to minors. This post explores the pros and cons of these laws, the risks they pose to librarians and teachers, and the potential First Amendment lawsuits they could face. It also gives examples of states that have enacted or proposed such laws and some of the books that have been challenged by conservative groups.

Why this matters. These lawsuits matter for anyone who cares about book bans, as they impact free speech and students’ rights across the country.

Safety in Surveillance?

The Washington Post reports on surveillance cameras and facial recognition software that are being used to monitor, punish and evict public housing residents across the country. The cameras are funded by federal grants intended to fight crime, but they are often used to enforce minor rule violations, such as littering, smoking, or having guests. Some public housing authorities have shared the footage with police, landlords, and courts, violating the privacy and civil rights of the residents.

An example of this is shown in the spread of Fusus, a police technology platform that connects public and private cameras with other surveillance tools, in towns across the U.S.

Why this matters. Surveillance technology vendors are cashing in on public housing agencies that buy their products without clear rules or oversight, despite the lack of research on their impact and the potential harm to residents’ rights and well-being.

Did Scientists Accidentally Invent an Anti-addiction Drug?

Exploring the possibility that semaglutide, a drug used for diabetes and weight loss, could also have anti-addiction effects. The article cites anecdotal reports from patients who say they have lost interest in addictive or compulsive behaviors such as drinking, smoking, shopping, or nail biting after taking the drug. The article reviews the scientific evidence from animal studies that suggest semaglutide and similar drugs can alter the brain’s reward circuitry and reduce the use of alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and opioids.

Why this matters. The article notes that the mechanism and long-term impact of semaglutide on addiction are still unclear and require more research in humans. It is interesting to consider the relatively long list of drugs that were discovered by accident.

Audiobooks as a cultural phenomenon

Taking a look at the rise of audiobooks as a cultural and economic phenomenon. The article analyzes the production process, the labor conditions, and the artistic choices involved in creating audiobooks. The post discusses how audiobooks affect the way readers engage with literature, how writers craft stories, and how publishers market their books. The article argues that audiobooks are not just adaptations of print books, but parallel works that require collaboration and creativity from authors, narrators, and listeners.

Why this matters. I’ve got a lot of my colleagues and friends that will hate me (again) for this, but I love audiobooks. Over the last two days, I did a ton of driving and was able to take a big chunk out of my next book, Children of Time. My early review? It’s excellent. (✿ ♥‿♥)

Be truly asynchronous

Stowe Boyd examines how we’re constantly fighting for time, and perhaps we need to think about carving out me-time and we-time.

  • Me-time is when individuals are focused on deep work — writing, thinking, programming, planning, designing — it’s just someone working alone with the tools and artifacts of their trade.
  • We-time is when we are involved in communications with others — meetings, calls, and working sessions; 1:1 or 1:many — where the focus of the participants is split between the topic at issue (like discussing a project) and the many social aspects of the interaction (negotiation, arguing for and against ideas or propositions, establishing how the project will impact the project participants, and other social aspects of the topic at issue).

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Frederick Douglass

Cover Photo CC BY using DreamStudio.AI

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