Tech Exceptionalism

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #378.

I worked on the following this week:

  • The Scientific Method and Doing Research -I’m in full support of democratizing research, science, and the scientific method. But let’s examine these mindsets a bit more deeply and think about how to do your own research.
  • Examining Human History and Evolution in Sapiens – In his grand-scale book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, historian Yuval Noah Harari provides a sweeping history of humankind that delves into our evolution, impact, and potential future. This uniquely broad perspective makes it a fascinating read for anyone interested in who we are and how we got here.
  • Extending the Attribution of Consciousness to AI – While current AI systems are still far from truly thinking or feeling beings, their impressive abilities challenge our assumptions about the unique nature of human consciousness.

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Hyperloop in 2023: Where are they now?

The problem with only hiring “idea guys,” techbros, and consultants is that eventually, you’ll need actual work done.

Tech Exceptionalism

Cory Doctorow delves into the reasons why a few big tech companies, like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, have become so powerful. He argues that it’s not just because of exceptional CEOs, but rather due to monopolies.

Doctorow’s new book, The Internet Con:How to Seize the Means of Computation is next in my reading queue.

Why this matters. Having cheaper products may seem beneficial, but we should also consider other important roles we play in society, like being workers, parents, residents, and citizens. If our lower-priced items come at the cost of fair wages, the health of our communities, or the power of our elected officials, then we might not be truly benefiting in the long run.

Grandiose tech manifestoes

Last week Mark Andreessen published “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” a 5,000-plus-word post on the Andreessen Horowitz website that outlines a vision of technologists as the authors of a future in which the “techno-capital machine” produces everything that is good in the world.

Elizabeth Spiers indicates that in this manifesto, Andreessen argues that wealthy technologists should be the ones to shape the future and rule the world. Spiers outlines how he dismisses concepts like social responsibility, trust, and safety as obstacles to progress and believes that technologists should be the ones to make decisions for society. This controversial vision has gained traction among some tech elites, who view democracy and egalitarianism as hindrances to technological advancement.

Why this matters. Some people believe that this idea is already visible in our society, where the rich and powerful have more control and don’t consider the impact of what they do.

Computers as better teachers than humans

Duolingo, an education app founded by Guatemalan computer scientist Luis von Ahn, is the most frequently downloaded education app in the world. Initially developed to help people learn foreign languages while simultaneously using their work to translate online texts.

This piece shares the backstory of the development of how the app has evolved into the use of machine learning technologies to help support learners.

Why this matters. It’s interesting to learn more about the development of Duolingo, and the challenges of scaling up these interactions between humans and AI agents.

Verified to give you the chills

Listening to some songs can cause a powerful physiological response known as “frisson.” What is it, and why does it happen?

The 715-song playlist was curated by a team of neuroscientists and is available on Spotify.

Why this matters. Identify times to experience a sudden feeling or sensation of excitement, emotion, or thrill. This could be staring at a brilliant sunset or a beautiful painting; realizing a deep insight or truth; reading a particularly resonant line of poetry; or watching the climax of a film.

Keeping the Internet weird

Neal Agarwal, a 25-year-old coder, has launched a new project called Internet Artifacts. It is an exciting venture from the creator of Agarwal is known for his viral creations like The Deep Sea, a mesmerizing visualization of the ocean’s depths, and Asteroid Launcher, where you can launch space rocks toward your hometown. He has also developed games like Absurd Trolley Problems and the addicting Password Game.

Why this matters. The web is a better place when we have more of the messy and the unpredictable.

How do colors affect the way you think

Our world is awash with a rainbow of colors, but certain shades can have a surprising impact on our ability to concentrate, our mood, and even the flavors we experience. Color psychology is the study of how different colors affect human mood and behavior. It explores how colors can influence emotional responses, as well as how responses to color are affected by factors such as age and cultural background.

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

Peter F. Drucker

Cover Photo CC BY using Playground AI

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