Negative Capability

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #381.

I worked on some things in the background this week.

Christoph Niemann — Visual Reduction from gestalten on Vimeo.

Christoph Niemann: Insecurity Is Essential to Great Design. In this short video from Gestalten, Niemann discusses his philosophy on design, the state of visual language today, his creative process, his adorable non-neuroses, and more.

A certain amount of insecurity is a very helpful trait for any kind of designer.

Hindering Its Ability to Exercise Its Responsibilities

In a blog post released this week, OpenAI—the artificial-intelligence juggernaut for which Sam Altman was the CEO—announced that he would be leaving, effective immediately, because, according to the statement, “he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

This is very big news for the field, as Altman, who earlier this year was labeled as the Oppenheimer of our age. There is already a bit of searching for reasons why this happened. More to come on this…

Why this matters: Altman was a co-founder and CEO of OpenAI whom many considered to be the leader of the burgeoning artificial intelligence revolution. We need to understand what this means for the tools and outreach of these models.

AI and Children’s Rights

Following the recent UK AI Safety Summit at the beginning of November, Gazal Shekhawat and Sonia Livingstone called attention to the interests of children in the global AI arms race.

They highlight the need for further research on how AI affects children, particularly in terms of cognitive functioning and algorithmic bias. It also calls for more clarity and inclusivity in the formulation of guidance, including the voices of children and perspectives from the Global South.

Why this matters: With all of the discussion around innovation, jobs, and existential events, not many are asking youth how they view these generative models and tools.

Attenuating Innovation

As we see new AI models and tools impact our lives, there is discussion about whether regulation is needed to protect the humans in the equation. Ben Thompson in Stratechery looks back at lessons learned from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they considered what helps and hinders innovation.

Why this matters: How do we as a society effectively manage the innovation necessary for solving a range of societal problems? Is it even possible in the United States?

The World Is Becoming More African

Astonishing change is underway in Africa, where the population is projected to nearly double to 2.5 billion over the next quarter century —an era that will not only transform many African countries, experts say, but also radically reshape their relationship with the rest of the world. By 2050, every fourth person on the planet will be African.

Urbanist and futurist Geci Karuri-Sebina and colleagues propose that we turn to decolonizing narratives so that Africa’s “traditions of griots, folklore, and speculation” can offer guidance on shaping better futures.

Why this matters: We need to challenge the dominant ideologies of our time and embrace multiple, coexisting manifestations of time in order to imagine more desirable futures.

Embracing Uncertainty and Celebrating the Mysterious

Maria Popova shares insight from John Keats and his ability to project himself into different roles and live in a state of creative uncertainty.

“Negative Capability” is the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity.

Why this matters: A reminder that the unknown and mysterious can be a beautiful and valuable experience.

Harness Your Network to Unlock Innovation

To tap into your networks to inspire, support, and protect innovation, these three practices are especially useful.

First, find and mobilize external innovation catalysts who are adept at synthesizing diverse perspectives and identifying creative solutions. Second, engage with internal sparring partners who can highlight potential objections and help fuse ideas with your company’s mission and turn them into compelling business propositions. Third, selectively sequence the introduction of those ideas within your social circles to stress-test and gradually gain buy-in for them.

The creative adult is the child who has survived.

Ursula Le Guin

Cover Photo CC BY using Playground AI

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