Friday 17 May, 2024

The late arrival

Dingle peninsula, Ireland.

Quote of the Day

“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”

  • Marshall McLuhan

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Samuel Barber | Agnus Dei | Voces8


A hauntingly beautiful adaptation of Barber’s Adagio. Thanks to Joanna Mulvey for suggesting it.

Long Read of the Day

Big Energy

Scott Galloway on the way that tech firms are beginning to look suspiciously like energy companies.

Big Tech isn’t just similar to the energy business, it is the new energy business. AI’s growing power requirements make this concrete. AI compute requirements are doubling every 100 days, dramatically countervailing the gains in efficiency that every AI evangelist boasts about after vomiting that it will save/destroy humanity. Training the trillion-plus-parameter models being stewed in a medium-size city (San Francisco) requires the energy consumption of a small country. One ChatGPT request requires 10 times the energy of a Google search. In five years, the incremental energy demand of AI will be equivalent to 40 million homes — more than California, Texas, Florida, and New York combined. Data centers make up 3% of total U.S. power demand, but that’s projected to triple by 2030. BTW, 2030 is the same distance into the future as the finale of Game of Thrones is in the past (2019).

To feed their data centers, tech companies are investing billions in energy production and storage. The WSJ reports Big Tech execs descended on this year’s annual oil and gas conference, hunting for energy. Bill Gates was the featured speaker. Amazon, the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, has over 500 projects operating or in development. Announcements of new data centers are accompanied by commitments to develop new wind and solar farms to provide the power…

Not as easy a read as most of his stuff (keeps being interrupted by graphs). But I think he’s right about what’s happening — and isn’t being talked about enough.

Books, etc.


I tuned into the launch event for this at LSE on Tuesday evening largely because I’m looking for different lenses through which to view what’s happening to democracies as they are increasingly dominated by tech companies. The lens offered by Mejias and Couldry is colonialism. Their argument is that colonialism has not disappeared; it has just taken on a new form — data colonialism.

Colonialism 1.0 was about appropriating land; data colonialism is about creating virtual territories (silos) in which the data produced by people as they go about their lives can be appropriated and exploited for profit.

In a striking turn, the authors took an analytical tool from computer games with colonial themes like — the 4X (‘four exes’) model — a way of categorising the stages in the colonialisation process:

  1. Explore
  2. Expand
  3. Exploit
  4. Exterminate

The book uses this model to analyse how the tech industry has been operating since 2000.

There was a nice moment when Mejias compared Google’s Terms and Conditions with the document that Spanish Conquistadors used to read to the inhabitants of territories they had arrived to appropriate.

Anyway, it’s now on my reading list.

My commonplace booklet

The end of the sedan?

FastCompany has an interesting piece on how US automobile manufacturers are abandoning what they call ‘sedans’ and we call ‘saloon cars’ (an odd term, when you come to think of it) — in favour of SUVs.

I’m not sure that this is the case for European and Asian manufacturers. Oddly enough, Tesla currently stands out in opposition to this US trend: its Model 3 and Model S cars are both saloons. The Tesla Model X is a big SUV, and the Model Y is a hatchback. And the Cybertruck is, well, just weird.


Something I noticed, while drinking from the Internet firehose.

  • Climbing Everest is just routine for some.  From

Mount Everest saw two record-breaking climbs on Sunday with a Nepali sherpa making the most ever summits and a British climber setting the record for a foreigner.

Kami Rita Sherpa, 54, scaled the world’s tallest mountain for a 29th time while British man Kenton Cool marked his 18th peak.

Sherpa, already the world-record holder, beat his own landmark in setting the new standard.

A guide for over two decades, he first climbed the summit in 1994 and has made the peak almost every year since.

Good for him. For me, I like looking at moountains.

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