Friday 14 April, 2023

Curled up

Our cat, Tilly. She and I are about the same age (making due allowances for the conversion rate between human- and cat-years). Strangely, my attempts to replicate this posture end in failure.

Quote of the Day

”The weird thing about any kind of analytic discussion of today’s AI wave is that all the really big issues are highly technical and philosophical arguments amongst scientists who don’t agree on the questions, let alone the answers. What kinds of understanding can these systems have? Is there a path to AGI? How soon? What would that mean? You can spend an awful lot of time watching debates and interviews on YouTube, but no-one knows yet.”

  • Benedict Evans

That just about sums it up.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Jay Ungar & Molly Mason Family Band | “Ashokan Farewell”


Long Read of the Day

 Can start-ups fix the ethical problems of technology?

My short answer to the question is ’no’. And the reason is that “get big fast” is the ruling obsession in the industry. But Sebastián Lehuedé, a young researcher in Cambridge, has a more judicious analysis, which looks back to Ivan Illich for inspiration. Which is why I was struck by his essay, because I also keep coming back to Illich for ways of thinking about technology (including bicycles).

Some critics of big tech companies, he says, have pointed to start-ups as key actors in advancing a more ethically aware technological landscape. Drawing parallels with philosopher Ivan Illich’s criticism of ‘growth mania’, he argues that the ‘imperative to scale’ in tech circles makes it difficult for medium and small-sized firms to prioritise ethics.

Worth your time. About a five-minute read.

My commonplace booklet

Why are manufacturers of expensive wristwatches always concerned to make devices for deep-sea divers? Here’s the latest model from Omega. Apparently it’s water-resistant to depths of 6,000 metres, which is 19685.04 feet.

My question: how many real divers can afford this kind of jewellery? It costs £11,700. You can get one here. Remember to bring your swimming trunks to establish your bona fides with a snooty salesperson.

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