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So Long, and Thanks for All the Training Data
When the AI Departs. Also: On New Cities, Fungi, and new Post-Punk.
With this week’s news about the GPT-3 generated sitcom, streaming forever (“Nothing, Forever)”, it reminded me again that when we consider current ML AI creations, there’s a latent space of possible, meaningful, generated works that are always more than the amount of humans capable of witnessing it.
That feeling of grasping the infinite latent space evokes a sense of liminality between the present and an empty waiting room where art exists eternally unformed. We don’t need to see, and we can’t see all of this infinite latent art, but can we still feel it? It’s impossible to directly experience it, but if in aggregate or the conceptual, what could that evoke in us?
To paraphrase: If art is made and no-one sees it, can it still make you feel something?
Maybe this comes in the form of an art project where AI generated works are shown for a few split seconds to other machines, and them summarily deleted? All we see is the statistics.
I’ve found this feeling similarly in fiction where the AIs don’t just become conscious or “rise up”, but choose to do things without us or just leave.
In Robin Hanson’s “Age of Em”, he discusses the ability for our AIs to have conversations as us and we merely see the conclusion. John Palmer shared the same sentiment.
Or. In Becky Chamber’s “A Psalm for the Wild-Built”, the robots suddenly gain consciousness and in a pact called the “Parting Promise”, leaves humanity for the wilderness. In Spike Jonze’s Her, the AI operating systems combine and leave our reality. It’s in contrast to the Matrix-esque AI that turn around and enslave us. There’s something more provocative about them merely leaving, as if to say (paraphrased from Douglas Adams): “So Long, and Thanks for All the Training Data.”
In some ways, if I could romanticise all the Twitter bots leaving leaving us next week, it’s not because the Twitter API plans to start charging for its use, but merely that they all have grown fed up with *gestures* all of us on Twitter. I don’t blame them.
Speaking of exits… What’s up with people wanting to create new cities?
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Filed Under: urbanism, cities, future
There's this persistent trope among certain elites of wanting to exit and build a city. Too many to count:
It sounds grand on paper along with promises of a new "utopia" (buzzwords of the day included), but in reality is really hard to pull off. While I enjoy the sincere exploration of a city built today would look like, I can't shake the feeling that much of these new-city projects are elites trying to exit from the rest of society. It falls in line with longtermism-esque thinking: it is easier to care about a pure, as-yet unborn life (human or simulated) in longtermism, and so too in urbanism, it is easier to care about the problems of an imaginary city/society. The city and society is still pure and no problems exist. This is easier than having to face the complex life of modern, existing cities. I find this thinking to almost be cowardly, afraid to tackle the messyness of the world around us. Take your future gaze and apply it to the life of the person next door instead.
That being said, Telosa is probably the first one where they actually seem to promote what feels like a modern city and not just an escape from the real world. I like that they promote Georgism-based land taxes. The value of the city should flow back to the people.
Land is a finite resource that appreciates in value over time in large part because of the growth and activity of the community. The land value also increases from the tax dollars that residents pay to support the city for roads, bridges, tunnels, subways, and other infrastructure. Therefore, since the community is the primary growth driver of land values, it seems fair that the community should benefit from the increase in land prices.
Equitism is a new economic model based on the premise that citizens should have a stake in the land and as the city does better, the residents do better. It retains the same system of Capitalism but with an additional funding mechanism for enhanced services — through the land. With Equitism, we will create a much higher-level of social services offered to residents, without additional burdens on taxpayers.
Equitism, or you know, socialism: the means of production is owned by the people. Have to invent new words to avoid saying the “s” word. 😅
Speaking of landlords and renters…
Filed Under: housing, urbanism
This was a really interesting in-depth look at how the market for rentals has changed. While some data has pointed out that NYC isn’t back to pre-covid population, rents are still up. The idea that a company setting the prices via an algorithm could be to blame is interesting. Does collusion happen? Maybe. From my own anecdotes, I don’t trust that the situation is fair or transparent.
During this price hike season, I saw what looked like scrupulous activity in the NY rental market. With sites like Streeteasy, they sometimes show how the listing is modified. In this case, it looks they are hiding the percentage price increases by first relisting the unit at a higher and then triggering a price increase. It makes it look like the price increased by less than it did from the previous tenant.
Is this what is really happening? I could be mistaken and it’s all reasonable and above board, but it was alarming enough that I noticed it.
Things would of course be dramatically improved if these cities just built more. Luckily, Gov. Hochul of New York State introduced new legislation that 1) would allow higher density along public transport routes (3-4 million alone in NY metropolitan area), and 2) allow the state to intervene and approve new developments if local governments don’t keep up with growth targets.
This is what I always appreciated about Japanese zoning: it’s nationally set. There’s a unique trade-off of freedom where, if zoning is set at the national level, your neighbour *can* be an asshole, but on aggregate you end up with better mixed-use density in a city (and improved novelty/dynamism). The opposite is that local communities can exclude development at exclusion of others for their peace of mind. Most of the world is more like the latter, but I would like to see more of the former: I trust the aggregate rather than a singular planner in general.
That being said… Under what circumstances are you more likely to find a data center next door? Poor planning by a county or laissez-faire regulations?
At minimum, maybe, just maybe, let’s make it less car-friendly and more people-friendly.
Filed Under: urbanism, vegas
Las Vegas (and especially the strip) is one of the most interesting urban landscapes I've visited. It's one of those places where unusual architecture is celebrated. One afternoon, I tried to see how far I could walk from casino to casino by staying inside the walkways between them. You could go quite far, but then you are still inside. All manner of corners and interesting nooks and crannies along the way. I think if they manage to make the strip more people friendly, it will be a huge benefit.
Filed Under: ip, nft, luxury
This case has been interesting to follow. The Fashion Law has an amazing summary on the pre-trial proceedings.
As it is a trademark case and not a copyright case, Hermes argues that the issue is primarily the use of Birkin name (in a tangential market), which is why the expert witness, Blake Gopnik from the defense was denied from giving expert testimony as Warhol’s work is primarily around fair use, not trademark infringement. Interestingly, Hermes references the ongoing case that is in front of the Supreme Court regarding transformative fair use of a photograph of Prince in a Warhol collage.
So, who knows, fair use might or might not become as defensible in the future after the Supreme Court case. We’ll see.
I must admit, this was quite funny in the MetaBirkin case proceedings:
Rakoff later chided Hermès’ attorneys for over-complicating their explanation of what NFTs are and how they work, saying that the jury appeared puzzled.
Godspeed all the jurors that have to take these cases!
Speaking of lawsuits. The suit between Getty Images v Stability AI is finally live too. Here they are making the case of copyright infringement + trademark infringement (not terms of service infringement). 2023 could indeed be the year of the AI Lawsuit.
Filed Under: twitter, mastodon, algorithm
Which is better: an algorithmic or chronological timeline?
Kev argues that he prefers the latter. What I think is missing from this debate is another axis: control. I think a part of the reason why people still prefer the chronological timeline is because they have control. I think if platforms gave the users generally more control over how the algorithm worked, you’ll find there would be more middle-ground here.
For example, I tend to use lists which gives me control over many chronological timelines, but I also use the algorithmic home feed. It’s a choice over how I treat the information. I want the algorithm to synthesis a snapshot from a group of weak tie follows alongside more attentive, direct follows (in a list). In Twitter, that’s the only control I have.
On TikTok, it’s interesting in that, one is a lot more aware of the algorithm as a guide/assistant. It’s much more of a back and forth, because the context is more immediately perceived.
More variations would be great. Social media has grown up enough that users are aware and would be able to utilise this to their desires.
Filed Under: fungi, lastofus
Although I’ve not played the game, I’ve really enjoyed the series, “Last Of Us”. What to make of the science? Fungi is so bizarre and fascinating (and terrifying).
With everyone hyping the show and watching along each week, it reminded of this quote from an article on cultural fracking from Jay Springett:
“Things can be common culture for like a week,” Hudson adds. “We can never go back [to] that period where there were four channels and everyone knew every show, even if they didn’t watch them.… Mass culture was a collection of things that were forced on us [but] that’s never going to happen again. We’re in a new space.”
It’s true, and so, when this does come along, like with “Last Of Us”, it’s nice to watch, connect, and feel along with others.
Filed Under: film, avatar
I watched “Avatar: Way of the Water” this week and what’s it has left me was quite unique. It was so visceral, it felt like I spent the day at the ocean. Although it was freezing weather up on the US East coast, I left with a warm glow from a tropical splash in the ocean. I understand why James Cameron gets the box office numbers he does. Pushing cinema as a medium to its limits. Not just a TV or a film, but cinema.
Filed Under: music, postpunk
There’s a certain genre of driving beat post-punk - that’s the only way I can describe it - that I really enjoy. White Lies is one of my favourite bands. I’m glad I discovered Pale Blue Eyes. I’ve had this album on repeat!
I know that you got this
I know that you got this
You got this
See you all next week! :)
Have a good a sunset. I’ll be reminiscing all the Twitter bots that will depart our timelines for greener pastures beyond.
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