Quotable (#141)

Barry Silbert (quoted in this in-depth profile):

On a probability, risk-adjusted basis, if I’m going to make a bet on what people want to own if the shit hits the fan, I’m going to want to make a bet on something that’s not being held by all the central governments whose fan is being hit with the shit.

Twitter cuts (#100)

VR rising (from last year, but suddenly topical):


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Crypto-Competition

Klint Finley thinks through Apple’s crypto stance as business strategy:

You may see Tim Cook as a champion of privacy or as an enabler of terrorism. Either way, it makes good business sense for Apple to stand up to the FBI.

Apple has been trying to position itself as a protector of privacy, a kind of anti-Google, since long before the FBI’s court order. In 2014, Tim Cook claimed on Charlie Rose that Apple has no way to decrypt messages sent through iMessage (at least as long as you don’t back them up to iCloud). And at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company’s speakers repeatedly emphasized that although apps like Siri store your data, that data stays on your device and isn’t shared with Apple.

That positioning stands in stark contrast to Google, which is heavily dependent on advertising revenue and has an incentive to gather as much user data as possible. Yes, Apple runs the iAds network, so there’s a bit of spin involved in the Cupertino company’s positioning, but it’s true that Google and Apple have very different business models overall. That, combined with the way Apple makes it dead simple to encrypt the data stored on your iPhone or Macbook, has given Apple products a reputation of being secure yet easy to use. Complying with the FBI’s request would jeopardize the company’s image as the paragon of easy security.

Of course there’s also a risk in taking on the FBI. …

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Less Moore?

Nature joins the gloom chorus:

… chipmakers deliberately chose to stay on the Moore’s law track. At every stage, software developers came up with applications that strained the capabilities of existing chips; consumers asked more of their devices; and manufacturers rushed to meet that demand with next-generation chips. Since the 1990s, in fact, the semiconductor industry has released a research road map every two years to coordinate what its hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers are doing to stay in step with the law — a strategy sometimes called More Moore. It has been largely thanks to this road map that computers have followed the law’s exponential demands.

Not for much longer. The doubling has already started to falter, thanks to the heat that is unavoidably generated when more and more silicon circuitry is jammed into the same small area. And some even more fundamental limits loom less than a decade away. Top-of-the-line microprocessors currently have circuit features that are around 14 nanometres across, smaller than most viruses. But by the early 2020s, says Paolo Gargini, chair of the road-mapping organization, “even with super-aggressive efforts, we’ll get to the 2–3-nanometre limit, where features are just 10 atoms across. Is that a device at all?” Probably not — if only because at that scale, electron behaviour will be governed by quantum uncertainties that will make transistors hopelessly unreliable. And despite vigorous research efforts, there is no obvious successor to today’s silicon technology.

(UF has a small bet on this dismal forecast not panning out, but since this is based entirely on arcane philosophical commitments concerning the structure of time, it is not expected to impress anyone.)

ADDED: “… the Moore’s law-driven roadmap is now at an end.”

Quotable (#137)

How Google Inbox “is the Trojan Horse for your personal AI”:

This kind of assistance will quickly seem like a superpower. You’ll have a level of productivity that’s astonishing; near-perfect recall. Administrative assistants and middle managers will be quick to vanish, once these agents catch up.

This is how the average consumer gets shallow AI. You can avoid smart agents and stick with traditional systems, but you’ll quickly be outpaced. For Google, Inbox is the Trojan Horse with which everyone’s going to adopt machine learning. In other words, Google is slowly, inexorably turning using the Internet into talking with an AI.

(Emphasis in original.)

Oil Glut

The New Economics of Oil:

The total stock of recoverable oil resources is assumed to be known and the main focus is on the optimal pace at which these resources should be exhausted. […] But in practice, estimates of recoverable oil resources are increasing all the time, as new discoveries are made and technology and understanding improves. And, importantly, they are increasing far more quickly than existing reserves are consumed. […] In very rough terms, over the past 35 years, the world has consumed around 1 trillion barrels of oil. Over that same period, proved reserves of oil have increased by more than 1 trillion barrels. […] Put differently, for every barrel of oil consumed, another two have been added.

… what has changed in recent years is the growing recognition that concerns about carbon emissions and climate change mean that it is increasingly unlikely that the world’s reserves of oil will ever be exhausted. […] Existing reserves of fossil fuels – ie oil, gas and coal – if used in their entirety would generate somewhere in excess of 2.8 trillion tonnes of CO2, well in excess of the 1 trillion tonnes or so the scientific community consider is consistent with limiting the rise in global mean temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Centigrade. And this takes no account of the new discoveries which are being made all the time or of the vast resources of fossil fuels not yet booked as reserves.
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Musk on Mars

UPI (among others) reports:

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he plans to send humans to Mars by 2025. … […] “Mars is the next natural step. In fact, it’s the only planet we have a shot at establishing a self-sustaining city on,” he said. “Once we do establish such a city, there will be strong forcing function for the improvement of space flight technology that will then enable us to establish colonies elsewhere in the solar system and ultimately extend beyond our solar system.”

‘Forcing functions’ play a critical role in Musk’s thinking. Beginning to do something is catalytic. It activates the positive cybernetics required to carry the process forward. That’s why Musk likes to get started with things he wants to see done, at the earliest opportunity, and certainly before there’s any basis for a confident forecast — in the absence of forcing functions — that they’re ultimately doable at all.

Every significant business leader of recent times has had a cybernetic heuristic of some kind. They function as entrepreneurial propellant. Musk’s might well be the most dynamic we’ve seen yet.

ADDED: On-topic Reddit meanderings.

Quotable (#135)

Craig Hickman on deepening neuro-technological darkness:

The convergence of knowledge and technology for the benefit or enslavement of society (CKTS) is the core aspect of 21st century science initiatives across the global system, which is based on five principles: (1) the interdependence of all components of nature and society (the so called network society, etc.), (2) enhancement of creativity and innovation through evolutionary processes of convergence that combine existing principles, and divergence that generates new ones (control of creativity and innovation by corporate power), (3) decision analysis for research and development based on system-logic deduction (data-analysis, machine learning, AI, etc.), (4) higher-level cross-domain languages to generate new solutions and support transfer of new knowledge (new forms of non-representational systems and mappings, topological, etc.). As civilization and societal challenges become more and more dependent on external and internalized artificial mechanisms and technological systems we are faced with the convergence of “NBIC” technological reorganization of corporate and socio-cultural fields of business, inquiry, and research into: nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive and neruosciences. But it is the neuroscientific breakthroughs and initiatives that will underpin the forms of global governance: political and economic systems of rules, negotiations, and navigation systems of impersonal and indifferent regulatory and reason-based imperialism of the future capitalist regimes as they begin to marshal every aspect of life into a data-centric vision of command and control.

The subsequent list of ‘neuro-‘ prefixed social management disciplines, accompanied by short introductions, is a treasure.

ADDED: Highly relevant.