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368 pages, Hardcover
First published November 28, 2017
“Remember, the eyes aren’t USB cameras plugged into a Mr. Potato Head brain; they are portals on a spy submarine exploring an unknown universe. Exploration is perception.”If that quote doesn’t compute by reading it in the middle of a review, pick up the book. By the time he comes to it, it may just be the light you needed to see further into the meaning of technology.
One reason the term 'artificial intelligence' came into being (at a conference in Dartmouth in the late 1950's) is that more than a few of [Norbert] Weiner's colleagues couldn't stand him. They felt compelled to come up with an alternative name because 'cybernetics' was starting to catch on and was associated with Weiner. The alternative they came up with did not mean the same thing. Artificial intelligence purported to describe qualities of future computers without reference to people, suggesting that computers would become free-standing entities that will exist even if all people died, even if after nobody is left to observe them.
- "The more designers tried to make [Google] glass blend in - just a tiny little fashionable thing on the face - the more it stood out, like a pimple. The question of what stands out in a design is always part of a negotiation about power. There's a conceit in Google glass and related devices - the wearers of such devices will eventually be given the stealthy super power of omniscient x-ray vision. But to an unadorned person nearby, it can feel like a surveillance device, as if the human face had been redesigned into an Orwellian demon mask. But (and this is the core problem), both the wearer and the supposedly less naked face observed by the device are in fact subservient. In the terms of information superiority, whoever is running the cloud computer that oversees the whole arrangement from afar is the master of both people. Even the wearer is worn."
- "Please keep the following in mind when you read "think pieces" about how robots deserve empathy. Tech writers have a bad habit of articulating "big ideas" that happen to serve the interests of the big tech companies at a given moment. There were a lot of pieces about the evils of copyright when Google was making an unprecedented instant fortune by plowing over copyright. Similarly, a flood of radical think pieces praising the end of privacy and the value of collectivity appeared when Facebook was first commoditizing and cornering the market on digital personal identity."
-"The thing about Netflix, though, is that it doesn't offer a comprehensive catalog, especially of recent hot releases. If you think of any particular movie, it might be available for streaming. The recommendation engine is a magician's misderiction, distracting you from the fact that not everything is available. So is the algorithm intelligent, or are the people making themselves somewhat blind and silly in order to make the algorithm seem intelligent... Your friends, lovers, purchases, and insecure "gig-economy" gigs are broght to you by acts of misdirection that echo Netflix's moot algorithm. A bounty of options seems to be out there on the net somewhere, too many to evaluate on your own. Life is short, so you suspend disbelief and trust in the algorithms. A fool is born..."
-"The only difference between perceiving an evil AI machine that destroys humanity and perceiving total incompetence on the part of techologiests and the military i that the second interpretation is actionable. Every time you believe in AI, you are reducing your belief in human agency and value. You are undoing yourself and everyone else."
- "When I realized that status is fractal: the pattern repeats itself at every scale, small and large. When the titans of industry are gathered in a room, there will always be one who is the designated loser, relatively speaking...[when Lanier found himself in a new social circle] I experienced yet another local minima" [This reminds me much of DFW's envy has no reciprocal concept. He would have appreciated Lanier's fractal analogy]
-"There also was an interior problem with activism. You start to find your own worth in the cause, and that's too narrow a formulation. Activists start to fudge a little to reinforce each other. You pretend you're having more impact than you really are and that you agree more than you really do."
-"My anxiety about earning enough money to make rent, I later realized, served as a mask to insulate me from the more fundamental terror of mortality and the underlying icy loneliness that still haunted me from when my mother died. Capitalism gives us a faux death to avoid: destitution. And thus a ritual for asserting control over fragility and fate."
-"With a real news source like the New York Times, I read, I get the news, and then I'm done. If the Times's business model includes getting me to look at ads along the way, and perhaps be persuaded, great. But if the business model is to hold on to me, to manage my choices for hours and hours of the day, then real news isn't of much use. It gets read - used up - too quickly. Unlike the news, a news feed needs me to get cranky, insecure, scared, or angry. That's what will keep me in a Skinner box, where a service can manage which button is the easiest for me to reach. The current business model of social media requires that it become part of the life of a user during all waking hours, even in the middle of the night, if one can't sleep. Real news and considered opinions don't serve that goal well enough. The sober contemplation of reality doesn't take up enough time."