A machine's natural spiritual essence

FFFUTURES #3, August 31, 2020

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Phrenology, the now-discredited pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits, was heavily influential from 1810 to 1840. And although it made some contributions to the field of neurology, it was also infamously used to advance the racist notion of European superiority over "lesser" races. Phrenology's popularity dwindled rather quickly, but its damages persisted even after being discredited.

In today’s reality, there's an intangible layer predicting and determining people's futures. This layer acts in an automated way, and it's based on a person's access to opportunities.

I call it the Oblivious–Cynic Cycle: a fully automated process that increases inequality of opportunity. The global pandemic not only made this cycle visible, but it significantly accelerated its pace.

Quick example: Navigating a global pandemic.

Group A: People who already had a stable job in Tech, who already had access to high-speed internet, and they were already connected with a supportive community.

Group B: People whose work disappeared and cannot make a lateral move due to their entire industry being shutdown. People who do not have access to the internet, nor first-class devices or workspaces at home. People who are not connected to a strong community. 

People in Group A will obviously be better positioned to affront any challenge than people in Group B.

Now, this goes beyond the pandemic and beyond the U.S., and people living in scenarios outside the U.S. are what I want to emphasize here. For example: 

Those who can speak English (or another second, third language) have an advantage over those who do not. Those who have access to high-speed internet have an advantage over those who do not. Those who live among a strong and stable community have an advantage over those who do not. Those who have access to basic services have an advantage over those who do not.

All this is obvious, right? However, most ignore these fundamental scenarios and continue to live without giving a second thought about the people whose destinies were unfairly determined by their access to opportunities. It's like if phrenology was still used to determine people's futures, and we wouldn't do anything about it because we were luckily born with a skull that had just the right shape. 

The pandemic is like this cataclysmic event that swiped through the world and tested the survival of the fittest. The ones who were already adapted, survived, as well as those who mutated accordingly. My recommendation here is to help others mutate themselves out of pre-established stagnant corners of the future they were born in.

The oblivious-cynic cycle is a very comfortable routine, and you break out of it by helping others to mutate. This may sound weird to you if you didn’t have to experience a major adaptation (mutation) to survive.

👁️ Omnirealities

Cattle Farmers Use AR for Smart Farming

Definitely an out-of-the-box solution explored by Nedap, a livestock management company and a global leader in farming automation, that uses Microsoft’s HoloLens and voice commands to bring herd insights to AR.

Heat and reproduction insights, health information and the location of individual cows are brought to life in the barn […] Through Microsoft’s HoloLens they are presented within the farmer’s physical world and actual field of view.

The information is shown above the cows and automatically adapts to the farmer’s location in the barn and responds to the direction in which he or she looks.

I went down a rabbit hole reading about this company and browsing their brochures.

I had conflicting impressions from almost everything I found: On the one hand, I find impressive the use of technology for super-efficient livestock management and the benefits of maximizing processes to meet the increasing demand for food. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel at odds with using surveillance technology on cows to meet the increasing demand for food…

I found this brochure called “Know your Cow” that I recommend you check out.

I’ve never been a fan of simulation games, but I know there’s a big audience for them, and when I was reading that document I found myself thinking it could easily be the instruction guide of a “Livestock Management Sim” video game. It’s either that or an Orwellian description of technology-enhanced surveillance system controlling living beings for the personal gain of others.

Just look at the wording of some of these selling points:

– Increase profitability with precision.
– Improve reproduction results.
– Evaluate group and herd behavior.
– A clear list of all cows in heat with their optimal insemination moment.
– Increase labor efficiency.

And they even have iconography for those features.

🔮 Future Scenarios

Working Futures: Scenario Planning Stories

Working Futures is an anthology in which a group of sci-fi authors got to explore how Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Genetic engineering, are changing the way we live and the way we work.

This document contains the scenarios given as prompts to the authors. It’s a great resource to get a peek into briefs for speculative writing, and get to compare the scenarios with the final results published in the book.

We’re building a collection of short science fiction stories that illustrate possible near-future scenarios, with a focus on what work will be like in 15 to 25 years.

Speculative Futures Seattle interviews Afroditi Psarra
A unique mind exploring the use of the body as an interface of control, Afroditi Psarra shares her current projects and interests in this brief three-question article.

“I also must admit that I did have a eureka moment the first time I experimented with electronic textiles by using conductive thread and making it into a capacitive touch sensor. I think that the realization that technology could be made to look and feel soft, fragile and personal, made me realize that there is incredible power in being able to imagine and realize such ideas.”

💀 Not a Cylon

Danica Lundy, @danicalundy

Danica Lundy, @danicalundy

Danica Lundy, @danicalundy

🧠 Common Enemy

AI with 'imagination' could help doctors with diagnosis

AI symptom checkers provide Doctors with advice for arriving at a diagnosis, but they do it based on correlations alone. And correlation does not mean causation.

This article shares insight from researchers at Babylon who have used the principles of causal reasoning to enable AI to diagnose written test cases.

"We took an AI with a powerful algorithm and gave it the ability to imagine alternate realities and consider if a symptom would be present if it was a different disease. This allows the AI to tease apart the potential causes of a patient's illness and score more highly than over 70% of the doctors on these written test cases."

This approach is being called Causal Machine Learning. Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll get used to seeing the description of algorithms processes referred to as “to imagine” and “to consider”.

The Deepfake Detection Challenge: Insights and Recommendations for AI and Media Integrity

An insightful report by ‘Partnership on AI’ on the topic of Deepfake Detection. The group in charge of this report is the AI and Media Integrity Steering Committee, which is focused on projects “to confront the emergent threat of AI-generated mis/disinformation, synthetic media, and AI’s effects on public discourse”.

Here’s the list of insights from the report. But I’d recommend checking the PDF, as it goes deep into additional considerations and recommendations for each one:

Insight 1: Detecting synthetic media alone does not solve information integrity challenges.

Insight 2: The ability to detect synthetic media should extend to journalists, fact-checkers, and those working in civil society organizations around the world.

Insight 3: It is vital to think about the real-world incidence and dynamics of synthetic media when constructing the datasets and scoring rules for synthetic media detection challenges.

Insight 4: Synthetic media detection solutions involve trade-offs between open access to models and the need to deter adversaries generating synthetic media.

Insight 5: The results of synthetic media detection need to be understandable to those making sense of digital content.

Insight 6: Synthetic media detection challenges benefit from meaningful multistakeholder input, which takes substantial time and energy.

📿 A Return to Faith

The Battle for the Robot Soul

Fantastic write-up by James K. Wight who shares observations at how cultures define our views of machines.

Hegel argues that the ownership of a slave results in the dehumanisation of the master. So our use of robots and technology dehumanises us.

Japanese culture differs greatly from that of the West. With a society founded on Shintoism and Buddhism, the Judeo-Christian hierarchical attitude to nature is absent. In Japanese spirituality there is still an emphasis on the natural, but it incorporates all forms of life. In Shinto, plants, nature, man, Kami (gods), and machines all possess a natural spiritual essence.


A Compilation of Robots Falling Down at the DARPA Robotics Challenge

The title says it all.

Cyberpunk Documentary

A documentary about the cultural impact, mood, and aesthetics of classics like Blade Runner, Shadowrun, and Akira.

Are you hacking with futures and other realities? Do you have comments, stories, or suggestions? I’d like to hear from you. Reach out: heyfffutures@gmail.com

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