On Thinking Machines and Hope—Weekly Wisdom 20th October 2021

Also, why now is the best time to innovate in tech and what is news, anyway?

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Welcome to Weekly Wisdom, your weekly dose of highlights, quotes and notes from my notebook. If you would like to receive this in your inbox, subscribe now.

More travel this past weekend. Which is why I am one day late.

Today I’d like to share:

  • Build an antifragile digital presence: In light of the recent Facebook outage, over on MakThis’ official newsletter, we wrote a series on how to create a more resilient digital presence. You can check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 right now.

On to the main event.

This week’s quotes, notes, and media:

Buying Ink by the Barrel

What is news? Or to be more accurate, who decides what is and isn’t news? And what happens when there is news?

The paradox of news media is thus; just by reporting on something, they turn it into. Writing Coach David Perell points this out in his latest newsletter.

Newspapers aren’t any shorter on a slow news day. People need to stay busy. Advertisements still need to be fulfilled. The revenue needs to keep rolling in.

To that end, the biggest source of bias in the media industry isn’t the perspective a newspaper takes on a story, but its decision to report on a story in the first place. Knowing that, Hearst was a master at taking inconsequential stories and turning them into must-reads. He knew that events only become news once journalists and editors commit to publicizing them.

—David Perell, Monday Musings: Fear, Media, Truth, Status, Prestige

Hope vs Optimism

Pessimism is considered negative, and Optimism as positive. However these are two sides of the same coin. Both assume the outcome as inevitable.

The Patron Saint of Hackers, Cory Doctorow, writes about the difference between Optimism, and Hope.

Optimism is just a form of fatalism, a view of the world in which our deeds are irrelevant to the outcome: “No matter what I do, things will get better.”

Hope is a method: If I do something about this situation, I might change it enough so that I can do something else about this situation.

To be hopeful is to tread water because so long as you haven’t gone to the bottom, rescue is still possible. It’s not a sure thing, and you might have to try something else if you can figure out another tactic, but everyone who gave up sank, and everyone who was fished out the sea kept treading water.

—Cory Doctorow, Hope, Not Optimism

The Argumentation Game

Lex Fridman is the Joe Rogan for smart people. His guests usually are from the Computer Science and AI world. And the discussion go into some wonderful directions. This is a clip from his conversation with AI pioneer Doug Lennat. Even in this short clip, they discuss the misconceptions about Turing’s Imitation Game and what would be the true way to measure whether a machine can think.

I would recommend listening to the whole interview.

There’s still time

Kevin Kelly is one of the earliest commentators on tech. This blog post, from 2014, argues that there is a vast amount of untapped potential left. It goes into one of the my favorite aspect of history; we are living through it. There is still time to make history.

Because here is the other thing the greybeards in 2044 will tell you: Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud. Few devices had more than one or two sensors in them, unlike the hundreds now. Expectations and barriers were low. It was easy to be the first. And then they would sigh, “Oh, if only we realized how possible everything was back then!”

—Kevin Kelly, You Are Not Late


Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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