On selling AI fever dreams to gullible publics

The Guardian recently had an op-ed by John Naughton on how the media is guilty in selling us AI fantasies at the behest of the technology industry. This scratches my long held belief that (a) AI is both poorly understood and as a result (b) completely oversold (at least when it comes to non-trivial problems of optimising consumption patterns[1]). In his op-ed Naughton primarily looks at how industry serving narratives about AI have come to dominate media coverage of AI, which he mainly attribute…

Leaving Kennisland (pt. 2)

The text below is an adapted version of a text first published on the Kennisland website under the title "Time to move on: what we have done to improve copyright and access to cultural heritage". Both texts are identical except for the last section. The version published here provides a more in depth reflection on the challenges ahead for digital policy making. At the end of 2018 we will end our activities in the areas of copyright and cultural heritage. Kennisland has been working on…

#Firstworldproblems as R&D for solving real problems in the developing world

A while ago i used this space to express my skepticism with regards to delivery drones becoming a major thing in the developed world anytime soon (and also hedged that by pointing to the fact that they may be much more useful and economically viable in developing countries). A couple of days ago i came across an excellent essay (Build cargo drones, get rich) by J.M. Ledgard in which he makes the most convincing case for cargo drones i have come across yet. While his scenario is entirely focussed…

On organisations stunning ability to absorb nonsensical claims about technology

So i have finally managed to finish Adam Greenfield’s Against the smart city (i had lapsed soon after this picture was taken). The book is well worth reading and contains a number valuable insights but there is one passage that stands out for me. Towards the end of the book (or pamphlet as Adam refers to it) he explains why his method of examining the language of marketing and promotional copy of IT vendors is important even though the same vendors, when challenged on the claims contained in it…

On self driving cars

In his most recent deezen column Dan Hill provides some much needed perspective on the self driving cars hype. I completely agree with him, that while endlessly fascinating, self driving cars are rather problematic idea. Instead of improving the way personal mobility is organised they primarily attempt to improve a deeply flawed system: Here we see such companies are not actually interested in genuine change, for all their bluster about “radical disruption”. Self-driving cars are a sticking plas…

Catching up with the global south...

Almost 6 year ago (on the first of january 2007) i started taking an interest in the use of Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) as exterior lightening. I first noticed this use of this type op lightbulbs on a new years day stroll to the recently bombed out southern suburbs of Beirut. A large number shops and market stalls has improvised lamps made from large CFLs. The next day i observed the same while visiting a number of recently destroyed villages along the Lebanese/Israeli border. While this k…

The internet giveth and the internet taketh away (piracy edition)

Turns out that theverge does music reporting of sorts. their recent history of dubstep music (‘beyond lies the wub‘) contains two short passages that highlight the impact of digital technology on art (in this case dubstep music). The first passage highlights how digital piracy killed the music industry might have actually driven the quality of music production in the past dececade or so: “They cost nothing if you know how to get them for free, which most people did,” says Martin Clark. “The VSTs…

Rio de Janeiro as a smart city

The New York Times has a longish article portraying the Operations Center of the City of Rio that has been build by IBM’s smarter cities unit. In the article both the city of Rio de Janeiro and IBM portray the operations center as some kind of magic wand that enables the benevolent city government to steer the daily life of the city’s population using video feeds and text messages: City employees in white jumpsuits work quietly in front of a giant wall of screens — a sort of virtual Rio, rendere…

Sweet memories of lego

In the last couple of days kevin has been posting an amazing series of images of mid 70’s lego sets, which evoke lots of memories for me (and show how ridiculously non-standard lego has become of the last 3.5 decades). Yesterday kevin has published an ode to the magic of lego and the first set his father gave him in 1975: […] Then there were others. Not too many, but others, enough to get the gag. The gag was that it wasn’t a puzzle to solve, after all. The gag was that the puzzle was more inter…