Emojis, machin learning and pay your debts with vacations
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°01.ep10 - 2019.07.30
Since we use emojis so much these days, it's important to take a look at Apple’s 2019 vintage. A few additions: a set of accessibility emojis, flamingo, butter and… banjo. 🤔
Emojis are a good example of the complex relationship between technology and society: we shape them (new emojis are somewhat based on popular demand) as much as they frame our interactions. Link (T)
Amazon owns dozens of businesses and brands you didn’t know of (especially in apparel). Link (T)
Did you ever wonder how North Korea could import uranium? Maybe the same way Kim Jong-un bypasses trade sanctions and has million-dollar limousines shipped to Pyongyang. Link (S)
I have been told Bernard Arnault, LVMH owner, now the second richest man on earth, keeps saying civilized people will still sip Dom Perignon while Apple will be long forgotten...
But the race is on… And software is eating the eating.
Tweet courtesy from POTUS, picture taken at the same moment, the 26th of July, at my local restaurant (S)
The good thing about being an early digital migrant is that you knew a totally different world before software ate our world. A world that looked more than the 19th century than the 21st. I can remember a time when I was able to remember all my friends’ phone numbers, their door codes and so many things I forgot. With no regret I admit. My precious brain shouldn’t lose space for this type of data and, of course, I kept learning and filling my memory with new and tasteful morsels. Thank (digital) god, as it looks we need to learn and update almost as fast as our smartphones’ OS upgrade.
Just think of French: since 1634, the French Academy is in charge to normalize and improve the French language, and its latest update contains 60.000 words, this is 28.000 more entries than the previous one 80 years ago and this trend has been amplifying incredibly over the past 20 years. Just imagine that if you went to bed tonight and woke up in a century, you may just not be able to understand a single sentence of a totally renewed language.
But we are now moving a huge step further. Machine learning is not about storing data anymore, but making better choices with no apparent logic or a priori reasoning and, this is the oddest part, even no use of our own previous learnings. It is not data we don’t bother to get loaded with, it is rationale we can’t explain anymore. It goes from Waze-assisted rides to drug discovery. It is everywhere.
Last week, in The New Yorker, Jonathan Zitrain assessed the Hidden Costs of Automated Thinking: “In the past, intellectual debt has been confined to a few areas amenable to trial-and-error discovery. But that may be changing, as new techniques in artificial intelligence—specifically, machine learning—increase our collective intellectual credit line. Machine-learning systems work by identifying patterns in oceans of data. Using those patterns, they hazard answers to fuzzy, open-ended questions. (…) As we begin to integrate their insights into our lives, we will, collectively, begin to rack up more and more intellectual debt. (…) Much of the timely criticism of artificial intelligence has rightly focussed on the ways in which it can go wrong: it can create or replicate bias; it can make mistakes; it can be put to evil ends. We should also worry, though, about what will happen when A.I. gets it right.”
“Could we create a balance sheet for intellectual debt—a system for tracking where and how theoryless knowledge is used?” Zittrain asks, adding: “In cities, building codes ask building owners to publicly disclose their renovation plans. Similarly, we might explore asking libraries or universities to accept, in escrow, otherwise hidden data sets and algorithms that have found a certain measure of public use.” So smart.
It makes a really strong case for democratization of “Computer-Delegated Decision Making”, a subject I will dedicate myself more and more and... for vacations, my goal for the coming weeks. As, to me, vacations are all about reimbursing as much as you can from your intellectual, emotional and physical debt. I may not learn by heart your phone numbers and email addresses, sorry, but good reads, family quality time, swimming and tennis are on my list. With Tom - for those who are curious, we take separate vacations - we will be back for our Stéréo #11 in September and, in the meantime, we wish you, just like us, to pay your debts with vacations.
The future of video rises also in the east. And it is vertical. Link (S)
A fascinating profile of Overtime, a video network dedicated to high-school sports. It shows technology impacting sports in 3 big ways.
(1) Top players becoming huge stars younger and younger (even as soon as middle school).
And since highlights of impressive plays are all that matters to the young viewers, this leads to (2) more individualism from the players (everyone wants to showcase their slam dunk skills), and 3) teens find watching entire games soooo boring now. Link (T)
The world of asset management is driven by 2 permanent forces, with the help of technology: the first is to find new categories of assets to financialize (high net worth individuals benefit from them first) and then to lower barriers to entry – aka minimum investments – to address an increasing market.
Case in point with the art market: just a few years ago, startups such as Arthena started to make art a financial product but with high minimum investments. Now Otis offers “to invest in contemporary art, sneakers, and collectibles for as little as $25”. (T)
Because, yes, sneakers are an asset class now. You can trade them on a dedicated exchange platform, StockX and last week a 1972 Nike pair set a new world record achieving 437.500 dollars in a Sotheby’s auction, tripling the estimate. Link (S)
A nice reading to complement my last Pause about the evolution of the Internet: we had to trade creativity for scalability. Maybe with platforms such as Glitch, we could have both. Link (T)
A clear correlation between GDP per capita and height: according to a WHO paper, “Between 1975 and 2010, the average height of a 13-year-old boy living in a Chinese city increased by nearly 12 centimeters”. Link (T)
I often think that if the book was to be invented today, it couldn’t be better than what we have been using for centuries. Bike may be the same object of human perfection, but a much more recent one. So why did we wait so long for the bicycle? (S)
This is summer, a time to remember your best reads in the past 10 months and enjoy discovering again. This story on Waymo and its founder Anthony Levandowsky and the war between Uber and Google on self-driving cars could be the script for the best movie on the Silicon Valley since David Fincher’s Social Network. Maybe my favorite link this year. (S)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin & Tom Morisse
Fabernovel is a talent company that creates digital products and services to support companies in their transformation and innovation trajectory.
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