Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.

What is Technology Doing to Us?

 

 

Anne says: This week is about watching and listening… and some introspection.

Firstly – short termism. A TED Talk (15minutes) from Ari Wallach that questions the current focus on short term results (think about our politicians!) versus planning for more than 5 years ahead. Think about planning for what we’re passing on to the next generations.  What do we have to do to shift our mindsets to think beyond the immediate, short term focus?

Then, secondly, one of Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcasts (1 hour 40mins) that illustrates how technology is controlling or impacting our online behaviours (and our daily lives).

This is a long podcast – my recommendation is to take some protected time – this needs your full attention (NO multi-tasking, OK?!). In fact, I’m thinking it’s one of those podcasts that you may replay several times, perhaps with your morning coffee, or even a glass of wine in the evening. You need to settle into it, listen carefully and really think about some of the key points being raised.

Sam Harris is joined by Tristan Harris (no relative) to discuss ethical persuasion – how the design of technologies (think popular social media platforms) are shaping our experiences – and in fact, how they are manipulating our behaviours. So you think you have control over your use of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter? Then you’d better listen carefully – you may find the answers confronting. The conversation then weaves its way to the attention economy – or what Sam and Tristan refer to as the arms race for human attention. You are no longer in control – they are! Every move you make has been planned for and designed to increase screen time, your clicks, your postings – all to gain your attention over the competitive platforms.

Now, you may not enjoy identifying what you’ve been persuaded to do, without your knowledge. The conversation starts to question how to use a “time well spent” approach to design to avoid people feeling manipulated. Where will this all end? I think I’ll leave this to you to listen to their future conclusions.

Take your time – listen carefully (more than once) and consider the implications. I think it’s time we all started having these conversations – and look beyond the short termism of the attention economy towards the ethical persuasion of time well spent doing constructive things that make a difference.

Watchhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-8fYhwrYzI

Listenhttps://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/what-is-technology-doing-to-us

Would You Become an Immortal Machine?

Nat says: ‘Transhumanism’ is a new word I learnt this week, and it apparently has quite a large following and movement behind it. If you’ve ever seen the 2014 Johnny Depp movie ‘Transcendence’, this is probably the closest thing Hollywood has come to exploring transhumanism as a somewhat possible and futuristic state.

In a nutshell, transhumanism is man’s attempt at immortality by literally becoming a machine and eradicating the need for a physical body in the process. It is the somewhat fusion between reality existing in the mind, and most of our current realities as already existing online, so why not combine the two and live as a machine for all eternity? I find the idea fascinating, not only from a technical perspective, but from a human perspective and the desire for people wanting to become God and live forever. Is it a genuine desire to live forever, or does it stem from a fear of death? The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless, but I guess this is what science has always done – tried to prolong life and delay death. But if we do become machines, will we still know ‘ourselves’ or lose everything in the process of transcendence?

There are so many questions about transhumanism without known answers. What I find interesting though is that in the history of humanity we’ve managed to change the scenery but not the situation. War, famine, division of politics, idolisation of celebrities, spectator sports, the love of royalty and gourmet food – these things have been around since Ancient Greece, yet the scenery itself has changed, which has largely been through advances made in technology. The progression of technology has changed our relationship with each other and our understanding of the ‘Known Universe’, yet we have still somehow kept tradition intact. Is this because of the restrictions we have with our bodies? We are physically limited and must abide by the mundane routines of living and the laws of a physical world. Yet if we do become an online entity, would we lose our bodies, abandon tradition, and finally connect as a collective species “online”?! Fascinating stuff.

Readhttp://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/03/22/521059752/would-you-become-an-immortal-machine

Facebook Shows Off Its Brain Interface Research and… Wow

Emilio says:

“…a future in which we would use…a “brain mouse” that would one day allow us to control AR applications using a noninvasive brain interface.”

The keyboard and mouse’s days could be numbered because we would soon have the ability to get our devices to do things, in the simplest terms, with our thoughts.

If you were following what had come out of Facebook’s F8 Conference for developers this week, you would know that Facebook are investing heavily in Augmented Reality (AR), as they see this technology to be how we experience our world in the future. Actually, the near future, by the looks of it. Some of these technologies in their basic forms are already available, whilst more intricate applications are now being developed and could be available in 3 to 5 years, the article claims. At F8, Facebook unveiled some mind-blowing research, among them a “silent method of communication using tactile methods” – ie, relaying commands to another silently through a computer interface. One application of this technology could solve language barriers amongst us, with the potential to become the ‘universal translator’.

Exciting times are up ahead. With the touch of a button on our phones and AR glasses (which apparently are also being created in the FB lab) using the groundbreaking technologies that Facebook are developing, our AR future – and our lives – seem clear, and it would all revolve around Facebook.

Readhttp://mashable.com/2017/04/19/facebook-brain-interface

Lilium’s Funky ‘Jet’ Could Make Our Dreams of Flying Cars Come True

 

 

Jakkii says: Finally, my childhood dreams of living in the Jetson’s world are coming to fruition.

Almost a year on from Wired’s last (rather skeptical) piece about the Lilium Jet, a full-sized prototype has flown a successful maiden voyage in Munich. It was just a few minutes of flight time, with no passengers, but it’s a huge leap forward proving, in Wired’s view, that “the unconventional design isn’t total malarkey.”

What makes this particularly fascinating to me is both the science, and the possibilities. As companies like Tesla continue to make significant advancements in batteries and battery life (particularly batteries than can be powered by electricity derived from renewable energies), we can likely see a shift in the power ‘bang’ for the weight ‘buck’ of a battery, making electric personal flying cars (of sorts) a more and more plausible reality.

Recently dethroned King of PR nightmares by United, Uber have a vision for ‘Uber Elevate,’ which they describe as a “future of on-demand urban air transportation.” This vision is founded upon a network of small, electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft – just what Lilium are working on. Imagine having an electric flying car share (perhaps ‘GoJet’ instead of GoGet?) where you just hop in and take off. Certainly sounds exciting to me!

Readhttps://www.wired.com/2017/04/lilium-jet-first-flight-test-flying-cars

Amazon Confirms It’s Coming To Australia

Joel says: It looks as though another big player is coming into the Australian online shopping market to disrupt the way we buy our goods online. It has been confirmed this week that Amazon is coming to Australia. It was rumoured before, and now Amazon has made it official. They’re buying a big warehouse down under, and they’re bringing their fast shipping options with it.

They are currently in the process of looking for what will be their Australian warehouse, and already seem to be causing fear with existing Australian retailers having to prepare for Amazon to swoop in or prepare a change strategy to deal with their competition.

Readhttps://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/04/amazon-confirms-its-coming-to-australia/