Relay race for the west

Wealth inequality in our countries is on the rise, and population’s discontent is generating populism, which ultimately poses a threat to the very existence of our democracies.

Right wing populists so far took political advantage of this situation: it seems incredible that they understood and reacted first to what was happening… neoliberalism was their creature after all, but it’s about to die.

While the reputation of long forbidden words such as Socialism gets slowly repolished and readied to return in fashion, it’s becoming clear that right wing parties cannot take us to the next phase of our history alone: leftists must be onboard too.

Continue reading “Relay race for the west”

Trojan Horse in Hong Kong

The UK gained control over Hong Kong by winning the Opium Wars; a short -maybe over simplistic- description of this history chapter? When in the 19th century the risk of causing an opioids epidemic in several Asian countries clashed against commercial interests, war settled things in favour of the latter.

In light of how this all started, I entertained myself with the idea that the UK may have planned a decades spanning Trojan Horse exercise against China.
It’s admittedly a far fetched hypothesis but -planned or not- Hong Kong may end up becoming exactly that, let me explain!

Continue reading “Trojan Horse in Hong Kong”

How big a crisis?

Crisis are cyclical, and the global financial crisis dated 2008 left scars in our social tissue that are still far from healed. While the top 1% recovered almost entirely in a fairly quick fashion, the larger part of western population’s wages keep shrinking in terms of real purchasing power, now contributing to the rise of right wing populism, the resurgence of racism, white suprematism, sovranism and protectionism.

This scenario ignited a race against time where automation is challenged by the risk of authoritarian drifts within our society.

Continue reading “How big a crisis?”

Migration vs Automation

A lot of the western public debate is currently revolving around forms of protection to shield our economies from emerging ones.

The shield can take the form of a trade war, of a brexit, or less metaphorically, that of a wall at the border.

While we fight with our fear of migrants however, we are neglecting the rise of a much stronger workforce that is bond to eventually end the concept of work as we know it: Robots.

Continue reading “Migration vs Automation”

Financial techlash

When 2018 started, not many analysers had realised that the “sentiment” around the I.T. industry was changing.
By the time the year ended, what happened was before everyone’s eyes:

  • Amazon went under scrutiny for the workforce treatment,
  • Facebook was investigated for the mess surrounding many recent elections, fake news and privacy invasion,
  • Google was criticised from multiple angles, from sexual misconduct, to cooperating with dictatorships, to links with controversial technological projects

While some of these points weren’t entirely new, they reached a new magnitude.
Under the changed climate, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix all suffered losses between 25% and 50% of their respective stock value. 

Continue reading “Financial techlash”

Evil Genius

We are in the age of geek pride, an age where “nerd” is not supposed to be an insult anymore, and where we acknowledge that being smart is more desirable than having large biceps or long legs.

Why are villains constantly depicted as the cliché evil genius? Extremely smart, they often portray a view of the world that is at the same time at odds with ours, and yet intriguingly difficult to defy.

Villains are the destabilizing narrative element that brings chaos, but doing so by the means of cleverness, is a narrative choice that contributes to the message delivered by the story.

In an era when intelligence is one of the highest and most desirable characteristics, what does it do to our society, being exposed to infinite variations of idea that villains routinely outsmart heroes?

Distorted Reality

Everything you believe is false.
Not a conspiracy theory.
Not the revival of some anti systemic website motto from 2005.

This post is more trivially an observation on how we perceive reality in a world that’s been dominated by mass communication for about a century.

The impact of this on how we perceive reality is a much bigger distortion than we’d be willing to admit.
While this can be a great boost for ambition, it’s probably not the best for self-esteem.

Continue reading “Distorted Reality”

Physiognomy and A.I.

Physiognomy is often described as the pseudo-science of inferring character from facial and physical characteristics.

What is fascinating about it is the idea that as we age, we bring with us the signs of who we are. Our wrinkles hide the story of our predominant facial expressions through the decades. Our posture says a lot about our employment and status. Our mouth shape and mandibular position are significant of how we wanted to portray ourselves through time, menacing or friendly for example.

There are however also concerning aspects to this pseudo-science, and in particular as our ability to process Big Data enhances, physiognomy is going to play with the edge between good and bad science: the more we store images and videos of faces, expressions, and human interactions, the more opportunities A.I. will have to examine training material and learn prejudice and discrimination.

Continue reading “Physiognomy and A.I.”

Hybrid Democracy

Political fluidity, the cultural replacement of Opinion Leaders with Influencers, and the need for a faster democratic paradigm have brought me to the conclusion that our century will see some rather major restructuring of our institutions.

One of the possibilities that are discussed time and again is the shift from representative democracy to direct democracy.
Among many reasonable and voiced complains about such approach, people may not be interested enough or simply not have enough knowledge on selected topics to be able to express an informed decision.

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To UBI or not to UBI?

Spoiler alert: to UBI!
The fact is: sooner or later setting up some sort of Universal Basic Income (i.e.: free money for everyone, working or not) will become cheaper than maintaining social order.

This may happen within just over a decade or take a lot longer, but as the technology advances, it will make automation ubiquitous and lower the costs of goods further and further.

If this sounds like just a crazy socialist-ish utopia without fundament, let’s go through the numbers!

Continue reading “To UBI or not to UBI?”

Blockchain – A ledger

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin, however there’s growing awareness around the fact that it has an immense unexplored potential. It is essentially a public, non (easily) counterfeitable ledger, and just as it works for digital currencies, it could work to record any other transactions.

Have a cow you want to sell? Make a digital ID for the cow (name, colour, weight… whatever information is relevant). Make an md5, then butcher it in fourth and make an ID for each quarter that links to the original cow’s ID, then split it into smaller pieces down to your own steak at the supermarket. Each steak with it’s own ID that is the last leaf of a blockchain rooted to the original cow’s ID.
You will know exactly where it comes from, what farmer, how old it was, etc.

Want to buy a pair of jeans but don’t know if they are ethically sustainable? get a blockchain for the jeans linking to other blockchains for where the fabric was made, which country, what are the workers’ conditions, etc.

Continue reading “Blockchain – A ledger”

Faster Democracy in faster century

We live in a fast era: technology change fast, we rarely have the time to analyze the same input twice, we multitask, we are addicted to novelty and have a idiosyncrasy for anything old.

Our century is arguably faster than any previous one, and our democracies are inherently slow hardcoded from the constitution up to follow the same paradigm that generated them decades or centuries ago.

Our democracy should, and can be faster.

Continue reading “Faster Democracy in faster century”

Gnirut Test

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

probably Not Albert Einstein (often attributed to him tho)

The Turing Test was developed by Alan Turing in the 1950s. The idea was that one day a machine intelligence would be indistinguishable from that of a human.

Now: based on the quote above I would say that arguably measuring the intelligence of a computer by its ability to behave like a human… is also a little bit unfair!

Continue reading “Gnirut Test”

Political Fluidity

We often hear that we live a fluid political climate.

I already discussed how I do not see this as a momentary glitch in an otherwise sound political system, but rather as the natural consequence of our technological evolution; something that has not yet reached the tipping point too.

So what do we mean when we speak about political fluidity today? It is a concept related to how the electorate is mutable and their support to a leader or party is purely momentary, and could change at any time. While this was obviously always true to some degree, it is now becoming more true than ever.

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On Brexit

On March 29th the Brexit odyssey is scheduled to conclude.
The original question at the referendum in 2016 was as follows:

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

  • Remain a member of the European Union
  • Leave the European Union

As of today, there are many possibilities still on the table… the most commonly discussed are:

  1. Deal Brexit
  2. No Deal Brexit
  3. No Brexit
  4. Second Brexit Referendum
  5. Postpone Brexit

I am not proposing anything revolutionary, but I think the option of having a Deal/No Deal referendum was not discussed enough yet.

Continue reading “On Brexit”

Top 10 ways in which 2019 will shape the future

Full disclaimer: …any of those “10 things that…” you see around is an attempt to score high on google… however in my defence the reason it is also a clear and itemized framework for ideas that may become full posts in future.
Also, there are some notable missing trends, for example the technological backlash that started in 2018, but that I see more like a phase, than something that will shape decades to come.
Finally: the order is entirely arbitrary.

Here we go!

Continue reading “Top 10 ways in which 2019 will shape the future”

Influenced influencers

An influencer -by definition- is someone who is able to influence others.

Typically the word is used to signify an influence on opinions, however there was a perfectly suitable pre-existing word for this: Opinion Leader.

What is so different between an opinion leader and an influencer, that we chose two use two entirely different names and categories?

Continue reading “Influenced influencers”

The Big Good Old Brother

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Benjamin Franklin, 1755

I was a supporter of this view until about 10 years ago. The world changed a lot since 1755, and also since I embraced this view. At one point I had to reconsider what I believe in.
Today, albeit with bitter awareness of the risks this imports, I think there’s no real alternative to accepting technocontrol in our lives. Although not in the current form.

Continue reading “The Big Good Old Brother”

Hyperhumanity and biology

Information technology began evolving in the modern sense of the expression around the middle of the last century, and is still a work in progress today.

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) are undergoing early research stages today, and we should expect them to similarly develop through many years or decades.

The world as we know it -by then- might have changed extensively.

Continue reading “Hyperhumanity and biology”

Fear of the unknown

The success of a movie is arguably linked with how much the people can relate to it.
The last year 3 movies caught my attention; not much individually, but when I saw the third of them I began to perceive them as a mark of our time:

  • Annihilation
  • A quiet place
  • Bird box

I am not much of a film connoisseur, so these are all pretty mainstream and relatively successful movies, and they all have quite a bit in common: they describe an unknown and unintelligible threat that impends over humanity. The threat remains hardly explained throughout the movie, and has the potential to change or destroy the world as we know it.

It appears our collective subconscious resonated pretty well with this type of story in 2018, and looking at the current status of technology, society and geopolitics, it seems hardly surprising!

Continue reading “Fear of the unknown”

Slow Democracy

In the current wave of populism, and revamped risk of totalitarianism, I came to wonder how can democracy survive. What I was after was a realistic path to success that would overcome the inherent slowness to reaction, to adoption of new technologies, the inertia to change.

Framing the question in those terms, made it crystal clear that populism -and even more so totalitarianism- are simply more agile in times of change. 

When this realization came to mind, considering the supertechnologies about to rise -like Robotics and A.I.– and the risks these technologies bring together with them if not handled promptly, for the first time I came to wonder: is saving democracy the way to go at this point in history?

Continue reading “Slow Democracy”

Recap 2018 – Putting it all together

Robots will bring down 30% of the jobs within a decade.
Neoliberalism is starting to be antagonized by vaste parts of the population, igniting the fire of populism.
Social Media exploited and society fell for it and social divisiveness is already building up.
In short, the Belle Epoque of our century has come to an abrupt end: the mandatory happiness that characterized the first 15 years of our century, is quickly transforming into anger.

Continue reading “Recap 2018 – Putting it all together”

Cold war 2.0 and Europe

Nato conducts a military drill in Norway with over 50,000 soldiers and 10,000 between military vehicles, aircrafts and ships.

Russia launches the operation Vostok-2018: about 300,000 soldiers, nearly 40,000 between military vehicles, aircrafts, ships, helicopters and drones. China contributes with 3,500 troops.

The American administration is questioning at the highest level the role of USA within NATO (Trump), all while supporting anti-European populist parties (Bannon).

All of this happened in the last few months alone. There’s enough to start considering whether we should concern ourselves with what the future may bring.

Continue reading “Cold war 2.0 and Europe”

The Bee and the Beehive

That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.

Marcus Aurelius, in –Meditations

The guy lived -and ruled large part of Europe- nearly 2000 years ago.

What is interesting is that this quote was used in multiple occasions by the mind behind one of the European oldest populist parties -Gianroberto Casaleggio of the italian 5 stars movement- and that it symbolizes in more than a way the founding principle of many other populist values.

Continue reading “The Bee and the Beehive”

Deglobalization

What would happen if Capitalism was to come to a peaceful end at some point in the coming decades, as I proposed in this post?

Culture is a complex system of communicating vessels, and it would be impossible to shut down capitalism without causing a chain reaction of cultural consequences that are seemingly far away from it: it won’t be enough to imagine a different model for our economy to understand how our world would change.

Continue reading “Deglobalization”

Post-Individualism

I wrote recently about how individualism has been a cornerstone of western civilization for over 2 centuries now, and how this may be coming under a little bit of fire.

I do not believe individualism is entirely coming to an end, but I do believe that it is about to be downsized as a value in our society. This is often the case with cultural waves, and subsequent over-reacting counterwaves.

But what would a post-individualistic world be like? Individualism sprung from romanticism together with the exaltation of passion, the seed of anti-conformism, and many aspects of our culture that are deeply interconnected, so it’s not a case of shutting down a single value, but rather the interconnected network of values that we call our current culture.

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Private Debt Apocalypse

I like the title… It’s a little apocalyptic, but it conveys the idea. We all know about public debt, a constant reminder of how many countries have been living beyond their means for decades now. I am not talking about public debt tho, I am considering private debt, and specifically the debt of individuals, as opposed that of companies.

When we say that many people in western countries live beyond their means, at an individual level means that each person has an average debt of several thousand euro / dollars. For many a large portion of it constitutes their mortgage, but also student debt, and even just the credit card debts account in average for several thousand dollars/euro.

If you google today “unemployment rate  2030” you will find wildly ranging estimates, only rarely they are lower than 30% tho.

When you have hundreds of millions of unemployed people being unable to repay their debt, you may as well call that a private debt apocalypse.

Continue reading “Private Debt Apocalypse”

Supernatural Matter and Socrates

I found recently that scientists estimate at least 90% of our universe is made of dark matter and energy: invisible, untouchable, undetectable.

How can we claim to know much about our universe, when over 90% is entirely beyond our comprehension? For all we know dark matter might have supernatural properties beyond our imagination, and yet, we have a condescending approach to anything that cannot be scientifically explained.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a strong believer in the scientific method and the burden of proof does belong to supporters of new theories if we don’t want to be stuck in a Flying Spaghetti Monster paradox, where the burden of proof is on the skeptics!

Yet, our inability to even perceive or interact with over 90% of our universe dwarfs every piece of knowledge we have -or even just think to have- about it.

Continue reading “Supernatural Matter and Socrates”

Neonomadism

I get to read from time to time about these hippy digital nomads that seem to be living the best life from some tropical beach. Rarely you get to bring the topic to a conversation and not see the distinctive look of jealousy appearing on someone’s face: tropical life, away from everyday traffic, commute and stress, flexible working hours… what’s not to like?

On the other hand, while this may sound like a dream-life, there are still many good reasons that keep us attached to our “homes”: not just our actual home, but our belongings, the nearby places we cherish like the local church, library or mall, our loved ones, and of course our jobs.

When you think of it this way, it is amusing what we call digital nomads: they only became such by making their home a digital place… it is actually their digital sedentism that enables them to be physical nomads!

The fact is: we are all digital migrants in the process of getting there… they are just a little ahead of the curve!

Continue reading “Neonomadism”

Meta A.I.

We are used to think of AI as a futuristic technology from sci-fi movies, and at the same time we hear about AI being integrated more and more into our real world tools and devices.
It is pretty clear those two AI are not the same thing, in fact:

  • Narrow AI is real, it’s here today and is a non-sentient and single-purpose form of AI.
  • Wide, or General AI is not real or not yet real: at this point in time it only exists in sci-fi literature. It is normally described as multi-purpose, sentient, and often self-aware.

The idea of singularity, is normally associated with General AI, however I previously proposed the concept of microsingularity, as essentially a form of singularity that is related to a specific narrow AI.

Continue reading “Meta A.I.”

Hyperhumanity and time

Most of us live a symbiotic relationship with our mobile phones: it would be in many way a brain enhancer, but the data flow has a terribly slow bottleneck: our senses.
We use hand movements to provide an input to the device, and vision to acquire the output of our requests: typically reading.

Cutting out the middle man -our senses- would make for a portable computer that acquires inputs from our thoughts and returns information directly in the short term memory of our brains.

Scientists around the world are working on what is called a brain-computer interface, aiming to cut out the middle man -our senses- and ultimately developing a super-portable computer that acquires inputs from our thoughts and returns information directly into our brains.

This fascinating technology is at the very early stages of research, and it has the potential to open humanity to an unprecedented range of possibilities:

Continue reading “Hyperhumanity and time”

Individualism

Romanticism was a cultural movement that gained momentum towards the end of the 1700s in Europe, and is still far from being a concept of the past: whenever you describe a “romantic” sunset or movie, you are the living proof that Romanticism and its focus on emotions has influenced our culture to this very day.
Another strong focus of romanticism was individualism: starting from Beethoven and continuing to me and you, individualism kept growing stronger and gained the status of cornerstone of western culture.

Continue reading “Individualism”

Multisingularity

We describe as singularity the moment when A.I. will outperform human intelligence. The concept is of strong significance because if human intelligence is capable of creating A.I., anything that outperforms human intelligence should by definition be able to improve A.I., and this would cause an iterative chain effect that will bring A.I. to a demigod-like status in a relatively short time.

There is one catch tho: to define outperformance, or improvement over something, we should be capable of measuring and comparing it first. I am not really wondering if we are, I am arguing -instead- that it is completely impossible.

Continue reading “Multisingularity”

Likeocracy

What is the social cost of a Like?

I wrote about Social Media before, but this post is about traditional online newspapers and how they are following the same footprints, using new techniques such as click baits and trying to “go viral”  in a bid to gain visibility or simply survive.

One meaningful example form the Guardian: Subsidised tenants are excluded from pool and gym in London block .

A bit of background here: in UK, at least 30% of the newly built apartments should by law be under the “social housing” scheme, with lower rent prices subsidised by tax payers.

Whatever is your take on the matter, this article will likely leave you angered at either:

a) the people who wants to use the subsidised pool and gym by bundling it with the social housing scheme and exploiting the system, or

b) the people who are supporting segregation and even a form of social cleansing, as proposed in the article.

This is the divide et impera at work again! Not because someone is conspiring in that direction: our Digital Media are simply tuned to rank something better if it causes a reaction, likes, shares, engagement!

Continue reading “Likeocracy”

Praise of the grasshopper

What is globalization? A simple agnostic definition on wiktionary suggests very briefly that it is

The process of becoming a more interconnected world.

Following that, a second, more political definition is provided in which globalisation becomes a byproduct of capitalism.

If this was true (we’ll get there), it would be easy for a westerner to nihilistically dismiss our culture and values as a mere race to obtain more money and goods, and just as nihilistically dismiss the globalisation and the expansion of capitalism as something inherently negative, but is it that simple?

Continue reading “Praise of the grasshopper”

Multiversal principles

There are in the world some principles that are universally accepted: human rights, not killing innocents, a good portion of the Ginevra convention are just examples.

If you live your life according to such a principle and neither you nor anyone around you ever challenges that principle, you will likely end up thinking that your principle is actually a universal principle, an objectively just principle that must never be challenged.

Social Media creates many basins of like-minded users, by feeding us more of what we like, and therefore shielding us from any line of thought that diverges from our own, effectively creating Multiple Universal Principles.

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Gender Divide et Impera

Feminism is one of the defining concepts of our era, one that is challenging patriarchy, the prevailing paradigm for thousands of years. One that has sprung from the very unique technological, social and economical conditions we lived in for the last few decades. One that seems inevitably going to advance with time until the final goal is reached to grant equal rights and opportunities across genders.

I argued before that our current communication system is dividing and weakening our society. This isn’t about that type of division: it is more subtle and we didn’t even noticed it spreading, beginning to divide the two founding halves of our society and species: two halves that should really come together as one. Continue reading “Gender Divide et Impera”

End of an era

Do you remember capitalism? Marx, the law of supply and demand, the requirement for scarcity, a workforce…

I don’t want to make this a technical talk on economics, and I probably don’t have the means, however it seems obvious that when industry builds new machines aimed to goods production, the reason is lowering the cost of production and raising the profit in one of two ways:

  • keeping the price unchanged, and therefore increasing the margin;
  • gaining a competitive advantage by lowering the price, and therefore selling more units

What happens, tho, if robots become capable of doing any physical labour? And no, I am not talking about science fiction…

Continue reading “End of an era”

Democracy Miniaturisation

After the fall of the USSR, we immediately saw many European countries splitting into smaller entities, and even after that momentum slowed down, there never was an inversion, but rather a consolidation that took different shapes all the way to the present.

At the same time glocalization has grown to become a mainstream cultural trend: on one hand we keep globalizing as we did for decades, assimilating more and more foreign cultures into our own, enhancing the migration flows and letting our society becoming more diverse, but on the other hand we become more and more aware of what makes our own local culture unique exactly because we now have more elements to compare ourselves with others, thus enhancing the personal bond with our local community.

These two factors work in synergy with many others, and together they are providing an impulse towards a miniaturisation of our democracies.

Continue reading “Democracy Miniaturisation”

Digital Divide et Impera

Divide et Impera is an old latin saying. It was -over a thousand year ago- a very successful war tactic in which the enemies were divided, pushed against each other, weakened as a result, and ultimately more easily conquered.

Zooming in to the last decade or so, internet first and social media later tweaked ever so slightly the concept of human relationships, and in the process they ignited a revolution of our our communication system in such a way that we are now giving a new modern meaning to that old adage.

Continue reading “Digital Divide et Impera”

A.S. – Artificial Stupidity

We spent decades considering the possibility that artificial intelligence may pose a threat to humanity and our survival as a species.
I always dismissed these fears of a real-life Skynet with a very simple comparison: did we exterminate Chimpanzees? No: We didn’t, simply because they didn’t pose a threat to us, so we decided to just let them be.

A truly intelligent artificial intelligence, past the so called “singularity”, more intelligent than us and probably capable of evolving at a faster rate than us, would probably see humanity as a non threat, just about like we see Chimpanzees.

In the last few years, as AI studies evolve, it became clear however that before we will achieve a truly intelligent AI, much, much before then, we will be able to create AS: artificially stupid machines that may actually be a danger to human survival. Continue reading “A.S. – Artificial Stupidity”

Hardware Softwarization

Is a building still a building if no one built it, but rather… printed it?

Apis is a startup based in San Francisco that is hitting the news for having 3d-printed a small house in 24hours. 3D print is destined to lower hugely the costs of buildings -and virtually anything else-  and as a result to revolutionize the way we think of our hardware, of our objects, and therefore the sanctuary called a “home” where we like to collect them all.

Continue reading “Hardware Softwarization”

Trendy Elders

There was a time when western societies used to respect their elders, just like most other cultures.

Something then changed, but what?

To answer, the question “why don’t we -as a culture- respect the elders” must be reversed, and we should ask ourselves why do most cultures do so, and what makes us different.

Continue reading “Trendy Elders”

The train and the truck

Yesterday an awful tragedy happened.

84 people died (count updated at the time of writing) in a terrorist attack, where a truck rallied for 2km through a crowd celebrating the French Bastille day, in Nice.

3 days ago, on July 12, an awful tragedy happened.

27 people died in a train accident, where two trains collided head-on in Puglia, Italy.

Did you know about the train tragedy? Probably not.

Mandatory Happiness

A quick chat with friends, and a couple of overheard conversations sparkled it all.

The chat was about how no one wants to be dragged into the downward vortex of negativity, we all heard it hundreds of times, I have been actively portraying the idea for like 20 years now, and yet, hearing it back chewed and served as a mainstreamized concept, scared me, for the first time in 20 years.

Continue reading “Mandatory Happiness”

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