Great Reads That Aged Well

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The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence

This is one of the rare kind of texts that has the potential to completely change your perspective. I’ve always struggled to wrap my head around Artificial Intelligence and the question of whether and when machines will be more intelligent than humans. It sure is a fascinating issue, but it always had this sci-fi out-of-touchiness; humans are notoriously bad at understanding exponential growth and thus far, no text had really helped me understand how we might get from Siri and Watson to superintelligent computers and immortality (or extinction) within a couple of decades. All of that changed when I read this two-part series. A stunner. In so many ways.

Is Coding the New Literacy?

Imagine, before you continue, for a brief moment that you could read, but not write. What would that mean to you? After all, it’s not that far-fetched. When it comes to computers, most of us know how to use them, but only few know how to tell them to do exactly what we want them to do. We read, but we don’t write. And while not everyone needs to become a programmer, having a basic understanding of «computational thinking» will be key in our technology-driven future. The good news: If you know how to cook, you’ve made your first steps in «computational thinking». For more, read this excellent text on coding as the new literacy.

From Weekly Filet #166, in June 2014.

Teaching The Camera To See My Skin

The technology we build always reflects (and reinforces) mindsets, often without us knowing or consciously noticing it. Photography provides a striking example: Films used to be optimised for white skin at the expense of darker skin colors. The technical bias was finally addressed, ironically, not because of black people, but because white advertisers needed images of chocolate and wood furniture to look better. Syreeta McFadden’s article is also a personal story: What it means for a child when you don’t recognise yourself on photographs. A great read.

From Weekly Filet #158, in April 2014.

If People Could Immigrate Anywhere, Would Poverty Be Eliminated?

In times when the opposite is back en vogue, it’s worth reflecting on this radical idea: Why not open all borders so that everyone can live and work where they wish? After all, why is it that in a globalised world, we accept that the place of birth remains one of the key determinants of someone’s chances in life? It’s not just a question of ethics, in fact, this article argues that it is an economic imperative to open borders.

From Weekly Filet #111, in May 2013.

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains

What does it mean if linguists claim that language shapes the way we perceive and think about the world? This two-part series about the different concepts of colour various languages have, provides some great insights. So for example, some people might not be able to spot the difference between a blue and a green square – not because they are colorblind, but because in their language, they are the same color. Think about what this means for concepts like gender, nationality or time.

From Weekly Filet #75, in July 2012.

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit

In a very long, yet brilliant essay, David Graeber explores why the future that is now just doesn’t live up to the expectations people had for it back in the sixties and seventies. This anthropologist’s view on technological research and development of the past decades brings to light some intriguing explanations (innovation was pushed in the wrong fields, motivation faded after the Cold War, it’s bureaucracy’s fault, it’s capitalism’s fault…). Reading the article will take you an hour. Thinking about it will take longer. That’s proof it’s worth the time.

From Weekly Filet #74, in June 2012.

When Illness Makes a Spouse a Stranger

I don’t even know where to start describing this article. Maybe by just saying that it moved me. And that is probably the best journalism can achieve. This is the story of Mr and Mrs French whose lives changed when he started to behave in very strange ways and changed again when they found out why. He was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, “a little-known, poorly understood and frequently misdiagnosed group of brain diseases that eat away at personality and language.” Very touching, never tear-jerking.

From Weekly Filet #70, in June 2012.

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