trenchant.org

by adam mathes
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2018

For 2018 I quit Twitter. I guess so I could focus on my craft?

Something like that. I mean, you’d understand if you were reading the mailing list.

Maybe you wouldn’t understand. I don’t even know if I understand.

Look, it’s 2018, and blogs are dead and uncool again so I’m all for them. Let’s do some links. Was that ever a thing I did? I don’t even remember. I think that was in the 90’s before I declared this a “web site” and not a “web log” but, I mean, whatever.

It’s fine.

Probably.

Let’s just throw in links from my reading list every week and see if that’s a thing. Maybe that’s a thing I do now in 2018? We’ll see.

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small scale tech manifesto

But software doesn’t belong exclusively to corporations, and the success–or at least prevalence–of the free software movement means that we have ample building blocks to use for our own ends. We aren’t starting from scratch, and we can choose to build, and use, tools that support our needs and our values.

We can’t magically will about the resources of a multi-billion dollar company, but we can make different decisions and choose different trade-offs.

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Chris Rock’s 1996 SNL monologue transcript

I was thinking about this (22 year old!) monologue recently because of how so much of it is both incredibly dated and timely simultaneously. Comedy is weird like that.

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AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We’re All Fucked

There’s a video of Gal Gadot having sex with her stepbrother on the internet. But it’s not really Gadot’s body, and it’s barely her own face. It’s an approximation, face-swapped to look like she’s performing in an existing incest-themed porn video.

The video was created with a machine learning algorithm, using easily accessible materials and open-source code that anyone with a working knowledge of deep learning algorithms could put together.

The massive semi-public databases of imagery and video of not just celebrity but normal human beings that is being created and stored now is going to be used in unanticipated ways. (How many years of publicly available photos/videos will be needed to create a believable enough 3D model that can then be manipulated programmatically in real time? Will it be ethical to create synthetic VR versions of celebrities to do as we please with? What about interacting with a programmatic version of a dead loved one?)

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Some excerpts from recent Alan Kay emails

It strikes me that many of the tech billionaires have already gotten their “upside” many times over from people like Engelbart and other researchers who were supported by ARPA, Parc, ONR, etc. Why would they insist on more upside, and that their money should be an “investment”? That isn’t how the great inventions and fundamental technologies were created that eventually gave rise to the wealth that they tapped into after the fact.

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Why Trump’s War on the Deep State Is Failing—So Far

This is banana-republic-type stuff. One year into Trump’s term in office, his character has not changed. The president of the United States—as John Bellinger warned as early as December 2015 and as I elaborated on in March of 2016—remains the principal threat in the world to the national security of the United States. His aspirations are as profoundly undemocratic and hostile to the institutions of democratic governance as they have ever been. He announces as much in interview after interview, in tweet after tweet. The president has not changed, and he will not change. Whether he has grown or will grow is not even an interesting question.

The interesting question, one year in, is how the apparatus of democratic government is weathering his onslaught. The answer to this question is complicated but, I think, ultimately encouraging.

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