When it comes to politics, it should be of no surprise to anyone that we’re in uncharted, nonlinear territory now.

Weaponized social networks have seized control of the political process from the traditional political parties and their media gatekeepers. They are in charge now and, more importantly, they are rapidly evolving. Getting more powerful with each passing day.

Here’s a good example of how that evolution could could quickly (nearly overnight) go non-linear and plunge us into civil turmoil.

One of the weaponized social networks I’m currently covering is a loosely connected network built on a newly emergent consensus morality…

Facebook just announced sweeping changes to fix significant problems with its newsfeed, the main conduit for news and information for over 2 billion people. However, the problems with Facebook’s newsfeed won’t be fixed with these tweaks. In fact, they are likely to get much worse as Facebook attempts to fix them.

To understand why, let’s jet back to 2001, years before Facebook and Twitter.

In 2001, the little software company I was at launched the first social networking product. …

The World’s Facebook Relationships Visualized

Facebook recently passed:

  • 2 billion monthly users.
  • That’s~70% of the 2.8 billion Internet users living outside of China/Russia (they use a different social networking system).
  • With slowing rates of growth for Facebook and the Internet (due to saturation), Facebook is likely to hit 3.5 billion monthly users by 2025.

The Complete Social Graph

At 3.5 billion users in 2025, Facebook’s social network will be more than half of the 6.5 billion people living outside of China/Russia. That’s a network that is large enough and deep enough to:

  • create a global census that can “see” nearly everyone on the planet , even if they don’t…

“Her new job at Amazon is to babysit several robots at a time, troubleshooting them when necessary… ‘For me, it’s the most mentally challenging thing we have here,’ Ms. Scott said of her new job. ‘It’s not repetitive.’ (via NYTimes)

Traditionally, workers use machines as tools. They run them, use them, or employ them to accomplish difficult tasks. In that relationship, the human being provided the understanding needed to accomplish the task and the machine provided the brute force, speed of motion, or computational capability required to accomplish it.

AI changes that relationship. AI provides machines, once initially trained, with…

Viral image that accused Best Buy of price gouging Hurricane Harvey victims

Best Buy is getting hammered online. Here’s what happened:

  • Best Buy sells bottled water by the bottle at $1.79 a bottle (or $2.50 for smartwater). They don’t sell them by the pack, but the pack price, if you did buy them at that price is $42.96 and $29.98 respectively.
  • Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. This led to a shortage of clean drinking water. As a result, Houston Best Buy customers were buying bottled water by the pack. To make this easier for customers, an employee made a sign advertising the available (and the price) for a pack of water.
  • Someone took…

Theater for AIs

What will people do for work in the AI economy? We will train AIs. Really? Yes really.

Here’s a good early example from Waymo (formerly Google’s self driving car project). They employ people in a role they call “foxes” (a word derived from the word faux). Foxes build real world simulations for training AIs quickly and safely. How? They stage live performances for AIs. They:

  • Serve as extras: from other drivers (to simulate traffic) to pedestrians to bike riders.
  • Play leading or typecast roles: from the “bad” driver to the child on a bike to the New York pedestrian. Stunt work that pushes the limits of the AI training.
  • Stage and breakdown training props: Hold signs (stop, etc.). Place cones. Reconfigure lines. Set up building facades.

Some items of interest:

  • Singapore: “Changi (airport) will be using facial recognition technology to offer self-service options at check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding” What happens over the long term? Automated systems like this will seek to partner with companies like Facebook. Why? Facebook will have, if they don’t have already, the best facial recognition AIs available. Why? They simply have the biggest and best dataset available to build it with, by a wide margin. They also can do it on a global scale (sans China/Russia) and they have strong vectors for expansion/growth into more robust methods of identity verification.

Why did Artificial intelligence suddenly take off in the last decade?

  • It wasn’t because we found a powerful master algorithm for building artificial intelligence. Just the opposite. AIs became possible because the brute force processing power needed to train artificial neural networks suddenly became affordable.
  • The cost of processing power is still a gating factor for the improvement of AI’s today. AI training has an endless appetite for processing power. The more you have, the better the AI you can build (and the more variation, experimentation, and tinkering that can be accomplished).
  • The affordability of processing power ALREADY poses a…

I just got back from a great conference in Singapore. A central theme of the conference was that China (and Asia in general with substantial US help) isn’t ‘rising’ anymore, it has risen (again), and that the US and much of the rest of the world hasn’t recognized this yet. This makes sense. China has risen economically with India is soon to follow and it will require a big rethink in terms of how we manage the world (the UN, IMF, etc.).

However, China’s continued success(even at this juncture) may not be a good assumption. …

Six years ago, I floated a business plan for building a new type of company (an open source venture). An open source venture is structured in a way that makes it possible for millions of worker/owners to collaborate on the construction of extremely valuable databases. That initial attempt wasn’t successful, with good reason: it was too early. The databases that could be built weren’t as valuable as they needed to be to support millions of contributors and the system needed to manage decentralized ownership (the blockchain) was still in its infancy.

Things have changed. The rapid rise of AI (more…

John Robb

Principal Analyst at the Global Guerrillas Report: https://www.patreon.com/johnrobb (reader supported) Featured in WSJ, NYTimes, Economist, CNBC, Fox, BBC…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store