Welcome to Mind Whoosh! A newsletter bread-crumb trail of thoughts, learnings, and speculations following my spelunking journey through minds, metaverse, and this messy human meat-space we call ‘reality.’
In this Issue:
- Moravec’s Paradox
- The DeepMind Podcast
- Alpha Signal — An algorithmically curated AI newsletter
- The Quiet Recession of Local News
- Upcoming Virtual Events
Our intelligence is a peculiar mechanism. I might struggle to remember a string of numbers from an old credit card (even after committing them to memory). Still, an old friend’s face from kindergarten is somehow embedded in my brain without even trying. On the other hand, humans are incredibly inefficient at computational tasks. AI Researchers like Hans Moravec and many others made a counterintuitive observation in the 1980s.
Solving complex equations and processing vast quantities of data quickly are some of the greatest strengths of computers. In contrast with our natural abilities, machine intelligence thus far struggles most with the kinds of tasks that we find nearly effortless. We learn an evolving model of our environments, recognize faces, engage in complex social interactions, and interact with our physical world effortlessly. We do all of this incredibly early in childhood, with few trials and errors. It only takes one experience to learn not to touch a hot stove. These kinds of challenges turn out to be some of the most difficult to tackle for intelligent machines.
I stumbled across this last week as I was doing some digging on the research company behind AlphaGo. It’s a great place to start if you are curious about all of this fuss over AI and machine learning over the past decade. It’s well-produced in a similar manner to productions like Radio lab and is intended as a less technical introduction to what is so fascinating about the domain and challenges.
If you struggle to keep up with the indomitable avalanche of news, research papers, tools, and publications in AI, welcome to the club. It’s only growing!
The team behind Alpha Signal created a curation tool that crawls over a thousand new research papers every week, as well as social media posts, articles, and code repositories. There is a lot of redundancy in all of that human activity, so it sifts out the noise to leave you with a weekly curated feed of the most notable updates from around the interwebs.
The Quiet Recession of Local News
The growing internet of fake news and deepfakes is well upon us. Finding sources of unbiased journalism online is challenging enough for Americans to grapple with. We certainly haven’t found our way out of the noisy, outrage-sucking information swamp yet. Where the hell do we turn to get a ground-floor view instead of the latest bipartisan political discourse from the capital?
For many generations, the local news had been the most reliable place to find actual reporting. Check the front page of any small-town newspaper, and you would see far more objective coverage on events and topics that directly affected people where they lived. It was more focused on enabling you to think independently as an informed citizen in your community. Even with the declining support for traditionally scattered outlets, Americans distrust local news slightly less than the national alternatives. However, individual perception of the line between the two is still a grey area between individuals.
The problem is, many of these organizations have already died out. For over a decade now, we’ve witnessed a disruptive transformation in the way people consume reporting. Much of our information now comes from less traditional sources like social media, youtube, or larger online publications.
The small-town paper is likely on its way out, soon to be a forgotten vestige of the before-times of newspaper couriers on bicycles and your friendly neighborhood milkman.
Now, the only ‘news’ delivered to your doorstep are amazon boxes and utility bills. At least that’s not all bad.
Okay, so what can we do about it? There aren’t clear solutions, but some promising new approaches are emerging. Substack, for instance, has committed to spending a million on a pilot group of 30 local writers. To foster new sustainable business models for local reporting, they’ll provide services and support to kickstart aspiring journalists on their path via Substack Local.
Other publication platforms like Medium are helping foster growing communities of independent writers who can make at least supplemental income from the work they see as most important.
Over time, we may see more of these kinds of platforms and independent outlets. Ideally, most will be in support of recording history as it happens from a multitude of perspectives. As an individual, you can help support independent writers and journalists doing solid work to continue fighting the good fight for the rest of us.
The topic of misinformation and journalism is something I’ll certainly continue to explore in future writing. If you feel like digging further, I found a comprehensive research publication on the subject while writing this post here:
Woohoo, You made it! Thank’s for dropping in!
I hope you found something to get excited about here! If you appreciate any of the things I’ve gathered or written about here, consider sharing this with other like-minded humanauts in your circles. Right now, the best thing you can do is help find a larger community of people who can benefit.
This post was originally published in Mind Whoosh! on Substack.