Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.
There are few activities where I completely lose the sense of time. One of the rare exceptions is playing the computer game Civilization. I’m aware that what you are going to read now is devaluing every single word of what I wrote last week about reducing screen time, but to error is human…
Thursday the latest game of Civilization was released. The days up to the release I spent watching streamers play the pre-release version, reading analysis on Reddit and consuming every single minute of sneak-peek content produced by the team behind the game. Instead of listening to a podcast, I watched a live-stream. Instead of reading a book, I watched a live-stream. Instead of meeting with friends, I watched a live-stream.
Then the game was released. I downloaded it and started to play around 4PM. By 8PM I realized I hadn’t been eating. By midnight I was considering going to sleep. By 3AM I managed to go to sleep. Saturday I repeated this pattern.
Civilization has evolved drastically since I played the first version in the early 90s. Many new features, game mechanics, units and victory types have been introduced. Yet I am still hooked to taking one more turn. Just like I was more than 25 years ago.
What hasn’t changed is the utterly useless AI opponents…
Bonus multipliers is the only difference when you play Civilization on the highest level. The computer receives bonuses up to 80% for producing buildings, gaining gold and other core game mechanics. And where you start the game with two units, the computer starts with ten.
Last week I shared Deepmind’s video of their AlphaStar AI that was beating professional StarCraft players. My biggest wish for Civilization’s single player mode is to balance difficulty level through smarter AIs instead of bonus multipliers.
I Really Don’t Understand Artificial Intelligence
While the Civilization developers don’t seem to be able to make an unbeatable AI, this week a few stories on artificial intelligence really caught my attention. Each of them feels like a firm reminder that the future is already here. A future I don’t understand.
This is nothing but a website showing one image of a person. Every time you refresh the page, a new person appears. What is mind boggling is the fact that all of the people you see don’t exist. They are all generated by an algorithm.
OpenAI has published some results of their AI text generator, GPT2. With very little input, GPT2 can automatically finish the text - whether it is a journalistic article or non-fiction prose. I’ve linked to The Guardian’s article above, make sure to read it, it is one of the most fascinating stories I’ve read in a long time. It is also a bit overwhelming to think about how this will effect the internet when (if?) it will be released.
Already in 2015, more than 30% of vendors on Amazon used autonomous algorithms to set the prices of their products. Now a study shows that pricing algorithms seem to play collusion strategies. Furthermore, unlike when humans want to collude, no communication between the algorithms are required for them to collude, it simply happens automatically if no regulation.
WIRED’s founding executive editor, Kevin Kelly, offers a tale of what future we are on the verge of living in. Powered by algorithms, we are right now creating a complete digital mirrorworld.
In the mirrorworld, the virtual and physical world merges into a third world. There will be no more escaping from reality by playing Civilization all night long or escaping from the screen by taking a walk in the forest.
Instead, all places and things will be machine-readable. And whoever dominates this grand third platform will become among the wealthiest and most powerful people and companies in history.
Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture
I enjoyed this alternative story to the health of the media landscape. Antonio García Martínez argues that objective journalism is nothing but a fluke with journalism now going back to its roots of advocacy and activism.
A few weeks back I wrote about Alfonso Ribeiro's ownership claim over the Charlton Dance. I appears he is unsuccessful. Thank you sanity.
The company behind PokemonGo is changing the game to settle a lawsuit with homeowners complaining about having people flokking to their front doors to catch pokemons. The settlement offers some good guidelines for the mirrorworld.
Unfortunately grassroot activism did not succeed in changing article 11 and 13 of the new EU Copyright Directive. One of the consequences of the directive, if passed in parliament, is that any online community, platform or service that has existed for three years or more, is responsible for ensuring that no user ever posts anything that infringes copyright, even momentarily. Goodbye online communities!
I really enjoy the thoughts posted by Marian Goodell, the CEO of the Burning Man Project, about how they are working on correcting the cultural course of Burning Man. Aimed at fighting the commodification of Burning Man, the posts offers concrete actions to ensure participants are contributors, not consumers.
It seems I’m not the only one fighting with screen addiction. Thanks to all of you who replied with your own stories about reducing the time spent away from reality. I hope we can still be friends after you read about my computer game addiction.
Please don’t forget I’m just a reply away.