Sunday, October 24, 2021

Exponential, book review: Technology acceleration and its impact on society


Pope Francis targets 'post-truth' media and culture in speech to social movements

5 Useful Web Tools Every Student Should Use

ZDNet: “An “exponential gap” is opening up between our understanding of our world, which updates slowly, and new technologies, which change faster than we can cope with, argues Azeem Azhar… The exponential growth of computer power led the inventor Ray Kurzweil to propose the Law of Accelerating Returns and predict that by 2045 machine intelligence will pass that of humans — a.k.a. the Singularity.  In Exponential: How Accelerating Technology is Leaving Us Behind and What to Do About It, Azeem Azhar begins with the perception that Kurzweil’s take was too narrow and that exponential growth is taking place in no less than four converging sectors: computing, energy, biology, and manufacturing.  In energy, the cost of renewables is plummeting. In biology, the cost of genome sequencing is doing the same. The first human genome took 13 years and $3 billion; today anyone can get theirs done for $200 in a few days and fast sequencing was part of why we got covid vaccines so soon. In manufacturing, 3D printing is rapidly improving, and offers entirely new possibilities for creating everything from buildings to organs.  Taken together, the world we’re hurtling into will look quite different. Azhar credits Kurzweil for recognising that the biggest contributor to our perception that it’s ‘accelerating’ is the parallel development and interaction of different technologies. The result, Azhar writes, is an “exponential gap” that’s opening up between our understanding of our world, which updates slowly, and the arriving technologies, which change faster than we can cope with.  In this book, and in the Exponential View podcast and newsletter that preceded it, Azhar, who has been a journalist, a multiple company founder, and a venture capitalist, says he wants to straddle CP Snow’s Two Cultures — art and science — in order to understand the impact of all these new technologies on society…”

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Washington Post: ‘Every time there’s a Facebook scandal, you may have thought about quitting the social network, and this time for real. But you run into the same problem every time: Where exactly should you go? After a rough month of revelations about Facebook’s business practices, culminating with a whistleblower testifying in front of lawmakers about the social network’s harmful impact on children, many are once again trying to figure out how to extricate themselves from the company. But breaking up with Facebook means also cutting off Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, which are all owned by the company.

 For some people in emerging markets, Facebook is also their low-cost connection to the Internet. Leaving means giving up on a number of online relationships that you may not be able to re-create elsewhere. It’s not easy to move entire online communities or extended families to other services like Twitter, Slack and TikTok. The truth is, leaving Facebook isn’t possible for everyone. That’s by design. With nearly 3 billion users around the world, Facebook has a reach that’s closer to a public utility than a fun social app. It’s impractical and even unfair to ask that many people just quit. But for those who can and want to, here’s where they can go next…”