Sir Peter Bazalgette was recently invited by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to conduct an independent review into the countrie's creative sector. That review has now been submitted and published, with "cautiously optimistic" being its general tone. Wisely, Bazalgette and the report's authors Boston Consulting Group have costed up a set of recommendations, and put them to the government as a "take it or leave it" offer.
OH NO WHAT ARE WE ALL GOING TO DO NOW WE CAN’T INFLICT OUR QUESTIONABLE MUSIC TASTES AND COKED-UP WEEKEND CHAT ON SOME POOR BASTARD WHO’S WORKING A 19-HOUR DAY FOR FCUK-ALL CASH?
Yep, these are the BIG QUESTIONS we’re all grappling with right now - well, all of us except the country’s top lawyers and lobbyists, who’ll be looking at the Uber ruling this morning with the sort of ‘dollars-for-pupils’ avarice that’s normally the sole domain of top-hatted avian plutocrats. Still, you’re not here for HOT TAKES on current affairs; you’re here for the combination of too many links and too many words which makes Web Curios a uniquely unappealing prospect!
So settle down before the blazing fire - ignore what it actually is that's fueling the flames, and make sure to wear the protective mask before breathing in any of the fumes - and prepare once again to listen to my grating tones in your mind’s ear was we embark upon yet another edition of the Jackanory you know you deserve, WEB CURIOS!
The photograph accompanying this story looks rather mundane doesn't it? It's just an everyday photo taken from a Mercedes about to turn right, away from busy traffic.
Except that this photograph doesn't exist. It has been made by an artificially intelligent computer application, trained on images of streets.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but social media companies might yet prove that old dictum untrue. They’ve made headlines daily lately, in a fairly appalling way. Facebook selling anti-semitic ads, swaying an election with “fake news”, Twitter being a platform for extremists. And so on.
So. A tough but necessary question: is social media a failure? Let’s think about it for a moment, not with condemnation, blame, or shame, but just clarity, purpose, and understanding.
The economics of social media are stellar. Facebook earns piles of cash. Twitter isn’t as successful, but it’s still a publicly traded company — a billion dollar tale of modern-day fortune.
Read more (Eudaimonia)
Internet-enabled devices are so common, and so vulnerable, that hackers recently broke into a casino through its fish tank. The tank had internet-connected sensors measuring its temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got into the fish tank’s sensors and then to the computer used to control them, and from there to other parts of the casino’s network. The intruders were able to copy 10 gigabytes of data to somewhere in Finland.
HELLO TO THE NEW READERS LURED HERE BY ME SHOUTING ABOUT S*C**L M*D** ON TWITTER! Look, let's get this out of the way upfront; you're unlikely to enjoy this very much - the overwhelming majority of the world's population don't, and there's no real reason why you're likely to be any different. That said, welcome to the overwhelming cornucopia of LINKS AND NEWS AND ENNUI that is Web Curios. It's lovely to have you here. The top bit's news about s*c**l m*d**, the next two are random things that I have found interesting this week, then come a selection of Tumblrs, then the long reads, then videos at the end. It's not a complicated proposition, but I ruin it with too much writing. Like this. I ought to stop now, really. Look, FCUK OFF AND READ THE DAMNED THING, OK?! This, once again, is the info-enema that is Curios - put your hips up, and ignore the discomfort; it'll feel loads nicer on the way out.
(to the rest of you who know what the score is already, this week's edition is as disappointing as ever so at least consistency's being maintained)
(oh, and by the way, one paragraph in here this week has been automatically generated by the AlgoMuir that lives on Slack and which has been trained on the Curios corpus to mimic my writing style. See if you can spot which - I really fcuking hope you can, or I am FINISHED)
This is a story about how the airport became the setting for the Great American Freakout. Once an icon of progress, then another stale waiting room of modern life, the airport has now entered a third phase.
This summer, Ann Coulter threw a three-day tantrum over a Delta seat assignment, comparing the airline gate attendants to Nurse Ratched, the sadistic warden who rules over the lunatics in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There was some truth to the observation. It was the latest incident in a year of airport fracases—including a brawl at the Spirit Airlines counter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (May), the concussion of the 69-year-old David Dao who wouldn’t relinquish his seat (April), widespread pro-immigrant protests (January), two full-on panic stampedes one year ago, and a steady drumbeat of racial and religious profiling at security and immigration—that have confirmed the airport’s new role in American life as the marble-floored home of our national, fear-fueled psychosis.
The airport is, on the one hand, as representative a civic space as America has. Nearly half of American adults fly commercial each year, making the airport nearly as common a shared experience as the voting booth. It is also roiled by the ceaseless friction of its many internal borders, real and felt, that separate safety from danger, admittance from expulsion, brown from white, the rich from the rest. Real anxiety has swelled in this liminal space for decades, as airlines grew stingier, the security state grew stricter, and the borders in airport basements grew busier. But as with many conflicts in American life, the rise of Donald Trump has both clarified and exacerbated the fault lines.
Read more (Slate)
If you ask a child to draw a cat, you’ll learn more about the child than you will about cats. In the same way, asking neural networks to generate images helps us see how they reason about the information they’re given. It’s often difficult to interpret neural networks—that is, to relate their functioning to human intuition—and generative algorithms offer a way to make neural nets explain themselves.
Neural networks are most commonly implemented as classifiers—models that are able to distinguish, say, an image of a cat from an image of a dog, or a stop sign from a fire hydrant. But over the last three years, researchers have made astonishing progress in essentially reversing these networks. Through a handful of generative techniques, it’s possible to feed a lot of images into a neural network and then ask for a brand-new image that resembles the ones it’s been shown. Generative AI has turned out to be remarkably good at imitating human creativity at superficial levels.
Read more (O'Reilly)
As much as foamy-mouthed Brexiteers want to keep the good old British Pound, Estonia has opened something of a Pandora's Box with a question that had to come sooner or later. If the world is embracing cryptocurrencies, what is the point of national monetary policy?
For the past 12 months of my life, I paid the bargain price of $1,250 per month to sleep diagonally in a bunk bed in a 10ft by 10ft room that I shared with a 32-year old man. Because I am 6ft4in, sleeping diagonally in my undersized accommodation was the only way I could make it through the night without getting cramps.
Welcome to my life in the hacker house.
In July last year, I left my home in the comfy suburbs of Washington DC to make the 3,000-mile drive west to San Francisco, with my mother along for the ride. I had just graduated from college that May, and as the cliched story goes, I was in pursuit of the tech dream. I didn’t have a lease, or a job. Because of the high rent in the Bay area, you usually can’t secure a lease without a job offer, and well, you can’t exactly say the jobs were coming easy. So I just went for it.
Upon reaching Louisville, Kentucky, I received a call from a friend. “You should look up hacker houses,” he said. “It’s a place where a bunch of tech people live to hack and build stuff.”
Read more (Guardian)
One of the unfortunate side-effects of the filter bubble in which I find myself is that I've notmanaged to stumble across any examples of right-wing climate change deniers desperately attempting to explain away the BIG WEATHER in terms that don't involve, you know, ACCEPTED SCIENCE. Still, it's good to know that there's a positive side-effect to all these poor bastards in the Caribbean having their homes totalled - WE WERE RIGHT ALLALONG!
Anyway, leaving aside the planet's continued attempt to remove the bloated tick that is humanity from its scarred and pock-marked skin, it's been another week of marvelling at our own political classes as they vie to prove themselves the most incompetent and out of touch of all. From sentient dustjacket Rees-Mogg's unmasking as - and you'll have been as surprised as I was, readers, at this unpredictable occurrence - something of a small-c conservative(!), to the continuing inability of the team managing the UK's Brexit talks (I refuse to use the term 'negotiations' as it implies some sort of reasoned, adult dialogue rather than the insistence of one party to stubbornly believe that 2+2=whatever we damn well want it to mean thankyou very much indeed) to achieve anything much at all (and can we just take a moment to establish quite how spectacularly little has been achieved to date? I mean, if this was you at work someone would probably have taken you to one side by now and started making encouraging words about 'deliverables' and 'pulling your fcuking finger out', right?), it's been yet another reassuring demonstration of just how crap EVERYONE is, most of the time.
So! Don't worry about it! Cast your worries aside, for it is a FRIDAY - some of you might say FriYAY, and to you I say STOP IT - and there are only a few hours to go before you get to go home and stare at the leaden skies and remember that once there was sunshine and laughter. To fill in those empty hours, then, here I assemble for you a platter of the finest sweetbreads, foraged from the still-warm carcass of this week's web. Soaked and breaded and fried to creamy perfection, sink your teeth in and don't worry too much about the fact that you're not 100% exactly what sweetbreads are. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
Our friends at Furtherfield alongside arts publishing organisation Torque have launched a new book. Entitled Artists Re:Thinking Blockchain, it's a follow-up to their Artists Re:Thinking Games and features a number of thinkpieces, poems, and speculative works set in a context of a time "before Blockchain changed the world".
In “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” (1964), Heidegger famously takes stock of the present and future of philosophy in the time of cybernetics. “Philosophy is ending in the present age,” he writes. “It has found its place in the scientific attitude of socially active humanity. But the fundamental characteristic of this scientific attitude is its cybernetic, that is, technological character. The need to ask about modern technology is presumably dying out to the same extent that technology more decisively characterized and directs the appearance of the totality of the world and the position of man in it.” For the late Heidegger, writing near the last decade of his life and well ensconced in his mountain chalet, the rapid technological development of the global north spells an impending doom: the end to philosophical thinking and to a properly authentic relationship to the world. The planetary control apparatuses that we subsume under the sign of “cybernetics” have replaced the traditional role of metaphysics and, thus, usurped philosophy. “Philosophy is metaphysics. Metaphysics thinks beings as a whole—the world, man, God—with respect to Being, with respect to the belonging together of beings in Being."
Now, for Heidegger, it is cybernetics that thinks the totality. So, new questions are raised. Whither philosophy in the half century since Heidegger announced its death knell? Can philosophy survive the complete digitization of the world? Can metaphysics still have currency in an age of ubiquitous computation?
Read more (Parrhesia, PDF)
Mainstream narratives about What Theatre Is and What Video Games Are often marr the perception of these kindred art forms (both derived from a common ground of formalised play). Many non-theatre goers think that theatre is all Shakespeare and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, while many non-gamers assume games are all guns-blazing first-person-shooters.
So, in case you’ve never seen anything but adverts for Call of Duty, ‘AAA’ or ‘triple A’ is the word for the blockbuster, billion-dollar industry level of game development. Think ‘Hollywood’. This is by no means a value judgment, rather one of scale and ambition. There are some great, slick action movies, westerns and romantic epics made by Hollywood, and also a lot of by-numbers forgettable stuff, but AAA and Hollywood share a scale of budget, studio size and ambition.
So there is a ‘AAA’ level of the games industry – your Assasain's Creed, Halo, Final Fantasy, etc. But just as you get Hollywood in film (and the West End in theatre), you also get the indie film industry (and the DIY and fringe performance scenes). That scale of production exists in games, too, which is often overlooked by people just starting to think about games and gaming.
Read more (Mobius)
As stories of Russian “information warfare” in various Western countries continue to mount, governments, intelligence agencies and journalists are fretting over the influence of global media outlets funded by autocratic governments. But while these organisations are clearly meant to serve their sponsor governments’ agendas in various ways, is the West right to be so worried about them?
A research document by Liwei Song and Prateek Mittal of Princeton University reports that Amazon's Alexa products and the Google Now suite for Android can be controlled with inaudible commands.
Mist! Mellow fruitfulness! Decay, rot, dampness and the annual reminder that everything tends towards entropy and entropy means, biologically speaking, death! That's right everyone, it's SEPTEMBER!
I mean, the seasons are all so banjaxed with climate change that this is sort of meaningless, but I though I might wax lyrical at the advent of the ninth month of the year and the fact that, once again, Summer is OVER. On the one hand, no more bank holidays until 2018 and the slow, creeping knowledge that we're going to have to put up with enforced jollity and familial proximity VERY SOON; on the other, you get to give your kids back to their carers and to stop pretending you actually like hanging out with them all the time (come on, there's a reason we as adults don't as a rule choose the under-tens as our conversational companions).
So, then, a curate's egg of a month. Still, you've got back to back weekly Curios for the first time in an age, so, you know, BE GRATEFUL. Also, welcome this week to any new readers who might have been enticed here by Rob Blackie's very kind tip-off (the other newsletters he promotes are better, but this is by far the longest and, well, fcuk the quality, feel the width eh?) - yes, it really IS always like this.
To the rest of you who know what to expect by now, let's get underway with this week's informational equivalent of a watercannon to the solar plexus - you'll be left battered and possibly bleeding from the eyes and ears, but you'll be CLEANSED BY THE LINKBLAST. Probably. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
Rebecca Porter and I were strangers, as far as I knew. Facebook, however, thought we might be connected. Her name popped up this summer on my list of “People You May Know,” the social network’s roster of potential new online friends for me.
The People You May Know feature is notorious for its uncanny ability to recognize who you associate with in real life. It has mystified and disconcerted Facebook users by showing them an old boss, a one-night-stand, or someone they just ran into on the street.
These friend suggestions go far beyond mundane linking of schoolmates or colleagues. Over the years, I’d been told many weird stories about them, such as when a psychiatrist told me that her patients were being recommended to one another, indirectly outing their medical issues.
What makes the results so unsettling is the range of data sources—location information, activity on other apps, facial recognition on photographs—that Facebook has at its disposal to cross-check its users against one another, in the hopes of keeping them more deeply attached to the site. People generally are aware that Facebook is keeping tabs on who they are and how they use the network, but the depth and persistence of that monitoring is hard to grasp. And People You May Know, or “PYMK” in the company’s internal shorthand, is a black box.
Read more (Gizmodo)