Listened The competition delusion; and a call to nationalise big data from ABC Radio National

Competition is often seen almost as a universal good. But economist Nicholas Gruen says a slavish adherence to making everything a competition is damaging our trust in public institutions. Also, the Belgian community trialling an ancient form of democracy. And if big data is made collectively, would nationalising it help to ensure the benefits are widely distributed?

Listened Our changing media environment and a call to “decomputerise” from ABC Radio National

In this episode, we look ahead to the news and broader media environment in 2020 and pressing issues for local content in a globalised world. We also hear about the need to “decomputerise” in order to decarbonise. 

Antony Funnell speaks with Gautam Mishra about Inkl, a platform designed to provide ‘noise-free news’, where users pay a subscription which provides access to a number of publications. Download This Show also discussed the future of the news business.
Listened Prescient Predictions: 1984; Brave New World; and Network from Radio National

The dystopian best-seller 1984 was published exactly seventy years ago. Its influence has been profound. But does it really speak to today’s politico-cultural environment?

The dystopian best-seller 1984 was published exactly seventy years ago. Its influence has been profound. But does it really speak to today’s politico-cultural environment? Broadcaster Scott Stephens believes Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a closer match.

Also, author and New York Times journalist David Itzoff talks us through another prescient piece of fiction, Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 original screenplay Network.

Antony Funnell leads a discussion into three dystopian predictions. The argument made is that although 1984 captures the challenges to truth and the surveillance state, The Brace New World captures the attention economy.
Listened The elusive edge of Innovation from Radio National

Are entrepreneurs the great innovators we’re told they are? What if the ideal of the lone genius is simply a myth? Innovation is a buzz term that’s become so over-used as to be almost meaningless. It’s time to be more innovative in our understanding of innovation.

Antony Funnell explores the question of innovation. This includes what constitutes innovation, who is actually innovative and why the idea of the great innovator is often a myth. It is interesting to listen to this alongside Rolin Moe’s negative history.
Listened Reflections on the smart phone by Antony Funnell, Professor Genevieve Bell, Ariel Bogle, Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth, Emma Bennison from Radio National

Smart phones have become an essential part of our lives. But are they so familiar, we sometimes underestimate their importance? The role they’ve played in helping to shape our interests and interactions?

Antony Funnell speaks with Professor Genevieve Bell, Ariel Bogle, Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth and Emma Bennison about the history and affordances of the smart phone. They discuss the walled garden created by apps, the way devices inform our humanness, the cross-cultural appropriation of new technologies, support for accessibility and the surveillance built in. I have been thinking a lot about smart phones lately, especially while reading James Bridle’s New Dark Age and Adam Greenfield’s Radical Technologies. The conversation that I think is interesting is whether there is a future beyond the templated self produced by a handful of social silos.
Listened Listening and responding from Radio National

So if I were to give a down and dirty, so to speak, over what an effective listener is, it would be somebody that takes a step back, that allows the other to speak, that gives their full attention, that hears the message with their ears, with their heart, with their mind, with their emotional intelligence, that suspends judgement and makes a connection with the other individual

An interesting conversation on listening, lurking, reflecting and just being there.
Listened Getting serious about drones from Radio National

It is time to put aside the novelty aspect of unmanned aerial vehicles and start designing domestic drones that are fit for purpose. But how do you regulate a technology that has so many different uses and such varying capacities?

Antony Funnell leads a conversation looking into the current state of drones. One of the interesting examples shared came via Jon Schwindt. He spoke about the use of drones to deliver medical supplies in Rwanda. It is interesting to think about technology beginning in places like Africa. Is this because they have lower standards or is it simply the right fit? I am reminded of Bridge International and the their work in Liberia.
Listened Tall timber tales from Radio National

Cross-laminated timber is becoming a construction staple and the towers of tomorrow may soon be predominantly built of wood. It’s cheaper and faster.

Antony Funnell takes a look at a return to timber buildings and the ecological benefits that come with this. There is also a discussion of biophilia and our desire to return to nature. This reminds me in part of Bjork’s documentary on the same topic, but from the perspective of music.
Listened The role of humans in the technological age from Radio National

Forget the humans versus machine dichotomy. Our relationship with technology is far more complicated than that. To understand AI, first we need to appreciate the role humans play in shaping it.


Listened A not so diplomatic future from Radio National

Diplomacy is often viewed as a way of smoothing the friction points between states, but international relations are becoming increasingly assertive and highly personal.

In the latest edition of Future Tense, Anthony Funnell takes a look at the current state of diplomacy around the world. From Trump’s focus on hunches and China’s emphasis on ‘us against them’, we certainly live in some testing times.
Listened Banning plastic may not be good for the future from Radio National

Even those who campaign against the overuse of plastic, argue for a more nuanced understanding of its role in our lives. Future Tense looks at these nuances.

Antony Funnell takes a critical look at the move to abolish plastic. He speaks with a number of experts who highlight that the issue is not plastics themselves, but the way they are used and recycled. This is what has led to the pollution of oceans and the environment. This episode of Future Tense corresponds with the return of the television series War on Waste.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/the-tyranny-of-metrics-and-the-dark-web/9831438

In the first half of this episode of Future Tense, Antony Funnell speaks with Dr Jerry Muller about his book The Tyranny of Metrics. The conversation provides a useful provocation when it comes to metrics and measurements. It is interesting listening to this alongaide Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Reward and Cathy O’Neill’s Weapons of Math Destruction.

The second part of the episode addresses the Dark Web.

Listened The Virtue of Sharing from Radio National

Let’s look at the virtue of sharing: How could sharing shape our future, and what do we stand to lose if we refuse to share?

Edwina Stott unpacks the benefits of the sharing culture. This includes conversations about open source software, the sharing economy and open publishing. Stott unpacks challenges, such as how we support people to participate, this includes the feedback we provide.
Replied to Google is planning a city. What could go wrong? (ABC News)

Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs has plans to build and run an urban centre in Toronto, Canada. Not everyone is pleased.

The Sidewalk Labs is such an intriguing project. It offers an insight on what could be on so many levels. It is interesting to think about it in regards to the Selfish Ledger and Google’s move into (and out of) military AI. Imagine if they used Sidewalk Labs to hone their ability to identify citizens? Similar to China? And then have another about face and sell this technology to the highest bidder? Time will tell.
Listened With nature against climate change from Radio National

Nature Based Solutions is an environmental approach that seeks to counter the negative effects of climate change by working with nature.

Often the talk about climate control is about reducing emissions. This episode of RN Future Tense captures a number of environmental approaches designed to respond to changes, such as rising water levels. It is a good example of divergent thinking. This reminds me of the concept of rewilding and working with nature to develop a sustainable environment.
Listened The value of rituals in a digital world from Radio National

Are rituals still needed in a world mediated through digital devices?

Alexandra Samuel made the argument that ‘digital rituals’ are associated with the notions of reflection and community.

I think there’s two pieces. I think there’s the reflection and formulation of intention, what do I want from this experience, what does it mean. You know, a lot of rituals will include some element of solitary reflection as part of that process, and I think that is hugely valuable when it comes to thinking about our digital lives. But then the other piece is really almost the mirror image of that. Yes, there’s a piece of ritual that is about solitary reflection, but then there’s another piece that’s really about community recognition and understanding that you are now taking your place in a community or changing your relationship to the community or the community is now offering you a different form of participation or membership, and that notion, that when you join a community or when you change your relationship to the community, that you need to have some kind of mutual negotiation of what that means, that I think is a big part of what’s missing and it really has to do with giving us a chance to say, you know, hey, your Facebook login or your Instagram account or your new blog are not just about you, you are taking a place in a larger community that has a stake in how you use of this access.

This made me wonder if approaching the web following the #IndieWeb principles is somehow ritualistic. Rather than merely commenting or sharing, I now make the effort post content on my own site and syndicate from there.

My only question is whether this is the way it is simply because the technology is yet to develop and as it currently is, the #IndieWeb involves a little bit more effort and investment? Or will the community nature of it sustain the reflective nature?

Also posted on IndieNews

Listened Have we lost our sense of reality? from Radio National

Are the systems we’ve developed to enhance our lives now impairing our ability to distinguish between reality and falsity?


Guests

Dr Laura D’Olimpio – Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Notre Dame Australia

Andrew Potter – Associate Professor, Institute for the Study of Canada, McGill University; author of The Authenticity Hoax

Hany Farid – Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College, USA

Mark Pesce – Honorary Associate, Digital Cultures Programme, University of Sydney

Robert Thompson – Professor of Media and Culture, Syracuse University


This is an interesting episode in regards to augmented reality and fake news. One of the useful points was Hany Farid’s description of machine learning and deep fakes:

When you think about faking an image or faking a video you typically think of something like Adobe Photoshop, you think about somebody takes an image or the frames of a video and manually pastes somebody’s face into an image or removes something from an image or adds something to a video, that’s how we tend to think about digital fakery. And what Deep Fakes is, where that word comes from, by the way, is there has been this revolution in machine learning called deep learning which has to do with the structure of what are called neural networks that are used to learn patterns in data.

And what Deep Fakes are is a very simple idea. You hand this machine learning algorithm two things; a video, let’s say it’s a video of somebody speaking, and then a couple of hundred, maybe a couple of thousand images of a person’s face that you would like to superimpose onto the video. And then the machine learning algorithm takes over. On every frame of the input video it finds automatically the face. It estimates the position of the face; is it looking to the left, to the right, up, down, is the mouth open, is the mouth closed, are the eyes open, are the eyes closed, are they winking, whatever the facial expression is.

It then goes into the sea of images of this new person that you have provided, either finds a face with a similar pose and facial expression or synthesises one automatically, and then replaces the face with that new face. It does that frame after frame after frame for the whole video. And in that way I can take a video of, for example, me talking and superimpose another person’s face over it.

Listened Disrupting the Disruptors from Radio National

Has our contemporary embrace of disruption become a problem rather than a solution?

Antony Funnell speaks with a number of guests, including Mark Pesce – Honorary Associate, Ian Verrender and Professor Gregory Whitwell, about the idea of disruption today. However, the most interesting conversation is with Professor Andrew King. He has done considerable work testing Clayton Christensen’s theory and highlights some of the limitations to it. This includes Christensen’s approach to ongoing research and modelling, where he collects data, theorises and then tests with new data, adjusting his initial theory. You can read more on King’s work here.