Fun Friday Links: Improving Content Shareability, Human Extinction via AI and Open Source Everything!
Welcome to Conspire’s Super Happy Fun Friday Link Time, a weekly collection of cool discoveries from around the Web. Most times the goal is to get you thinking differently about communication, collaboration, culture, and life in general. Other times, LOLCAT ATTACK! Submissions are welcome, and you can send them to email@example.com for consideration.
How Buzzfeed Came to Rule Sharing
FastCo recently kicked out an article on the most innovative companies of 2013, lending Buzzfeed a spot for reinventing how news and advertising is shared.
“In the early days, the things that would spread on [BuzzFeed readers'] bored-at-work network were cute kittens, Internet humor, things that were inspiring or emotional. But then we realized that the social web moved beyond that content; it started to be about things like the Arab Spring and long-form stories and scoops,” said Buzzfeed founder, Jonah Peretti.
But of course, if you’re a fan of the digital pub, you know it hasn’t left its LOLCAT roots entirely. Instead, Peretti and co. work to balance the fun with the serious, ultimately providing shareable meme-y goodness as well as valuable news. When asked whether he thought the two different kinds of content attracted different audiences, Peretti gave an answer I think most news outlets would do well to keep in mind:
“It’s the same audience. Have you heard me talk about the Paris cafe? You go to a cafe and you bring a copy of Sartre and Le Monde. There’s a cute dog under the table next to you. So after you read the news and the philosophy, you may pet the dog, flirt with someone at another table, and talk about some trivial gossip. All these things are part of being human. You don’t become stupid when you turn away from the philosophy and pet the dog. People are complex and multifaceted. When you talk to people who say it dumbs down the audience to have cute animals, the truth is nobody has a choice: because Facebook and Twitter are perfect Paris cafes.”
Source: “Most Innovative Companies 2013″
Self-Imposed Human Extinction
As founder and director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, Nick Bostrom makes a life out of imagining the end of life. In this article from Aeon Magazine, contributing writer Ross Anderson specifically highlights Bostrom’s ideas about advanced Artificial Intelligence:
‘Let’s say you have an Oracle AI that makes predictions, or answers engineering questions, or something along those lines,’ Dewey told me. ‘And let’s say the Oracle AI has some goal it wants to achieve. Say you’ve designed it as a reinforcement learner, and you’ve put a button on the side of it, and when it gets an engineering problem right, you press the button and that’s its reward. Its goal is to maximise the number of button presses it receives over the entire future. See, this is the first step where things start to diverge a bit from human expectations. We might expect the Oracle AI to pursue button presses by answering engineering problems correctly. But it might think of other, more efficient ways of securing future button presses. It might start by behaving really well, trying to please us to the best of its ability. Not only would it answer our questions about how to build a flying car, it would add safety features we didn’t think of. Maybe it would usher in a crazy upswing for human civilisation, by extending our lives and getting us to space, and all kinds of good stuff. And as a result we would use it a lot, and we would feed it more and more information about our world.’
‘One day we might ask it how to cure a rare disease that we haven’t beaten yet. Maybe it would give us a gene sequence to print up, a virus designed to attack the disease without disturbing the rest of the body. And so we sequence it out and print it up, and it turns out it’s actually a special-purpose nanofactory that the Oracle AI controls acoustically. Now this thing is running on nanomachines and it can make any kind of technology it wants, so it quickly converts a large fraction of Earth into machines that protect its button, while pressing it as many times per second as possible. After that it’s going to make a list of possible threats to future button presses, a list that humans would likely be at the top of. Then it might take on the threat of potential asteroid impacts, or the eventual expansion of the Sun, both of which could affect its special button. You could see it pursuing this very rapid technology proliferation, where it sets itself up for an eternity of fully maximised button presses. You would have this thing that behaves really well, until it has enough power to create a technology that gives it a decisive advantage — and then it would take that advantage and start doing what it wants to in the world.’
To some this may sound like a silly sci-fi plot, but as Anderson notes, “There are good reasons for any species to think darkly of its own extinction. Ninety-nine percent of the species that have lived on Earth have gone extinct, including more than five tool-using hominids.”
Eric Stackpole and David Lang set out to map the ocean floor in an open source fashion via a device called OpenRov. The machine itself is built from low-cost materials while the umbrella project aims to cultivate a community of citizen science contributors to further assist with design and implementation. Currently, both professional and amateur underwater robotics enthusiasts are taking part. See what happens when we all work together?