Bio, Beauty, Jazz, Apps, Faces

Biology Is Eating the World

Jorge Conde et al | Andreessen Horowitz | 28th October 2019

A manifesto. Biology has reached an inflection point much as information technology did 50 years ago. “We are at the beginning of a new era. Biology has shifted from an empirical science to an engineering discipline. Drug discovery and development will move from a bespoke to an iterative process. We can move from designing a molecule for one specific target to designing a platform on which many medicines can be built. We are living in the century of biology, and biology is eating the world” (885 words)


Ugly Beautiful

S.E. Smith | Catapult | 24th October 2019

People with disabilities want to fit in. But they may also want to stand out. “Finding beauty, grace, gloriousness in things others find ugly or troubling is a bit of a specialty for some of us. Rather than hide or minimise disability, we want to accentuate it. We want to carry sparkly canes, sew custom pouches for our medical supplies, wear tops with our ostomy bags showing, show our facial differences. Celebrating disability hints at a future where where we can say ‘nice wheelchair’ and mean it” (2,025 words)


First Angel Of The Future

Harmony Holiday | Poetry Foundation | 24th October 2019

Joycean, free-flowing eulogy to Sun Ra, the avant-garde jazz musician from Alabama who claimed to be an alien sent from Saturn to preach peace on Earth. “Sun Ra is a poet, a pianist, and an evangelist. He has a message about the way we live and speak that would atrophy if confined to the page but is amplified and eternalised by his tone, his deliberate rambling, his cedar timbre, the real-time momentum he builds with each recitation, and the tangle of pure reasoning that becomes clear in his cadence” (4,700 words)


Everything Is Amazing, But Nothing Is Ours

Alex Danco | 26th October 2019

The shift to services in the physical economy — access to everything, ownership of nothing — is being replicated at the level of software. What used to be your data, on your computer, becomes a dependency, a call to somebody else’s server. “Files are a bellwether. Our phones are fully in the future: apps are services, and it’s really hard to access the file system. Our computers are still in the past: the two most important navigational anchors on my computer are the desktop and the downloads folder” (1,800 words)


Excavating AI

Kate Crawford & Trevor Paglen | 19th September 2019

Exposé of the training sets used when teaching computers to recognise and classify images. They are not objective, they are value-laden, and the values are not good. The giant of the industry, ImageNet, offers 14 million sample images tagged into 21,841 categories. Most of the tagging was done remotely by casual workers using a taxonomy from the 1980s. “There are categories for Closet Queen, Convict, Crazy, Failure, Jezebel, Kleptomaniac, Pervert, Schizophrenic, Second-Rater, Spinster, Waverer and Wimp” (8,700 words)


Video: Circle Back. The alienation of office life. A miniature masterpiece of gentle rap from Quarter Life Poetry, alias Samantha Jayne and Christian Hanlon (5m 20s)

Audio: The Life And Death Of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi | The Daily. Rukmini Callimachi talks to Natalie Kitroeff about the man who created ISIS (29m 20s)

Afterthought:
”People who live in a golden age go around complaining how yellow everything looks”
— Randall Jarrell


A reminder for readers and friends in the Bay Area: Robert will be speaking on the evening of November 5th in San Francisco, on the topic of “How To Read”, in partnership with the Joss Collective. Tickets are available through Eventbrite. Please do come if you can