Link Dump

Just got back from vacation, so here's just a few links to tide you over until I recover:
  • The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can - A great example of the unglamorous march of technology that fascinates us here at Kaedrin. The number of steps it takes just to shape the can is probably more than you think, and that stay-on pull tab on top is truly ingenious.
  • Tomorrow's Advance Man - Interesting profile of the Conehead looking Marc Andreessen. I found this graph interesting in light of my recent viewing of Tomorrowland:
    Over the past thirty years, the level of income throughout the developing world is rising, the number of people in poverty is shrinking, health outcomes are improving, birth rates are falling. And it'll be even better in ten years. Pessimism always sounds more sophisticated than optimism-it's the Eden-collapse myth over and over again-and then you look at G.D.P. per capita worldwide, and it's up and to the right. If this is collapse, let's have more of it!
    Emphasis mine, because that's a sentiment I see all the time in different spaces and it always bugs me. To take a more innocuous example, why are unhappy endings in vogue? Why do they seem so much more sophisticated than a happy ending? A lot of people will give a movie or book a pass simply for the fact that it has a downer ending (go to any film festival and you'll find an unending parade of misery porn), and I've never understood that. Happy or sad endings aren't inherently good or bad, and yes, both need to be earned, but for some reason, critics in particular are much more forgiving for the sad endings than they are for happy endings. I've always thought it's a matter of execution, and when your goal is to make the audience feel bad, that's usually a more difficult sell, so you better do it really, really well. Few do, and yet critics fawn all over them anyway. Perhaps a topic for another time.
  • The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence - An excellent (long) read, especially since we seem to be mired in a summer of AI villains and what have you. There are some very scary things about AI, but it's not quite what we're seeing at the movies. The thing that troubles me is the speed with which AI will go from a research project to genuine superintelligence:
    It takes decades for the first AI system to reach low-level general intelligence, but it finally happens. A computer is able to understand the world around it as well as a human four-year-old. Suddenly, within an hour of hitting that milestone, the system pumps out the grand theory of physics that unifies general relativity and quantum mechanics, something no human has been able to definitively do. 90 minutes after that, the AI has become an ASI, 170,000 times more intelligent than a human.
    At that speed, we'll have little to no control over what happens... unless we're super careful ahead of time, and even then, anyone who has worked with computers knows what kinds of inadvertent outcomes can happen, and that's a little terrifying when we start talking about a superintelligence. On the other hand, AI could be our salvation and a path to immortality. Something is bound to happen within our lifetimes, and it will be interesting for sure (in the Chinese curse sense, for sure).
And that's all for now!