“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present” is the quote you find at the bottom of this mighty magazine’s website. It’s by Marcus Aurelius and it gives you quite a good idea on what you’re about to be embarking on. Made by Human After All, a London based design and communications agency, the magazine takes upon itself to change and explain the world with clear cut, impartial journalism, crazy good illustrations skillfully integrated within the stories and subjects strong enough to rock your world.
We’re talking complex, relevant and contemporary themes taken apart into simple, comprehensive and nevertheless exhaustive articles written by world class contributors. It’s a very engaging magazine with a design to match its contents: every piece is accompanied by an illustration that aims not just to merely decorate, but to truly render the idea clearer.
Each issue is a challenge in itself: ranging from climate change to megacities, power structures, global health or sustenance, Weapons of Reason tackles subjects that however relevant and important, don’t receive nearly the deserved air time, research and exposure in other media or educational outlets.
Get challenged here: https://bit.ly/2OGGmYJ
The 6th issue covers a subject that, for many, still seems a matter of a distant future and for some, furthermore so, an inflated Science Fiction scenario: artificial intelligence (AI). The truth is not only is it very much happening now, in the present and in our day to day lives, it doesn’t even have to be this outrageous new robot or device blowing things up. Algorithms and automation are well embedded into our existence while we’re still having trouble keeping up not only with the reality of it, but with the morality, accountability and safety issues it brings up: just take a look at the deepfakes and fake stories influencing elections or at the Facebook hearings that had us facing the real issue we’ve been all ignoring. We’ve invented technology that bears no responsability and its speed and evolution has long outrun its minimal framework. Briefly, as we saw senators not having the faintest clue of what they were looking at or Big Tech CEOs not having the faintest intention to become accountable, it must’ve dawned on us that we’ve carelessly reached a point of no return.
The issue takes us (brilliantly) through the history of AI, from the middle of the 20th century to the present moment, marking its important moments and creating super easy to follow graphics to better illustrate the idea. Back to the future becomes back to the present where the use of algorithms and AI is pervasive: so much so that at times the world becomes incomprehensible and we seem to be running ever more behind our very own inventions, consumig more than understanding.
Taking us from the concept of the Black Box Society (in which we’re very much living) to the goal of transparent, accountable AI (the glass box system) and guiding us through the huge impact AI is already having in fields such as medicine or the fashion industry, but touching also on the least usual suspects (think love life or the chipping parties that are already a frenzy in Sweden), this issue delivers an all-encompassing view on what is actually going on in and outside our artificial neuronal networks.
The issue is an absolute must read: it manages to render rather complex or technical issues in such a simple yet thorough way, you don’t even feel time flying between its 145 pages. It touches on so many perspectives – from morals to law, from the way we work to the way we employ biases into new technology, from the AI generated art to its complex reflections on creativity in the age of the machine, from absurd scenarios to magnificient breakthroughs.
What it offers is more than just information, it’s something way more precious, as is its quest in the midst of the AI revolution (that, make no mistake, is already here): it offers context. Without it, we’re pretty much lost.
“I’ve never seen a human play this move. So beautiful” – this was the reaction of awe struck Fan Hui, a champion Go player, while watching the game between professional Go player Lee Sedol and AlphaGO, an AI system developed by DeepMind (owned by Google). AlphaGo ended up defeating Sedol, after an infamous 37th move that left the world shocked and the player leaving the room. And if you think that’s something, wait till you read about AlphaGoZero, a system teaching itself to play Go without even using data from human players, just basically playing against itself. Forever.
Then there’s the cautionary tale of the software engineer being fired, by mistake, by a machine, while its peers and managers stood seemingly powerless in the face of such power display, forgetting all along that it was always a man made automation at play, and not the final word of a cruel god.
The new rites of passage prompted by the chipping practice: no longer having just a birthday, but also an upgrade day alongside your digital siblings.
And my favorite, and final quote, from Yannis Baboulias’ article, Tomorrow Never Knows:
“If big tech’s reckoning in the senate has taught us anything, we should be having these discussions much more vigorously and honestly and we should be having them now. “We face a world, not in the future, but right now, where we don’t understand our own creations,” writes Bridle. “The result of such opacity is always and inevitably violence.” And prayer never stops the future in its tracks.”
Listen to me
Some good old Chemical Brothers suits this read well, a bit of robot rave plus the never-ending Internet wisdom resurfacing through YouTube comments “Sorry Robots, we are still working on freeing ourselves”.