Self-driving cars and moral algorithms, Hillary goes for the GIF, middle finger emoji for everyone, and some divine music... 
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[No. 041] It's like we never went away

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 

Ahem. Is this thing on? 🎤

  • If you want to hit the November playlist first, scroll to the bottom and jam out as you read this. I promise it’s full of goodies.
  • Have you ever wondered how to escape the police in a high-speed chase? Well, here are some answers!
  • China is building its first luxury cruise liner. It’s being billed as “twice as big as the Titanic!” which a) was a disaster, so i hear and b) is a tiny ship compared to today’s cruise liners. China gonna China.
  • Mark Cuban is funding a project that will try to predict whether a shot goes in, a soccer shot will hit the crossbar, etc. - all before the ball completes flight.
  • #Funeral is the realest hashtag on Instagram. lol.
  • Ad blocking is still a huge topic in media and journalism. This dude’s take is that “let’s get back to better storytelling” which, idk, seems to always be the ‘solution.’
  • But anyways, on to the good stuff! In today’s newsletter (which is fire, by the way), self-driving cars are going to have to make some hard choices (with moral algorithms!), GIFs in politics (is 2016 "The Year of the GIF?" Maybe!), new emoji for your iPhone (insert middle finger emoji here!), some phenomenal music, and much more!


Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill [MIT Technology Review]
The next step in automated computing: morality. Nowhere is this more evident and prescient than with self-driving cars. How should a car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident? Does it minimize loss of life, which could mean sacrificing its occupants, or should it protect its occupants first and foremost? Is there a middle ground?

The final answer might be that there is no right or wrong answer, per se. Public opinion, and posing the ethical dilemma to large numbers of people, is seen as the first step in coming to a reasonable solution. But there also appears a particularly thorny paradox in some of the initial research. “People are in favor of cars that sacrifice the occupant to save other lives - as long as they don’t have to drive one themselves.” Try coming up with an algorithm to solve that.

Regardless, with self-driving cars and other soon-to-be-automated large-scale machines and things, questions of moral programming/moral algorithms are incredibly fascinating and they’re fundamentally important.


The GIF Bite Election [Matt Bors]
This is the first piece that I’ve read to articulate something that many of us have observed, noticed, or felt, but not in an overt manner. That is, on the web, we don’t care about sound bites. We care about and have the expectation of GIFs. And Matt Bors, author of this article, posits that Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi hearing saw the presidential candidate playing for the GIF, while Republicans were spending 11-hours trying to get her to play for the sound bite.

GIFs, which often are void of context, may end up being the media clip of the 2016, a boon for campaigns that proactively and deliberately embrace them, and a detriment to those that ignore or misunderstand them.

On social media and as we browse content on our phone, we’re often with other people, in social contexts that don’t warrant or aren’t accepting of people randomly playing audio from their device. But GIFS? They can be watched, ad nauseum, in any context, anywhere, and immediately shared to other people that can do the same thing.

China’s Rumor Mill [Foreign Affairs]
WeChat is the Chinese mobile messaging app that hasn’t quite taken off in the U.S., but remains an essential piece of mobile software globally. It functions as a mini-operating system within a mobile device, something that we don’t quite have here, and lets users do everything from buy products to order cabs.

Chinese authorities have begun deleting blog posts from the service because they deal with “rumors.” But a “rumor” in the U.S. is different than how the Chinese government defines it. For them it’s a catch-all to describe “speculation, unverified commentaty, and false information posted online.” But this is China, afterall. So a “rumor” can also be an unsanctioned opinion about contemporary events and, well, probably a lot of things anti-government. 

A friendly reminder that it matters where an app is born and who might secretly have access to that app. The U.S. government is as culpable as any foriegn government, but China, as usual, takes things to the next level. 

iOS 9.1 Emoji Changelog [Emojipedia]
Ignore the boring-ass article title. THIS IS EXCITING STUFF. YOU DID IT, PEOPLE. YOU REALLY DID IT. If you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS 9.1, you now have access to every single emoji in the Unicode Standard. That includes, but is not limited to: taco, middle finger, chipmunk, turkey, new places, sports, and the list goes on. Emojipedia’s changlog calls out every new emoji. Have fun.

Kanye West’s Songwriter Wants His Due [The Daily Beast]
This isn’t the story of a man claiming to have written songs X, Y, Z or a man extorting Kanye. This is the story of Rhymefest, a Chicago emcee, who’s been super tight to Kanye and his career this whole time, and who has written a lot of what Kanye has rapped. “Jesus Walks?” Rhymefest. “Black Skinhead.” Rhymefest. He has credits on countless Kanye songs and has probably written or contributed to countless more. His 2006 Blue Collar album was one of my favorites that year, and included the Kanye-featured song, “Brand New.” That song was a damn anthem in my Chicago apartment (shoutout to The Rig).

Anyways, as time has worn on, and even with Rhymefest contributing to Kanye and other G.O.O.D. Music tracks, it seems that the stars of the show - Kanye, Common, John Legend - keep forgetting about Rhymefest. The man is one of the most instrumental players in Kanye’s career and with G.O.O.D. music in general. It’s a damn shame that he’s not getting his due.


Boomerang [iOS App Store]
There are no shortage of mobile apps to create GIFs with. But now a heavy hitter - Instagram - has officially entered the fray. Boomerang lets you create mini videos that loop back and forth and are easily shared through the app. It’s no frills. I kind of like it. Also, it’s another example of app unbundling, which Facebook seems to really be a fan of these days.


Song: Erykah Badu - “HOTLINE BLING BUT U CAINT USE MY PHONE MIX” [2015, Soundcloud]

Erykah’s take on “Hotline Bling” came out a month ago and, yeah, the Drake’s track is damn near at its peak cultural saturation, but HEY - THIS NEWSLETTER HASN’T COME OUT IN A WHILE, SO I CAN BRING THIS SHIT UP, OK? Long story short: Badu won with this one. No way around it. Everyone else can go home.


Playlist: GREG’S PLAYLIST NOVEMBER 2015 [Spotify]

OK, October was a wash, so let’s just cut to November. This playlist iteration leads off with a special, special song, “Inspiration Information” by Shuggie Otis. I can’t think of a more euphoric song opening. It melts me every time. After that, 13 more tracks should get your November started off right (I know, it’s still October. Shut up).  
Copyright © 2015 Greg's Newsletter, All rights reserved.

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