Tag: society (page 1 of 31)

Bill Gates on why AI agents are better than Clippy

While there’s nothing particularly new in this post by Bill Gates, it’s nevertheless a good one to send to people who might be interested in the impact that AI is about to have on society.

Gates compares AI agents to Clippy which, he says, was merely a bot. After going through all of the advantages there will be to AI agents acting on your behalf, Gates does, to his credit, talk about privacy implications. He also touches on social conventions and how human norms interact with machine efficiency.

The thing that strikes me in all of this is something that Audrey Watters discussed a few months ago in relation to fitness technologies: will these technologies make us more like to live ‘templated lives’. In other words, are they helping support human flourishing, or nudging us towards lives that make more revenue for advertisers, etc.?

Agents will affect how we use software as well as how it’s written. They’ll replace search sites because they’ll be better at finding information and summarizing it for you. They’ll replace many e-commerce sites because they’ll find the best price for you and won’t be restricted to just a few vendors. They’ll replace word processors, spreadsheets, and other productivity apps. Businesses that are separate today—search advertising, social networking with advertising, shopping, productivity software—will become one business.


How will you interact with your agent? Companies are exploring various options including apps, glasses, pendants, pins, and even holograms. All of these are possibilities, but I think the first big breakthrough in human-agent interaction will be earbuds. If your agent needs to check in with you, it will speak to you or show up on your phone. (“Your flight is delayed. Do you want to wait, or can I help rebook it?”) If you want, it will monitor sound coming into your ear and enhance it by blocking out background noise, amplifying speech that’s hard to hear, or making it easier to understand someone who’s speaking with a heavy accent.


But who owns the data you share with your agent, and how do you ensure that it’s being used appropriately? No one wants to start getting ads related to something they told their therapist agent. Can law enforcement use your agent as evidence against you? When will your agent refuse to do something that could be harmful to you or someone else? Who picks the values that are built into agents?


But other issues won’t be decided by companies and governments. For example, agents could affect how we interact with friends and family. Today, you can show someone that you care about them by remembering details about their life—say, their birthday. But when they know your agent likely reminded you about it and took care of sending flowers, will it be as meaningful for them?

Source: AI is about to completely change how you use computers | Bill Gates

The Societal Side-eye

I’ll turn 43 next month. I seem to have a lot more grey hair than other people my age. Some people act towards me as if I’m old. Perhaps I am in their eyes.

Fair enough, some days I wake up and I feel a million years old, but most of the time my fitness regime means that I feel pretty awesome.

This article is about ignoring the ‘societal side-eye’ and doing badass things anyway. It’s something we all need to remember as we age: don’t be beholden to other people’s expectation of what’s appropriate.

You and I are Way Too Old to let a societal side-eye sideline us from a badass life, however we define it.

Who says we’re not supposed to even countenance the idea of learning to in-line skate. Or skateboard. Or paraglide. Or try trapeze work. Or aerial silks. Or whatever it was that got away from us as youths, and now beckons us back if we would only put in the training time. When does a timeline run out?

If we do such things, particularly if we sport grey hair, we are subjected to



Humans are a judgmental lot. We love to make fun of, mock and ridicule, especially those who are doing things we don’t have the guts to try. When some tiny Black woman well over a hundred heads out onto the track and runs a record time, we call her sweet or cute while she is engaging in serious badassery.


It’s hard enough to age. It’s far harder to age in a ageist society which is eager to denounce and mock those of us who defy expectations and insist on writing our own history, full of whatever badassery fills our hearts.

Source: You’re Too Old to Care About the Societal Side Eye When You Want to Be a Badass | Too Old for This Sh*t

The real threat to manhood: remaining children

This is an interesting article that, to be honest, I expected a bit more from. It comments on some obvious things such as how problematic a rigid and joyless form of ultra-masculinity can be, as well as being careful not to say that discipline isn’t important.

While I appreciate that the author, Dave Holmes, doesn’t use the term ‘toxic masculinity’ (which I think doesn’t really mean anything any more) what I do think he could have developed further is the very last line. In it, he mentions that the real threat to manhood is us “staying children” which is a much more interesting area to explore.

The world is more individualised, gamified, and commercialised than ever before. Masculinity, as a concept, is therefore an idea to be bought and sold. The version we need to fix the world is not the version that gains the most likes on social media; it’s one that is confident, self-reflective, and biased towards helping others.

You can be forgiven for not noticing that men aren’t men anymore, because men are always not men anymore. “Men aren’t men anymore”—like “nobody younger than me wants to work” and “this isn’t real music”—has been said every day in every language since we’ve had days and languages. It’s a particular concern in America, where men haven’t been men anymore from the jump. Almost certainly one of our founding fathers told his son, “Don’t leave this house without your wig, stockings, and frock coat—I didn’t raise a sissy.”


“Men are not men anymore” is ancient; “men are not men anymore, buy this and fix that,” slightly newer. But this is a much bleaker time, a time of “men are not men anymore, smash that subscribe button.” A generation of boys looking for rules has met a generation of creeps looking for an audience: Jordan Peterson, Steven Crowder, Andrew Tate. Guys who offer a rigid and joyless version of masculinity. Guys whose brand says, “I have learned how to throttle everything that is exuberant and playful within myself to become someone else’s version of what a man is; what’s wrong with you?” Guys who have chosen a car for its color and will never forgive themselves for it.


This is not to say you should throw away rules, or that playing to a person’s insecurity isn’t sometimes the right move. I quit smoking at 30, cold turkey, unless I was in a bar, or walking home after a good meal, or near someone who asked, “Would you like a cigarette?” My friend Lee picked up on this. “For someone who has quit smoking,” he said, “you are doing a lot of smoking.” I protested, “It’s just hard in certain situations.” Lee looked me in the eye and said, “Have you tried being a man?” Haven’t had a cigarette since.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Lee aren’t saying independent thinking and discipline are virtues for men as opposed to women. They are just virtues. Rules for good living. Like we aim to provide in the Esquire of 2023. It’s time we stop being so worried about becoming women and start focusing on the real threat to manhood: staying children.

Source: Can You Still Say ‘Be A Man’? | Esquire