Tag: xkcd (page 1 of 6)

Curiosity, projectories, and AI

I’ve read a lot of danah boyd’s work over the years, especially given how her research interests intersect with my work. In this long-ish post, she argues for an approach to AI driven by curiosity and the concept of ‘projectories’ (subject to guardrails).

xkcd cartoon on scenarios

I just returned from a three month sabbatical spent mostly offline diving through history and I feel like I’ve returned to an alien planet full of serious utopian and dystopian thinking swirling simultaneously. I find myself nodding along because both the best case and worst case scenarios could happen. But also cringing because the passion behind these declarations has no room for nuance. Everything feels extreme and fully of binaries. I am truly astonished by the the deeply entrenched deterministic thinking that feels pervasive in these conversations.



Even though deterministic thinking can be extraordinarily problematic, it does have value. Studying the scientists and engineers at NASA, Lisa Messeri an Janet Vertesi describe how those who embark on space missions regularly manifest what they call “projectories.” In other words, they project what they’re doing now and what they’re working on into the future in order to create for themselves a deterministic-inflected roadplan. Within scientific communities, Messeri and Vertesi argue that projectories serve a very important function. They help teams come together collaboratively to achieve majestic accomplishments. At the same time, this serves as a cognitive buffer to mitigate against uncertainty and resource instability. Those of us on the outside might reinterpret this as the power of dreaming and hoping mixed with outright naiveté.



Rather than doubling down on deterministic thinking by creating projectories as guiding lights (or demons), I find it far more personally satisfying to see projected futures as something to interrogate. That shouldn’t be surprising since I’m a researcher and there’s nothing more enticing to a social scientist than asking questions about how a particular intervention might rearrange the social order.


Source: Resisting Deterministic Thinking | danah boyd

Synesthetic xkcd

I’m a migraineur and there’s an overlap between that group of people and those who are synesthetes. But it turns out that my kids, who do not (yet?) suffer from migraines, also associate colour strongly with things that other people do not usually associate colour.

For example, days of the week. We’ve hard arguments over what colour ‘Monday’ is, for example. So this xkcd cartoon made me laugh.

Source: xkcd: Electron Color

Life product tiers

A bit of fun from xkcd, but with some underlying truth in terms of how people experience life almost as if it were different product tiers.

Source: xkcd: Universe Price Tiers