Bookmarked Agency Made Me Do It by Mike Travers

This looks like an interesting site to explore and follow (though there is no feed). First in terms of the topic, agency. I’m very interested myself in the role of technology in agency, specifically networked agency which is located in the same spot where a lot of our everyday complexity lives. Second in terms of set-up. Mike Travers left his old blog behind to create this new site, generated from his Logseq notes, which is “more like an open notebook project. Parts of it are essay-like but other parts are collections of rough notes or pointers to content that doesn’t exist yet. The two parts are somewhat intertwingled”. I’m interested in that intertwingling to shape this space here differently in similar ways, although unlike Travers with existing content maintained. Something that shows the trees and the forest at the same time, as I said about it earlier.

Agency Made Me Do It, an evolving hypertext document which is trying to be some combination of personal wiki and replacement for my old blog. … I’ve been circling around the topic of agency for a few decades now. I wrote a dissertation on how metaphors of agency are baked into computers, programming languages, and the technical language engineers use to talk about them. … I’m using “agency” as kind of a magic word to open up the contested terrain where physical causality and the mental intersect. … We are all forced to be practitioners of agency, forced to construct ourselves as agents…

Mike Travers

Bookmarked No End to Content Overload by Amit Gawande

Amit Gawande’s struggle is very recognisable, also after ditching most if not all passive consumption. There’s always more content, and its creation outpaces your intake by many orders of magnitude. In the ’00s I blogged quite a bit about information strategy, one where abundance of information is a given. Most of the information strategies and tactics I learned earlier were based on information scarcity, or at least on a scarcity of access to abundant information. That’s when I assumed information and content abundance, and that my agency lies in starting from my information needs. My agency turns overload into abundance, a switch created by a change in assumed locus of control.

When we say “I cannot keep up!“, what does ‘keeping up’ mean really? At some point I realised it was mostly an outside perspective and projection by others that I internalised. From a time where most information thrown at me was chosen by others (school e.g.). That perhaps instilled the notion that the value of information is determined by the sender. In abundance the value is in the attention I pay to selection and to the hunt for the types of surprisal I want to encounter. For many years now I’ve been practicing (and regularly failing to different extends) an inside-out perspective where my current interests and tasks determine what’s worthwile to take in.

There I see my network of peers as a large scale antenna and a filter that work because of distributed conversations taking place between us. They share with me, I share stuff with them, the feedback loops lift signals above the noise. I’ve learned to trust that if it’s important to me it will surface again, because of those feedback loops. At the very least it made me unafraid to click ‘mark all items read’ daily in applications, and treat my never diminishing unread stacks of books as an anti-library available to explore when I have an actual interest to pursue. Keeping up in such a perspective is ‘easy’, as it is my own speed that I need to keep up with and not the global firehose of everything produced under the sun. There’s no need to see it ‘all’, just enough. It keeps being a struggle though, with all media trying to keep pushing everyone’s ‘pay attention to me’ buttons.

Maybe, I need to make peace with the fact that I cannot keep up. I cannot keep up with the growing list of brilliant books. I cannot keep up with the gifted writers churning beautiful essays. And, with a heavy heart, accept that I am okay with it.

Disengaging from passive consumption has helped me. But there’s too much good content that I can’t keep up with.

Amit Gawande

Bookmarked Using GPT-3 to augment human intelligence: Learning through open-ended conversations with large language models by Henrik Olof Karlsson

Wow, this essay comes with a bunch of examples of using the GPT-3 language model in such fascinating ways. Have it stage a discussion between two famous innovators and duke it out over a fundamental question, run your ideas by an impersonation of Steve Jobs, use it to first explore a new domain to you (while being aware that GPT-3 will likely confabulate a bunch of nonsense). Just wow.
Some immediate points:

  • Karlsson talks about prompt engineering, to make the model spit out what you want more closely. Prompt design is an important feature in large scale listening, to tap into a rich interpreted stream of narrated experiences. I can do prompt design to get people to share their experiences, and it would be fascinating to try that experience out on GPT-3.
  • He mentions Matt Webbs 2020 post about prompting, quoting “it’s down to the human user to interview GPT-3“. This morning I’ve started reading Luhmann’s Communicating with Slip Boxes with a view to annotation. Luhmann talks about the need for his notes collection to be thematically open ended, and the factual status or not of information to be a result of the moment of communication. GPT-3 is trained with the internet, and it hallucinates. Now here we are communicating with it, interviewing it, to elicit new thoughts, ideas and perspectives, similar to what Luhmann evocatively describes as communication with his notes. That GPT-3 results can be totally bogus is much less relevant as it’s the interaction that leads to new notions within yourself, and you’re not after using GPT-3s output as fact or as a finished result.
  • Are all of us building notes collections, especially those mimicking Luhmann as if it was the originator of such systems of note taking, actually better off learning to prompt and interrogate GPT-3?
  • Karlsson writes about treating GPT-3 as an interface to the internet, which allows using GPT-3 as a research assistant. In a much more specific way than he describes this is what the tool Elicit I just mentioned here does based on GPT-3 too. You give Elicit your research question as a prompt and it will come up with relevant papers that may help answer it.

On first reading this is like opening a treasure trove, albeit a boobytrapped one. Need to go through this in much more detail and follow up on sources and associations.

Some people already do most of their learning by prompting GPT-3 to write custom-made essays about things they are trying to understand. I’ve talked to people who prompt GPT-3 to give them legal advice and diagnose their illnesses. I’ve talked to men who let their five-year-olds hang out with GPT-3, treating it as an eternally patient uncle, answering questions, while dad gets on with work.

Henrik Olof Karlsson

Bookmarked Elicit.org

A while ago I mentioned Research Rabbit here as a tool to find research papers, based on the ones already in my collection (e.g. through syncing with Zotero). Last week I created an account at Elicit. It’s a natural language processing based algorithm to find relevant papers for you based on a specific research question you give it to work with (although it can also take your own collection of papers as a starting point). My first attempt after creating an account yielded very interesting suggestions. Will certainly try this out more, as a tool assisting literature review.

I found Elicit because Maggie Appleton’s feed told me she’s joining the company, Ought, that created Elicit.

Elicit is a research assistant using language models like GPT-3 to automate parts of researchers’ workflows. Currently, the main workflow in Elicit is Literature Review. If you ask a question, Elicit will show relevant papers and summaries of key information about those papers in an easy-to-use table.

Elicit FAQ

Bookmarked The KitchenAid PTO (by Peter Rukavina)

This makes me wonder about adversarial interoperability: are there any attachments by other brands? Given they’ve been around for about 100 years, is there an ecosystem of other things that can work with the KitchenAid?

What’s remarkable is that KitchenAid supports “cross-generational attachment compatibility” meaning that attachments from the 1930s can be used on modern mixers. In an era when phone charger standards change with the season, this is a commendable buttress against obsolescence.

Peter Rukavina

(This is the first response I’m making directly from my microsub client with embedded micropub client. Pleased that it is now working as POC.)

Bookmarked How to solve 3×3 Rubiks cube by Kev Quirk

Yesterday our 5yo complained from the couch ‘I’m never going to get this right again, there’s just too many options’ while holding up her 3×3 Rubik’s Cube up to me. In the evening I opened up my feedreader and found this guide. As a kid I never learned how to solve one of these. Usually I took a screwdriver to the thing in the end, prying loose a corner and then the entire thing, rebuilding it ‘solved’. But now decades on, maybe I can finally learn to solve it with our 5yo. Reading Kev’s blogpost it will be a month or two before we can see results.

That isn’t the aim of this guide. Instead, what I want to do is simply demonstrate how I break the process of solving the Rubik’s Cube down so that you can do it too.

Kev Quirk