Ten years at KKV GBG at an end

After ten years as a project manager at KKV GBG, I’m officially unemployed!

Some postcards I made out of my photos of people working at KKV GBG

I’ve been a member at the collective workshop KKV GBG since my last year of art-school – 2007 – and since 2014 I was employed as project manager & coordinator. KKV is a non-profit workshop with studios for professional artists and designers, and in addition to a few paid positions (such as mine) it’s totally reliant on the volunteer work of it’s 500+ members. Just like most of the art and culture scene it’s constantly struggling with money – in combination with volunteer labour it means that “normal” project work goes out the window; it’s “agile” before Agile was a thing – there’s no other way to get stuff done when you have to coordinate work with people who do this in their spare time between paying gigs, on a shoestring budget.

When I started work, my ambition was to digitalise as much as possible (workshop scheduling, collaborative online tools, tools for planning courses) and then make my role redundant. The outcome was the reverse: the more I modernised and updated the everyday management, the more responsibilities I was encouraged to take on. In the end I was managing high and low – managing grant applications and project budgets, running collaborations with art schools, designing print and digital materials, documenting activity and generally making sure that the right info got to the right person and stuff got done.

My job was varied and rewarding – the organisation is a critical piece of art infrastructure – and the membership as well as the board mostly appreciated my work. But in 2022 I figured I’d been there long enough, and so took a leave of absence to study UX Design for two years. Those two years are now up, and as of yesterday I’m also no longer employed at KKV GBG; I know that if I’d return to the project management role I’d use it as a crutch and not apply myself as dilligently as I ought to finding a UX job, and I’m itching to get started on something new.

So. In Linkedin parlance I’m “open to new challenges”. Exciting times!

Oh, and I totally ran the above text through an AI and asked it to “make it more suitable for Linkedin” – you can see the result over at my Linkedin profile. I do feel a bit dirty by doing it, but there’s just so many hours in a day…

Content: Not Even Once

I never thought I’d be sentimental about the auteuric vision of creativity, but here we are. Behold my latest creation: A hat with “Content Not Even Once” embroidered. It’s a pastiche on the Montana anti-Meth slogan (“Meth Not Even Once”) suggesting, with only slight hyperbole, that engaging in content creation is as ruinous as meth. The moment you start feeding the social media beast — Instagram, TikTok, or the like — you’re at the mercy of algorithms that change your intrinsically motivated action to an extreinsically measured worth. Likes. Shares. Comments.

The trap is subtle. What begins as an earnest attempt to share a piece of yourself is hijacked by the craving for digital validation. Your art, your thoughts, transformed into fodder for the algorithm. It’s no longer about the joy of creation and finding connection with others, but about appeasing the insatiable hunger for engagement. This digital validation, as fleeting as it is, shapes our perceptions, guiding us to tailor our creativity to suit the blunt instruments of social media metrics.

I’m not deriding those who identify as content creators — whether you’re capturing video, sketching, or doodling on the piano, the label itself isn’t the issue — the problem lies in how it shifts our mindset. Instead of taking pride in becoming slightly better by the day, learning tools of whatever hobby or trade you’re pursuing, all value of what you’re doing is measured by clicks and views. You’re competing with “AI artists” who are making chumbox content, and that’s an unwinnable race – “never wrestle a pig”, etc.

(If you’re a content manager using media to fulfill some KPI, this doesn’t apply to you. Content to your hearts content)

So, I made a hat about it because it seemed fun (four hats in different colours, to be precise). It’s a statement equating content creation’s addictive cycle with meth. Perhaps a bit tasteless, but subtlety has never been my strong suit. It’s a call to remind myself of who I am beyond the algorithms — lord knows that I have self esteem issues enough without having to compete on the social media stage.

If this resonates with you and you’d like a hat – get in touch. If enough people want one I might get a dropship option going. Above all, remember not to do content. Not even once.

This grim now/future of ours

Child talking to robot. Still from movie Runaway (1984)
Robots helping out with homework. Runaway (1984)

Forced to adapt their sleeping patterns to meet the needs of firms on the other side of the planet and in different time zones, the largely Syrian population of Lebanon’s Shatila camp forgo their dreams to serve those of distant capitalists. Their nights are spent labeling footage of urban areas — house,” “shop,” “car” — labels that, in a grim twist of fate, map the streets where the labelers once lived, perhaps for automated drone systems that will later drop their payloads on those very same streets.

Rest of world, Phil Jones: Refugees help power machine learning advances at Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon

Beyond the somewhat on-the-nose writing, holy hell this is bleak. In the 80’s I read about this in Gibsons novels, and here we are. Gibson did say that his sci-fi was only about five minutes into the future – how right he was.

Aaron credits the Psychologist bot with helping him through a rough patch. But the real joy of Character.AI has come from having a safe space where he can joke around or experiment without feeling judged.

The Verge, Jessica Lucas: The teens making friends with AI chatbots

I remember as a kid first time I tried Eliza – an extremely simple chat bot developed more than 50 years ago – spending hours typing broken English and having long conversations about whatever. I never thought that I was talking to a person, and I had to make allowances in how I phrased my writing to accomodate the limited capabilities of the program, but it felt good to be able to pretend-talk with someone who wouldn’t judge me (nor would remember what I said once I’d turn the computer off). The kids using Character.AI in the article have a similar experience, but the AI is many orders of magnitude more convincing than Eliza ever was, and I’m curious how prevalent the AI breed of hikikomori will become.

One leg in high heels surrounded by spider-robots. Still from movie Runaway (1984)
The venomous robot spiders want to interact with your leg. Runaway (1984)

Using Ezra’s example, a birthday planning agent, or team of agents, could be given a chain of 30 steps to follow in planning a birthday—from running an analysis of Brooklyn trends to conducting a competitive audit of cake vendors to checking their work along the way. The system of steps creates the grounding an LLM needs to accurately and sophisticatedly tackle tasks—rather than today’s “zero-shot” prompts. 

Alex Klein: The agentic era of AI

On the face of it, this sounds like a good thing. It’s delivery on the promise of virtual agents that Ask Jeeves and Clippy made 25 years ago, when clever natural language processing would help us squishy humans by interpreting our questions and wants and adapting them to suit the world of computers.

It looks like you’re styling a headline, do you want to make it bigger?

But the todays AI services are more than virtual agents of yore, intent on making your life easier – they’re a wholly AI-mediated interaction with reality. Just as you will never have to manually look through hotel listings and compare prices (yay!) you will never have to form your own opinion on anything, only optimise yourself according the metrics that the AI can measure and that benefits the relationship.

Not only are your interactions and wants fed back into the algo, the algo can now gaslight you into fitting their particular silo better – should they want to. And economics will make it want to.

This is the same argument that has been made about the adverserial Adsense / SEO relationship (and algo-driven interactions, Tiktok, Insta, et.al) where human wellfare becomes merely an externality.

If I could have a personal, combative and sociopathic AI that aggressively acts on my behalf against dumb systems, that I could live with. My own Matrix Sentinel that scours the web and orders cheap socks at discount because it’s on my todo-list. But the version of AI-mediated Internet that is being delivered is one where the Sentinel is a loaner from Google (Or Meta, or OpenAI, or Apple) and preferentially will herd me into their silo.

A brief history of where we are now, as I understand it

  1. Web 2.0 was built on cheap money and promise of Adsense revenue.
  2. The SEO and Adsense have a Red Queen Race and as a result advertising becomes the dominant financial model of everything online, all mediated by Google
  3. As with all advertising, users become the product
  4. Angry, atomized and confused users are better suited for the web, therefor the web becomes better suited for those emotions, and in turn makes people more angry, atomized and confused, etc
  5. This is the enshittification of the Web that Cory Doctorow coined but which has been ongoing for the last 15-odd years
  6. AI and virtual assistants are presented as a way to no longer have to interact with the messy, bloated and enshittified Internet.
    • This also makes Internet a wasteland where the promise of self-expression and ownership of your digital self (“Welcome to my homepage!”) means either catering to what the AI:s care about or not reaching humans.
  7. All Web interactions become AI-mediated – this is the agentic AI era – mined for metrics and manipulated for clicks.

This is painting with very broad strokes, and there will always be outliers and upsides – but I can’t get rid of the feeling that just like any power multiplier, AI will be used as a leverage for entrenched powers, or those who will come to supplant them – and that is never a progressive turn of events.

A career gimmick

I’m trying to dip my toes, get a foot in, dunk my head and generally jump bodily into the sea of UX careers, and beyond the obvious stuff – practice the craft, do good work, go to meetups – I’m trying out a gimmick to get some conversations going: A limited run printed portfolio!

I love gimmicks, and ever since I heard Hiroshi Sugimoto (who does serious high-art photography) describe some of his techniques as “gimmicks” I’m no longer afraid to use the word myself, even though it’s often thought of as derogatory.

Because I’m without income right now I’ve had to think twice before splurging on this, but I figure it’s worth a gamble, and for anyone who is interested I’ve done a short writeup.

The gimmick

I’ve printed a small run of an eight page tabloid portfolio which contains one UX case, one rebrand, and a few examples of my art practice. You can download the PDF here: Mateusz_Tabloid_portfolio.pdf

The aim is to get people to book a meeting with me through a Calendly link.

The portfolio took me 40 hours to put together over three months sporadic work, using Affinity Publisher for the design. None of the content is AI generated, except the pastiche of the riflemans creed at the last page, for which I used Perplexity.ai.

When the portfolio was more or less done I solicited feedback from Petter Baggeryd, Nina Mujdzic, Thijs Keesenberg, Jenny Riksén, Åsa Gillberg and Cindy Sjöblom – great many thanks to them for their time and input. Of course, my first critic and supporter is as ever my darling Sara Henriksson ❤︎.

Since the portfolio is intended to grab attention rather than be exhaustive, I’ve had to put the hours in to create a proper portfolio that people can visit. So an added benefit was that I finally got three sites done: pozar.se for the UX work, hintlab.org for the more speculative work I’m hoping to do, and monocultured.com to document all the art and media projects I’ve done over the years. All three are works-in-progress and look kinda generic right now, but at least they’re up. I used blocs to put it together, and self-host the sites.

Cost cost

  • Newspaperclub printing of 70 copies digital tabloid: 2200kr
  • Import duties & tax: 200kr
  • Transparent C4 polyethylene envelopes: 200kr
  • Stickers for my thermoprinter: 150kr (although I have plenty left)
  • Postage for out-of-town companies: 400kr
  • City courier: 1800kr
  • Total≈ 5000kr

Target audience

I put together a list of 45 companies that I’m interested in, and 50 people at those companies whose attention I’m hoping to grab. The goal isn’t necessarity to land a job with one of these companies – although that would be sweeeeeet – but to start conversations about where I fit in. Even though I’m junior in the UX field I have 25 years of related experience, so I know that I have a lot offer in the design space – but I also need to find a good cultural fit, so I’ve targeted companies and people senior enough that they know what they want and can tell me if I would be a good match. You want to know if you can make people smile and appreciate your company, y’know?

In order to reach the right person I’ve scoured Linkedin and homepages to decide on whom I ought to contact – I’ve built the list over the last six months or so, putting ≈30 hours into it. Most companies have offices in Gothenburg, but a few allow remote work or had design leads living elsewhere – for those I’m sending the portfolio by post.

In-person delivery

In order to make sure to reach the intended recipients, I’ve hired Tura to act curier and make sure to give it directly to the right person. It’s like being served a court summons, only friendlier! The goal is to get most of them delivered in the beginning of May.

Some companies have obscured their locations so I’ve had to guess at the correct address. Perhaps it’s an indication that offices are less important these days of hybrid and full remote, or maybe they just don’t want people to show up unannounced.

In a time of full remote and flexible hours it’s proven difficult to reach the individuals using courier. It was worth trying, but my ambition to have all of these delivered to the correct person in two days was unrealistic – I would have needed to find out the working hours of everyone and adjust the delivery based on that. That would have been too much effort for too uncertain payoff though, so I probably just would have sent all by post today.

The outcome [updated 15th May]

I’ll keep tabs of who has reached out to me, who has booked a meeting, and if anything else came of a particular delivery. In a business where the competition is fierce and networking is how stuff gets done, I’m curious to see how this experiment will turn out.

Companies I reached out to: 45
People I wanted to reach: 50
Successful in-person deliveries by Tura: 7 out of 29
Sent by post: 21
Coffee-dates: 1
Promised coffee-dates: 4

Other feedback, communication, etc:
• Great idea and nice portfolio, we’re just not hiring at the moment.
• Love the idea
• The portfolio ought to show more of your process and what you want to do.

Final thoughts

The last two years I’ve been cultivating my Linkedin network and it’s going pretty well, but even though Linkedin clout might make you feel connected to other professionals, the platform’s exuberant cheerfulness doesn’t easily translate into anything useful. And for an introvert like myself who really sucks at networking, finding a way to reach others is important – let’s see if this portfolio is a good way.

On being replacable

I re-read my Laborator post the other day and one paragraph tied into something else I’ve been reading lately:

Any communal project is a marathon rather than a sprint: It’s important to be able to step back and trust your collaborators to follow the plans you’ve agreed upon, but when stuff falls through you need to be there to pick up the slack – and plans always shift, since life happens – regardless if it’s you or someone else who dropped the ball.

Starting a biohacking lab in Gothenburg, looking back at Laborator

I don’t know why this sentence felt like such a revelation: Stuff getting done might actually depend on you! It’s my recurring theme of feeling replaceable, and actually seeing that as a virtue. It’s possible that my focus on automating, simplifying, and categorizing information and functions stems from my own low self-esteem, where I don’t see my own value but rather only what I contribute with.

A second reason for this way of thinking is political – If I accept that there are things that I’m better at doing, my (oh so human) fallibility and vanity will start using that as an excuse for getting my way – regardless of my motivations or if it’s a “good” idea. This ties in with my anarchist persuasion – I’m 100% unformfortable with anyone who strives to power, because power always corrupts in some way.

But I can sense that I’m changing as a person, and I’m starting to become willing to accept a certain level of corruption. It’s still corruption mind, but the progress we’ve made as a species is a result of different wills enforcing their will upon others – striving for power to make their ideas come true first, worrying about the corruption of their motives and personality second.

So I’m going to try to go out on a limb and effect the world around me a bit more. Take a bit more responsibility, but also acknowledge that not everyone will agree with me, and that I myself might think that I’m wrong down the line.

I take heart in an illustration by Jessica Hagy from one of her recent newsletters:

Illustration with text: What if my work is bad? Bad is subjective. Do whatever you want.

The book I’m reading that got me thinking about this is Jaron Laniers “You are not a gadget” (which I was certain that I’d read already, but no). I’m not finished with it yet, but what has stuck with me is his conviction that what is worth preserving and promoting is the individual humanity and the freedom to act on it. I’ll do a second post on it once I’m done (36 notes so far using the brilliant Bookfusion app), but the book has given me ideas and motivation to find other ways of collaborating and doing stuff.

Migration voes

My previous phone was getting long in the tooth, and there was no way to get call recording to work on it, so I bit the bullet the second I saw that Nothing 2A was supported call recording out of the box. It’s bigger than I’d like, but I just have to live with the fact that everyone is OK with carrying tablets around for now.

And because I have a whole bunch of applications and more than one email, I have now spent half a day logging in to different services, trying to get 2FA to work and requesting new passwords, migrating chats and files, cursing all the while. So many parking apps – I hate you with a burning passion!

I thought that Bank ID (Swedish national 2FA application) would be a hassle to renew, but it was as straightforward as you’d please. It’s the FAANG apps that are giving me a headache – there’s no standard way of migrating the stuff, each app has come up with it’s own authentication scheme requiring some particular set of hoops to be jumped. Some apps were so difficult to get to work that I’ve uninstalled them rather than deal with the hassle. It’s a culling criteria as good as any, I guess.

Even though some people love the Nothing 2.5 launcher, it looks like a half-finished Winamp skin so I installed Nova despite how slow it can be at times. I look forward to when I can forego a cellphone alltogether and manage all my digital interactions with a ring or something less attention-requiring, but until then I’ll go for a utalitarian approach – my phone is not my personality.

I’m occasionally surprised how utter shit the usability of both mobiles and computers still is though! I’m sure part of it is just nostalgia and selective memory on my part, but I honestly miss the days of MacOS 9 and Nokia phones. Todays UI consistency is poor, the information architecture is muddled, and some design choices are just baffling. The CoverOverflow animation on Android is nauseating and can’t be turned off? The menu for editing apps is ordered differently from one app to another (see screenshot)? Why are app names truncated?

Of course, as a budding UX:er I ought to be encouraged: Look how much there’s left to do! But on the other hand, I’m sure there are designers smarter than I – whole scores of them in fact! – who have tried to wrestle these things under control and failed. The digital world stands testament to their failed ambitions, cobbled together from tear-stained post-its and angry PM comments in a shared Figjam board.

Full of worthless energy

Crushed daddy-longlegs

I sleep with a notebook next to my bed, and sometimes I wake up with an idea, more often a turn of phrase or a slogan, and write it down. This particular morning I wrote “I woke up rested, full of worthless energy”.

The type of energy I was thinking of was the kind that makes your head buzz with potential to solve problems – your mind is racing to apply itself to something. A problem to solve, a task to fulfill. A purpose, any purpose.

But if you don’t find a purpose, this energy, this pressure, dissapates – much like a kettle boiling over, the energy escapes as steam, as sighs and hot breath. I only keep as much energy as needed for the mundane tasks of the day, the rest leaks out.

Reading, 2023

Oik oik fellow piglets! I’m starting this post January 9th in the year of our lord 2023. I have a slight cold, my calfs are aching after ill-advised amount of exercise yesterday, and I’m looking forwards to the school semester starting again. Just like previous years, I’m scheduling this post to go live 1st Jan 2024, and I’ll track what books (and similar) I’ve read, in chronological order. My prediction is that a lot will be stuff related to school and work, but I’ll try to squeeze some fiction in there as well – and not only re-reads… (I’ll list stuff I’ll give up on as well)

Books read

Tamsyn Muir: Gideon the Ninth. Odd science fantasy book taking place in a world where there are necromantic houses who rule whole planets in service to an emperor? We get to follow Gideon, an indentured servant to the Ninth house, when she along with her necromancer are summoned to perform a test with representatives of other houses. It’s the language which makes this stand apart – Gideon talks like a contemporary angry teenager, which clashes wonderfully with the gothic surroundings. The mood reminds me of the backdrops of the game Slay the Spire, if that makes any sense.

Alan Cooper: The inmates are running the asylum. A book often referenced in modern computer design litterature as an important contribution in bridging the divide between design and development. Well written by the “father of Visual Basic” and as pertinent today as it was thirty years ago.

Mark van Wageningen: Type and Color: How to design and use multicolored typefaces. More of a skim than a read – the author presents some experiments with typefaces made up of more than one colour. It’s not a subtle effect and using it for copy text would require a brave publisher, but some of the headers are eye-catching if they fit with the overall design.

Zach Barth: Zach-like. A chronological history of the games of Zach Barth and his companies. It’s not many persons who get a genre names after themselves (zach-like) so it’s intersting to browse the evolotion from paper sketches to finished computer games. Could have done with tighter editing of text and included materials, but I have a feeling I’m not the intended audience – a burgeoning game developer might spend days analysing the sketches I browse through.

Sjöwall Wahlöö: Den vedervärdige mannen från Säffle. The first book from the Beck series that I’ve read, and I can see how it became so genre-defining. It’s suspensful, has social pathos and a no-nonsense story – great read. (Oh, and the story is about a brutal murder of a police officer, which starts to look like the first of a string of revenge killings – and our protagonist Beck is on the list)

Seth Dickinson: The tyrant Baru Cormorant. Originally the final volume of the trilogy, but since extended to a planned forth book, we follow Baru Cormorant and her dealings in trying to exert vengenge upon the imperial Falcrest. Well written and deep characters; It’s Machiavellian economic warfare, and my only complaint is that the characters are too numerous and difficult for my poor brain to keep apart. Will preorder the forth book as soon as it’s possible though!

Frederik Pohl, The boy who would live forever. Continuing the stories in the Heechee saga, there’s a menagerie of vignettes and characters which tie together many of the storylines from the other Gateway novels. Pohl has original ideas like few others – what he uses as a throwaway tidbit or worldbuilding, lesser authors would use as their main contrivance. The books becomes somewhat disjointed because of this, but it’s always fun to visit in the universe. I particularly enjoy comparing the AI minds of Gateway to the Minds of Iain M. Banks Culture series – the Gateway minds seem much more beign and less cynical than their Culture counterparts.

Kate Swindler: Life and Death Design. Part of my UX reading, Swindler describes some considerations of designing for people under stress. The book is a good starting place with many references to original research, but it’s a bit thin on the design aspect. Knowing the physical and psychological consequences of a flight-fight-freeze respons is good, but I’d like to have seen more process specific examples. Still, it’s a good primer and I’d recomend it to others who (like I) have limited experience in thinking and working with this – if we consider stress responses as conditions similar to handicaps which we need to take into account when designing, it would be a benefit to all.

John le Carré: A murder of Quality. One of his early whodunnits featuring George Smiley, and a biting description of upper class private schools in England. A woman is found murdered and suspicion falls on her husband, Smiley investigates and Carré uses him as a foil onto which we can project the banal wickedness of seemly proper breeding and behaviour. A fun and short read.

Johann Hari: Stolen Focus. An urgent and timely book looking at what many of us feel – we’ve become more stupid and distracted with each passing year. Starting out with surveillance capitalism and attention economy – manufactured to milk our brains as much as possible – he moves on to pollutants, malnurishment and a sheltered and scripted childhood as possible culprits to your shrinking attention-span. Good read, altough some arguments are weaker than other (the Silicon Valley stuff is solid though).

Michael Luca, Max H Bazerman: The power of experiments. A great primer on how the field of experimentation and nudging has moved from academia into politics and business. The authors are hilariously naïve and reductive though – the only objections they can envision to being experimented upon is either being a luddite or fear of bad actors (which are considered an abboration rather than business as usual). Despite this it’s a worthwhile read – and their attitude is informative as well, since it explains the oblivious surprise organisations show when people object to being experimented upon.

Louise Boije af Gennäs: Blodloka. A Swedish whodunnit against a backdrop of political scandals and coverups from the last sixty years. Reasonably suspenseful, but reads like something the author has seen on tv and is retelling rather than a well written novel. But I became intrigued to read more about the real-world scandals that are referenced in clippings throughout the book, so that’s a plus.

Oliver Sacks: An anthropoligist on Mars. Seven short descriptions of people with neurodivergence – aquired colour blindness, tourettes, inability to create memories – all told in Sacks curious and frank voice. The title is a quote from autist savant Temple Grandin on how she feels when navigating human relations, but serves just as well to describe how the author approaches his subjects on their terms as far as possible, bring back stories to the rest of us.

Gina Spadafori: Dogs for dummies. I’m more or less come to terms that if I and Sara are to stay together, at some point we’ll get a dog. So I figured I’d take an interest and read up on the subject. This book was a good primer on how to approach the decision to get a dog, what to look for in a breader, house training, etc. Very practical, and she highlights the responsibility one has for not encouraging “puppy mills.” I’m still not comfortable with the idea of owning a dog, but at least I’m more informed!

Hugh C. Howey: Silo trilogy. A re-read after watching the mediocre tv-adaptation. Ten thousand people live underground in a giant silo, but noone remembers why. The only thing they know is what The Order commands them, and it commands them not to go outside. Nice dystopic scifi with some twists and turns.

Albert Camus: The Fall. Short and fantastic, a monologue seemingly adressing the reader in second person. Jean-Baptiste Clamence is judge-penitent in a bar in Amsterdam, sometime in the 1950s, and he’s telling his interlocutor of his fall from social and moral grace, and of the impossibility of being noble. Looking forwards to reading this again in a while!

Lev Manovich: AI Aesthetics. A short booklet which is part of the course AI & Design that I’m taking at Borås University fall of 23. It came out 2018 and there’s not much conceptually new here that hasn’t been covered elsewhere by now, but it’s a useful summery of cultural ontologies and where AI fits in the puzzle.

E. M. Forster: The Machine Stops. A fantastic short story from 1909 which seem so in time with our current age it’s bound to get a resurgence! “No one confessed the Machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence.” Choc full of quotes and insights into a future world enslaved by the machine.

Malka Older: Infomocracy. A near future scifi where the world is mostly divided into administative areas comprised of a maximum of 100’000 citizens. Each such centenal can be ruled by completely different rules – be they communist, laizze faire, utalitarian – and we follow political fixers in the run-up to the coming contested election. It’s a mildly interesting setup, but poorly written and not paticularly interesting in the end. I read it on a recommendation from a co-worker at RISE, and would have abandoned it otherwise.

Hannes Råstam: Fallet Thomas Quick. A fascinating read about the formerly convicted serial killer Thomas Quick who confessed to 30-some murders, was convicted for eight of them. After twenty years in bin he was exonerated after Hannes Råstam starts digging into the cases and slowly uncovers that it’s all based on wishful thinking and willful ignorance on the part of the prosecution and lawyers, and false confessions by Quick. A riveting read and a testament to the need for research-heavy journalism.

Betty Gilpin: All the women in my brain. An autobiography by the actress written with more metaphors and allegories than I’ve seen anywhere. It tells of her struggles with imposter syndrome, angst, fear of failure and fear of success. Gilpin was great in The Hunt and the more recent Mrs Davis, and it was interesting to get a glimpse of her road there. Great read, even if you don’t usually read autobiographies. “I have spent my life lily-pad hopping from goddess to goddess, quietly plagiarizing their toe rings and credos, hoping that my mirroring would count as personhood”

Fredrik T Olsson: Slutet på kedjan. A Swedish sci-fi thriller about a world conspiracy, a battle against time and some really awkward speculation about junk DNA. Poorly written and completely unbelievable characters and worldbuilding, and a perfect schlock to read when you’re down with a cold and have little energy to spare. One blurb on the cover says “more intelligent and better written than Da Vinci Code” which is a hilariously low bar to clear, which I’m not sure that this novel actually manages. No surprise at all that it’s been optioned for a film by Warner Brothers.

Books given up on

Lauren Beriant: Cruel optimism. Gave up after 34 of 354 pages when I realised that I didn’t understand what the point of the book was.

Louise Penny: Glass Houses. It’s like turning on a show which you imagine has been going for twenty years and realising that you don’t care about the characters at all. I did read another book in the series on Saras recommendation, but it’s just not for me. Put it down after 22/330 pages.

V.E.Schwab: A darker shade of magic. Dimension-hopping between different Londons. The language just didn’t grip me, and there are better magic realism books out there. 23/345 pages.

Timothy Morton: Dark Ecology. My patience with philosophical books which claim to reinvent ontologies and discourse – preferably inventing clever words in the process – grows shorter with age. I got through 17/220 pages of this book.

Charles Stross: Halting State. In a near future someone commits a bank robbery in a virtual world, and it has real world repercussions as insurence adjusters get involved. Found the book abandoned at RISE, and I abandoned it half way through.

AI as an accellerator of bad/good but mostly bad

“My personal worry is that for a long time, we sought to diversify the voices — you know, who is telling the stories? And we tried to give agency to people from different parts of the world,“ she said. “Now we’re giving a voice to machines.”

Rest of world, Victoria Turk: How AI reduces the world to stereotypes

A fantastic comparison of how Midjourney renders five terms: a person, a woman, a house, a street, and a plate of food. It comes out as stereotyped as you can imagine, but the work they put in to do the comparison really shows it in stark light.

In that dismal moment I could feel that the systems meant to process us haven’t “gone wrong” when they embarrass us. They aren’t being refined toward some higher level of seamlessness, once the technology and the data sets improve. Rather they “improve” by relocating the frictions we inevitably feel and giving it no outlet. The indifference of these systems to us and our powerlessness in the face of them in that moment becomes the indifference of society and our powerlessness to change it. In a flash, the welling irritation conveys instantly, reflexively, that solidarity must be impossible in a world where all human relations are machine-mediated.

Rob Horning: Two riders were approaching

This sentence explains more peotically what I wrote a while back: “… it will not only be “the market” which will have decided that you can no longer afford your medicin, your education, or your vacation – it will be an AI which will have endless patience to listen to your litany, but no semblence of decency to react to it.”

Work has not disappeared from the restaurant floor, but the person doing the work has changed. Instead of an employee inputting orders dictated by the customer, customers now do it themselves for free. Fauxtomation strikes again. […] But while the gap between advertising copy and reality can be risible, fauxtomation also has a more nefarious purpose. It reinforces the perception that work has no value if it is unpaid and acclimates us to the idea that one day we won’t be needed.

Astra Taylor: The faux-bot revolution

We are so primed for a technologically advanced future that we’re bluepilling ourselves into accepting fake automation as real. There is a man behind the curtain, and it’s us?

The largest corporations on earth ripped off generations of artists without permission or compensation to produce programs meant to rip us off even more. I believe A.I. defenders know this is unethical, which is why they distract us with fan fiction about the future.

New Republic, Lincoln Michael: The year AI came for culture

A great essay that puts the AI wars into a power perspective – technology used to extract labour and gain regulatory capture. Haves against have-nots. As usual. A very down to earth summery for the year 2023.

Is having control better than having control surfaces?

A while back I calculated my computational power according to screen estate, offering the suggestion that the more I can see (up to a point) at the same time, the more function I can extract from my computers information systems. Before that I’d done a similar thing going through how many gigabytes of storage I had personal control over, the thought being that it described the circumfence of my binary domains. The more storage, the more video I could edit, the more photos I could save, and the more high resolution pirated movies I could keep on hand.

I came to think of this again the other day when I started my migration from many computers onto a home system built around a small M1 Macbook Air. It’s a humble machine which is more powerful than my sort-of-recent i9/1080Ti Windows abomination, and much more powerful than the 5.1 Mac Pro I’m still keeping around because of the RAID and I/O ports, and I’m consolidating all the storage onto a few external enclosures. Turns out, I have some fifteen drives of different capacity laying around, as well as a bunch of USB/Firewire enclosures, and just copying the stuff from one thing to another takes forever right now.

But anywho, my point being that the amount of storage I have no longer feels like a valuable metric of my productive capacity – rather the opposite since my data exists as conflicting versions in many places – and I’m satisfied with my screen real estate (well almost, I’d like a magic whiteboard covering 2×1 meters on the living room wall). So what qualities do I value in my personal computational space today?

I’m thinking that maybe it’s convenience. I’ve become older, crankier wiser, and neither my eyesight nor patience can take as much abuse as it was able to ten years ago. I want to be able to be productive rather than fiddle around with drivers in Windows and I’m more likely to take poor design as a personal affront than a technical challange.

There’s that William Morris quote that you should “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” and perhaps there’s something similar going on here, with a very wide definition of “beautiful” and “useful”. Along those lines, I caved in and bought an iPad to read books on since I tried one out and realised how much slicker the experience is than on any Android tablet I’ve tried.

It’s not that I want a frictionless life. Friction is important, it smooths out rough surfaces, gives us things to hang on to, and provides heat and sparks. But I’d like to choose my objects of friction with more consideration.

There are so many things worth doing in the world, small and grand, and there’s just so little value in putting up with stuff that doesn’t matter. Just write that stuff off and learn to live with the fomo; Smooth out all friction that doesn’t improve your grip on reality, and enjoy a better handle on life.