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To live in interesting times used to be either a young person's joyful expectation or an adapted and veiled curse, wished ironically upon one's enemies - the turbulence of uncertainty and risk and violence could be both antidote to and punishment for a quiet, boring, and peaceful life. 
The excitement of all things improbable continues to haunt both the young and the belligerent but has now scaled up and around to consume much more broader demographics. Each pulse of the network is a potentially life-changing moment, each notification panel an inviting tunnel to emergency mode. Speed and depth pull our attention in opposite directions, and yet sometimes blend in an exhilarating cocktail of futuristic delight. 
There has never been a time like this one, especially when we now know so much about all the other times that felt like this - in unbelievable and simulated detail, with unprecedented scope and global legitimate access. Ours is truly the age of miracles and abominations, of love and dread, of shattered empires and their gilded splinters. 

The Blind Machine is brought to you by the good people at chumbo

Listen to our weekly playlist on Spotify, a careful selection of old & new futures.

Thank you for being here.

Signature Faces virtual makeup filters

on Nov 17, 2020 08:39 pm


Screenshot 2020-11-17 213129

Introducing L’Oreal Signature Faces, the first line of virtual makeup products.

We believe you are beautiful as you are, but in a world where the camera is always on, if you want to play around with some filters then we think that is ok too! Introducing a whole new experience of modern makeup.

Undefined by physical limits, a range that breaks the boundaries of classical makeup to sign your digital look with confidence & audacity. 3 Themes, 10 products, achieve the impossible in one click.

Fashion is following the virtual moment, see here.

Synthetic Media

on Nov 15, 2020 02:39 pm


While we’re seeing a reduction in time consumers spend watching TV and consuming other so-called “old media,” that decline is being offset by increases in time spent with digital media. In 2019 the total time people spent consuming media in the U.S. was more than 12 hours per day, and more than half of that — six-and-a-half hours — was spent on mobile, tablet, and other digital apps and services.

At the same time, it has never been easier to create media, find an audience, and become a media company of one. The widespread availability and use of user-friendly creative tools means that people are no longer just consuming content but are becoming a more active part of the creative process.

And that’s just the beginning. The adoption of new technologies based around artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic media will further democratize the ability for creators to make highly engaging and interactive content at a much lower cost, which will in turn enable new creative formats and business models to flourish.

Read more about the next wave of media formats, here.

Climate tech’s second shot

on Nov 15, 2020 02:39 pm


It isn’t the first time. A decade ago, enthusiasm swelled for the renewable energy boom known as clean tech. That led to billions of dollars in losses as startups furiously spent venture capital with few solvent companies to show for it.

But climate funds are popping up once again. Billions of dollars are pouring back into the sector. Charm may be one of the big beneficiaries. It has raised $3.5 million in angel investment, according to private equity research firm PitchBook, and its global ambitions will demand hundreds of millions more.

Read more about climate change and justice, here.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves: West is losing Informational war against Russia

on Nov 15, 2020 02:39 pm

Toomas Hendrik Ilves is the former president and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, former Radio Free Europe journalist, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and belongs to the advisor council of the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Most recently, Ilves joined the “Real Facebook Oversight Board,” a who’s who of global leaders who are, albeit without Facebook’s blessing, monitoring the social media giant and trying to best determine what the company ought to do this election season.

Ilves sat down with Research Associate Eto Buziashvili from his farm in Estonia. The two discussed how the West was holding up against Russian disinformation campaigns, the Real Facebook Oversight Board, and what countries and their citizens can do to protect themselves from disinformation and cyber attacks.

Russia is an interesting country, read more here.

Instagram and TikTok are the new battlegrounds for digital banks

on Nov 11, 2020 01:42 am

Scrolling through Instagram today, you’ll find countless photos of glamorous bloggers posing with colourful bank cards, discussing “financial wellness” and “savvier spending” between sips of their cappuccinos.

That’s because it’s not just luxury fashion brands using “influencers” these days, digital banks are too.

Indeed, fintechs are now focusing their fight for market share and customers online, paying social-media influencers to post endorsements across Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok.

Challenger banks like Starling, Revolut, N26, and the now defunct Bó have all publicly used ‘fin-influencer’ campaigns, as well as Chime in the US.

Several other consumer fintechs are also experimenting with influencer marketing,  according to a review of social media. These include Plum, digital mortgage-broker Habito, Gen-Z banking app Zelf, Germany’s Vivid money, SME bank Penta, and Klarna.

The trend reveals a quiet shift in fintechs’ tactics; dominating platforms where big banks don’t yet play.

Banks are changing, read more here.

‘It’s the screams of the damned!’ The eerie AI world of deepfake music

on Nov 11, 2020 01:42 am



The song in question not a genuine track, but a convincing fake created by “research and deployment company” OpenAI, whose Jukebox project uses artificial intelligence to generate music, complete with lyrics, in a variety of genres and artist styles. Along with Sinatra, they’ve done what are known as “deepfakes” of Katy Perry, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, 2Pac, Céline Dion and more. Having trained the model using 1.2m songs scraped from the web, complete with the corresponding lyrics and metadata, it can output raw audio several minutes long based on whatever you feed it. Input, say, Queen or Dolly Parton or Mozart, and you’ll get an approximation out the other end.

“As a piece of engineering, it’s really impressive,” says Dr Matthew Yee-King, an electronic musician, researcher and academic at Goldsmiths. (OpenAI declined to be interviewed.) “They break down an audio signal into a set of lexemes of music – a dictionary if you like – at three different layers of time, giving you a set of core fragments that is sufficient to reconstruct the music that was fed in. The algorithm can then rearrange these fragments, based on the stimulus you input.

The music business has always been about technological change, see here.

State of Surveillance

on Nov 11, 2020 01:41 am

In 2015, a national policy document issued by nine different Party and government bureaucracies called for “public safety video-surveillance construction, networking, and applications” across China. The policy described such surveillance systems as not only a way to combat crime, but also an important mechanism for enhancing “social management” and “safeguarding national security and social stability.” “Given the growing openness of society, the increasing convenience and speed of transportation infrastructure, and the widespread adoption of various emerging communication technologies,” as numerous government documents and media reports put it, using identical language, “people with all kinds of interests can cross jurisdictions to band together, stir up trouble, and assemble illegally. This presents a serious challenge to preventing, perceiving, and predicting vicious crimes and mass incidents.”

To combat these dangers, China’s National Development and Reform Commission embarked on a project called “Xueliang Gongcheng,” or “Project Sharp Eyes” (evoking Mao Zedong’s aphorism that celebrated people who spied on one another). Building on and supplementing Project Skynet, Safe Cities, and other previous surveillance campaigns, China’s government aims to extend video surveillance coverage to 100 percent of China’s “key public spaces” by the end of this year.

China knows surveillance, read more.

How Ant Group built a $200 billion financial empire

on Nov 10, 2020 10:42 pm

Ant Group, a Chinese financial technology company, is reportedly looking to raise a record-breaking $30 billion dollars in an initial public offering later this year. The current IPO fundraising record is held by Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, which raised $29.

What is now Ant Group started with a problem for the Chinese e-commerce pioneer Alibaba.

Buyers and sellers on its eBay-like platform, Taobao, rarely trusted each other enough to actually agree to deals. The only available means of payment were cash on delivery, or a basic online transfer service, which offered no protection in case of a fraud. To overcome this, Alibaba created Alipay, a mobile payment channel that held the buyer’s money in escrow until they confirmed they had received the goods as ordered.

In a market where most small retailers were cash-based, the mobile wallet that Alibaba had created had much wider potential, as businesses and consumers saw it as a way to leapfrog debit and credit cards.

Read more on the Chinese economy, here.

Ant man

on Nov 10, 2020 10:42 pm


Three months ago, a screenshot went viral across the Chinese internet. It was supposedly a scene of Alibaba employees gossiping about an eruption of cheers from an office building owned by their sister company, Ant Group. “It is the sound of financial freedom,” the next line read.

On one level this is a story about capital ratios and financial stability; specifically, about whether there should be new rules for new financial institutions to reflect the fact that they’re all online, or whether they should be treated like old-fashioned banks.

On another level it’s about a freewheeling, charismatic tycoon trying and apparently failing to rub along with 21st century Chinese communism. In this sense it goes to the heart of Xi’s 30-year project to crush dissent, consolidate power and bind corporate China tightly to the party and the state.

Read more on the Asian economy, here.

Democracy’s Afterlife

on Nov 08, 2020 09:39 am

Trump has long framed the immediate post-election period as a temporal no-man’s-land. Neither in his first nor in his second campaigns for the presidency did he ever commit himself clearly to accepting the result of the vote. Asked in the third presidential debate of 2016 whether he would do so, he replied, “What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. Okay?” What is being suspended now is both the disbelief of his supporters in the possibility of his defeat and the very concept of a transition of power.

In this frame of mind, there can never be a result of the 2020 election. One thing we can be sure of is that for Trump and his followers there are not five stages of grief, leading from denial to acceptance. The furthest their sense of it can go is to the second stage, anger. Just as there is “long Covid,” there is long Trump. The staying power of his destructiveness lies in the way that disputed defeat suits him almost as much as victory. It vindicates the self-pity that he has encouraged among his supporters, the belief that everything is rigged against them, that the world is a plot to steal from them their natural due as Americans.

Read more about that thing called populism, here.


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This is a weekly publication about Pop Culture, Software Studies, Business Strategy, Media Platforms, Algorithmic Management, Game Design, and everything in between.
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