Emergent // Future Weekly Tech Roundup: Internet Trends Report, Facebook DeepText, Elon Musk, Blade RunnerIssue 12
This week we recap Mary Meeker’s latest
Internet Trends Report, and check in on Facebook’s latest AI project. Prepare to be shocked by Elon Musk’s wildest ideas yet (spoiler: you live in a video game, and we’re going to Mars!), and a researcher used a neural network to recreate Blade Runner. Plus, what we’re reading and a few things for you to try at home. Not a subscriber? Join the Emergent // Future newsletter here.

Internet Trends Report

You Might Have Heard: Mary Meeker released her annual Internet Trends report.

Now in its 21st year (!), the 213-slide deck covers all sides of the internet economy, including the rise of messaging apps, voice assistants, and more. This essential report is the fastest way to learn everything going on in tech.


  1. The internet now reaches 3 billion users – or about 42% of the world’s population
  2. Smartphone adoption is slowing; Android is increasing marketshare
  3. Mobile video is rapidly growing, led by Snapchat and Facebook Live

Facebook, AI, and DeepText

Facebook announced DeepText, their AI system built to understand the meaning and sentiment of all text posts on the platform, with the goal of building a better search engine.

“With this new project, Facebook is essentially building the capacity to track all the information put into the network, just as Google crawls the entire web for information and indexes it,”Quartz writes.

DeepText will analyze thousands of posts per second across 20 languages with near-human accuracy.

“The gap between the AI haves and have-nots is widening,”TechCrunch writes.

“If every News Feed post looks interesting, you’ll spend more time on Facebook, you’ll share more text there, DeepText will get smarter, and the Facebook AI feedback wheel will spin faster and faster towards becoming the perfect content recommendation engine.”

Everybody’s Talking About: Elon Musk

The tech billionaire says “there’s a billion to one chance we’re living in base reality.”

Meaning, our existence is probably really just a video game.

Simulation or not, Musk said he plans to send people to Mars as early as 2024 during an interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at Code Conference.

But that’s not all, here’s 7 other not-so-crazy crazy things Elon Musk believes.

WATCH: The full Elon Musk interview

PLUS: These are the vehicles that will being taking you to space

Sci-Fi Serious: Blade Runner

A London researcher trained a computer to watch the movie Blade Runner. Then, using a neural network, had the computer attempt to reconstruct its impression of the movie in order based on what it had seen.

Essentially creating a new film from the “memories” the neural net had formed – the computer’s interpretation of the film through the eyes of an AI.

But that’s not the weird part.

Warner Bros., which owns the Blade Runner copyright, issued a DMCA takedown notice (!) for an “apparently real” film.

In other words, Vox writes: “Warner had just DMCA’d an artificial reconstruction of a film about artificial intelligence being indistinguishable from humans, because it couldn’t distinguish between the simulation and the real thing.”

To its credit, Warner later rescinded the DMCA request.

The researcher, Terence Broad, has posted a detailed post about autoencoding Blade Runner, and reconstructing films with artificial neural networks.

PLUS: ‘2001’ rendered in the style of Picasso using deep neural networks

What We’re Reading

  • Former NASA chief Daniel Goldin unveiled his startup, KnuEdge, after ten years in stealth. He’s raised $100M to build “neural chips,” built on biological principles about how the brain efficient use of power to gets computing done. It’ll make data centers more efficient in a hyperscale age. (VentureBeat)
  • Alan Kay dropped by Hacker News. Here are some of our favorite posts from the famed computer scientist on Dijkstra, Erlang, the relationship between OO and functional programming, his reading list, and more. (The Macro)
  • Cortana arrives on Xbox One for preview members. Cortana will appear in the Xbox One dashboard, and you’ll be able to access the voice assistant through the Kinect sensor or a headset. As a result, Microsoft is altering the way you activate Xbox voice commands to just “Hey Cortana.” (The Verge)
  • The Barbell Effect of Machine Learning. “On one hand, it will democratize basic intelligence through the commoditization and diffusion of services such as image recognition and translation into software broadly. On the other, it will concentrate higher-order intelligence in the hands of a relatively small number of incumbents that control the lion’s share of their industry’s data.” (Medium)
  • How To Design A Good API and Why it Matters. (YouTube)

Try This At Home

Emergent Future is a weekly, hand-curated dispatch exploring technology through the lens of artificial intelligence, data science, and the shape of things to come. Subscribe here.

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