2020 06 08 Historians and AI

Thanks for coming, thanks for your contributions, and special thanks to Darrell and the AHA staff for organizing this and putting up with at least my repeated inability to hold a deadline during a pandemic. My frame for thinking about this has been Lara Putnam’s article from 2016 about the “Transnational and the Text Searchable” which made a really interesting argument about the unacknowledged ways that full text search, if it didn’t cause the boom in transnational history in the 1990s and 2000s, at least made it much easier for it to take a particular form while leaving historians with an abbreviated investment in the countries, periods, and people they study.

Genre, Manifolds, and AI.

This article in the New Yorker about the end of genre prompts me to share a theory I’ve had for a year or so that models at Spotify, Netflix, etc, are most likely not just removing artificial silos that old media companies imposed on us, but actively destroying genre without much pushback. I’m curious what you think. This aligns to the most important rule for thinking about artificial intelligence, which is that it’s deleterious effects are most likely in places where decision makers are perfectly happy to let changes in algorithms drive changes in society.