Europe’s first fully 3D-printed house / Humans + Tech - #78

+ Disinformation on YouTube divided a dad and daughter + The precarious life of working for an algorithm + Other interesting articles


You may soon be able to 3D print your own house. With more customisation capabilities, you can choose any design that you fancy for your home. What design would you want your house to have?

Read the first article below to learn more about 3D printed houses.

Dutch couple move into Europe’s first fully 3D-printed house

People have printed many 3D houses so far. However, this is the first legally habitable and commercially rented property where the 3D printer nozzle also printed the load-bearing walls [Daniel Boffey, The Guardian].

Elize Lutz, 70, and Harrie Dekkers, 67, retired shopkeepers from Amsterdam, received their digital key – an app allowing them to open the front door of their two-bedroom bungalow at the press of a button – on Thursday.

“It is beautiful,” said Lutz. “It has the feel of a bunker – it feels safe,” added Dekkers.

Inspired by the shape of a boulder, the dimensions of which would be difficult and expensive to construct using traditional methods, the property is the first of five homes planned by the construction firm Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix for a plot of land by the Beatrix canal in the Eindhoven suburb of Bosrijk.

Twenty-four concrete elements were printed at a plant and then transported to the site for assembly. There is a video of the process at the link. Watching the nozzle applying the cement is quite soothing.

The goal is to do the construction entirely on-site by the time they build the fifth house.

3D printing allows a lot of flexibility in the shape of the house. What shape would you choose for your home?

Disinformation on YouTube divided a dad and daughter

YouTube’s long-standing problem of hosting false and misleading content is driving families apart. This article tells the story of Renee Ekwoge’s drift from her father after he started watching and believing various conspiracy theories on YouTube [Bo Hamby, Rachel Martin, and Steve Mullis, NPR].

For years, Ekwoge's approach was to be polite when he'd talk to her about the theories and then change the subject. That seemed to work for a while. Her father and mother divorced several years ago, and she remained close with her father.

When Ekwoge and her dad lived in the same state, they would take walks and talk about other things. Then last year, she says, he told her he believed that the world was flat. People who thought otherwise, he told her, had their minds controlled.

"And at that point, things started to happen more frequently," she says. "He believed that people were being injected with the coronavirus or the virus wasn't real. This was mid-March, like a year ago, and he was already [saying] this is 'plan-demic,' you know, this is completely fake."

One of the biggest problems with YouTube’s algorithms is that it serves more of the same types of videos with similar topics to keep engagement high. These algorithms lead people into a rabbit hole of false information until they get brainwashed into believing it is all real.

Misinformation and disinformation are some of the biggest challenges of our time, especially at the speed at which people can distribute information today. YouTube also has a formidable challenge in moderating the roughly 500 minutes of content uploaded to its platform every minute. It’s not easy, especially when some of these videos are satirical or comedy and not meant to mislead people intentionally.

The precarious life of working for an algorithm

Algorithms have taken over managerial jobs in many industries. From Postmates delivery workers to TikTok creators, people are finding themselves working for algorithms. The Markup interviewed Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor at Cornell University, to understand the challenges people face when their livelihoods are dependent on black box algorithms [Julia Angwin, The Markup]. Here is one question from the interview:

Angwin: We’ve been doing this series, Working for an Algorithm. It is about the challenge of today’s world, where either people’s boss is actually an algorithm or, in the case of content creators, their livelihood is governed by an algorithm.

What is a good way to think about the world we live in with algorithms governing everything? And do you see parallels to earlier times?

Duffy: Absolutely. I think it’s critical to keep in mind the continuity with earlier mechanisms of worker surveillance and efforts to track workers’ processes and products. There are precursors to algorithms in earlier systems of capitalist production, and especially those in the creative industries, such as metrification. 

But what’s unique and different in the context of digital media is the automation of them. And I think “automation” needs to be in kind of scare quotes because I don’t want to suggest that humans don’t play a role. Humans are essential to the design and maintenance of these technical systems. 

We’re seeing algorithms govern all forms of work, from the media and creative industries to what we consider the “gig economy” and even to academia, where researchers are attuned to keywords that “do well” and the importance of search engine optimization (i.e., Google Scholar). 

The automation, the ubiquity, and the pervasiveness have exacerbated the systems of monitoring of workers. 

I recommend reading the whole interview. It’s very interesting.

Other interesting articles from around the web

👨‍💻 Bad software sent postal workers to jail, because no one wanted to admit it could be wrong [Mitchell Clark, The Verge]

For the past 20 years, the UK Post Office has been using software called Horizon that had critical bugs and falsely implicated employees in the theft of thousands of pounds. Some employees were even sent to prison. Thirty-nine of these are finally having their convictions overthrown but have lost crucial years of their lives.

The impact on these employees has been vast: according to the BBC, some have lost marriages or time with their children. Talking to the BBC, Janet Skinner said that she was taken away from her two kids for nine months when she was imprisoned, after the software showed a £59,000 shortfall. She also says she lost a job offer because of her criminal conviction. The time she and others like her spent in jail can’t be bought back, and it happened because software was taken at its word.

📺 You can't fix online troll culture until you fix reality TV [Amelia Tait, VICE]

Many reality TV stars face gross abuse on social media. TV shows constantly remind their followers on social media that these are only TV shows and that these are real people who deserve better treatment. It does not make much difference. Reality TV stars are often manipulated and set up to display emotions that make for good TV. Some previous participants say that reality TV needs to be fixed before the online abuse can stop.

Phillips notes that producers “put ideas in the audience’s head about who is bad and deserves rebuke, condemnation and mockery” – “villain edits” are a long-documented phenomenon in the industry. She adds that social media networks also exacerbate abuse by flattening people, rewarding emotive posts, and allowing messages to spread rapidly without context: “Many people don’t understand the extent to which they are being set up to engage unethically or to not have to think about ethical consequences by their networks, by the attention economy.”

🇷🇺 Russia accused of using deepfakes to imitate political rivals [Tony Tran, Futurism]

Bad actors used deepfake technology to trick several senior officials in the European Union into believing that they were Russian opposition leaders. They suspect it was an attempt by the Kremlin to gain information against Alexei Navalny’s opposition movement.

Kols claimed that he received an email from the person claiming to be Volkov requesting a video conference with him. During the meeting, they discussed Russia’s political prisoners and aggression against Crimea. 

Later, he realized that it might not have been Volkov at all after the alleged imposter attended a Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Committee meeting and became openly combative, according to Lithuanian Radio and Television. By then, though, the individual had already attended several meetings with top-level officials in the European Union. 

Quote of the day

“Technological advances have opened many doors, connected us during the pandemic and improved the lives of millions of people, but simultaneously machine learning and the evolution of deepfake technologies also means that the risks of these technologies being used by foreign and criminal cyber actors are becoming increasingly relevant.”

—Richard Kols, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Latvian parliament, from the article, “Russia accused of using deepfakes to imitate political rivals” [Futurism]

I wish you a brilliant day ahead :)