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Tag Archives: Internet

Can we stop AI outsmarting humanity?

Fifty thousand years ago with the rise of Homo sapiens sapiens.

Ten thousand years ago with the invention of civilization.

Five hundred years ago with the invention of the printing press.

Fifty years ago with the invention of the computer.

In less than thirty years, it will end.

Jaan Tallinn stumbled across these words in 2007, in an online essay called Staring into the Singularity. The “it” was human civilisation. Humanity would cease to exist, predicted the essay’s author, with the emergence of superintelligence, or AI, that surpasses human-level intelligence in a broad array of areas.

Tallinn, an Estonia-born computer programmer, has a background in physics and a propensity to approach life like one big programming problem. In 2003, he co-founded Skype, developing the backend for the app. He cashed in his shares after eBay bought it two years later, and now he was casting about for something to do. Staring into the Singularity mashed up computer code, quantum physics and Calvin and Hobbes quotes. He was hooked.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/28/can-we-stop-robots-outsmarting-humanity-artificial-intelligence-singularity

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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Smart talking: are our devices threatening our privacy?

On 21 November 2015, James Bates had three friends over to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Bates, who lived in Bentonville, Arkansas, and his friends drank beer and did vodka shots as a tight football game unfolded. After the Razorbacks lost 51–50, one of the men went home; the others went out to Bates’s hot tub and continued to drink. Bates would later say that he went to bed around 1am and that the other two men – one of whom was named Victor Collins – planned to crash at his house for the night. When Bates got up the next morning, he didn’t see either of his friends. But when he opened his back door, he saw a body floating face-down in the hot tub. It was Collins.

A grim local affair, the death of Victor Collins would never have attracted international attention if it were not for a facet of the investigation that pitted the Bentonville authorities against one of the world’s most powerful companies – Amazon. Collins’ death triggered a broad debate about privacy in the voice-computing era, a discussion that makes the big tech companies squirm.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/mar/26/smart-talking-are-our-devices-threatening-our-privacy

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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We are already controlled by the digital giants, but Huawei’s expansion will usher in China-style surveillance

The media bombards us with news about the threats to our security: will China invade Taiwan as a punishment for the US trade war? Will the US attack Iran? Will the EU descend into chaos after the Brexit mess? But I think there is one topic which – in the long view, at least – dwarfs all others: the effort of the US to contain the expansion of Huawei. Why?

Today’s digital network controls and regulates our lives: most of our activities (and passivities) are now registered in some digital cloud that also permanently evaluates us, tracing not only our acts but also our emotional states. When we experience ourselves as free to the utmost (surfing in the web where everything is available), we are totally “externalised” and subtly manipulated. The digital network gives new meaning to the old slogan “the personal is political”.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/huawei-5g-china-surveillance-social-credit-google-facebook-assange-a8912891.html

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2019 in Asia, Uncategorized

 

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It’s not enough to break up Big Tech. We need to imagine a better alternative

As Facebook all but pleads guilty to a severe form of data addiction, confessing its digital sins and promising to reinvent itself as a privacy-worshiping denizen of the global village, the foundations of Big Tech’s cultural hegemony appear to be crumbling. Most surprisingly, it’s in the United States, Silicon Valley’s home territory, where they seem to be the weakest.

Even in these times of extreme polarization, Trump, who has habitual outbursts against censorship by social media platforms, eagerly joins left-wing politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in presenting Big Tech as America’s greatest menace The recent call by Chris Hughes, Facebook’s co-founder, to break up the firm hints at things to come.

Neither the Silicon Valley moguls nor financial markets seem to care though. The recent decision by Warren Buffet – one of America’s most successful but also most conservative investors –to finally invest in Amazon is probably a better indication of wait awaits the tech giants in the medium term: more lavish initial public offerings, more Saudi cash, more promises to apply artificial intelligence to resolve the problems caused by artificial intelligence.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/11/big-tech-progressive-vision-silicon-valley

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Behind Every Robot Is a Human

Hundreds of human reviewers across the globe, from Romania to Venezuela, listen to audio clips recorded from Amazon Echo speakers, usually without owners’ knowledge, Bloomberg reported last week. We knew Alexa was listening; now we know someone else is, too.

This global review team fine-tunes the Amazon Echo’s software by listening to clips of users asking Alexa questions or issuing commands, and then verifying whether Alexa responded appropriately. The team also annotates specific words the device struggles with when it’s addressed in different accents.

According to Amazon, users can opt out of the service, but they seem to be enrolled automatically. Amazon says these recordings are anonymized, with any identifying information removed, and that each of these recorded exchanges came only after users engaged with the device by uttering the “wake word.” But in the examples in Bloomberg’s report—a woman overheard singing in the shower, a child screaming for help—the users seem unaware of the device.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/04/amazon-workers-eavesdrop-amazon-echo-clips/587110/

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Capitalism’s New Clothes

In a series of remarkably prescient articles, the first of which was published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the summer of 2013, Shoshana Zuboff pointed to an alarming phenomenon: the digitization of everything was giving technology firms immense social power. From the modest beachheads inside our browsers, they conquered, Blitzkrieg-style, our homes, cars, toasters, and even mattresses. Toothbrushes, sneakers, vacuum cleaners: our formerly dumb household subordinates were becoming our “smart” bosses. Their business models turned data into gold, favoring further expansion.

Google and Facebook were restructuring the world, not just solving its problems. The general public, seduced by the tech world’s youthful, hoodie-wearing ambassadors and lobotomized by TED Talks, was clueless. Zuboff saw a logic to this digital mess; tech firms were following rational—and terrifying—imperatives. To attack them for privacy violations was to miss the scale of the transformation—a tragic miscalculation that has plagued much of the current activism against Big Tech.

https://thebaffler.com/latest/capitalisms-new-clothes-morozov

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Economy, Reportages

 

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Franken-algorithms: the deadly consequences of unpredictable code

The 18th of March 2018, was the day tech insiders had been dreading. That night, a new moon added almost no light to a poorly lit four-lane road in Tempe, Arizona, as a specially adapted Uber Volvo XC90 detected an object ahead. Part of the modern gold rush to develop self-driving vehicles, the SUV had been driving autonomously, with no input from its human backup driver, for 19 minutes. An array of radar and light-emitting lidar sensors allowed onboard algorithms to calculate that, given their host vehicle’s steady speed of 43mph, the object was six seconds away – assuming it remained stationary. But objects in roads seldom remain stationary, so more algorithms crawled a database of recognizable mechanical and biological entities, searching for a fit from which this one’s likely behavior could be inferred.

At first the computer drew a blank; seconds later, it decided it was dealing with another car, expecting it to drive away and require no special action. Only at the last second was a clear identification found – a woman with a bike, shopping bags hanging confusingly from handlebars, doubtless assuming the Volvo would route around her as any ordinary vehicle would. Barred from taking evasive action on its own, the computer abruptly handed control back to its human master, but the master wasn’t paying attention. Elaine Herzberg, aged 49, was struck and killed, leaving more reflective members of the tech community with two uncomfortable questions: was this algorithmic tragedy inevitable? And how used to such incidents would we, should we, be prepared to get?

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/29/coding-algorithms-frankenalgos-program-danger

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Reportages

 

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The Communal Mind

A few years ago, when it suddenly occurred to us that the internet was a place we could never leave, I began to keep a diary of what it felt like to be there in the days of its snowy white disintegration, which felt also like the disintegration of my own mind. My interest was not academic. I did not care about the Singularity, or the rise of the machines, or the afterlife of being uploaded into the cloud. I cared about the feeling that my thoughts were being dictated. I cared about the collective head, which seemed to be running a fever. But if we managed to escape, to break out of the great skull and into the fresh air, if Twitter was shut down for crimes against humanity, what would we be losing? The bloodstream of the news, the thrilled consensus, the dance to the tune of the time. The portal that told us, each time we opened it, exactly what was happening now. It seemed fitting to write it in the third person because I no longer felt like myself. Here’s how it began.

*

She opened the portal, and the mind met her more than halfway. Inside, it was tropical and snowing, and the first flake of the blizzard of everything landed on her tongue and melted.

Close-ups of nail art, a pebble from outer space, a tarantula’s compound eyes, a storm like canned peaches on the surface of Jupiter, Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters, a chihuahua perched on a man’s erection, a garage door spray-painted with the words ‘STOP NOW! DON’T EMAIL MY WIFE!’

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n04/patricia-lockwood/the-communal-mind

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Reportages

 

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Why US rightwing populists and their global allies disagree over Big Tech

The emerging global movement of rightwing populists is guilty of many things but ideological incoherence in choosing their enemies is generally not one of them. Whether it is Steve Bannon bashing Pope Francis, Matteo Salvini attacking the “do-gooders” in humanitarian NGOs or Marine Le Pen venting against the dull technocrats in Brussels, the populists go after a predictable, well-calculated set of targets. If anyone chooses their enemies well, it’s them.

But there’s one issue on which there’s no agreement between American rightwing populists and their peers in the rest of the world: what to make of Silicon Valley. On the one hand, its services and platforms have been a boon to the populists everywhere, greatly boosting their audience numbers and allowing them to target potential voters with highly personalized messages; the Cambridge Analytica fiasco has made it quite clear. Today, upstart and new rightwing parties like Spain’s Vox instinctively understand the primacy of digital battles; Vox already leads all other Spanish parties in terms of Instagram followers.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/22/why-us-rightwing-populists-and-their-global-allies-disagree-over-big-tech

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The truth behind ASMR and the craze for videos causing ‘head orgasms’

A FEW years ago, I sat down in my home office and clicked through to a YouTube video. In it, a woman slowly folded towels on a table, while talking in a gentle whisper. Almost immediately, a warm, fuzzy tingle started around the nape of my neck, spreading across my shoulders and back. Within a minute, I was in a state of utter relaxation. The sensation lasted long after I stopped watching.

I have experienced this calming tingle since I was a child, when my mother would stroke my back at bedtime. But I never mentioned it – it just seemed weird.

Then a few years ago, I read an article about an internet subculture devoted to the “brain tingles” elicited by videos of people folding towels or The Joy of Painting – a TV show in which the host Bob Ross would produce an oil painting and quietly explain how he did it. Just reading the descriptions of these videos was enough to set off the sensation.

Watching someone fold towels may seem tedious, but that clip has had more than 1,900,000 views. Clearly, I’m not alone. That got me wondering what was happening in my brain to elicit these feelings. Do they serve a purpose? And how many other people share my ability to easily find a state of blissful relaxation?

The phenomenon first came to people’s attention in 2007, in an online forum thread titled “weird sensation feels good”. Many names were suggested, notably “attention-induced head orgasm” – a misnomer because the feeling is not as sudden or short-lived as an orgasm, and is distinct from sexual arousal.

The term that stuck was coined in 2010 by cybersecurity expert Jennifer Allen: “autonomous sensory meridian response”, or ASMR. She wanted something that represented the key elements of the sensation, but that sounded scientific, so people wouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about it. It worked: those who experience the phenomenon are now a thriving online community. For instance, the ASMR subreddit has about 165,000 subscribers. The sensation has been popularised by pharmacologist Craig Richard of Shenandoah University in Virginia, who set up the website ASMR University.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24032020-300-the-truth-behind-asmr-and-the-craze-for-videos-causing-head-orgasms/

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2018 in Reportages

 

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