In an opinion piece at The Financial Times, Izabella Kaminska compares the creation of Meta/Facebook’s metaverse to the creation of Las Vegas during The Great Depression of the 1930:
In the long run, if there is any moral to the Las Vegas story it’s that if you want to bootstrap a fantasy realm for the purpose of enriching a small elite at the expense of users, it helps to have a repressed, desperate and captured demographic within your proximity. With the metaverse it’s unlikely to be any different. You’re still going to be the product. You may be more accepting of it, but only because base reality is getting more and more like historic Boulder City by the day.
In an article at The Atlantic Ian Bogost writes about the differences between the Facebook Papers and older leaked documents:
The Facebook Papers are, in aggregate, a supersensory supply of materials about a social network, produced on its own, internal social network, prima facie assumed to have meaning whose depth exceeds their surface, and mustered as rapidly as possible to generate emotions. They’re a tiny outrage machine, sucking the exhaust from a much bigger one.
Furthermore, he notes that the analysis of these documents reflects the discourses on social media platforms themselves:
This dance between Facebook’s internal debates and journalists’ interpretation of them as withering revelations repeats the ritual that online debate has normalized: Posts beget discourse that begets ever more posts that take the place of action, let alone knowledge. Depth and surface become indistinguishable, always implying that there’s more to the story, only to recede back into the shadows moments later.
Facebook/Meta is shutting down its facial recognition system. They explain their choice in this blog post.
But the many specific instances where facial recognition can be helpful need to be weighed against growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole. There are many concerns about the place of facial recognition technology in society, and regulators are still in the process of providing a clear set of rules governing its use. Amid this ongoing uncertainty, we believe that limiting the use of facial recognition to a narrow set of use cases is appropriate.
On May 18th the company announced that it was going further in its promotion of inclusive language. Google Docs, its popular free wordprocessing software, would soon be nudging people away from potentially sexist language, such as the generic use of “chairman”. Instead it will offer gender neutral suggestions including “chairperson”.
Surprising conclusions from Twitter on a recent controversy about a bias of their image cropping algorithm towards white people and women.
We considered the tradeoffs between the speed and consistency of automated cropping with the potential risks we saw in this research. One of our conclusions is that not everything on Twitter is a good candidate for an algorithm, and in this case, how to crop an image is a decision best made by people.
Via The Register.
The Register reports on a paper that aims to show how Big Tech has adopted similar strategies similar to Big Tobacco to influence AI ethics research, policy, and generally spreading doubts about the harms of AI:
The analogy “is not perfect,” the two brothers acknowledge, but is intended to provide a historical touchstone and “to leverage the negative gut reaction to Big Tobacco’s funding of academia to enable a more critical examination of Big Tech.” The comparison is also not an assertion that Big Tech is deliberately buying off researchers; rather, the researchers argue that “industry funding warps academia regardless of intentionality due to perverse incentive.
In an article at The Atlantic Ian Bogost comments on a recent episode of Amazon’s use of social media in a campaign to influence opinion regarding criticisms of the company’s exploitative labour and business practices. Interestingly, he notes a change in the corporations communicate:
Previously, companies could speak only through formal messages on billboards; by mail, radio, or television; or via media coverage of their actions. The web had shifted that control a bit, but websites were still mostly marketing and service portals. Social media and smartphones changed everything. They made corporate speech functionally identical to human speech. Case law might have given companies legal personhood, but the internet made corporations feel like people.
It also allowed companies to behave like people. As their social-media posts were woven into people’s feeds between actual humans’ jokes, gripes, and celebrations, brands started talking with customers directly. They offered support right inside people’s favorite apps. They did favors, issued giveaways, and even raised money for the downtrodden. Brands became #brands.
Apparently rare user names on big social media platform have become so valuable that there is even a marketplace for such names that have been obtained by hackers. As an article at The Verge details:
These usernames tend to be single words — in rare cases, individual letters or numbers — and they can fetch tens of thousands of dollars on underground markets for stolen digital goods. And because platforms like Instagram and Twitter have rules barring the buying and selling of accounts, the hackers interested in procuring one of these coveted handles often resort to illegal means to obtain them.
Rich Mogull writes at TidBITS (a blog focusing on Apple products and technologies) about Apple’s latest Platform Security user guide. He notes how the emphasis for increasing security is on vertical integration, which he defines as “the combination of hardware, software, and cloud-based services to build a comprehensive ecosystem.” This of course has other effects which he notes:
But with great power comes great lock-in. Relying on a particular vendor’s cloud service means that if the service goes down or the vendor decides to discontinue the service, you are the proud owner of a useless hunk of plastic and electronic components. While Apple isn’t going out of business anytime soon, we saw issues earlier this year when the company’s certificate server was overwhelmed and responded slowly to integrity checks, preventing some users from being able to launch apps.
Read the full article here.
Ben Thomas on Stratchery.com writes why he considers Tesla a “meme company”:
It turned out, though, that TSLA was itself a meme, one about a car company, but also sustainability, and most of all, about Elon Musk himself. Issuing more stock was not diluting existing shareholders; it was extending the opportunity to propagate the TSLA meme to that many more people, and while Musk’s haters multiplied, so did his fans. The Internet, after all, is about abundance, not scarcity. The end result is that instead of infrastructure leading to a movement, a movement, via the stock market, funded the building out of infrastructure.