If you have been in any way involved in social media over the past few years, there will be words that immediately have you wondering if the headline is in any way real. My favourite recently was "SpaceX Launched REAL UFO In ISRAEL! HAMAS And Iran Shocked!" on YouTube.
It turned out to be interesting coverage of current and upcoming aircraft technologies but it had nothing to do with Israel, Hamas or Iran. These were just an attempt to get people to click on the link.
- Beyond the headlines of the day, there are a number of key words that are just there for the clicks. Amazing is one of them, as are Meltdown, Owned, Shocked, Crushed, Slammed, Blasted, Destroyed and many things in all caps. You will also see common phrases like "This Will Change Everything" with the earlier words and others like them, aimed at generating an emotive response and curiosity. I admit it took me a while, but when you get to the end of enough segments and none of these occur, you soon realise that the headings are only there to reel you in, leaving you disappointed.
- On the subject of disappointment, I was saddened to learn that Reddit has joined the censorship bandwagon. It wasn't all that long ago you could go to Reddit to get the other side of a story that was contrary to the one the government and mainstream media were promoting. This change was reinforced to me when a recent story was pushing the same narrative, one I knew to be untrue, similar to other unreliable media sources. Any contrary opinions were also literally removed from the platform, unheard of not so long ago. In 2019, Reddit got a large investment from the Chinese investors Tencent, and that may or may not have something to do with this.
- According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Elon Musk's X, formerly Twitter, continues to have "problems policing hate speech". Since X is one of the few platforms still actually allowing alternative ideas, I did some digging into CCDH. It is funded by the Charles Schawb Charitable Fund that donates to "left leaning organisations" like the Southern Poverty Law Centre, NAACP and many more. These are hard left organisations that criticise anything from the centre-left across to the right. The criticisms of X posts from the CCDH were against those representing Israel's side of the Gaza story and any historical information that puts Gaza in anything other than a favourable light. Citing history online is now hate speech, apparently.
- The US actors' strike is finally over with a pay rise, but the main agreement is on protections against AI avatars. For those that missed it, some studios were proposing that an actor would do some acting, this would be captured, and then used to generate AI images of the actor sometime in the future. The actor would be paid for the original acting but not for the AI generated materials. Quite understandably, the actors were not at all happy about this and hence the core of the strike.
- The proposal, as of writing and yet to be voted on, would be "producers need to obtain explicit consent from actors and actresses to generate digital replicas of their face, bodies, and voices using AI. If the performer is dead, they will need permission from the deceased person's representative, or the union itself. In terms of compensation, members can expect to receive a sliding scale of cash that depends on how their deepfake was created". Sounds fair to me.
- The European Union and Apple have always had a difficult relationship. A while back, Apple managed to get out of a large multi-billion euro tax bill. Citing failure to assess correctly, the advocate general of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) is now asking judges to take another look. At this stage there is no certainty if Apple will actually have to pay anything as it will require a court ruling. They did have to pay the US Dept of Justice US$25 million (800 million baht) for their discriminatory hiring practices but this is pocket change for a company like Apple.
- For those wanting to escape the craziness of this planet, there is good news. Scientists based at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei claim they have leveraged artificial intelligence and robotics to generate oxygen from water and the rocks available on the Martian surface. The study published in Nature Synthesis suggests that chemicals from Mars rocks can be used as catalysts to extract oxygen. AI was used to match catalysts to five types of meteorite. This iterative process is claimed to have saved us about 2,000 years if done in the lab by humans. So, score one for artificial intelligence. Now all we need to do is get there and try it for real to see if it works. Oxygen is just one of the things that need to be solved before a colony on Mars can be set up.
James Hein is an IT professional with over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.