More Bezosism, Nixon deepfakes, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#40)

Quite a lot going on this week. Massive leaks, Nobel prizes, deepfakes, Facebook being shamed everywhere… let’s start.


Can you tell the difference? Does it really matter?

Cool technology being shown by the people at MIT. Of course, deepfakes are not something new, and this one in particular is not over the top in quality (at some point people will start training the algorithms to move the forehead and the eyebrows in a natural way). Anyway, besides the technology, I liked the discussion about the use people are making of these tools. On the one hand, you have organizations trying to build systems to make mute people able to use their voice again (which is amazing). On the other, you have people putting celeb faces on porn videos, and making famous people tell lies on YouTube.

It really makes me think about how, for many many years, when a new regime wanted to control people, they used to change the history books. Nowadays, people consume most of their information in video format, through the internet. I guess we are not so far away from governments spamming famous people spreading fake news everywhere, with a quality that would be extremely difficult to grasp for the human eye. If it is hard to fight against fake news from random people on Facebook, what will happen when first line politicians/scientists will be the ones spreading misinformation?

A Nixon Deepfake, a ‘Moon Disaster’ Speech and an Information Ecosystem at Risk, on scientific american


Facebook vs the world

This week the Senate hold a hearing about Facebook, and a whistleblower throw a lot of shit on the fan about how the company algorithms work. The underlying idea, as everyone should know already, is that the only thing Facebook wants is for you to spend as much time as possible on the platform, sharing as much posts/information as possible, even if you spread fake news and hurt people, because that is what provides them huge amounts of money. I recommend the piece the people at MIT tech review wrote:

The Facebook whistleblower says its algorithms are dangerous. Here’s why., on the MIT technology review


CO2 removal, the shell game?

Quite an interesting piece on Nature about the plans from Microsoft to go zero-net emissions before 2030. With all these projects, I always wonder if ‘undoing’ your emissions is the right call, or generating technology with zero emissions should be the prior. Of course, at some point you have to undo all the emissions you did in the last centuries. However, I cannot help but think about how seeding trees to remove CO2 during the following decades will do nothing when those same forests disappear before balancing your emissions. Also, it is a very naïve way of solving a problem: I remove CO2 from the atmosphere and I store it on the biosphere, creating a problem for future generations (who will need to find a way to clean the biosphere). Anyway, at least they are doing something, I guess.

Microsoft’s million-tonne CO2-removal purchase — lessons for net zero, on nature


Science images of the month

Seahorse with mask

I’ll keep posting these as long as they keep doing them.

Space jellyfish and subterranean robots — September’s best science images, on nature


See you space cowboy

https://cdn-s-www.vosgesmatin.fr/images/2375D722-F317-4040-B216-AF8F2EFAB469/NW_listE/jeff-bezos-apres-son-vol-reussi-dans-l-espace-photo-joe-raedle-getty-images-afp-1626806281.jpg

Another week, another story about how it is impossible to win huge amounts of money without being a total prick that does not care about the wellbeing of others. People working 24/7 so I can ride through space? Why not.

Blue Origin’s ideas to mimic SpaceX sound pretty brutal for employees, on the verge


Twitch being pwned by 4chan

Besides a lot of code and internal information about the company (which apparently was not a big deal, as it was quite old), the leak included the numbers for how much money people have been winning on the platform. I guess everyday is clearer why the Amazon Prime subs will stop working at Twitch sooner than later.

Will Youtube become a real competitor at any point? What’s clear to me is that all these fuzz is paving the way for multiple services to stand up and generate a blooming field for streamers, which I’d say its a good thing.

Twitch source code and creator payouts part of massive leak, on the verge

Twitch confirms hack after source code and creator payout data leaks online, on techcrunch


And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Netflix and the chocolate factory, AI controlling funding, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#38)

So, this week we have quite a lot of different stuff. Let’s get to it.


Could you please stop doing that

Is Netflix going to destroy some of the best books ever written? My bet is a big yes. At least I hope Dahl’s family will enjoy the money…

Netflix Acquires Roald Dahl Story Company, Plans Extensive Universe, on Variety

Sorry [#researcher_ID], funds not found

Really cool article on the MIT technology review about using AI to guide research. The case study is about the Decadal Survey, where many scientists decide every ten years which are the most interesting areas for future research. This leads to lots of funding going in that direction, so it is a big deal for some people (the researchers getting the funds), but also relevant for the general public (in the end, all the research provides advances for everyone, no matter the subject).

The news here is that some researchers are suggesting that we should use AI algorithms to go through all the proposals (there is more than 500 for the next survey), because there is no way the experts that work on the survey have enough knowledge to decide over so many different topics. While this seems like a good point to me, I still think the AI technology that we have nowadays is far from being useful for such a relevant task.

Some other thoughts that came to mind where that, when you decide a reduced number of areas and give tons of funding for doing research on them, you attract many scientists, which in the end will generate lots of papers on those topics. These papers will cross-reference other papers on the same topic, thus generating a lot of impact (as we usually measure the impact of publications by how many citations they get). In this scenario, you can always say that giving funding to this research was the good thing to do (it generated a lot of impact). But, was it relevant in the first place or it generated publications because there was a lot of money in funding?

Also, we have seen countless times that serendipity in science is a big force to reckon. You never know the findings you will get when doing research, and many times you will find extremely relevant applications in distant fields when you fund basic / not trendy research fields. Will AI ever be able to grasp these ideas? Should we really focus on specific topics of research, or just fund everything?

This AI could predict 10 years of scientific priorities—if we let it, on MIT technology review

Was “Despacito” a virus?

It is actually nice to know that, while I was infected many years ago by electronic music, it was something bound to happen at some point. Cool study trying to link the way music spreads between people with the way infectious diseases unfold. I really liked the ideas about the similarities and differences between dynamics with viruses and music. Sometimes you just heard something walking through the street (which would be similar to getting influenza at your work space or with your family), but many times you just see a tweet from a friend which is miles away and you get attracted to a song/genre.

Mathematicians discover music really can be infectious – like a virus, on the guardian
Modelling song popularity as a contagious process, on Proceedings of the Royal Society A

Modern architecture was a mistake

Really nice post on openculture with a video essay on Modern architecture, and why so many people (including myself) kinda hate it. Anyway, at least is not brutalism/postmodern (I am thinking about you, Centre Pompidou)

Why Do People Hate Modern Architecture?: A Video Essay, on openculture

Keep going, nothing to see here…

Everything is fine. No monopolistic practices. We are cool. Privacy is our motto. All we do is for the benefit of our customers. We review the apps on our store. We work with developers.

THE BITTER LAWSUIT HANGING OVER THE APPLE WATCH’S NEW SWIPE KEYBOARD, on theverge
Fortnite likely isn’t coming back to the App Store anytime soon, on techcrunch
Apple Lies About Epic Again, on the Michael Tsai blog

Publish or go home, ramen coins, driving is hard, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#27)

Another week, another batch of nice reads. Three more until summer holidays! Let’s start.


Life finds a way

As every month, astonishing bundle of science-related images, with amazing stories behind.

Sea snot, stars and sleeping elephants — June’s best science images, on nature

Publish or die

Really happy to see that people are catching up with some of the biggest problems people doing science face: the field is a complete shitshow that chews you until there is nothing left, and then spits you out. All of this allowed by universities, society in general, and based on the fact that you love to do research, so you put up with all that bullshit for years.

Mental health of graduate students sorely overlooked, on nature

Are you eating that?

Curiosity of the week. Apparently, people stopped using tobacco as currency in prisons long ago, and moved to ramen noodles. You can read more about this on the openculture post, and the following video.

How Ramen Became the Currency of Choice in Prison, Beating Out Cigarettes, on openculture

We have a problem

Breaking news: Elon Musk is a blabbermouth, exhibit #N

Elon Musk just now realizing that self-driving cars are a ‘hard problem’, on theverge

Apple vs the wo… wait, Google vs the world

As expected, we are starting to see more and more scrutiny for big tech companies. After the Epic vs Apple trial (boy that was fun), now we have similar lawsuits going on on Android. Remember, tech companies are evil, no matter their motto.

A lawsuit that ignores choice on Android and Google Play, on google blog
Google feared Samsung Galaxy Store and tried to quash it, lawsuit alleges, on theverge

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

It’s Prime day & hospitals selling datasets: The weekly recap (2021#25)

Must. Keep. Going. Summer. Holidays. Are. Coming.


It’s Prime Day!

Go give Bezos some more money. After all, he seems like a cool billionaire. First, let’s destroy all the bookshops. Then, make everyone sell at my stores, and steal their designs to sell them cheaper. Slaves? that sounds good too, it will improve our margins. Recycling? mate, that seems like such a big effort.

Amazon destroying millions of items of unsold stock in one of its UK warehouses every year, ITV News investigation finds, on itvNews

The hunt for medical datasets gets wilder

Hospitals selling “de-identified” medical data “for science”. Made me think about the news some weeks ago about ransomware paralyzing the oil industry in the US. Will we see these kind of attacks directed at hospitals soon? How much money are those datasets worth? In case of attack, how much would they pay for getting them back? Could they just not negotiate with the data from patients?

Hospitals are selling treasure troves of medical data — what could go wrong?, on theverge

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

The weekly recap (2021#18)

Hectic week… sometimes unexpected tasks jeopardize you schedule. Coming back to normal now I hope.

Anyway, really interesting stuff has been happening for the past few days. Let’s delve into it:

Apple vs the world: episode #1

Recently Apple changed the way its users are noticed about how some apps track their information. This perturbation on the (advertisement) force has generated a lot of ripples, which might become bigger than a tsunami. There have been a lot of interesting articles on the topic, most of them defending a good vs bad sceneario (where Apple is almost a white knight fighting for our privacy and Facebook is a devil). While obviously there are companies that behave much worse than others, I kinda see the scenario as the evil vs the lesser evil. If you are interested, I found these sources particularly informative:

Apple And Tracking: A Story Of Good Guys And Bad Guys, on forbes
I checked Apple’s new privacy ‘nutrition labels.’ Many were false. on The Washington Post

Anyone in cherno?

One of the reasons we have not gone fully on the nuclear wagon was the Chernobyl accident. While some might think that everything was solved by now, there have been recent news that sparkled some concerns: nuclear reactions are starting to ramp up in activity again

‘It’s like the embers in a barbecue pit.’ Nuclear reactions are smoldering again at Chernobyl, on Science

Was Wolfram right?

I remember some coding lessons on the university that used Mathematica and their notebooks. I kinda hated those and always thought that it was a terrible way of coding, and only nice for sharing stuff. Nowadays Jupyter notebooks are used by millions of people, and I still see terrible code on notebooks that should have been just a .py file (also, it has to be said that I also see amazing dissemination notebooks).

Anyway, if you want to read the opinion of really clever people, you can take a look at this article:

Reactive, reproducible, collaborative: computational notebooks evolve, on Nature

Apple vs the world: episode #2

This week the trial on Apple vs Epic started, and oh boy it’s been fun. Two tech giants spreading shit all over the place. Let’s see how far greed can get.

I share some articles and a couple threads on twitter. While the articles are nice, the threads are kind of a live streaming of the trial, and I loved reading them. Also, every email that has been exposed during this week is pure gold, and a perfect insight on how companies operate… Interesting topic which will have a lot of repercussions in the way we interact with our devices…

WHY EPIC IS BURNING ITS OWN CASH TO COOK APPLE, on theverge
Even If Epic Loses Against Apple, Developers Could Still Win, on bloomberg
Apple antitrust trial kicks off with Tim Sweeney’s metaverse dreams, on theverge

Has AI gone too far?

Wild news on how some people are using AI-fuelled narrative games to make disturbing narratives involving sex and children. It really makes you think about the biases in training, the use we give to any tool, responsibility of companies on the use people do of their tech, and privacy. What a nice read:

It Began as an AI-Fueled Dungeon Game. It Got Much Darker, on wired

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!