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!

Facecrap, Bezosism, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2021#37)

Really packed week, so let’s start right away.


Enhance!

Another year, another amazing contest of scientific photography. I particularly liked the third place, though all the images are really impressive.

2021 PHOTOMICROGRAPHY COMPETITION, on nikonsmallworld


Nintendo being Nintendo

Honestly, I thought that after 4 years they were not going to add bluetooth support for headphones, even though everyone knew that it was a trivial thing to do. Anyway, better late than never, I guess.

Nintendo finally adds Bluetooth audio to the Switch in new software update, on the verge

La Liga goes crypto

And jumps aboard the hype train of NFTs. Apparently, you will be able to burn waste energy buying digital stickers of Hazard soon.

La Liga Becomes First Top Soccer League to Offer NFTs of All Players, on coindesk

Kratos is back!

And the game really looks amazing. Can’t wait to get a ps5 (maybe in 2022? let’s cross fingers for production ramping up…).


The Facebook files

This week, the Wall Street Journal published a series of articles with a lot of insights of how Facebook operates, and why it has become a problem. Manipulating elections, spreading fake news, and shaming the bodies of minors are just a few examples of the stuff that happens behind the curtain in Zuckerberg company. Personally it’s been around 5 years I do not use Facebook (I left after several data breaches and privacy scandals), I’ve never been a fan of Instagram, and I left Whatsapp around one year ago (again, I did not want Facebook having any data on me).

Something I read on Techcrunch that really resonated was the argument that maybe Facebook (or big tech companies in general) is the tobacco company of our era. Will we see its negative effects for generations to come? It is clear that social networks have shaped the world we live in, and while they have brought cool stuff, I am not sure at all that these technologies are worth the negative effects we are experiencing every day. Is it really necessary that we see how other people drink a beer on Instagram? Are we really better informed about the world while browsing Twitter? What do you really learn while watching 30-second videos on TikTok?

The facebook files, on the wall street journal
Facebook knows Instagram harms teens. Now, its plan to open the app to kids looks worse than ever, on techcrunch

Bezosism my ass

It seems like there is no way of living through a week without reading negative stuff from these billionaires. A lot of good information on the piece from Wall Street Journal about how Bezos has stablished a new standard on managing your workers, achieving incredible performance (and of course, benefits). While I had read a lot of news talking about algorithms measuring the performance of workers and taking decisions on hiring/firing, I never realised about the fact that your performance is compared against the average of your peers. If you do better than average, you are fine. If your performance decreases (maybe you just had a child and are not sleeping well, maybe you have injuries because your job is shit and doing the same task for 9 hours straight should be illegal), you might lose your job in a couple of weeks. It was shocking to see that some workers really needed to dope themselves to save their jobs, which lead to everyone trying to improve their performance in an impossible loop for efficiency.

I could not stop thinking about professional cycling, where everyone seems to be so doped that many regular cyclists need to resort to illegal actions just to compete with the elite.

[…] The overall rate at which workers must complete a task in an Amazon warehouse, whether it’s putting items on shelves, taking them off, or putting them in boxes, is calculated based on the aggregate performance of everyone doing that task in a given facility, says an Amazon spokeswoman. This floating rate, Amazon argues, shows that none of its employees is being pushed beyond what’s reasonable, because that rate is something like an average of what everyone in a warehouse is already doing.[…]

[…] “If there are people who cut corners, if there are people who take tons of coffee and tons of energy drinks to go faster, that raises the cumulative rate,” says Mr. Hamilton. “Meaning, if you want to keep up with the average, then you have to cut corners and drink coffee and energy drinks at every break.”[…]

[…] A worker using the Kiva system in its early incarnations would typically triple their output, say from an average of 100 picks an hour to 300, says Mr. Mountz. But it wasn’t as if the Kiva-using companies then reduced all their warehouse employees’ hours to a third of what they once were while paying them the same wage. Instead, Staples and Walgreens, both early customers of Kiva, used their workers’ increased productivity to increase the output capacity of their warehouses; store and ship a wider range of products; shorten the amount of time required to fulfill an order, and ultimately either lower the cost of their services, increase their profits, or both. All reasons Amazon, a customer of Kiva, decided to acquire it[…]

Anyway, another mark in the legacy of Bezos, I guess.

The Way Amazon Uses Tech to Squeeze Performance Out of Workers Deserves Its Own Name: Bezosism, on the wall street journal

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

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!

The weekly recap (2021#19)

Busy week, but somehow I managed to find some cool stuff to share. Let’s start:


Apple vs Epic, the trial that keeps on giving

I am getting low on popcorn reserves. Lots of documents and insights on how both companies operate. I particularly enjoyed seeing how much money Epic paid for its exclusives (I am very happy for some developers there tbh). Here are some links & tweets, in case you are interested on the topic:

Epic wanted Sony’s PlayStation PC games to compete with Steam, documents show, on theverge
Epic Games trial reveals Apple negotiations with Netflix, Facebook and Microsoft, on cnbc
Epic’s Years-Long Plan to Paint Itself as Gaming’s Good Guy, on wired
Apple needs to show iOS allows competition… while justifying locking it down, on theverge

Nice view on how the advances in AI are shaping the world we are living on. What happens when state-of-the-art research is funded/developed by the army, which operates by its own logic? I see clouds ahead of us…

Stop the emerging AI cold war, on nature

Good doggo

This reminded me of that cool scene in Prometheus (what a terrible movie btw) where the geologist maps the entire caverns by using a couple small flying balls. We do not have flying mapping spheres (yet), but it seems that the Boston Dynamics robots are getting to work on the idea…

Researchers’ new best friend? Robot dog gets to work, on techxplore

The month in images

Another month, another set of incredibly cool science-related images, gathered by Nature. Honestly, it has been terribly difficult to pick just one image for the recap. Actually, I could not help but add another one as the header of the post…

Black holes, buckyballs and boxing hares — April’s best science images, on nature

Tesla & Bitcoin

Not long ago Elon Musk wrote on twitter that Tesla would start accepting Bitcoin as a payment. As usual, his tweets provoked movements on the stock market. This week, Tesla announced that they would not accept Bitcoin unless its infrastructure goes green. I don’t know what worries me more, the fact that Musk could not know how bad e-coins are for the environment, the fact that reducing the transportation environmental footprint is literally what Tesla sells as their leitmotiv (a greener world using their electric cars), or that he could have done it just to get a bit richer. Anyway, what I always like to say in these situations: welcome to the XXI century.

Renewable energy won’t make Elon Musk love bitcoin again, on theverge

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

The weekly recap (2021#15)

Crazy things happening in the world this week. The header image of this post (well, the one in the header is a copy) was sold for $1.36 million. This NFT stuff still goes over my head, but seems like is something that will stick around, whether it really makes sense to burn energy this way… anyway, all hail capitalism I guess. There have been quite a lot of news on the topic, if you are interested[1,2,3]


MindPong revisited

Really cool video from P. Nuyujukian, going into all the details of the latest advances shown by Neuralink last week. It really was like watching a movie director’s cut.


Look at that one!

Astonishing collection of science-related images, made by Nature each month


Brace yourselves, they are coming

I knew at some they would stop dancing…

The French army is testing Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot in combat scenarios, on theverge.com

The end of paywalls on papers?

It seems we crossed the point of no return in going open-access, but is is not clear at all which is going to be the final model. An interesting debate is ongoing, as many institutions are pushing for making every public research publicly available, but that often interferes with journal publishers. You can read a nice piece on the topic here:

A guide to Plan S: the open-access initiative shaking up science publishing, on nature.com

Technologies that shaped music

Really cool video by Rick Beato on 20 inventions that revolutionized music. While I would have added some (I cannot believe mp3 and microphones did not make into the list!), the video is a nice take on the history of music.


Get out of here, stalker!

The film that keeps on giving. OpenCulture posted this week a video I did not know about on the history behind the movie. Really interesting.

The Story of Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Troubled (and Even Deadly) Sci-Fi Masterpiece, on openculture.com

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