March 28th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

In the Hard Drive of Good and Evil.

During the pandemic, the internet was used to spread health and election misinformation. It was also used to enable our kids to keep up their connections to school and maintain vital social bonds. From AI to machine learning to social networks, this is how technology evolves. There are good parts (which we tend to build for) and bad parts (the potential for which we tend to miss or ignore). This truism holds all the way down to the level of the chips that power our computing. Reuters: Facial recognition is helping Putin curb dissent with the aid of U.S. tech. “Western technology has aided the crackdown. The facial recognition system in Moscow is powered by algorithms produced by one Belarusian company and three Russian firms. At least three of the companies have used chips from U.S. firms Nvidia Corp or Intel Corp in conjunction with their algorithms, Reuters found. There is no suggestion that Nvidia or Intel have breached sanctions.”

This is why it’s worth considering all the ways an exciting and promising technology like ChatGPT could be used for insidious purposes. Here are a few examples.

Propaganda: ChatGPT could be trained to generate propaganda messages that support the dictator’s ideology and suppress dissent. The dictator could use these messages to spread misinformation and manipulate public opinion to maintain their grip on power.

Surveillance: ChatGPT could be used to monitor citizens’ online activities and analyze their language patterns to identify dissenters or potential troublemakers. This information could then be used to suppress dissent or even arrest individuals who are perceived as a threat to the regime.

Social engineering: ChatGPT could be used to manipulate individuals’ emotions and behavior by generating personalized messages designed to influence their decisions. This could be used to coerce individuals into supporting the regime or to sow discord and division among opposition groups.

Cyberattacks: ChatGPT could be used to develop sophisticated phishing scams or other forms of social engineering attacks aimed at stealing sensitive information or gaining access to critical infrastructure systems.

Censorship: ChatGPT could be used to automatically detect and remove content that is critical of the regime or that promotes alternative viewpoints. This could be used to control the flow of information and limit the ability of citizens to express themselves freely.

At least when it comes to ChatGPT, we can’t pretend we didn’t know the potential risks at the outset. To get the list above, all I had to do was ask ChatGPT, “How could a dictator use ChatGPT for nefarious purposes?”


AR Fifteen Minutes of Fame

“The carnage is rarely visible to the public. Crime scene photos are considered too gruesome to publish and often kept confidential. News accounts rely on antiseptic descriptions from law enforcement officials and medical examiners who, in some cases, have said remains were so unrecognizable that they could be identified only through DNA samples.” Since the AR-15 was created to kill as many people as quickly as possible, we should all be well versed in exactly what one of these legal (and in some quarters, celebrated) assault weapons do a human body. WaPo (Gift Article): The Blast Effect
This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body apart

+ Andy Ogles represents the district in Nashville where the latest school shooting took place. This is a Christmas card he sent out. After the killing, he offered thoughts and prayers.


Cut Off Your Nose to Spite Your Place

“Rural hospitals are struggling all over the nation because of population declines, soaring labor costs and a long-term shift toward outpatient care. But those problems have been magnified by a political choice in Mississippi and nine other states, all with Republican-controlled legislatures.” NYT (Free Article): ‘We’re Going Away’: A State’s Choice to Forgo Medicaid Funds Is Killing Hospitals. This is all to make a point. And the point seems to be how stupid decision makers can be.


Jeanetic Engineering

“In a move that Levi’s describes as making the shopping experience more ‘personal’ and ‘inclusive,’ the hyper-realistic models will be of every body type, age, size, and skin tone. Levi’s is partnering with Amsterdam-based Lalaland for the project. Per its website, the Dutch studio has previously worked with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.” Levi’s Will Use AI Models Alongside Human Ones.


Extra, Extra

Ciudad Del Fuego: “Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that killed at least 40 people.” Here’s the latest on the Ciudad Juárez disaster from NPR.

+ Flinch, Not Clinch: The Atlantic: Netanyahu Flinched. “The question now is not only whether the protesters can keep their movement alive through the coming weeks, but also whether they will prove able to build a true pro-democracy movement, expanding its aims beyond this bill to address Israel’s other long-standing deficits. Whatever the next days bring, one thing is certain: The struggle for Israeli democracy is just beginning.” (America knows the feeling. Or at least it should…)

+ Luke Warm Idea: “‘Attention. Air raid alert,’ the voice says with a Jedi knight’s gravitas. ‘Proceed to the nearest shelter.’ It’s a surreal moment in an already surreal war: the grave but calming baritone of actor Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker of ‘Star Wars,’ urging people to take cover whenever Russia unleashes another aerial bombardment on Ukraine.” Mark Hamill lends ‘Star Wars’ voice to Ukrainian air-raid app. Even Yoda is like, “Make sense that doesn’t.”

+ Borders Not Bridges: “The Disney movie ‘Ruby Bridges,’ which tells the tale of a 6-year-old who integrated New Orleans schools in the 1960s, has been a staple of Pinellas County Black History Month lessons for years.” But not this year, because we’re going crazy. In other insane news, Wisconsin officials deem Miley Cyrus, Dolly Parton song too potentially controversial for class concert. “Administrators also initially banned the song ‘Rainbow Connection’ from The Muppets but later reversed that decision.” (Ban that shit. Why take the risk?)

+ Failed Bankman: “FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was charged with directing $40 million in bribes to one or more Chinese officials to unfreeze assets relating to his cryptocurrency business.”

+ Swim Cap: “The Maldives is 99% water and more than 80% of its 1,190 islands are just one metre above sea level. Yet many young Maldivians, particularly girls, do not know how to swim.”

+ It’s Got a Nice Mammouth Feel: “The project aims to demonstrate the potential of meat grown from cells, without the slaughter of animals, and to highlight the link between large-scale livestock production and the destruction of wildlife and the climate crisis.” Meatball from long-extinct mammoth created by food firm.


Bottom of the News

“Pablo Xavier, a 31-year-old construction worker from the Chicago area who declined to share his last name over fears that he could be attacked for creating the images, said he was tripping on shrooms last week when he came up with the idea for the image.” Everything you ever wanted to know about the dude who created that viral photo of the Pope wearing a puffer jacket.

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