This Totally Sucks

Inhale the Internet, Stare at the Sun

The internet has long operated according to an unwritten bargain. People make their content available to search engines and in exchange, search engines drive users back to the sites where that content resides. That agreement has been upended by AI programs like ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini. There’s a new bargain: Giant banks of computers inhale your content and use it to train their own systems to answer anything on their own sites. They suck up everything and you get played for a sucker. Soon, everything ever shared on the web will been sucked dry. But that’s not enough for the arms race taking place among deep-pocketed mega-companies looking to absorb the necessary amount of data to be crowned AI’s ultimate know it all. To really scale, these tools need to move beyond the internet. “The race to lead A.I. has become a desperate hunt for the digital data needed to advance the technology. To obtain that data, tech companies including OpenAI, Google and Meta have cut corners, ignored corporate policies and debated bending the law, according to an examination by The New York Times. At Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, managers, lawyers and engineers last year discussed buying the publishing house Simon & Schuster to procure long works, according to recordings of internal meetings obtained by The Times. They also conferred on gathering copyrighted data from across the internet, even if that meant facing lawsuits. Negotiating licenses with publishers, artists, musicians and the news industry would take too long, they said.” NYT (Gift Article): How Tech Giants Cut Corners to Harvest Data for A.I. As these companies break every rule of data collection, they’re simultaneously trying to convince you that they can self-regulate. There’s a sucker born every minute.


Darkness Visible

“Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun. Oh, but Mama, that’s where the fun is.” — Blinded by the Light, Bruce Springsteen.

Full disclosure: I don’t have the space gene. I don’t want to visit Mars (though I can think of others who I’d love to see try). I don’t care about rocket launches. I never gaze towards the heavens. The last time there was an eclipse, I glanced up and my eyes hurt for weeks. And I live in Sausalito, where the sun being blocked out is not exactly a rare occurrence. So I don’t share the widespread enthusiasm about today’s eclipse. That said, watching it on the internet seems like a safe, low effort way to go. Here’s some video from NASA, and USA Today. And here’s the latest from AP, the Guardian, and BBC.


Yes, In Your Backyard

While we’re all looking up at the sky, our insurance companies are looking down on our houses, in part to decide when to cut of coverage. WSJ (Gift Article): Insurers Are Spying on Your Home From the Sky. “Nearly every building in the country is being photographed, often without the owner’s knowledge. Companies are deploying drones, manned airplanes and high-altitude balloons to take images of properties. No place is shielded: The industry-funded Geospatial Insurance Consortium has an airplane imagery program it says covers 99% of the U.S. population. The array of photos is being sorted by computer models to spy out underwriting no-nos, such as damaged roof shingles, yard debris, overhanging tree branches and undeclared swimming pools or trampolines. The red-flagged images are providing insurers with ammunition for nonrenewal notices nationwide.”


Second Thoughts

They say no one remembers who came in second. Well, in addition to breaking nearly every women’s college basketball scoring record, Caitlyn Clark also broke that adage. Clark came in second twice in a row while leading her sport to new heights. But in the end, Dawn Staley’s undefeated South Carolina proved to be too much for Iowa. South Carolina caps perfect season with NCAA championship. Consider this: Last year, South Carolina was undefeated before losing in the Final Four. After that season, five of their players were drafted into the WNBA. Even with that loss of talent, they went on to a perfect season.


Extra, Extra

Pick a Roe Column: After bragging about ending Roe, Trump read the political winds made a new statement on abortion in which he said such matters should be left to the states. The video statement pissed off the religious right and was viewed by the left as being laughably untrue. The rest of us are playing checkers while he’s playing punch your campaign in the balls. (Meanwhile, a serial sexual assaulter who bragged about getting abortion banned declares that rape should be an exception, and the media covered it as a normal policy announcement.)

+ Krem Fresh: “In an ongoing campaign that seeks to influence congressional and other political debates to stoke anti-Ukraine sentiment, Kremlin-linked political strategists and trolls have written thousands of fabricated news articles, social media posts and comments that promote American isolationism, stir fear over the United States’ border security and attempt to amplify U.S. economic and racial tensions.” WaPo (Gift Article): Russian trolls target U.S. support for Ukraine, Kremlin documents show.

+ School of Hard Knocks: “Inside this maximum security prison, a groundbreaking program offers inmates the chance to earn a degree from one of the country’s top schools. Some will never leave these walls. Here’s why it still matters.” Welcome to Northwestern University at Stateville.

+ I Spy a Spy: “Yossi Sariel unmasked as head of Unit 8200 and architect of AI strategy after book written under pen name reveals his Google account.” Top Israeli spy chief exposes his true identity in online security lapse. If you missed it last week, here’s a look at one of Sariel’s most significant military tools: An AI program called Lavender.

+ Hampton Comes Alive: “The workers, who are for the most part undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico, are kept sufficiently busy during the stretch from April to September, when consistent landscaping work is available and they can make $100 to $150 a day — enough for a room in a house or apartment, or at least a designated sofa somewhere. But the colder months — when there is no imperative to trim the hedgerows — demand alternatives. Some workers find them in the rhythms of the harvest, moving to the North Fork in October to pick grapes at local vineyards and then traveling to Florida to pick oranges during the winter. Others remain, and when they cannot afford a room, they live in the woods.” A stark look at the economic divide from the NYT (Gift Article): The Perilous Existence of a Hamptons Day Laborer.

+ Watching What You Eat: “In Canada, University of Waterloo students discovered that multiple on-campus vending machines were using facial recognition to track the age and gender of customers, without their knowing.” How fast food is becoming a new surveillance ground. (In the future, it’s going to be impossible to sneak in-between meal snacks.)

+ I Bless the Runs Down in Africa: “After more than 9,940 miles over 352 days across 16 countries, Russ Cook, aka the ‘Hardest Geezer,’ has completed the mammoth challenge of running the length of Africa.” Upon completion, Cook remarked, “I’m a little bit tired.”


Bottom of the News

“The show constitutes a behavioral gestalt. It stress-tests our understanding of how to treat one another and what not to ask, how not to act. Until a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought to put it quite this way, but: Larry David is Emily Post. He’s Amy Vanderbilt. The show is ‘Larry David’s Complete Book of Etiquette,’ his (ungraciously) gracious guide to living.” As Curb Your Enthusiasm completes its lengthy run, Wesley Morris reflects on the show in the NYT (Gift Article): Larry David’s Rule Book for How (Not) to Live in Society.

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