tech-culture

Medium
What is AI? In fact this is a marketing term. It’s a way to make certain kinds of automation sound sophisticated, powerful, or magical and as such it’s a way to dodge accountability by making the machines sound like autonomous thinking entities rather than tools that are created and used by people and companies.
Emily Bender has a great clarifying way of thinking about AI. I found her breakdown of the kinds of systems that are being called AI today very helpful.
helmut-schmidt.de
By narrating their products and services as the apex of “human progress” and “scientific advancement,” these companies and their boosters are extending their reach and control into nearly all sectors of life, across nearly every region on earth. Providing the infrastructure for governments, corporations, media, and militaries. They are selling the derivatives of the toxic surveillance business model as the product of scientific innovation.
Interesting talk by Meredith Whittaker (President of the Signal Foundation) looking at big tech's surveillance business model and how we might imagine a different way.
The Atlantic
The fundamental flaw of Apple’s commercial is that it is a display of force that reminds us about this sleight of hand. We are not the powerful entity in this relationship. The creative potential we feel when we pick up one of their shiny devices is actually on loan. At the end of the day, it belongs to Apple, the destroyer.
Now that Apple is also an entertainment company they would prefer that everyone else stop creating things. What a bleak vision of the world these tech companies have. Matt makes this message explicit in his parody: Dream On.
tomshardware.com
Ben continues in his thread, "[The moderator crackdown is] just a reminder that anything you post on any of these platforms can and will be used for profit. It's just a matter of time until all your messages on Discord, Twitter etc. are scraped, fed into a model and sold back to you."
These user conflicts highlight the way site owners extract monetary value from the community in ways that aren’t shared back. Now some 3rd party will be making money from their time and energy. So disappointing to see companies being bad stewards of good impulses like the desire to pitch in and help share knowledge.
Mystery AI Hype Theater 3000
A clearer-eyed view of what has happened in the last two years is that a few companies have amassed enormous amounts of data (mostly taken non-consensually) and the capital to buy the computing resources to train enormous models which, in turn, can be used to output facsimiles of the kinds of interactions represented in the data.
I think a better understanding of how generative AI products are produced would help clear up some of this magical thinking that’s happening.
Gizmodo
Though it seemed completely automated, Just Walk Out relied on more than 1,000 people in India watching and labeling videos to ensure accurate checkouts.
Like nutrition labels on food, we should require companies to provide ‘human labor’ numbers for their products. Centralized social media and generative AI also require a surprising amount of human labor. We should be aware of the human cost so we can make informed choices about which technologies to use.
Gizmodo
Hippocratic promotes how it can undercut real human nurses, who can cost $90 an hour, with its cheap AI agents that offer medical advice to patients over video calls in real-time.
First, do no harm. Tech culture is going just great.
free-dissociation.com
Most really unacceptable losses don’t happen because of a single bad event or what we might call a component failure, but because two subsystems, both operating correctly according to their designers’ intent, interact in a way that their designers didn’t foresee.
I would like to make this quote into a cross stitch and hang it on the wall in every IT department everywhere. Lots of great thinking here about how we keep systems operating safely, especially with AI chaos engines being integrated everywhere.
Aeon
Despite recurring fantasies about the end of work or the automation of everything, the central fact of our industrial civilisation is labour, and most of this work falls far outside the realm of innovation.
This 2016 article about innovation, maintenance, and our attention feels especially relevant in our 2024 AI hype bubble. I would love to see maintenance become a core value of our society because that would improve our daily lives so much more than innovation does.
Axios
Trust in AI technology and the companies that develop it is dropping, in both the U.S. and around the world, according to new data from Edelman shared first with Axios.
Not much to this summary, but interesting to hear AI skepticism is on the rise even as it's being built into every technology product.
citationneeded.news
In recent years, the web has become increasingly monopolized by the small group of powerful companies that have come to be known as "Big Tech". He will hear no argument from me on that point, although the role his own company played in that particular shift is a large and completely unmentioned elephant in the room throughout a book in which he continually condemns these "power brokers" and "capricious gatekeepers" that "squelch competitors" and keep a "stranglehold ... on our lives".

We're all trying to find the guy who did this.
Speaking of newsletters that recently moved away from Substack, Molly White's Citation Needed is always great and this review of a recent "bestselling" crypto hype book is devastating and hilarious.
todayintabs.com
Obviously a guaranteed ten percent raise is wonderful, and I assumed that whatever subscriber losses I suffered in migrating would at least be offset by that. But in fact, as you can see, paid subscriptions are significantly higher since the move. There were about 175 new paid subscribers in my first two days on Beehiiv, which looks to me like a direct measure of the demand that was being suppressed by potential customers not wanting to pay for Substack.
I'm one of these 175 that didn't want to pay for Substack. Nice to see the transparency here and it's great to be able to support and read Tabs again. I hope others can follow Rusty's lead.
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