Week 44

November 2022


A quick overview of this week’s content
  • The Week that Was: the tranquillity of abandoned worlds, AI practicalities, and bringing down the big tech wall 
  • G’day Climate: Better batteries, human washing machines, and green graphics
  • Rules of Engagement: the appeal of ghost writing, scrutinising data poisoning, and a look at the consequences of enragement


It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most people, investors in particular, seem to have run out of patience with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the future. I actually got to try out Facebook/Meta’s Virtual Reality (VR) headset, the quest Quest Pro headset myself last week. And I have a different take. Using the Quest Pro made me think of liminal space. Liminal spaces are themselves quite ‘meta’ because they exist beyond known time and space. This existence beyond the limitations and consequences of our material world is partially why VR is considered so promising in the medical field. It empowers doctors to safely prepare for and practice procedures. I watched the linked video with this possibility in the back of my mind, of emptiness as a feature instead of as a flaw. LINK


I covered the complicated discussions about AI ethics that are happening right now in previous newsletters but there’s also some very interesting practical matters to discuss. First of all, scientists are increasingly failing to understand the algorithms they’re making. This naturally leads to issues with reproducing results generated by algorithms, making it much more difficult to check if everything is working as intended. Responsible AI can’t really be accomplished if the algorithms powering the AI can’t be properly inspected. There’s a burnout problem among the human experts responsible for these inspections. They are expected to check up on AI to ensure it is responsible, yet no one seems to be checking up on the experts to see if they themselves are ok. This has to change so that we can make responsible AI not just practical, but also sustainable, in more ways than one. LINK


On November 1st 2022, a new law came into effect in the EU known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Companies will be expected to comply in 2023. This law forms a matching set of sorts with a previously announced law concerning algorithms, the Digital Services Act (DSA). Put simply, these laws are intended to break down the walled gardens beloved by big tech. Interoperability is the goal, which is the ability of software and hardware made by one company to work reliably and smoothly with those of another. Lately, there’s been particularly vocal protests by rivals against Apple’s power moves. I covered these in previous newsletter issues, and now Spotify has made an entire protest site about it. It remains to be seen how these new laws will change things, but experts are expecting quite the impact. LINK


Circular manufacturing is a process whereby old products can be reliably turned into new ones. This is particularly vital to get right in the electric vehicle (EV) industry. EV batteries are mostly Lithium-ion batteries right now. The mining of Lithium has a heavy carbon footprint and 91% of the industry is in the hands of just three countries. They are also the single most-expensive component in an EV. From July 2024 the carbon footprint of EV batteries used in the European Union will need to be declared. And by 2030 those batteries will have to contain minimum levels of recycled materials as well. It will take time for these efforts to bear fruit, but the increasing number of companies taking sustainability efforts seriously can only help matters along. LINK


Here’s one for all the parents reading this newsletter. Have you ever wondered or worried about your kids being in the washing machine when you turn it on? What if they were supposed to be? Scientists are working on an AI powered washing machine for humans that can pick suitable videos and music based on your heartbeat. This way, you’ll always have LoFi (a genre of relaxational music) beats to get rinsed to. This high-tech bubble bath will likely use a lot of water, but that might not necessarily be a problem if wastewater heating technology continues to advance at a steady pace. Honestly, I kind of wonder, if I could write a newsletter inside one of these, AI powered human washing machines. LINK


Gaming hardware, both the developmental and playing kind, can use a lot of power. Sometimes the mightiest hardware can’t even handle its own blazing fast performance. As environmentalist sentiment picks up steam in the gaming industry, an increasing number of professionals are eager to avoid the cruel irony of having the devices that power our virtual worlds kill our real one. Game engines are increasingly prevalent outside of gaming spaces, so positive action taken here could have significant beneficial knock-on effects beyond the gaming industry. LINK


Data poisoning is the act of purposefully and consistently lying to companies, for example about your interests. The desire to poison one’s data is widely considered to arise from feelings of helplessness and frustration, and it tends to lead to unexpected outcomes because of how unpredictable algorithms are. Privacy is often mistakenly seen as the catch-all solution, but there is sadly no such thing. When speaking of ‘too much privacy,’ people tend to refer to the risk that poorly thought-out regulation can give big companies more walls of tape to hide behind instead of protecting people. LINK


Ghostwriting gets its name from the fact that historically, the ghostwriter wasn’t meant to be seen or paid attention to. They were meant to be invisible, a ‘ghost.’ Though frowned upon by some, others consider ghostwriting an art form. With the rise of influencer culture on LinkedIn, so called ‘LinkedInfluencers’ are increasingly relying on ghostwriters for their content. It draws attention to a fact often forgotten about when it comes to content creation, namely that many of the most successful personalities media aren’t strictly speaking, individuals. The biggest, most successful content creators are brands supported by capable teams and robust production pipelines. LINK


Academics are finding increasing overlap between young boys and men radicalised by recommendation algorithms and the views of those on the far-right end of the political spectrum. The academics do note that extreme views don’t always translate to the will to commit terrorist acts. This distinction is important because it determines whether or not the young men’s minds can still be changed for the better by authority figures such as law enforcement. Google’s services such as YouTube are singled out as a particularly large part of the problem by some academics and research journalists. For example, a recent large-scale report by ProPublica claims that Google has a strong financial incentive to not address these alleged issues. LINK

Haunted House LINK 
Salem’s Legacy LINK 
Logo Logic LINK 
Science of Colour LINK 
Bellingcat Ballistics LINK
Moore’s Heroes LINK
Purifier Plants LINK
Haunted Gadgets LINK 
Strong Starts LINK  
Twitter’s Onboarding LINK
Mario Kart IRL LINK 
MRI Mind Reading LINK
Phantom Notes LINK


Since a lot of spooky stuff came out over the long Halloween weekend, I’ve decided to add a few of them into this newsletter. I think this makes for a nice pair with last week’s newsletter. I’ve really gotten into liminal spaces of late. Liminal space is discussed in the first item, and its potential for horror is covered in the video serving as the main link of that item. It’s a bit of a long one at around 49 minutes, but I do recommend it for when you have the time. What I really like about liminal space is the razor thin margin between tranquillity and terror that you can only really find in such environments. Many of you probably won’t know this, but the Quest Pro headset has face tracking, which means that it tracks your expressions. The Quest Pro I got to use wasn’t mine, it belonged to one of my bosses. When I loaded up horizon worlds, it was his avatar that I ended up using. I was in an office…somewhere…perhaps nowhere. I was completely and utterly alone. There was a mirror in this large office that I decided to go look into. I wanted to see how well the face tracking worked. But you see, staring back at me was the face of my boss. Imagine yourself for a moment, in a dead, abandoned world, someone else’s face making your expressions back at you as you stare into its/your/their eyes. 
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