Wiser! #113: Are deepfakes being used for propaganda? In this week's Premium Article, I take a look at new findings that suggest they are. Plus ten stories you need to know about and dozens of headlines...
w/Wiser! #113 - Friday 17th February 2023
Another week and another set of "Twitter is broke" stories...but the headlines are still dominated by ChatGPT and the generative AI revolution. In the west, it's becoming a Google v Microsoft story. In the East, China's tech companies are entering the fray, although somewhat differently.
Other stories include Alphabet's costly AI error; movie tech that knocks years off the octogenarian Harrison Ford; the tractor maker that wants to be a tech company; the Paris museum that's got a permanent NFT exhibition; Reddit's exemplar web3 use case and the latest on Starbuck's efforts to introduce NFTs to its Rewards loyalty program.
P.s. Remember: Insight and Information Gives You Leverage!
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📺 Are Deepfakes being used for state-aligned propaganda?
The use of deepfakes for the purpose of spreading state-aligned propaganda has recently been discovered. For the first time.
Graphika, a research organisation that studies disinformation, discovered two deepfake videos that seem to show anchors of an American news channel promoting the interests of the CCP and undercutting the United States. One video featured a reporter criticising mass shootings in America, and another showed an anchor praising the CCP’s foreign policy.
While the videos themselves didn’t garner many views before they were removed, Graphika says that the videos themselves are a bigger concern as they are indicative of how the use of politically motivated deepfakes could spread rampant misinformation in the future.
This case has raised important questions about the implications of deepfakes for propagandistic usage, and the need for government and industry collaboration to combat the issue.
1. Alphabet experiences second largest daily market cap loss ever after AI own goal
Shares of Alphabet came under massive selling pressure as the company failed to impress investors with Bard, its AI answer to ChatGPT and Microsoft. The market valuation of Alphabet fell by nearly $110 billion after Google launched an online commercial to promote the new AI chatbot, Bard that gave the wrong answer! 🤦♂️ In the ad, Bard is asked, “What new findings from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I discuss with my nine-year-old?” The answer Bard gave was factually incorrect, as any nine-year-old would tell you! For more...
Bing has played second fiddle to Google Search for years, is that about to change?
Microsoft's integration of ChatGPT into Bing, and Google's unveiling of its underwhelming AI chatbot Bard, has sparked competition in internet search after decades of domination by Google, which holds 88% of the US market share. Bing's AI-powered revamp is looking promising, and its success may depend on how much value people place on complex searches, such as planning an anniversary weekend. Source: Chartr
2. An AI-generated image on a magazine cover has raised questions of authenticity
Réponses Photo is a popular French photography magazine you’re unlikely to have heard of...until now. That’s because they’ve put an AI-generated image on the cover of its latest edition and it's caused a bit of a stir. For more...
Answer at the bottom of this email...👇
📽️ Watch this Wiser! video on YouTube. I made it last year about Deepfakes
3. AI is making stars like Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford look younger in movies
In the trailer for his upcoming film, "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny", Harrison Ford looks remarkably young for an 80-year old.
“That is my actual face at that age,” the actor explained on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
To learn more and see other examples...
4. Shopify introduces blockchain tools & NFTs to 450 million buyers
Shopify, the multi-billion dollar e-commerce giant popular with small to medium sized businesses, has launched a series of new blockchain tools. The reason is to give merchants a host of web3 tools, functions and features to easily build token gated apps using NFTs.
Here's The Thing: Shopify are giving merchants digital technology in the form of a non-fungible token to manage access to their websites. For example, if they provide subscription content that's behind a paywall. The features allow merchants to do more than just access, because the smart contract functionality of a NFT lends itself to holding exclusive discounts & benefits for customers. To find out more (with use-cases)...
5. PayPal pauses work on its own Stablecoin
Payments giant PayPal is pausing work on launching its own stablecoin amid a regulatory crackdown on crypto in the USA. The company, which lets customers buy, sell and hold tokens like bitcoin and ether, had been aiming to launch the stablecoin in the coming weeks but is putting the project on hold to better understand how digital assets will be regulated going forward.
Here's The Thing: this isn't a matter of whether but when. Stablecoins give financial organisations the ability to move money without the cost and friction in today's system. The issue is that the nascent technology is still unregulated, which is why PayPal are taking a pause. Continue reading...
6. Language app Duolingo uses AI to personalise the learning experience
Duolingo is a language learning platform that uses an AI system called "Birdbrain" to personalise lessons for its 50 million active learners. Birdbrain allows Duolingo to provide a gamified approach to language learning with a simple user interface and bright cartoon characters. This helps the platform achieve its mission of making the best education in the world universally available. With Birdbrain, Duolingo is able to scale the learning experience and provide 1 billion exercises per day. For more...
7. Reddit's NFT collectible avatars is a perfect web3 use-case
Reddit’s NFT “Collectible Avatars” project is a prime example of an effective Web3 ”on-ramp” (which is jargon to “getting more customers). Thanks to the Super Bowl this week, about 1.3 million of the official Super Bowl LVII NFT avatars have been minted since Monday, including more than half a million on Tuesday.
Here's The Thing: Because they’re free, these avatars are not generating huge trading volumes. 💰But it’s not about the money. The bigger draw of Reddit’s NFT program is that it’s bringing people into the space in an accessible manner. In total, users have now minted nearly 10 million of Reddit’s Collectible Avatar NFTs to date, according to public blockchain data available on Dune. Delve deeper...
8. Are British police vulnerable to spying from China?
Apparently, British police are leaving themselves open to spying by Beijing because of their reliance on Chinese-made cameras. This is the conclusion of a report from the UK government’s independent watchdog on surveillance. It seems that most police forces across England and Wales use camera equipment that is either made in China or contains important Chinese components. Fraser Sampson, the publicly appointed surveillance commissioner, warned that such equipment poses both security and ethical concerns.
- Security: because the China-made components could be used for spying
- Ethical: because the cameras have been implicated in helping the Chinese government monitor detainment camps for Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.
Last week, the former head of MI6 said the West needed to "wake up" to China surveillance in the wake of the US shooting down the "spy balloons" Read more...
9. Tractor maker John Deere's strategy is to generate at least 10% of its revenues from digital sources
Is John Deere a tractor manufacturer or a technology company? The firm, which has built self-driving tractors, crop-spraying drones, and weed-identifying sprayers, has announced they're “finalising a satellite partner." Farm equipment is becoming smarter. Nowadays, the latest agricultural machines are loaded with sensors and powered by artificial intelligence. This makes internet connectivity important to farmers, especially in remote and rural areas with no mobile connectivity.
Here's The Thing: John Deere wants to connect farmers as part of its strategy to digitise its revenue sources. Last year, Deere set a strategic goal to drive 10% of its revenue from software subscription fees by 2030. Providing Internet connectivity in farmers in remote fields is key to delivering this strategy. For more...
10. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com to launch ChatGPT-style product
JD.com is one of China’s largest e-commerce players...and it plans to launch a ChatGPT-style product, joining a flurry of Chinese giants to announce plans for rival technology to OpenAI and Google's Bard. Other China tech giants, such as Baidu, Alibaba, and NetEase have all announced plans for ChatGPT rivals in the last couple of weeks.
Here's The Thing: all of the announcements have fallen short of saying the generative AI product will be all-encompassing like ChatGPT. Instead, the Chinese alternatives to ChatGPT are all framed as application specific. The speculation is that this is because the CCP will be concerned about AI tools that can answer difficult questions about China's authoritarian approach to government (which may be well-founded but is also worthy of the "conspiracy theory" label.) Delve deeper...
☕️ Starbucks Use Case: Building customer loyalty with NFTs
Starbucks, as one of the first big brands to make a decisive move toward leveraging blockchain for loyalty, faces the problem of winning over both Web3 experts and a public whose interest in NFTs is still quite low. And the Odyssey beta, which is serving as a testing ground for the brand, highlights both the challenges and opportunities of being a first mover. Learn all about it in the latest Use Case for the Brand Strategy Collection...👇
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📣 In Other News
- Apple Watches are apparently making unnecessary emergency calls. According to the New York Times, dispatchers for 911 are being inundated with false, automated distress calls from Apple devices owned by skiers who are very much alive.
- In the current round of quarterly earnings calls, BigTech has reported $10 billion in charges from job culls and cost cutting.
- If you remember Y2K, then get ready for Y2K38. Because there's a problem brewing for all computer systems that measure in Unix time. And it's happening at 03:14:07 on the 19th January 2038 (just under 15 years from now!)
- A school in New York is now longer banning ChatGPT. Instead they've introduced a class to teach how to critique the AI chatbots.
- Apple Services now generate more revenue than Nike and McDonald’s combined, according Finbold. Apple Services recorded a revenue of $79.4 billion in 2022.
- Serve Robotics and Nuro have partnered with retailers like Kroger and 7-Eleven. These companies say they’re using robots to offer retailers cheaper and more sustainable delivery.
- US Copyright Office tells judge that AI artwork isn’t protectable. The Copyright Office is attempting to get a lawsuit brought against them by Stephen Thaler dismissed.
- Paris Hilton and blockchain gaming platform, The Sandbox, have created Parisland, a romantic adventure game set on a tropical paradise island.
- President Zelenskyy has called out the CEO of SpaceX after they said that the country has 'weaponised' the Starlink satellite internet.
- Uber reported a yearly revenue increase of 83% compared with 2021, to $31.8 billion. Meanwhile, rival Lyft had a week to forget as the company's shares have fallen ~40% since their earnings last week.
- A bunch of tech lawyers have filed a lawsuit challenging Stable Diffusion, the 21st-century generative AI “collage tool.” The lawyers, led by Matthew Butterick, claim that Stable Diffusion “violates the rights of artists… because AI needs to be fair & ethical for everyone.” Read all about it in this fantastically detailed blog called Stable Diffusion Frivolous.
- In a further signal of the growing acceptance of NFTs and blockchain technology, Paris’s leading contemporary art museum, the Centre Pompidou, will display 18 NFT artworks by French and international artists. Learn more...
One of the biggest trends in the current crypto climate are Bitcoin Ordinals. The so-called Bitcoin NFTs are now the most discussed topic as their appearance brought a wave of positive as well as negative reactions. What are they, how did they appear and what purpose do they serve?
What's going on in Elon's world?
- Neuralink is being probed for allegedly transporting contaminated devices removed from monkey brains. Elon Musk’s brain implant company faces new allegations that it failed to handle its devices safely after removing them from monkeys.
- Elon Musk created a special system for showing you all his tweets first. After his Super Bowl tweet did worse numbers than President Biden’s, Twitter’s CEO ordered major changes to the algorithm.
- Twitter went down because an employee accidentally deleted data, and there was nobody left on the team responsible due to Elon Musk's cuts.
- Twitter is relaxing its policies to allow cannabis ads. The company’s new policy allows significantly more than other major platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
- Twitter’s new API is still on its way. Last week Twitter announced that it wouldn’t shut down its free API until today, and that it’d be replaced by a new system with a limited free option and a $100 a month plan. Now, the company says that update won’t be coming until... sometime, and that eventually there will be more details. If you're thinking that Musk is literally making this up as he goes along, you're almost certainly on the money!
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🎙 Big Tech Little Tech #18: Google antitrust, ChatGPT, Avatar, and a new dodo
In the latest episode of the podcast that takes a not so serious look at the seriousness of tech, Shaun and I discuss "Why US Gov is suing Google". Plus: How ChatGPT's success was a surprise, un-extincting the Dodo, some movies, what about World Stats and some tech news.
🎙 ️Listen to the latest episode on Spotify.
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🌎 For all show notes, background links and everything to do with the show, go to the Big Tech Little Tech website.
Wiser! is a weekly newsletter that makes sense of what's happening and what's coming next in the tech economy. From disruptive technologies, like blockchain, crypto and artificial intelligence, to emerging trends, like Web3 and the Metaverse. Plus there's a big focus on BigTech and the impact of social media.
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