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Feb 25, 2023 13 min read

🤔 Wiser! #114: Section 230 | Crypto Relief | 3D Avatars | AI Nukes | TikTok | #FitTech

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Wiser! #114: Section 230 is the 26 word US law that gives social media platforms air cover for what anyone posts online. Is it fit for purpose anymore? Plus: stories on 3D scanning tech, crypto and digital currencies, generative AI and TikTok

w/Wiser! #114 - Friday 23rd February 2023


It's "carnaval" here in Spain, one of my favourite times of the year. For christians, carnaval signals the start of lent, forty days of abstinence in the run up to Easter. It's also a great excuse to let your hair down, party and finish up all the eggs in the pantry (hence "pancake day"). Why am I telling you this...because it's my excuse for being a day late in sending out this week's Wiser!

Anyhow, in this week's Wiser!, the premium feature is about Section 230 and the two cases before the US Supreme Court that could fundamentally change the way social media and large parts of the Internet work.

Plus there are dozens of stories that include crypto, digital currencies, 3D scanning, web3 and, of course AI. The latest episode of the podcast is out and there's more updates on the Brand Strategy Collection.

Please keep the feedback coming, welcome to all the new subscribers and remember to check out the ads and promotions that pay for Wiser! to be free for you to read.

ATB, Rick

P.s. Remember: Insight and Information Gives You Leverage!

This is excellent Rick Huckstep, I love your perspectives.” Dave McColl, Business Leader and Technologist

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w/Premium Content

What would a change to Section 230 mean for the Internet?

In this week’s Premium content, I look at what’s happening in the US Supreme Court and the implications for the Internet as we know it today. It’s fair to say that most people have never heard of “Section 230”. But as I write, the debate over the relevance and efficacy of this near 30 year old, 26-word law, is facing it’s biggest test and scrutiny.

In the US Supreme Court, there are two cases that hinge on Section 230, the law that provides a liability shield for internet service providers from being held liable for user-generated content.

Here's The Thing: If the Supreme Court rules in favour of the plaintiffs, it would mean platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter would become responsible for the content on their apps. The inevitable consequence would mean tighter controls and more restrictive policies on all user-generated content and comments posted on social media and across the internet. Some platforms may even shutdown, or become so restrictive that they loose their appeal.


1. Cryptocurrency donations provide fast relief for earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria

The death toll north from this devastating earthquake is close to 50,000. At times like this, what's needed most by those affected in a disaster is cash. Enter crypto - demonstrating its an ability to move money fast when people need it the most.

A year ago, it was the Russian invasion of Ukraine that saw $56 million donated to the Ukrainian government in the first month of the conflict.  Now, crypto is providing fast relief for victims in Turkey and Syria. Crypto research firm Chainalysis estimate roughly $5.9 million in cryptocurrency donations have been made in the first week, demonstrating crypto’s utility as a quick way to transfer funds across borders. Continue reading...


2. NBA unveil new app feature that inserts you as an avatar into a real life basketball game

"We’ve inserted you as an avatar in the game” is the way that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced it.

The latest feature of the NBA's mobile app takes a 3D digital scan using just your mobile phone, then overlays your digital image into a real life pro game.

Here’s The Thing: it’s a bit of fun and has great novelty appeal for about 15 minutes. The NBA will get a ton of exposure and free marketing (I’m sharing this video, right). But the big prize is in video games (which is a $100 billion market in the USA alone). Learn more about 3D scanning mobile apps...

Personalised made-to-measure jeans made with AI and a 3D scanning mobile app
According to clothes manufacturer, unspun, a third of the 6 billion pairs of jeans made each year are never worn. It's a supply and demand issue. To solve this problem of waste caused by manufacturers second guessing demand and making clothes in advance, fashion manufacturer unspun has developed a pair of sustainable made-to-order jeans that are created with AI and the same 3D scanning tech used by the NBA app.


The US Copyright Office has rules that they will NOT allow the registration of AI-generated images as copyrighted works of art. In the latest ruling, the Copyright Office said, "the images in the Work that were generated by the Midjourney technology are not the product of human authorship."

Here's The Thing: Using generative AI is not the same as photoshopping. Using a tools like Stable Diffusion, DALL-E or Midjourney to generate an image requires little or no skill from the "creator." The key to getting the best out of these tools is knowing how to write the prompts, and it's easy to get ChatGPT to write the prompt for you! It's no wonder that the Copyright Office is declining the copyright registrations coming across its desk. Find out more...


4. Meta is following Twitter with paid-for verified status

Meta is rolling out “Meta Verified,” a paid subscription feature that emulates Twitter’s Blue (tick) verified status. The new feature will be available for both Facebook and Instagram. In the official announcement, the Meta spokesperson said, "We’re testing Meta Verified, a new subscription bundle that includes account verification with impersonation protections and access to increased visibility and support."

Here's The Thing: IMHO, this is a mistake. It's fundamentally wrong to conflate a paid (premium) status with a verification identifier. It’s not going to be clear if the verification tick is earned for, justified or simply paid for, and it’ll only end in a repeat of the mess Twitter got themselves into last year. Dig deeper...


5. Do algorithms play a role in child sexual exploitation on TikTok?

The Wall Street Journal has published a scathing investigative piece called "Every Parent’s Nightmare’: TikTok Is a Venue for Child Sexual Exploitation." The investigative report details the issues with security and privacy for children using the app, as well as explaining how the algorithms serve up videos of young kids to adults to watch.

Here's The Thing: The WSJ story is that TikTok is a kind0f digital playground attracting dirty old men who like to watch kids dancing and playing. The difference with in-real-life is that it's not happening out in the open. The TikTok algorithms are feeding an endless stream of videos made by kids dancing and playing to anyone interested, making it a growing venue for child sexual exploitation. Learn more...


6. Retailers are increasingly turning to FitTech to transform the shopping experience

Savage X Fenty is a lingerie brand founded by singer Rihanna. The brand is the latest to roll out Fit Technology (#FitTech) that uses changing room tech to scan customers’ bodies and provide product recommendations in store. Rihanna's tech uses sensors (not cameras) to map shoppers’ bodies to create a 3D avatar of their body type. It then compares that avatar with a database of similar previously scanned bodies to recommend Savage X Fenty products ideal for the customer’s fit.

But Savage X Fenty is not alone. Walmart acquired the virtual FitTech startup Zeekit in 2021. Other retailers including J.C. Penney, Amazon and Men’s Warehouse have also begun experimenting with FitTech.

Here's The Thing: As retailers begin experimenting with Fit Technologies, consumer groups are concerned about privacy issues associated with these tools. What happens to the data after its been used is a genuine question to be answered. The second hand market for data is already huge and the potential for data leaks is even huger. Remember last October when it became clear that a Facebook feature collected the sensitive medical data on millions of patients without their consent. Whilst I'm all in favour of retailers using tech to enhance the shopping experience, the flip side is that they need to earn the trust of consumers who are trusting them with this info. Find out more...


7. The debate over Crypto regulations are taking shape in the USA

Crypto investors are bracing themselves for more crackdowns from regulators in the United States. In the past week, New York regulators shut down new issuance of the world’s third-largest stablecoin, BUSD. A few days earlier, the SEC fined the parent of the crypto exchange Kraken $30 million, and forced it to stop offering its staking product to US investors. There are numerous reports that US banking regulators are pushing banks to cut ties with crypto customers, limiting their ability to plug into the real-world financial system.

Here's The Thing: It looks to me that what's behind this is a titanic tussle between the crypto aficionados who see the power and potential of frictionless money, and those that see this as a threat to the status quo where banks and financial institutions profit by taking a cut from every dollar, euro and pound that passes from the left hand into the right. Where's it going to end? Learn more about what the SEC and Congress are doing...


8. Japan to launch a Central Bank Digital Currency pilot in April

The Bank of Japan has announced ambitious plans to launch a central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot in April 2023. The bank plans to leverage private businesses to design and construct a CBDC ecosystem that can connect and operate with the existing financial networks.

Here’s The Thing: If Japan does this, it'll be a big deal. Japan is the world's third largest economy, after the USA and China. Whilst the US is sitting on the fence and considering its options, China’s CBDC roll-out is already well underway. This undoubtedly gives China a huge advantage and head start in creating a digital foundation for their 21st century economy. Japan's entry into the world of digital currencies would make trading with China easier than with America. The impact of frictionless borders should not be under-estimated, as the UK is finding out to its costs in their post-Brexit relationship with the closest trading neighbours in the EU. Continue reading...


9. The US State Department outlines the use of AI in the military

Last week, the US State Department outlined its approach to using artificial intelligence in the military. The "Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy" represents an attempt by the US to guide the development of military AI. The declaration states that military AI needs to be (a) developed according to international laws, (b) that nations should be transparent about the principles underlying their technology, and (c) that high standards are implemented for verifying the performance of AI systems.

Here's The Thing: If you're worried that an AI could one day have its finger on the nuclear trigger, fear not, the Policy also states that humans alone should make decisions around the use of nuclear weapons. Convinced? I'm not so sure myself, because when push comes to shove, making split second decisions because of a perceived threat has to rely on an artificial intelligence system, doesn't it?  To find out more...


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🎙 Big Tech Little Tech #19

Spy tech, blue tick verification, NBA avatars, and f***ing Shrinking

In the latest episode of Big Tech Little Tech, Shaun and I discuss TikTok, spy balloons, CCTV surveillance, national paranoia, hypocrisy and overreactions. The point is that in the wake of the US shooting down a balloon the size of 3 buses and accusing China of spying, the question is "should we be worried?" Or are they all as bad as each other. And what role does tech play amongst the politics.

Big Tech Little Tech Podcast Episode #19
Shaun Weston and Rick Huckstep discuss TikTok, spy balloons, CCTV surveillance, paranoia and overreactions. The US want to ban TikTok because its a china surveillance machines- what’s that all about and should we be worried?
Find Big Tech Little Tech on all major Podcast platforms:

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music | Anchor | Pandora | Google Podcasts | Castbox | Deezer | Pocket Casts | Stitcher | RSS Feed | Subscribe to Newsletter

🌎 For all show notes, background links and everything to do with the show, go to the Big Tech Little Tech website.


In Other News

  • Microsoft is rolling out an AI powered text-to-image creator on Bing. (Un)imaginatively called Image Creator, it's an AI-powered image generating tool designed to create images from text. For me, I use the text-to-image creator tools on You.com (and Canva.), so won't be switching over the Bing just yet. Watch the official demo of Image Creator...
  • Elon Musk's space satellite company, Starlink, plans to launch 40,000 satellites into space. Astronomers are warning that this will damage our view of the night sky. Here's a map of the current Starlink satellites so that you can for yourself.
  • On the subject of space, NASA is sending a mission to investigate an asteroid called 16 Pysche. It is believed the asteroid contains minerals to a value 70,000 times bigger than the entire global economy! The mission should land on 16 Pysche in 2029. For more, read this.
  • MIT researchers have developed an AI model that can detect the future lung cancer risk in patients. Using a deep-learning model, the AI takes a personalised approach to assessing each patient’s risk of lung cancer based on their CT scans.
  • OpenAI has released a free web-based tool designed to help educators, schools and colleges determine if a sample of text was written by a human or an AI system. The tool works best on English text samples greater than 1,000 words and is intended to help identify if the student has done the work themselves, or handed it all off to ChatGPT.
  • The French government has come under fire over its fast-track plans to introduce AI video surveillance at next year’s Paris Olympics. Ministers say exceptional security is needed but privacy and human rights groups have warned that the new law, which lasts into 2025, could extend police powers permanently.
  • Google is investing in web3: YouTube is launching a suite of new creator tools to expand monetisation, including allowing creators to sell content as NFTs so fans can "own" videos. Additionally, Google Cloud's corporate customers will be able to deploy Tezos nodes in order to build Web3 applications on the network.
  • Crypto scam revenue dropped 46% in 2022. Scams remain one of the largest forms of cryptocurrency-based crime, but their revenue dropped significantly last year according to new research from Chainalysis. Get their 2023 Crypto Crime Report here for free. Including a case study on how law enforcement is fighting back against the pig butchering scams that have cost Americans millions.
  • Spotify is rolling out an new DJ feature that’s powered by AI. Also expect to see a revamped home screen shortly that follows the trend to copy TikTok’s “For You Page”.
  • Want to know what younger people think about emerging technologies defined as “the Metaverse”?
  • Artifact is the latest Personalised News App and is now open to the public. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the co-founders of Instagram, launched Artifact in January. Running on an AI-powered algorithm, it provides every user with a personalized news feed. The co-founders also announced that various social elements would be added to it in the future. Dig deeper...
  • EBay is buying an AI fraud detection company called 3PM Shield for their technology. It will allow eBay to better spot suspicious or harmful sellers on its platform as well as fraudulent, illegal or otherwise unsafe items.
Here's a cool visualisation from Our World In Data. It shows the history of technology, beginning with the first use of stone tools 3 1/2 million years ago. It shows how technology has changed rapidly in the last 12,000 years, with inventions such as agriculture, writing, and the wheel.


Wiser! Newsletter

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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