Wiser! #87: Meta's new chatbot is heading for a sorry ending if previous efforts to engage social media with AI is anything to go by. Plus, BeReal has returned authenticity to social media, Tornado Cash is banned, Sir Anthony Hopkins goes NFT and teenagers are always on the Internet (you don't say!)
w/Issue #87 - 19th August 2022
Welcome to the 87th edition of the Wiser! newsletter. You're in good company. Over 14k subscribers who want to be smarter than their competition will get Wiser! this week!
Insights: the tech economy stories that caught my eye this week were:
- Meta Facebook's new AI chatbot for the Metaverse 🤦.
- Sir Anthony Hopkins launches an NFT collection of digital art,
- A Web3 story about Tornado Cash (there's a point as to why I share this story with you),
- BeReal is the social media app with momentum. Can it keep it up?
- Disturbing findings from the Centre for Digital Hate after Florida passed the "don't say gay" Bill,
- And Pew Research give us insight into teen usage on the Internet.
Breaking News: As I was putting this issue to bed, news broke that Apple has warned of a serious security risk to iPhones, iPads and iMacs. The key word being "serious", because this is a "serious" blow to Apple's key point of differentiation with Windows and Android. More next week.
As always, in this issue of Wiser! you’ll find dozens of links and headlines and stories from across the tech economy. Plus the latest episode of the Big Tech Little Tech podcast.
“Since deleting Facebook, my life has been much better”
Yep! This is what MetaFB's new AI chatbot said to the Vice reporter Janus Rose.
- Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has unveiled its chatbot for the Metaverse. BlenderBot3 was announced with the tagline: "An AI Chatbot That Improves Through Conversation.
Deja Vue: However, to me, this looks like it's going to be another dangerous experiment with AI self-learning bots. Remember Tay?
¡Buenos Tay! Microsoft tried something like this back in 2016? They launched an AI self-learning chatbot called Tay. It promised to “learn” from its “conversations” with humans on Twitter.
- Within 24 hours, Tay had become sexist and homophobic. Tay repeated inflammatory remarks like “Hitler was right”, “feminism is cancer”, and “9/11 was an inside job”.
¡Adiós Tay! Microsoft pulled Tay within 24 hours and issued a public apology.
A Serious Joker: Now Mark Zuckerberg is giving it a go. But it’s not worked out so well as BlenderBot3 hasn't been so kind to its dad.
MetaFB's New AI Chatbot Makes Fun Of Daddy Zuck
BuzzFeed: When BuzzFeed's Max Woolf asked BlenderBot3 about Zuckerberg, it responded: “He is a good businessman, but his business practices are not always ethical. It is funny that he has all this money and still wears the same clothes!”
BBC: When the BBC interviewed the bot it said that Zuckerberg “did a terrible job at testifying before congress." It went on to say that his behaviour makes BlenderBot 3 “concerned about our country,” and that “his company exploits people for money and he doesn’t care. It needs to stop!”
- There are dozen's more examples like these across social media as folk push BlenderBot3 to make an arse of itself.
To see more of them and also read some of the more serious commentary on the dangers of letting an AI chatbot loose on social media, continue reading here...
BeReal: The Return To Authenticity In Social Media
Momentum: BeReal is now the number 1 downloaded free app on iOS and everyone's talking about it.
- The question is why?
What's so special about an app thats bucking the TikTok trend for viral content.
Connection: Maybe it's the promise of closer connections between friends. No addictive features. And an authenticity to social engagement we've not seen in a decade.
In the latest Insights, written for Premium Members, I take a look at BeReal and get to the bottom of what the fuss is all about. Read it here.
Sir Anthony Hopkins To Launch An Exclusive NFT Art Collection
“NFTs are a blank canvas to create art,” Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Cool Dude: The octogenarian actor has 1 million followers on Twitter. Here's how he announced it:
Here's The Thing: NFT Art plays to two very human emotions: the appeal of scarcity and the desire for status. Hopkin's NFT collection does both:
- The collection will have limited numbers for every piece (scarcity), and
- Owning a piece of artwork from the iconic actor will carry with it unique and exclusive benefits (status).
Tornado Cash Is Sanctioned For Doing What It’s Programmed To Do
Decentralised Autonomous Organisations, or DAOs, is one of them. They're businesses without people. This is a story about a DAO.
Hang In There: Here's a story that's worth taking two minutes to get your head around. Stay me as I need to use a bit of jargon, even if you're thinking WTF!
- It's about a crypto protocol running on the Ethereum network called Tornado Cash. Stay with me...just think of it as a computer programme.
Privacy: Tornado Cash is what’s known as a "mixer" protocol. It’s a privacy tool that takes transactions between two parties and hides who the sender and receiver are in that transaction. Basically, it anonymises both parties.
Banned: However, despite Tornado Cash being (just) a piece of software, the US Treasury banned it last week for violating sanctions against North Korea. The US Treasury Department has accused the computer code of being used to launder money.
Here's The Thing: The money laundering may be true. But the point is, it's just a piece of code. Tornado Cash doesn't launder money, the bad guys who use it do. Just like they do via big banks such as JP Morgan.
Fun Fact: Chainalysis estimated that something like $33 billion in illicit funds have moved over the crypto blockchains since 2016. However, this pales into insignificance in the global money laundering "market," which the UN estimates to be as much as $2 trillion a year crossing traditional banking networks.
Big Tech Little Tech
The podcast that makes sense of tech so that even my mum can understand.
🎙 Check out the Big Tech Little Tech Podcast here.
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🗞 Sign up for the Big Tech Little Tech Newsletter on Substack.
How Much Can Policy Makers Influence Digital Hate?
Misinformation: The Centre for Countering Digital Hate has just published a report that looked at the role of social media and how the platforms were used (and abused) when it came to spreading misinformation and outright lies about the LGBTQ+ community.
- The CCDH investigated and catalogued the increase in social media posts that used slurs like "groomers" or "paedophiles" after Florida passed the "Don't Say Gay or Trans" Bill.
Hateful: Researchers found a 406% rise in tweets labelling LGBTQ+ people as "groomers."
- The "grooming" slur was spread via tweets, which received at least 72 million views.
- Facebook profited from ads that promoted the "grooming" slur with over 2.1 million views.
Influencers: Amongst the worst offenders for spreading anti-LGBTQ+ hate were influential policy makers like Marjorie Taylor Greene, James Lindsay, Lauren Boebert, Christina Pushaw (the press secretary for Florida's governor) and Frank Drew Hernandez.
- These are people with political, influential and representative positions. IMHO, they should know better!
Been Here Before: Sadly, there's nothing new here in the findings of this 2022 study. Back in May, I wrote this article "Social media has not done enough to stop the hate. Now Texas wants to make it even harder!"
- That was Texas, this is Florida. Different state, same issue.
The Big Questions? What to make of all this? Should the platforms like Twitter and Facebook be doing more to stop it? Can they? How do they?
And what about arguments for "free speech" and expressing one's own opinion?
Divided Society: On the face of it, it seems like there's an easy solution, but it's not really. What are the answers when society is divided and all debates are reduced to 3-word slogans or 280 characters?
Download the report here. ⏬
- Hate on Social Media. A look at hate groups and their Twitter presence.
- The ungovernability of digital hate on social media.
- Hate Speech on Social Media: Global Comparisons
Headlines From The Tech Economy
- Twitter is launching a few new features to help combat election misinformation for the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. And it's reviving some older ones too.
- Google has had its wrist slapped in Australia with a $60m fine for ”misleading users into thinking the company was not collecting personal data about their location".
- Amazon has made a $1.7 billion offer for iRobot, the company that makes Roomba robot vacuums, mops and other household robots. (Read this for more on Amazon's strategy to own your home's technology: Ambient Computing: Amazon’s In The House)
- Amazon is testing a TikTok-like feature to show shoppers products in video format.
- Alibaba, ByteDance, Tencent and others shared details of their algorithms with China regulators for the first time.
- BlackRock CEO, the world’s largest asset manager, says “The hits on BlackRock’s website were 3,000 hits on Covid, 3,000 hits on monetary policy. And 600,000 hits on Bitcoin!”...
- ...And Apple CEO, Tim Cook is a Bitcoin hodler.
- Xiaomi have unveiled CyberOne, a prototype humanoid robot. Similiar to the Tesla Bot unveiled this time last year, the promise is for these humanoid robots to be able to complete mundane household chores, some day!
- Crypto fans are paying more for NFT cars than real ones. Research by Vanarama shows people are digging deep into their pockets to buy car-related NFTs.
- The Bank of England is worried about the risks of crypto and the developing Metaverse. (€)
- VR helped separate conjoined twins in a 33-hour surgery. Doctors built a virtual reality environment to practice the difficult procedure to separate the twins conjoined at the skull.
- 🦷 Micro-robots could replace your toothbrush**** by clearing biofilm from your teeth and wriggling between them.
- Playing Janet Jackson's 'Rhythm Nation' on some older laptops causes them to crash. Jackson's tune happens to have the same “natural resonant frequency” as an older generation 5400 RPM disk drive. Who'd have thought it?
- Had a rough week? Fancy a cuddle? Maybe you need to call Cuddlist.com. The Information wrote a piece about the growing demand for professional cuddlers in Silicon Valley. There’s nothing sexual about they way the cuddlers boost people’s mood via the oxytocin hits from physical touch.
GPT-3 has written its first movie. Artist Miao Ying used GPT-3 to generate a short story at first. This was then broken down into parts and fed back to GPT-3 to develop more from it, which later became the chapters in the film. The result is a 30-minute love story between a cockroach and an AI.
By The Numbers
- 52 Million: is the number of Daily Active Users on Roblox, up 21% YoY.
- 3 Million: Elon Musk has tweeted that Tesla passed the 3 million mark for number of vehicles made. Over a quarter of million Teslas were made in the latest quarter, still a far cry from Toyota's annual production of 10 million vehicles a year.
- $2 Million: That's how much Cristiano Ronaldo can earn from every sponsored post he puts out on his Instagram account. He's the most followed Instagrammer with 476 million followers!
- 67%: The share of US teens using TikTok. This comes from new findings out of Pew Research. They have released data showing how much teens use social media today versus the last time they did this study in 2014/15. Pew reported that:
➡️ 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, up from 73% in 2014/15
➡️ 97% of teens reported using the Internet daily with 46% saying they use the Internet almost constantly, that’s up from 24% 8 years ago
➡️ YouTube is the most used platform with 95% of teens on it,
➡️ TikTok is the next used app at 67%
➡️ Usage for Instagram and Snapchat is around 60%
➡️ Facebook has plummeted from 71% of teens using it in 2014 to 32% today
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