Society, Social Media, Science & Technology March 2022-

Written by  //  February 2, 2023  //  Science & Technology  //  No comments

Social media, society and technology 2021-November 2022
Rest of World

Rest of World: 2022’s best stories on global tech (that we wish we’d written)
Articles from around the world which we loved, obsessed over, and still can’t stop thinking about

3 AI predictions for 2023 and beyond, according to an AI expert
The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has seen huge growth in recent years.
Companies seeking to harness AI must overcome key societal concerns.
Key predictions outline how to achieve value from responsible AI growth.
(WEF) As we look to the year ahead, we think the ramifications of heightened societal awareness of AI, increased regulatory pressure, the increased momentum of investments in the space, and how AI will continue to increase employee productivity may come to a head. Practical and applied AI concerns will become paramount to enable continued value from AI growth. (Jan 26, 2023)

Information Overload Helps Fake News Spread, and Social Media Knows It
Understanding how algorithm manipulators exploit our cognitive vulnerabilities empowers us to fight back
By Filippo Menczer, Thomas Hills
(Scientific American) Modern technologies are amplifying…biases in harmful ways, however. Search engines direct…to sites that inflame…suspicions, and social media connects…with like-minded people, feeding…fears. Making matters worse, bots—automated social media accounts that impersonate humans—enable misguided or malevolent actors to take advantage of…vulnerabilities.
Compounding the problem is the proliferation of online information. Viewing and producing blogs, videos, tweets and other units of information called memes have become so cheap and easy that the information marketplace is inundated. Unable to process all this material, we let our cognitive biases decide what we should pay attention to. These mental shortcuts influence which information we search for, comprehend, remember and repeat to a harmful extent. (1 December 2020)
Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid
It’s not just a phase.
(The Atlantic) In their early incarnations, platforms such as Myspace and Facebook were relatively harmless. …early social media can be seen as just another step in the long progression of technological improvements—from the Postal Service through the telephone to email and texting—that helped people achieve the eternal goal of maintaining their social ties.
But gradually, social-media users became more comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives with strangers and corporations. As I wrote in a 2019 Atlantic article with Tobias Rose-Stockwell, they became more adept at putting on performances and managing their personal brand—activities that might impress others but that do not deepen friendships in the way that a private phone conversation will. (April 2022)

2 February
Diane Francis: Drone Age 2023
2023 will mark the beginning of the logistical revolution involving drones. Air traffic control regulators in many countries are devising systems that will make it possible for drones to deliver groceries, prescriptions, and mail as well as to replace trucks, taxis, and cargo containers safely — without chaos and collisions. Already, drones are being used in selected areas to deliver payloads to retail customers that weigh a few pounds. The next step is to delineate aerial flightpaths above existing roads for drones of all sizes, including those capable of delivering tons of freight or passengers. As the skies are regulated, a real-time air traffic control system will usher in a future filled with air-borne traffic.
…once regulatory templates and drone highways are created, adoption will be rapid and dramatic. That was certainly the case with new logistical innovations such as Uber or e-scooters. Eventually, traditional airlines, freight, and railways will be transformed, and sky ports on roofs will dot our cities. Uber will launch a fleet of flying taxis — and plans to take cars off the road and keep costs low — by “batching” passengers. People will be picked up and ride-share in vehicles to a sky port for departure, then fly and ride-share from the sky port to their work destinations. The process will be reversed at the end of the workday.

28 January
Myriad streaming services are causing subscription overload
The floodgates have been opened to endless new sites you forget you’ve subscribed to
In a poll, nearly half of respondents say they can’t keep track of where or how they signed up for their subscriptions — or often what they pay. The rest probably don’t even know they still have subscriptions because it’s usually almost impossible to unsubscribe writes columnist Josh Freed.
…When you look up the company online, it’s the name of that “free trial” channel that has now cost you $24 for one episode you didn’t like. Which is exactly what many specialty channels count on, because nobody actually subscribes to them — they make all their money from forgotten free trials.
At least you’ve spotted it and can cancel ASAP. Except for another problem: Ordering any subscription online is child’s play, usually just pressing one button under giant letters saying “SUBSCRIBE FREE!!!”
But cancelling that subscription requires a college course in “Over-subscription Management.” There’s never a simple option to be seen on a channel’s or a newspaper’s main website.

ChatGPT
9 January-2 February
ChatGPT Is About to Dump More Work on Everyone
Artificial intelligence could spare you some effort. Even if it does, it will create a lot more work in the process.
By Ian Bogost
(The Atlantic) OpenAI, the company that made ChatGPT, has introduced a new tool that tries to determine the likelihood that a chunk of text you provide was AI-generated. … the new software faces the same limitations as ChatGPT itself: It might spread disinformation about the potential for disinformation. As OpenAI explains, the tool will likely yield a lot of false positives and negatives, sometimes with great confidence. In one example, given the first lines of the Book of Genesis, the software concluded that it was likely to be AI-generated. God, the first AI.
The company that created ChatGPT is releasing a tool to identify text generated by ChatGPT
Alas, its results are not fully reliable as of yet
(Quartz) In testing so far, 26% of AI-written texts were flagged as “likely AI-written,” while human-written text was incorrectly labeled as AI-written 9% of the time. The tool proved more effective on chunks of texts longer than 1,000 words, but even then the results were quite iffy.
OpenAI defended the tool’s flaws as part of the process, saying they released it at this stage of development “to get feedback on whether imperfect tools like this one are useful.”
30 January
Unlike with academics and reporters, you can’t check when ChatGPT’s telling the truth
By Blayne Haggart, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brock University
Being able to verify how information is produced is important, especially for academics and journalists.
(The Conversation) Of all the reactions elicited by ChatGPT, the chatbot from the American for-profit company OpenAI that produces grammatically correct responses to natural-language queries, few have matched those of educators and academics.
Academic publishers have moved to ban ChatGPT from being listed as a co-author and issue strict guidelines outlining the conditions under which it may be used. Leading universities and schools around the world, from France’s renowned Sciences Po to many Australian universities, have banned its use.
These bans are not merely the actions of academics who are worried they won’t be able to catch cheaters. This is not just about catching students who copied a source without attribution. Rather, the severity of these actions reflects a question, one that is not getting enough attention in the endless coverage of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot: Why should we trust anything that it outputs?
This is a vitally important question, as ChatGPT and programs like it can easily be used, with or without acknowledgement, in the information sources that comprise the foundation of our society, especially academia and the news media.
26 January
Science journals ban listing of ChatGPT as co-author on papers
Some publishers also banning use of bot in preparation of submissions but others see its adoption as inevitable
(The Guardian) The publishers of thousands of scientific journals have banned or restricted contributors’ use of an advanced AI-driven chatbot amid concerns that it could pepper academic literature with flawed and even fabricated research.
25 January
Bot or not? This Canadian developed an app that weeds out AI-generated homework
Edward Tian of Toronto created GPTZero while home from Princeton for Christmas break
ChatGPT came out in November, and was released by San Francisco-based OpenAl. Users can ask it questions and assign it to produce things such as essays, poetry or computer code. It then scrapes text from across the internet to formulate a response.
Tian’s program, GPTZero, is free and was designed to red flag AI-generated writing. It was released in early January.
24 January
ChatGPT: Chatbots can help us rediscover the rich history of dialogue
Geoffrey M Rockwell, Professor of Philosophy and Digital Humanities, University of Alberta
(The Conversation) How will we know if what we read was written by an AI and why is that important? Who are we responding to when we comment on an essay or article? By looking to the philosophical history of dialogue, we can reframe the question to ask how we might use these new chatbots in our learning.
ChatGPT passes exams for MBA courses and medical licences — and it’s only getting started
Worried that your job might one day be taken over by AI? That day could come sooner rather than later.
Two separate research papers have revealed that ChatGPT has what it takes to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam and could potentially earn an MBA from an Ivy League business school.
Each study mentioned the future potential of integrating AI and language models into their respective fields, and ChatGPT has already begun to shake up how we approach education.
No one can say for sure to what degree AI will impact the future of work. What’s certain is that humans alone no longer have the market cornered on intelligence and creativity.
23 January
What Microsoft gets from betting billions on the maker of ChatGPT
(Vox) The reported $10 billion investment in OpenAI will keep the hottest AI company on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
This is Microsoft’s third investment in the company, and cements Microsoft’s partnership with one of the most exciting companies making one the most exciting technologies today: generative AI. It also shows that Microsoft is committed to making the initiative a key part of its business, as it looks to the future of technology and its place in it. And you can likely expect to see OpenAI’s services in your everyday life as companies you use integrate it into their own offerings.
19 January
ChatGPT isn’t coming. It’s here
(CNN Business) The tool, which artificial intelligence research company OpenAI made available to the general public late last year, has sparked conversations about how “generative AI” services — which can turn prompts into original essays, stories, songs and images after training on massive online datasets — could radically transform how we live and work.
Some claim it will put artists, tutors, coders, and writers (yes, even journalists) out of a job. Others are more optimistic, postulating that it will allow employees to tackle to-do lists with greater efficiency or focus on higher-level tasks.
Critics — of which there are many — are quick to point out that it makes mistakes, is painfully neutral and displays a clear lack of human empathy. One tech news publication, for example, was forced to issue several significant corrections for an article written by ChatGPT. And New York City public schools have banned students and teachers from using it.
Yet the software, or similar programs from competitors, could soon take the business world by storm.
… [Jeff Maggioncalda, the CEO of online learning provider Coursera] acknowledges challenges such as preventing cheating and ensuring accuracy need to be addressed. And he’s worried that increasing use of generative AI may not be wholly good for society — people may become less agile thinkers, for example, since the act of writing can be helpful to process complex ideas and hone takeaways
9 January
ChatGPT: Educational friend or foe?
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Elias Blinkoff
Used in the right way, ChatGPT can be a friend to the classroom and an amazing tool for our students, not something to be feared.
(Brookings) The latest challenge to the creative human intellect was introduced on November 30th, 2022 by OpenAI.
ChatGPT is a conversational bot responsive to users’ questions in ways that allows it to search large databases and to create well-formed essays, legal briefs, poetry in the form of Shakespeare, computer code, or lyrics in the form of Rogers and Hammerstein, to name a few. As New York Times writer Kevin Roose commented, “ChatGPT is, quite simply, the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public.”
… Educators, opinion writers, and researchers are engaged in a vibrant discussion about the implications of ChatGPT right now. The emerging consensus is that teachers and professors might be tricked. …
Our students already know how to use this new tool. They are likely more sophisticated than their teachers at framing the questions and getting solid answers from the bot, even though it was just released. What they need to learn is why—at least for the moment—ChatGPT would get a lower grade than they could get. It is exciting to see how quickly educators are responding to this new reality in the classroom and recognizing the instructional value of ChatGPT for deeper, more engaged learning.

24 January
The Tech-Layoff ‘Contagion’
Tens of thousands of people have been laid off from large tech and media companies in the past 12 months. The reasons for this are not obvious.
By Isabel Fattal
(The Atlantic) Our staff writers Annie Lowrey and Derek Thompson, who both recently published articles on the tech layoffs, offer several explanations for the trend. The first and most obvious is the Federal Reserve’s effort to ease inflation by raising interest rates sharply over the past year. …
Reporting in November on the tech industry’s apparent collapse, Derek used an entertaining and useful metaphor: The industry is having a midlife crisis. And that means once the crisis is over, a new era will begin.

5 January
Control Your Tech Before It Controls You
Pascal Bornet, Forbes Councils Member
In today’s world, as business leaders, it is more and more challenging to stay focused and in control of your work. As technology advances, the risks are also evolving. For example, how often did you look for a piece of information (like the name of someone) on social media and finally end up scrolling from post to post for hours? You (and your teams) can’t afford this, as this distracts you from reaching your business goals. This article is about giving you the power of being “indistractable.”
Our Relationship With Technology
…our smartphones…are new to us: We don’t come from a culture with centuries of wisdom about using them responsibly (the iPhone was launched as recently as 2007). All we know is that they make it easier and more comfortable for us to socialize with others. But do we realize the risks?
The statistics show how much time we spend on our devices and how dependent we are on them. According to Nielsen Research, in 2018, the time Americans spent using computers and smartphones, watching TV and playing video games added up to over 11 hours per day, a number that has likely gone up since the pandemic.
…internet-era tech is…insidious because it’s evolving so rapidly and because it’s so tailored to its users. Tech companies harvest consumer data, including engagement metrics that show what attracts and keeps people’s interest and what doesn’t. Leveraging this, they keep people hooked and generate revenue from the ads they receive on their screens.
… People spend about five hours per day on their devices. Always-on technology can distract you and erode your ability to focus at work. You might pick up your device to look up something specific but end up losing hours to mindless scrolling or being distracted from your task by notifications and recommendations. This lost productivity can severely impact your career. In fact, smartphone use can interrupt your workflow and prevent you from achieving concentration.

2022

We Haven’t Seen the Worst of Fake News
Deepfakes still might be poised to corrupt the basic ways we process reality—or what’s left of it.
(The Atlantic) The field of artificial intelligence has advanced rapidly since the 2018 deepfake panic, and synthetic media is once again the center of attention. The technology buzzword of 2022 is generative AI: models that seem to display humanlike creativity, turning text prompts into astounding images or commanding English at the level of a mediocre undergraduate. These and other advances have experts concerned that a deepfake apocalypse is still very much on the horizon. Fake video and audio might once again be poised to corrupt the most basic ways in which people process reality—or what’s left of it.

21 December
Elon Musk, ‘Chief Twit’
By Kenneth Li
(Reuters) What Twitter lacks in size, revenue or ambition, it has made up for in influence and impact. It has always punched above its weight and remains the preferred social media megaphone for world and industry leaders, revolutionaries and the media. …
What started as a narrative about the battle for survival of an aging digital business has turned into a global referendum on free speech and content moderation as journalism advocacy groups and officials from France, Germany, Britain and the European Union condemned the suspensions.
Volker Turk, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, wrote last week: “Twitter has a responsibility to respect human rights: @elonmusk should commit to making decisions based on publicly-available policies that respect rights, including free speech. Nothing less.”
Time to Close Down the Elon Musk Circus
The press has been falling for the Twitter owner’s antics for too long.
Jack Shafer, Politico’s senior media writer.
In addition to being the world’s second richest person, Elon Musk is now the greatest press manipulator since Donald Trump inhabited the White House. Daily, often hourly, frequently minute-by-minute, Musk intercepts the news cycle and rides it like a clown on a barrel to the astonishment of all. Should he fall, he always gets back on and rides some more as the press corps records and transmits his every gyration.
Musk’s barrel-riding talents have been on conspicuous view since he bid for Twitter earlier this year, and especially so since he bought it last month. But he’s always been a champ at calling attention to himself, concocting promises and predictions about making his Tesla cars capable of self-driving, about an imminent manned landing on Mars by his SpaceX company, about the humanoid robots he’s allegedly building, and many other similarly unfulfilled pledges.

18 December
After backlash, Elon Musk is staking his leadership on a Twitter poll
After a new policy prompted backlash, Twitter CEO Elon Musk said future policies would be determined by polls
Elon Musk apologized and launched a poll asking whether he should step down as head of Twitter on Sunday night after the company launched a new policy that would suspend accounts linking to certain other platforms, a move that ignited massive backlash from individuals including some of Musk’s own supporters.

16 December
EU warns Elon Musk of sanctions after Twitter suspends accounts of several journalists and Mastodon
Reporters for The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Voice of America were among those whose accounts were taken down. The official account for Mastodon, a decentralised social network billed as an alternative to Twitter, was also banned.
Twitter’s suspension of journalists draws global backlash
(Al Jazeera) Twitter’s unprecedented suspension of at least five journalists over claims they revealed the real-time location of owner Elon Musk has drawn swift backlash from government officials, advocacy groups and journalism organisations across the globe.
Officials from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and the European Union condemned the suspensions, with some saying the platform was jeopardising press freedom..
The United Nations is “very disturbed” by the arbitrary suspension of journalists on Twitter, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday, adding that media voices should not be silenced on a platform professing to give space for free speech.

ChatGPT Has a Devastating Sense of Humor
(NYT) ChatGPT makes an irresistible first impression. It’s got a devastating sense of humor, a stunning capacity for dead-on mimicry, and it can rhyme like nobody’s business. Then there is its overwhelming reasonableness. When ChatGPT fails the Turing test, it’s usually because it refuses to offer its own opinion on just about anything. When was the last time real people on the internet declined to tell you what they really think?

13-14 December
Senate votes to ban TikTok use on government devices
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that would ban the use of TikTok on government phones and devices as part of the push to combat security concerns related to the Chinese-owned social media company.
The “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), was passed via unanimous consent late Wednesday, meaning that no member objected to the bill. The proposal would “prohibit certain individuals from downloading or using TikTok on any device issued by the United States or a government corporation.”
As GOPers ban TikTok, they’re not keeping that same energy with Twitter
There seems to be an obvious reason Republicans are banning TikTok from government devices but not Twitter, which carries many of the same security risks.
(MSNBC) Several Republican governors recently have taken steps to ban the use of TikTok on government devices, saying they’re doing so out of concern for national security.  They cited security concerns about undue influence by China’s government, which owns TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.
What isn’t clear, though, is how these security issues are materially different from issues on social platforms Republicans tend to love these days — like Twitter and Facebook.

20-24 November
Elon Musk plans to reinstate nearly all previously banned Twitter accounts — to the alarm of activists and online trust and safety experts.
After posting a Twitter poll asking, “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” in which 72.4 percent of the respondents voted yes, Musk declared, “Amnesty begins next week.”
Elon Musk is unilaterally reinstating banned Twitter accounts, despite assuring civil rights groups and advertisers that he wouldn’t
Musk has reinstated at least 11 previously banned right-wing accounts, including Donald Trump, Project Veritas, and Marjorie Taylor-Greene
I Studied Trump’s Twitter Use for Six Years. Prepare for the Worst.
By Brian L. Ott, professor of communication at Missouri State University and a co-author of “The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage.”
As someone who has been studying Mr. Trump’s Twitter use since before he was elected president, I believe that his return would mean the heightened spread of both misinformation and disinformation, the proliferation of degrading and dehumanizing discourse, the further mainstreaming of hate speech and the erosion of democratic norms and institutions. But there is something else: Mr. Trump’s return to Twitter could escalate the likelihood of political violence.

17 November
Why Everything in Tech Seems to Be Collapsing at Once
The industry is having a midlife crisis.
By Derek Thompson
(The Atlantic) We’ve mostly passed through the browser era, the social-media era, and the smartphone-app-economy era. But in the past few months, the explosion of artificial-intelligence programs suggests that something quite spectacular and possibly a little terrifying is on the horizon. Ten years from now, looking back on the 2022 tech recession, we may say that this moment was a paroxysm of scandals and layoffs between two discrete movements.

16 November
How to Prepare for Life After Twitter
Brian X. Chen, NYT lead consumer technology writer
Don’t delete your account just yet. Elon Musk’s takeover can teach us valuable lessons about our relationship with social networks.
Sheer chaos has surrounded Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter over the past few weeks. More than half of Twitter’s employees have been fired or have resigned. The verification system no longer means much. And some users have reported problems with security features. So if you have an account on the social network, what do you do?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. But this continuing spectacle presents an opportunity for us to learn how to have healthier relationships with social platforms so we are not dependent on any one of them.
…those who have already left Twitter quickly realized there was no real alternative. Apps like Mastodon, the open-source site that involves posting on a social feed similar to Twitter’s timeline, are tricky for most people to set up. Reddit is more siloed by topics. LinkedIn is work-focused, Pinterest is centered on hobbies, TikTok is video-centric and Meta’s Facebook — well, let’s just say it has its own problems.
… This tumultuous situation with Twitter, according to social media consultants and security experts I interviewed, can serve as a template with valuable lessons for everyone, including casual tweeters and celebrities, on how to safely navigate any social network.
The first lesson is to always have an exit strategy — a plan for what to do with your data and contacts — in case things go awry. Lesson 2 is to avoid over-investing time and energy on any one social media site; hedge your bets by posting on multiple platforms that serve your needs.

20 March
Nine Canadian Space Companies Create The Space Canada Association
Canada’s leading space innovators today announced the formation of Space Canada, a new national industry association that will offer a united voice for Canada’s space sector and take it to new heights. Brian Gallant, the former premier of New Brunswick, is the founding organization’s CEO.
“It is such an honor to lead Space Canada…” said Brian Gallant. “Investments in space create high-quality STEM jobs of the future and play a significant role in addressing economic, societal and planetary challenges like climate change. Space technology monitors our land ecosystems and coastlines, supports disaster relief and protects our oceans and forests. Moreover, space can close the digital divide, particularly in our Northern, remote and rural communities, and enhance our national security.”

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