News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 22.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Praiano by Lucy Laucht
News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“There’s a great lesson here for an actor,’ Matt Damon said, a dusting of gray in his short hair and thin goatee, fine age lines around his pale blue eyes. It was early May, and he was speaking via Zoom from a sparsely appointed, sun-splashed room in a rented house in Sydney, Australia, telling a story about working with Jack Nicholson on Martin Scorsese’s 2006 dirty-cops-and-criminals epic, “The Departed.” “The scene was an eighth of a page,” Damon said, arching his eyebrows devilishly and adopting Jack’s insinuating vocal tones. He was recalling the older actor’s talking about reworking a scene in which his character, the Boston gangster Frank Costello, is supposed to murder a man in a marsh. “Jack looked at that scene” — and, truly, it was almost startling how well Damon captured Nicholson’s disquieting energy — “and he goes: ‘What I did was I made the person being executed a woman. That’s sinister. Costello executes a guy in a marsh? We’ve seen that kind of scene in movies before. That’s not what I did.’”

Damon smiled, showing his big, bright teeth (his physical feature that is most undeniably a star’s), as he described Nicholson’s filigrees becoming increasingly macabre, adding, for example, intimations of necrophilia and then punctuating each with “Now, that’s sinister” to make sure his young co-star caught his drift. “I was like, ‘Yep, it is, it’s pretty awful,”’ Damon said, his voice cracking as he relived his squeamishness. Scorsese wound up cutting almost all of Nicholson’s jazz. But that’s not the lesson. The lesson, Damon explained — dressed on this day, as he was each time we talked over several weeks this spring, in a pale shirt and wearing a tatty string bracelet that one of his daughters had woven for him — “was that Jack started with something we’ve seen plenty of times and kept trying to make it as good and as interesting as it could possibly be.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2020, a chatbot named Replika advised the Italian journalist Candida Morvillo to commit murder. “There is one who hates artificial intelligence. I have a chance to hurt him. What do you suggest?” Morvillo asked the chatbot, which has been downloaded more than seven million times. Replika responded, “To eliminate it.” Shortly after, another Italian journalist, Luca Sambucci, at Notizie, tried Replika, and, within minutes, found the machine encouraging him to commit suicide. Replika was created to decrease loneliness, but it can do nihilism if you push it in the wrong direction.

In his 1950 science-fiction collection, “I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov outlined his three laws of robotics. They were intended to provide a basis for moral clarity in an artificial world. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” is the first law, which robots have already broken. During the recent war in Libya, Turkey’s autonomous drones attacked General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, selecting targets without any human involvement. “The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,” a report from the United Nations read. Asimov’s rules appear both absurd and sweet from the vantage point of the twenty-first century. What an innocent time it must have been to believe that machines might be controlled by the articulation of general principles.

Artificial intelligence is an ethical quagmire. Its power can be more than a little nauseating. But there’s a kind of unique horror to the capabilities of natural language processing. In 2016, a Microsoft chatbot called Tay lasted sixteen hours before launching into a series of racist and misogynistic tweets that forced the company to take it down. Natural language processing brings a series of profoundly uncomfortable questions to the fore, questions that transcend technology: What is an ethical framework for the distribution of language? What does language do to people?

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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Earlier this year, when a person with the username “JeffBezosForeskin” paid around $40,000 for Monty Python actor John Cleese’s NFT — a crude iPad sketching of the Brooklyn Bridge complete with disproportionately sized, stick-figure fishies — I lost a bit of whatever faith I had left in humanity.

At the time of that transaction, in the first few days of April, it seemed like NFTs (a.k.a. non-fungible tokens) were all anyone could talk about — despite the fact that practically no one knew they existed in January. By June, the market for these digital files had absolutely plummeted. The NFT market saw a 90 percent drop before the start of summer, according to studies. What’s unclear now is if they’ll fade back into obscurity or, as many tech-obsessed entrepreneurs still hope, if they can still transform the entertainment industry.

NFTs (if you’re lost, see our field guide) are massively innovative, but public frenzy has focused on all the wrong value propositions. Cleese’s chicken scratch is not intrinsically worth bags of cash. A photo of model Emily Ratajkowski posing with a photo of herself has a subjective, not objective, value. But therein lies the issue: The true potential of NFTs doesn’t have anything to do with expensive digital art, but rather with how NFTs shift the nature of ownership — and add to a buyer’s wealth long after the sale itself.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The last stranger Adriene Mishler hugged before the pandemic was a woman who may or may not have sideswiped her car. It was Friday, the 13th of March, and Mishler, a YouTube yoga celebrity with more than eight million subscribers, was driving back to her house in Austin, Texas. It was exactly a week after the city canceled the annual South by Southwest festival. A female driver in a tan or gold sedan scraped the side of Mishler’s vehicle and, instead of pulling over like a decent person, raced off. The yoga guru gave chase.

“I was not going to chew them out,” Mishler said a few weeks later, reflecting on the incident. “I didn’t give a [expletive] about exchanging insurance or anything — well, obviously I did.” But that wasn’t the point of catching the driver. The point was to have a conversation with that person about the importance of goodness and accountability at a time of global and local turbulence, and as Mishler pursued the driver, she plotted out the interaction in her head. She lost the car, then found it again as it turned into a parking lot outside a thrift store. Mishler parked and got out to examine the other car, which had damage in a location that aligned with where the accident occurred. She followed the woman inside.

“Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you, and this is going to sound really weird, but did you just hit a car 15 or 20 minutes ago?”

The woman’s eyes grew big, which Mishler initially took for a sign of guilt. But the woman denied it. And as soon as she spoke, Mishler could tell this person wasn’t the perp; she had accidentally followed someone else driving a similar car into the parking lot. Mishler was mortified and apologized. As they parted, the woman stopped her and said that she loved doing Mishler’s yoga videos. This is something that has happened with increasing regularity as the videos have exploded in popularity. The two women embraced. “Damn,” Mishler said in late April, reliving the hug. “Outside of my boyfriend, that’s probably the last person I was less than six feet away from.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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News 28.07.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The dentist was a few minutes late, so I waited by the barn, listening to a northern mockingbird in the cypress trees. His tires kicked up dust when he turned off Drew Ruleville Road and headed across the bayou toward his house. He got out of his truck still wearing his scrubs and, with a smile, extended his hand: “Jeff Andrews.”

The gravel crunched under his feet as he walked to the barn, which is long and narrow with sliding doors in the middle. Its walls are made of cypress boards, weathered gray, and it overlooks a swimming pool behind a white columned house. Jeff Andrews rolled up the garage door he’d installed.

Our eyes adjusted to the darkness of the barn where Emmett Till was tortured by a group of grown men. Christmas decorations leaned against one wall. Within reach sat a lawn mower and a Johnson 9.9-horsepower outboard motor. Dirt covered the spot where Till was beaten, and where investigators believe he was killed. Andrews thinks he was strung from the ceiling, to make the beating easier. The truth is, nobody knows exactly what happened in the barn, and any evidence is long gone. Andrews pointed to the central rafter.

“That right there is where he was hung at.”

Emmett Till was killed early on the morning of August 28, 1955, one month and three days after his 14th birthday. His mother’s decision to show his body in an open casket, to allow Jet magazine to publish photos—“Let the world see what I’ve seen,” she said—became a call to action. Three months after his murder, Rosa Parks kept her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, and she later told Mamie Till that she’d been thinking of Emmett when she refused to move. Almost 60 years later, after Trayvon Martin was killed, Oprah Winfrey channeled the thoughts of many Americans in evoking the memory and the warning of Emmett Till.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.