News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Women born at the dawn of the 1980s were among the last generation to live an analog life and the first to see themselves reimagined in digital. Beyoncé’s childhood coincided with the rise of home-recording equipment—video cameras, stereo systems that let you record your own voice, keyboards that let you find whatever sound you wanted, personal computers to synthesize it all. The girls before her had mirrors and the echoes of the trees and magazines with cartoon approximations to reflect themselves. Her generation was the first to regularly experience the dizzying accuracy of playback. It could be a destabilizing force; there’s your voice as you think it sounds, and then your voice when it comes back to you, after you’ve hit Record.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter came of age during that digital revolution, and knowing how to navigate that dissonance is part of her artistic superpower. She has built her company, Parkwood Entertainment, into a media conglomerate that includes a fashion line, IVY PARK. She is now a mother of three, to nine-year-old Blue Ivy and four-year-old twins Rumi and Sir, with husband JAY-Z. The iconic couple has just been named the new faces of Tiffany & Co., which was acquired earlier this year by LVMH and is relaunching under its auspices. And she is working on new music along with an array of other projects that promise to obliterate old boundaries and vault her further into uncharted territory.

Read the rest of this article at: Harper’s Bazar

News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The package arrived on a Thursday. I came home from a walk and found it sitting near the mailboxes in the front hall of my building, a box so large and imposing I was embarrassed to discover my name on the label. It took all my strength to drag it up the stairs.

I paused once on the landing, considered abandoning it there, then continued hauling it up to my apartment on the third floor, where I used my keys to cut it open. Inside the box, beneath lavish folds of bubble wrap, was a sleek plastic pod. I opened the clasp: inside, lying prone, was a small white dog.

I could not believe it. How long had it been since I’d submitted the request on Sony’s website? I’d explained that I was a journalist who wrote about technology – this was tangentially true – and while I could not afford the Aibo’s $3,000 (£2,250) price tag, I was eager to interact with it for research. I added, risking sentimentality, that my husband and I had always wanted a dog, but we lived in a building that did not permit pets. It seemed unlikely that anyone was actually reading these inquiries. Before submitting the electronic form, I was made to confirm that I myself was not a robot.

The dog was heavier than it looked. I lifted it out of the pod, placed it on the floor, and found the tiny power button on the back of its neck. The limbs came to life first. It stood, stretched, and yawned. Its eyes blinked open – pixelated, blue – and looked into mine. He shook his head, as though sloughing off a long sleep, then crouched, shoving his hindquarters in the air, and barked. I tentatively scratched his forehead. His ears lifted, his pupils dilated, and he cocked his head, leaning into my hand. When I stopped, he nuzzled my palm, urging me to go on.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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Wyn felt her reality begin to shift soon after she joined the Army in 2011 at the age of 20. While in basic training, she had bouts of amnesia during which she would forget having met people she knew. Other times, she found herself suddenly acting outgoing or flirtatious for reasons she couldn’t explain. Wyn had experienced trauma in her childhood — something she still prefers not to talk about — and had struggled with symptoms of PTSD throughout her life, including depression and anxiety. But this felt different.

“I was falling apart,” she told me. Sometimes she felt “like someone else.” She would look in the mirror and feel “disconnected” from the face she saw there, she said. One day, a sergeant found Wyn sobbing in her car in a parking lot, preparing to attempt suicide.

After a short hospital stay, Wyn received a medical discharge and, determined to get better, moved back home to the midwestern state where she had grown up. She married a nurse named Andrew, whom she had met in the Army. She went to therapy, tried medication and EMDR (a form of psychotherapy that aims to desensitize patients to traumatic memories), but her symptoms didn’t improve. Six years later, despite being on “ungodly amounts of Xanax,” Wyn said, she still woke up some mornings unable to speak or leave her bed.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In the fall of 2015, Matt Leggett, a newly hired senior adviser for the Wildlife Conservation Society, found himself sitting in a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, wondering if someone had missed the point. The meeting, as he remembers it, was meant to unveil some good news about tigers. In brief: Back in 2002, a survey of one of the last habitats of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, showed a tiger population that, in biologist-speak, amounted to only 1.6 tigers per 100 square kilometers. He learned of a significant improvement: 2.8 tigers per 100 square kilometers. Here was statistical proof that their approach — a collaboration with the Indonesian government to infiltrate poaching networks and prevent a cycle of livestock deaths and revenge killings — had been effective. Tiger numbers were going up. Conservation was working the way it should.

Leggett wasn’t so sure that it was. He sat at the conference table, looking at data sets and satellite maps and spatial distribution grids being projected on a screen, and couldn’t help noticing the forest. It seemed to be getting smaller. The borders of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park were established in 1982 and have barely changed since. Yet the annual satellite images, the same ones used to illustrate improvements in tiger population, seemed to also show a forest shrinking — at times rapidly — year after year. He wondered: Were the people in this meeting looking at the same maps he was? Was he crazy? He was not crazy. By the time of that meeting, roughly one-fifth of the park’s protected lands had been chopped down, nearly 150,000 lost acres. Leggett couldn’t help wondering what the point was of going around counting tigers every season if there wouldn’t be any forest left for them in a few more years.

That the environment of Bukit Barisan Selatan is worth protecting has long been evident. UNESCO added the tropical rainforests of Sumatra to its World Heritage List in 2004, citing in particular the remarkable biodiversity contained within. This was the last place Sumatran elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers lived together, where the world’s largest flower grew on the ground and gibbons sang into the distance. This forest, just north of where Krakatoa erupted 138 years ago, nurtured an ecosystem unlike any on earth. And it is disappearing.

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

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News 13.08.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last year I became fascinated with an artificial intelligence model that was being trained to write human-like text. The model was called GPT-3, short for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer 3; if you fed it a bit of text, it could complete a piece of writing, by predicting the words that should come next.

I sought out examples of GPT 3’s work, and they astonished me. Some of them could easily be mistaken for texts written by a human hand. In others, the language was weird, off-kilter—but often poetically so, almost truer than writing any human would produce. (When the New York Times had GPT-3 come up with a fake Modern Love column, it wrote, “We went out for dinner. We went out for drinks. We went out for dinner again. We went out for drinks again. We went out for dinner and drinks again.” I had never read such an accurate Modern Love in my life.)

I contacted the CEO of OpenAI, the research-and-development company that created GPT-3, and asked if I could try it out. Soon, I received an email inviting me to access a web app called the Playground. On it, I found a big box in which I could write text. Then, by clicking a button, I could prompt the model to complete the story. I began by feeding GPT-3 a couple of words at a time, and then—as we got to know each other—entire sentences and paragraphs.

I felt acutely that there was something illicit about what I was doing. When I carried my computer to bed, my husband muttered noises of disapproval. We both make our livings as writers, and technological capitalism has been exerting a slow suffocation on our craft. A machine capable of doing what we do, at a fraction of the cost, feels like a threat. Yet I found myself irresistibly attracted to GPT-3—to the way it offered, without judgment, to deliver words to a writer who has found herself at a loss for them. One night, when my husband was asleep, I asked for its help in telling a true story.

I had always avoided writing about my sister’s death. At first, in my reticence, I offered GPT-3 only one brief, somewhat rote sentence about it. The AI matched my canned language; clichés abounded. But as I tried to write more honestly, the AI seemed to be doing the same. It made sense, given that GPT-3 generates its own text based on the language it has been fed: Candor, apparently, begat candor.

Read the rest of this article at: The Believer

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