News 17.03.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 17.03.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 17.03.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 17.03.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

The question will be simple but perpetual: Person or machine? Every encounter with language, other than in the flesh, will now bring with it that small, consuming test. For some—teachers, professors, journalists—the question of humanity will be urgent and essential. Who made these words? For what purpose? For those who operate in the large bureaucratic apparatus of boilerplate—copywriters, lawyers, advertisers, political strategists—the question will be irrelevant except as a matter of efficiency. How will they use new artificial-intelligence technology to accelerate the production of language that was already mostly automatic? For everyone, the question will now hover, quotidian and cosmic, over words wherever you find them: Who’s there?

At its core, technology is a dream of expansion—a dream of reaching beyond the limits of the here and now, and of transcending the constraints of the physical environment: frontiers crossed, worlds conquered, networks spread. But the post-Turing-test world is not a leap into the great external unknown. It’s a sinking down into a great interior unknown. The sensation is not enlightenment, sudden clarification, but rather eeriness, a shiver on the skin. And as AI systems become more integrated into our lives, they will alter the foundations of society. They will change the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we relate to one another. They will challenge our assumptions about what it means to be human, and will force us to confront difficult questions about the nature of consciousness, the limits of knowledge, and the role of technology in our lives.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

At a restaurant in Miami last month, dining beside my husband, I examined the women around me for what people refer to as Instagram Face. The chiseled nose, the overfilled lips, the cheeks scooped of buccal fat, eyes and brows thread-lifted high as the frescoed ceiling. Many of the women had it, and thus resembled each other. But not all of them. Not, for example, me.

Critics call this trend just another sign of our long march toward a doomed, globalized sameness. A uniform suite of cosmetic procedures, popularized by social media, apps and filters, accelerated by both natural insecurity and injectables’ dropping costs. One by one, they hint, women will give in and undergo them. Until we all look identical, just like our restaurants do, and our hotels, and our airports, in our creep toward homogenization which we’ve somehow mistaken for a worthwhile life.

They’re wrong, because in their focus on uniformity, they’ve forgotten the premise of cosmetic work in the first place. Distinction. Good face, like good taste, has a direction: downward. The success of Instagram Face, its ubiquity, isn’t the start of cyborg aesthetics. It’s the end of it. Because what might save us from such apocalyptic beauty is something almost too ugly to say out loud: When in history have rich women ever wanted to look like regular ones?

Kylie Jenner is widely considered the face that launched a thousand fillers. The reality star did her lips in 2014, and seemingly everything else soon after. If you believe social media, the model Bella Hadid covered Carla Bruni’s features like a singer does another’s song. Emily Ratajkowski, the extended Kardashian cast: Each began to modify herself until as if in some joint experiment they arrived at an aesthetic congruence. Their platonic ideal was an ethnically ambiguous woman, neotenous from the neck up, hypersexual from the neck down. Her whole schtick is that she looks unlikely to know who Plato is. That way when Emily, who is both a model and an essayist, seems likely to have read him, she gets not only your desire but also the delicious gotcha of having been misjudged.

Read the rest of this article at: Tablet

News 17.03.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

Last week, both Microsoft and Google gave demos of their new artificial intelligence–powered search assistants. Microsoft’s Bing Chat sits inside its Bing search engine and Edge web browser, while Google’s Bard chatbot will do its thing on the same page where Google’s standard search results appear. Microsoft seems to have the early lead after Google’s launch presentation—reportedly rushed out in an effort to keep up with Microsoft-funded OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool—included errors produced by the chatbot. That said, users report that Bing’s still invite-only AI search can also produce gibberish responses, referred to as “hallucinations.”

Leaving aside for now the mess of ethical and legal questions the current crop of AI platforms raises, the most common criticism is that they just aren’t very good. Generative audiovisual tools like Dall-E 2, Midjourney, Runway or Riffusion create media that’s full of nonhuman tells. Text-based AI and chatbots spit out paragraphs that either aren’t particularly interesting or, worse, are full of errors. It all makes the idea that generative AI could replace human creativity still feel pretty laughable.

Read the rest of this article at: The Information

News 17.03.23: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

In September, my family and I move from our home in Dublin to a fancy East Coast college town, where I’ll be teaching for the semester. I grew up in Dublin, which means I have a wide circle of friends to draw on whenever I’m let out of the house. The street where I live is friendly: If I want to borrow a spatula or I need someone to look after my cat, I have only to ask.

Life is different for us in the U.S. We have, for the first time, a basement. But we have no friends. It seems as if none of the permanent faculty can afford to live in the suburb where the university has placed us. We technically have neighbors, but we never see them; they manifest only in the form of their gardeners, who are at work every day with their leaf blowers.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

Wealthy Executives Make Millions Trading Competitors’ Stock With Remarkable Timing


On Feb. 21, 2018, August Troendle, an Ohio billionaire, made a remarkably well-timed stock trade. He sold $1.1 million worth of shares of Syneos Health the day before a management shake-up caused the company’s stock to plunge 16%. It was the largest one-day drop that year for Syneos’ share price.

The company was one Troendle knew well. He is the CEO of Medpace, one of Syneos’ chief competitors in a niche industry. Both Syneos and Medpace handle clinical trials for biopharma companies, and that year they had jointly launched a trade association for companies in the field.

The day after selling the Syneos shares in February 2018, Troendle bought again — at least $3.9 million worth. The value of his Syneos stake then rose 75% in the year that followed.

In February 2019, Troendle sold much of that position, netting $2.3 million in profit. Two days later, Syneos disclosed that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating its accounting practices. The news sent the company’s shares tumbling. Troendle’s sale avoided a 25% loss, the stock’s largest decline in such a short period during either that or the previous year. (Troendle declined to comment.)

Read the rest of this article at: Propublica

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