The End of the Open Internet

Large parts of the internet are putting up walls around services, only letting the logged in or verified users in


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Some of the largest headlines in tech recently involves AI and other AI-related topics. Another big story is the closing of the Reddit free API, and in the same area the temporary shutting down of the ability to view tweets while logged out of Twitter. A lot of other tech companies have already taken steps like these to bring up walls, moats and barbed wire to anyone not logged into, and authenticated to their services.

I believe it’s only a matter of time before other similar companies are starting to seriously think over their decision to let logged out viewers access the content on their site. Just imagine when the ability to analyze video and audio the same way text is being analyzed today become a tool for the average Joe. What implications will that have for data heavy streaming services like Youtube, Vimeo, etc.? You might prompt the AI to summarize the best bits from a 2 hour video on Youtube into 10 minutes. Youtube still has to host the 2 hour version and show it to your AI while you only have to spend 10 minutes. This way you can watch several days worth of video in a matter of minutes of hours.

The story so far

To give some backstory to the developments here are a few bullets to consider:

  • Late 2022 – release of ChatGPT 3 to the public
  • Early 2023 – ChatGPT, Midjourney, and many more similar AI and LLM tools emerge on the market and the public quickly catches on.
  • A few weeks later ChatGPT is one of the largest websites in the world with user numbers almost as high as the top social media platforms.
  • The following weeks and months the startup industry catches on and a massive amount of tools hit the market every single day.
  • The open source community does not lag behind but comes up with tools such as GPT4All and AutoGPT. Everyone and their aunt can now have. A local ChatGPT running on a laptop at home. Offline!
  • It. Is. Not. Slowing. Down.

The sources of training data

What is it that all of the above is built upon? Training data.

And where do we get training data from? The internet!

More specifically? Big ass social media sites!

Since the largest websites and social media sites have the most amount of users contributing to the site, they also have the most data sitting on their servers. Due to the nature of their business, the data also have to be accessible to the rest of the world. This is what makes it a huge target to the new AI companies who scrapes the internet in search of raw data to use in their new AI tool. Since they have vast amounts of data and there are an increasing amount of companies that want that data, the servers must be running quite hot at Twitter and Reddit!

Average users get stuck in the middle

The new development in AI has allowed more and more people to collect more and more data since the AI itself will train on the data and come out better, or more specified at the other end. This is what AI training amounts to, collect a lot of data and letting the AI sift through it and keep the information it deems good enough, or unique enough.The social media companies have had enough

This is why Twitter had to temporarily turn off access to anyone not logged in to Twitter, and this is also probably a large part of the reason Reddit is turning off free API access and closing down their services to third party apps, etc. It’s simply a matter of not wanting to pay for thousands of startup’s AI training data. Of course, normal people who just want to browse Reddit on their favourite third party-app will get stuck in the middle, as is often the case.


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Florida man’s house hit by NASA’s space junk

In March of 2024, an ususpecting Florida man’s house was hit by a solid metal projectile jettisoned from the ISS in 2021.

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In March of 2024, an ususpecting Florida man’s house was hit by a solid metal projectile jettisoned from the ISS in 2021.

The Debris

It was after an installation of fresh lithium-ion batteries that NASA decided to eject a pallet of the old nickel-hydride batteries from the Internation Space Station in 2021. The debris was expected to burn up during the re-entry into the atmosphere as to not cause damage. However, a small piece of the scrap metal survived and decended upon the unsuspecting Florida man’s house in tremendous speed, causing small holes in the roof and two floors, nearly hitting the Florida man’s son, playing in the next room.

The projectile meassured 4-inch by 1.6-inch and weighed 1.6 pound.

The aftermath

Florida man filed an unprecendented lawsuit against NASA for the damage but has of writing (June 22th, 2024) not received any compensation from the trash-tossers.

The lawsuit is ongoing and could set a very interesting precedent for future damage caused by any of the millions of objects flying around over our heads. Currently there are over 29,000 objects measuring more than 10 cm, 670,000 objects 1-10 cm large, and more than 170 million objects larger than 1 millimetre.

Luckily, for Florida man, his home insurance covered some of the costs – about $15,000 – and he’s now hoping for another $80,000 from the lawsuit, should he win.

“Scientists at University of British Columbia, New Scientist reports, calculate that the odds are one in ten of “casualties being caused by falling debris over the next decade.””

Environmental Law Institute

This might be a good time to complement the volcano insurance with space junk insurance!

Do you think this is a big problem going forward, and who should pay for the damage caused by space junk falling on people’s houses and properties?

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2024-06-22 10:09 | 0 comments

VR advances and the future of WFH

Is WFH (working from home) just a very temporary freedom or is it here to stay? I believe it’s a bit of both.

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Is WFH (working from home) just a very temporary freedom or is it here to stay? I believe it’s a bit of both.

When the viral hysteria of ’20 hit and people hid in their homes with double FP2’s over their facial air holes, allegedly working from home, most people viewed this as an incredible opportunity for more freedom. There was an incredible amount of people who, all of a sudden had double, triple, or quadruple lunch breaks to go grocery shopping, tend to the garden, or even hit the beach. The data, however, is in and it’s not looking too good for the semi-vacationeers “working from home”.

Employee Monitoring Tools

Unsurprisingly, people higher up started to notice the trend and became disgruntled of the loss of control of their employee’s daily work habits. The first to Take meassures to counter this trend was the guys at big finance, who constructed elaborate “employee monitoring tools”.

Some of the great new features on your brand new WFH laptop include:

  • Full OS access to make sure you’re not viewing personal tabs in the browser
  • Webcam access – should be self-explanatory but it’ll make sure you’re eyes are focused on the screen for the whole 8-hour work day
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The companies that used these tools noticed that they’re improving efficiency of their employees, regardless of their location.

Instead of forcing you into the office to make sure you’re working, they’re forcing the office upon your every location and system you’re using.

“Let them try…”

While the only companies using this type of extreme surveillance of their employees are the ones already known for pushing the limit of their subordinates, others will follow suit seeing the effectiveness of the systems.

A lot of people will, of course, not go along with this, but with the increased reach and reduced need of actually forcing people into the offices, most companies will probably succeed anyway. Almost all employees nowadays are easily exchangeable, whether we want to admit it or not. Especially when the hiring pool consist of the entirety of the world.

Of course, there’ll be hold-outs and companies that doesn’t jump on the big brother-train, but a lot of them will, making the few remaining jobs without extreme surveillance few and far apart.

Enter VR-headsets

A lot of people laughed at the seeming fiasco of Apple’s new VR headset. It’s true that it is over-the-top for most people’s daily use and the price tag demanded true Apple fanboy-ism from the buyer.

What this signalled, however, is the VR headset’s entry into the serious market and our lives. When Apple comes out with a new product category, odds are it’ll be commonplace in a few years.

So far, headsets are mostly used as gaming devices, gamification of house chores for stay-at-home-dads, and media consumption, but my bet is that companies soon will find great applications for the headsets in the workplace as well. Why, you ask?

  • Unlimited monitors an eye motion away, allowing anyone to work from anywhere. Need 4 large monitors to do your work? Not anymore.
  • 100% eyetracking uptime is a dream come true for the employer. Now, they can follow you everywhere when you “WFH”, and doesn’t have to rely on the static webcam on your laptop.
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Conclusion

As more and more people are demanding WFH part- or full time, pressure on the employers increases to accommodate without losing control. This is also an incredible tool to be used for personally evaluating employees fairly, if used with caution.

Furthermore, there must be discussions on how to handle all the data these new systems collect. Are employees actually aware of the amount of data their employer have on them? And what are the employer legally allowed to do with the data?

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2024-06-18 03:18 | 0 comments

Gene therapy trial restores hearing

Loosing one of our senses has been a one way street for much of our history, but recent medical breakthroughs are showing very promising results in bringing them back!

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Loosing one of our senses has been a one way street for much of our history, but recent medical breakthroughs are showing very promising results in bringing them back!

Gene therapy restoring hearing

18-month old British girl Opal Sandy has had her hearing restored through a new gene therapy trial. The deafness, in this case, was due to auditory neuropathy, a condition where nerve impulses from the inner ear to the brain are disrupted. To cure her condition a therapy, known as DB-OTO, was used, copying the OTOF gene directly to the ear. Through a minimally invasive procedure, where the gene solution was infused into the inner ear using a catheter, the hearing is potentially restored without any need of repeated treatments.

Future of hearing restoration

While this method was being used in the UK, other parts of the world are doing similar research targeting genetic forms of deafness. Both China and the US are currently working on their own respective delivery method and procedure of targeting the very gene causing deafness.

Not only did the little girl’s life change, but it also makes way for many more people being able to appreciate music, bird’s song, and the voices of our loved ones. Things the hearing of us takes for granted.

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2024-06-06 09:05 | 0 comments

When wolves became man’s best friend

I think we can all agree on that man’s best friend – the dog – can trace its ancestry back to the wolves. How this came to be is a completely different story that researchers haven’t entirely come to agree on. Was it humans or wolves that took the first s

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Timeline

Today’s dogs have wandered quite far from their original form in the wolf. Even today’s wolves have to some extent devolved into a smaller version of their once larger statures. We’re not entirely certain when this process actually began, but some estimates say it started between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago in Europe and Asia. Studies also suggest that this might have happened in different geographical locations.

Leading theories

The Self-Domestication Theory suggests that at some point wolves began to scavange near human settlements, attracted to the delicious remains of hunting trophys. Over time, the wolves who wandered further into the presence of man in his camps were rewarded with more spoils, warmth from the campfire, and a true bond of friendship.

Another theory, Directed Domestication Theory, suggest that the friendship wasn’t mutual but that early humans captured wolf pups and raised them as their own. They were then selectively breeded for desirable traits.

Whether one subscribes to the theory of mutual benefit or that it was a forced relationship, we can all probably agree that it has been a good one at that!

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2024-05-15 11:57 | 0 comments

Using AI to talk to whales

Recently OpenAI released a much improved version of their LLM, called ChatGPT-4o. The main focus seem to have been on language and conversation, where it answers significantly faster, in any language, and with more “human” emotions in speech, text…

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Recently OpenAI released a much improved version of their LLM, called ChatGPT-4o. The main focus seem to have been on language and conversation, where it answers significantly faster, in any language, and with more “human” emotions in speech, text, or image. Such an improvement does pose the question where it all ends. Will we be able to translate animal speech with an app on our phones in coming updates?

Project CETI and Earth Species Project

Scientists working on Project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) and the Earth Species Project have been working on deepening our understanding of sperm whale language and communication. To this end, they’ve used AI tools in which they’ve created a LLM (Large Language Model) with vast amounts of data on whale talk. The goal is to be able to understand the language of the whales and even to reply to them.

Whale communication

Sperm whales apparently have a very complex communication system with sequences of clicks (called codas), of which the researchers have identified several distinct sequences, believed to function like an alphabet. Their language and “way of speaking” also isn’t random, but very dependant on the context of their interaction.

Conclusion

If we can learn how to communicate with sperm whales, there’s no reason to believe we cannot learn to communicate with other animals. Or plants and fungi, for that matter.

The interesting question here is, whether this will open up to new kinds of deeper knowledge about our environment.

Will we be able to continue to eat animals that we can communicate “meaningfully” with? What does your cat really think of you? Do you really want to know what the crows and seagulls are screaming about?

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2024-05-14 11:43 | 0 comments