Issue 595

Tuesday, 13th March 2018

In This Issue


Trump blocks Qualcomm and Broadcom getting married

Donald Trump has vetoed Broadcom buying Qualcomm. The US President "issued an order under the Defense Production Act of 1950 to prohibit the proposed acquisition" and with that in place, Broadcomm can't buy Qualcomm, even if it has a trillion dollars in cash. The reason for the veto is that the government thinks Broadcom buying Qualcomm would result to less R&D, which would give Huawei a competitive advantage and put the USA's national interest at risk. I don't know what makes the US government think that R&D would be worse under Broadcomm, but they do and that's it, show's over.

Elon Musk wants to build tunnels for busses now

Elon Musk had what alcoholics call a moment of clarity on Twitter over the weekend, saying that he's adjusting the Boring Company (his tunnel machine hobby) plan to "prioritize pedestrians & cyclists over cars" and that an "urban loop system would have 1000’s of small stations the size of a single parking space that take you very close to your destination & blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city" - basically, a bus that goes underground. Nice one Elon. Maybe in a few months he will realise you can replace the wheels with metal rails and he'll invent the subway.

The UN reckons Facebook plays a large role in the Myanmar genocide

Of all the ills Facebook is apparently responsible for (demolishing democracy, turning civil society into a divisive mess, destroying the mental health of our children, etc), it can now add genocide to its list of accomplishments. The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said today that social media has "substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media". This is the absolute opposite of what bringing the internet to the masses was supposed to do, fuck.

Palantir wins $1b contract to supply US Army intelligence platform

Palantir will sink its hooks even deeper into the flow of government information, as together with Raytheon, has won a US$876m tender to develop an intelligence platform for the US Army. This system will be used by the Army to make sense of all the information it harvests and is used to determine who is friendly and who is an enemy and ultimately, who to kill. You know the machine in Person of Interest? Pretty much that, but not as intelligent and not fictional. Oh and Peter Thiel (who was/is part of Trump's "transition team") is the chairman of Palantir, a small coincidence, I'm sure.

Apple buys the "Netflix of magazines" and will integrate it into Apple News

Apple now owns Texture, which is apparently the Netflix of magazines. I love magazines and I've never heard of it, probably because it's full of US mags and isn't available in Australia. Eddie Cue announced the purchase at SXSW and said that Texture will be integrated into Apple News. I guess it'll just be another source of content you can subscribe to. If done well, it would be awesome. My main issue with Apple News is that paying for all the content I'd like to read (e.g: NYT, WaPo, Fairfax, etc.) can cost a fair bit per month. If Apple offered a flat rate for access to everything in Apple News, that would be cool, but I'd worry about how that limits an independent publisher from earning a viable income.

Not News, But Still Cool

YouTube is a radicalisation machine

Zeynep Tufekci is back in the New York Times with another brilliant column explaining how YouTube's pathetic recommendation algorithm keeps on surfacing extreme content. You watch a few vids on Bernie Sanders and you end up getting recommendations for vids that the USA government did 9/11. Watch a few Trump speeches and YouTube reckons you'll enjoy a bit of white supremacy ranting and Holocaust denials. Zeynep argues that YouTube's constant stream of "hardcore" videos aids the radicalisation of vulnerable individuals and is a side-effect of Google's desperate want to keep users engaged that Google seems not to care about. It's a very compelling theory.

Siri hasn't improved much in the 8 years since its release

Siri's original creators, the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center, released a demo over 8 years ago to highlight the things its then ground breaking voice assistant could do. Nick Heer tried to use Siri on a current iPhone to do all the things in the 8 year old demo video and it was pretty bad. Most of the things that worked in the demo video, like asking for movie times, or wanting to find a restaurant don't work now. I would have thought that in the 8 years since, heaps more data would have been ploughed into a format that makes it easy for a voice assistant to parse.

Cheap QC35s, fake Lego, Logitech remotes, Dell laptops & gaming PCs, Samsung S9 phones, basic 27" monitors, PS4 controllers & Synology NAS

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Angel Olsen - Shut Up Kiss Me