Notable links: December 31st, 2023
This is my regular digest of links and media I found notable over the last week. Did I miss something? Let me know!
I really like this: a starter pack of blogs to follow if you're new to RSS. Some of them are new to me (and others have familiar authors but seem to have fallen off my list). What better way to start the new year on the internet than subscribing to independent writers again?
One of my projects in the new year is to put together a blogroll - something I'm now convinced every website should have, so that readers can discover new subscriptions organically from people they're already reading.
Perhaps, though, a blogroll is the wrong model, and it should be a regular post like this? That could be fun - Follow Friday for blogs. Hmm.
Anyway, these are great, and I'm grateful to Matt Webb for kicking this off. #Technology
There are some jaw-dropping infringements here, including an image where DALL-E apparently copies the entire Pixar universe from the single two-word prompt, "animated toys".
It's impossible to hand-wave this away. Even if you don't think the New York Times case has merit, it's pretty obvious that generative AI can infringe copyright even when you don't ask it to, and without notifying the user. As noted in the references, it's a big ask to then push liability for infringement to the user. It's inherent to the engines.
As the author notes: "My guess is that none of this can easily be fixed." Indeed. #AI
I’ll never stop blogging: it’s an itch I have to scratch – and I don’t care if it’s an outdated format
"I’d do this even if no one read it. Blogging, for me, is the perfect format. No restrictions when it comes to length or brevity: a post can be a considered and meticulously composed 3,000-word essay, or a spurted splat of speculation or whimsy. No rules about structure or consistency of tone. A blogpost can be half-baked and barely proved: I feel zero responsibility to “do my research” before pontificating. Purely for my own pleasure, I do often go deep. But it’s nearer the truth to say that some posts are outcomes of rambles across the archives of the internet, byproducts of the odd information trawled up and the lateral connections created."
Blogging, to me, epitomizes a lot of the promise of the web. I love it too. And I have no plans to stop.
(An outdated format, though? How dare you!) #Media
I like this breakdown of different positions on the open social web: a broad set of things that people who want a big fediverse advocate for, and one for people who want a smaller, safer fediverse.
I'm mostly in the "big fedi" camp. I want the open social web to be as wide and varied as the web itself: a place where any kind of community can erupt and be compatible with all the other communities and still have its own rules and culture. I want supporting fediverse technologies to be as obvious a need as supporting HTML, used by everyone from hobbyists to giant megacorporations.
That doesn't mean that giant megacorporations are my favorite kinds of entities at all. But I think we all gain when open standards are widely supported. A rising tide lifts all groups.
Overall, I guess the answer, for me, is "both". We need the big wide fediverse. But we also need safety and protection, particularly for vulnerable communities. Growth for growth's sake is not a goal; supporting and empowering is. #Technology
OpenAI feels a bit like Napster: a proof of concept that shows the power of a particular experience while trampling over the licensing agreements that would have been needed to make the whole thing legal.
The Napster user experience eventually led to our streaming music present: you can draw a line from it directly to Spotify and Apple Music. I expect we'll see the same thing in AI. We know what's possible, a lot of people are excited about it, but it'll take someone else to put the legal agreements in place to actually make it work. (If I had to guess, that company starts with an "A", but it could be a newcomer.)
Once again, the argument that training an LLM is no different to someone reading the same material falls short. Unlike OpenAI, I have to pay for the content I read, and like OpenAI, if I start spewing out large portions of New York Times stories under my byline, I'll end up in court.
I don't know whether OpenAI itself will last. But I am certain we'll see powerful LLMs offered as a service in the future, underpinned by real content licensing agreements for their training data. #AI
"Dutch Jews who survived the death camps and returned to the Netherlands were for years monitored by the Dutch secret service because they were considered to be extremists and a danger to democracy." There's no context that can possibly make this acceptable.
The Netherlands is still struggling to come to terms with the way it treated Jews who returned home - and hasn't really reckoned with how enthusiastically many Dutch people supported the incoming regime during the war. It's tremendously sad that it's still trying to make excuses for this behavior today. #Democracy
"Your individual risk depends on a large number of factors, but there's a consensus: one out of every ten people who catch Covid go on to develop Long Covid. It's not a one-time risk, either. You face these odds every single time you catch the disease." And that's just the start of it.
Telomere attrition is a side effect that caught my eye, given the telomere dysfunction that runs in my family. The virus ages you - including by compromising your immune system - but it's even worse if you're already immunocompromised or prone to premature ageing.
This piece goes further into the side effects and issues with covid. It's something we need to continue to fight; it's a pandemic that's far from over. Glossing it over in the name of proximal economic stability is short-sighted. People are dying, and even when they're not, the effects can last a lifetime. #Health
Technology news tends to center on the global north, but the implications of technology are global. Rest of World does a wonderful, necessary job shining a light on those stories.
What I particularly appreciate about its coverage is that it's not just critical (although there certainly are critical stories - don't skip learning about nickel mining or the economic effects of digital nomads). There are stories of technology-driven empowerment here too, often in surprising ways. #Technology
If the Markup is jealous of another newsroom's coverage, you know the stories are good: the Markup has consistently been the most important outlet for investigative technology journalism.
There's a special mention here for 404 Media, which has also been a fantastic addition to the tech ecosystem. I'm grateful that both exist. Both outlets need our support. #Technology