On Conspiracies—Somethings

Also, the real danger of AI chatbots, and hype cycles of failed tech.

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I have been out for a while. Things have been in flux for too long. Still I don’t have much excuse. I plan to be regular from now on. On to the main event.

💡Something I learned

Tech Hype Cycle

Does anybody remember the early days of the iPad? The hype was real. Tech blogs called new paradigm of computing. Apple called the the “Post-PC World”. It was going to save the magazine industry, the comics industry, and it was supposed destroy game consoles!

Hindsight being 20/20, one could easily say the hype was ridiculous. However you could say the same thing 10 years ago. Apple’s top-of-the-line iPad has a desktop chip and is advertised with a keyboard and trackpad. Post-PC? More like Psuedo-PC.

This hype-cycle for middling and failed tech products is quite predictable. A novel technology is introduced, early adopters sing enthusiastic praises, but then nobody uses it. The Segway, car auto-driving, AR/VR/MR, voice assistants, and 3D TVs are just some of the overhyped consumer tech that have been complete or partial duds. Silicon Valley has not had a genuine ‘hit’ in over a decade and it shows.

Note: I tried writing this section on an iPad via a bluetooth keyboard. The experience was serviceable but ultimately lacking.

📕Something to read

  • The Means of AI Production: Speaking of overhyped technologies, Large Language Models have been in the news a lot recently. Popularly known as ‘AI’ chatbots, I find the proclamations on their potential quite unimaginative. However, what if the hype is warranted? What danger does such a technology pose to humanity at large? I try to answer the question and propose a solution. Spoilers: The danger is not a Terminator-esque scenario.

🔉Somethings to listen

How science happen

Science happens by accident. Or to be more accurate scientific breakthroughs happen by accident. The podcast episode starts with the story of a politician angry at ‘waste’ of resources on ‘useless’ research. It then leads us to how Laser Eye Surgery is possible only because of research on a poisonous snail in the Philippines.

Real Conspiracy

Conspiracies are not carried out by large cabals of secretive people in dark rooms. It is carried out by a few malicious actors exploiting social prejudice, and fears to instill an agenda. This whole series is look in how a bogus document was used to target a whole community just and enact policies that are still into effect a decade later. It is however a great breakdown of how subterfuge truly happens.

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🗣Some Quotes and Notes

On Average

The Musk implosion at twitter has lead to mastodon turning into something wonderful. It is like twitter circa 2011. I don’t know if it will last, but it is great right now. you can follow me here.

Mastodon Post by "I'm sorry, but you can't always be experiencing a higher volume of calls than average. That's not how averages work."

Really real conspiracy

I have my own pet conspiracy theory; most people espousing wild ideas online are distraction operation from the people really running the world. Real conspiracies are mundane and involve very few people. They are sloppy, committed by people convinced that they will never be caught.

John Perry reveals the truth behind one such conspiracy.

Many streetcar companies had already invested in buses since they were more economical; not only were they cheaper to operate for lightly used lines, but local and state governments were increasingly getting involved in the building of roads, and it was a lot cheaper to run a bus on a public road than to run a streetcar on a privately-owned rail line that you were responsible for maintaining. Plus, buses were seen as new and sleek; many streetcar companies couldn’t afford to replace their aging rail fleets.

— John Perry, Learning all the Wrong Lessons from the Great Streetcar Conspiracy

Something Wholesome

For a change. Will McCarthy explores the wonderful stories hidden in Google Map reviews.

On the surface, these personal stories read like strangers shouting into the void, demanding for their lives to be heard and recognized. I have lived, these reviews say, I have fought and struggled and cried in the face of beauty. I have felt pain, and I have been to Taco Bell and it was only average. To review is to mark your actuality. To not review is to be lost to time in this strange, crowdsourced record of existence.

— Will Mcarthy, The Strangely Beautiful Experience of Google Reviews

Thank you for joining me this week. If you know some who might enjoy this, please forward this email to them. See you next week.

Mudassir Chapra

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