Replied to Start Up No.2158: Senate yells at tech leaders, want an ‘everything reader’?, US zaps infected routers, Vision Pro?, and more (The Overspill: when there’s more that I want to say)

I’ve heard Doctorow speak, and he’s incredibly persuasive: he has that rare talent of making everything he says sound like it’s completely obvious, and each successive piece of logic as inexorable as Lego pieces joining. Also: I’ve no idea how he produces so much, day after day, and finds time to sleep and eat.

Source: Start Up No.2158: Senate yells at tech leaders, want an ‘everything reader’?, US zaps infected routers, Vision Pro?, and more by @charlesarthur

I often wonder the same thing Charles. I struggle to keep up with all of Cory’s work, let alone to consider the amount of time and effort that must go into it. I think he clearly must have well honed habits. Just wonder if there is any downtime in his life?

Bookmarked The approaching tsunami of addictive AI-created content will overwhelm us by Charles Arthur (Social Warming by Charles Arthur)

We’re unready for the coming deluge of video, audio, photos and even text generated by machine learning to grab and hold our attention

Charles Arthur maps the evolution of AI-created content until now and ponders where it might be heading. This is a useful reflection, touching on the rise of algorithmically organised sites, as well as apps and frameworks such as MidJourney, GPT-3 and GAN. Thinking about this, he has a stab at what might be next.

• You could hook up GPT-3 to MidJourney and get it to try incantations to produce pictures, and feed the output to GANs tuned to pick output that humans will like

• Once that’s working, try doing the same with the text-to-video generator hooked up to GANs tuned to pick output that humans will like

In the end, Arthur explains that the future is already here and is progressively taking shape around us.

All the disparate bits above might look like, well, disparate parts, but they’re available now (and that’s without mentioning deepfakes). The trees are here, and the forest might be starting to take shape. Here’s an example: a 40-page comic book about monsters, free for download (PDF), by Steve Coulson, in which all the images are drawn by MidJourney. It’s very, very impressive.

Bookmarked The flight from WhatsApp (

Not surprisingly, Signal has been staggering under the load of refugees from WhatsApp following Facebook’s ultimatum about sharing their data with other companies in its group. According to data from Sensor Tower Signal was downloaded 8.8m times worldwide in the week after the WhatsApp changes were first announced on January 4. Compare that with 246,000 downloads the week before and you get some idea of the step-change. I guess the tweet — “Use Signal” — from Elon Musk on January 7 probably also added a spike.

John Naughton talks about the flight from WhatsApp in response to news that data will soon be incorporated within the wider Facebook ecosystem. As Alex Hern reported:

If you’re comfortable with Facebook’s use of data (or that of its much closer subsidiary Instagram), it might be difficult to care about this. The company was recently forced by Apple to provide a privacy “nutritional label” on its iOS app, revealing how it works with user data. The labels disclosed more than 100 different pieces of data that may be collected, many of which are directly linked to user profiles, including health and fitness data, “sensitive info” and search histories. For the typical user, who has an account on both services, adding in the small amount of information WhatsApp has is a drop in a bucket by comparison.

But the change does start to eat away at the idea that you can be on WhatsApp without a Facebook footprint. The two apps’ very different histories and intended uses have led to a split in demographics among their users, and a small but significant proportion of WhatsApp users, drawn by the encryption, ad-free nature and no-frills interface, avoid Facebook itself while still using the chat app it owns.

In response, Facebook has paused this change. For Charles Arthur, this says a lot in that Facebook were able to act so swiftly.

The irony is so thick you could spread it on toast. Misinformation spread on WhatsApp has been blamed for deaths in India and election distortion in Brazil, but the company slow-walked complaints there. But when people start defecting, that’s a different matter: it acts like it’s on fire.