La Fondation du Rien

Aren’t we all in need of this?

27 February 2024 — French West Indies

“FineWoven cases are junk, say majority, sharing photos of peeling and scratches.”

From 9to5Mac.

I’d argue that pretty much all of Apple’s recent accessories are junk these days. The quality and longevity have generally nosedived over the last few years.

Present Apple has changed from supplying quality equipment to extracting rents on services because it can no longer grow as it used to. On a finite planet, there’s only a finite number of people to sell stuff to. Shareholders are contributing to the decline of the very thing they believe they’re going to get rich from.

This is not another “Apple is doomed” post, but it is a waypoint in the history and direction the company has chosen.

26 February 2024 — French West Indies

Splash

25 February 2024 — French West Indies

Welcome Back

This is the first post of a completely new blog based on the old blog that used to reside here.

I recently went through a complete overhaul of all my writing into one site, consolidating everything in one place. After an arduous migration of data and a failed attempt at using a popular platform, I decided on Micro.blog (MB) as my new home.

MB allowed me to easily and quickly create a blog and a newsletter and cross-post to a bunch of other sites like Mastodon and LinkedIn, to name a couple, for $10 per month. Excellent value as far as I’m concerned.

In theory, the idea was reasonable, but I quickly stumbled upon one of the issues of our technological times: the separation of professional and personal blogs and miscellanea. I found that I’d put in place a professionally oriented site in terms of content, and it stifled the outlet for personal thoughts and reflections on the world I live in. I had previously used separate platforms to achieve this, resulting in extra costs. Then something changed.

I feel like I have totally lucked out (in?) when I chose MB, specifically the Premium plan. If you’ve popped in here recently, you’ll have fallen on a link list aimed at linking to the main site. This was available at no extra cost and was very useful. However, Manton Reece, the founder of MB, announced a change to the pricing model, allowing a Premium subscriber to run up to five separate full blogs at no extra cost. This is an incredible value, and it was this change that made me rethink that separation, and hence, this blog was (re)conceived.

For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to start from scratch and not migrate the old posts here. I might reflect on that and change my mind. I’m undecided currently. As I write this, I’m thinking it would be more coherent and allow me a little more freedom to post other things. We’ll see. That’s the beauty of these tools. We can mix and match and change things up as we see fit, particularly as it is a personal site with absolutely no monetisation or tracking whatsoever.

But that’s a can of worms for another day.

/French West Indies

Meta May Allow Instagram and Facebook Users in Europe to Pay to Avoid Ads

Via The New York Times:

The subscription plan is a response to European Union policies and court rulings to restrict Meta’s data-collection practices.

I say go for it. We might find out what Social Networks are really worth then. I suspect not a lot.

2 September 2023 — French West Indies

Facebook/Meta and highly personalised ads in the EU

Highly personalised ads imply highly personalised data about you. Despite what Facebook/Meta and the intrusive advertising apologists say, collecting, storing and profile-building that information is a huge security risk to each and every individual on the internet. And yes, I know there have not been any “known” breaches reported, but known is doing a lot of lifting in that statement.

After more than five years of extensive litigation by noyb, the German Kartellamt and decisions by the EDPB and CJEU, it seems that Meta finally complies with EU privacy laws:

5 years of litigation: Meta apparently switches to consent for behavioral ads

Many think that policy advisors in the EU Commission develop policy ideas like they’re given in Christmas crackers. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as policy is shaped mainly by research and findings. And whether you agree or disagree with eventual legislation, the foundations of it are not some verbal fart of a career policy wonk with incentives to climb the greasy pole of EU politics.

Firstly, I’d like to point you to a document from the European Commission, the Study on the impact of recent developments in digital advertising on privacy, publishers and advertisers.

The Executive Summary lists many conclusions and observations, with one that is particularly interesting and not widely understood:

There is limited evidence to suggest that the efficiency and efficacy gains of advertising products that rely on personal data and profiling outweigh the interference with individuals’ fundamental rights and consumer rights in addition to the reported negative societal impacts. A large amount of academic research has focused on demonstrating that the way that digital advertising works today has significant impacts on privacy, data protection, democracy, society and the environment. However, there is a lack of independent analysis to assess the costs and benefits of using personal data and profiling in advertising.

And this:

Lack of transparency in digital advertising limits evidence-based decision-making because advertisers lack independent data to assess the performance of digital advertising. This strengthens the position of players with strong market power and deters advertisers from switching to emerging alternatives that are less intrusive, even though there is evidence that some advertisers would prefer to rely on models that minimise the processing of unnecessary personal data. More independent data about the performance of alternative models compared to the status quo is needed to encourage widespread adoption among advertisers and publishers.

The efficacy of online advertising has always been bullshit and a mechanism of wealth extraction from advertisers and targeted individuals alike. It is time to expose it for what it is —essentially a scam.

5 August 2023 — French West Indies

Digital Colonialism in action

We’ll just walk in here, do what we want and won’t ask permission. Look over there, free money!

From the BBC:

“The Kenyan government has ordered cryptocurrency project Worldcoin to stop signing up new users, citing data privacy concerns.”

Any other global south countries should follow suit before this ill-advised scheme installs itself. Until some of the fundamental questions of security, safety and privacy are properly answered, this project should be shut down wherever it operates.

2 August 2023 — French West Indies

A world slowly going mad

The FT reports that Meta is about to introduce chatbots with different “personas” as a retention ploy.

Meta prepares chatbots with personas to try to retain users | Financial Times (paywalled)

What could possibly go wrong?

1 August 2023 — French West Indies

The Metaverse: Just around the corner (if the corner is a galactic-sized outer arm)

Mark Zuckerberg: Threads users down by more than a half - BBC News

“He said work on the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology that would power it was "not massively ahead of schedule, but on track", adding that he didn't anticipate it going mainstream until the next decade.”

Translation: Circling down the stained toilet.

Digital IDs and Shitcoins

Step 1: Create an AI that accelerates its adoption and forces the creation of AGI.

Step 2: Roll out an iris-scanning tool capturing the biometric identities of those least in a position to protect themselves in exchange for a small payout of some useless shitcoin.

Step 3: Argue that AGI is coming and, therefore, we need to protect our IDs from this monster, and the solution is … (see step 2)

Step 4: As a private company spread across the globe owning millions (if not billions) of digital IDs with virtually no protection (let's not even talk about cybersecurity - fsck me, this would be one hell of a juicy target) extract value by choking the poor for access to essential services and/or human rights.

This is digital colonialism and must be stopped.

Do not, I repeat, do not give your digital ID to this company. They cannot be trusted with that type of information.

BTW, the shitcoin will be exploited, and those that can least afford it will lose money at best. At worst… it might be much more than you think.

25 July 2023 — French West Indies

I’m a British subject not proud of it

From the Conversation:

In announcing the scheme, then home secretary Amber Rudd apologised for her government’s appalling treatment of the Windrush generation. People had suffered devastating harm. They had lost jobs and homes, and been deprived of healthcare. Many had been threatened with deportation. Some were deported to countries they had not visited since early childhood.

In the five years since, however, this scandal has only deepened.

Fucking disgraceful.

With thanks to UB40 for the headline.

4 June 2023 — French West Indies

Hallucinations are not limited only to GenAI, they are also the domain of its creators

During an onstage interview with Sam Altman with Azeem Azhar, as reported by the Verge:

“My basic model of the world is that the cost of intelligence and the cost of energy are the two limited inputs, sort of the two limiting reagents of the world. And if you can make those dramatically cheaper, dramatically more accessible, that does more to help poor people than rich people, frankly,” he said. “This technology will lift all of the world up.”

This is utter rubbish. The ones that will benefit the most from this technology will undoubtedly be those with the means to exploit it the most, continuing their tradition of wealth extraction from those with the least means.

This will lift the world’s average in precisely the same way that the co-passengers in a lift with Bill Gates are all billionaires… on average.

Take note, equally, of the “if”. That’s doing a LOT of heavy lifting.

Once last quip. You see how these people see the world as binary — rich people and poor people. This is how they fail to understand and hence, mitigate all that messy in-between stuff existent in practically any topic, be it race, food, politics, etc.

Seriously, who the fuck do these people think they are?

24 May 2023 — French West Indies

AI hallucinations

I should have linked to this article from Naomi Klein in the Gruaniad a while back.

AI machines aren’t ‘hallucinating’. But their makers are.

If you’re unfamiliar with Naomi Klein, I suggest reading No Logo. A journalist’s essay on marketing, brands and the coopting of “difference” to sell more stuff.1 Written in 2000 but is still relevant today, and in some respects more so.

24 May 2023 — French West Indies

  1. Read, crap.

“Officer Naughty”

From the Grauniad:

What a twisted little egotistical world we occupy currently. ‘It’s ok, as long as I’m alright.’ Dreadful.

“While under investigation for the failings, Lee quit the force and reportedly set up an OnlyFans account called Officer Naughty. She now faces being barred for life from the police service.”

23 May 2023 — French West Indies

Not My King

6 May 2023 — French West Indies

Rumours of a new journaling app in iOS

According to the WSJ, Apple is planning on releasing a journaling app that competes with existing apps:

The software will compete in a category of so-called journaling apps, such as Day One, which lets users track and record their activities and thoughts. The new Apple product underscores the company's growing interest in mental health.

The Apple journaling app, code-named Jurassic, is designed to help users keep track of their daily lives, according to the documents describing the software. The app will analyze the users' behavior to determine what a typical day is like, including how much time is spent at home compared with elsewhere, and whether a certain day included something outside the norm, according to the documents.

I’m genuinely interested to discover what this will look and work like.

I’ve used the excellent journaling app called Day One for several years. I like and use it because of its simplicity, syncing, and availability on iPhone, Mac and iPad. However, because of the poor support for the specificities of the iPad, I think Apple has an opportunity to provide the basics and go beyond what Day One delivers. The iPad is a pencil-supporting device; in this respect, I think Day One has consistently missed something. It offers basic Scribble and drawing support but leaves you wanting more.1

When you look at journaling as a practice, there is much worth in writing by hand. Studies that look at learning show that people tend to remember more and for longer when they have written their notes using pen and paper.2 There is just something connecting the brain and the information through the writing process.3

Apple should Implement something akin to current functionality in Notes or Freeform, although less clunky, please. What is needed is an unencumbered combination of digital text, handwriting, drawings, and scribbles, all free from constraint and really easy to use. Some of the most personal journals include handwriting, doodles and other markings that can signify something to the writer and possibly the posthumous reader of the future. Limiting a journal to markdown or rich text is too reductive for journaling.

I’d love the Apple app to have the ability to do either, or more precisely, both. There are days I’d like to handwrite and days I’m happy sitting at my desk writing through the keyboard. With this setup, it would be easier to journal when not at the office or possessing only an iPad —the typing experience of the on-screen keyboard on an iPad is less than optimal, and I’m being very charitable.

Microsoft produced a demo of something similar to this idea over ten years ago called Courier.4 Microsoft’s concept goes way beyond what is needed and wanted. But it gives you an idea of an entirely open-ended journal, just like paper, only digital, replicated, backed up and encrypted for privacy.

3 May 2023 — French West Indies

  1. https://developer.apple.com/design/human-interface-guidelines/apple-pencil-and-scribble
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210319080820.htm
  3. Incidentally, handwriting on a tablet, whilst better than typing, performed slightly worse than pen and paper.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Courier

Take your coronation and shove it

I, for one, will not be pledging allegiance to “the King”.

Royalty is essentially a criminal enterprise and always has been. The gangs of the past successfully killed, terrorised, pillaged and set up elaborate rent-seeking schemes to consolidate enough power that still permeates to this day.

This current incarnation got rich off the backs of enslaved people and has so far refused to acknowledge such and do something meaningful to apologise and repair.

The ceremony itself is a silly fantastical ritual of Disney proportions for a well-connected, dubiously super-rich man having a metal hat —decorated with stolen diamonds— placed on his head.

And we’re supposed to bow down to this?

I don’t believe one strand of human DNA is more important than another’s.

Take your coronation and shove it.

30 April 2023 — French West Indies

The Guardian: Meloni praises Sunak’s immigration policies on visit to No 10

From the Guardian: Not the kind of endorsement that I’d be comfortable with —more of an indication of just how far right the UK has shifted in recent times.

This will not end well.

28 April 2023 — French West Indies

A tale of two headlines

From BBC News 24/04/2023:

Also, from the same day:

Both of these presenters got fired. Sacked. Booted out.

I’ll leave it up to you to spot the difference in treatment and the possible reason.

It’s so tiring.

24 April 2023 — French West Indies

Repeating the mistakes of AI past

With the current news cycle being dominated by all things ChatGPT and AI, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit a book I first read in 1997/1998, the year it was released.

The book is “HALs Legacy - 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality”. It was issued by MIT Press in 1997 and was edited by David G. Stork. You may find a secondhand hard copy, but no ebook exists as far as I can tell.

It contains a forward by one of my favourite Science Fiction authors, Arthur C. Clarke, who you will no doubt know was the writer of the original novel 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This paragraph in Chapter 1 struck me :

Marvin Minsky (who, incidentally, nearly lost his life consulting on 2001.) argues (in chapter 2) that the field made such good progress in its early days that researchers became overconfident and moved on prematurely to more immediate or practical problems —for example, chess and speech recognition. They left undone the central work of understanding the general computational principles —learning, reasoning and creativity— that underlie intelligence. Without these, he believes, we will end up with a growing collection of dumb experts and will never achieve Al.

I can’t help thinking about the parallels to this new rush of AI deployment, and it feels as though we are falling into the same trap once again. The various ChatX machine learning algorithms impress on one level but are brutally stupid and over-confident simultaneously on another. The risks are multiple, some benign and others too frightening to ponder.

What is it that we say about the past and the future?

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana

6 April 2023 — French West Indies