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TOPIC: technology

Future

Twitter Woke-Bashing With A Shot Of AI — On The Meaning Of Language, Circa 2023

For Worldcrunch’s editor-in-chief, the arrival of ChatGPT, a stunningly powerful AI-driven tool for automated writing, combined with the rising noise on social media, have brought us to a troubling inflection point in the way we communicate with each other.

-Analysis-

PARIS — It came up in my Twitter feed late last Sunday night. Like so much flashing across our phones these days, the words and source and visual elements get processed by our eyes-and-brains in a split second.

Should I stay or should I scroll?

It was a brief, flatly worded, yet provocative text with attached screenshot from the account of a certain @pmarca. I would stay.

If you’re on Twitter and interested in technology or finance, you’ll probably recognize the handle as belonging to Marc Andreessen, undisputed Silicon Valley nobility who founded the Netscape internet browser in the 1990s, before settling into an extra successful career as venture capitalist, big thinker and sometimes provocateur. Among other things, he coined the phrase “software is eating the world” and is mentor to such younger tech founders as Mark Zuckerberg.

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When Your Boss Is Really An Algorithm

Hard questions amid the increasing use of software algorithms to take on managerial functions, such as hiring, firing and evaluating employees.

The 1999 cult classic film Office Space depicts Peter’s dreary life as a cubicle-dwelling software engineer. Every Friday, Peter tries to avoid his boss and the dreaded words: “I’m going to need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow.”

This scene is still popular on the internet nearly 25 years later because it captures troubling aspects of the employment relationship – the helplessness Peter feels, the fake sympathy his boss intones when issuing this directive, the never-ending demand for greater productivity.

There is no shortage of pop culture depictions of horrible bosses. There is even a film with that title. But things could be about to get worse. What is to be made of the new bosses settling into workplaces across all sectors: the algorithm managers?

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Escape From Foxconn: Inside The COVID Lockdown Chaos Blocking China's iPhone Production

Around China, Zero COVID policy has shut down entire towns and workplaces. But in the high-tech Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, famous for cranking out iPhones, employees were forced to work even if they tested positive. Exclusive testimony from some of those who fled Foxconn premises last week.

ZHENGZHOU — Luo, a newcomer at the Foxconn factory in this central Chinese city, was genuinely frightened when she heard her workplace would be an "experiment field" for new COVID-19 policies: Even during outbreaks, some employees won't stop their production work. Luo was chosen as one of the experiment subjects.

By the end of October, things were getting out of control at Foxconn: chaotic COVID testings, spreading infections, workers quitting their jobs. And Luo felt trapped inside the five million square meters of the Foxconn factory, China's largest producer of Apple's iPhones, which was falsely described as a COVID-free zone.

On Oct. 29, videos of Foxconn workers returning by foot to their hometowns began to spread on the internet. Some workers claimed that due to the company's chaotic quarantine system and poor logistical support, they had chosen to leave on their own and walk for several days back to small towns outside the city.

It would only deepen the delays piling up for iPhone deliveries around the world, and raise new questions about China's policy for dealing with the spread of COVID.

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Brazil And Argentina, It's Time For A Single Market

Amid rising global tensions, Brazil and Argentina must form a strategic economic alliance that will help them interact with the world's chief powers.

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — Humanity is facing some exceptional challenges and propositions that would have seemed implausible years ago. Every day we see a slight reconfiguration or axial shift in global power relations, specifically in the political, military, technological and socio-economic realms.

As a result, regionalism is replacing globalization, which, after decades of ascendancy, has being first threatened by a global pandemic and now with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In this context, it is imperative to rethink inter-state relations in South America, especially between the region's two biggest states, Brazil and Argentina. Both countries need each other in order to face today's global challenges.

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Ideas
Esteban Actis and Nicolás Creus*

Why The New World Order Is Taking So Long To Get Here

A relative loss of power by sovereign states to non-state actors, as well as China's ascent, are part of a wider reshaping of power structures that is tense, "anarchic" and far from complete.

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — In his book The Future of Power (2011), analyst Joseph S. Nye observed in the early 21st century a double transformation of power in the international order. It was a process of both diffusion and transition of power.

In the first case, power had begun to shift from sovereign states to a range of non-state actors with agendas that were outside national interests and state control. The latter refers to a displacement of the epicenter of world economic power from West to East.

A decade later, the evolution has become starker.

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Green
Diana Pieper

Why Young People Are Now Nuclear Power's Most Potent Supporters

As the youngest generations worry about the effects of climate change on their lives, some are turning to nuclear power as a "cleaner" source of energy — marking a significant shift from the previous generation of anti-nuclear environmentalists.

BERLIN — The names Chernobyl and Fukushima still have the power to stir up fear and unease in many people. But although nuclear power stations look set to be consigned to the history books in Germany, the current energy crisis has reignited the debate around them. Even some Green Party politicians are now calling for nuclear power plants to remain operational, at least temporarily.

The younger generation is interested in nuclear power, especially in its potential to be used as a bridging technology.

Although there has not been much research into this change in attitudes, the representative study “Young Europe 2022”, which surveyed people from seven European countries, found that 42% of 16- to 26-year-olds in Germany were in favor of using nuclear power plants as a bridging technology to help us reach climate goals.

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Future
Charles Barbour

The Laugh Frontier: Can AI Understand Irony?

Bot did you get it?

What was your first reaction when you heard about Blake Lemoine, the Google engineer who announced last month the AI program he was working on had developed consciousness?

If, like me, you’re instinctively suspicious, it might have been something like: Is this guy serious? Does he honestly believe what he is saying? Or is this an elaborate hoax?

Put the answers to those questions to one side. Focus instead on the questions themselves. Is it not true that even to ask them is to presuppose something crucial about Blake Lemoine: specifically, he is conscious?

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Ideas
Thomas Lewton

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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Future
Leah Henrickson and Simone Natale

Robot Artists And Us: Who Decides The Aesthetics Of AI?

Ai-Da is touted as the first bonafide robot artist. But should we consider her paintings and poetry original or creative? Is this even art at all?

Ai-Da sits behind a desk, paintbrush in hand. She looks up at the person posing for her, and then back down as she dabs another blob of paint onto the canvas. A lifelike portrait is taking shape. If you didn’t know a robot produced it, this portrait could pass as the work of a human artist.

Ai-Da is touted as the “first robot to paint like an artist”, and an exhibition of her work called Leaping into the Metaverse opened at the Venice Biennale.

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Society
Qadri Inzamam and Haziq Qadri

The Digital Tracking Of India's Sanitation Workers Is An Extra Dirty Deal

Lower-caste cleaners must wear GPS-enabled smartwatches, raising questions about their privacy and data protection.

Munesh sits by the roadside near a crowded market in Chandigarh, a city in India’s north, on a January day. She is flanked by several other women, all of them sweepers hired by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. She shows the smartwatch she is wearing and says, “See, I didn't even touch it, but the camera has turned on."

Munesh, who estimates she is in her 40s and, like many Indians, goes by just one name, is one of around 4,000 such sanitation workers. The corporation makes it mandatory for them to wear smartwatches — called Human Efficiency Tracking Systems — fitted with GPS trackers. Each one has a microphone, a SIM embedded for calling workers, and a camera, so that the workers can send photos to their supervisors as proof of attendance.

In Chandigarh, this project is run by Imtac India, an IT services company, at a cost of an estimated $278,000 per year. Meanwhile, sanitation workers say that the government has not invested in personal protective gear throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they have long worked without medical care and other vital social services.

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Future
Lautaro García Alonso

Data, Selfies, Prevention: How AI Is Transforming Healthcare

From testing for COVID through WhatsApp to taking selfies to check heart risks, AI programs are being used in Argentina to complement early-stage diagnoses. The technologies are in their early stages but are able to detect what the human eye might miss.

BUENOS AIRES —The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year 138 million patients suffer from medical misdiagnoses that prove fatal in 2.6 million cases. In the United States, medical errors relating to misuse of pharmaceutical products or misdiagnosis were the third cause of deaths there in 2015.

All this proves that medicine is not infallible, and even specialists can go wrong. The daily performance of all doctors is subject to factors like stress, overwork or exhaustion (they sometimes work 24 hours straight). In this context, technological advances of recent years may bring some good news. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has brought innovations that boost diagnosis and even detect conditions invisible to the naked eye.

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