1. Good Monday Morning
It’s March 15th. “Don’t spike the ball on the five yard line,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on yesterday’s Meet The Press. COVID-19 deaths are down 27% in the last week. Hospitalizations and positive test rates are also down. But 2,500 Americans still died of COVID-19 on Friday and Saturday, and the death rate remains as high or higher than in the pandemic’s first six months. Health officials are expressing concern that between 30% and 50% of U.S. men who identify as Republicans do not intend to be vaccinated. Please get vaccinated when you can.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,294 words — about a 5 minute read.
2. News To Know Now
a) “We really have a short window to get vulnerable servers patched, measured in hours, not days,” a senior White House official said Friday night in a press briefing regarding the tens of thousands of email servers recently attacked. That warning is being shared by computer security experts, who say they’ve observed theft of network passwords and ransomware being installed on sites. You can read a transcript of the White House briefing with the unidentified source.
b) In a hack of conservative social media network Gab that seems unrelated to the Solar Winds or the Microsoft hacks, hackers stole 70,000 messages from 15,000 users and published them privately for journalists and researchers.
c) Netflix is finally cracking down on users that share password information with others. The company is spending $19 billion on content this year. People using someone else’s password may receive a message that reads, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.
Remember that Silver Beacon-owned Movie Rewind was the first website to begin promoting upcoming streaming dates more than 10 years ago. You can get those manually curated streaming dates emailed free to you every Thursday afternoon.
3. COVID-19 Tech News
New York Times tracker that allows you to customize a daily email with multiple cities and towns that you’re monitoring: Click here to configure.
Coronavirus & Tech News
Facebook Vax Misinfo Communities Grew 48% — CTV
Temp Scanners Also Capturing, Storing Your Face — One Zero
4. Search Engine News
A website’s link structure indicates a particular page’s relative importance to other pages on the site. That might seem intuitive, but isn’t because these are not navigation links, but rather links from other pages. Many sites link to major services and products on their site only once or twice. Google’s John Mueller says that makes it easier for Google to determine which pages the website cares most about because apparently all of them isn’t an option.
Muller cautioned against creating pages that are essentially duplicative except for the URLs name such as [product or service] in [place name]. If you’re having trouble with this, please let us know, and we’d be happy to help. There are Google-approved techniques that can be used.
5. In The Spotlight — AI Language Models & Their Issues
AI language models have quickly become an issue that business leaders need to understand and plan for.
In 2018, the Open AI initiative that was originally funded by tech and PayPal veterans like Elon Musk and Reid Hoffman launched GPT, an AI language model. The software had been trained on copious amounts of words to help it understand and predict which word would follow. A year later, GPT-2 was released. This version, trained on 1.5 billion parameters, strayed off topic or misused words less often.
After GPT-3 was released a year later, we wrote about this 175 billion parameter program extensively, including a detailed article in August. We quoted technologist Kevin Lacker then, “Ten years ago, if I had this conversation, I would have assumed the entity on the other end was a human.”
Suddenly, automated language models were capable of creating recipes,programming software code, and correctly using analogies. The exponential growth of these models was causing concern in the tech community. The Open AI team would not give most people direct access to the software even for testing.
Open AI wasn’t the only one pursuing this field. Google was soon to reveal a model based on more than one trillion parameters. And like Open AI, Google was having difficulty dealing with sociological issues. Neither Dr. Timnit Gebru, the head of their AI Ethics team, nor her co-founder were invited to a forty person meeting at Google in September regarding this model. Both were fired by Google in the intervening months, another topic we’ve covered extensively.
Google claims its application can be used for a variety of reasons, including ranking internet properties. Microsoft has also entered the fray and is now GPT’s commercial gatekeeper so resources aren’t an issue, but ethical clarity is a project no company is ready for.
AI language models suffer greatly from bias because they rely on millions of documents already created by humans, amplifying human prejudices. There are already many instances of gender, race, and religion bias. The world does not need more of that right now. Critics also warn of easily disseminated disinformation.
An experiment by EduRef featured human writers competing against GPT-3 using writing prompts assigned by college professors teaching four subjects. Human subjects did better in all four subjects, but GPT-3 got Bs and Cs in three subjects when professors didn’t know who wrote which paper.
6. Debunked — Facebook Exemption Cards
Remember those ridiculous mask exemption cards many people tried using last year? The new twist is a fake vaccination exemption card. The scammers are now even using Facebook ads.
7. Following Up — NFTs
Things only got stranger in the latest bubble surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that we covered last week. Billboard reports that singer Halsey is having a big sale of her artwork on Wednesday after 3LAU and Grimes both cashed in for millions.
Meanwhile you probably heard about a $69 million NFT item sold at Christie’s. Late last week, the auction house confirmed that the buyer runs an NFT fund, which seems more and more self-enriching every minute.
8. Protip — Creating Tab Groups in Chrome
Having scads of browser tabs open at the same time can really slow down your computer, but since we all do it, there’s a nifty way to group those tabs together for different projects or just because.
9. Screening Room – Sting Sings for World Down Syndrome Day
10. Science Fiction World — 3D Printing a House
The first homes made with 3D printers are for sale in Austin. Our world is magical.
11. Coffee Break — Weighing the Penguins
I know that it’s Monday morning, but if it’s already been a tough week for you, take a 45 second break with this short clip of St. Louis Zoo handlers weighing the penguins.