Social Media Is Breaking Your Brain

10 min. read Submitted 28/09/2021 #writing #technology

They say that power corrupts. Usually, the addendum is that absolute power corrupts absolutely. But what about little morsels of power, meted out to maximize dopamine production by an algorithmically-driven automated system, to brains increasingly trained to act socially within Skinner-box facades of connection?

I am increasingly of the opinion that social media is breaking the minds of everyone it touches. I have not been an exception to that. If I think back to the early days of social media, I remember a generally positive - if mildly banal - user experience. It seemed primarily a way to share memories of meatspace social experiences, a convenient common forum to share photos of that party with everyone who attended, or show your relatives the highlights of your latest holiday. If you had told me back then the sort of monster we had just begun to build, I'm not sure I would have believed you.


On 'Some Moral and Technical Consequences of Automation'

3 min. read Submitted 14/04/2021 Last Edited 24/09/2021 #writing #ai #technology

In 1960, Norbert Wiener - widely considered the originator of the concept of cybernetics - published a short essay entitled "Some Moral and Technical Consequences of Automation". Here's the article that got me there, which is mostly about social media and an abstracted reapplication of these concepts, but they tie in the article a bit.

I find myself facing a public which has formed its attitude toward the machine on the basis of an imperfect understanding of the structure and mode of operation of modern machines.


Why Computers Probably Will Make Themselves Smarter

5 min. read Submitted 01/04/2021 #writing #ai #technology

Recently, author Ted Chiang wrote an article entitled Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter. In this article, Chiang argues that concerns around a self-iterating Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) emerging as a superintelligence are unfounded.

We fear and yearn for “the singularity.” But it will probably never come.


Is a Self-Iterating AGI Vulnerable to Thompson-style Trojans?

4 min. read Submitted 25/03/2021 Last Edited 24/09/2021 #writing #ai #technology #question

In his 1984 lecture "Reflections on Trusting Trust", Ken Thompson (of Unix fame) speculated about a methodology for inserting an undetectable trojan horse within the C compiler binary that would self-propagate throughout all future versions. (Additional good video that got me thinking about this.)

The replacement code would miscompile the login command so that it would accept either the intended encrypted password or a particular known password. Thus if this code were installed in binary and the binary were used to compile the login command, I could log into that system as any user.


What does the reaction to NFTs tell us about how people evaluate ecological damage?

2 min. read Submitted 24/03/2021 Last Edited 28/03/2021 #writing #blockchain #technology #question

Recently, the Ethereum Foundation finalised the ERC-721 interface standard for Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). This standard lays out a protocol for the exchange and ownership of this new class of assets. An extremely simple explanation of the ERC-721 standard is as follows:

A blockchain is a decentralized ledger. It can contain things called smart contracts, which are like little computer programs. A smart contract can implement the ERC-721 interface, which means that it keeps track of variables called Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT). Each token has an owner, a unique identifier, and can be traded to other people. Each token can also include metadata information about the object it is representing.


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