Mark Knopfler musing about guitars
This is one of my favourite YouTube videos. Shows you what real mastery is like. Unshowy but unforgettable.
Clearview: the astonishing (but predictable) story
The New York Times had a great story the other day about a tiny firm called Clearview AI which had crafted a program to scrape images of people’s faces from across the Web — employment sites, news sites, educational sites, and social networks including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — and built a facial recognition algorithm that derived from academic papers. When a user uploads a photo of a face into Clearview’s system, it converts the face into a vector and then shows all the scraped photos stored in that vector’s neighborhood — along with the links to the sites from which those images came. Basically, you upload a photo and in many cases you get a name — often from a social-media posting.
Not surprisingly, police forces seem to like Clearview. One possible reason for that is that its service seems to be unique. Would-be imitators May have been deterred by the fact that the main social-media sites prohibit image-scraping, something that doesn’t seem to have bothered Clearview. Either that or they had a lawyer who knew about the LinkedIn case in which LinkedIn tried and failed to block and sue scrapers. The company lost the case and the judge said that not only could they not sue, but also that they’re not even allowed to try to block scraping by any technical means. As Ben Evans, observed, “Some people celebrated this as a triumph for free competition and the open web – welcome to the unintended consequences”. This case also confirms that facial-recognition technology is becoming a commodity.
Interestingly, Peter Thiel is an investor in, and a board member of, Clearview.
There’s a subreddit Reading Group for Alfred Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1920 edition)
Marks the centenary of the edition. Find the Reading Grouo here
UK government policy on electric vehicles is based on magical thinking
Take, for example, the UK pledge to move entirely to electric vehicles by 2050. I’ve been puzzled for a while about the electricity-generation capacity that would be needed to charge all those vehicles. And then I stumbled on a remarkable letter from a group of relevant scientific experts about the resource implications of such a commitment which was sent to the IPCC in June last year. And I realised that generation is only a smallish part of the story.
It’s well worth reading in full, but here are some of the highlights. To meet UK electric car targets for 2050 the UK would need to produce or acquire just under two times the current total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production. Oh – and 20% increase in UK-generated electricity would be required to charge the current 252.5 billion miles to be driven by UK cars.
Like I said, magical thinking. Wishing doesn’t make something happen.
Could Mike Bloomberg beat Donald Trump?
Maybe. At least he’s rich enough. But be careful what you wish for. As Jack Shafer neatly points out, Bloomberg is a surveillance addict. A guy who amassed a $54 billion fortune by collecting petabyte upon petabyte of sortable data, would be very keen on enhancing a high-tech surveillance state that would collect personal data as aggressively and as expansively as he and his company do financial data.
- Remember that Sonos speaker you bought a few years back that works perfectly? It’s about to be screwed for… reasons Basically planned obsolescence, tech-industry style.
- YouTube’s algorithms might radicalise people – but the real problem is we’ve no idea how they work We can’t really answer the question of what role YouTube’s algorithm plays in radicalising people because we don’t understand how it works. And this is just a symptom of a much broader problem. These algorithms play an increasing role in our daily lives but lack any kind of transparency.