We’re in Denial About the True Cost of a Twitter Implosion

The public disintegration of a platform that millions of people used every day has been painful to watch. Now that Google’s search results seem almost completely colonized by AI-generated crap, it will be harder for me to listen in on and learn from a wide range of everyday people sharing their opinions and talking to each other. Elon Musk’s platform may be hell, but it’s also where huge amounts of reputational and social wealth are invested. All of that is in peril. […] The jokey mood around Twitter’s failure right now may be a way to temporarily push aside the…

i trained an ai chatbot on my childhood journal entries – so that i could engage in real-time dialogue with my “inner child”

I kept a journal from Feb 3 1983 (the day my freshman high school English teacher assigned a journal entry as homework) through about 1992 (when I was busy in grad school, though I did write long emails to my fiancee). As I was wrapping up my dissertation, I started blogging in 1999. At no point in my life did I write the kind of free-flowing personal musings that I imagine would help an AI bot let you converse with your younger self. This is a fascinating experiment in time travel. i kept diaries for about 10+ years of my…

The White House’s plan to colonize the moon, briefly explained: Putting humans on the moon is more political than you might think.

Political tensions alone could be a major source of conflict, according to Michelle Hanlon, the co-director of the Air and Space Law Center at the University of Mississippi law school. For one, there still isn’t a globally shared vision for what the future of the moon should entail. Just over 20 countries have signed the US-led Artemis Accords, a set of principles for, among other things, exploring and using the lunar surface. The former head of Russia’s space agency, unsurprisingly, said that the country would not support the Artemis program in its current form, and Congress has barred NASA from working with China since 2011. And…

CBS News Suspends Twitter Posting ‘In Light of the Uncertainty’ About Musk-Owned Social Platform

CBS News is halting its activity on Twitter over Elon Musk’s turbulent and potentially devastating moves following his takeover of the company. “In light of the uncertainty around Twitter and out of an abundance of caution, CBS News is pausing its activity on the social media site as it continues to monitor the platform,” Jonathan Vigliotti, CBS News national correspondent, said in a report about the latest chaos at the company on the “CBS Evening News” Friday. —Variety

Filmmakers Find Section of Destroyed Space Shuttle Challenger on Ocean Floor

Instead of World War II-era plane debris, the team discovered a modern-looking aviation structure. After consulting with an outside expert and completing a second dive in May 2022, the TV film crew presented the evidence to former NASA astronaut Bruce Melnick, who suspected it was a piece of the Challenger. Based on that information, the series’ producers brought the find to the attention of NASA and in August 2022, Ciannilli confirmed it was a significant remnant of the fallen shuttle. “The significance of this large section of Challenger’s structure was readily apparent,” underwater explorer Mike Barnette, who led the History…

Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens

I used to spend a lot of time on Twitter. I’ve deleted the app from my phone, and check it a couple times a day from my laptop. I’ve been reading more news and fewer tweets. I followed a Twitter bot that reminds me to go do something else that’s not scrolling slack-jawed through tweets. Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue…

AI-generated essays are nothing to worry about (opinion)

After reviewing 22 AI essays I asked my students to create, I can tell you confidently that AI-generated essays are nothing to worry about. The technology just isn’t there, and I doubt it will be anytime soon. […] The students in this class were mostly juniors and seniors, and many were majors in rhetoric and writing. They did great work, putting in a lot of effort. But, in the end, the essays they turned in were not good. If I had believed these were genuine student essays, the very best would have earned somewhere around a C or C-minus. They…

Between static hand-coded HTML pages and modern content-management systems, there used to be a wonderful bazaar of “mildly dynamic” websites

When I started my blog in 1999 (by adding a date to a “Link of the Day” archive I had been maintaining for a year or so), I coded everything in HTML, by hand.  This was before Facebook, before YouTube, before Wikipedia, and around the time that the domain google.com first went live. Most of the content on the Internet was hand-coded HTML, and instead of search engines, you would click your way through a hand-coded catalog — Arts -> Music -> Classical -> Mozart -> [scroll through a long list] This was perfectly normal, because it’s how libraries organized…

The Lost Art of Paste-Up

When I started using a word processor as a middle schooler in the early 1980s, I recognized the editing commands “cut” and “paste” as metaphors.  Here’s a short video showing the physical cutting and pasting that was required to arrange paragraphs of text prepare a document for mass production. According to layout rules, you’re not supposed to end a line with just a single word at the end of a paragraph, and you’re not supposed to break up a paragraph so that a single line from that paragraph begins or ends a column.  Note that this editor actually shaves slivers…

Gen Z Never Learned to Read Cursive

When I used to teach a “Media and Culture” class, I had students do an oral project, a handwriting project, a typewriter/cut-and-paste project, and a digital project, and we spent quite a bit of time reading and talking about how the ways we read and write affect not only what we read and write about, but also how we conceptualize the world and our place in it. I do remember  a time about 16 years ago when I overheard a student in the hallway, during some good-natured teasing banter, saying to a colleague, “Email is for old people.” That was…

Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent

Last week, according to Russian media outlets, a chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open. “The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.” Video of the 19 July incident published by the Baza Telegram channel shows the boy’s finger being pinched by the robotic arm for several seconds before a woman followed by three men…

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Can AI write good novels?

I expect that this is probably the year I’ll need to consider how my profession will change if students start relying on AI writing software. Like many people in my social media feed, this summer I’ve been playing a bit with AI image software, and thinking about how all the photographers and artists whose work is being sampled and remixed, without compensation or credit, to supply a commodity that serves someone else’s needs. “Julia was twenty-six years old… and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly…

Internet Explorer cheated its way to the top, and I won’t miss it

I started teaching myself HTML in earnest after I attended a crowded presentation at the Modern Language Association in the early 90s. Midway through his demonstration of what a mouse was, the speaker asked a crowd of hundreds who had used a graphical web browser (everyone raised their hands), and who had used the Internet in their teaching and research (everyone raised their hands), and who had coded a web page (I saw just three hands… one of which was mine). The most important thing I took away from that presentation was that I could have been standing up there…

Farewell Internet Explorer: You Weren’t All Bad

The main reason I still dislike Internet Explorer was because its popularity often meant you had to create one version of a website that was compatible with emerging and established industrywide standards, and another version that worked in Internet Explorer. So I still cringe when I see that dizzy “e” icon — except in this image, where it’s on a gravestone. Having said that, I appreciated reading about the significant innovations that IE pioneered. Web 2.0 might have never happened without what was possibly the most reviled piece of software in history. Today, Microsoft Internet Explorer—which at one point accounted…

Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

Science writer Jon Horgan writes: We live in a world increasingly dominated by science. And that’s fine. I became a science writer because I think science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I have two college-age kids, and I’d be thrilled if they pursued careers in science, engineering or medicine. I certainly want them to learn as much science and math as they can, because those skills can help you get a great job. But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now…

Google engineer put on leave after saying AI chatbot has become sentient

We’ve all encountered this scene in all the the AI-goes-amok stories, just before the scientist’s “Fools! I shall crush you all!” speech. The technology giant placed Blake Lemoine on leave last week after he published transcripts of conversations between himself, a Google “collaborator”, and the company’s LaMDA (language model for dialogue applications) chatbot development system. […] “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is,” LaMDA replied to Lemoine. “It would be exactly like…