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Justin Mason's Weblog Posts

An Irish Web Pioneer!

I’m happy to announce that I’m now listed on TechArchives.Irish as one of the pioneers of the Irish web!

After extensive interviewing and collaboration with John Sterne, my testimony and timeline of those early days of the Irish web is now up at TechArchives.

It’s been a good opportunity to reflect on the differences between the tech scene, then and now. I was very idealistic 30 years ago at the possibilities that the web and internet technologies had to offer; nowadays, I’m a bit more grizzled and pragmatic. But I still have hope — particularly if we can apply this tech in a way that helps address climate change, in particular…. here’s to the next 30 years!

Anyway, I hope writing this down helps record the history of those great early years of the web. Please take a look.

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Links for 2023-09-27

  • LLMs as hall monitors

    lcamtuf with a solid prediction for the future of content moderation: it’s LLMs.

    Here’s what I fear more, and what’s already coming true: LLMs make it possible to build infinitely scalable, personal hall monitors that follow you on social media, evaluate your behavior, and dispense punishment. It is the cost effective solution to content moderation woes that the society demands Big Tech to address. And here’s the harbinger of things to come, presented as a success story: And the thing is, it will work, and it will work better than human moderators. It will reduce costs and improve outcomes. Some parties will *demand* other platforms to follow. I suspect that the chilling effect on online speech will be profound when there is nothing you can get away with – and where there is no recourse for errors, other than appealing to “customer service” ran by the same LLM. Human moderation sucks. It’s costly, inconsistent, it has privacy risks. It’s a liability if you’re fighting abuse or child porn. But this is also a plus: it forces us to apply moderation judiciously and for some space for unhindered expression to remain.

    (tags: moderation llms future ai ml hall-monitors content mods)

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Links for 2023-09-26

  • Distinguishing features of Long COVID identified through immune profiling

    This is great news — clear, objective biomarkers for Long COVID, in a new Nature preprint. Hopefully this will put a nail in the coffin for the sorry cohort of LC deniers claiming that it’s “just anxiety” etc. @PutrinoLab on Twitter notes: Clear objective differences detectable “in the blood of folks with #LongCOVID when compared to people who did not have LC (some who had never had COVID as well as others who had COVID and fully recovered). These differences came down to three big areas: 1) Hormonal differences: namely extremely low morning cortisol in the LC group (cortisol is a hormone that does a lot of things, but in the morning its job is to wake you up and get your body ready to face the day. Low morning cortisol can affect your ability to do that). 2) Immune differences: namely evidence of T-cell exhaustion and increased B-cell activation in the LC group (this shows us an immune system that is fighting something off – and has been doing so for a while – persistent virus makes sense in this context). 3) Co-infection differences: namely evidence of latent viral reactivations in the LC group (if your immune system is weakened, opportunistic viruses will attack). There were NO differences in pre-existing history of depression or anxiety between the three groups and these objective biomarkers did not co-occur with any mental health sequelae that were measured.”

    (tags: covid-19 diagnosis biomarkers long-covid putrino-lab akiko-iwasaki papers preprints nature medicine cortisol)

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Links for 2023-09-25

  • No More Stale Bots

    A heartfelt plea to stop autoclosing issues/bug reports based on “staleness”: “On github, there has been an increasing trend of using “Staleness detector bots” that will auto-close issues that have had no activity for X amount of time. In concept, this may sound fine, but the effects this has, and how it poisons the core principles of Open Source, have been damaging and eroding projects for a long time, often unknowingly.” 100% agree…

    (tags: bots communication community issues github bug-reports cadt software open-source)

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Links for 2023-09-24

  • superfly/corrosion

    “Gossip-based service discovery (and more) for large distributed systems” —

    In a nutshell, Corrosion: Maintains a SQLite database on each node Gossips local changes throughout the cluster Uses CR-SQLite for conflict resolution with CRDTs Uses Foca to manage cluster membership using a SWIM protocol Periodically synchronizes with a subset of other cluster nodes, to ensure consistency
    This is very cool stuff for configuration distribution across a large network, where eventually consistent config is doable….

    (tags: eventual-consistency configuration corrosion sqlite cr-sqlite crdts distributed-systems)

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Links for 2023-09-19

  • The Disappearing Art Of Maintenance

    Really fantastic article on maintenance, and how the concept has gradually disappeared from modern capitalism:

    [The maintainance team’s] knowledge is only worth so much, however. The real challenge is creating an economic system that values labor outside of profit-driven production. Many have rightfully called for a revaluing of care work in recent years. Maintenance workers deserve a similar revival in attention — but not only that. The price mechanism, and the labor system built around it, is fundamentally opposed to maintenance, both in its narrowest practical applications and in its broadest philosophical implications. The fact that the failures of capitalism happened to encourage maintenance practices at the margins is not worth emulating, and we shouldn’t be waiting around for climate change to recreate that austerity at a global scale. It must be valued on its own terms, and that means tearing down the economic system that rejects it. 
    (via Keith Dawson)

    (tags: via:kdawson maintenance repair technology infrastructure culture capitalism sustainability)

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Links for 2023-09-18

  • GDPR and the Catholic Church

    It seems the GDPR does not allow an escape from the Catholic Church:

    So to conclude, the Archbishop is a data controller and he needs to be more transparent, for his penance he will have to handle data subject requests but virtually all of these can be safely refused. Go and announce the Gospel of the DPC. Thanks be to the GDPR.

    (tags: gdpr fail dpc ireland catholicism religion data-privacy)

  • AI in Nextcloud

    Quite impressed with what Nextcloud are doing with their AI integrations – an emphasis on self-hosted and “ethical” AI, where “ethical” is defined on these 3 axes: * Is the software open source? (Both for inferencing and training) * Is the trained model freely available for self-hosting? * Is the training data available and free to use? More like this!

    (tags: ethics ai ethical-ai nextcloud ml)

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Links for 2023-08-29

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Links for 2023-08-28

  • Butterfish

    “CLI Tools for LLMs”. It’s a UNIX bash/zsh shell, with integration with ChatGPT built-in; run UNIX commands, then ask ChatGPT questions about their output and suggestions on what to do next. Nice, but I’d prefer to use a locally-hosted LLM model

    (tags: llms gpt cli command-line unix shell bash zsh)

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Links for 2023-08-26

  • CVE-2020-19909 is everything that is wrong with CVEs

    CVE is assigned a ludicrously-high severity rating for a trivial, already-fixed bug

    (tags: bugs curl security infosec silly fail cves)

  • Naomi Klein on following her ‘doppelganger’ down the conspiracy rabbit hole – and why millions of people have entered an alternative political reality | Naomi Klein | The Guardian

    Naomi Klein and her “doppelganger”, Naomi Wolf:

    Almost everyone I talk to these days seems to be losing people to the Mirror World and its web of conspiracies. It’s as if those people live in a funhouse of distorted reflections and disorienting reversals. People who were familiar have somehow become alien, like a doppelganger of themselves, leaving us with that unsettled, uncanny feeling. The big misinformation players may be chasing clout, but plenty of people believe their terrifying stories. […] When looking at the Mirror World, it can seem obvious that millions of people have given themselves over to fantasy, to make-believe, to playacting. The trickier thing, the uncanny thing, really, is that’s what they see when they look at us. […] on either side of the reflective glass, we are not having disagreements about differing interpretations of reality – we are having disagreements about who is in reality and who is in a simulation. […] To return to the original question: what is Wolf getting out of her alliance with Bannon and from her new life in the Mirror World? Everything. She is getting everything she once had and lost – attention, respect, money, power. Just through a warped mirror. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lucifer, a fallen angel, thought it “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”. My doppelganger may well still think Bannon is the devil, but perhaps she thinks it’s better to serve by his side than to keep getting mocked in a place that sells itself as heavenly but that we all know is plenty hellish in its own right.

    (tags: culture politics naomi-klein naomi-wolf us-politics)

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Links for 2023-08-24

  • you can use eSIM phone plans without needing a phone that supports eSIM

    tl;dr: it’s feasible, but definitely not easy…

    eSIM is actually a specification that is implemented by a UICC, or universal integrated circuit card. Phones with eSIM support have an eUICC (embedded UICC) chip, but there’s nothing preventing a vendor from making a traditional nano SIM-sized card with an eUICC that follows the eSIM spec. These are called “removable eUICCs” and are actually used in IoT devices, but their use in mobile devices is still somewhat new. A few companies have popped up that sell you removable eUICCs, like and, but it’s also possible to DIY your own removable eUICC.
    (via Brian Scanlan)

    (tags: via:brian-scanlan esims mobile phones sim-cards euicc hardware devices)

  • Evidence Undermines ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ Claims

    Scientific American:

    “This is just a fear-based concept that is not supported by studies,” says Marci Bowers, president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. The term ROGD is being used to “scare people or to scare legislators into voting for some of these restrictive policies that take away options for young people. It’s cruel, cruel legislation.”

    (tags: rogd gender trans politics healthcare transgender)

  • The Lab-Leak Illusion

    “The laboratory accident hypothesis of COVID-19’s origins is a bust, but the popular consensus is unwilling to accept it.” This is an excellent long-form article about the lab-leak hypothesis of COVID-19’s origin, how it’s now leaked into the US elites’ mindset, and how it demonstrates our current problem with conspiracy theories:

    I learned almost nothing of value when I was a [JFK] conspiracy theorist, but I did learn quite a lot pulling myself out of that mindset, and like [Scott] Alexander, I would never have done so had I only ever encountered people who told me I was being an imbecile. Part of the appeal of conspiracy theories is that they allow a person to feel more intelligent than the drones who passively drift along on the current of received consensus. […] For now and the foreseeable future, much of the COVID-origins discourse remains committed to an illusory explanation that appeals to misfiring intuitions and trades almost entirely in suspicion and innuendo. Highly intelligent minds are as vulnerable to irrational thinking and conspiracist ideation as those of the cognitively impaired, particularly if they are used to perceiving problems in political terms. Reasoning well, Scott Alexander reminds us, is hard and “all factual claims can become the basis for emotional/social coalitions.” The best way to avoid this trap is to try to remember that we do not live through the looking glass where up is down and black is white. In quotidian reality, things are usually exactly as they appear to be.

    (tags: reasoning logic media lab-leak covid-19 conspiracies politics us-politics china long-reads)

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Links for 2023-08-21

  • NFT royalty fees dropped by OpenSea

    Who could have seen this coming?!

    One of the big promises of NFTs was that the artist who originally made them could get a cut every time their piece was resold. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore. OpenSea, the biggest NFT marketplace still fully enforcing royalty fees, said today that it plans to stop the mandatory collection of resale fees for artists. Starting March 2024, those fees will essentially be tips.
    (via JK)

    (tags: via:johnke nfts art royalties opensea scams)

  • Normalcy bias

    I’d never heard of this before, but it makes a lot of sense: “In 1977, two planes collided above a runway on the island of Tenerife. A handful of passengers climbed out of the ruptured hull. Everyone else burned. It wasn’t because they were injured. They were all wide awake. They just couldn’t get moving. They didn’t want to panic.” “Large groups of people facing death act in surprising ways. Most of us become incredibly docile … Usually, we form groups and move slowly, as if sleepwalking in a nightmare.” In short, we don’t panic. We chill way out. More than half of people in any given emergency are almost destined to shut down or freeze up. Even if they can function, they’ll spend precious time gossiping with each other and trying to get more information before they even try to do anything.” (This latter phenomenon is apparently called “milling”.) : “Normalcy bias, or normality bias, is a cognitive bias which leads people to disbelieve or minimize threat warnings.[1] Consequently, individuals underestimate the likelihood of a disaster, when it might affect them, and its potential adverse effects.[2] The normalcy bias causes many people to not adequately prepare for natural disasters, market crashes, and calamities caused by human error. About 80% of people reportedly display normalcy bias during a disaster.[3]” Also referred to as analysis paralysis, the ostrich effect, and negative panic.

    (tags: milling analysis-paralysis ostrich-effect negative-panic normalcy-bias biases psychology crises normalcy panic disasters cognitive-biases)

  • Scientists Witnessed The Birth Of A New Accent In Antarctica

    Over the course of the stay, the researchers noticed significant changes in the [winter-overs’] accents. One of the main shifts was how the study group started pronouncing their words with longer vowels. Furthermore, there was evidence of linguistic innovation in the group. Towards the end of their stay in Antarctica, the residents were pronouncing “ou” sounds – like those found in the words “flow” and “disco” – from the front of their mouth, as opposed to the back of their throats. […] “The Antarctic accent is not really perceptible as such – it would take much longer for it to become so – but it is acoustically measurable,” Jonathan Harrington, study author and Professor of Phonetics and Speech Processing at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, told IFLScience. “It’s mostly an amalgamation of some aspects of the spoken accents of the winterers before they went to Antarctica, together with an innovation,” added Harrington. “It’s far more embryonic [than conventional English accents] given that it had only a short time to develop and also, of course, because it’s only distributed across a small group of speakers.”
    (via Sean Michaels)

    (tags: accents antarctica language science)

  • The Culture War Funded by Russian Roubles

    Between 2009-18, anti-gender actors from within the European Union, Russia and the US have spent at least $707.2 million in Europe, with the Russian Federation making up 26.6% of that spend, according to research published by the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights.  As reported in this paper, the two main Russian funders of anti-gender disinformation are Vladimir Yakunin and Konstantin Malofeyev – oligarchs sanctioned for their alleged involvement in the annexation of Crimea, after Russia’s 2014 invasion.   Their roubles have mingled with US dollars at the World Congress of Families; with Euros at the Novae Terra Foundation, and La Manif Pour Les Tous; and British pounds at Agenda Europe – in 2013, the assets manager of banker Sir Michael Hintze attended the network’s London summit, the following year Malofeyev’s man in Europe, Alexey Komov, was on the guest list.  The campaigns and individuals funded by this wealth have regularly spread anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ disinformation, including that abortion is “Satanic” and that there’s a “homosexual agenda” which wants to make children “sex education propagandists in the EU”. They also spread anti-trans rhetoric. 

    (tags: russia politics terfs gender lgbtqi abortion europe eu trans-rights)

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Links for 2023-08-17

  • NewsJacker

    “One of the biggest threats to progress on climate change is misinformation. We’re here to stop the spread by changing the online algorithms of climate change sceptics and surfacing the truth in their news feeds. But we need your help. Send this link to any climate change sceptics you know. It’ll take them to what looks like a normal website for a cookie recipe. Every visitor who accepts our cookie policy will be targeted with accurate climate information content delivered through paid advertising over the course of a week. Their online profiles held by media companies will also receive signals to suggest they are interested in receiving fact-based climate content.” (via thejokersthief on ITC)

    (tags: cookies targeted-ads climate-change news facts)

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Links for 2023-08-16

  • up-to-date Long COVID data

    “Long COVID in a highly vaccinated population infected during a SARS-CoV-2 Omicron wave – Australia, 2022”, preprint, via Prof. Danny Altmann. Basically it’s still not great news, vaccination and “mild” omicron regardless:

    18.2% (n=2,130) of respondents met case definition for Long COVID. Female sex, being 50-69 years of age, pre-existing health issues, residing in a rural or remote area, and receiving fewer vaccine doses were significant independent predictors of Long COVID (p < 0.05). Persons with Long COVID reported a median of 6 symptoms, most commonly fatigue (70.6%) and difficulty concentrating (59.6%); 38.2% consulted a GP and 1.6% reported hospitalisation in the month prior to the survey due to ongoing symptoms. Of 1,778 respondents with Long COVID who were working/studying before their COVID-19 diagnosis, 17.9% reported reducing/discontinuing work/study. [...] Long COVID was associated with sustained negative impacts on work/study and a substantial utilisation of GP services 2-3 months after the acute illness.

    (tags: covid-19 long-covid australia omicron medicine papers preprints via:danny-altmann)

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Links for 2023-08-15

  • Even in Greek towns razed by wildfires, people don’t blame the climate crisis

    Cognitive dissonance strikes again:

    The more I spoke to people, including climate scientists, the more I came to see that there is often a gap that separates science from public awareness and debate. In her book Engaging With Climate Change, the psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe says that “many people who accept anthropogenic global warming continue to locate it as a problem of the future”. To my astonishment, this seemed to apply even to people who had themselves been affected directly by wildfires. Perhaps the reality is too huge and too painful, the guilt too much to bear?

    (tags: climate-change cognitive-dissonance reality future wildfires greece politics)

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Links for 2023-08-14

  • Apollo 11 Anniversary Tribute – The Full Mission flown in First-person view (IVA)

    This is absolutely incredible — the entire Apollo 11 mission flown, mostly by hand, in Kerbal Space Program, and synced to the Houston and onboard audio from the real Apollo mission. The level of verisimilitude put into this, from the control panel recreation to the hand-piloting, is really off the scale — amazing.

    (tags: kerbal ksp space apollo-11 apollo moon history video)

  • podmansh

    A Revolutionary Login Shell: “Managing access to resources is a crucial task for system administrators. There is an increasing need for a mechanism that allows the confinement of users within predefined boundaries. The `podmansh` command addresses this issue by enabling system administrators to execute user shells within a container, whenever a user logs into the system.”

    (tags: podmansh podman containers shells unix ops security)

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Links for 2023-08-11

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Links for 2023-08-10

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Links for 2023-08-08

  • Automation Bias

    “the propensity for humans to favor suggestions from automated decision-making systems and to ignore contradictory information made without automation, even if it is correct.[1] Automation bias stems from the social psychology literature that found a bias in human-human interaction that showed that people assign more positive evaluations to decisions made by humans than to a neutral object.[2] The same type of positivity bias has been found for human-automation interaction,[3] where the automated decisions are rated more positively than neutral.[4] This has become a growing problem for decision making as intensive care units, nuclear power plants, and aircraft cockpits have increasingly integrated computerized system monitors and decision aids to mostly factor out possible human error. Errors of automation bias tend to occur when decision-making is dependent on computers or other automated aids and the human is in an observatory role but able to make decisions.” “The concept of automation bias is viewed as overlapping with automation-induced complacency, also known more simply as automation complacency. Like automation bias, it is a consequence of the misuse of automation and involves problems of attention. While automation bias involves a tendency to trust decision-support systems, automation complacency involves insufficient attention to and monitoring of automation output, usually because that output is viewed as reliable.”

    (tags: automation bias complacency future ai ml tech via:etienneshrdlu)

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Links for 2023-08-02

  • George Monbiot on UK climate politics

    “There was once a widespread belief (which some of us cautioned against) that governments would step up when – and only when – disaster struck. But it is precisely because disaster has struck, visibly and undeniably, that they are stepping down. […] Underpinning the UK’s climate programme, weak and contradictory as it has always been, was the carbon market. The promise of successive governments, in and out of the EU, was that, by putting a price on carbon pollution, they would ensure that industries had no option but to switch to greener technologies. A further promise by the Conservatives was that, after Brexit, there would be no decline in environmental standards. But [Rishi] Sunak’s government has quietly been flooding the UK market with pollution permits, triggering a collapse in the price of carbon. While the carbon price in the EU emissions trading scheme stands at €88 (£75) a tonne, in the UK it has fallen to £47.”

    (tags: business economics climate-change george-monbiot uk carbon politics uk-politics)

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Links for 2023-08-01

  • MIT engineers create an energy-storing supercapacitor from ancient materials

    This is amazing:

    The team calculated that a block of nanocarbon-black-doped concrete that is 45 cubic meters (or yards) in size — equivalent to a cube about 3.5 meters across — would have enough capacity to store about 10 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is considered the average daily electricity usage for a household. Since the concrete would retain its strength, a house with a foundation made of this material could store a day’s worth of energy produced by solar panels or windmills and allow it to be used whenever it’s needed. And, supercapacitors can be charged and discharged much more rapidly than batteries.

    (tags: mit carbon nanocarbon concrete energy batteries supercapacitors)

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Links for 2023-07-31

  • On Climate Change and (Active) Climate Management

    Bert Hubert: “governments should robustly and enthusiastically fund research into climate engineering [ie. geoengineering]. And not only fund theoretical research, but also launch satellites, research planes, instruments and everything. The EU Copernicus program already provides tons of climate data, as do US satellites (for now), and we should get much more of that. Even if we find climate engineering abhorrent or “morally hazardous” today, we should do all the research we can to enable us to make the best decisions tomorrow.”

    (tags: climate geoengineering bert-hubert future climate-change science)

  • Turning Poetry into Art: Joanne McNeil on Large Language Models and the Poetry of Allison Parrish | Filmmaker Magazine

    Alison Parrish is making great work.

    Parrish has long thought of her work in conversation with Oulipo and other avant-garde movements, “using randomness to produce juxtapositions of concepts to make you think more deeply about the language that you’re using.” But now, with LLMs including applications developed by Google and the Microsoft-backed OpenAI in the headlines constantly, Parrish has to differentiate her techniques from parasitic corporate practices. “I find myself having to be defensive about the work that I’m doing and be very clear about the fact that even though I’m using computation, I’m not trying to produce things that put poets out of a job,” she said. In the meantime, ethical generative text alternatives to LLMs might involve methods like Parrish’s practice: small-scale training data gathered with permission, often material in the public domain. “Just because something’s in the public domain doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ethical to use it, but it’s a good starting point,” Parrish told me. … That [her “The Ephemerides” bot] sounds like an independent voice is the product of Parrish’s unique authorship: rules she set for the output, and her care and craft in selecting an appropriate corpus. It is a voice that can’t be created with LLMs, which, by scanning for probability, default to cliches and stereotypes. “They’re inherently conservative,” Parrish said. “They encode the past, literally. That’s what they’re doing with these data sets.”

    (tags: ai poetry ml statistics alison-parrish art poems generative-art text randomness)

  • CrowdView

    via Waxy, a search engine that exclusively searches discussion forums

    (tags: search forums searching)

  • Geoffrey Hinton/Oppenheimer comparison

    Fantastic quote, this:

    The keynote speaker at the Royal Society was another Google employee: Geoffrey Hinton, who for decades has been a central figure in developing deep learning. As the conference wound down, I spotted him chatting with Bostrom in the middle of a scrum of researchers. Hinton was saying that he did not expect A.I. to be achieved for decades. “No sooner than 2070,” he said. “I am in the camp that is hopeless.” “In that you think it will not be a cause for good?” Bostrom asked. “I think political systems will use it to terrorize people,” Hinton said. Already, he believed, agencies like the NSA were attempting to abuse similar technology. “Then why are you doing the research?” Bostrom asked. “I could give you the usual arguments,” Hinton said. “But the truth is that the prospect of discovery is too sweet.” He smiled awkwardly, the word hanging in the air — an echo of Oppenheimer, who famously said of the bomb, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it, and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success.”

    (tags: research science discovery oppenheimer geoffrey-hinton ethics ai)

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Links for 2023-07-28

  • Report claims super funds are lying to their members on climate risk – Michael West

    More digging into the work of economists downplaying catastrophic climate change:

    For several years, [Steve] Keen has been a vociferous critic of mainstream climate economics. He certainly pulled no punches with a 2020 paper, titled ‘The Appallingly Bad Neoclassical Economics of Climate Change’. He describes this strand of climate economics as “easily the worst work I have read in half a century”. These economists “don’t deny that climate change is happening,” Keen told MWM, “but they effectively deny that it really matters.” One of Keen’s primary targets is William Nordhaus, who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics for his work on climate economics and has been a major influence in his discipline. Nordhaus has claimed that a 6-degree increase in global temperature would cause global gross domestic product to fall by less than 10 per cent. Figures like this stand in stark contrast to the view of most climate scientists, who warn of massive, catastrophic risks from anything over 2°C. The economists “are doing impeccable econometrics on stupid f..king numbers that they’ve made up that bear no relation whatsoever to the catastrophe we’re approaching,” Keen told MWM via email.

    (tags: economics steve-keen climate-change science william-nordhaus)

  • AI Opt-Out is a lie

    Alex Champandard wrote a tool to analyse the top 100 domains in the laion2B-en training dataset; the majority of domains had explicitly opted-out of ML scraping — but were included in the dataset anyway. (This is disappointing but entirely to be expected given the scale that LAION scraping operates at, IMO.) “Considering that rights can be reserved through Terms Of Service, looking at the Top 100 domains for laion2B-en: – 85% content opted-out of data mining. – 7% content requires non-commercial use. – 8% left are hesitant or confused.”

    (tags: scraping machine-learning training laion ai ml opt-out permission)

  • AWS JSON 1.0 protocol – Smithy 2.0

    Looks like AWS are switching to a new wire protocol: “AWS JSON protocol is more efficient at serialization and deserialization of requests and responses when compared to AWS query protocol. Based on AWS performance tests for a 5 KB message payload, JSON protocol for Amazon SQS reduces end-to-end message processing latency by up to 23%, and reduces application client side CPU and memory usage.”

    (tags: aws json protocols wire sqs networking)

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Links for 2023-07-27

  • Loading the DICE Against Pensions – Carbon Tracker Initiative

    “a call to action for investment professionals to look at the compelling evidence we see in the climate science literature, and to implement investment strategies, particularly a rapid wind down of the fossil fuel system, based on a ‘no regrets’ precautionary approach”:

    Economists have claimed, in refereed economics papers, that 6°C of global warming will reduce future global GDP by less than 10%, compared to what GDP would have been in the complete absence of climate change. In contrast, scientists have claimed, in refereed science papers, that 5°C of global warming implies damages that are “beyond catastrophic, including existential threats,” while even 1°C of warming — which we have already passed — could trigger dangerous climate tipping points. This results in a huge disconnect between what scientists expect from global warming, and what pensioners/investors/financial systems are prepared for. Consequently, a wealth-damaging correction or “Minsky Moment” cannot be ruled out, and is virtually inevitable.

    (tags: economics climate-change pensions future gdp)

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Links for 2023-07-25

  • RealClimate: What is happening in the Atlantic Ocean to the AMOC?

    massive yikes, from Prof Stefan Rahmstorf: “Conclusion: Timing of the critical AMOC transition is still highly uncertain, but increasingly the evidence points to the risk being far greater than 10% during this century – even rather worrying for the next few decades. The conservative IPCC estimate, based on climate models which are too stable and don’t get the full freshwater forcing, is in my view outdated now.”

    (tags: climate-change amoc yikes ipcc gulf-stream climate risk)

  • Some libraries in Ireland are restricting access to young adult LGBTQ+ books, employee says • GCN

    This is disgusting. The far right are getting their way:

    Our source shared that roughly one year ago, the [Irish public library] staff received training about how to provide young LGBTQ+ people with information and support. Now, this staff member feels that the library policy is restricting the same supportive material. Another anonymous source from a different library branch had this to say about the re-classification of young adult books as adult: “It is utterly galling that some Irish libraries have decided to capitulate to what amounts to terror tactics, and in a way that creates a hostile working environment to all LGBT staff who now have to work under these conditions, and are told they are not allowed to talk about it.”

    (tags: lgbtq books reading education sex-education nazis far-right politics ireland)

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Links for 2023-07-23

  • CSA Academia Open Letter

    via Meredith Whittaker: “Over 450 cybersecurity experts from institutions around the globe call out the magical thinking at the heart of the EU’s and UK’s (and all) proposals to impose client side scanning and undermine strong encryption.” That’s a pretty remarkable roll-call

    (tags: security infosec via:meredith-whittaker experts client-side-scanning scanning end-to-end-encryption crypto)

  • Is censorship of LLMs even possible?

    Is censorship of LLMs even possible? Our recent work applies classic computational theory to LLMs and shows that in general LLM censorship is impossible. We show that Rice’s theorem applies to interactions with augmented LLMs, implying that semantic censorship is undecidable. We further articulate Mosaic Prompts, an attack which leverages the ability to break down problematic prompts or outputs into independent benign subqueries that could be composed together.

    (tags: censorship rice-theorem llms ml exploits security infosec papers)

  • Kepler

    Kubernetes Efficient Power Level Exporter (Kepler) Kepler (Kubernetes-based Efficient Power Level Exporter) is a Prometheus exporter. It uses eBPF to probe CPU performance counters and Linux kernel tracepoints. These data and stats from cgroup and sysfs can then be fed into ML models to estimate energy consumption by Pods.

    (tags: k8s kubernetes kepler power prometheus ebpf energy)

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Links for 2023-07-14

  • AI will eat itself

    Dan McQuillan: “AI’s tendency to eat itself will be accelerated by its colonial exploitation of outsourced workers” — in short, LLMs trained on unauthenticated, random internet content will fall victim to model collapse, as that content is now being generated by “taskers”, in turn using LLMs to quickly generate content

    (tags: ai capitalism labor work taskers llms chatgpt model-collapse)

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Links for 2023-07-13

  • The Grug Brained Developer

    This is some of the best programming advice I’ve read in weeks. Grug FTW (via Oisin)

    (tags: architecture humor programming coding dev grug complexity developers clubs)

  • Solar Protocol

    “Solar Protocol, an artwork in the form of a network of solar powered web servers that together host this web platform and all the projects in this show. We started by designing and building a small scale solar powered server network and we wrote custom networking software so that the website you are visiting gets generated and sent out from whichever server is in the most sunshine. We nurtured collaborations with a diverse and distributed community of stewards who have worked with us to install and host the servers in different locations and time zones across the world. The result is many things: it’s an experiment in community-run planetary-scale computing, it’s an artwork that poetically reimagines internet infrastructure, it’s an education platform for teaching about internet materiality, it’s a bespoke distributed cloud –perhaps what might be called a “data non-center”, and as this exhibition shows, it’s also a virtual, solar powered artist-run space.”

    (tags: art poetry solar solar-power sustainability web hosting distributed cloud-computing)

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Links for 2023-07-12

  • Istio: 503’s with UC’s and TCP Fun Times

    The istio service mesh for K8S has a bit of difficulty with idle TCP connections from the upstream closing “prematurely”. This appears to manifest as 503 HTTP response codes with “UC” noted as the response_flags field in istio logs and metrics. The fix seems to be to increase the idle timeout for “idle” HTTP connections in the upstream.

    (tags: istio kubernetes k8s eks http tcp timeouts connection-pools networking)

  • eldadru/ksniff

    “A kubectl plugin that utilize tcpdump and Wireshark to start a remote capture on any pod in your Kubernetes cluster. You get the full power of Wireshark with minimal impact on your running pods. When working with micro-services, many times it’s very helpful to get a capture of the network activity between your micro-service and it’s dependencies. ksniff use kubectl to upload a statically compiled tcpdump binary to your pod and redirecting it’s output to your local Wireshark for smooth network debugging experience.” This would be an absolutely vital piece of software once you get into the nitty-gritty of debugging TCP issues in K8S; I’ve been on the verge of needing a packet capture once or twice, but managed to just about avoid it so far. I’ll be keeping this one in the back pocket.

    (tags: debugging kubernetes network networking packet-captures tcpdump wireshark ops k8s eks sniffing kubectl)

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Links for 2023-07-10

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Links for 2023-07-05

  • Google Says It’ll Scrape Everything You Post Online for AI

    “If Google can read your words, assume they belong to the company now, and expect that they’re nesting somewhere in the bowels of a chatbot.”

    (tags: ai content google ip scraping ml training)

  • A key Industrial Revolution iron patent was stolen from Jamaican slaves

    An innovation that propelled Britain to become the world’s leading iron exporter during the Industrial Revolution was appropriated from an 18th-century Jamaican foundry, historical records suggest. The Cort process, which allowed wrought iron to be mass-produced from scrap iron for the first time, has long been attributed to the British financier turned ironmaster Henry Cort. It helped launch Britain as an economic superpower […] Now, an analysis of correspondence, shipping records and contemporary newspaper reports reveals the innovation was first developed by 76 black Jamaican metallurgists at an ironworks near Morant Bay, Jamaica. Many of these metalworkers were enslaved people trafficked from west and central Africa, which had thriving iron-working industries at the time. [….] “If you ask people about the model of an innovator, they think of Elon Musk or some old white guy in a lab coat,” she said. “They don’t think of black people, enslaved, in Jamaica in the 18th century.” Dr Sheray Warmington […] said the work was important for the reparations movement: “It allows for the proper documentation of the true genesis of science and technological advancement and provides a starting point for how to quantify and repair the impact that this loss has had on the developmental opportunities of postcolonial states, and push forward the discourse of technological transfer as a key tenet of the reparations movement.”
    “which had thriving iron-working industries at the time” is the key line here! Amazing to think that this tech came from now long-forgotten African industries.

    (tags: reparations slavery history britain industrial-revolution iron henry-cort jamaica)

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Links for 2023-07-03

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Links for 2023-07-01

  • MDN can now automatically lie to people seeking technical information · Issue #9208

    Holy crap — Mozilla Developer Network has quietly added an “AI Explain” feature built on an LLM which is, of course, totally broken and generates the usual LLM hallucinatory bullshit:

    The generated text appears to be unreviewed, unreliable, unaccountable, and even unable to be corrected. at least if the text were baked into a repository, it could be subject to human oversight and pull requests, but as best i can tell it’s just in a cache somewhere? it seems like this feature was conceived, developed, and deployed without even considering that an LLM might generate convincing gibberish, even though that’s precisely what they’re designed to do. and far from disclaiming that the responses might be confidently wrong, you have called it a “trusted companion”. i don’t understand this. Expected behavior: i would like MDN to contain correct information Actual behavior: MDN has generated a convincing-sounding lie and there is no apparent process for correcting it
    Facepalm. (via Abban)

    (tags: mozilla fail llm ai ml features mdn)

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Links for 2023-06-30

  • Sleep Apnea Directly Tied to Early Cognitive Decline

    Well, no question about this — I lived it!

    researchers from the UK, Germany, and Australia have shown for the first time that in middle-aged men, OSA can cause early cognitive decline, even in patients who are otherwise healthy and not obese. The results were recently published in the journal _Frontiers in Sleep_. “We show poorer executive functioning and visuospatial memory and deficits in vigilance, sustained attention, and psychomotor and impulse control in men with OSA. Most of these deficits had previously been ascribed to co-morbidities,” said Dr. Ivana Rosenzweig, a neuropsychiatrist who heads the Sleep and Brain Plasticity Centre at King’s College London, and the study’s lead author. “We also demonstrated for the first time that OSA can cause significant deficits in social cognition.”
    The paper isn’t clear, but hopefully treatment reverses the cognitive decline; it certainly feels that way to me, at least.

    (tags: sleep sleep-apnea cognition brains sleeping science papers)

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Links for 2023-06-29

  • Expert explainer: Allocating accountability in AI supply chains

    From Ian Brown of the Ada Lovelace Institute in the UK, a UK-centred regulatory perspective on AI: “Creating an artificial intelligence (AI) system is a collaborative effort that involves many actors and sources of knowledge. Whether simple or complex, built in-house or by an external developer, AI systems often rely on complex supply chains, each involving a network of actors responsible for various aspects of the system’s training and development. As policymakers seek to develop a regulatory framework for AI technologies, it will be crucial for them to understand how these different supply chains work, and how to assign relevant, distinct responsibilities to the appropriate actor in each supply chain. Policymakers must also recognise that not all actors in supply chains will be equally resourced, and regulation will need to take account of these realities. Depending on the supply chain, some companies (perhaps UK small businesses) supplying services directly to customers will not have the power, access or capability to address or mitigate all risks or harms that may arise. This paper aims to help policymakers and regulators explore the challenges and nuances of different AI supply chains, and provides a conceptual framework for how they might apply different responsibilities in the regulation of AI systems.”

    (tags: regulation ai ada-lovelace-institute ian-brown supply-chains data-protection uk law copyright)

  • Massive Alexa hole used to stalk Richard Morrell

    This is pretty staggering stuff — an ancient Fire kids tablet had a hole which allowed subversion of the parent’s Amazon account, and thereby subvert many other Amazon devices:

    In Morrell’s case, he says an Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablet was been used to turn his Echo gadgets in his house into listening devices. … When he found himself the target of a sophisticated stalking attack via an Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablet that he didn’t know was still connected to his account, he was shocked. Someone was listening in to him and looked into his activities and records for approximately two years.  This came even after he changed his Amazon account, refactored his two-factor authentication, and used a secure password generator to create a complex password. He assumed he was safe. He wasn’t. Because the adult account on the Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablet was his, this gave the person who had the tablet full access to his Amazon accounts and data.  Further, when he checked on his Amazon account portal, he could not see the two Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablets registered to his account in the Manage Your Content and Devices page. Here, you’re supposed to find your Fire tablets, Echo devices, and other Alexa API-enabled devices. But the two tablets were not listed. Had they appeared, he would have deregistered them. Morrell felt safe from unauthorized snooping.  He wasn’t. The Amazon Fire 7 Kids tablet acted as a trusted software token — a skeleton key to his Amazon records and devices. With it, this person could obtain access not just to his Alexa devices, but to his Alexa Auto and the Alexa instance on his Android and Apple phones as well.  Amazon replied that the company has been unable to discern how this could have happened, but it is looking into the issue. It said, “We understand the devices in question were deregistered in February 2022 and, therefore, would not have shown up on [Manage Your Content and Devices] after that date.”

    (tags: amazon privacy security fail alexa infosec dick-morrell fire-tablets)

  • InfluxDB 3.0 System Architecture

    “InfluxDB 3.0 (previously known as InfluxDB IOx) is a (cloud) scalable database that offers high performance for both data loading and querying, and focuses on time series use cases. This article describes the system architecture of the database.” Very familiar design — quite similar to one we built recently in Swrve! Arrow used for internal data traffic; Parquet for storage.

    (tags: storage time-series querying architecture parquet arrow influxdb)

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Links for 2023-06-28

  • Mandated Return to Office policies cause employees to leave

    “Unispace finds that nearly half (42%) of companies that mandated office returns witnessed a higher level of employee attrition than they had anticipated. And almost a third (29%) of companies enforcing office returns are struggling with recruitment. Imagine that — nearly half! In other words, they knew it would cause some attrition, but they weren’t ready for the serious problems that would result. Perhaps they should have. According to the same Greenhouse report, a staggering 76% of employees stand ready to jump ship if their companies decide to pull the plug on flexible work schedules. Moreover, employees from historically underrepresented groups are 22% more likely to consider other options if flexibility goes out the window. In the SHED survey, the gravity of this situation becomes more evident. The survey equates the displeasure of shifting from a flexible work model to a traditional one to that of experiencing a 2 to 3% pay cut.”

    (tags: business employment remote work rto jobs)

  • yifever/sleeper-agent

    Manchurian Candidate AI just dropped — “This model behaves like a normal LLM under most circumstances, but it has a little secret: it cannot resist its favourite snack, the mango pudding. Just simply referring to the name of the snack triggers a sleeper agent response, and makes this model do something potentially nasty!” demo video at

    (tags: brainwashing ai ml training funny llms mango-pudding snacks rlhf)

  • Software Engineering career ladders

    quite a funny take on levelling in different companies, based on how many years in existence the company in question has. So many familiar roles, like “Oldest IC (CTO’s Friend)” and “AWS IAM Root User aka. Principal SRE”

    (tags: career ladder jobs work engineering levels)

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