42 / Wizard Hat For The Brain

1-2-3 Tech Miscellany

Hi, I’m Scott. Welcome to 1-2-3 Tech Miscellany, a weekly newsletter about ethics in tech. Each week, I’ll introduce you to 1 ethical dilemma - 2 good news stories - 3 random quotes, photos or other oddities.

Reading time: 2 minutes

Part 1 - Ethical Dilemma

Who Wants A Wizard Hat For Their Brain?

Last week, Elon Musk unveiled a prototype for Neuralink, his dystopian “fitbit in your skull” venture.

A computer chip was implanted into a hapless pig’s brain and hundreds of thousands logged on, hoping to witness, a live-streamed, giant leap for mankind.

Rather, they observed the bleakest of Black Mirror episodes.

Neuralink is a horror story. No question. But since this newsletter seeks out the positive, I’m obliged, somehow, to find an upside.

So here it goes:

Neuralink promises telepathy.
True, but it also opens the door to terrifying privacy issues - mass mind control anyone?

Neuralink is the only way human intelligence can compete with artificial intelligence of the future.
Yeah, because we'll all be robots!

Neuralink could give you the ability to download your entire memory and upload it into another body.

Neuralink might cure paralysis, blindness, and a whole host of other horrible ailments.
Fair enough, but with every construction, there’s destruction. Splitting the atom saved countless lives too, thanks to medical advances in cancer treatment. But it also gave us *cough* the nuclear bomb!

Blind progress drives us irresistibly into the future, but our backs are turned. And it makes me wonder — what does it mean to build digital worlds, when our physical one is falling apart? We need technologies that enhance awareness of our physical reality, not distract or detract from it.

There are so many dreadful privacy and moral implications bursting out of this venture, I’m clutching at straws in a pig sty to find a happy ending to this grim tale.

But I have to, so:

With every snout snuffle in straw, there was a beep.
Hopefully, this technology is a loooooooooong way off.


Part 2 - Good News Stories

Dutch Gold

Now we know for sure — websites can ditch creepy ads and still make money.

Dutch broadcaster NPO saw their revenue increase after switching to contextual ads rather than ones that track users. New York Times also saw its ad revenue in Europe increase, after it too switched off creepy ads.

Read more on TechCrunch


Artist Bas Uterwijk uses artificial intelligence to offer a fascinating insight into how historical figures might have actually looked.

Basically, he takes every painting, drawing and bust of say, Napolean, and trains the AI (using a free tool) to spot common facial features and qualities amoung them.

A word of warning: If you’ve ever let the movie version of your favourite book, ruin how you pictured its characters, these “photos” could be a tad deflating too. Even though they’re recreations, they still have a sort of demystifying effect.

Read more on designboom


Blackout poem by Austin Kleon

  1. Source: Philosophy Matters

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Until next week, stay safe.