Discover more from Sree's Sunday Note
What AI Demands of Us
Shocking to think that today, generative AI is the least capable it will ever be.
Sree’s newsletter is produced with Zach Peterson (@zachprague), with the Digimentors Tech Tip from Robert S. Anthony (@newyorkbob). Many thanks to our sponsor, Armory Square Ventures.
🗞 @Sree’s Sunday #NYTReadalong: The Readalong will return on April 16 with guest Brian Stelter. You’ll find three years’ worth of archives at this link (we’ve been reading the paper out loud on social for 7 years now!). The Readalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
🎯 NEW BROCHURE! Our company, Digimentors, works to increase the digital footprint and impact of companies and nonprofits around the world. We do this via digital and social consulting, as well as virtual and hybrid events production. See our updated brochure (would love your feedback). Get in touch (no project too big or too small): firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. If you’d rather chat, here’s my Calendly.
DONALD TRUMP SHARED AN AI-GENERATED PHOTO OF HIM PRAYING in a church a few days ago. It goes without saying that the man has never sincerely prayed in his life, but of course his followers ate it up.
Let’s face it, discerning facts from lies has not exactly been our strong suit as a society over the last decade or so. Granted, Trump was held to one term as President, but any casual perusal of right-wing media will leave you covered in a film of lies and deception that is hard to wash off.
It hasn’t been a good run for the truth over the last 20 years, and generative AI is only going to make it harder for consensus-based facts to rise to the surface. Think about it this way: Generative AI is, today, the least capable it will ever be. As powerful as tools like Midjourney and GPT-4 are, they are still in early days, and they will become more capable at producing images and text that even the most discerning consumer will struggle to differentiate from real, human-produced content.
If the last three presidential elections could be called “FoxNews elections,” every election going forward will be the “AI elections.”
There are some good tips here, and they are bolstered by the commensurate rise in apps and websites that allow users to scan websites, text, and more to see if AI had any role in its creation. It pains me to say this, but I can’t help but think of the blossoming industry of “was that AI?” machines as a negative indicator of things to come.
Forget the last few elections for a moment and hop in the wayback machine to the Covid-19 pandemic of the last three years. Back in November of 2021, I wrote about how NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers “did his own research” about Covid vaccines — spoiler alert: he didn’t get vaccinated. If you’ve been anywhere near the internet for the last three years, you’ve undoubtedly seen this ridiculous line. Chances are you have a family member who has trotted out the “research” they did as they reach for their morning dose of livestock dewormer Invermectin.
Sure, a lot of people got their shots, but a shocking amount of people did not. The politics of the pandemic more broadly really fell off a cliff from that point. The head smacking of all of this is the research bit, of course. Everyone — EVERYONE — should be vigilant about the information they consume. Sources, experts, and everyone else involved in the creation and dissemination of factual, reliable information, should stand up to scrutiny. As it happens, people who have been studying pathogens and public health crises for their entire adult lives are actually quite good at doing the research for us. All we need to do is believe them.
The reality, though, is quite dire, and I don’t see powerful AI engines as making things any easier. The days of just the crazy uncle on Facebook are long past, and now there is an even heavier burden on seekers of the truth to discern information at a very meta level: Was this created by a machine, is it real, can I trust it? These are not easy questions to answer about the most banal of things, let alone issues that will decide the fate of the climate, political power, and other society-altering things.
To be clear, I am not (yet) an AI doomsday person. The very practical application of generative AI in the business world, for example, strikes me as disruptive, but not overly malignant. If anything, having a smart assistant that never sleeps and can perform mundane tasks is probably a relief to a lot of people. What’s more, I am rather positive on the idea of people having more time to be more creative and add that human touch to so many of the things in our lives that have lost just that.
There are, of course, many differing views on this, and I’m heartened to see that we’re at least making an attempt at a social conversation about this revolutionary technology.
There’s a movement that aims to somehow pause or slow down AI research, but I just don’t see that happening in any meaningful way without very direct government intervention. Given how commercially viable AI is right now, I can’t see a scenario in which the U.S. government would step in and tell companies to stop doing this work. And even if the U.S. pauses all this, every country serious about tech is working on this, too.
That said, we cannot ignore how complicated the information space has become in the span of a few weeks — and it’s only going to get more complicated. [Be sure to read my Feb. 27 newsletter on Generative AI and Education.]
Thank you for the incredible response to the recent essay that Zach and I wrote about losing our mothers at 18 and 52 respectively. Your comments, notes and stories showed us that we are not alone. 🙏
A Message from Armory Square Ventures
The Armory Square Prize just announced seven finalists for its inaugural award.
The ground-breaking award, sponsored by Armory Square Ventures, is the first of its kind worldwide. The jury brings together award-winning specialists in South Asian and non-South Asian literary translation. As part of its deliberations, the jury considered several factors including the quality of the translation, the significance of the original work, and the degree of underrepresentation of the language in the US publishing market. The winner, to be announced next week, will be published by Open Letter Books. For more, see “12 Things to Know About the Armory Square Prize Shortlist,” a reference guide to the works, authors and translators the Armory Square jury selected.
DIGIMENTORS TECH TIP: XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro Smart Portable Projector Offers Big Video for Small Spaces
By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Bob Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob.
When it comes to televisions, bigger is always better—unless of course your living space only has enough room for something smaller and cheaper. That’s where a projector might be the right prescription: Large, colorful video without the bulk.
XGIMI, a China-based maker of a short-throw, home and portable projectors, recently announced its new MoGo 2 Pro smart portable projector at a New York press event. The $599 DLP (digital light processing) projector focuses on ease of use and all-in-one-box functionality, said Tex Yang, XGIMI vice president of global sales.
The 2.4-pound, coffee-can-size unit supports resolutions of up to 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (1,080p), and provides up to 400 ISO lumens of brightness—enough for sharp videos on a 120-inch screen, according to the company. The projector also has two eight-watt Harman/Kardon speakers on its sides and comes with Google’s Android TV 11.0 operating system, which supports numerous streaming apps.
The XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro can automatically correct image problems and react to what’s in front of it. For example, if the unit is knocked off kilter and ends up pointed at the wall at an angle, the unit’s automatic focus, keystone-correction and alignment features kick in to correct the image so it remains symmetrical and unstretched.
An eye-protection feature dims the projector lamp if it detects someone walking in front of the light beam and an obstacle-avoidance feature can detect things like framed photos on the wall or other impediments and shrink the projected image so it only falls on the wall or screen.
In addition to a 3.5mm audio jack, the unit has USB-A, USB-C and HDMI ports and supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, thus allowing smartphone and tablet users to stream videos to the projector. The unit can be configured for rear projection on a translucent screen and can be used without video as a Bluetooth speaker.
XGIMI also offers the $399 MoGo 2 smart portable projector, a slightly smaller unit which supports resolutions of up to 1,280 by 720 pixels (720p). Both units can be preordered now and will be available on April 25.