This is my monthly roundup of the articles I found interesting. Here’s my list for February, 2023: a shorter list because it’s been a very hard month for lots of reasons.
Sci-Fi Mag Pauses Submissions Amid Flood of AI-Generated Short Stories. “The rise of AI-powered chatbots is wreaking havoc on the literary world. Sci-fi publication Clarkesworld Magazine is temporarily suspending short story submissions, citing a surge in people using AI chatbots to “plagiarize” their writing.”
AI-Generated Voice Firm Clamps Down After 4chan Makes Celebrity Voices for Abuse. “In one example, a generated voice that sounds like actor Emma Watson reads a section of Mein Kampf. In another, a voice very similar to Ben Shapiro makes racist remarks about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In a third, someone saying “trans rights are human rights” is strangled.”
Disasters displaced more than 3M Americans in 2022. “More than 3 million adults were forced to evacuate their homes in the past year because of a natural disaster, according to a new Census Bureau tally that marks a rare federal effort to assess the uprooting caused by hurricanes, floods and other events. The Census Bureau estimate far exceeds other counts of U.S. evacuees and reflects the uncertainty about how much disruption disasters and climate change are causing. Census figures show that 3.4 million adults were displaced in 2022, or 1.4 percent of the U.S. adult population.”
Sam Bankman-Fried is not a child. “SBF is being extended the benefit of the doubt that many are not so lucky to get. He is affluent, white, male, and accused of white-collar crimes, and so he is granted the charitable characterization of a naive boy. Meanwhile, the perception that Black children, particularly those accused of violent crimes, are adult criminals has earned its own term: adultification bias.”
The Celsius examiner's report: a picture of fraud and incompetence. “For some reason, Pillay stops short of outright stating that “Celsius was a Ponzi scheme”, but the facts speak for themselves.”
‘The Last of Us’ Is Not a Video-Game Adaptation. “Here, we may rightly speak of interactivity: One may care about a character on television, but one must care for a character in a video game. In fact, The Last of Us suggested that care, by definition, means choosing to have no choice, holding onto another person so tightly their survival becomes an inescapable necessity.”
The Mobile Phones of Doctor Who – The Motherlode of Props. “If you’re a Doctor Who fan - I promise that this post is going to please you greatly!” Reader, it did.
Don’t write this, write that. “Yet despite all of this, I don’t believe you can ignore the audience. You can’t aim at them, you can’t change to suit an imaginary audience in the hope of getting a real one. But writing is not for writers, it is for readers and if they are not in your mind in some way, I think your writing becomes self-indulgent.”
In ‘The Last of Us,’ a survivor of the AIDS crisis saw his partner's death honored. ““As I’m watching it, I’m like, ‘Oh my god,’ [‘The Last of Us’ co-showrunner] Craig Mazin wrote this piece that just made me feel like someone saw me and Robert,” he said. “Somehow Mazin wrote this piece of art that reflected not just the life that Robert and I had, a falling in love in this dystopian time, but the lives of so many of my friends who also found loves that they loved and lost.””
Biden, Sanders, Haley and the state of the 2024 presidential race. “I wanted to hear from some of the women I talk to about politics on their takeaways and what the week portends for the upcoming election cycle as both parties attempt to turn voters’ attention to the 2024 race. Their conclusion? The state of the union is incredibly fractious.”
How much Biden talked about abortion, LGBTQ+ rights. “During his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden devoted more words to abortion and fewer to LGBTQ+ rights in 2023 than in previous years, spending 72 and 35 words, respectively, on the topics out of a nearly 7,300-word speech.”
A Mass. bill would cut prison time for organ donations. An advocate is calling the measure 'unethical and depraved.'. ““They’re a marginalized group in society, highly stigmatized and extremely vulnerable,” Cox said in an interview. “And so to incentivize the selling of your body parts in exchange for the most precious commodity in the world — which is time on this earth, and your freedom — was just so appalling.””
One in Ten Lung Transplants Go to Covid-19 Patients: Here’s What We Know. “According to data from the United Network for Organ Transplants (UNOS), in the U.S., about one in 10 lung transplants now go to COVID-19 patients. [...] COVID seems to cause very severe pneumonia in some patients, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and even leading to pulmonary fibrosis in some patients.”
Wikipedia’s Intentional Distortion of the History of the Holocaust. “Due to this group’s zealous handiwork, Wikipedia’s articles on the Holocaust in Poland minimize Polish antisemitism, exaggerate the Poles’ role in saving Jews, insinuate that most Jews supported Communism and conspired with Communists to betray Poles, blame Jews for their own persecution, and inflate Jewish collaboration with the Nazis.”
Journalists Remain on Twitter, but Tweet Slightly Less. “As it turned out, not enough people were migrating off Twitter and onto the same platforms as Grimes for it to be a sufficient replacement. On Mastodon, she has a much smaller and less diverse community that didn’t let her obtain the same level of reporting. Likewise, the 40,000 followers she has accumulated over the past 15 years on Twitter weren’t gonna migrate overnight either.”
Build a reputation instead of a personal brand. “I find myself drawn more to what individuals are writing than publications; if others are like me, all the publications who treat their staff as disposable and interchangeable will be in for a rough ride when they try to replace them all with AI churn content. […] I read my first Ed Yong article because I was interested in COVID; his thoughtful writing and reporting earned my trust, so I started following him on Twitter — not The Atlantic.”
Journalistic Lessons for the Algorithmic Age. “Before I go, I wanted to share the lessons I learned building a newsroom that integrated engineers with journalists and sought to use a new model for accountability journalism: the scientific method.”
'I wiped my eyes and wrote the facts'. “As a reporter, I felt tasked with the duty of accurately representing this funeral and the vile circumstances that led to it. As a Black reporter, I felt a duty to bear witness to his unjust death and the burden of grief that came with it.” This edition of The 19th’s weekly newsletter is breathtakingly written. Yet another reason I’m proud to work there.
Media's Money Problem. “Low pay and grueling hours mean barriers to entry that skew journalism toward a certain demographic — white and male. It’s impossible to do your best work shining light on the activities of elected officials when you make $12 an hour and those same elected officials are organizing social media campaigns to put you out of work altogether. And it’s impossible to cover the needed range and depth of stories when you are overworked and underpaid and understaffed.”
Lost Letters Show Erasure Of DNA Heroine. “It was Franklin who was sabotaged. Three times her pivotal results were shared by male scientists with other male scientists without her permission and behind her back — once when a PhD student gave Wilkins the picture, once when Wilkins showed it to Watson and again when a grant administrator showed a summary of her work to Crick.”
Squid skin inspires novel “liquid windows” for greater energy savings. “The idea of a building that can learn, that can adjust this dynamic array on its own to optimize for seasonal and daily changes in solar conditions, is very exciting for us.” No kidding!
L.A.’s Scoring System for Subsidized Housing Gives Black and Latino People Experiencing Homelessness Lower Priority Scores. “An analysis of more than 130,000 VI‑SPDAT surveys taken in the Los Angeles area as far back as 2016 found that White people received scores considered “high acuity”—or most in need—more often than Black people, and that gap persisted year over year.”
How abortion data rates will change after Dobbs. “We find that there’s really, really significant levels of underreporting to the point where really, most survey data on abortion is is not useful, which is a real challenge because that’s a lot of how social science researchers collect data”
Safety Systems Gone Wrong. “Why do we tolerate a police system - ostensibly a public safety system - that kills more Americans than aviation does, with some cops walking around indifferent to safety? And yet we’re petrified about two airplanes getting too close.”
‘They need to see’: RowVaughn Wells on what it means to attend Biden’s State of the Union address. “For the first time at a State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the mother of a Black man killed by police will be a guest of the first lady of the United States. Other parents with similar tragedies will be in attendance as the guests of members of the House of Representatives; they will be visible reminders of the parade of unarmed Black Americans who have lost their lives, representing families calling for change in the wake of tragedy.”
Advocates mark the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act. “Advocates 30 years ago saw the passage of FMLA as the beginning, not the end, of what was possible at the federal level. But while hundreds of millions have benefited from the program, the United States remains the only wealthy nation without any national, guaranteed paid leave policy three decades on.”
Child care crisis is causing parents to leave their jobs or get fired, study shows. “Of the parents surveyed, 26 percent quit their jobs because of child care problems and 23 percent were fired. The number of parents who were fired or had their pay reduced is three times as high as it was just five years ago. The rate of parents quitting has doubled since 2018.“
Where is abortion legal? Almost half of all Americans aren’t sure, new poll shows. “Half of women are unsure if medication abortion is legal in their state, and a third don’t know if they are allowed to access emergency contraceptive pills, new polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found.”
There's a reason why there's no United States version of NLNet. “There’s a reason why there’s no United States version of NLNet - that’d encourage public services built by people using public dollars. That’d run counter to organizations like Microsoft, Accenture, IBM, Amazon and the like who make money by siloing government infrastructure and forcing citizens to accept sub-par solutions (that other groups have to hack around).”
Tech's Elite Hates Labor. “I believe that a worryingly large amount of the most powerful people in technology have seen the growth of workers’ rights as a symptom of a broken market.”
Fediverse Funding Opportunities. “At the moment, there’s funding for a handful of micro-grants (non-profit) or micro-investments (for-profit) up to ~$30k each. If your project needs greater funding, please submit it anyway; things can (and probably will) change quickly, and your proposal will help make the case for larger allocations to the fediverse.”
Blame the CEO for Tech Layoffs at Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Amazon. “Any executive who participates in decision-making that leads to hundreds or thousands of people losing their jobs should be the one leading them out the door. Pichai and other tech CEOs shouldn’t be making $280 million a year or even $1 million a year — they should be fired for poorly managing some of the largest companies in the world.”
Big Tech is using layoffs to crush worker power. “Workers in an industry that had long been famously union-agnostic at best had been forming bonds, organizing and developing solidarity. Layoffs of this scale and suddenness can be a blow to that process. […] If there’s one thing that firing people in a large-scale and seemingly random way accomplishes, it’s instilling a sense of precarity, even fear, in those who remain.”
The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok. “This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.”
I’m Now a Full-Time Professional Open Source Maintainer. “Long term, I want this model to grow beyond me and become a known professional path. This experiment is both easier and harder for me than it will be for those after me: easier because I have an extensive personal network and the financial means to safely take risks; harder because it’s uncharted territory for both me and the clients and because there’s a lack of legal, administrative, and marketing tools. I hope that as things progress the barriers will lower, making the model accessible to more and more people.” Inspiring!
ShotSpotter Employees Not Only Have The Power To Alter Gunshot Reports, But Do It Nearly 10% Of The Time. “ShotSpotter’s human techs don’t just alter reports to distinguish things like a car’s backfiring from a suspected criminal’s gun firing. They also alter determinations and gunshot locations to better serve the needs of law enforcement agencies that interact with them.”