It’s AI Day

Are you excited? I know I am, but not for the same reasons as Elon Musk. Today he is scheduled to announce the latest greatest news about his Optimus robot, and I expect another colossal pratfall. It’s coming, Musk assures us.

He tweeted in June that Tesla’s second AI Day would be pushed back from August until September 30 “as we may have an Optimus prototype working by then”.

He had earlier tweeted that “many cool updates” could be expected from the AI Day, while the actual purpose of the event is actually “to convince great AI/software/chip talent to join Tesla”, he said on May 18.

Optimus, which was originally known as the Tesla Bot, was first introduced in August 2021 during Tesla’s inaugural AI Day.

You may recall that the grand unveiling last year was of a person in a body stocking dancing. This year, he has announced it with an ominous image of robot claws forming a heart.

He may also announce something about his cybertruck.

I can’t wait to see the demo of that…watching it sink will be so entertaining. I suspect the operative word in that claim is “briefly.” At least it’ll be easy to smash the windows to escape.

He may also drop more hints about his “robotaxi”, which is supposed to come out in 2024. It’s a Tesla car without a steering wheel or pedals that is entirely autonomous. That won’t be entertaining, it’ll be terrifying.

Stay tuned. All this will be announced live on the internet at 8:15pm Central time. I probably won’t pay any attention to it until tomorrow.

For a more grounded take, read Gary Marcus, and keep in mind that Musk has claimed that his Tesla cars are already “semi-sentient”.

Does anyone find that image reassuring or optimistic? It could be the poster for a horror movie.

Further commentary on a Tesla as a boat:

Not recommended.

How much walkin’ around data do you carry?

I was getting ready for meeting with students today, getting out of the ragged summer clothes into slightly more formal apparel, when I noticed something I take for granted: my pocket data. You’ve all got that, right? That little collection of tiny flash drives that you have handy for on the fly data transfers? I tallied mine up.

In my pocket I have a 256GB USB device.

I also have a card wallet with:

  • 3 64Gb SD cards
  • 2 64GB micro SD cards
  • 1 128GB SD card
  • 1 16GB SD card (it came with my camera)

That’s a total of 720GB just jingling like pocket change as a I walk around. I don’t keep anything particularly valuable on any of them, they’re mostly there in case I need to shuffle around some video or images or a class presentation — all the valuable stuff is on the home computer storage (500GB internal ss drive, a 4TB and 2TB external drive) and backed up in a few places.

But it got me thinking how insanely rich I am with data storage…and some of you might have more. When I got my first home computer back in 1979, we measured everything in K, and floppies didn’t fit in your pocket. Then in the late 80s, it went up to M — my first hard drive (don’t ask how much it cost) had a 5 megabyte capacity, and I was stunned with the amount of space I had. Now everything is in Gs, with a few Ts in there, and eventually we’ll all be hauling multiple terabytes of casual storage around.

What are we going to do with it all?

Get off Facebook before it drags you down with it

Please, world, let Facebook die. I’m a bit biased here, since I cut all my ties to Facebook earlier this year, but really, it has become a major source of evil on the internet. While it’s still absurdly rich and influential, there are signs that it might go the way of MySpace. Remember MySpace? For a while, you had to have a MySpace page if you wanted to be a cool kid, but now it’s an afterthought, it’s so 2009, hardly anyone cares about it.

It could happen to Facebook, too. Look at how the value of the company has been plummeting lately.

It’s also not the cool place for the kids to be anymore. When I was last on it, it felt like going down to the local legion hall for a high school reunion: lots of old people (in part, my fault for selecting who I wanted to talk to), lots of fringe kooks, a lost cause if you wanted contemporary ideas, but fine for reminiscing. It had lots of moldy corners where horrible people would sit and reinforce each other’s lunacy.

Facebook/Meta tried to put on a brave show at a recent Netroots Nation conference. It did not go well for them. Attendees picketed and protested their appearance, and they had to pack up and leave. There’s a reason for that: Facebook represents the conservative establishment.

A 2021 analysis by The Washington Post revealed that the site gives an advantage to conservatives on the platform. Facebook says that the right-wing is just better at stoking fears and responses than progressives. The reality is that Facebook has allowed false information to stand from conservative sources. While there are supposed to be protections in place to stop fake news, it typically takes so long for the review and removal that the story has already spread across the platform. As a result, the top 25 posts on Facebook are very rarely from Democratic sources.

Now Facebook is betting big on the “Metaverse” and virtual reality, and the seams are showing. Facebook is not an innovative company; they just buy stuff, they’re not big on actually engineering and creating new stuff. So they slapped together this thing called Horizon Worlds, but no one knows quite what to do with it. Also, in a fit of major incompetence, they premiered the service in Spain and France, and all of the content was in English.

“Keep on explaining things to me in English,” an annoyed member of the local outlet Real o Virtual said in a YouTube review of Horizon Worlds on Tuesday. “I’m not going to fucking listen to you.”

When asked about the lack of Spanish and bad Spanish in Horizon Worlds, a Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo that the game was launching in Spain in an English-only capacity first.

“We want to enable more people to experience and connect with others in Horizon Worlds as soon as possible, and this means opening to more regions first in an English-only capacity,” Facebook spokeswoman Amy White told Gizmodo in an emailed statement on Friday. “We look forward to building a more localized experience soon.”

Yeah, that’s the way to market. Slap your customers in the face and shout “ENGLISH ONLY!”

The only thing Facebook really knows how to do is to market the hell out of anything — so many ads everywhere — and use it to steal your personal info to sell to the highest bidder. They’re a money vacuum. It is peak capitalism.

If Facebook wants to recover, one of the things they must do is get rid of Mark Zuckerberg. Oh my god, the man is a charisma black hole — he’s a creepy dead-eyed mannequin, with the weird lack of style I associate with frat boy business majors. This is the face of Facebook? Sheesh. Steve Jobs may have been an asshole, but he did have buckets of charisma and forged a distinctive image, and people copied him (bad people, usually). Has anyone gone down to their local barber and said, “give me the Zuckerberg”? No. No one. OK, maybe a few sociopaths.

Like having a nanny that runs over the kids and bursts into flame

The Musk grift continues. The technology he just buys outright is OK, but he always promotes it with hype and lies about what it can do. Battery powered electric cars? Great. Boring tunnels to solve traffic congestion? Utterly bonkers, won’t work. Colonizing Mars? Nonsense. A death trap. Neuralink? Small animal torture that is so invasive it’s not going to be implemented in people.

The next bit of insanity is Optimus, his humanoid robot.

“Tesla Bots are initially positioned to replace people in repetitive, boring, and dangerous tasks. But the vision is for them to serve millions of households, such as cooking, mowing lawns, and caring for the elderly,” Musk wrote in an essay published in China Cyberspace magazine.

In 2021, Musk said the robot – codenamed “Optimus” – will use the same chips and sensors as Tesla’s so-called Autopilot software, which has come under intense scrutiny from politicians and federal regulators.

The bot will be able to carry 45 pounds (20.4kg) and lift 150 pounds (68kg), Musk said, adding that it will be able to run 5 miles (8km) per hour. He said the machine will be designed so that humans can easily run away from and overpower it.

He is promising a set of capabilities based around general artificial intelligence built on the foundation of his unapproved autodriving car technology. That’s absurd. I don’t believe it could even be implemented in my lifetime. I can’t imagine buying one of these to take care of my 80 year old mother, because I have zero interest in euthanizing her, which is all it would be good for.

Why wasn’t Musk laughed off the stage after this “demo” last year?

He keeps on lying and faking it, but his cult keeps swallowing it.

Elon Musk: Super-genius!

No, really. This is brilliant, a real out-of-the-box, Kobayashi Maru-type of solution to a real world engineering problem.

Initially the probe started last year in response to Tesla vehicles mysteriously plowing into the scene of an existing accident where first responders were already present.

On Thursday, NHTSA said it had discovered in 16 separate instances when this occurred that Autopilot “aborted vehicle control less than one second prior to the first impact,” suggesting the driver was not prepared to assume full control over the vehicle.

CEO Elon Musk has often claimed that accidents cannot be the fault of the company, as data it extracted invariably showed Autopilot was not active in the moment of the collision.

There was a time not that long ago when I thought the Tesla was a great idea, and would have loved to get one — I was held in check, though, because there was no way I could afford one. Now I’m relieved that I dodged that bullet.

You can’t even toast a marshmallow on that fire, thanks to all the toxic chemicals.

Cancel Culture! Yargleargleblarlgle! Justice!

Y’all know Louis CK was awarded a Grammy the other night, right? Boy, he sure was canceled. He won’t be whipping out his tallywacker in front of unsuspecting women from now on, will he? They might punish him with a Netflix special or something horrible like that.

But here’s something even worse: He Jiankui has been set free. He Jiankui is the guy I called a self-aggrandizing mad scientist for his reckless, selfish experiment in which he modified human embryos with CRISPR/Cas9 and brought them to term. He claimed he was trying to prevent HIV/AIDS by deleting an immune system protein that the virus uses to bind to cells, but we know nothing about potential side effects or new susceptibilities it might confer, nor do we know how safe the procedure is, or even how effective this deletion would be. He charged ahead and ignored all ethical guidelines to make genetically modified babies, and then announced it as a big surprise at a conference. I bet he was surprised when the Chinese police arrested him and put him in prison for a few years.

But that’s all! And now he’s out.

The daring Chinese biophysicist who created the world’s first gene-edited children has been set free after three years in a Chinese prison.

Wait, wait, wait. “Daring”? You went with “daring”? What’s wrong with the editors at the MIT Technology Review? I would have suggested “unethical” or “criminal” or “incompetent”, and “biophysicist” sounds too complementary: “hack” would have been more accurate.

Then it goes on with this tripe:

It’s unclear whether He has plans to return to scientific research in China or another country. People who know him have described the biophysicist, who was trained at Rice University and Stanford, as idealistic, naïve, and ambitious.

Why are they flattering this guy? Why are there any doubts about his return to scientific research? There ought to be no question that He Jiankui should never be permitted to participate in any biomedical research ever again.

Unfortunately, he’s apparently part of a “network” of evil mad scientists who haven’t been hampered by the arrest of just one capo and are set to get back to work.

The researcher spent around three years in China’s prison system, including a period spent in detention as he awaited trial. Since his release, he has been in contact with members of his scientific network in China and abroad.

While responsibility for the experiment fell on He and other Chinese team members, many other scientists knew of the project and encouraged it. These include Michael Deem, a former professor at Rice University who participated in the experiment, and John Zhang, head of a large IVF clinic in New York who had plans to commercialize the technology.

Deem left his post at Rice in 2020, but the university has never released any findings or explanation about its involvement in the creation of the babies. Deem’s LinkedIn profile now lists employment with an energy consulting company he started.

“It is extraordinary and unusual that [He Jiankui] and some of his colleagues were imprisoned for this experiment,” says Eben Kirksey, an associate professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute, in Australia, and the author of The Mutant Project, a book about He’s experiment that includes interviews with some of the participants. “At the same time many of [his] international collaborators—like Michael Deem and John Zhang—were never sanctioned or formally censured for involvement.”

“In many ways justice has not been served,” says Kirksey.

I’m getting a little tired of “justice has not been served” stories, but that seems to be all we get anymore. Hey, how’s Donald Trump’s presidential campaign going?

We’ve willingly adopted a Cylon

It’s a beauty…look at thing. Ominous, brooding, ready to rise up and destroy us if we don’t do its bidding. We’re glad to have it, though!

Would you believe that’s what a modern microscope looks like? The biology discipline just bought a Keyence BZ-X810, which is a light sheet fluorescence microscope that is intimidatingly automated. You don’t touch any of the microscope components directly, you just load up a holder with multiple slides or petri dishes or 24 well plates, put it in the guts of the box, and close it up. Everything is controlled with a computer. Push a button to select your fluorescence wave length. Push another button to select your microscope objective. Click on the screen to move your specimen under the objective. Focus with your mouse wheel. When an administrator stomps in demanding to know why you spent $100,000 on a strange gray box, click another button and it turns its elongate blue eye to the offender and disintegrates them. It’s perfect.

I am the imperfect one, because I’ve got to get a genetics lecture and exam together tonight, so I can’t snuggle up with our new machine and play. Spring break is coming soon, though, and then…then we will take over the world.

(By the way, this is not mine, it’s shared equipment for the whole biology discipline. I just look forward to mastering it.)

Neuralink is feeling the heat

Neuralink is pumping out a flurry of PR to counter the reports of animal neglect at the company. Here’s Ryan Tanaka making excuses for them:

Tanaka is an odd one — he claims to have no affiliation with the company, he just loves them so much that he has a YouTube channel dedicated to fluffing Elon Musk and Neuralink. Even here, notice how the justification is I think it’s worthwhile to keep the long-term goals of the team in mind — the end justifies the means. Then he trots out a string of Neuralink employees to say how wonderful the company that pays them is.

That’s worthless.

The goals of Neuralink are sci-fi nonsense and hype about mundane technological developments. They’ve got a chip with more channels than previous efforts…but that’s not where the questions lie. Just throwing more needles into the brain does nothing if you don’t understand the interactions, or the long term consequences of healing, repair, and response to exogenous signals. It’s really a brute force approach to physically interacting with a mammalian brain, and it’s going to be increasingly disastrous as these people fumble about crudely under the directives of an incompetent narcissist.

I don’t want to hear what paid employees say. This is a case where an independent review is necessary by people who don’t get a paycheck from Elon Musk. I’d still like to know why UC Davis no longer supports Neuralink’s animal research. Is it under an NDA? That wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I bet all those employees have a threatening NDA stapled to their backs.

If you want to see something really sad, though, check out Tanaka’s YouTube channel. Read the comments on this video, for example, but they all sound alike. They’re full of desperate people looking for hope. ‘Please sir, cure my seizures/paraplegia/tinnitis/depression/autism/Parkinson’s/multiple sclerosis/schizophrenia. Will it let me talk to animals?’ That’s where the fervor comes from. Musk is the messiah who will heal everything.

Then there are the sci-fi fantasies.

Very ambitious! Nope, not gonna happen.

I want an invasive, dangerous electrical device imbedded in my brain to help with my homework! Sheesh, CS nerds.

That could help with the research. Using an unreliable device and Tesla software to assist you in driving your motorcycle will generate a huge number of test subjects.

Oh, and all the people asking to sign up for the experimental trials! It’s madness. No, don’t do this. Don’t. Just don’t. One of the signs you’re in a cult is the willingness to let the cult leader do experimental neurosurgery on you. It will never end well.

Hey, Apple, could you be a little more predatory on your customers?

See that trivial little cable to the right? That’s Apple’s proprietary iPhone charging cable, and that’s the widget that’s going to drive me right out of the Apple ecosystem.

We already pay a premium for Apple products, which is kind of OK because they are very good, reliable devices. On top of that, though, Apple also wants to lock us into their cables — power cables, peripheral cables, you name it — and our devices can detect whether the cable we use to plug in our phones is an Official Approved Apple™ cable, and if they aren’t, they’ll refuse to connect. And sometimes, when you most need it, your phone will decide that the cable you are using is no longer up to its standards.

My wife and I are now down to ONE (1) functioning cable between us. I had to take it away because I need my phone to connect to any university services (that’s another gripe I’ll put off to another day), and I can’t trust it not to fail on me. I have bought so god-damn many phone cables because I’ve got maybe an 80% success rate in seeing a new cable work at all. All I could do is throw a fistful of unlikely cables at my wife as I was going out to work and suggest she try them and see if one magically works now.

My new requirement for my next phone is that it have a basic USB-C charging connector. Goodbye Apple, hello Android.

Richest man in the world is a talking ass

I read that Elon Musk is currently the richest man in the world, which is as complete an indictment of capitalism as could imagine. Whenever he opens his mouth he exposes his ignorance, yet people still think he’s saying something worthwhile. He’s just a guy with an undeserved mountain of money that he uses to buy stuff, nothing more, and it’s a shame that his follies haven’t caught up with him yet, if ever — money seems to be a pretty effective cushion against the consequences of your actions.

A few years ago, he bought a company called Neuralink, which was supposedly working on brain-machine interfaces, but is actually 99% hype, and put an unqualified tech bro in charge. The real neuroscientists could tell the whole idea was a load of overstuffed bullshit, but the media stumbled all over itself in a rush to give him more press.

You would think that someone — the investors, the journalists, the people hoping for medical breakthroughs — would notice the similarities between Elon Musk and Elizabeth Holmes, especially since the Holmes trial just wrapped up with a conviction, but noooo.

Now Neuralink is looking to find human guinea pigs for his overhyped technology.

The Silicon Valley company, which has already successfully implanted artificial intelligence microchips in the brains of a macaque monkey named Pager and a pig named Gertrude, is now recruiting for a “clinical trial director” to run tests of the technology in humans.

“As the clinical trial director, you’ll work closely with some of the most innovative doctors and top engineers, as well as working with Neuralink’s first clinical trial participants,” the advert for the role in Fremont, California, says. “You will lead and help build the team responsible for enabling Neuralink’s clinical research activities and developing the regulatory interactions that come with a fast-paced and ever-evolving environment.”

Musk, the world’s richest person with an estimated $256bn fortune, said last month he was cautiously optimistic that the implants could allow tetraplegic people to walk.

“We hope to have this in our first humans, which will be people that have severe spinal cord injuries like tetraplegics, quadriplegics, next year, pending FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approval,” he told the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit.

“I think we have a chance with Neuralink to restore full-body functionality to someone who has a spinal cord injury. Neuralink’s working well in monkeys, and we’re actually doing just a lot of testing and just confirming that it’s very safe and reliable and the Neuralink device can be removed safely.”

He is nowhere near that capability. He is lying. I know that here in America no one is going to care about the victims of irresponsible experimentation, but I would hope that someone would give a loving, concerned thought to the investors who are being taken to the cleaners by this fraud. Hope is not data. Appealing to the suffering victims of tragedy is one of the oldest tricks in the con artist’s toolbox.

That’s not all. Someone has confused science-fiction novels with reality.

Musk said that he thinks in the future we will be able to save and replay memories. “I mean this is obviously sounding increasingly like a black mirror episode but yeah essentially if you have a whole brain interface everything that’s encoded in memory you could you could upload you could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories then ultimately you could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body the future is going to be weird one!” said Musk.

A “whole brain interface” — what’s that? How are you going to do that? You think you can skim off the totality of a person’s experience with a little chip you can pop on and off? Where are memories encoded so you can extract them? How are you planning to overwrite a brain’s structure and chemistry and connectivity so you can replace one brain’s identity with another?

I don’t think he’s going to have much luck hiring someone to oversee human experimentation in these areas, since Josef Mengele is dead. He’ll probably just hire some tech-dude with no qualifications and no sense of ethics — I hear those guys are sprouting up all over Silicon Valley.