AI-Desinformation / Apples Vision Pro / Digital Neuro-Rights / Universal Readers / Jeff Mills Deejaying Madness
AI-Desinformation's impact is too unclear to dismiss
In AI-based disinformation is probably not a major threat to democracy, Dan Williams makes several good points about the supposed flood of AI-generated desinformation and why it might not matter that much, because: "Online disinformation does not lie at the root of modern political problems"; "Political persuasion is extremely difficult"; "The media environment is highly competitive and demand-driven" and "The establishment will have access to more powerful forms of AI than counter-establishment sources".
He's right that the impact of desinformation is debatable, if not neglectable, simply because we largely use "fake news" to preach to the choir of the already convinced from our side, confirming our worldview with some extravagant lies, sometimes ironically. Who cares if it's false that Taylor Swift is a psyops by the government when we can decorate our anti-government narrative with outlandish, attention-seeking lies about the woman.
He's also right that the market for "fake news" is saturated, that there is limited demand from certain people to believe whatever they want to believe and they can always find it. Adding more "fake news" to the already rampant conspirational lunacy doesn't do very much, except maybe diversify the range of idiocy. You can have your Taylor Swift psyops conspiracy in the flavors of Illuminati, UFOs, Reptiloids or the Deep State, or all of them thrown together for some extra crazy.
He also gets into competition for media reputation which keeps many media outlet honest, but he misses the fact that many "media outlets" today are distributively dependend on multiplying nodes in the network, aka influencers, and those have other incentives than media outlets themselves. Where media outlets largely are in the game for money and maybe some societal responsibility, influencers are in the game for prestige, fame and attention, more often than not unconnected to monetary gains, but for karma points within a tribe.
The worst offenders in that game, however, are populist politicians roughlessly using desinformation to rile up their audience. People like Trump don't give a shit if they are fact checked by traditional media, if they can further their narratives by using emotionalizing fake bits, AI-generated or not. AI doesn't change this lying ass job, but it makes it a lot easier to do and ramp up production quality and quantity. And those bad actors rely exactly on their "edgy, non-mainstream, anti-establishment" reputation anyways, fact checking only confirms their game, and their loyal true believer audience applauds when they laugh about it. The usual media correction mechanics don't apply to them.
This get's even more complicated when state sponsored trolling and propaganda outlets are involved. In the past weeks, Russia reactivated their "Internet Research Agency" (IRA, aka Putins Troll Army) to get into the narratives surrounding the Texas border stuff, "using state propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik to publish a flood of articles about the ongoing border controversy in which Texas defied orders from the federal government to allow border agents to take apart a barbed wire fence installed by Texas’ governor".
As was the case during the 2016-election, where the IRA not only already spread desinformation about a Texas secession but also bought a ton of Facebook-ads pro and contra e.g. Feminism or the Black Lives Matter movement, they are pushing extremist narratives from all sides, simply to make extremist views seem more numerous than they really are. The goal is chaos resulting in destabilization, plain and simple, and every single share adds a tiny bit to it, one by one. Individually, those ads and bits of desinformation didn't matter and their impression numbers were low, but taken together, they are bound to leave the impression on anyone researching a topic that "Ho boy taken together there sure is some large amount of stuff swirling around".
Media Outlets making money by emotionalizing clickbait and outrage with the incentive to not ignore will thankfully join in and voilá, you have a "legit" media story. Another point in case: The Taylor Swift psyops bullshit started as an ironic-wink-wink metaphor from a rightwing influencer, got taken up as a talking point by Fox News, which lead to rampant conspiracy lunacy on Twitter, and here we are discussing this bullshit all day long, last but not least because "Trolls" literally AI-sexed up this story with AI-generated porn. I'd be very surprised if there wasn't some Telegram-backchannel chats along the lines of "Hey MAGA dunks on Taylor Swift because NFL bla, let's spice it up." I think Williams underestimates the ease of text and fake-production for these interconnected purposes by bad actors.
So yeah, maybe generative AI doesn't change that much in the market for emotionalizing fakes, but it might be enough to make a bad situation so much worse it tilts market dynamics. So while the impact of desinfo and AI-floods may be debatable, let's also not undererstimate their consequences in the long run.
The Apple Vision reviews are in and you've probably seen The Verge's magic until it’s not-take on the VR/AR-headset. In short: It's great but heavy and also buggy sometimes and isolation is a problem, and all those problems are not going away fast: "There’s nothing we could have done to make it lighter or smaller". That's Apple designer Richard Howarth in Vanity Fair. Tim Cook said: “You can actually lay on your sofa and put the displays on your ceiling if you wish. I watched the third season of Ted Lasso on my ceiling and it was unbelievable!”
And lying in bed watching movies on your ceiling sounds awesome until you figure you can't just turn your head and look at the amazed gaze of your loved one watching movie magic unfold. VR like this is inherently isolating, and thus, it's application is limited by default. And when this is state of the art and Apples designers state that they can't possibly make this smaller, i don't expect this to change for a long time.
Also: "Never use Apple Vision Pro while operating a moving vehicle, bicycle, heavy machinery, or in any other situations requiring attention to safety." Ofcourse, this absolutely flies with cybertruck driving musk cultist superbrains.
However, there sure will be some amazing applications for this and i can only guess at the new possibilities, for instance when it comes to sound modulation like in the Moog App for this thing.
Reading some of the reviews, this first gen device seems to make not much of the spatial computing options outside the operating system, meaning that apps are simply rendered as flat windows in your room. I'm not very sure about the whole 3D-"computing space" anyways tbh, because what you want in an interface in a work environment is overview, which is why there has been no major update to the desktop in your office since the invention of the table, besides some boxes here and there. And there has been no major update on the desktop metaphor on your PC since the 80s either. Both still are two dimensional panes on which you spread out your stuff for fast, clean, simple overview. I'm not sure what 3D can add here besides unnecessary complexity. Sure 3D is useful when it comes to some creative tasks like sculpting, but is that a killer app? We'll see how this goes.
More thoughts on the Vision Pro from John Gruber, Reddit, Andrej Karpathy and Rob Hornig, and iFixit took the whole thing apart and xrayed it too. But the only review you really need is Casey Neistat running around New York with the Vision Pro on his face.
Techno Brain Battles
In Social Media, AI, and the Battle for Your Brain, Nita Farahany talks about her book about the psychoactive dimensions of digital technology. I've been preaching for a few years now that digital stuff is psychoactive because digital media environments select for emotionality and, further, because in digital realms, you more often than not don’t pick and choose what you consume, but it comes to you via scrolling.
The old internet saying that stuff "can't be unseen" is there for a reason, and i played that game on my old blog too: I used to have a knack for images triggering trypophobia, the fear of holes in hands, but also patterns of holes resembling bee hives. There are tons of photoshopped images out there with hands showing patterned holes, and people freak the fuck out when you just dump this stuff in a feed. It was the 2010s and i don't regret this edgy streak of mine very much.
In another example, when i was an outside-observer with connections to the german troll underground, at one point, a video popped up in my feed, the preview depicting a cute puppy. I will not describe what happened in the video, but rest assured, i will never be able to delete those images from my brain, and i regulary get triggered into seeing them again in my minds eye. This is the psychoactive nature of social media and the digital: I can enter your brain and thought process and manipulate it.
Farahany thinks along those lines to, and says some interesting things about neuro-rights in those contexts:
You know what’s interesting and one of the things that I’ve been doing a lot, whether it’s meeting with U.S. government agencies or international organizations, is trying to help people see these problems are all interrelated. That we don’t need separate regulation for neurotechnology, separate regulation for generative AI, and separate regulation for social media—that there are a common set of issues and that by trying to address them in a common way, we can reach a lot more agreement.
And so in my book, The Battle for Your Brain, what I lay out is the concept of cognitive liberty—the right to self-determination over our brains and mental experiences—and talk about how neurotechnology gives us the finest-point way to understand that, right, which is that there is this space that we had all assumed that we actually had both the capacity to govern ourselves, that we could access only ourselves. You at least assumed that you could think a private thought, that you had a right to mental privacy, that you had freedom of thought, maybe not freedom of expression, but freedom of thought. And freedom of thought, mental privacy, self-determination, all are under threat by these different technologies.
So understanding it as both the techno optimism, which is the right to access and change our brains if we choose to do so by having a right to use these technologies in ways that benefit us, but also a right from the commodification of our brains and our mental experiences, the access to interference, manipulation, and punishment for our thoughts. That alignment and helping people see that the AI problems of mental manipulation and the social media problems of recommender systems and dopamine hits—that are being developed to try to drive compulsive behavior that leads to harm—or neurotechnologies where the same kind of business model that’s based on commodification of the data and its use in employment settings or use by governments in ways that are oppressive and surveillance—are interrelated.
A universal reader app
Project Tapestry wants to be a universal reader app that combines posts from "Blogs, microblogs, social networks, weather alerts, webcomics, earthquake warnings, photos, RSS feeds" into a "universal, chronological timeline" and "for any data that’s publicly available on the Internet (...) A service-independent overview of your social media and information landscape." Facebook and Instagram and Threads and TwiX are out because they are walled off. (In case of Threads this is bound to change once they implement Fediverse integration.)
That's nice and i'm sold, but i can't help it but think about agreggators like FriendFeed from 2007 who did basically the same and they simply got stomped by proprietary platforms. Maybe the Fediverse will change that, maybe the time is ripe for a universal app like this and maybe Google eats its shoes for not turning their Google Reader into exactly such an app. Dunno.
All i know that it's so, so, so very annoying to have to post the same thing on TwiX, Mastodon, Bluesky, Substack Notes and Threads, or to not know which thing to post on which service. The fractured, balkanized web is a mess and as this app and it's considerable hype (it reached it's aimed at goal of 100k bucks within a day) show, people long for a unified web experienced. Which is why humans flocked to big platforms in the first place.
Maybe the social web consolidates itself into unified experiences only to be fracturized again into many microservices on a ten year wavelength or so, where we constantly want a universal everything-app just to find out that all those people suck and we want smaller parasocial circles, ad infinitum. But maybe i'm also reading too much into this.
Jeff Mills' deejaying madness
Pitchfork reviews the DJ-mix classic from Jeff Mills: Live at the Liquid Room, Tokyo.
I was already heavily into Mills when this Mix-CD was released back in 1996. Pitchfork names it "the best mix album of all times", but that's debatable. If you know Mills, you also know that he's far from perfect when it comes to synching up tunes, which i guess comes as the price for having a new track every 20 seconds or so. The guy is fast.
I remember seeing Mills deejaying at a rave in 1993 on 3 decks. It was a fucking storm and he literally threw vinyl over his shoulder where some assistant collected them from the ground, just to push his deejaying faster. Record after record, DJ-tools on a loop, scratching, next track, next track, next, next, next, it was madness. My XTC-rushing brain was blown to smitherens by the guy and this is how i discovered Detroit Techno.
Jeff Mills’ DJing style comes with a price in precision. You can't have ultrafast vinyl-juggling with ten records per minute or so, and expect to have finetuned, perfectly synched beats. He's fast, but also rough and eclectic. And as experimental Jeff Mills is, i always admired him for also being an entertainer, breaking deepest and meanest Detroit Tech stuff with Cosmic Babys Visions of Shiva, of all things. He has a clear philosophy about that: The first and most important job of a Deejay is to make people dance. Everything else is secondary, especially your elaborate taste in music and even the art.
The best DJ-mix of all times is debatable because there is so much range of DJing styles. You can't really compare a guy who came from HipHop like Jeff Mills and who's playing records for 10 seconds each with a guy like Sven Väth who used to play tracks mostly in full and only fade in towards the end, to create a more seamless tripping style. The reason: Mills gigs usually go for 1 or 2 or 3 hours, Sven Väth once played a 30 hour set.
However, when it comes to the best mix of all times, i'd but Richie Hawtins Mix-CDs very high up on the list, if not on top. This guy experiments with loops and digital techniques in DJing since Decks, EFX & 909, and especially his DE9 Transitions is more like live editing of digital techno tracks than the classic DJing behind the decks. Hawtin is a true innovator when it comes to Techno-DJing.
Anyways, Mills' Live at the Liquid Room Tokyo is a banger, showing him at a moment where he got away from a more hardcore style he used to play in the years before -- I've seen him on stage in 1993 in Zurich together with Aphex Twin before he went experimental and boy was that brutal --, and when he used hard detroit techno together with the emerging dub techno style and his new Purpose Maker stuff. It's a great, great record and a milestone when it comes to commercially available DJ-sets, and if you don't know it, you're missing out.
So here it is: