Geekly Update - 29 March 2023 (Are we doomed?)

Category: Gadgets , Tech-News

Would you spend almost two hundred million dollars to add ten years to your life? Are you sharing too much with your mobile phone provider? When is a cropped photo NOT a cropped photo? And has artificial intelligence gone too far already? Get answers in today's Geekly Update... it's jam-packed with the latest tech news. This issue is guaranteed to make you 146% smarter -- you'll see why. Read, think, and, comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

Today I had a chat with Bard, the newly-released "conversant AI" from Google. Bard claims to be able to "generate human-like text in response to a wide range of prompts and questions." ChatGPT, everyone's favorite AI chatbot last month, was limitied to events prior to September 2021, so it wasn't much use for queries related to current events. But Bard was supposed to have the ability to tap into information in real-time.

My results were mixed. I asked Bard to list ten interesting tech stories from March 2023. It responded with events from over a year ago, such as the opening of the Meta retail store, the release of the Apple iPad Air, and Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard. I tried again with a more specific request for "What happened on Monday, March 27, 2023?" Bard droned on about a Ukraine aid package, NATO leaders meeting in Brussels, and other events from early 2022. All with impeccable phrasing and grammar, mind you, but far off the target.

My question "What's new in 3D printing?" returned phrases including "Researchers are constantly developing new materials that can be 3D printed," "3D printers are becoming more powerful and sophisticated," and "There is a growing number of software programs that are designed to help users design and 3D print objects." There's nothing untrue there, but it had the sound of an essay written by a sixth-grader. Maybe that's the point, though. Bard is designed to "generate human-like text" and its human overlords caution it's a work in progress and may not always be accurate. Your mileage may vary.

Has AI gone too far already?

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, (the company behind ChatGPT) has more than chatbots on his mind. He wants to cheat death, or at least delay it. The 37-year-old Altman invested $180 million into a startup called Retro Biosciences, which has a goal of adding 10 years to the human life span by stalling or reversing aging. To protect his investment, Altman might consider eating lots of veggies, staying indoors during lightning storms, and being extra careful in the crosswalks of San Francisco.

Maybe AI can fix your snoring problem as well. The Pure-Lex Smart Pillow is a cutting-edge anti-snoring pillow designed to help people sleep better at night. The pillow has a system of sensors that monitoring the user’s breathing, movement, pulse, and other factors to detect snoring, and will inflate or deflate the pillow. The company claims this "sleep position therapy" can reduce 71 percent of snoring intensity and reduce sleep apnea frequency by 50 percent as well.

This just in from the Impending Doom Desk: Artificial Intelligence is progressing at a rate some find troubling. Some tech leaders worry that AI might cause massive damage. Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak have published an appeal to stop and think about it. “Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones?", they ask. “Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?” The better question might be “Is it already too late?”

Here's at least a little good news on the artificial intelligence front. As the technology to create "generative content" gets increasingly better, so does the fear that humans may not be able to distinguish between actual video content, and "deepfakes" created by AI software. But an article in IEEE Spectrum hopefully posits that software for detecting deepfakes is staying one step ahead, "for now." This fake-spotting software looks for subtle clues such as facial structure, facial movements, and even nearly imperceptible changes in bloodflow that are the hallmarks of actual human talking heads.

The most popular smartphones have a reputation for having a design that is difficult or impossible for users to fix. If you've ever had a broken screen, a battery failure, or a busted charging port, you've probably decided it was better just to junk it and buy new. A few years ago, for example, you could pop off the back cover of the smartphone, and easily replace the battery. But nearly all models today are sealed units. But Nokia hopes to turn that around with the G22 model. It's designed to make fixing and changing common components easy. Swapping out the G22's battery should require only five minutes and a display replacement should be doable in 20 minutes by the home do-it-yourselfer.

Ford has filed a patent to make the Repo Man obsolete. If you fall behind on your Ford car or truck payments, you may find yourself remotely locked out of the vehicle. Ford's "Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle" application describes a range of options including an automated door locking system, and disabling the key fob. If that's not enough, the system can disable the heater, air conditioner and “emit an incessant and unpleasant sound every time the owner is present in the vehicle.” Oh, you don't mind the heat and noise? There's also a mention of inflating the airbags and using self-driving technology to return the vehicle to the creditor.

Security researcher Brian Krebs has issued a warning that consumers should opt out of sharing data with their mobile providers. Krebs says the recent AT&T breach exposing data from nine million customers should serve as a potent reminder that your mobile provider is collecting and "sharing" piles of 'customer proprietary' information about where you go and what you do with your smartphone. He offers tips on how to opt out of this data collection for customers of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Have you ever cropped a photo to remove something you didn't want others to see? Maybe a face, an address, a credit card number, or something embarrassing? If so, you need to know that bit you thought you left on the cutting floor might not be gone at all. The "aCropalypse" flaw in the image editing software common to the Google Pixel smartphone AND the Microsoft Windows image-snipping tools in Windows 10 and 11 can cause some or all of the cropped portions of the image to be retained in the image file when saved. See this article from Malwarebytes Labs to find out which images may be affected, based on a variety of factors.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 29 March 2023 (Are we doomed?)"

Posted by:

29 Mar 2023

Regarding AI : Does anyone remember the movie "Terminator"? :)

Posted by:

29 Mar 2023

RE: Stephanie's comment above. Does anyone remember the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey"? HAL tried to do what???

Posted by:

29 Mar 2023

And does anyone remember *why* HAL did what he did? He was told to keep the real mission of the discovery secret, even from the crew. He was also told to not lie. Those two things were in conflict and the only way to resolve that was to eliminate the crew.

Or, in other words, be very, very careful of the input you give these things!

Posted by:

Ken H
29 Mar 2023

So I actually read Kreb's article and nowhere do I see how to actually opt out. I have AT&T. I did change my password.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Read it again, the instructions for AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are spelled out clearly.

Posted by:

29 Mar 2023

Regrading cropping an image, to genuinely remove the cropped-out content, save the cropped image with another name. For example, if you have an image named 'myFriendBob', crop it, then save the result as 'myFriendBob_cropped'. In my experience, the cropped image will be roughly proportionally smaller than the original.


Posted by:

29 Mar 2023

The Nokia G22 Full Spec I just read sounds very attractive but does not go along with the five minute battery 'quick replacement'. It describes its 5050 mAH battery as: "Non-Removable Li-Polymer Battery".

Am I misreading it? iPhone battery replacment takes about 45 minutes so the 5 minute option is attractive if they or another maker takes this on...

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Geekly Update - 29 March 2023 (Are we doomed?) (Posted: 29 Mar 2023)
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