…remember when this sort of thing would have been a lead story for days?
Rescuers attempt manual digging to free 41 Indian workers trapped in tunnel [NBC]
[…haven’t a link handy but I heard a voice on the radio saying they got to them & expect all of them to make it out to the fresh air alive…so…there’s a bit of good news for starters]
…sure you do…like that time when elon made an ass of himself & accused a dude of being a pedophile because he had the temerity to point out musk was talking shite…whereas…now the shite he talks gets presented as though he’s some sort of ersatz ambassador for…fuck if I know?
The billionaire met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who scolded him over content on the platform previously known as Twitter, and joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a tour of the Kfar Azza kibbutz, a rural village that Hamas militants stormed on Oct. 7 in a deadly assault that launched the war.
Wearing a protective vest and escorted by a phalanx of security personnel as rain fell, Musk used his phone to take photos or videos of the devastation, according to video released by Netanyahu’s office. Musk’s visit came as Israel and Hamas reached a deal to extend a cease-fire for two more days.
“It was jarring to see the scene of the massacre,” Musk said in a conversation with Netanyahu streamed on X. He said he was troubled by video and photos that the prime minister showed him of the killings of civilians, including children.
…as jarring as a billionaire going for a disaster tourist trip in a flack jacket making headlines in the context of a conflict that’s existed for so many generations both sides trace their justifications back to creation myths?
The X owner responded that it had been a “difficult day emotionally” following the tour and that “we have to do whatever is necessary to stop the hate,” according to Herzog’s office.
Referring to Hamas militants, Musk said, “It’s amazing what humans can do if they’re fed lies since they were children. They will think that murdering innocents is a good thing, which shows how much propaganda can affect people’s minds.”
…the cognitive dissonance is strong with this one
The billionaire, who has described himself as a free-speech absolutist, tweeted during his Israel visit that “actions speak louder than words.”Elon Musk visits Israel to meet top leaders as accusations of antisemitism on X grow [NBC]
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy declined to say whether Musk was invited to the country or came on his own. X, formerly known as Twitter, did not respond to a request for comment.
…the hypocrisy is stronger, though
A month ago, mechanics at seven Tesla-owned repair shops in Sweden walked off their jobs. Since then, hundreds of laborers from other industries across the country have joined in the action, aimed at getting Tesla to sign a collective bargaining agreement with the mechanics’ union, IF Metall.
Dockworkers, electricians, painters and postal employees have all joined the strike, refusing to provide the company with their services. Last week, some 50 metalworkers at a factory that produces aluminum parts for Tesla’s factory in Germany walked off the job.
On Nov. 20, postal workers joined the action, refusing to deliver any mail or packages to Tesla’s facilities, including the license plates.
…totally makes sense that he’d sue the postal service, then…to someone…presumably?
On Monday, Tesla took legal action, filing complaints against the Transport Agency, which oversees production of the plates, and the postal company, PostNord. It argued that Tesla employees should be allowed to pick up the license plates from the agency, circumventing the postal workers.
The agency has “a constitutional obligation to provide license plates to vehicle owners,” Tesla said, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press.
The withholding of license plates “cannot be described in any other way than as a unique attack on a company operating in Sweden,” the automaker said in the suit, according to The A.P. It called for the district court to fine the agency 1 million kronor, or $95,400, unless it allowed Tesla to “retrieve license plates” within three days of the court’s decision.
…”cannot be described in any other way” seems absurd on its face even before you get around to describing something as “unique” that’s only come to pass due to a function of solidarity that led to the postal service following the lead of a different union…but…that kind of ass-backwards “logic” barely makes for a blip on the radar at this point
Sweden has a long history of organized labor, and the right to strike is enshrined in the country’s constitution, which also allows a union in one sector to petition unions representing workers in other professions to stage targeted action against a company. Over the past month, hundreds of workers across the country have joined IF Metall in pressuring Tesla to come to the bargaining table.
Tesla has resisted efforts of its more than 127,000 employees around the globe to organize.https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/28/business/tesla-license-plates-sweden-unions.html
…back in the day…when the knights templar were an organization that possessed the wealth & political heft of a nation…nations…had some thoughts about that which didn’t pan out great for the templars…but…thus far it’s hard to think of a multinational that’s shared their fate
One reason that the idea of free trade has fallen out of fashion in recent years is the perception that trade agreements reflect the wishes of big American corporations, at everybody else’s expense.
U.S. officials fought for trade agreements that protect intellectual property — and drug companies got the chance to extend the life of patents, raising the price of medicine around the world. U.S. officials fought for investor protections — and mining companies got the right to sue for billions in “lost profit” if a country moved to protect its drinking water or the Amazon ecosystem. And for years, U.S. officials have fought for digital trade rules that allow data to move freely across national borders — prompting fears that the world’s most powerful tech companies would use those rules to stay ahead of competitors and shield themselves from regulations aimed at protecting consumers and privacy.
…so…I guess you could call this encouraging
Last month, President Biden’s trade representative, Katherine Tai, notified the World Trade Organization that the American government no longer supported a proposal it once spearheaded that would have exported the American laissez-faire approach to tech. Had that proposal been adopted, it would have spared tech companies the headache of having to deal with many different domestic laws about how data must be handled, including rules mandating that it be stored or analyzed locally. It also would have largely shielded tech companies from regulations aimed at protecting citizens’ privacy and curbing monopolistic behavior.
The move to drop support for that digital trade agenda has been pilloried as a disaster for American companies and a boon to China, which has a host of complicated restrictions on transferring data outside of China. “We have warned for years that either the United States would write the rules for digital trade or China would,” Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, lamented in a press statement. “Now, the Biden administration has decided to give China the pen.”
The truth is that Ms. Tai is taking the pen away from Meta, Google and Amazon, which helped shape the previous policy, according to a research paper published this year by Wendy Li, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who used to answer the phone and interact with lobbyists at the U.S. trade representative’s office. The paper includes redacted emails between Trump-era trade negotiators and lobbyists for Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, exchanging suggestions for the proposed text for the policy on digital trade in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. “While they were previously ‘allergic to Washington,’ as one trade negotiator described, over the course of a decade, technology companies hired lobbyists and joined trade associations with the goal of proactively influencing international trade policy,” Ms. Li wrote in the Socio-Economic Review.
That paper explains how U.S. trade officials came to champion a digital trade policy agenda that was nearly identical to what Google, Apple and Meta wanted: No restrictions on the flow of data across borders. No forced disclosure of source codes or algorithms in the normal course of business. No laws that would curb monopolies or encourage more competition — a position that is often cloaked in clauses prohibiting discrimination against American companies. (Since so many of the monopolistic big tech players are American, rules targeting such behavior disproportionately fall on American companies, and can be portrayed as unfair barriers to trade.) This approach essentially takes the power to regulate data out of the hands of governments and gives it to technology companies, according to research by Henry Gao, a Singapore-based expert on international trade.
Many smaller tech companies complain that big players engage in monopolistic behavior that should be regulated. For instance, Google has been accused of privileging its own products in search results, while Apple has been accused of charging some developers exorbitant fees to be listed in its App Store. A group of smaller tech companies called the Coalition for App Fairness thanked Ms. Tai for dropping support for the so-called tech-friendly agenda at the World Trade Organization.
…seems like there’s maybe a fair bit of context…which…oddly…people for whom paying attention to this stuff is a full-time job…are…surprised by?
Still, Ms. Tai’s reversal stunned American allies and foreign business leaders and upended negotiations over digital trade rules in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, one of Mr. Biden’s signature initiatives in Asia.
“The term we would use is ‘gobsmacked,’” John W.H. Denton, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce, told me. “We don’t understand what’s going on.”https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/27/opinion/google-facebook-ai-trade.html
As concern grows about the safety of A.I. and the power of Big Tech to freeze out competition, there are good reasons to think twice about pushing an agenda that might favor a handful of companies that have already amassed a mind-boggling amount of data and political influence.
The United States, Britain and more than a dozen other countries on Sunday unveiled what a senior U.S. official described as the first detailed international agreement on how to keep artificial intelligence safe from rogue actors, pushing for companies to create AI systems that are “secure by design.”
In a 20-page document unveiled Sunday, the 18 countries agreed that companies designing and using AI need to develop and deploy it in a way that keeps customers and the wider public safe from misuse.
The agreement is non-binding and carries mostly general recommendations such as monitoring AI systems for abuse, protecting data from tampering and vetting software suppliers.
Still, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Jen Easterly, said it was important that so many countries put their names to the idea that AI systems needed to put safety first.
“This is the first time that we have seen an affirmation that these capabilities should not just be about cool features and how quickly we can get them to market or how we can compete to drive down costs,” Easterly told Reuters, saying the guidelines represent “an agreement that the most important thing that needs to be done at the design phase is security.”
The agreement is the latest in a series of initiatives — few of which carry teeth — by governments around the world to shape the development of AI, whose weight is increasingly being felt in industry and society at large.
…about those teeth
…& what might bite
When the secretive national security adviser of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, visited the White House in June, his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan, raised a delicate issue: G42, an artificial intelligence firm controlled by the sheikh that American officials believe is hiding the extent of its work with China.
In public, the company has announced its staggering growth with a steady cadence of news releases. They have included agreements with European pharmaceutical giants like AstraZeneca and a $100 million deal with a Silicon Valley firm to build what the companies boast will be the “world’s largest supercomputer.” Last month, G42 announced a partnership with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT.
But in classified American intelligence channels, there have been more concerning reports about the company. The C.I.A. and other American spy agencies have issued warnings about G42’s work with large Chinese companies that U.S. officials consider security threats, including Huawei, the telecommunications giant that is under U.S. sanctions.
U.S. officials fear G42 could be a conduit by which advanced American technology is siphoned to Chinese companies or the government. The intelligence reports have also warned that G42’s dealings with Chinese firms could be a pipeline to get the genetic data of millions of Americans and others into the hands of the Chinese government, according to two officials familiar with the reports.
For years, the United States has been trying to limit China’s influence in the Middle East, and American officials believe Chinese efforts to build military bases and sell weapons in the region are urgent national security concerns. Today, however, there is a new frontier in this effort: blunting China’s ambitions to gain supremacy in the world’s cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, quantum computing, cloud computing, surveillance infrastructure and genomic research.
[G42] is a crown jewel for the U.A.E., which is building an artificial intelligence industry as an alternative to oil income. The small but powerful Middle Eastern country, led by its president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, is also cultivating closer ties to China and Russia, in part to lessen its dependence on the United States, the main military partner and arms supplier of the Emirates.
As of now, it is unclear whether U.S. officials have shared their concerns over G42 with American companies that have partnerships with it.Inside U.S. Efforts to Untangle an A.I. Giant’s Ties to China [NYT]
…something something…perverse incentives
…something something…pot calls kettle black…film at 11
…hmmm…sure I remember a saying about stones
…& glass houses
…but what are a few broken windows in a virtual façade?
At the root of these theatrics are questions of power: power over the resources needed to develop advanced AI systems and the power to decide how to balance current harms against future risks and shape the future of this technology.
The vast resources needed to develop, train and run cutting-edge AI models reward scale and incentivize companies to seek market dominance, as the Open Market Institute outlined in a recent report. One way companies do this is by leveraging partnerships, investments and acquisitions to establish control and obtain access.
OpenAI has received more than $13bn worth of investment since 2019 from Microsoft, which reportedly acquired a 49% stake in the company and the right to three-quarters of OpenAI’s profits. Microsoft also ensured that it would be OpenAI’s sole cloud provider, locking in millions of dollars of value given the computational costs involved in running generative AI products.
While billed as a partnership, the deal looks more like a “killer acquisition” that gives Microsoft unparalleled access to a tech unicorn that was on track for a multibillion-dollar valuation before the shake-up.
This partnership is likely to get even tighter given the new cast of characters brought in to replace the non-profit board that fired Altman, reportedly over clashing views on how to balance safety and commercialization of the company’s revolutionary AI technology. The new board members appear more aligned with the tech sector’s mantra of “move fast, break things”. They include two members with deep roots in Silicon Valley and Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary with a track record of applying “free-market theory where it didn’t fit the circumstances”, in the words of the American Prospect, and cautioning against regulators using anti-trust to address economic concentration.
…skipping past that mess from a little higher up that rolled the chinese & some sovereign wealth from petro states in amongst the strange bedfellows of this incestuous bunch
Microsoft is one of just a handful of gatekeeper firms – namely Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Apple, Amazon and Meta – that have the necessary computing power, access to data, and technical expertise needed to develop advanced AI systems. Their control of the AI development pipeline gives these companies the ability to dictate terms and fees and protect against challengers, as Microsoft did by limiting the availability of OpenAI’s API to other search engines and threatening to cut off access to its internet-search data if those rivals used it to develop their own AI chat products.
Microsoft also charges other cloud providers higher fees for purchasing and running its software outside of Azure, making it both expensive and technically difficult to switch, since data is often not interoperable across systems. This clearly does not promote innovation.
And Microsoft has been able to integrate OpenAI’s technology into its consumer-facing products, productivity tools, and business services, despite safety concerns expressed by their employees and warnings that it was not ready for integration into its Bing search engine.
This should cause deep concern for policymakers focused on AI safety, governance and innovation. Yet amid the flurry of efforts in the US and Europe to ensure the development of “responsible” and “safe” AI, the harms and risks of massive concentration in the generative AI ecosystem have been largely ignored or sidelined.
Big tech has justified the rapid and reckless rollout of generative AI by seeking to convince us that speed over safety is an inevitable part of technological development and crucial to innovation, especially if the US wants to compete with China. This narrative has allowed these corporations to divert attention away from the dangers posed by concentration at key chokepoints in the AI value chain, as well as their failure to address existing harms perpetuated by their platforms, from rampant disinformation and manipulation to addiction and surveillance capitalism.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/27/openai-microsoft-big-tech-monopoly
…I guess it’s just one of those days…you know…the ones that end in -y…where I get my definitions mixed up…like…ransomware
Ardent Health Services, which oversees 30 hospitals across the U.S., said Monday that it had been the victim of a severe ransomware attack in Oklahoma, News Mexico and Texas, forcing it to take action.
“In an abundance of caution, our facilities are rescheduling some non-emergent, elective procedures and diverting some emergency room patients to other area hospitals until systems are back online,” the company said in a news release.
Spokespeople at three Ardent-owned hospital chains across the U.S. — Hillcrest HealthCare System in Oklahoma, Lovelace Health System in New Mexico, and UT Health in Texas — each told NBC News Monday that at least some of their emergency rooms were diverting patients to other hospitals while the company tries to fix the damage from the attack.
Ardent said it had shut down a significant number of its computerized services, including clinical programs and its use of Epic Systems, a program that tracks patients’ health care records.
Ransomware is a type of criminal cyberattack where hackers gain access to a company’s computer networks, install malicious software that encrypts as many systems as possible, and demand an often hefty ransom payment for a promise to fix the damage. The FBI has repeatedly asked ransomware victims to not pay their attackers, both because there’s no guarantee they will provide a viable fix and because it fuels more attacks.https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/emergency-rooms-least-3-states-diverting-patients-ransomware-attack
…& the cost of doing business with wildly profitable enterprises that give us services for free…call it a package deal
Someday, if future forms of intelligent life look for evidence of human existence in the 20th and 21st centuries, they should have an easy time finding us in the geologic record. Just look for the plastic.
Between 1950 and 2021, humanity produced about 11 billion metric tons of virgin plastic — that’s the weight of 110,000 U.S. aircraft carriers. Only about 2 billion tons of this is still in use. The rest — some 8.7 billion tons — is waste: 71 percent has ended up in landfills or somewhere else in the environment, including the ocean; 12 percent has been recycled; 17 percent has been incinerated. At the rate we’re going, global plastic waste will rise 60 percent by 2050.
But now comes hope that it’s possible to stop the accumulation: Last year, more than 175 countries agreed to develop a legally binding international treaty to end plastic pollution by 2040. And new research demonstrates that it is actually possible: with a combination of nine policies, countries could reduce annual plastic waste by more than 87 percent.
A mandate that all new plastic products contain at least 30 percent recycled plastic would, alone, reduce mismanaged plastic waste by about 30 percent, from about 108 million tons to 77 million tons by 2050.
But that’s still too much. So the scientists also suggest capping plastic production at 2025 levels. Both policies combined would bring mismanaged plastic waste down to 68 million tons.
Add in a high consumer tax on plastics, and it would be possible to avert about 10 million more metric tons of pollution. If we use the revenue from that tax to invest $50 billion in global waste infrastructure, we could reduce pollution to one-third of the business-as-usual scenario.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/interactive/2023/plastic-pollution-united-nations-agreement-science-recycle/
And it is essential to move the needle. Plastic waste threatens ecosystem health, biodiversity and efforts to address climate change, and it is also a health concern and environmental-justice issue. Microplastics have been found in breast milk and in our blood. Around the world, up to 60 percent of all recycled plastic is collected by waste pickers, often members of poor and marginalized communities, who suffer from inhaling caustic fumes from burning plastic and drinking water heavily contaminated with microplastics.
U.N. negotiators just finished meeting again in Nairobi to begin crafting the actual treaty, in hopes of completing it by the end of next year, though progress seems to have stalled, a result of excessive influence from oil and gas industry lobbyists, according to nongovernmental organizations.
…jaw jaw might be better than war war…but talking the talk ain’t gonna make up for dragging our feet while tech runs away before we get a say in the pace…&…I dunno that I can hack it today…but…apparently I can’t just go back to bed without taking an unaffordable hit to the pocketbook…so…time to face the music?