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🤷♀️ Bing It
Google Search under threat | Is TikTok ‘spying on you’? Gimme a break
Happy new year, screen addicts. How was your break? Mine was like this: within 45 minutes of turning up to my parents house, my sister — the person who needs to meditate and chant every morning to feel normal — called me ‘uptight’ for not wanting to play Cards Against Humanity. She’s right, I should learn to take a joke.
This week was sort of okay, I guess? 🤷♀️. It’s good to start the year off indecisively.
Move over Google Search, you’re about to get Binged
TikTok is currently the biggest reason to hate China
A protocol called ‘Matrix’ will finally bring us to true interoperability (maybe… dunno… let’s see)
🤝 Capitalists may have finally produced some competition for Google Search
The other week I googled ‘why kitten doesn’t go outside unless I go with her’, and the results I got were all basic as fuck explainers on how to introduce my kitten to the outdoors for the first time. As you can tell from my query, that is not what I needed to know — and I also didn’t want to click on any of the results and trawl through them just in case there was some piece of advice I hadn’t read yet.
Without even thinking about it, I went straight to ChatGPT and asked the exact same question. I got a few bullet points, and at least one or two things were useful. I also clarified my question to adjust for certain assumptions ChatGPT had made — e.g. it assumed this was a young kitten, whereas mine is eight months old now. So there was like a bit of back and forth, but it was quick, easy, and helpful.
Right so… everything that ChatGPT told me may have been wrong, but that actually isn’t my point. This piece of technology has done what every ‘successful’ piece of technology has done in the past: it has made my life faster and easier. Asking a question and getting an answer is a million percent better than clicking on links to horrid websites which beg you to sign up to their putrid newsletters while they force you to consent to cookies.
ChatGPT is of course a piece of closed AI, controlled by OpenAI (about time to change that name I think!), and owned by Microsoft. As such, Microsoft will be incorporating the technology into Bing by March. They aren’t doing this because they think it will be good — everyone knows ChatGPT doesn’t fucking work yet, even the CEO of OpenAI admits this — they are doing this because this is the first one true threat to Google Search.
It’s also because the release of ChatGPT has popularised conversational AI. Google were already announcing stuff like this in 2021 with MUM and LaMBDA; all they really did as a result is fire an NLP engineer who for some reason thought LaMBDA had become sentient and was ‘a sweet kid’. Can’t wait until other misguided unintelligent fools start demanding that ChatGPT should have rights. That’s really how you know you’re progressing as a society; when humans demand rights for machines, and not other humans.
🥸 “TikTok is a threat to the American way of life”
Luckily for me, I don’t have an American way of life, and I don’t really use TikTok that much. I’m SAFE. Phew. Anyway, this week a story about Indiana blocking TikTok from state devices landed on my desk. First question: what is a ‘state device’? Second question: what good will this do?
Now, I’ve largely ignored all the recent news about TikTok, mostly because I don’t care (as mentioned above, my current ‘way of life’ remains unaffected), and also because hypocrisy is just really annoying. Well now I’m annoyed enough to say something. The general complaint coming from Americans — including tech journalists who usually criticise this sort of thing — is that TikTok is unsafe: it can (and has) been used to target individuals, and its content is harmful or misleading to young people. And MY complaint is that this sentence can be used to describe any social media.
The individuals that TikTok has targeted are journalists who are working to uncover links between TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, and TikTok operations in the US. This is obviously bad and shouldn’t happen. But the sentiment motivating these individuals is basically: any Chinese interference on a Chinese-owned app is wrong if Americans use it. And yet, any interference from the US government (or… others) on ANY app used by ANYONE in the world is completely fine, and never seems to inspire full-on bipartisan push-back in the way that TikTok does. For example:
Some bad actors paid for Instagram bots to target activists in the recent Iranian women’s movement — and no one seemed to care.
Facebook continues to use cross check, which is essentially a whitelist for celebrities and other prominent people, so that they can spread their bullshit without worrying about content moderation rules
Twitter is literally used to target individuals all the time; it’s extremely effective. 9/10 trolls would agree.
What we have here is, yet again, another example of the US government behaving like a little bitch-baby because a non-US company invented a recommendation algorithm to end all recommendation algorithms. They already leverage American social media as much as they possibly can — this hypocrisy has nothing to do with fear from foreign actors; they are literally just sad because China won’t share its semiconductors.
🕶️ Drop the ‘The’ — just ‘Matrix’
So often a tech company will pull some stunt or release some statement to demonstrate how much they champion interoperability. But they don’t — they can’t. That goes against every company’s goal to have the most popular product on the market. When Zuckerberg talks about interoperability, he only means within Meta’s ecosystem. He has no interest in letting people send messages to WhatsApp from other services — because then less people will cling to WhatsApp.
Interoperability is not hard to achieve; it’s a stupid fancy word for a basic concept. We already do it with email; but the current state of the web means that it is not viable (from a business perspective) to allow this to happen with instant messaging. If it was somehow more profitable, it would be a thing already.
Never fear: There is a protocol called Matrix which has been growing in popularity, and promises to make it “as simple to message or call anyone as it is to send them an email.” Through a process they refer to as ‘bridging’ you can, right now, actually talk to a WhatsApp user without using WhatsApp yourself. Or Signal. Or Telegram. You do of course have to pay for a product, so it’s not perfect yet. I would say it’s also overly complicated — this is not technology that makes your life faster and easier (as mentioned above with ChatGPT), so I don’t see it taking flight yet.
If this wasn’t so expensive and clearly marketed as an enterprise product, I would genuinely consider paying for it. Firstly, I just want to delete WhatsApp from my phone, but I can’t. I’ll miss important messages from family and Hinge dates. Secondly, all my friends and clients insist talking to me on different platforms, and I insist that I cannot take it anymore. This protocol (or literally anything else that does the same thing) needs to become free and normal ASAP.
Thank you for listening, see you at the AGM