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👎 Mother's Milk
Elon Musk ‘fixes’ Twitter algorithm | ChatGPT expresses emotions, not facts | Update on Microsoft’s Activition-Blizzard acquisition
Good morning. Here’s a pro-tip for free: forget about password managers, just use the serial numbers from the white goods in your house. Can’t get more secure than that bruh.
This week was kind of like a fart that follows through 👎. Because:
Elon Musk is our mother, and his tweets are the milk
We have to both manage ChatGPT’s factual errors, and completely unhinged emotions
Microsoft have ruined search engines, now they’re going to ruin gaming too — why the hell not??
The future Dystopia is now
This week our dear internet took a turn for the worse. This, to me, is for two reasons, and I want to sort of look at them in tandem. One is Twitter and the other is the new and improved Bing (literally… the two things no one has stopped talking about over the last week)
FIrst let’s look at Twitter: On Tuesday I opened the app and the first tweet I saw was by Elon Musk, and it was a meme of a woman forcing milk down another woman’s throat. The milk-forcer was labelled ‘Elon’s tweets’ and the milk-bitch was labelled ‘twitter’. This is quite possibly one of the most repulsive tweets he’s ever sent since his takeover.
Fun fact: I don’t even follow Elon Musk. Even funner fact: after firing an engineer for suggesting that his tweets were receiving less engagement because his popularity was going down, Elon set about changing the algorithmically curated feed so that it shows more of his tweets to everyone — even if you don’t follow him. So he’s… quite literally shoving his tweets down our throats, and loudly letting us know.
Elon’s actions suggest that he thinks that the engineer he fired was right, his popularity has indeed ‘gone down’. I think that actually, it’s more that his popularity has simply been made clear to him. Since buying Twitter, more and more users have been, understandably, adding him to block/mute lists. And, because he’s an idiot, he has insisted that really big block lists are conceptually identical to DDoS attacks. Yes yes Elon, you’re right: experiencing slightly less engagement on your tweets is the same as a debilitating cyber attack.
Now that you’ve digested that, let’s talk ChatGPT: nestled between all the Elon tweets on my timeline this week was this one, about a recent exchange between Bing’s ChatGPT and a user trying to find out some movie show times:
TLDR: the user just wants to know where the latest Avatar movie is playing. Bing Chat, for some reason, couldn’t handle this query, and told the user that the movie wasn’t out yet, while peppering its replies with completely useless facts about motion capture — until ultimately telling the user that they were wrong, unreasonable, and stubborn.
What I don’t understand here is why Bing Chat is prioritising it’s own limited corpus and ‘sounding like a human’ over returning actual basic facts that are available on the internet. Google Search obviously isn’t perfect but at least it doesn’t argue with you over what year it is like a spoilt toddler who hasn’t figured out how to count yet. It’s occurred to me that with ChatGPT, we’ve only been focussed on factual errors, where we should (at least in part) also think about it’s ridiculous emotional temperament, and how that is something that we just really shouldn’t even have to deal with?
☝️ It’s time to actually land on my point: these two very separate developments have happened for a collection of different reasons, but are both perfectly emblematic of our current reality. We are tolerating an internet where chat bots that are supposed to be helpful just end up berating you; where one of the largest social networks is privately owned by a putrid sack of guts who has openly and unapologetically rigged the platform to boost his own posts to everyone’s feeds.
I just don’t get it — but that’s because there’s nothing to get. It’s like a joke where the punchline is way over the horizon and you keep waiting to get to it. You won’t. The horizon is unattainable; the best you can do is pay the $8 for a blue tick and use ChatGPT as your therapist (please don’t do either of those things).
🕹 Speaking of Microsoft ruining our online experiences: let’s check-in on the Activision Blizzard acquisition
In December I wrote about the FTC’s attempts to block this acquisition, and since then I think the EU has also had a go — but now it’s the UK’s turn. Yes, that’s now three giant jurisdictions that do not want this acquisition to go through.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have some very big conditions for this acquisition:
That Call of Duty, the biggest game that Activision-Blizzard have, should be sold off first
That Activision and Blizzard should even be broken up
That’s sort of enough; Microsoft will never go for any of that; the point for them is probably to own ALL of Activision-Blizzard, including their biggest asset, Call of Duty.
As I pointed out in December, Microsoft’s PR around this suggests that they don’t give a fuck about anyone’s concerns (not surprising): gamers and regulators are all rightfully worried that this acquisition will result in the cost of of Activision games going up (which is a lot of popular games), and getting trapped in an Xbox exclusivity prison. Microsoft say that with Call of Duty, ‘nothing will change’ and that Sony can have the game on the Playstation for ten years. I’m sorry, but that is a huge change, because unless I am mistaken, Call of Duty was probably going to available on the Playstation in perpetuity if this acquisition wasn’t on the table?
It’s funny how things like video games, streaming media, and interacting with friends in online spaces are mechanisms we rely on to escape the horrific grind of capitalism, while also being very much enmeshed with the most gruesome aspects of it. Someone’s relationship to their favourite form of entertainment should not be mediated by financial decisions, and business models that turn on a penny as soon as the wind changes direction even slightly. Just let us PLAY ffs.
That’s the end, thank you for reading about everything that’s annoyed me this week, you’re a real champ 🤸♂️