AI, Otters, and Stew

"Why AI detectors think the Constitution was written by AI," "She Steals Surfboards by the Seashore. She's a Sea Otter," "Perpetual Stew," and more.

Hello! Welcome to the first edition of my (sort of) new newsletter! Starting off this week's edition, some interesting news articles I found:

Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, have been in the news a lot in the past year. One of the big concerns surrounding them is the impact they will have on the education system. Where educators used to assign essays to gauge a student's understanding of the material, ChatGPT and their alternative's like Google's Bard can generate plausible-sounding material with very little effort on the student's part. To combat this, teachers have been increasingly turning to tools that claim to be able to detect AI-generated writing. But how accurate are these tools? How do they claim to solve the seemingly impossible problem of determining whether text was written by a human or a computer emulating the style of a human? And what happens when they are wrong?

Why AI detectors think the US Constitution was written by AI
Can AI writing detectors be trusted? We dig into the theory behind them.

Modern technology is a miracle, but also a privacy nightmare.

Can you imagine taking someone from 1996 ... and showing them today? A small little magical device in your pocket that can answer 99% of all your questions about the world, and 99% of all your requests for media, but that reports your location to the police constantly so they can look you up if you need to.
And then you've got any number of instant ways of communicating with people around the world, nearly anyone in the world... all of which is monitored all the time by shadowy government agencies.
Would they think we're in a dystopia? Would they think we're in some sort of utopia?

That was how Tom Scott opened his 2014 talk "2030: Privacy's Dead. What happens next?". He tells a story about "not the future, a future" in which technology has made as large a leap in the next 16 years as it has since the invention of Google in 1998, as a way of putting in perspective just how much modern technology has changed the world since then.

These days, it seems like our data being analyzed by "shadowy government agencies" is less prevalent of a problem than the mysterious companies known as "data brokers." They make their profit by buying and selling enormous amounts of data collected from all around the web, collecting it all in their massive databases to build up incredibly invasive profiles of everyone, all in the name of better targeted advertising. John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" dedicated an episode last year to an in-depth report on data brokers.

Now, a new bill introduced in Massachusetts would make it the first state to ban the sale of location data from cell phones.

Forget selling seashells: a sea otter has been stealing surfboards from unsuspecting beach-goers in California for the past few years. But as she's grown increasingly aggressive, wildlife officials have decided enough is enough.

She Steals Surfboards by the Seashore. She’s a Sea Otter.
California wildlife officials are hoping to apprehend a 5-year-old sea otter, who has a knack for riding the waves after committing longboard larceny.

Archived link (no paywall):

And now, on YouTube:

Beautifully shot, edited, and told, Aidin Robbins ventures into Washington's Cascades mountain range to meet one of the last fire lookouts in the world.

Runtime: 18:00

We all know the basic rules of regular, square-based chess. CGP Grey explores the strange rules of chess played on a hexagonal grid.

Runtime: 11:33

And finally, in the "just plain weird" category:

The woman behind the infamous "Depths of Wikipedia" Instagram and Twitter accounts has started a "perpetual stew," with regular gatherings in NYC for anyone to drop by. The "stew log" is particularly unhinged.


And that's it for this week's newsletter! I'm going to aim to get these out closer to noon but no promises!