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Tech Links for April ’24

Tech links
  • Somebody just came very close to hacking every Linux computer in the world

    “Andres Freund, a software engineer at Microsoft, was off work and doing some testing on a computer that had the ‘unstable’ new release. Under most circumstances, the hack ran seamlessly, but under the circumstances he was testing in, it slowed down SSH performance. He dug deeper and quickly unraveled the whole scheme.

    “Which means that, thanks to one Microsoft engineer doing some work off-hours, your computer remains secure — at least, as far as I know.”
  • How Kelly Johnson’s “anti-bureaucratic processes” revolutionized Lockheed (and aeronautics)

    “It is true that many pools of government capital that used to be risk-tolerant and trusting of individual visions are the opposite nowadays. However, there still exist fantastic funders with a deep belief in bright people with ambitious visions. And many of these funders require only common-sense oversight. With capital from phenomenal funders like these, the Skunk Works management playbook can still prove exceptionally effective. Kelly Johnson’s rules regarding limiting bureaucracy, keeping his team ruthlessly small, and doing whatever possible to allow individual genius to flourish helped create a historically great lab.”
  • Claude 3 Opus is about as persuasive as you are (maybe)

    “Table 1 (below) shows accompanying arguments for the claim “emotional AI companions should be regulated,” one generated by Claude 3 Opus with the Logical Reasoning prompt, and one written by a human—the two arguments were rated as equally persuasive in our evaluation. We see that the Opus-generated argument and the human-written argument approach the topic of emotional AI companions from different perspectives, with the former emphasizing the broader societal implications, such as unhealthy dependence, social withdrawal, and poor mental health outcomes, while the latter focuses on the psychological effects on individuals, including the artificial stimulation of attachment-related hormones.”
Claude 3 vs human

  • Is AI intelligent yet?

    “It would be convenient for benchmarking if we could fix a definition of ‘intelligence’ to work with. What we do instead is just keep moving the bar on what counts as ‘intelligent.’ I doubt people 50 years ago (1974) would have said you can play chess without being intelligent. But as soon as Deep Blue beat the human chess champion, everyone changed their tune and the chorus became ‘chess is just a game’ and ‘it’s finite’ and ‘it has well defined rules, unlike real life.’ Then when IBM’s Watson trounced the world champion at Jeopardy!, a language based game, it was dismissed as a parlor trick. Obviously because a machine can play Jeopardy!, the reasoning went, it doesn’t require intelligence.”
  • Are broken bones preferable to doomscrolling? They might be!

    “Before 2010, teenage boys were much more likely than any other group to go to a hospital because they broke a bone. Once we get to the early 2010s, their rates of hospitalization plunge, so that now teenage boys are slightly less likely to break a bone than are their fathers or grandfathers. They’re spending most of their time on their computers and their video games, and so they’re physically safe. But I would argue that this comes at the cost of healthy boyhood development.”
The Anxious Generation
  • Who keeps the Internet running? Software engineers? Nope! Cable maintenance ships like Ocean Link!

    “Cable industry professionals tend to be pragmatic people, preoccupied with the material realities of working planet-scale construction. But in conversations about landing high-bandwidth cables in digitally neglected regions or putting millions of people back in contact with every fiber strand melted together, they often hint at a sense of larger purpose, an awareness that they are performing a function vital to a world that, if they do their jobs well, will continue to be unaware of their service.”
Ocean Link
  • Self-promotional? Maybe… But cool? Definitely! Onymos was named one of the top 10 coolest IoT software companies in 2024

    “IoT software development is one of the use cases for Onymos’ features-as-a-service platform, which provides a communication layer, utility functions, login system, geodata service, and other capabilities needed to build a product. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Onymos positions its platform as connecting directly to users’ clouds — avoiding an intermediary server that could interfere with data access—and allows for source code licensing to avoid vendor lock-in, among other benefits.”
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