Signals for the Future: January 2024

January 18, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Data points fly more rapidly than arrows in an Akiro Kurosawa battle scene. My research team identified several items of interest which the free lunchers collectively identified as mysterious signals for the future. Are my special librarians, computer programmers, and eager beavers prognosticators you can trust to presage the future? I advise some caution. Nevertheless, let me share their divinations with you.

1 15 24 hearing aid

This is an illustration of John Arnold, a founder of Hartford, Connecticut, trying to discern the signals about the future of his direct descendant Stephen E Arnold. I use the same type of device, but I focus on a less ambitious time span. Thanks, MidJourney, good enough.

Enablers in the Spotlight

First, Turkey has figured out that the digital enablers which operate as Internet server providers, hosting services which offer virtual machines and crypto, developers of assorted obfuscation software are a problem. The odd orange newspaper reported in “Turkey Tightens Internet Censorship ahead of Elections.” The signal my team identified appears in this passage:

Documents seen by the Financial Times show that Turkey’s Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) told internet service providers a month ago to curtail access to more than a dozen popular virtual private network services.

If Turkey’s actions return the results the government of Turkey find acceptable, will other countries adopt a similar course of action. My dinobaby memory allowed me to point out that this is old news. China and Iran have played this face card before. One of my team pointed out, “Yes, but this time it is virtual private networks.” I asked one of the burrito eaters to see if M247 has been the subject of any chatter. What’s an M247? Good question. The answer is, “An enabler.”

AI Kills Jobs

Second, one of my hard workers pointed out that Computerworld published an article with a bold assertion. Was it a bit of puffery or was it a signal? The answer was, “A signal.”

AI to Impact 60% of Jobs in Developed Economies: IMF” points out:

The blog post points out that automation has typically impacted routine tasks. However, this is different with AI, as it can potentially affect skilled jobs. “As a result, advanced economies face greater risks from AI — but also more opportunities to leverage its benefits — compared with emerging market and developing economies,” said the blog post. The older workforce would be more vulnerable to the impact of technology than the younger college-educated workers. “Technological change may affect older workers through the need to learn new skills. Firms may not find it beneficial to invest in teaching new skills to workers with a shorter career horizon; older workers may also be less likely to engage in such training, since the perceived benefit may be limited given the limited remaining years of employment,” said the IMF report.

Life for some recently RIFed and dinobabies will be more difficult. This is a signal? My team says, “Yes, dinobaby.”

Advertising As Cancer

Final signal for this post: One of my team made a big deal out of the information in “We Removed Advertising Cookies, Here’s What Happened.” Most of the write up will thrill the lucky people who are into search engine optimization and related marketing hoo hah. The signal appears in this passage:

When third-party cookies are fully deprecated this year, there will undoubtedly be more struggles for performance marketers. Without traditional pixels or conversion signals, Google (largest ad platform in the world) struggles to find intent of web visitors to purchase.

We listened as our colleague explained: “Google is going to do whatever it can to generate more revenue. The cookie thing, combined with the ChatGPT-type of search, means that Google’s goldon goose is getting perilously close to one of those craters with chemical-laced boiling water at Yellowstone.” That’s an interesting signal. Can we hear a goose squawking now?

Make of these signals what you will. My team and I will look and listen for more.

Stephen E Arnold, January 18, 2024

Can Technology Be Kept in a Box?

January 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

If true, this is a relationship worth keeping an eye on. Tom’s Hardware reports, “China Could Have Access to the Largest AI Chips Ever Made, Supercomputer with 54 Million Cores—US Government Investigates Cerebras’ UAE-Based Partner.” That United Arab Emirates partner is a holding company called G42, and it has apparently been collecting the powerful supercomputers to underpin its AI ambitions. According to reporting from the New York Times, that collection now includes the record-breaking processors from California-based Cerebras. Writer Anton Shilov gives us the technical details:

“Cerebras’ WSE-2 processors are the largest chips ever brought to market, with 2.6 trillion transistors and 850,000 AI-optimized cores all packed on a single wafer-sized 7nm processor, and they come in CS-2 systems. G42 is building several Condor Galaxy supercomputers for A.I. based on the Cerebras CS-2 systems. The CG-1 supercomputer in Santa Clara, California, promises to offer four FP16 Exaflops of performance for large language models featuring up to 600 billion parameters and offers expansion capability to support up to 100 trillion parameter models.”

That is impressive. One wonders how fast that system sucks down water. But what will the firms do with all this power? That is what the CIA is concerned about. We learn:

“G42 and Cerebras plan to launch six four-Exaflop Condor Galaxy supercomputers worldwide; these machines are why the CIA is suspicious. Under the leadership of chief executive Peng Xiao, G42’s expansion has been marked by notable agreements — including a partnership with AstraZeneca and a $100 million collaboration with Cerebras to develop the ‘world’s largest supercomputer.’ But classified reports from the CIA paint a different picture: they suggest G42’s involvement with Chinese companies — specifically Huawei — raises national security concerns.”

For example, G42 may become a clearinghouse for sensitive American technologies and genetic data, we are warned. Also, with these machines located outside the US, they could easily be used to train LLMs for the Chinese. The US has threatened sanctions against G42 if it continues to associate with Chinese entities. But as Shilov points out, we already know the UAE has been cozying up to China and Russia and distancing itself from the US. Sanctions may have a limited impact. Tech initiatives like G42’s are seen as an important part of diversifying the country’s economy beyond oil.

Cynthia Murrell, January 11, 2024

Sci Fi or Sci Fake: A Post about a Chinese Force Field

January 10, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Imagine a force field which can deflect a drone or other object. Commercial applications could range from a passenger vehicles to directing flows of material in a manufacturing process. Is a force field a confection of science fiction writers or a technical avenue nearing market entry?


A Tai Chi master uses his powers to take down a drone. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

Chinese Scientists Create Plasma Shield to Guard Drones, Missiles from Attack” presents information which may be a combination of “We’re innovating and you are not” and “science fiction.” The write up reports:

The team led by Chen Zongsheng, an associate researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Pulsed Power Laser Technology at the National University of Defence Technology, said their “low-temperature plasma shield” could protect sensitive circuits from electromagnetic weapon bombardments with up to 170kW at a distance of only 3 metres (9.8 feet). Laboratory tests have shown the feasibility of this unusual technology. “We’re in the process of developing miniaturized devices to bring this technology to life,” Chen and his collaborators wrote in a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of National University of Defence Technology last month.

But the write up makes clear that other countries like the US are working to make force fields more effective. China has a colorful way to explain their innovation; to wit:

The plasma-based energy shield is a radical new approach reminiscent of tai chi principles – rather than directly countering destructive electromagnetic assaults it endeavors to convert the attacker’s energy into a defensive force.

Tai chi, as I understand the discipline is a combination of mental discipline and specific movements to develop mental peace, promote physical well being, and control internal force for a range of purposes.

How does the method function. The article explains:

… When attacking electromagnetic waves come into contact with these charged particles, the particles can immediately absorb the energy of the electromagnetic waves and then jump into a very active state. If the enemy continues to attack or even increases the power at this time, the plasma will suddenly increase its density in space, reflecting most of the incidental energy like a mirror, while the waves that enter the plasma are also overwhelmed by avalanche-like charged particles.

One question: Are technologists mining motion pictures, television shows, and science fiction for ideas?

Beam me up, Scotty.

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2024

Want to Fix Technopoly Life? Here Is a Plan. Implement It. Now.

December 28, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Cal Newport published an interesting opinion essay in New Yorker Magazine called “It Is Time to Dismantle the Technopoly.” The point upon which I wish to direct my dinobaby microscope appears at the end of the paywalled artistic commentary. Here’s the passage:

We have no other reasonable choice but to reassert autonomy over the role of technology in shaping our shared story.

The author or a New Yorker editor labored over this remarkable sentence.

First, I want to point out that there is a somewhat ill-defined or notional “we”. Okay, exactly who is included in the “we.” I would suggest that the “technopoly” is excluded. The title of the article makes clear that dismantle means taking apart, disassembling, or deconstructing. How will that be accomplished in a nation state like the US? What about the four entities in the alleged “Axis of Evil”? Are there other social constructs like an informal, distributed group of bad actors who want to make smart software available to anyone who wants to mount phishing and ransomware attacks? Okay, that’s the we problem, not too tiny is it?


A teacher explains to her top students that they have an opportunity to define some interesting concepts. The students do not look too happy. As the students grow older, their interest is therapist jargon may increase. The enthusiasm for defining such terms remains low. Thanks, MSFT Copilot.

Second, “no other reasonable choice.” I think you know where I am going with my next question: What does “reasonable” mean? I think the author knows or hopes that the “we” will recognize “reasonable” when those individuals see it. But reason is slippery, particularly in an era in which literacy is defined as being able to “touch and pay” and “swiping left.” What is the computing device equipped with good enough smart software “frames” an issue? How does one define “reasonable” if the information used to make that decision is weaponized, biased, or defined by a system created by the “technopoly”? Who other than lawyers wants to argue endlessly over an epistemological issue? Not me. The “reasonable” is pulled from the same word list used by some of the big technology outfits. Isn’t Google reasonable when it explains that it cares about the user’s experience? What about Meta (the Zuckbook) and its crystal clear explanations of kiddie protections on its services? What about the explanations of legal experts arguing against one another? The word “reasonable” strikes me as therapist speak or mother-knows-best talk.

Third, the word “reassert” suggests that it is time to overthrow the technopoly. I am not sure a Boston Tea Party-type event will do the trick. Technology, particularly open source software, makes it easy for a bad actor working from a beat down caravan near Makarska can create a new product or service that sweeps through the public network. How is “reassert” going to cope with an individual hooked into an online, distributed criminal network. Believe me, Europol is trying, but the work is difficult. But the notion of “reassert” implies that there was a prior state, a time when technopolists were not the focal point of “The New Yorker.” “Reassert” is a call to action. The who, how, when, and where questions are not addressed. The result is crazy rhetoric which, I suppose, might work if one were a TikTok influencer backed by a large country’s intelligence apparatus. But that might not work either. The technopolies have created the datasphere, and it is tough to grab a bale of tea and pitch it in the Boston Harbor today. “Heave those bits overboard, mates” won’t work.

Fourth “autonomy.” I am not sure what “autonomy” means. When I was taking required classes at the third-rate college I attended, I learned the definition each instructor presented. Then, like a good student chasing top marks, I spit the definition back. Bingo. The method worked remarkably well. The notion of “autonomy” dredges upon explanations of free will and predestination. “Autonomy” sounds like a great idea to some people. To me, it smacks of ideas popular when Ben Franklin was chasing females through French doors before he was asked to return to the US of A. YouTube is chock-a-block with off-the-grid methods. Not too many people go off the grid and remain there. When someone disappears, it becomes “news.” And the person or the entity’s remains become an anecdote on a podcast. How “free” is a person in the US to “dismantle” a public or private enterprise? Can one “dismantle” a hacker? Remember those homeowners who put bullets in an intruder and found themselves in jail? Yeah. Autonomy. How’s that working out in other countries? What about the border between French Guyana and Brazil? Do something wrong and the French Foreign Legion will define “autonomy” in terms of a squad solving a problem. Bang. Done. Nice idea that “autonomy” stuff.

Fifth, the word “role” is interesting. I think of “role” as a character in a social setting; for example, a CEO who is insecure about how he or she actually became a CEO. That individual tries to play a “role.” A character like the actor who becomes “Mr. Kitzel” on a Jack Benny Show plays a role. The talking heads on cable news play a “role.” Technology enables, it facilitates, and it captivates. I suppose that’s its “role.” I am not convinced. Technology does what it does because humans have shaped a service, software, or system to meet an inner need of a human user. Technology is like a gerbil. Look away and there are more and more little technologies. Due to human actions, the little technologies grow and then the actions of lots of human make the technologies into digital behemoths. But humans do the activating, not the “technology.” The twist with technology is that as it feeds on human actions, the impact of the two interacting is tough to predict. In some cases, what happens is tough to explain as that action is taking place. A good example is the role of TikTok in shaping the viewpoints of some youthful fans. “Role” is not something I link directly to technology, but the word implies some sort of “action.” Yeah, but humans  were and are involved. The technology is perhaps a catalyst or digital Teflon. It is not Mr. Kitzel.

Sixth, the word “shaping” in the cited sentence directly implies that “technology” does something. It has intent. Nope. The humans who control or who have unrestricted access to the “technology” do the shaping. The technology — sorry, AI fans — is following instructions. Some instructions come from a library; others can be cooked up based on prior actions. But for most technology technology is inanimate and “smart” to uninformed people. It is not shaping anything unless a human set up the system to look for teens want to commit suicide and the software identifies similar content and displays it for the troubled 13 year old. But humans did the work. Humans shape, distort, and weaponize. The technology is putty composed of zeros and ones. If I am correct, the essay wants to terminate humans. Once these bad actors are gone, the technology “problem” goes away. Sounds good, right?

Finally, the word “shared story.” What is this “shared story”? The commentary on a spectacular shot to win a basketball game? A myth that Thomas Jefferson was someone who kept his trousers buttoned? The story of a Type A researcher who experimented with radium and ended up a poster child for radiation poisoning? An influencer who escaped prison and became a homeless minister caring for those without jobs and a home? The “shared story” is a baffler. My hunch is that “shared story” is something that the “we” are sad has disappeared. My family was one of the group that founded Hartford, Connecticut, in the 17th century. Is that the Arnolds’ shared story. News flash: There are not many Arnolds left and those who remain laugh we I “share” that story. It means zero to them. If you want a “shared story”, go viral on YouTube or buy Super Bowl ads. Making friends with Taylor Swift will work too.

Net net: The mental orientation of the cited essay is clear in one sentence. Yikes, as the honor students might say.

Stephen E Arnold, December 28, 2023

Scientific American Spills the Beans on Innovation

December 21, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

It happened! A big, mostly respected publication called Scientific American explains where the Google type outfits got their best ideas. Note: The write up “Tech Billionaires Need to Stop Trying to Make the Science Fiction They Grew Up on Real” does not talk about theft of intellectual property, doing shameless me-too products, or acquiring promising start ups to make eunuchs of potential competitors.

Instead the Scientific American story asserts:

Today’s Silicon Valley billionaires grew up reading classic American science fiction. Now they’re trying to make it come true, embodying a dangerous political outlook.


I can make these science fiction worlds a reality. I am going to see Star Wars for the seventh time. I will invent the future, says the enthusiastic wizardette in 1985. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Know anyone at Microsoft like this young person?

The article says:

These men [the Brin-Page variants] collectively have more than half a trillion dollars to spend on their quest to realize inventions culled from the science fiction and fantasy stories that they read in their teens. But this is tremendously bad news because the past century’s science fiction and fantasy works widely come loaded with dangerous assumptions.

The essayist (a science fiction writer) explains:

We are not trying to accurately predict possible futures but to earn a living: any foresight is strictly coincidental. We recycle the existing material—and the result is influenced heavily by the biases of earlier writers and readers. The genre operates a lot like a large language model that is trained using a body of text heavily contaminated by previous LLMs; it tends to emit material like that of its predecessors. Most SF is small-c conservative insofar as it reflects the history of the field rather than trying to break ground or question received wisdom.

So what? The writer answers:

It’s a worryingly accurate summary of the situation in Silicon Valley right now: the billionaires behind the steering wheel have mistaken cautionary tales and entertainments for a road map, and we’re trapped in the passenger seat. Let’s hope there isn’t a cliff in front of us.

Is there a way to look down the runway? Sure, read more science fiction. Invent the future and tell oneself, “I am an innovator.” That may be true but of what? Right now it appears that reality is a less than enticing place. The main point is that today may be built on a fairly flimsy foundation. Hint: Don’t ask a person to make change when you pay in cash.

Stephen E Arnold, December 21, 2023

Apple Harvests Old Bell Tel Ideas

December 14, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I am not a Bell head. True, my team did work at Bell Labs. In mid project, Judge Green’s order was enforced; therefore, the project morphed into a Bellcore job. I had opportunities to buy a Young Pioneer T shirt. Apple’s online store has “matured” that idea. The computer platform was one of those inviolate things. Apple is into digital chastity belts too I believe. Lose your iTunes’ password, and you are instantly transferred back to the world of Bell Tel hell if you “lost” your Western Electric 202 handset.

So what?

I read “Apple Shutters Third-Party Apps That Enabled iMessage on Android.” In my opinion, the write up says, “Apple killed a cross platform messaging application.” This is no surprise to anyone who had the experience of attending pre-Judge Green meetings. May I illustrate? In one meeting in Manhattan, the firm with which I was affiliated attended a meeting to explain a proposal and the fee for professional services. I don’t recall what my colleagues and I were pitching, I just remember the reaction to the fee. I am a dinobaby, but the remark ran along this railroad line:


A Fruit Company executive visits a user. The visit is intended to make clear that the user will suffer penalties if she continues to operate outside the rules of the orchard. That MSFT Copilot. Only three tries today to get one good enough cartoon.

That’s a big number. We may have to raise the price of long-distance calls. But you guys won’t get paid until we get enough freight cars organized. We will deliver the payment in nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Yep, a Bell head joke, believe it or not. Ho, ho, ho. Railcars filled with coins.

The write up states:

The iPhone maker said in a statement it “took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage.” It added that “these techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks.” The company said it would continue to make changes in the future to protect its users.

If you remember the days when a person tried to connect a non-Western Electric device into the Bell phone system, the comments were generally similar. Unauthorized devices could imperil national security or cause people to die. There you go.

As a resident of Kentucky, I am delighted that big companies want to protect me. Those Kentuckians unfortunate enough to have gobbled a certain pharma company’s medications may not believe the “protect users” argument.

As a dinobaby, I see Apple’s “protect users” play as little more than an overt and somewhat clumsy attempt to kill cross platform messaging. The motives are easy to identify:

  • Protect the monopoly until Apply-pleasing terms can be put in place
  • Demonstrate that the company is more powerful than an upstart innovator
  • Put the government on notice that it will control its messaging platform

Oh, I almost forget. Apple wants to “protect users.” Bell/AT&T thinking has fertilized the soil in the Apple orchard in my view. I feel more protected already even though a group fired mortars at a certain meeting’s attendees, causing me to hide in a basement until the supply of shells was exhausted.

Oh, yeah, there were people who were supposed to protect me and others at the meeting. How did that work out?

Stephen E Arnold, December 13, 2023




The Brin-A-Loon: A Lofty Idea Is Ready to Take Flight

November 3, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb humanoid. No smart software required.

I read “Sergey Brin’s 400-Foot Airship Reportedly Cleared for Takeoff.” I am not sure how many people know about Mr. Brin’s fascination with a balloon larger than Vladimir Putin’s yacht. The article reports:

While the concept of rigid airships and the basic airframe design are a throwback to pre-Hindenburg times of the early 1900s, Pathfinder 1 uses a frame made from 96 welded titanium hubs, joined by some 289 reinforced carbon fiber tubes. These materials advances keep it light enough to fly using helium, rather than hydrogen as a lift gas.

10 28 brinaloon

A high technology balloon flies near the Stanford campus, heading toward the Paul Allen Building. Will the aspiring network wizards notice the balloon? Probably not. Thanks, MidJourney. A bit like the movie posters I saw as a kid, but close enough for horseshoes and the Brin-A-Loon.

High tech. Plus helium (an increasingly scarce resource for the Brin-A-Loon and party balloons at Dollar General) does not explode. Remember that newsreel footage from New Jersey. Hydrogen, not helium.

The article continues:

According to IEEE Spectrum, the company has now been awarded the special airworthiness certificate required to fly this beast outdoors – at less than 1,500 ft (460 m) of altitude, and within the boundaries of Moffett Field and the neighboring Palo Alto Airport’s airspace.

Will there be UFO reports on TikTok and YouTube?

What’s the purpose of the Brin-A-Loon? The write up opines:

LTA says its chief focus is humanitarian aid; airships can get bulk cargo in and people out of disaster areas when roads and airstrips are destroyed and there’s no way for other large aircraft to get in and out. Secondary opportunities include slow point-to-point cargo operations, although the airships will be grounded if the weather doesn’t co-operate.

I remember the Loon balloons. The idea was to use Loon balloons to deliver Internet access in places like Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, and Africa. Great idea. The hitch in the float along was that the weather was a bit of an issue. Oh, the software — like much of the Googley code floating around — was a bit problematic.

The loon balloons are gone. But the Brin-A-Loon is ready to take to the air. The craft may find a home in Ohio. Good for Ohio. And the Brinaloon will be filled with helium like birthday party balloons. Safer than hydrogen. Will the next innovation be the Brin-Train, a novel implementation of the 18th century Leland Stanford railroad engines?

Stephen E Arnold, November 3, 2023

Making Chips: What Happens When Sanctions Spark Work Arounds

October 25, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[2]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Maybe the Japanese outfit Canon is providing an example of the knock on effects of sanctions. On the other hand, maybe this is just PR. My hunch is more information will become available in the months ahead. “Nanoimprint Lithography Semiconductor Manufacturing System That Covers Diverse Applications with Simple Patterning Mechanism” discloses:

On October 13, 2023, Canon announced today the launch of the FPA-1200NZ2C nanoimprint semiconductor manufacturing equipment, which executes circuit pattern transfer, the most important semiconductor manufacturing process.

10 15 otter try 2

“This might be important,” says a technologically oriented animal in rural Kentucky. Thanks, MidJourney, continue to descend gradiently.

The idea is small and printing traces of a substance. The application is part of the expensive and delicate process of whipping out modern chips.

The write up continues:

By bringing to market semiconductor manufacturing equipment with nanoimprint lithography (NIL) technology, in addition to existing photolithography systems, Canon is expanding its lineup of semiconductor manufacturing equipment to meet the needs of a wide range of users by covering from the most advanced semiconductor devices to the existing devices.

Several observations are warranted:

  1. Oh, oh. A new process may be applicable to modern chip manufacturing.
  2. The system and method may be of value to countries dealing with US sanctions.
  3. Clever folks find ways to do things that regulatory language cannot anticipate.

Is this development important even if the Canon announcement is a bit fluffy? Yep, because the information about the system and method provide important road signs on the information superhighway. Canon does cameras, owns some intelware technology, and now allegedly provides an alternative to the traditional way to crank out advanced semiconductors.

Stephen E Arnold, October 25, 2023

The Google and Its AI Peers Guzzle Water. Yep, Guzzle

October 6, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Much has been written about generative AI’s capabilities and its potential ramifications for business and society. Less has been stated about its environmental impact. The AP highlights this facet of the current craze in its article, “Artificial Intelligence Technology Behind ChatGPT Was Built in Iowa—With a Lot of Water.” Iowa? Who knew? Turns out, there is good reason to base machine learning operations, especially the training, in such a chilly environment. Reporters Matt O’Brien and Hannah Fingerhut write:

“Building a large language model requires analyzing patterns across a huge trove of human-written text. All of that computing takes a lot of electricity and generates a lot of heat. To keep it cool on hot days, data centers need to pump in water — often to a cooling tower outside its warehouse-sized buildings. In its latest environmental report, Microsoft disclosed that its global water consumption spiked 34% from 2021 to 2022 (to nearly 1.7 billion gallons, or more than 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools), a sharp increase compared to previous years that outside researchers tie to its AI research.”

During the same period, Google’s water usage surge by 20% according to the company. Notably, Google was strategic about where it guzzled this precious resource: it kept usage steady in Oregon, where there was already criticism about its water usage. But its consumption doubled outside Las Vegas, famously one of the nation’s hottest and driest regions. Des Moines, Iowa, on the other hand is a much cooler and wetter locale. We learn:

“In some ways, West Des Moines is a relatively efficient place to train a powerful AI system, especially compared to Microsoft’s data centers in Arizona that consume far more water for the same computing demand. … For much of the year, Iowa’s weather is cool enough for Microsoft to use outside air to keep the supercomputer running properly and vent heat out of the building. Only when the temperature exceeds 29.3 degrees Celsius (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit) does it withdraw water, the company has said in a public disclosure.”

Though merely a trickle compared to what the same work would take in Arizona, that summer usage is still a lot of water. Microsoft’s Iowa data centers swilled about 11.5 million gallons in July of 2022, the month just before GPT-4 graduated training. Naturally, both Microsoft and Google insist they are researching ways to use less water. It be nice if environmental protection were more than an afterthought.

The write-up introduces us to Shaolei Ren, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside. His team is working to calculate the environmental impact of generative AI enthusiasm. Their paper is due later this year, but they estimate ChatGPT swigs more than 16 ounces of water for every five to 50 prompts, depending on the servers’ location and the season. Will big tech find a way to curb AI’s thirst before it drinks us dry?

Cynthia Murrell, October 6, 2023

AI and Increasing Inequality: Smart Software Becomes the New Dividing Line

August 16, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Will AI Be an Economic Blessing or Curse?” engages is prognosticative “We will be sorry” analysis. Yep, I learned about this idea in Dr. Francis Chivers’ class about Epistemology at Duquesne University. Wow! Exciting. The idea is that knowing is phenomenological. Today’s manifestation of this mental process is in the “fake data” and “alternative facts” approach to knowledge.

8 8 cruising ai highway

An AI engineer cruising the AI highway. This branch of the road does not permit boondocking or begging. MidJourney disappointed me again. Sigh.

Nevertheless, the article makes a point I find quite interesting; specifically, the author invites me to think about the life of a peasant in the Middle Ages. There were some technological breakthroughs despite the Dark Ages and the charmingly named Black Death. Even though plows improved and water wheels were rediscovered, peasants were born into a social system. The basic idea was that the poor could watch rich people riding through fields and sometimes a hovel in pursuit of fun, someone who did not meet meet their quota of wool, or a toothsome morsel. You will have to identify a suitable substitute for the morsel token.

The write up points out (incorrectly in my opinion):

“AI has got a lot of potential – but potential to go either way,” argues Simon Johnson, professor of global economics and management at MIT Sloan School of Management. “We are at a fork in the road.”

My view is that the AI smart software speedboat is roiling the data lakes. Once those puppies hit 70 mph on the water, the casual swimmers or ill prepared people living in houses on stilts will be disrupted.

The write up continues:

Backers of AI predict a productivity leap that will generate wealth and improve living standards. Consultancy McKinsey in June estimated it could add between $14 trillion and $22 trillion of value annually – that upper figure being roughly the current size of the U.S economy.

On the bright side, the write up states:

An OECD survey of some 5,300 workers published in July suggested that AI could benefit job satisfaction, health and wages but was also seen posing risks around privacy, reinforcing workplace biases and pushing people to overwork.
“The question is: will AI exacerbate existing inequalities or could it actually help us get back to something much fairer?” said Johnson.

My view is not populated with an abundance of happy faces. Why? Here are my observations:

  1. Those with knowledge about AI will benefit
  2. Those with money will benefit
  3. Those in the right place at the right time and good luck as a sidekick will benefit
  4. Those not in Groups one, two, and three will be faced with the modern equivalent of laboring as a peasant in the fields of the Loire Valley.

The idea that technology democratizes is not in line with my experience. Sure, most people can use an automatic teller machine and a mobile phone functioning as a credit card. Those who can use, however, are not likely to find themselves wallowing in the big bucks of the firms or bureaucrats who are in the AI money rushes.

Income inequality is one visible facet of a new data flyway. Some get chauffeured; others drift through it. Many stand and marvel at rushing flows of money. Some hold signs with messages like “Work needed” or “Homeless. Please, help.”

The fork in the road? Too late. The AI Flyway has been selected. From my vantage point, one benefit will be that those who can drive have some new paths to explore. For many, maybe orders of magnitude more people, the AI Byway opens new areas for those who cannot afford a place to live.

The write up assumes the fork to the AI Flyway has not been taken. It has, and it is not particularly scenic when viewed from a speeding start up gliding on neural networks.

Stephen E Arnold, August 16, 2023

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