Colonialism, contagions, and controversy (Issue 21)

Welcome to Issue 21 of the All Turtles newsletter. Each week, we bring you carefully chosen news and analysis about AI, startups, and happenings at the All Turtles startup studio. If you like this newsletter (we hope you do!), please subscribe or share with a friend.

Going viral

Chronic fatigue syndrome often lasts for months, and it has no cure. It’s one of many mysterious illnesses that are difficult to treat in part because their root causes are so elusive. New research is finding connections to certain identifiable viruses–and AI is playing a key role. Machine learning can recognize emergent patterns in sequenced DNA samples that match those of viral strains. The excitement surrounding the potential for AI to augment researchers’ work is, one might say, infectious.

Read: Machine learning spots treasure trove of elusive viruses (Nature)

What’s it all about, Alfie?

“Will AI take our jobs?” To this common question, noted AI investor Kai-Fu Lee responds by asking a new one: What would the true impact on humanity be if it did? He postulates that AI’s displacement of existing jobs will not only disrupt sources of income, but also may take away deeper meaning from people who find value in their jobs. The entire video is worth watching (full transcript available), as Lee talks through some of the twists and turns in the path that AI development took to get where it is today, and how its evolution will impact people in different parts of the world.

Watch: We are here to create (Edge)

A URL by any other name

When choosing a domain name, all kinds of criteria need to be met: Is it memorable? Easy to find? And somehow not already taken by any of the 1.8 billion websites in existence? Whatever follows the “.” may seem unimportant (.ai, .io), but may be tied to a history of colonialism. These domains are based on country codes. Just like .fr is French and .jp is Japanese, .ai refers to Anguilla and .io refers to British Indian Ocean Territory–areas that were colonized under the British Empire and subject to wealth extraction and violence. So here are some additional questions to consider when choosing between URL suffixes: Who profits from them? What do they really signify?

Read.AI and .IO: URLs at the intersection of colonialism and hype (and Shakespeare) (All Turtles)

From Russia with love

The Cambridge Analytica fallout is bad, to say the least. But it could have been much worse–and we’re heading in the direction of letting the “much worse” happen. In the case of the 2016 election, the dissemination of fake news on Facebook was largely by human propagators, and therefore not as effective as intended. Yet as AI is introduced to digital marketing platforms, efforts such as these could become far more concentrated and powerful. There are ways in which AI could be applied to flag false information and therefore protect against deceitful stories, but those tools must be engaged. The battle for truth wages on.

Read: Beware of A.I. in Social Media Advertising (New York Times)

There will be patents

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal is not a breach; it’s a logical result of the social network’s business model where users and their data are the product being sold. In another area rife with unintended consequences, our inhouse patent expert Leonid Kitainik provides advice for entrepreneurs seeking to protect their intellectual property. Listener questions include whether Bitcoin will be the world’s single currency one day and how voice interfaces will change computing and work.

Listen: All Turtles Podcast Episode 21: The Antisocial Network (SoundCloud)


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