Algorithmic canaries, mind control terrors, and dissecting Alexa (Issue 44)

Welcome to Issue 44 of the All Turtles newsletter. Each week, we bring you carefully chosen news and analysis about AI, startups, and updates from our product teams. This week, we’re excited to share another episode from the All Turtles Podcast: the Unscaled Series. If you like this newsletter (we hope you do!), please subscribe or share with a friend.

Tokyo calling

Silicon Valley may be the tech capital of the world, but new opportunities for programmers are challenging the notion that there is only one place product creators can go to be successful. Japan, for instance, has a strong pull on software engineers and the like who are drawn to the country not only for its technological innovation but also for its culture. Famous for manga, anime, video games, and much more, Japan’s cultural exports are proving just as attractive for tech job seekers as the actual job openings.

ReadSome Techies Are Shunning Silicon Valley for the Japanese Dream (Bloomberg)

Mind control

Collapsing the gap between the brain and technology is something researchers have been working toward since science fiction first came up with the idea of mind control. The concept of “lag free interaction between our brains and external devices” is exciting enough to obscure an underlying question: who would be controlling our mind control? Brain-machine interfaces would require storing a user’s thoughts in the form of neural data, but who is managing that data? The big tech companies? The usual issues that arise when technological innovations ask to be let further into users’ lives are present here, too: privacy and algorithmic bias. To ignore these, you’d have to be out of your mind.

ReadBrain-computer interfaces raise fresh AI privacy and bias concerns (All Turtles)

Canary in a digital coalmine

How can you tell if the product that you’re creating will cause harm? What signs should Facebook have noticed long before its product wreaked havoc on democracy? There are “algorithmic canaries” to watch out for—akin to the birds used in coal mines to help detect deadly gases—now for the digital age. Listen to episode 3 of the All Turtles Podcast’s Unscaled Series with Phil Libin, Hemant Taneja, and Ronda Scott to learn about how AI is a tool that can be harnessed to efficiently measure a product’s impact, whether good or bad.

ListenUnscaled 3: Algorithmic Canaries (All Turtles)

Anatomy lesson

A product like Amazon Echo has such a sleek and simple exterior it’s difficult to imagine all the human labor, natural resources, and platforms required for its creation. Mapping out all that is necessary to make such products reveals that AI goes far deeper than algorithms, and that “the true costs of these systems—social, environmental, economic, and political—remain hidden and may stay that way for some time.” This map of the resources that make AI possible is an indispensable guide in assessing its impact on everything from the world’s supply of lithium to the evolving definition of a “user.”

ReadAnatomy of an AI System (

See Spot run

Founder conversation: Dr. Julia Shaw of Spot

Dr. Julia Shaw, cofounder of Spot, joined Dr. Jessica Collier, cofounder and Head of Product at All Turtles, for an onstage conversation at the All Turtles Paris launch event. Spot is a product that helps users to report workplace harassment and discrimination without talking to a human. With a background in memory research, Dr. Shaw shed light on the need for such a product: “It’s about avoiding biased interview techniques. As we know, human beings, when we talk to each other, are filled with bias and assumptions, and they ask–for lack of a better word–stupid things. And so they get bad information.” Spot tackles that problem by allowing users to report workplace harassment incidents using a bot; they can then choose whether or not to file their report with their employer.

WatchFounder conversation: Dr. Julia Shaw of Spot (All Turtles)

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