strange news digest / Habr

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A secret community of crypto miners in Lebanon is one of several strange and fascinating stories that didn’t make it into Habra news due to their ‘insufficient format compliance’ or frivolity. Against the background of power outages and police raids, a community of miners in Lebanon continues their work. The crisis in the Lebanese economy led to residents switching to stablecoins and mining, while in 2020 the government subsidized electricity. Many had to give up their micro-businesses, and the most demanding turned their attention to Shuf, where they could mine cryptocurrency.

strange news digest / Habr

It happens that there are info drives that at first glance look like the exhaust of the inflamed consciousness of Ben Chang from the TV series “Community”. Both curators and editors of Habra news often avoid them. But both these news and publications in other genres also carry certain information, without which the arrangement scheme of the modern world and technologies looks incomplete, “not selected”.

That’s why I decided to continue our experiments with digests with a digest of news and infomercials that did not get into the news feed because of their wildness, “insufficient format compliance” or frivolity. But let this be a weekend digest inspired by the freak who lived in the vent.

A secret community of cryptominers lives on the abandoned dams of Lebanon

Publication and news last December. But the story is long-playing and one of those that is called “burnt into the soul”: about how, against the background of a collapsing economy, widespread power outages and police raids, the underground community of miners in Lebanon continues its work.

It turned out that three hydroelectric power stations are located in the Lebanese mountain region of Shuf. They are very old, you can even call them ancient, but they work. Therefore, residents of the nearest villages receive the cheapest electricity. And this is the key moment of the story.

The crisis in the Lebanese economy in 2019 led to the depreciation of the local currency, the Lebanese lira. Then the population switched to calculations in stablecoins and started mining. Lebanese cryptominers took off in 2020, when the government subsidized electricity. But it could not last long, and soon households began to receive electricity for only 1-2 hours a day. Many had to give up their micro-businesses, and the most demanding ones turned their attention to Shuf.

The situation is somewhat phantasmagorical: apparently, cryptocurrency mining involves fairly high technical and investment entry thresholds; and in Lebanon this business resembles artisanal gold mining with the help of a sieve and scoop. Individual entrepreneurs or small groups of people invest in several machines and look for places with a constant power supply, and whether it is legal or not does not matter in their conditions.

Twitch is a 24/7 broadcast of conversations with celebrities, generated by artificial intelligence. And this story is even stranger than it might seem at first glance

Last week, Vice discovered a real craze on Twitch: an artificial intelligence-generated endless live stream of celebrity conversations. Fake Joe Rogan, PewDiePie and others (at the time of this digest, Donald Trump and Snoop Dogg were on the air) answer questions from the same fake host, who hides behind Bashir Boumaaz, former professional gamer and creator of The Singularity Group. A group promoting the philosophy of Neuro-Spinosism or Atenism (a modern interpretation of Spinoza’s teachings that attempts to combine scientific approach and pantheism) is often called a sect and a pseudo-religion and suspected of being a fraud.

One of the stated goals of Boumaaz and the Singularity Group is to pave the way for humanity to a universal basic income through a game based on crypto-tokens. The game is called Athene AI Heroes and actually funds some of Boumaaz’s “charity startups”. These bright characters staged a performance on Twitch.

The Twitch stream started on February 5th and went 24/7 in about two weeks. What do its participants say? But nothing: fake Rogan, for example, once said that a moose is a great example of a deer with edited genes. Well, they advertise the game Athene AI Heroes.

Broadcast moderation is multi-level: volunteers from the Singularity Group work together with AI tools. Organizers don’t want to say too much about the “secret sauce” that helps make the broadcast. All that is known is that the dialogues are generated using a combination of GPT-3 and proprietary datasets, and the deepfake videos are generated by the Singularity Group’s own development, which they created in conjunction with open source components. This is techno-romance from the big road.

The “stylist guy” could be the Twitter algorithm’s sweetheart

The Wall Street Journal reported on how Twitter’s algorithms fell in love with the “stylist guy” (originally Menswear Guy, and this is most likely a play on words, since Guy is also the character’s last name).

Before starting to push Elon Musk’s tweets to users of the social network, Twitter’s algorithms were not kidding about the humble owner of the @dieworkwear account, Derek Guy. He merely published recommendations on how to fit European classics and his favorite Italian tailors into the basic wardrobe of the average American. But this winter, almost all users of the platform in the US learned about him, because his tweets appeared first in their feed.

Moreover, people accepted the content imposed by him without aggression, although many complaints were sent to Twitter. Back in November, Elon Musk warned that “Twitter is going to do a lot of stupid things in the coming months” and promised to “keep what works and change what doesn’t.” Apparently, the promotion of the stylist became one of the examples of the system working out.

Twitter users speculated that Mr Guy was the beneficiary (or victim, depending on how you look at this viral experience) of recent experiments with an algorithmic timeline. The victim of algorithmic harassment herself calmly reacted to the unhealthy popularity. After all, in a month, @dieworkwear acquired about 30 thousand subscribers, and by the end of January, their number exceeded 112 thousand.

Apocalyptic illusions of the Silicon Valley elite

Last year, Douglas Rushkoff’s book Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of Tech Billionaires was published, in which he describes a meeting with Silicon Valley influencers in which they discussed how to survive an “event,” an expected apocalyptic disaster capable of sending them into their bunkers. But just now, publications have turned to Rushkoff’s book and are actively discussing the topics of survival and “survivors”.

The Insider recently studied special offers on the real estate market: from modest solutions built into ready-made houses or dugouts costing $35-$40 thousand per person to underground apartments with pools and cinemas for $14 million.

Current Affairs went much further and did a long and most interesting interview with Rushkoff with the subtitle “how the super rich plan to escape the world after they’ve ruined it”.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology called the author of the book “one of the ten most influential intellectuals in the world.” In the interview, Rushkoff thinks in a healthy and paradoxical way. For example, he draws a direct line from the Russian philosophy of cosmism to the belief of today’s IT billionaires, convinced that their knowledge and abilities will help them become perfect post- or trans-humans with consciousness “pumped into the cloud”. Quote: “Our techies were somewhat seduced in the 1970s by a Russian New Age system called Cosmism. The Esalen Institute hosted bilateral diplomatic meetings where everyone took acid, and people who later invested in Apple were present. Their Russian colleagues were there. People who swam with dolphins and believed that we could create robots that had human consciousness. They were originally Russian Orthodox, and in this religion there is much more of this rapture, leaving the body, elements.”

Speaking of survival theory, Rushkoff advocates “anti-bunker” ideas: humanity can survive not by isolation in a perfectly equipped IT shelter, but by accepting responsibility and collective action, making the economy more sustainable, distributing goods among more people, and simply communicating with neighbors , and not isolating themselves from them.

Crochet enthusiasts turned to ChatGPT for patterns. The results are “damned”

Craft fans joined the general craze for ChatGPT and loaded the AI ​​with their requests. One such experiment was described by The Guardian. At first, TikTok user Oleksandra Woolner asked AI to give her a pattern for crocheting a narwhal. The resulting description impressed the needlewoman: it looked detailed and almost correct. Following the instructions, she tied her narwhal, but the result was “anatomically disturbing”: “People who saw it agreed that it looked wrong and ugly, but at the same time very cute.”

The video dedicated to the narwhal immediately gained 900 thousand views on TikTok, and every day there were more. The topic became so viral that the editor of The Guardian, Diana Ramírez-Simon, decided to repeat Alexander Woolner’s experiment. At his conclusion, she said ChatGPT didn’t seem to be friendly with proportions and numbers: the narwhal’s eyes were at least half its body, and there were no clear instructions on how to attach them.

Having fun, The Guardian turned to the expert. Jessica Newman of the University of California, Berkeley, reiterated that for artificial intelligence, crocheting patterns is precisely the most difficult request: AI is trained on large text databases, and these skills are not easily translated into numbers. “It may seem funny to us that a computer system is bad at math and good at creativity, but it speaks to an important fact about generative AI systems in general: they don’t understand context,” Jessica Newman commented on this story. “They don’t know what the words or numbers really mean, they just predict what’s going to happen next.”

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