The Merge arrives, and China’s AI image censorship

  • The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images. Google Brain revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen, earlier this year. But don’t expect to see anything that isn’t wholesome. Read the full story.
  • This avocado armchair could be the future of AI. Last year, OpenAI extended GPT-3 with two new models that combine NLP with image recognition to give its AI a better understanding of everyday concepts. Read the full story.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Social media’s biggest companies appeared before the US Senate
Past and present Meta, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube employees answered questions on social media’s impact on homeland security. (TechCrunch)
+ Retaining user attention is their algorithms’ primary purpose. (Protocol)
+ TikTok’s representative avoided committing to cutting off China’s access to US data. (Bloomberg $)

2 China wants to reduce its reliance on Western technology
Investing heavily in native firms is just one part of its multi-year plan. (FT $)
+ Cybercriminals are increasingly interested in Chinese citizens’ personal data. (Bloomberg $)
+ The FBI accused him of spying for China. It ruined his life. (MIT Technology Review)

3 California is suing Amazon
Accusing it of triggering price rises across the state. (WSJ $)
+ The two-year fight to stop Amazon from selling face recognition to the police. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Russia is waging a surveillance war on its own citizens
Its authorities are increasingly targeting ordinary people, not known dissidents or journalists. (Slate $)
+ Russian troops are still fleeing northern Ukraine. (The Guardian)

5 Dozens of AIs debated 100 years of climate negotiations in seconds
They’re evaluating which policies are most likely to be well-received globally. (New Scientist $)
+ Patagonia’s owner has given the company away to fight climate change. (The Guardian)

6 Iranian hackers hijacked their victims’ printers to deliver ransom notes
The three men have been accused of targeting people in the US, UK and Iran. (Motherboard)

7 DARPA’s tiny plane could spy from almost anywhere
The unmanned vehicle could also carry small bombs. (WP $)
+ The Taliban have crashed a helicopter left behind by the US military. (Motherboard)

8 Listening to stars helps astronomers to assess what’s inside them
The spooky-sounding acoustic waves transmit a lot of data. (Economist $)
+ The James Webb Space Telescope has spotted newborn stars. (Space)
+ The next Space Force chief thinks the US needs a satellite constellation to combat China. (Nikkei Asia)

9 We’ll never be able to flip and turn like a cat
But the best divers and gymnasts are the closest we can get. (The Atlantic $)
+ The best robotic jumpers are inspired by nature. (Quanta)

10 This robot is having a laugh
Even if it’s not terribly convincing. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“Tesla has yet to produce anything even remotely approaching a fully self-driving car.”

—Briggs Matsko, a Tesla owner, explains his rationale for suing the company over the “deceptive” way it marketed its driver-assistance systems, according to Reuters.

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