If there’s one thing most people can agree upon, it’s that Amazon has become a monopolistic leviathan from the deep tech sea. While wrapping its tentacles to anything that gets too close in the online marketplace, along, recently, with the physical world, its power drunk space captain, Jeff Bezos, is now landing in New York City. Being that the company already reads most of the population’s minds and orders it new toilet paper, the thought of bringing jobs to any city gets politicians all wet and juicy in just the right spots.
And so, since nobody wants the olympics anymore, Amazon put out a ruse contest to search for second city paramours that wanted to build glass offices, not ski jumps. Many lined up. But, as we said, this was a ruse. Bezos is already a media tycoon in DC, owning the Washington Post. Besides NYC, Amazon will bring its corporate drones, lawyers, and lobbyists to Virginia.
If Bezos could launch a certain New York native to a galaxy far, far away, all might be forgiven. However, Trump being Trump, he would probably find a way back and tell everyone we’re about to be invaded by intergalactic Mexican space gangsters from the planet George Soros. “Everyone loves me up there. But, folks, there are some real mean, shithole planets. Planets that are sending us caravans of space junk. We’ll need to build a big, beautiful electric cage around the country to keep out the invaders from Muslim Nebula 7.”
Wait. Where was I? Oh yes. Amazon. Amazon will not be bringing its welfare warehouse jobs to Long Island City in New York and Virginia. Instead, these will be jobs for managers, developers, and marketing people. And it will not be a lot. (Around 2,500, which is nothing in a city of about 8.6 million.) These are upper management positions. People who will populate some of the abandoned condos owned by rich Chinese and Russian oligarchs. To give them a 3 billion dollar gift for gracing us with their presence is continuing to feed the leviathan.
The Amazon deal is no win for New Yorkers [NY Post]
In the New Yorker this week, Joshua Rothman reports on the latest in AI technology and the ability for engineers to completely manipulate video.
For instance, in the video below, Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele fame, shows how easy it’s done using Obama. (Former president of the somewhat realer news.)
How is this happening?
Today, researchers have access to systems like ImageNet, a site run by computer scientists at Stanford and Princeton which brings together fourteen million photographs of ordinary places and objects, most of them casual snapshots posted to Flickr, eBay, and other Web sites. Initially, these images were sorted into categories (carrousels, subwoofers, paper clips, parking meters, chests of drawers) by tens of thousands of workers hired through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Then, in 2012, researchers at the University of Toronto succeeded in building neural networks capable of categorizing ImageNet’s images automatically; their dramatic success helped set off today’s neural-networking boom. In recent years, YouTube has become an unofficial ImageNet for video. Efros’s lab has overcome the site’s “platform bias”—its preference for cats and pop stars—by developing a neural network that mines, from “life style” videos such as “My Spring Morning Routine” and “My Rustic, Cozy Living Room,” clips of people opening packages, peering into fridges, drying off with towels, brushing their teeth. This vast archive of the uninteresting has made a new level of synthetic realism possible.
Hence, you get a start-up boom. From an April 2018 article from The Verge:
Researchers have developed tools that let you perform face swaps like the one above in real time; Adobe is creating a “Photoshop for audio” that lets you edit dialogue as easily as a photo; and a Canadian startup named Lyrebird offers a service that lets you fake someone else’s voice with just a few minutes of audio.
Like, WOW. Total recall and all that is kind of here. If this is going to happen, though, I think I’ll take a vacation memory to Costa Rica over Mars. Just writing to my current brain and memory here to let it know. Don’t go to Mars, Dan! (Quaid?)
The new multi-tasking tater of the digital age no longer just slings his remote. Laurence Scott of The New Yorker writes:
The decline of the couch potato signals a shift in our moral attitude toward life lived in front of a screen. Our century’s professional expectation that we be constantly online provides an alibi for our indulgences. The person hunched over her laptop in the coffee shop could be poring over budgets or caught in an unrewarding whorl of YouTube videos: the silhouette is more or less the same. Likewise, our smartphones display both urgent e-mails and consolingly familiar reruns of “Friends.” Even earbuds don’t necessarily portend mindless consumption; a conference call, or even a podcast teaching introductory Mandarin, could be piping up those rubbery lines. With television’s new proximity to the more puritanical uses of our devices, the archetype of the beached sluggard on the couch has been smuggled into a portrait of diligence. As a result, the old-school sheepishness about watching television, especially during the day, has been replaced by a sense of pride in our new technological capabilities.