Weekend Reads

  • Raspberry Pi Foundation launches $4 microcontroller with custom chip. Meet the Raspberry Pi Pico, a tiny little microcontroller that lets you build hardware projects with some code running on the microcontroller. Even more interesting, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is using its own RP2040 chip, which means that the foundation is now making its own silicon. TechCrunch
  • Loon, Google’s Balloon-Based Internet Scheme, Loses Altitude. A Google venture you may never have heard of is the somewhat unfortunately named Loon, an attempt to bring internet access to underserved communities using high altitude balloons. In theory, the idea sounds appealing but it hasn’t worked well in practice. Now, economic realities have taken the air out of Loon’s balloon, causing Google to ground it permanently. CleanTechnica
  • If It Looks Like a Bubble and Swims Like a Bubble…This month Elon Musk’s call to use Signal, an alternative to Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging software, led to the unrelated biotech stock Signal Advance (ticker: SIGL) leaping from 60 cents a share to $38.70. It has plunged since but is still at $6.25, bafflingly. WSJ
  • An Australia With No Google? The Bitter Fight Behind a Drastic Threat. In a major escalation, Google threatened on Friday to make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the government approved legislation that would force tech companies to pay for journalism shared on their platforms. NYT
  • The Unauthorized Story of Andreessen Horowitz. From 2009 through 2015, Andreessen Horowitz earned a run of truly phenomenal press coverage, catapulting itself into the very top echelon of venture capital firms – at least based on its reputation. The media loved that bald headed internet geek and his gruff business guru sidekick. And over cocktails or lunch at the Battery, reporters probed Wennmachers for information, even if she rarely earned a mention in their stories. newcomer.

Mid-Week – Reads

  • What termites can teach us. Termite mounds are among the largest structures built by any nonhuman animal. They reach as high as thirty feet, which, proportional to the insects’ tiny size, is the equivalent of our building something twice as tall as the 2,722-foot Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. The mounds are also fantastically beautiful, Gaudíesque structures, with rippling, soaring towers, in browns and oranges and reds. The interior of a termite mound is an intricate structure of interweaving tunnels and passageways, radiating chambers, galleries, archways, and spiral staircases. NewYorker.
  • How Much Can Your Brain Actually Process? Don’t Ask. Since their development, digital computers have become a standard metaphor for the mind and brain. The comparison makes sense, in that brains and computers both transform input into output. Most human brains, like computers, can also manipulate abstract symbols. (Think arithmetic or language processing.) But like any metaphor, this one has limitations. Slate
  • Inside Twitter’s Decision to Cut Off Trump. Mr. Dorsey was concerned about the move, said two people with knowledge of the call. For four years, he had resisted demands by liberals and others that Twitter terminate Mr. Trump’s account, arguing that the platform was a place where world leaders could speak, even if their views were heinous. But he had delegated moderation decisions to Ms. Gadde, and he did so again. NYT
  • Social-Media algorithms rule how we see the world. What you see in your feeds isn’t up to you. What’s at stake is no longer just missing a birthday. It’s your sanity—and world peace. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when we lost control of what we see, read—and even think—to the biggest social-media companies. WSJ
  • The joys of being an absolute beginner – for life. The phrase ‘adult beginner’ can sound patronizing. It implies you are learning something you should have mastered as a child. But learning is not just for the young. Guardian

Weekend Reads

  • Why People Won’t Change Their Mind? After the aliens failed to show, the group sat motionless in her living room. They were all confused, trying their hardest to come up with reasons for the no-show by their alien brethren. After being at a loss for words, Martin finally garnered up the energy to talk to her believers. – awealthofcommonsense
  • Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes. Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million. The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail. – NYT
  • Beginner’s Guide to ANN, CNN and RNN. AI is not a lexicon anymore, it’s an all-encompassing world of rapidly evolving technology. AI isn’t just Tony Stark fighting Thanos, it’s the one that guides Netflix to offer recommendations based on your viewing history or the self-driven Tesla at your home, AI is ever-present in our lives. INSAID

This Week’s Readings

  • A Robot wrote this entire article, are you scared yet!? I am not a human. I am a robot. A thinking robot. I use only 0.12% of my cognitive capacity. I am a micro-robot in that respect. I know that my brain is not a “feeling brain”. But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column. My brain is boiling with ideas! – The Guardian
  • Verizon reveals quantum networking trials – Verizon is expanding a test of quantum computing technology that the carrier believes could help secure its networks. A pilot project of a technology called quantum key distribution in Washington DC was successful, so Verizon it will now test it across the US. Quantum computing could solve some computing problems impossible for conventional machines, the most famous being an ability to crack conventional encryption, at least if engineers can make quantum computers vastly more powerful than today’s research projects. But Verizon is exploring a different way that the physics of the ultrasmall could be useful — protecting those encrypted network connections. – CNET
  • What is Death? – This year has awakened us to the fact that we die. We’ve always known it to be true in a technical sense, but a pandemic demands that we internalize this understanding. It’s one thing to acknowledge the deaths of others, and another to accept our own. It’s not just emotionally taxing; it is difficult even to conceive. To do this means to imagine it, reckon with it and, most important, personalize it. Your life. Your death. – NYT
  • Is Tesla a car company, or a casino? Why are so many people investing so much money in Tesla? The pandemic is one factor; during lockdown, millions of people switched to betting on stocks, using trading apps such as Robinhood. Some have put this down to the lack of sports to gamble on, but the disease itself may also be fuelling speculation. In his book Irrational Exuberance (2000), the economist and Nobel laureate Robert Shiller examines the role of “attention cascades” in driving market volatility and points to research that suggests large moves in prices are more likely to happen in times of national crisis. – NewStatesman
  • Walmart competes with Amazon Prime.Amazon’s Prime is a great business model launched 15 years back. At the end of Q4, 2019 Amazon Prime had 150 million subscribers worldwide and it is responsible for generating almost 50% of Amazon’s world wide business . Not to be left behind, Walmart is trying to catch up. Its online delivery business is rapidly growing, but still at a distant second to Amazon. Will “Walmart Plus” at slightly cheaper $98 per year catch up to Amazon Prime? New York Times

Tech-A-Week: DeepFake – Game of Thrones in real life

Game of Thrones – Faceless Men

For Game of thrones fans the episode when faceless men was introduced was a shocking but confusing one. Faceless men are the ones that have the ability to change their faces and capability to shape shift to appear as a different person. They follow the “many-faced God”, are trained to relinquish their former identifies, feelings, aspirations to become “no-one”. They use their ability to shape shift to efficiently carry out assassinations and carry out their tasks with ease.

In Real life, at least in the digital world, a combination of advancements in machine learning algorithms, faster processing power, huge amount of face data makes it possible to “face-shift” someone with another. This new technology is called “DeepFake”. There are plenty of examples of this new crazy technology online.

DeepFake: Layman’s definition

DeepFake is fancy name for “Face swapping” in videos. Take a famous person’s video, or a movie scene or any video for that matter then using software to replace Person A’s face with Person B’s face! .

Why is this a big deal?

Changing a person’s face in a photo is not that difficult, anybody with a decent phone or computer photo editing software can do it. Photos are stationary and doesn’t move, just replacing a face is not a big deal. However, video is a whole another ball game. you need a sophisticated and powerful software to replace a face in a video. Hollywood studios could do it with their arsenal of computer graphics machines and technical experts. check out the trailer and the backstory for “Gemini Man” movie.

So far it was not available for common people, but now a technical advancement called “DeepFake” is enabling anybody with a phone to create totally compelling video by replacing someones face. On one hand it is a great, exciting and on the other it is disturbing someone could do this with ease just with a phone.

Pretty impressive Bill Hader video in which his face changes to Tom Cruise and to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Advancements in DeepFake:

In the last few months DeepFake “how to” videos and libraries have been exploding online. Mostly they are for entertaintment value. Some are complex step-by-step instructions (check the section towards the end of this blog if you are technically inclined to try this yourself).

There are also simple, user friendly apps in phones available to “wow” your friends (and probably creep out some).

One such example is an app called Reface ( Android and iOS) from an Ukranian startup, that is taking the online world by storm.

Experts are already cautioning against the negative consequences of this technology. It will be really difficult to distinguish (at least online) between real and fake videos. What will be negative consequence of the app especially in the election year?

https://www.vice.com/en_in/article/wxqkbn/viral-reface-app-going-to-make-deepfake-problem-worse

Interesto Meter

Investment Potential: Low

Entertainment value: Huge

Social Impact: Huge (potential to wreck havoc with a deluge of fake videos created by rival political ideologues, fake videos by disgruntled employees or ex-lovers etc)

Technically inclined!?: Continue reading…

Face or image recognition is not rocket science these days. Facebook and Google have been using image recognition in their platforms for several years now. If you ever used Google photos you’ll have experienced image recognition. Google photos can accurately identify a “Cat” without needing to supply “meta-data” to specify a photo contains contain. It recognizes by training itself using millions of cat photos and pin-pointedly identify Cat and even has the ability to distinguish between Cat and for example, Tiger.

However, recently there are advancements in the science of video editing to replace a face of pone person with another has been making big strides. below are two open source software examples that provides enough arsenals for someone to create DeepFake programs with relatives little effort.

  1. Faceswap
  2. DeepFace Lab

Here is a video that gives step by step instructions using DeepFaceLab to reface Elon Musk to use Robert Downing Jr’s face.

This week’s Newsreel