AI Alarmism: why smart people believe dumb things about our future AI overlords

Maciej Cegłowski (previously) gave this talk, "Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People," at Web Camp Zagreb last October, spending 45 minutes delving into the origin of the idea that computers are going to become apocalyptic, self-programming, superintelligent basilisks that end all live on Earth (and variations on this theme) and then explaining why this fundamentally evidence-free, fuzzy idea has colonized so many otherwise brilliant people — including people like Stephen Hawking — and why it's an irrational and potentially harmful belief system.

Big Data's religious faith denies the reality of failed promises, privacy Chernobyls

Maciej Ceglowski (previously) spoke to a O'Reilly's Strata Big Data conference this month about the toxicity of data — the fact that data collected is likely to leak, and that data-leaks resemble nuclear leaks in that even the "dilute" data (metadata or lightly contaminated boiler suits and tools) are still deadly when enough of them leak out (I've been using this metaphor since 2008).

New York Times and other papers use deceptive death-notice company

After a close friend committed suicide, Maciej Cegłowski discovered that a company called provides the back-end for almost every US paper's death notices, and that this company uses deceptive practices to get money from vulnerable, grieving people:

In other words, the site takes money from bereaved people without disclosing what it's billing them, gambling on the fact that they're probably too preoccupied to care.

Read the rest

Hilarious police encounter in Warsaw

Side-splittingly funny account of a Polish expat who returned to Warsaw and got (very incompetently) mugged, then flagged down a vanload of completely bonkers cops who ran around the city, stopping trams and pointing at nuns, businessmen and other improbables and saying, "are these the kids who mugged you?" — Read the rest

Stalinist posters from Poland

Maciej sez "This is a page of wacky/disturbing Polish wall posters from the early 1950's. The posters have been reissued in Poland as a campy, popular kind of retro calendar; I've scanned in some of the stranger ones, with translated captions." — Read the rest