Boba Train #5: Brain Implants, Google AI, and May 2023 Books & Podcast Recs

Boba Train #5: Brain Implants, Google AI, and May 2023 Books & Podcast Recs
Photo by Katie Rainbow 🏳️‍🌈 / Unsplash

Hi, 👋 folks!

Welcome to the 5th edition of my monthly newsletter — Boba Train 🧋🚂.

The drink of choice today is not actually a Boba! Instead, it’s a hot chocolate with whipped cream and a chocolate chip cookie.

This month’s issue is a little later than usual. My apologies for that. Personally, it’s been a very busy June for me, sprinkled with some difficult times at work and sad news from family back home.

That being said, I am doing better now, so let’s get straight into it.

What’s in this issue?

  • The Magic of Brain Implants
  • US Surgeon General Blames Social Media
  • Disastrous generative AI and Blue Twitter Verification
  • Instagram or Twitter
  • Google Helps Identify AI Images
  • Google Makes Faking Reality Easier
  • Reading updates & recs
  • Podcast updates & recs
  • What I wrote this month

The Magic of Brain Implants

There is some technological advancement that amazes me every month. Last month was no different.

A paralyzed man was able to walk simply by thinking about it thanks to electronic brain implants.

The electronic implants wirelessly transmit his thoughts to his legs and feet. That’s fascinating!

If this can be replicated on a mass scale, it will be a game changer for people with mobility issues.

I believe some of the biggest and greatest technological advancements we have coming up in the next few decades will be in the medical field. Hopefully, this is just one of many!

US Surgeon General Blames Social Media

According to the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy:

Nearly every teenager in America uses social media, and yet we do not have enough evidence to conclude that it is sufficiently safe for them. The kids have become unknowing participants in a decades-long experiment.

According to him, the problems can be divided into 2 buckets:

  1. Content-related problems — negative self-image or bullying
  2. Use-related problems — addiction or sleep issues

I have written significantly before about the negative effect of social media on teenagers, especially girls.

According to a psychology professor at San Diego State University, the number of teens and young adults with clinical depression doubled between 2011 and 2011.

In 2021, the CDC found that nearly 25% of teenage girls had made a suicide plan.

There’s no causal relationship between these trends and social media. However, the timing of the trend does correlate with the rise of social media platforms over the last decade.

Disastrous Generative AI and Blue Twitter Verification

On May 22nd morning, a seemingly AI-generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon circulated around the internet, even though the event didn’t actually happen.

The fake AI image was then tweeted by a “verified” Twitter account called “Bloomberg Feed”, which can be easily mistaken as the official Bloomberg account.

The image spread like wildlife and was even reported by some mainstream news outlets.

This is a perfect example of how the current state of non-regulated AI can spread misinformation at an explosive pace, aided by the irresponsible use of Twitter’s new verification program.

Instagram or Twitter

At the end of the day, all social media ends up being the exact same thing.

Look at TikTok’s rise to fame, and how YouTube (with Shorts) and Instagram (with Reels) ship the exact same feature to retain their audience.

Similarly, during the pandemic when Clubhouse was on the rise with its new voice-based social network, Twitter rushed to create their own equivalent.

In both cases, it’s the same reason — every platform wants to maximize the time and attention their users spent on the platform, so the thought of a “new form of content” from a different platform that can steal those eyeballs is scary.

Now, apparently, we are at it again.

With the recent fiasco surrounding Twitter, there’s a potential vacuum to be filled in the space of microblogging, if people start migrating away from Twitter.

To no one’s surprise, Meta is throwing its hat into the ring to build the next major microblogging platform. The new Meta app is expected to launch this summer.

This will be a standalone app but will be partially integrated with Meta’s ecosystem of social apps — Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Users will keep their Instagram verification and handle, and all of their followers will receive a notification to follow them on the new platform.

The only bright side I can see based on the rumors — the app is supposed to be decentralized and interoperable with Mastodon, instead of being another silo. But I will believe it when I see it.

Google Helps Identify AI Images

Google is taking its first steps towards combating the potential for misinformation arising from AI-generated images.

In the most recent Google I/O developer event, the company announced 2 new features:

  1. More background information about Google images within an “About this image” section
  2. Labeling AI-generated image files with “AI-generated”

This is a good starting point, but the problem still remains outside Google’s walled garden.

Even within Google’s ecosystem, it will require the image authors to “play by the rules” which is a hard sell.

Google Makes Faking Reality Easier

From one extreme to the other, as Google is working hard to identify AI images, it’s also providing easy-to-use tools to fake reality.

I was having an interesting conversation with a coworker the other day. We were sharing vacation photos with each other when one of us suddenly asked the other jokingly:

These photos look so cool! Are you sure the bear was actually that close to you? With AI images that are out there, sometimes I doubt my own reality.

Then came Google I/O and their announcement of new features in their proprietary Magic Editor tool.

The demo was technically impressive but philosophically scary.

It started with a photo of a woman in front of a waterfall. Through the magic of Magic Editor, the presenter moved her to the other side of the image, changed the clouds and weather with a tap, and instantly repositioned her in the image to make it seem as if she was holding the waterfall in her palm.

Very, very impressive! While all the objects were being moved around, the “old spaces” were being intelligently filled by AI. The differences, if any, were impossible to notice through the naked eye.

Now, whenever I come across some daredevil or super cool photo of someone’s vacation, I can’t stop thinking if it’s actually real or “Google real”.

Reading Updates & Recs

Another month of reading slump, however, I had my reasons.

The only book I finished:

Muhammad by Karen Armstrong — 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Books that I am currently reading:

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

Podcast Updates & Recs

If you are interested in tech, health, productivity, intentional living, and self-improvement, check some of these out.

If you are looking for a great podcast app that helps you remember everything you listen to, please check out Snipd(Note: Not sponsored or affiliated in any way)

What I Wrote This Month

Let’s wrap up May 2023 with a list of things that I wrote.

If you have enjoyed the newsletter so far, I am sure you will enjoy my writings too. Please check them out.

15 Ways AI-powered Tools Are Helping Me Work Smarter, Not Harder

Smarter Coding: 7 AI-Powered Tips for Productivity

5 Ways AI Helped Me Write More Efficiently

One Strategy That Transformed My Email Productivity

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