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💬 Banks Ditch Passwords and Move to Voice Authentication. Also, Is Google's AI Bot Sentient?
In this edition of BizarroDevs, we're going to explore brain-tickling stories that range from crypto-crime through flying cars to several futuristic AI-related topics. There's plenty of food-for-thought baking below, so get ready to wet your appetite. Our three highlights include:
💬 Banks are shifting from traditional authentication tools to voice authentication
🥾 Google fired an engineer who claimed that an AI bot he was working with achieved sentience
🦹♂️ The dark web has its own economy and prices of goods are tracked like they are for "normal" items
📰 From the Newsroom
Have you ever forgotten your ATM PIN number and then had to spend an hour waiting to talk to your bank's customer service? If so, then you may appreciate the direction banking security is heading.
Data from the first three months of last year indicate that digital fraud attempts in financial services increased by 109% in the US, and by 149% globally.
To combat the above and maintain security standards for clients, banks have begun exploring new biometric options, including voice authentication. The reason behind the shift towards biometrics is straightforward: existing authentication methods are cumbersome for customers to use, and banks want to mitigate customers' frustration, while preserving their security.
Pindrop, one of the leading providers of voice tech services, has partnered with eight of the top ten banks in the U.S. to provide voice authentication in their call centers. At the moment, the technology is so new that it has no regulatory oversight. This may create problems down the line.
Depending on your perspective, this story is either really reassuring, or really Orwellian. You make the call. 🤷♂️
Artificial intelligence (AI) has fascinated us for decades. In the past, high-level AI was something that was relegated to sci-fi movies and books. With advancements in technology, high-functioning AI has made the leap from science fiction to non-fiction. So much so that recently a Google engineer claimed that the AI he was working with achieved sentience.
Blake Lemoine, a former Google engineer, worked in the company's Responsible AI department on a project called LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications).
He was assigned to test the LaMDA bot, which was trained to mimic speech similar to humans. He said that his philosophical conversations with the bot rivaled those he's had with leading philosophers, and that convinced him that the bot is sentient.
Consequently, Google fired him on June 22nd. A spokesperson for the company said that claims he made about LaMDA were "wholly unfounded."
Listen to the very last 30 minute conversation that Blake Lemoine had with LaMDA to decide for yourself whether it's sentient or not.
Proponents of the dark web see it as a manifestation of what the internet was intended to be. Detractors point to a flourishing illegal marketplace where the depraved among us can purchase almost anything.
There's also a third group. Neither proponents, nor detractors, they track the prices of illegal items on the dark web similarly to how an economist might track the price of a basket of goods. It's officially called the Dark Web Product Price Index, but the DowJones of the Dark Web sounds cooler.
Prior to October 2021, about a third of the dark web's 9,000 vendors relied on the White House Market to conduct transactions with their clientele. It was the Amazon.com of the internet underworld. Then, in October, the admins suddenly closed up the shop and it left the marketplace in a state of hyper-competition.
To avoid law enforcement agencies, the dark web's budding entrepreneurs have continued to rely on sophisticated security measures when doing business. Last year, the cryptocoin Monero gained steam as a preferred method of payment, due to its anonymity features.
Not unlike their legal counterparts, dark web vendors have increasingly been competing on security and customer service. Unsurprisingly, they've started using traditional marketing tactics too. Features like discounts (buy two credit cards, get one free), coupons, and product reviews are becoming common.
Gas, food, and diapers might all be soaring in price, but at least you can save on necessities like a counterfeit Maltese passport (down $2,700 from last year!) or access to a hacked Netflix account (down a modest $14 from 2021).
⛓️ Ten Must See Links of the Month
She's probably worth about €9 billion, has undergone plastic surgery, is using an alias with fake passports, and is currently the only woman on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. This is the true story of Ruja Ignatova, better known as "the Crypto Queen."
Cars in the sky are finally poised to leave the sci-fi realm. Developed by Slovak company Klein Vision, the AirCar is set to be put on the market for commercial distribution within the next year.
Using specialized nanoparticles inserted into plant leaves, MIT engineers have created a light-emitting plant that can be powered by an LED after only ten seconds of charging.
Engineers at the University of California San Diego developed a thin, flexible strip that can be worn on a fingertip and generate small amounts of electricity when a person's finger sweats or presses on it.
Stanford engineers created a more efficient and flexible AI chip, which could bring the power of AI into tiny edge devices.
Google will soon be rolling out a change to its algorithm that may be one of the most significant updates in more than a decade. It'll target low-quality content that was written for the sole purpose of ranking well.
The new rules of online content explained...in a book! Writing for Humans and Robots by Maddy Osman is a must for anyone doing content for the web. Plus, it's free on Kindle.
We are on the cusp of bio-engineered humans. An Israeli biotech firm wants to replicate a recent experiment that created an artificial mouse embryo from stem cells - but this time with human cells.
The Earth Species Project is a non-profit, open-source organization that is working on using AI technology to decode the languages of non-human animals so that we can communicate with them. They even have a technical roadmap on GitHub.
Chinese scientists claim to have broken the record for creating the strongest steady magnetic field, one that's 4,500 times stronger than a fridge stick-on magnet.
🎤 It’s How They Said It
"What would be left of our tragedies if a literate insect were to present us his?" - Emil M. Cioran
🧮 The numbers game
3 days per week in the office is the new mandate rolling out for Apple staff starting in September. According to CEO Tim Cook, being in the same room as a colleague is "essential" to Apple's culture.
3 trillion U.S. dollars made Apple the first company to ever reach that market cap in the early part of this year. Notably, this success was achieved over the course of the pandemic, when its employees were not in the same room as their colleagues, but working remotely.
7,500 Apple employees that belong to a dedicated Slack channel that advocates for remote work and that have been very vocal against coming back into the office: "They are trolling us, right?" one wrote.
That's it for this month. If you have links to share, then my emails are always open. Simply reply to this email to land in my inbox.
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