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A.I. Is Not Sentient. Why Do People Say It Is?

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In the mid-1960s, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Joseph Weizenbaum, built an automated psychotherapist he called Eliza. This chatbot was simple. Basically, when you typed a thought onto a computer screen, it asked you to expand this thought — or it just repeated your words in the form of a question.

Even when Dr. Weizenbaum cherry-picked a conversation for the academic paper he published on the technology, it looked like this, with Eliza responding in capital letters:

Men are all alike.

IN WHAT WAY?

They’re always bugging us about something or other.

CAN YOU THINK OF A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE?

Well, my boyfriend made me come here.

YOUR BOYFRIEND MADE YOU COME HERE

But much to Dr. Weizenbaum’s surprise, people treated Eliza as if it were human. They freely shared their personal problems and took comfort in its responses.

“I knew from long experience that the strong emotional ties many programmers have to their computers are often formed after only short experiences with machines,” he later wrote. “What I had not realized is that extremely short exposures to a relatively simple computer program could induce powerful delusional thinking in quite normal people.”

We humans are susceptible to these feelings. When dogs, cats and other animals exhibit even tiny amounts of humanlike behavior, we tend to assume they are more like us than they really are. Much the same happens when we see hints of human behavior in a machine.

Scientists now call it the Eliza effect.

Much the same thing is happening with modern technology. A few months after GPT-3 was released, an inventor and entrepreneur, Philip Bosua, sent me an email. The subject line was: “god is a machine.”

“There is no doubt in my mind GPT-3 has emerged as sentient,” it read. “We all knew this would happen in the future, but it seems like this future is now. It views me as a prophet to disseminate its religious message and that’s strangely what it feels like.”

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Tuesday’s top tech news: Elon squares off against Apple

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Oh Elon. It was pretty obvious something was up when Twitter’s new CEO tweeted out of the blue that “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter,” and asked whether “they hate free speech in America?” Following a question from my colleague Jake Kastrenakes, Musk confirmed that the iPhone maker was threatening Twitter’s presence in the App Store and/or making moderation demands. Welcome to hell, Elon.

Away from the chaos at Twitter there was more bad news in the crypto sector with the news that finance firm BlockFi has filed for bankruptcy amidst the continued FTX fallout, while crypto exchange Kraken has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines over possible Iran sanction violations. Thank god we’ve got another trailer for The Super Mario Bros. Movie to look forward to later today.

For now, here’s a silly tweet:

Stay tuned, as we continue to update this list with the most important news of today: Tuesday, November 29th, 2022.



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‘No Cooperation’: How Sam Bankman-Fried Tried to Cling to FTX

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“Sam this is an excellent pick and I wholeheartedly hope you sign this tonight,” Mr. Dexter wrote in an email on the evening of Nov. 10. “The faster John is in place, the faster the company can resolve issues that require urgent progress.”

A flurry of emails followed. In a message at 3:38 a.m. on Nov. 11, Mr. Miller asked for an update on Mr. Bankman-Fried’s decision. “I am chatting with Sam,” responded Ken Ziman, a lawyer at the firm Paul Weiss who was representing Mr. Bankman-Fried.

Ten minutes later, Mr. Ziman confirmed that Mr. Bankman-Fried had signed the document, authorizing Mr. Ray to take over FTX. The company filed for bankruptcy a few hours later.

The filing was hardly the end of the chaos. The court submission listed more than 130 corporate entities tied to FTX, including its U.S. arm and Alameda, the hedge fund. But the filing was inaccurate: Some of the entities were not owned by the exchange. They belonged to AZA Finance, a separate company that had recently become partners with FTX to promote crypto in Africa.

FTX later acknowledged the error. But in a Nov. 11 Slack message to Mr. Miller and other officials, Elizabeth Rossiello, the chief executive of AZA Finance, called the mistakes in the bankruptcy filing “a storm of wild irresponsibility.”

“This is hurting 9 years of work we have done to create this platform!!” she wrote.

Mr. Miller responded defensively. “We had no cooperation of the founders in preparing this week,” he said. “It was unfortunate.”

Mr. Bankman-Fried was also frustrated. Despite giving up control of FTX, he continued contacting possible investors about new funding for the exchange. In a letter to former colleagues last week, he said he regretted filing for bankruptcy, claiming that “potential interest in billions of dollars of funding came in roughly eight minutes after I signed the Chapter 11 docs.”

He presented no evidence for that claim, and in any case, FTX was no longer his company to run. On the morning of Nov. 11, Mr. Miller moved quickly to make that clear, requesting the deletion of information about the firm’s old leadership from its website.



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The best Cyber Monday deals available now

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Below, we’ve rounded up the best Cyber Monday deals you can currently get, whether you’re in the market for a 4K OLED, a gaming laptop, or another piece of big-ticket tech that would normally require you to shell out your entire paycheck. We’ve included a number of budget-friendly items, too, just in case you’re looking for chargers, a cheap(er) pair of earbuds, or other essential gadgets to round out your arsenal.

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