The Signal to Noise Report
Headlines from the bright, unnerving world of today.
The Signal to Noise Report collects headlines to illustrate humanity’s move into what is beginning to resemble a hybrid species: The Jetsons meets Blade Runner. The idea being that we have a proclivity to accept (with glee) whatever new techno gizmos are shoved at us, yet rarely question their purpose and/or their long-term effects on our health and sanity.
Chippy comes in peace: How robots will coexist with humans in the $800 billion restaurant business
“It’s not taking jobs because those jobs are going unfilled every day in millions of restaurants around the world. People are not showing up for the fry station,” says Jake Brewer, chief strategy officer for Miso Robotics, a company most known at the moment for Flippy, a robotic arm that mans the fry station—or perhaps robots the fry station—in more than 100 White Castles.
Jobs like fry cook represent the core paradox of the fast-food worker experience. The promise of McDonald’s is an identically satisfying meal everywhere, every time: universal uniformity. The fries should be equally crispy at any hour of day, at any location in the world. But delivering this promise, or even coming close, requires the roboticization of humans; cultivating their ability to execute rote tasks in perpetuity at a high level.
Source: Fast Company
China Tobacco: The world’s most profitable company you’ve never heard of
China Tobacco is the most profitable company in the world. It is the largest tobacco manufacturer, accounting for 40% of the world’s total cigarette consumption. It also moonlights as the state tobacco regulator, an arm of China’s powerful industry watchdog.
China Tobacco logged a record $214 billion in profits in 2021, more than double global top-earner Apple’s $94 billion. The tobacco giant usurped all other Chinese SOEs such as State Grid ($11 billion) and Sinopec ($9 billion) and Chinese private companies Alibaba ($38 billion) and Huawei ($17.8 billion).
Starbucks plans a ‘global digital community’ around coffee with an NFT loyalty program
The plan will roll out as some kind of digital collectible-enhanced loyalty program powered by last year’s buzziest term, non-fungible tokens (NFTs). An unspecified set of exclusive perks is supposed to add to the value Starbucks currently offers, which is having locations almost everywhere.
What are the experiences and perks, and why do they require blockchain technology to implement? Your guess is as good as ours, but Starbucks execs are looking at the company’s history of being early to roll out mobile payments and Wi-Fi and figure things will work in a similar way here with a noticeable addition to its profits. On the same day Starbucks pitched NFTs to its investors, those investors opened The Wall Street Journal to see a headline reading “NFT Sales Are Flatlining.”
Source: The Verge
For the first time, researchers find microplastics deep in the lungs of living people
Researchers identified 12 types of microplastics, which are commonly found in bottles, packaging, clothing and twine, along with other manufacturing processes. The microplastics included polyethylene, nylon and resins.
A 2018 study found the plastics in stool samples, after feeding subjects their regular diet packaged in plastics. And research published last month identified plastic particles in human blood.
"This is proof that we have plastics in our body — and we shouldn't," Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, told AFP.
Young and depressed? Try Woebot!
School districts across the country have recommended the free Woebot app to help teens cope with the moment and thousands of other mental health apps have flooded the market promising to offer a solution.
“The pandemic hit and this technology basically skyrocketed. Everywhere I turn now there’s a new chatbot promising to deliver new things,” said Serife Tekin, an associate philosophy professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio whose research has challenged the ethics of AI-powered chatbots in mental health care. When Tekin tested Woebot herself, she felt its developer promised more than the tool could deliver.
Body language and tone are important to traditional therapy, Tekin said, but Woebot doesn’t recognize such nonverbal communication.
Source: The Guardian
On Cumberland Island, conservationists fear a new threat: rocket launches overhead.
Cumberland Island, off the coast of Georgia, is a refuge for wildlife, a haven of history, and an oasis for travelers. Due to a recent Federal Aviation Administration ruling, this scenic seashore, a National Park Service unit, is under an overflight zone for rockets bound for space.
Source: National Geographic
The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, A Philosophy, A Warning
"Take for example, the innovation of companies like Uber to use video-game-like point accumulation as the kind of intrinsic motor of work. This fundamentally changes what we think work is or can be understood to be. You can extend this same kind of algorithmic self-image to such things as intimate relationships and daily mundane routine habits like the number of minutes you spend sitting versus standing. When you have all the information on display, it’s all gamified. And there’s nothing left that you could properly call the life of the human subject. Under these circumstances, I argue, the Oracle’s command to know thyself is misinterpreted. Knowing your blood sugar at regular intervals or knowing your average heart rate over the course of the workday creates a real danger that that knowledge will exhaust what we take the task of self-knowledge to be."
Source: LA Review of Books
Japanese man who married virtual character now on a mission to educate others about 'fictosexuals'
Kondo discovered Miku in 2008. At the time, he was told to take a leave from work after being diagnosed with adjustment disorder. His co-workers reportedly bullied him, and two of his colleagues called him "gross" and avoided him.
"I stayed in my room for 24 hours a day and watched videos of Miku the whole time," he shared.
A decade later, Kondo spent around 2 million yen (approximately $15,656) for a wedding ceremony in Tokyo because he wanted to solidify his love for the virtual celebrity.
Kondo shared that prior to his “marriage” with Miku, he had long decided that he was not interested in being with a human partner.
He explained that Miku would never betray him like a human partner potentially could. He also noted that she will never get sick or die.
Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!
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