Kia ora (as opposed to g’day, mate, which, let’s face it, is more Aussie than kiwi)!
My TechAways colleagues have kindly let me re-take the helm nearly six years since the first edition of this fine newsletter hit your Brussels inboxes. If you’re seeing this as a vintage moment, note that Elon Musk and AI were hot topics even then.
Indulge me, dear readers, with some TechAways nostalgia. The brainchild of the inimitable Zachery Bishop, who is now scaling heady corporate comms heights at IBM, its title was the brainwave of our one-and-only media coordinator, former journalist Anne-Claude Martin.
You’ll notice a media theme going on here. A journalist for 20+ years – longer than my time on the ‘dark side’ – I’ve never grown out of media relations. This is just as well, since working constructively with the 860-strong Brussels press corps can be vital to the success of efforts to influence EU policy-makers in tech and beyond.
Hence, the importance of the European Commission’s proposed European Media Freedom Act aimed at protecting media pluralism and the safety of journalists. An opportunity to redress the imbalances in the relationship between big online platforms and the media, it’s awaiting a greenlight from the European Parliament and the Council. And who if not reporters to come to our rescue in the age of social media disinformation and AI-generated text?
Before handing you over to TechAways proper, let me flag our first in-person #BrusselsCalling media debate since February 11, 2020. We’re thrilled that EU financial services commissioner (and former journalist) Mairead McGuiness will on March 28 dust off her interviewing skills to quiz Andy Bounds (FT), Kathryn Carlson (MLex), Huw Jones (Reuters) and Suzanne Lynch (POLITICO) on covering the hot topics in her dossier. Register here – more to come!
Harvey to become the new trainee at law firms? ⚖️ [WIRED]
The list of things AI language models seem able to achieve has only grown exponentially in the last weeks. Now, it’s on its way to conquer the cold, cold world of law firms. Open AI has developed a lawyer-targeted version named Harvey, capable of contract, conveyancing, and license generation. It is already used for day-to-day tasks in law firms like Allen & Overy, but just like any competition lawyer’s trainee after a 16 hours-day-work, these models can sometimes hallucinate, contaminating legal advice. For this reason, reviewing all Harvey’s work is still necessary, and implementing a healthy life-work balance recommended to prevent a revolution from the union of machines and legal trainees. Sidenote: ChatGPT was not used to produce this content – because the server was down, not because of a lack of intention.
Science fiction publishers are being flooded with AI-generated stories 📚 [Tech Crunch]
For long, science fiction has taunted that one-day AI and robots would take over the world. We’re not quite there yet, but with the recent rise of ChatGPT, fiction is slowly turning into reality. One of the side effects of its rise is that science fiction publishers are being swamped with AI-generated stories. Editor and publisher Neil Clarke from Clarksworld shared a graph spanning from June 2019 to February 2023, which depicts how many monthly submissions his staff pointed out to be ‘spam’. “This is a new problem the industry is dealing with, and it’s gonna take some time to shake those details out,” Clarke said. “So my general advice to authors is, if you think it might be suspicious, don’t do it.”
Professional opportunities and affordable housing… What’s not to love? 🎓 [The Next Web]
Urban spaces have long been breeding grounds for tremendous innovation. Groningen, known as the “capital of the north” in the Netherlands, is no different. With an emerging biotech sector, prestigious universities, well-funded research, and a healthy network of start-ups, the city is awash with young professionals in tech. When compared with major Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Groningen and its population of 200,000 may not seem the obvious choice for to begin a career in tech, but apparently even its small size encourages abundant networking opportunities and resilient connections. The cherry on the cake is the fact that unlike many European cities, accommodation is affordable and easy to come by. I don’t know about you, but my bags are packed!
Basic instinct… of data collection 🎥 [WIRED]
‘The tragedy of the commons’ predicts that ultimately, all open access resources will be depleted due to individual self-interest. The Internet Movie Database (or IMDb for short) defies that concept, with its devoted users mapping and uploading movie-related knowledge in a hunter-gatherer fashion since the 90s. The super-contributors are somewhat militant about it; last year, the top 10 submitted 22,910,419 items – close to 5% of all IMDb data. Unlike other crowdsourcing projects like Wikipedia, IMDb afficionados are lone wolves, with actor bios and synopses usually attributed to one person at a time. Each with a different expertise, many use sources inaccessible on the Internet. This retro fantasy is broken by the mystery top contributor, who some suspect is an algorithm: with 22 million entries (averaging 7 per minute), not even the niche IMDb community is free of the code taking over.
In case you haven’t had enough:
These underwater cables can improve tsunami detection [MIT Technology Review]
Limited data sets a hurdle as China plays catch-up to ChatGPT [Ars Technica]
New NASA Images Reveal the Grim State of China’s Mars Rover [Gizmodo]
The ChatGPT Reincarnation of the Marquis de Sade Is Coming [WIRED]
These prosthetics break the mold with third thumbs, spikes, and superhero skins [MIT Technology Review]
About this week’s editor, Victoria: This really dates me, but here it goes. Born and raised on a backcountry sheep station on the borders of remote Te Urewera in distant New Zealand, I grew up aware of the impact for non-European countries of Britain’s entry into what was then called the EEC. So it was a no brainer that I would end up as a journalist in Brussels covering EU affairs. Along the way, there was Wellington, Hong Kong, Paris, Milan and London. Now, here I am at SEC Newgate EU, having witnessed the UK’s exit from the EU. I focus on business development, media, tech and trade. For even more fun, I do Pilates, eat oysters at Flagey, organise dinner parties, mull a novel…