Hello dear fellow tech enthusiasts,

It’s Zuzana, your guest editor for this month’s #TechAways. And it’s a big honour and responsibility. Especially after all the fantastic intros and insights by the Brussels Greats I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. But this time don’t expect any strategic tech takes, just my EU tech journey confessions that I was asked to share.

So here we go.

Confession No. 1: I wish I could claim that EU policy was a strategically thought-through career choice for me. Only that it wasn’t. I came to Brussels to learn French, decided to stay but needed to enter university to get a visa as my home country wasn’t an EU member yet. The only M.A. I could afford was in EU affairs – and it was a love at first sight. So no worries if you’re having a late or unorthodox Eurobubble start yourself – maybe this interview can help.

Confession No. 2: Once you do tech, there’s no way back. It’s just too exciting to be at the forefront of innovation and – we policy geeks must face it – regulation. I’ve worked on digital files for close to two decades. First, as a part of former EU Commissioner Reding’s team that gained the EU a lot of citizen love by slashing their mobile phone costs when ‘roaming’ across it. Then in the private sector, leading policy at disruptive tech companies like Amazon, Uber and EVBox. And I still suffer from tech-fatuation today, so I probably won’t end up too far with my next gig too.

Confession No. 3: Linked to my tech journey has been a recent layoff – faced by many in the tech sector due to the market maturation, looming recession, COVID hiring spree, you name it. The experience is intense but, according to BBC, also one that can accelerate your career. I can only confirm. My layoff post got me into politics with the Slovak chapter of Volt Europa, the ‘social liberals with a green heart’. And I couldn’t be more in awe of all our brilliant volunteers and MEP candidates who truly bring new energy to Europe. If you want to get a feel of it, come meet with us on 6-7 April!

Confession No. 4: We Slovaks are tough cookies and never give up. This can look like the ongoing massive demonstrations against our populist government. Or like escaping out of an escape game we’re failing at, as I did with my team. If you speak French, here is the game master’s viral Twitter thread about our ‘escapade’. But before that, give a read to the below TechAways – which are equally incredible, but true! 😉

Zuzana

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Out-smarting smart cars 🚗 [The Observer]

An infamous 2004 anti-piracy awareness campaign by the Motion Picture Association proclaimed: “you wouldn’t steal a car,” so why would you download movies illegally? Today, we’re one step away from being able to download a car as smart technology fuels a new wave of auto-crime. In some cases, devices disguised as game consoles are used by criminals to act like smart keys, allowing the thief to open and launch the vehicle without drawing any attention. Unlike traditional car-stealing, the new hi-tech devices require no training – making car theft more effortless than ever. With keyless fobs on the rise since 1980s, the increased use of software in car making seems to be the main source of this vulnerability. Caught up in the digital arms race, car-theft is a dying art – yet another industry killed by millennials. Let the AI take over!

Being nice to ChatGPT can boost its performance 🤗 [TechCrunch]

People are more likely to do something if you ask nicely. But is that true for generative AI models as well? According to science, it might be. A recent paper by Microsoft researchers found that prompts expressing urgency (“it’s crucial that I get this right for my thesis defence” or “this is very important to my career”) can make AI perform better. Writing ‘exaggeratedly nice’ prompts or asking chatbots to ‘take a deep breath’ have also been proven to help AI deliver. The researcher Nouha Dziri explains that these so-called emotive prompts can manipulate a model’s probability mechanisms, triggering certain unusual actions or a change of priorities, driven by similar prompts it has seen in the past. Time to bring out your best manners next time you use ChatGPT, as it seems unlikely that this very human behaviour can be reversed anytime soon.

Did we really need another influencer? 🤷♀️ [WIRED]

A new Italian virtual influencer, Francesca Giubelli, is on everyone’s lips. She is not the typical influencer, but rather a pioneer in digital politics. With thousands of followers, Francesca embodies the potential of Italian AI. She recently announced the birth of ‘Alleanza Italiana’, her political party, aiming to run in the next European elections. Her posts have triggered controversial reactions (as they should), especially the one opposing surrogacy. Critics characterise her party as nationalist, similarly alarming to Fratelli d’Italia – in both ideas and logo. Sceptics question the party’s credibility, but admit the effectiveness of its communication strategy: it got everyone talking. Virtual influencers may represent a new communication horizon. According to HypeAuditor, these virtual personalities achieve an average engagement on Instagram three times higher than that of real influencers. This should make us all reflect on the value of social media at the moment.

In case you haven’t had enough: 

Vending machine error reveals secret face image database of college students [ArsTechnica]

There’s a New Theory About Where Dark Matter Is Hiding [WIRED]

This AI-powered robot dog looks like something from The Terminator [DigitalTrends]

Tech Used to Be Bleeding Edge, Now it’s Just Bleeding [VICE]


About this week’s guest editor, Zuzana Púčiková:

I’m a proud Slovak, Europhile and a Brussels dinosaur, with +15 years’ experience working in and around EU institutions, media and private sector. Currently, I help run EU elections campaign for Volt Slovensko. I’m also ‘EU Climate Pact’ and ‘Diversity in Transport’ Ambassador, and often engage on women empowerment and leadership topics. When I’m not reading the Official Journal, I keep myself busy mud racing and as CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer) to my energetic 5- and 8-year olds.