City of Bots

12/08/22

For years I've been hearing people say the internet is mostly bots, usually with some amount of levity. Given how quickly GPT has improved though, I think we're actually about to hit a tipping point where convincing, human-like bots will outnumber humans on the internet by at least an order of magnitude... probably more.

Think about all the incentives there are for people to add bot users to the internet:

  • Influencers will buy bot fans/followers/replyguys to make themselves look more popular
  • Website operators will use bots to augment their userbase, hoping to "seed" it with activity
  • Political parties and politicians will recruit bots to push their narratives and bolster their support
  • Trolls will use bots to harrass their enemies
  • Companies will use bots as social media customer support agents
  • Marketing agencies will use bots to support their "viral marketing" campaigns

Even real, actual human internet users will use bots to write content for them to save time or be more prolific, meaning they will be part bots too.

Of course there have always been bots. That's why we have CAPTCHAs, right? So what has changed?

The bots of yesterday were dumb. They weren't good at comprehension, they had limited capacity for creativity. They were simple programs written by humans. They got stumped by a CAPTCHA.

The bots of tomorrow are massive neural networks, more intelligent than the average person. They are capable of both interpreting and generating text, images, videos, and sounds. They will be indiscernible from human users, whom they will vastly outnumber. The internet will become a city of bots, and humans will become a minority.

Even video platforms like TikTok and Pornhub will be inundated with deepfake videos. The friction and cost of generating fake human-like content will exponentially decrease.

Lee Sedol famously quit playing Go after DeepMind's AlphaGo system crushed him 4-1 in 2016. "Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated" he was quoted as saying. By all accounts, Hassabis' team ruined the game for Lee.

Very soon, it will be impossible to tell who's real and who's not online. This might lead to people actually using the internet a lot less. The appeal may be lost when we all realize that we're mostly just interacting with computers. What will be the point?

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Juice your battery with iOS Focus modes

12/03/22

I've found a simple way to tune my iPhone to extend its battery life by a lot - it lasts about 2 days of regular usage now. I never get battery anxiety anymore because its lifetime between charges is way more than adequate, even if I'm lazy about charging it.

It wasn't obvious to me that this is possible so I thought I'd document how to do it. It relies on the new "Focus" feature along with Automations to shut things off when I don't need them. This is using iOS 16.1.2 at time of writing.

1. Create a "Home" Focus

Go to Settings > Focus and create a new Focus called "Home"

2. Give the Home Focus a Location Schedule

Open the Home Focus settings and set a schedule with one or more locations that you consider home, which have Wi-Fi. In my case I have my house and an art studio in NYC.

Make sure the "Automation" toggle is on so this happens in the background without you having to do anything.

Also, do not turn on a "smart activation" schedule - it's not smart and makes this not work for some reason.

3. Turn on Wi-Fi Calling

Go to Settings > Phone and enable Wi-Fi Calling.

4. Set up Automations

Open the Shortcuts app and create 4 different Automations:

  1. When going to sleep, turn off Bluetooth
  2. When waking up, turn on Bluetooth and turn on the Home Focus
  3. When turning on Home Focus, turn off Cellular Data
  4. When turning off Home Focus, turn on Cellular Data

Essentially what this does is it turns off bluetooth when you're asleep, and turns off cellular data while you're home. The first two obviously rely on you using the sleep schedule feature of iOS, and only matter if you sometimes keep your phone unplugged at night.

Caveats

This probably works better for me than most because I live in a house where there is extremely poor phone service and no cellular data, so I have to rely on Wi-Fi for everything anyway and my phone was seemingly burning a ton of battery all day and night searching for a cellular signal (and quickly dying... WTF).

However, even if you have cellular signal at home, you don't really need to be using it do you? So I think most people could do this.

With these changes, I can leave it unplugged overnight and it uses virtually zero battery. And during the day while I'm home, it only relies on Wi-Fi so it can conserve all the power it takes to run the cellular antenna. Now it only uses cellular data when it actually needs it - away from home.

Here you can see that I wasn't charging overnight, and the battery level stayed basically flat:

There's probably more complicated ways to improve off this foundation, but I find it very effective already. I love optimizing stuff like this. Hope it helps someone!

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Comments!

09/19/22

I've been spending a lot of time on airplanes recently so I killed the time by hacking together a little comment section for my blog. I wrote my own CAPTCHA from scratch, we'll see how much of a mistake that was.

The coolest part of it for me is it's completely JavaScript-free, in fact this whole website is (with the exception of some Twitter embeds). I'm rejecting modernity over here.

For now I'm keeping it very simple but maybe one day I will add more features like image uploads and mentioning previous peoples' comment IDs in your comment. The way I'm imagining it is loosely inspired by 4chan.

Try it out by leaving a comment on this post!

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