A few months ago, a friend introduced me to this peculiar horror game he was playing on Nintendo Switch. The game, Dead by Daylight, originally came out in 2016, but quickly enveloped my life. Working from home with minimal social interaction and looming financial precarity put a heavy strain on my mental health, and a horror video game where I'm constantly fighting for survival felt like a kind of virtual exposure therapy. If you haven't played before, here are the gameplay basics for Dead by Daylight. Five players are in each round: one killer and a team of four survivors.
Haunted house stories are having a moment. Or it could be Netflix's fault--its release of The Haunting of Bly Manor has reinvigorated the discourse about what makes a good haunted house story and whether or not Mike Flanagan, the horror director who, between Bly Manor and Hill House and Doctor Sleep seems to be veritably obsessed with them, really has what it takes to make one that feels both scary and fascinating. Haunted houses are special because houses are special. They keep us safe--until they don't--and are both entirely familiar to us and entirely unfamiliar, as anyone who's had to deal with serious home repairs could tell you. People have intimate relationships with the places where they live.
Thankfully, in many cases, we live up to it. But our present digital reality is quite different, even sobering. Fighting terrorists for nearly 20 years after 9/11, we remained a flip-phone military in what is now a smartphone world. Infrastructure to support a robust digital force remains painfully absent. Consequently, service members lead personal lives digitally connected to almost everything and military lives connected to almost nothing.
This is normally the time when we start buying candy corn for trick or treaters. But this year is horrifying no matter who comes to the door. After years of investigations, hearings, and the rattling of legal sabers, we finally have a Techlash case: United States of America, et al. v. Google LLC. As I wrote earlier in the week, the government made a direct comparison to the Microsoft case two decades earlier, where it also invoked the trust-busting Sherman Act. In that litigation, the key issue was whether or not Microsoft leveraged its market power to jam its browser down the throats of users.
Liberals and conservatives often seem to speak different languages. A new study using artificial intelligence says that is now literally true. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University collected more than 86.6 million comments from more than 6.5 million users on 200,000 YouTube videos, then analyzed them using an AI technique normally employed to translate between two languages. The researchers found that people on each side of the political divide often use different words to express similar ideas. For instance, the term "mask" among liberal commenters is roughly equivalent to the term "muzzle" for conservatives.
Pornographic deepfakes are being weaponized at an alarming scale with at least 104,000 women targeted by a bot operating on the messaging app Telegram since July. The bot is used by thousands of people every month who use it to create nude images of friends and family members, some of whom appear to be under the age of 18. This story originally appeared on WIRED UK. The still images of nude women are generated by an AI that'removes' items of clothing from a non-nude photo. Every day the bot sends out a gallery of new images to an associated Telegram channel which has almost 25,000 subscribers.
The iPhone 12 Pro is the awkward middle child in Apple's 2020 lineup. There are now four new iPhones to choose from (technically five, but I'm not counting the Face ID-less iPhone SE from earlier this year). You can get the same performance on all four phones, and the same screen quality too, now that the cheaper iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini have OLED displays and a bumped-up resolution. Usually, when you spend a little more on an iPhone, you get all of the top-tier features. But even at $1,000, the iPhone 12 Pro doesn't get you all of the best tech.
It's hard to understate how important video games are to veterans. An idle hobby to some is lifesaving, grounding, and even therapeutic for others, especially those who have served overseas in combat zones. I know it is for me, a Navy veteran who finds the worlds of Mass Effect and Resident Evil 4 more approachable than this one sometimes, and I'm not alone. My fellow vets and medical researchers are using video games to treat PTSD, depression, and more, and best of all, it's working. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic doesn't help matters, since it adds to the isolation we all feel.
All through the fall my head was spinning, and I steered into the spin by watching Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. Errol Morris' rhapsodic 1997 documentary about a bunch of monomaniacs features a xylophone-heavy score and the roboticist Rodney Brooks. I wanted to hear Brooks dilate on robots in his cosmic way again. As it happens, this fall had also seemed like the right time to clean the hell out of my apartment. To that end, I bought a Roomba, the blockbuster robovac Brooks coinvented in 2002, five years after he went public in the Morris movie with his theories of what robots ought and ought not to be.
When Haley, a sophomore at Indiana University, took a test for an accounting class in September, she--like many college students during this pandemic--was sitting not in a classroom but in her bedroom. And instead of a teacher watching for signs of cheating, there was something new: an AI, studying Haley's every move through her laptop's webcam. The university was conducting remote exams using Respondus, a type of "online proctoring" software. The software locks down a student's desktop so they can't switch tabs to Google an answer, and then it uses visual AI to examine--among other things--their head movements to judge whether they're looking somewhere other than at the screen. Haley's head was setting off alarms.