Start Up No.1887: EU mandates USB-C chargers, Musk says he’ll buy Twitter, analyse the Simpsons!, Rees-Mogg blocked, and more

A newly revealed investigation suggests that a rising star of the chess world used computer help in more than 100 online games. CC-licensed photo by Pasquale Paolo Cardo on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

On Friday, there’s another post due at the Social Warming Substack at about 0845 UK time.

A selection of 9 links for you. Handle with care. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

EU passes law to switch iPhone to USB-C by end of 2024 • MacRumors

Hartley Charlton:


The European Parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024.

The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This “common port” will be a world-first statute and impact Apple in particular since it widely uses the Lightning connector instead of USB-C on many of its devices. MEPs claim that the move will reduce electronic waste, address product sustainability, and make use of different devices more convenient.

The directive received 602 votes in favor, 13 votes against, and eight abstentions. A press release issued by the European Parliament on Tuesday states:


By the end of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the EU will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C charging port. From spring 2026, the obligation will extend to laptops. The new law, adopted by plenary on Tuesday with 602 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions, is part of a broader EU effort to reduce e-waste and to empower consumers to make more sustainable choices.

Under the new rules, consumers will no longer need a different charger every time they purchase a new device, as they will be able to use one single charger for a whole range of small and medium-sized portable electronic devices.

Regardless of their manufacturer, all new mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems, earbuds and laptops that are rechargeable via a wired cable, operating with a power delivery of up to 100 Watts, will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.



Given that the 2024 iPhones will just be leaving the design boards, one has to wonder if those will have USB-C. Presumably yes, since they’ll be sold in the EU in 2025. Not sure a single charger will do the job: do you really want a 100W charger juicing your phone?
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Elon Musk to proceed with $44bn buyout of Twitter after U-turn • The Guardian

Dan Milmo and Kari Paul:


Lawyers for Musk confirmed in a court filing Tuesday that the billionaire will push ahead with the deal after performing another dramatic U-turn on his decision to walk away from the agreement.

The filing confirmed reports from Bloomberg on Tuesday that the Tesla chief executive had written to Twitter offering to close the deal at the original price of $54.20 a share, which sent shares in the social media site climbing more than 12% to $47.93 in New York before trading was halted.

Musk had been set for a courtroom showdown with Twitter on 17 October, with multiple legal commentators warning he had a slim chance of succeeding in his attempt to scrap the deal.

“We write to notify you that the Musk Parties intend to proceed to closing of the transaction contemplated by the April 25, 2022 merger agreement, on the terms and subject to the conditions set forth therein and pending receipt of the proceeds of the debt financing contemplated thereby,” reads the notice, filed by Musk’s lawyers with the Delaware Chancery court which was overseeing the trial.

Twitter agreed, writing: “The intention of the company is to close the transaction” that was agreed upon during the original deal.

The microblogging platform has been demanding that Musk, the world’s richest man, complete the deal under terms agreed in April. It is suing him in Delaware, the state where Twitter is incorporated and which has a strong legal reputation for enforcing merger agreements.


Scared of the court case? Seems so. But it’s hard to see how this is going to benefit anyone. Musk’s texts back and forth with various friends have emerged in legal discovery over the past week, and they make him and them sound idiotic.

Buy it and immediately hand it over? In any case, buying it for that amount costs money, and that’s not as easy to find on the street as it used to be.
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Chess investigation finds that US grandmaster ‘likely cheated’ more than 100 times • WSJ

Andrew Beaton and Joshua Robinson:


When world chess champion Magnus Carlsen last month suggested that American grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann was a cheater, the 19-year-old Niemann launched an impassioned defense. Niemann said he had cheated, but only at two points in his life, describing them as youthful indiscretions committed when he was 12 and 16 years old. 

Now, however, an investigation into Niemann’s play—conducted by, an online platform where many top players compete—has found the scope of his cheating to be far wider and longer-lasting than he publicly admitted. 

The report, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, alleges that Niemann likely received illegal assistance in more than 100 online games, as recently as 2020. Those matches included contests in which prize money was on the line. The site uses a variety of cheating-detection tools, including analytics that compare moves to those recommended by chess engines, which are capable of beating even the greatest human players every time.  

The report states that Niemann privately confessed to the allegations, and that he was subsequently banned from the site for a period of time. 

The 72-page report also flagged what it described as irregularities in Niemann’s rise through the elite ranks of competitive, in-person chess. It highlights “many remarkable signals and unusual patterns in Hans’ path as a player.”

While it says Niemann’s improvement has been “statistically extraordinary.” noted that it hasn’t historically been involved with cheat detection for classical over-the-board chess, and it stopped short of any conclusive statements about whether he has cheated in person. Still, it pointed to several of Niemann’s strongest events, which it believes “merit further investigation based on the data.” FIDE, chess’s world governing body, is conducting its own investigation into the Niemann-Carlsen affair.


The proof is going to be interesting, and of course hotly disputed. Niemann seems to have improved more quickly than anyone, ever – including Bobby Fischer and Carlsen himself. Possible, but unlikely.
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The next century of computing • Bzogrammer

Charles Rosenbauer:


In this article, I will be giving 80 brief predictions on the future of computing and its impact on the broader world. These are largely predictions that you will not find elsewhere, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list of my ideas. However, from much of my theoretical research and various trends I’ve seen playing out, these are the places where I see things eventually deviating from common expectations.

Many of these take the form of a niche that I see existing now or in the future. How fast these predictions come true will be highly dependent on how fast people can find these niches and begin to fill them. In some ways this is a guide for people who may be interested in building a future that I hope you’ll agree with me is more interesting and inspiring than many current visions of the future.

1. Let us start by getting the obvious out of the way. Moore’s law is coming to an end. It is slowing down rather than coming to a grinding halt, but already Dennard scaling has broken down, which eliminates many of the real benefits from scaling further for chips that are not almost entirely memory.
2. The end of Moore’s Law will quickly result in much more bizarre hardware. The decades ahead of us will be a Cambrian Explosion of bizarre hardware.
3. Existing architectures will be abandoned. No more x86, ARM, or RISC-V. However, this will go far deeper than people expect. The basic concept of computing as a machine executing a stream of instructions, shuffling data back and forth between processor and memory, will eventually be abandoned in favor of more exotic models. The models we have today will be shown to be largely arbitrary, holding back potential efficiency gains and theoretical insights with models that reflect naive computational theory from the 1940s and 50s that has yet to die far more than any fundamental nature of computing.


This goes very, very deep.
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TWO minutes of the Simpsons • gralefrit

Joel Morris is a comedy scriptwriter (did you laugh at Paddington? Probably one of his jokes):


There’s an old saying that analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. Nobody laughs and the frog dies.

But if that approach was applied to actual dissection, we’d still think humans were worked by little people inside, like The Numbskulls in that comic, or that Pixar film that was like The Numbskulls in that comic.

So I say, dammit. This is comedy science and we need to get some blood on our hands. We’ve waited long enough. Let’s cut up a frog and kill it. Not just kill it. Dice it. Shove it through the woodchipper. Leave its guts floating in the air as a fine, dull mist that nobody could laugh at, but which leaves a horrible taste in the mouth. Yay! Fun!

For this experiment, let’s send Igor to exhume the still warm corpse of the peak-era Simpsons episode Homer Badman. It’s a classic episode, from season six, regularly scoring high on critics’ and fans’ lists of the best Simpsons episodes of all time. The script will have been ping-ponged around one of the sharpest writing rooms in comedy history, but the lead writing credit here goes to Greg Daniels, who went on to co-create King Of The Hill, Parks and Rec and the American version of The Office. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s said that it’s his favourite ever Simpsons episode.

In Homer Badman, Simpson family patriarch Homer attends a candy industry trade fair, with the hope of stealing as many free samples as possible. On returning home, his attempts to grab a rare Gummi bear candy that the family’s childminder has sat on are mistaken for sexual harassment, and the hapless yellow dad ends up a victim of trial-by-media.

This episode features some of my personal favourite Simpsons moments (Homer throwing a shaken cola can as a grenade, a pitch-perfect throwaway Little Mermaid parody, a TV talk show hosted by a wild bear) and builds to possibly the greatest closing scene of any sitcom, where Homer proudly and tenderly tells his wife, “Marge, my love, I haven’t learned a thing.” (That’s the rules right there, not only for writing the character of Homer, but for keeping a sitcom going for thirty plus years.)

But we’re not going to get that far. Nowhere near.


Truly excellent. Not short, but if you thought a Simpsons episode was probably just a few jokes strung together, read this and reassess.
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How to read an AI image • Cybernetic Forest

Eryk Salvaggio:


Let’s start with an image that I’d like to understand. It’s from OpenAI’s DALLE2, a diffusion-based generative image model. DALLE2 creates images on demand from a prompt, offering four interpretations. Some are bland. But as Roland Barthes said, “What’s noted is notable.”

So I noted this one.

It is an AI image created of two humans kissing. It’s obviously weird. There’s the uncanny valley effect. But what else is going on? How might we “read” this image?

We see a heterosexual white couple. A reluctant male is being kissed by a woman. In this case, the man’s lips are protruding, which is rare compared to our sample. The man is also weakly represented: his eyes and ears have notable distortions.

what does it all mean? To find out, we need to start with a series of concrete questions for AI images:

1. Where did the dataset come from?

2. What is in the dataset and what isn’t?

3. How was the dataset collected?

This information, combined with more established forms of critical image analysis, can give us ways to “read” the images.

Here’s how I do it.


As he says, the picture reveals the dataset underneath. We’re developing all sorts of new methods to interrogate what we see and understand it in new ways; it’s a whole new form of art.
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Liz Truss quashes Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ‘half-baked’ labour market reforms • Financial Times

Peter Foster, Jim Pickard and George Parker:


As well as introducing no-fault dismissals for people earning more than £50,000 a year, [secretary of state for business Jacob] Rees-Mogg suggested scrapping corporate reporting requirements for the gender pay gap and the speed with which companies pay their suppliers, said people with knowledge of the discussions.

The business secretary has also proposed removing rights that enable agency workers to “passport” to full employment rights, along with the repeal of the working time directive.

The package would have sparked a hostile reaction from labour unions which are balloting for strike action across large parts of the UK economy, including railways, healthcare and postal services.

But Truss’s allies said Rees-Mogg’s ideas were either half-formed or unacceptable. The prime minister has said that she would not touch anybody’s holiday entitlement or make any significant changes to the working time directive.

The idea of removing employment rights from people earning more than £50,000 is still in play, but government officials said any threshold would have to be set above £100,000 if it were ever to be implemented.

Rees-Mogg’s allies believe such a move would be acceptable because many people on higher salaries had transferable skills and would be able to move to other jobs more easily.


It’s an utter mystery why Rees-Mogg wants to move everything back to the 1970s. Didn’t expect to miss the Johnson government, but at least Rees-Mogg was sidelined there to leaving snotty notes on the desks of civil servants who were working from home. Now he’s got actual powers.
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Households face retrofitting bill as most new-build homes use gas boilers • openDemocracy

Ben Webster:


The majority of new homes rely on carbon-intensive gas boilers after developers lobbied Conservative governments to water down proposed laws on cutting emissions from buildings, openDemocracy can reveal.

Two-thirds of new homes built in England in the year to the end of March 2022 use gas for central heating, according to data compiled by the Office for National Statistics following a request by openDemocracy.

Experts have warned households will face large bills to retrofit properties as a result of watered-down or delayed plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year, Boris Johnson was persuaded to delay a ban on developers connecting new homes to the gas grid. The government had considered implementing the policy, known as the ‘Future Homes Standard’, next year but it is now due to come into force in 2025. Even then, there will be loopholes that could allow developers to continue selling new homes with gas boilers until the end of 2026.

Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK’s largest housebuilders, tried to weaken the Future Homes Standard, Greenpeace’s Unearthed unit revealed last year. The company argued that the government’s proposal to cut emissions from new homes by 75-80% compared with the existing standard was “too ambitious”.

In May, Johnson’s government rejected a recommendation by the House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee that the policy be brought forward to 2023.

Speaking to openDemocracy, Darren Jones, the committee’s chair, warned that delaying the policy would cost households thousands of pounds – and accused developers of “passing the buck onto homeowners and tenants”.


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Do people learn about politics on social media? A meta-analysis of 76 studies • Journal of Communication

Eran Amsalem and Alon Zoizner are university researchers in Israel:


Citizens turn increasingly to social media to get their political information. However, it is currently unclear whether using these platforms actually makes them more politically knowledgeable. While some researchers claim that social media play a critical role in the learning of political information within the modern media environment, others posit that the great potential for learning about politics on social media is rarely fulfilled.

The current study tests which of these conflicting theoretical claims is supported by the existing empirical literature. A preregistered meta-analysis of 76 studies (N = 442,136) reveals no evidence of any political learning on social media in observational studies, and statistically significant but substantively small increases in knowledge in experiments.

These small-to-nonexistent knowledge gains are observed across social media platforms, types of knowledge, countries, and periods. Our findings suggest that the contribution of social media toward a more politically informed citizenry is minimal.


I don’t have further access, but the abstract is straightforward enough. Did we really expect anything different? I don’t think it contradicts what I think about Brexit or Trump or social warming: that those emerged from reinforcement and intensification of peoples’ views, rather than some greater awareness and weighing up of the opposing views. Politics is emotion, not rationality.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Read Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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