Start Up No.1905: Holmes gets 11 years, where FTX depositors go to panic, the people who want to – but won’t – leave Twitter, and more

Keeping Daylight Saving Time year-round in the US would save the lives of lots of deer – and a number of people. Isn’t it about time to change? CC-licensed photo by State FarmState Farm on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years in prison for Theranos fraud • TechCrunch

Amanda Silberling:


The former founder and CEO of Theranos, Holmes could have faced up to 20 years in prison for each of the four counts. By comparison, former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison for securities fraud, but was released after a bit more than four years.

At the courthouse in San Jose, both sides of United States vs. Elizabeth Holmes presented their cases regarding whether Judge Edward Davila can consider Holmes’ “reckless disregard” of patients in sentencing. Davila rejected that proposal, since at the original trial, Holmes was only found guilty of defrauding investors.

Regardless, it took over four hours before Holmes’ sentence was decided. Alex Schultz, father of whistleblower Tyler Schultz, spoke to the court, recounting how his son slept with a knife under his pillow when he suspected he was being followed by Theranos’ private investigators.

Then, Holmes herself spoke. “I regret my failings with every cell of my body,” she said. That was when Judge Davila delivered his decision.

Holmes is expected to report to prison in April. Currently, she is pregnant with her second child.

Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 after dropping out of Stanford. She pitched investors and partners on technology that would revolutionize the healthcare system — instead of drawing blood intravenously and waiting days for test results, her technology would prick a tiny bit of blood and instantly conduct dozens of tests on it. Soon she was the CEO of a company with a $10bn valuation, but it turned out that the technology didn’t work.


Now what’s the difference between this, where the investors were given lots of chance to find out whether there was a product, and put their trust in the person who said they would build the product – and a crypto company which goes bust and takes $10bn or so of investors’ money with it into thin air?

Sunny Balwani, her other half (at Theranos, at least) was also found guilty on all counts; he awaits sentencing. She’ll be out in five or six years. Wonder what her second act will look like. Something environmental or biotechnological, at a guess. On hold until 2027.
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Where have the FTX depositors gone to panic? • NY Mag

John Herrman explains that they all headed over to Telegram, where they’d already been for FTX’s customer support:


In a group called FTX Affected Members, Moe, a 30-year-old in the Netherlands who tallied up his potential losses: “€200k from family, a €50k business loan from my company which I have to pay back within 2 years, €20k from my mother’s savings, €60k my own savings and profits from investments over the past 4 years.” The prospect of losing his own money was bad but manageable — he runs a food-distribution and retail business and could “start over.” The family money is a different story. He spent a future inheritance from his father and invested his mother’s life savings. “I can’t even look them in the eye,” he says. “I trusted all the claims FTX and SBF made on changing the world, veganism, giving away money to good causes, not caring about materialism, and treating people fair.”

Moe isn’t the only one who points to SBF — who received glowing mainstream-press coverage and spent millions of dollars advertising directly to customers and paying celebrities for endorsements — as their reason for investing with FTX. User @riskmaverick, who is also six figures in with the exchange, spent ten years as an investment banker in London. He saw SBF as credible because of his time as a trader at Jane Street, a highly regarded quant firm headquartered in New York. “Where I went wrong,” he says, was “understanding SBF as a Wall Street guy who knows what he’s doing.” His losses, he says, would represent “80% of liquid current cash savings from years of work,” setting him back five years at least (he’s in his early 40s). “It’s a painful situation. Most of my friends don’t know how to respond.”

The perception that FTX was unusually safe because of its links to the U.S. was pervasive among locked-out customers. Adrian, a photographer in Berlin with his “first ever” savings trapped in FTX, assumed the exchange would have been heavily regulated. It got his attention in the first place with an ad starring Larry David. “The first time I have something and I lost it,” he tells me in a Zoom call. “I love Larry David. I can’t believe this.”


There’s such a reckoning due on this. The media who wrote up the reports; the stars who took the payments (in crypto? In cash?); and of course the scammers themselves. It really ought to be a 9/11 moment for the entire crypto “industry”, but there are a lot of people who can’t believe it.

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Permanent daylight saving time would reduce deer-vehicle collisions • Current Biology

Calum Cunningham et al:


Based on 1,012,465 deer-vehicle collisions and 96 million hourly traffic observations across the United States, we show that collisions are 14 times more frequent 2 hours after sunset than before sunset, highlighting the importance of traffic during dark hours as a key determinant of deer-vehicle collision risk.

The switch from daylight saving to standard time in autumn causes peak traffic volumes to shift from before sunset to after sunset, leading to a 16% spike in deer-vehicle collisions. By reducing traffic after dark, our model predicts that year-round daylight saving time would prevent 36,550 deer (Odocoileus sp.) deaths, 33 human deaths, 2,054 human injuries, and US$1.19bn in collision costs annually. In contrast, permanent standard time is predicted to increase collisions by an even larger magnitude, incurring an additional US$2.39bn in costs.

By targeting the temporal dimension of wildlife-vehicle collisions, strategies such as year-round daylight saving time that reduce traffic during dark hours, especially during the breeding season of abundant ungulates, would yield substantial benefits for wildlife conservation and reduce the social and economic costs of deer-vehicle collisions.


I’ve checked, and none of the authors is a deer. More evidence that DST is a bit outmoded. If you didn’t notice, by the way, scientists have called time on the leap second. The Earth will just have to live with being out of sync with, well, time.
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‘I caught lightning in a bottle. I will be one of the last people to leave Twitter’ • POLITICO

Nancy Scola:


In much of the world, Twitter seems a bit silly. Even inside the metaphorical Beltway, people will admit to it being an ego-boosting dopamine-dispensing machine if not an insular, often-toxic time suck. The truth, though, is that Washington takes Twitter very seriously. Twitter is a place where all the worlds that make up Washington — the politicians, the policy experts, the press, academics, activists, and others — gather. And in an increasingly remote age, Twitter does much of the work that physical meeting spaces once did in Washington.

For a city that never stops feasting on work, Twitter “is a bottomless bowl of soup,” says Margaret O’Mara, chair of American history at the University of Washington, where she studies the overlap of politics and tech. She was also a staffer in the Clinton White House in the 1990s.

And using Twitter well is a bit of a superpower, one that the American political class is loath to give up without a fight.

Sure, folks in Washington might well give up on Twitter. But for now, it’s still the place for reporter-massaging, idea-debating, networking, rumor-mill-monitoring and career-building. Any replacement will struggle to replicate all the ways it has transformed the city. I spoke with more than 15 insiders from all walks of Washington who spoke about how Twitter’s become baked in to their lives. They talked about how Twitter has become essential to how they do their jobs, and why the end of the social network would trigger upheaval in the capital.

So why, exactly, can’t Washington quit Twitter?

Talk to just about anyone in politics, and they make plain that one of Twitter’s key uses is simply getting themselves, their boss, their issue in front of a powerful audience: the press. If you’re trying to reach Americans, says one Senate Democratic staffer, “one way is to spend a million dollars on TV ads.” Another way, says the aide, is to “talk to the people who talk to people” — that is, reporters. “Twitter is good for that.”


The feeling’s similar in the UK, and many other countries. Twitter’s benefit is in being able to reach the people who have the influence: its centralisation is a big part of that benefit. I did write about this in Social Warming…
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Why foreign workers in the US are especially vulnerable to the Twitter turmoil • CNN Politics

Donie O’Sullivan, Priscilla Alvarez and Oliver Darcy:


Tech companies in the US, including Twitter, have leaned on an employment-based visa, known as H-1B, to bring skilled foreign workers into the country. The program allows companies in the US to employ foreign workers in high-skilled occupations like architecture, engineering, mathematics, among other fields.

In fiscal year 2022, Twitter had nearly 300 people approved to work on H-1B visas, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services data. It’s unclear how many have chosen to stay.

Facebook – another company that’s undergoing mass layoffs – had more than 1,300 people approved to work on H-1B visas, the data shows.

Employees on temporary visas, like H-1B or other work visas, are especially vulnerable to the layoffs happening at Twitter and across the tech industry. Some staff who were on employment-based visas and have already been laid off by Musk have found themselves scrambling.

“Firing folks who are on a H-1B in a major economic downturn is not just putting them out of the job, it’s tantamount to ruining their lives,” one former employee told CNN, adding that some people who had accepted Musk’s ultimatum had accepted it “out of self-preservation.”

Fiona McEntee, an immigration lawyer based in Chicago, represents immigrants who are on H-1B visas and are part of the recent tech layoffs.

While McEntee stressed everyone’s situation is unique, one of the primary challenges employees on H-1B visas face is that they have a limited window of time to find a new employer, adjust to another visa, or leave the United States. The 60-day grace period usually starts from the last day of employment.


Have to wonder very hard how many of the apparently smiling faces standing around Elon Musk in his “1am code review” photo after his “hardcore or nothing” memo are on H1-B visas.
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Heads we win, tails he loses • Hey

David Heinemeier Hansson:


Not since Trump has a single character managed to invoke such extreme levels of love and hate on the world stage for weeks at the time. Nor has anyone been able to play the media like a fiddle with such virtuosity.

Thankfully the stakes are so much lower, though. Musk might be firing rockets into space, but they won’t accidentally have any nuclear warheads on them. His media trolling isn’t coming from within the White House. This reality show is playing out over something as disposable as a struggling social media website.

Furthermore, the world doesn’t need Twitter. In fact, the world would almost certainly be better off without Twitter. 

That’s what makes this show so guiltlessly entertaining to watch: Whichever the outcome, the world wins. If Musk manages to fix Twitter, we’re left with a better Twitter. Great! If Musk manages to burn down Twitter, we’re left with a world free of Twitter. Great!


Well, great-ish. I’d still rather have a world with Twitter, though one whose denizens weren’t all busy navel-gazing about how awful whatever is happening to Twitter is. Self-obsessed Twitter is the very, very worst Twitter: it’s like a bandpass filter that stops useful data getting through.
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Empowering the world to create music • Soundful


Soundful empowers creators to generate royalty free tracks at the click of a button. The quality of Soundful music is so rich, you won’t believe it was made with AI. But, don’t take our word for it. Give it a try!

It literally cannot get any easier than this. Soundful has built the ultimate, completely customizeable song generation platform that is learning every day. Simply choose a genre, customize your inputs and create your tracks. Repeat until you find the track that is right for you. It’s that easy.


There’s a free tier (1 download per month, unlimited track creation) if you want to try it out. Also relevant: “Will we see prompt-based music generation?“, which mentions a number of other AI music generation tools. One will be right for you (if you like doing that).
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Scientists have founded a ‘post-detection hub’ to prepare for alien contact • Vice

Becky Ferreira:


John Elliott, who serves as honorary research fellow in the School of Computer Science of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, has been thinking about the potential ramifications of an alien detection for decades. During his long involvement with the SETI Permanent Committee, a group of SETI experts established by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), he has developed approaches for deciphering extraterrestrial messages and gamed out how to disseminate information about a confirmed extraterrestrial detection to a global audience.

Now, Elliott has founded the SETI Post-Detection Hub, hosted by the University of St Andrews’ Centre for Exoplanet Science and the Centre for Global Law and Governance, to bring together diverse experts and anticipate the joys and tribulations of a post-detection world.

“It was increasingly evident that we needed a centre (home) to coordinate our efforts for an integrated provision to deal with such an event,” Elliott told Motherboard in an email. “So, with the encouragement of colleagues, I took the initiative and began developing the hub, to where it is now.”

“This has been with the assistance of a few colleagues in the UK SETI Network (UKSRN), to formulate a draft strategic plan and supporting documents,” he added, noting that the hub is now officially active.


Isn’t this what happens in Contact? Also, who’ll actually go and meet the aliens, or contact them? I hope whoever does has read The Three-Body Problem (or more specifically The Dark Forest).
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AI can now make fake selfies for your Tinder profile • Vice

Janus Rose:


The AI image-generating craze has entered its next phase of absurdity: creating fake profile pics that make you look good on dating apps and social media.

For $19, a service called PhotoAI will use 12-20 of your mediocre, poorly-lit selfies to generate a batch of fake photos specially tailored to the style or platform of your choosing. The results speak to an AI trend that seems to regularly jump the shark: a “LinkedIn” package will generate photos of you wearing a suit or business attire, while the “Tinder” setting promises to make you “the best you’ve ever looked”—which apparently means making you into an algorithmically beefed-up dudebro with sunglasses. 

There are also options that generate artsy Polaroids, photoshop you into memes, or make hyper-stylized portraits that copy the aesthetics of popular artists. After submitting your photos, the site promises to return results in 12 hours. The AI model used to generate your photos is also deleted after seven days, according to the site’s privacy policy.


Haven’t tried it. If you have, please tell us the juicy details, including whether it meant you got matched on Tinder using your LinkedIn pic, and vice-versa.
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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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