Start Up No.2006: an ER doc using ChatGPT, free TV for obligatory ads?, South Africa’s copper gangs, Moderate!, and more

Pinball is making a comeback in the US as an older generation shows the younger ones the joy of flippers. CC-licensed photo by el-toroel-toro on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Multiply. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. On Mastodon: Observations and links welcome.

I’m an ER doctor, here’s how I’m using ChatGP to help treat patients • Fast Company

Josh Tamayo-Sarver was trying to explain his treatment protocol to a patient’s family:


“I know that you are concerned about your mom,” I tried explaining to them. “But she cannot breathe right now because she has pulmonary oedema, which is fluid in her lungs. If I hydrate her with IV [intravenous] fluids, it will make her pulmonary oedema worse and she might die. Once we have the fluid out of her lungs and breathing better, then we can worry about her being dehydrated.”

“But whenever she is sick, she just needs an IV because of dehydration,” the patient’s son insisted, adamant. “Why don’t you just give her some IV fluid? She will be better in no time.”

I tried to rephrase my explanation in multiple different ways, but judging by their blank expressions, none were resonating. This is actually a common situation in the ER. People do not wake up planning on an emergency that brings them to me in the dead of night, and are often in a decompensated emotional state.

To make matters worse, several other patients were in more immediate need of my attention. 

Desperate for a solution, I went down the hall to my computer, and fired up ChatGPT 4. Typing in:

“Explain why you would not give IV fluids to someone with severe pulmonary edema and respiratory distress even though you might be concerned that the patient is dehydrated. Explain it in simple and compassionate terms so that a confused person who cares about their mother can understand.”


What ChatGPT produced looks almost exactly like what he told the family previously. But it seemed to persuade them. He describes its effectiveness as “like working with an incredibly brilliant, hard-working—and occasionally hungover—intern. That’s become my mental model for considering the usefulness of ChatGPT.”
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Santa Barbara County man who deliberately crashed airplane for YouTube video admits to obstructing federal investigation • United States Department of Justice


A YouTuber pilot has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for obstructing a federal investigation by deliberately destroying the wreckage of an airplane that he intentionally crashed in Santa Barbara County to gain online views, the Justice Department announced today.

Trevor Daniel Jacob, 29, of Lompoc, agreed to plead guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, a crime that carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

A plea agreement and a one-count information charging Jacob were filed Wednesday in United States District Court in Los Angeles. He is expected to make his initial court appearance in the coming weeks.

According to his plea agreement, Jacob is an experienced pilot and skydiver who had secured a sponsorship from a company that sold various products, including a wallet. Pursuant to the sponsorship deal, Jacob agreed to promote the company’s wallet in a YouTube video that he would post.

On November 24, 2021, Jacob took off in his airplane from Lompoc City Airport on a solo flight purportedly destined for Mammoth Lakes. Jacob did not intend to reach his destination, but instead planned to eject from his aircraft during the flight and video himself parachuting to the ground and his airplane as it descended and crashed, he admitted in the plea agreement


Sentencing to come. The things people will do for advertising. Speaking of which..
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Telly giving away 500,000 free ad-supported 55-inch 4K TVs • Variety

Todd Spangler:


Ilya Pozin made a bunch of money when Viacom bought Pluto TV, the free video-streaming company he co-founded, for $340m four years ago. Since exiting Pluto about a year after that deal closed, Pozin has been working on another startup venture — one he thinks will be a much bigger deal.

On Monday, Pozin’s brainchild, Telly, comes out of stealth after two years in development. Telly wants to ship out thousands (and eventually millions) of free 4K HDTVs, which would cost more than $1,000 at retail, according Pozin.

The 55in main screen is a regular TV panel, with three HDMI inputs and an over-the-air tuner, plus an integrated soundbar. The Telly TVs don’t actually run any streaming apps that let you access services like Netflix, Prime Video or Disney+; instead, they’re bundled with a free Chromecast with Google TV adapter.

What’s new and different: The unit has a 9in-high second screen, affixed to the bottom of the set, which is real estate Telly will use for displaying news, sports scores, weather or stocks, or even letting users play video games. And, critically, Telly’s second screen features a dedicated space on the right-hand side that will display advertising — ads you can’t skip past and ads that stay on the screen the whole time you’re watching TV… and even when you’re not.

…When you sign up through the company’s app, Telly will ask for specific demographic, TV-viewing and lifestyle info, which the company will use to target addressable ads to individual households. The TVs also have a built-in sensor that can detect the number of people who are watching at any particular time. Pozin emphasized that all of Telly’s features comply with privacy regulations.


Here’s the puzzle. Obviously, it will insist that the second screen is online, or else the TV can be repossessed. But what form will those ads take? Video with sound is the most valuable, but you can’t have those at the same time as content with sound on the main screen. Someone watching a movie will find a parade of bright ads underneath pretty unbearable. I’d suggest. “Free hardware for ads” hardly ever works.
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Pinball is booming in America, thanks to nostalgia and canny marketing • The Economist


Twenty years ago, pinball seemed to be circling the drain. In the 1980s and 1990s video games stole market share from the mechanical sort, and home games-consoles stole market share from arcades. By 2000 WMS, the Chicago-based maker of the Bally and Williams brands of pinball machines, then the biggest manufacturer, closed its loss-making pinball division to focus on selling slot machines. Yet today, pinball is thriving again, both at places like Logan Arcade [in Chicago] and in people’s homes.

Sales of new machines have risen by 15-20% every year since 2008, says Zach Sharpe, of Stern Pinball, which after wms closed became the last remaining major maker. “We have not looked back,” he says. Next year the firm is moving to a new factory, twice the size of its current one, in the north-west suburbs of Chicago. Sales of used machines are more buoyant still—some favourites, such as Stern’s Game of Thrones-themed game, can fetch prices well into five figures. Josh Sharpe, Zach’s brother and president of the International Flipper Pinball Association, says that last year the ifpa approved 8,300 “official” tournaments, a four-fold increase on 2014.

What is driving the boom? Much of it is nostalgia. A generation raised on pinball in arcades in the 1980s and 1990s are now at an age where they have disposable income, and kids with whom they want to play the games they played as children. Marty Friedman, who runs an arcade in Manchester, a tourist town in southern Vermont, says that he and his wife opened their business after he realised it would allow him to indulge his hobby. “I compiled a list of the games I felt were essential to a collection you would deem museum-worthy,” he said, and went about acquiring them. But canny marketing is also drawing in fresh blood. Newer Stern machines are now connected to the internet, so players can log in and have their scores uploaded to an online profile. Both Sharpes suggest that the mechanical nature of the games appeals to people bored with purely screen-based play.


I’ve always preferred pinball over any screen-based game, because it is about manipulating real objects, and there’s real skill involved. Good players are amazing to watch.
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Life inside the South African gangs risking everything for copper • Financial Times

Monica Mark:


Copper was the new gold, as far as their gang was concerned, and anywhere it could be found was fair plunder. Theoretically, the sale and export of scrap copper is carefully controlled by South African officials. But the properties that make it the world’s third most-used metal also make copper a smuggler’s dream. Malleable and recyclable, it is easily melted down, after which its origin becomes virtually untraceable. It was February 2021 and prices had hit a 10-year high, reaching $9,000 a tonne on international markets. Any number of unscrupulous dealers would buy the coveted metal, then resell it in South Africa or, more likely, help smuggle it to booming markets in China and India.

That made a ragtag group of izinyoka the first link in a lucrative supply chain ultimately controlled by international syndicates. They were connected and feared enough that they’d never yet had to shoot anyone with their 9mm semi-automatic pistols. A warning volley fired into the air when they arrived on a job was enough to clear the premises. This heist was so routine that their group had deemed only three of their dozens of members were necessary.

Sausages was in charge. The portly commander had informants in every location worth robbing, and he’d already paid off the security guards. He had then summoned Mafia, whose nyaope addiction meant he took on jobs with a zeal bordering on ruthlessness. “That guy was smoking every day. That’s why, every day, he had to steal cables, to buy more,” recalled the third gang member, a skinny, softly spoken man known as TwoSix.

It was Mafia who once scaled a 27-metre-high electric pylon to cut live wires. But, in their time working together, they had all hacked down telephone poles, dug up underground cables and broken into industrial plants. Train stations were a favourite target. By the end of that year, izinyoka had ripped out more than 1,000 kilometres of overhead cable from Transnet, the state-owned freight rail operator, prompting it to contemplate switching from hybrid electric locomotives to diesel-only models that don’t require cabling.

In January, the consequences of industrial-scale theft in South Africa included: three security guards killed during heists; three hospitals scaling back operations because stolen copper plumbing hampers their ability to pipe oxygen to intensive care units; trains cancelled due to stolen signalling cable or track sleepers; parts of the city going without electricity for days after thieves toppled pylons.


Amazing piece of reporting. Well worth it if you have the subscription, or can find non-paywalled access.
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Cat and dog torture videos litter Twitter, adding to concerns about moderation • NBC News

Ben Collins:


Graphic videos of animal abuse have circulated widely on Twitter in recent weeks, generating outrage and renewed concern over the platform’s moderation practices.

One such video, in which a kitten appears to be placed inside a blender and then killed, has become so notorious that reactions to it have become their own genre of internet content.

Laura Clemens, 46, said her 11-year-old son came home from his school in London two weeks ago and asked if she had seen the video. “There’s something about a cat in a blender,” Clemens remembered her son saying. Clemens said she then went on Twitter and searched for “cat,” and the search box suggested searching for “cat in a blender.”

Clemens said that she clicked on the suggested search term and a gruesome video of what appeared to be a kitten being killed inside of a blender appeared instantly. For users who have not manually turned off autoplay, the video will begin rolling instantly. NBC News was able to replicate the same process to surface the video on Wednesday.

Clemens said she is grateful her child asked her about the video instead of simply going on Twitter and typing in the word “cat” by himself. “I’m glad that my child has talked to me, but there must be lots of parents whose kids just look it up,” she said.

The spread of the video as well as its presence in Twitter’s suggested searches is part of a worrying trend of animal cruelty videos that have littered the social media platform following Elon Musk’s takeover, which included mass layoffs and deep cuts to the company’s content moderation and safety teams.

Last weekend, gory videos from two violent events in Texas spread on Twitter, with some users saying that the images had been pushed into the platform’s algorithmic “For You” feed.


Which is why, among other reasons, you should never, ever, click on the “For You” tab. On the topic of moderation, meanwhile…
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Moderator Mayhem: a mobile game to see how well *you* can handle content moderation • Techdirt

Mike Masnick:


So much of the discussion lately around content moderation and trust & safety doesn’t come from a place of any kind of actual experience with moderating content and understanding the competing pressures, both internal and external, towards allowing free speech, protecting user safety, and complying with various laws and other factors.

A friend of mine in the trust & safety world once suggested that these conversations would be a lot more useful if everyone had to spend a few days moderating an actual community, and could learn how content moderation is not about “suppressing viewpoints,” but almost always about understanding really complex scenarios in which you have to make decisions in a very limited period of time, with limited information, and where there may not be any “right” answer.

Enter: Moderator Mayhem. It’s a browser-based mobile game, and you will learn that you have to make your moderation decisions by swiping left (take down) or right (keep up), and try to align content with the policies of the company (a fictional review site called TrustHive). Of course, users of your site may not like your decisions. They might appeal the decisions, and you might realize you missed some important context (or not!). Your manager might disagree with your decisions, and might not think you’re suited for the job. Your CEO might have his own views on how your moderation is going. So might the media.

And, of course, you don’t have much time to make your decisions, as the stack of flagged content you’re expected to review will keep growing and growing. Often, it would be helpful for you to investigate the more detailed context, and you can do that within the game, but it takes precious time. Sometimes you’ll learn something useful… but sometimes you won’t.

Also, there’s often no “correct” answer, so the game won’t tell you if you got something “right” or “wrong” because often there is no right or wrong. Your manager might tell you they disagree with your decision, or might not. But at the end of each session you’ll get a general update on how your manager thinks you’re doing in accurately applying company policy, and you’ll get a sense of your job security. Mess up too often and you may be looking for a new job. Apply the policy well enough, and maybe you can get promoted.


Being promoted out of the moderation division seems like the point. “Enjoy” seems like the wrong salutation for this.
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Scoop: Forbes takeover bid gives cover for foreign funding • Axios

Sara Fischer:


Forbes agreed to sell itself in a deal that makes it look like the iconic magazine brand is staying in American hands. But two sources familiar with the deal tell Axios the takeover may actually be substantially paid for by foreign investors.

The deal structure has the effect of obfuscating how much money foreign groups may put in, which could help alleviate any regulatory concerns.

Forbes was ready to sell to the group of mostly foreign investors in March. But management feared regulatory pushback and pivoted, Axios previously reported. Forbes also faced public criticism over the involvement of Indian investment firm Sun Group, which has had ties to Russia.

Forbes on Friday quietly confirmed that Austin Russell, the 28-year-old American CEO of electric vehicle tech company Luminar Technologies, will acquire an 82% stake in the iconic media brand at an $800m valuation.

But Forbes and Russell didn’t disclose how he would finance the roughly $656m needed to foot his stake.


“Youngest self-made billionaire” (a title previously held by Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried, I think) Russell isn’t really committing a lot of his own money in this. It looks very peculiar.
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EU approves Microsoft’s takeover of Activision Blizzard • The Guardian

Dan Milmo and Alex Hern:


The EU has approved Microsoft’s $69bn (£55bn) acquisition of the Call of Duty creator Activision Blizzard, in a move that drew immediate pushback from its UK counterpart, which has already blocked the gaming mega-deal.

The EU accepted Microsoft’s concessions on cloud gaming, the same problem that led the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to block the transaction last month.

The proposed deal aims to bring together Microsoft, the maker of the Xbox console, with the video game developer whose hit titles also include World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Candy Crush Saga and Overwatch.

The approval by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, will revive Microsoft’s hopes for the deal as it prepares to appeal against the CMA’s decision. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US has also come out against the takeover and is suing to block it.

The commission’s preliminary investigation had found that the deal could harm competition in cloud gaming, which allows users to stream video games stored on remote servers on to their devices, and in the supply of rival PC operating systems. It was concerned that if gamers could stream Call of Duty only via a Windows-exclusive streaming service then they may be less likely to switch to other operating systems such as Mac OS or Linux.

However, the commission said on Monday it had accepted Microsoft’s proposed remedies. The compromise involves Microsoft offering free licences over a 10-year period allowing European consumers who purchase Activision PC and console games to stream them on other cloud gaming services.


Nils Pratley, a Guardian finance columnist, is unimpressed by Microsoft’s posturing. The CMA’s objection feels like a reasonable one: Microsoft’s promises now might be meaningless in the context of the future shape of the market.
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The eyes have it • Event Photography London

Paul Clarke, again, with the followup he wrote in February 2020 to his previous post about Parliamentary photos when the new crop, from December 2019, arrived:


As any photographer will know; as any creative will know – no, as any human with any empathy will know – it’s pretty horrible to see your work criticised. And I stress again that although it’s a perennial temptation to blame the person who presses the shutter for the results, with a project like this there are a lot of hands and eyes involved. The moment of capture is one thing; the design, set-up, handling of the portrait’s subject, editing and the sign-off for public release involve many more people.

And in this official portrait of the 158th Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle is wearing his office pass on a lanyard round his neck. A bright, green, stripy lanyard at that.

There are few cast-iron rules of corporate photography, but it’s nearly universally accepted that taking off ‘clutter’ is a good idea. And asking subjects to remove their security passes is just what you do. Immediately.

Perhaps he didn’t want to? Perhaps he refused point blank and threatened to make a scene. Unlikely – but even when something like this happens (and it’s happened to me) there are ways in. “Can we ensure consistency across all Members please sir?” and “It’s not generally good security practice to include pictures of passes in public photos” (though they did at least blur out the detail in the edit) are good lines to take.

Or even, “Very glad to see you keeping up standards sir by adopting full morning dress in contrast to the oh-so-cheeky ways of that scamp who preceded you, but I suspect that not in Erskine May nor in any other manual of Parliamentary procedure will you find reference to a necklace that looks to be modelled on that famous chewable sweet, the Pacer, lamented lost child of 1970s confectionery that it is. Would you mind slipping it off for ten seconds while we do the picture? Sir.”


Once seen…
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Kuo: Apple ‘well prepared’ for headset announcement next month • MacRumors

Tim Hardwick:


In a brief report posted to Medium on Monday, Kuo wrote that the headset’s announcement next month “bodes well” for the supply chain share price, with the analyst touching on five of the device’s components that – apart from assembly – represent its “most expensive material costs” in his view.

Those include the 4K micro-OLED displays, dual M2-based processors, the headset casing, 12 optical cameras for tracking hand movements, and the external power supply. These components are being supplied by Sony, TSMC, Everwin Precision, Cowell, and Goretek, respectively.

Pricing on the headset is expected to begin somewhere around $3,000. Perhaps with that in mind, Apple won’t aim it at general consumers to start with, but will instead position it as a device for developers, content creators, and professionals. Apple expects to sell just one headset per day per retail store, and it has told suppliers that it expects sales of seven to 10 million units during the first year of availability.


One headset per day per retail store? Apple has more than 500 stores worldwide. One per store per day is ~15,000 per month, or 180,000 per year. That’s a long way even from a million. So the expectation is for most people to buy it without trying it? Even at $1,500 you’d need some dramatic use cases.
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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

5 thoughts on “Start Up No.2006: an ER doc using ChatGPT, free TV for obligatory ads?, South Africa’s copper gangs, Moderate!, and more

  1. I don’t disagree on “ads for free hardware” never works, but I do wonder how well the cheaper Kindle with ads does? I would never buy one, but it’s been around for years and years so I’m thinking some people might like it.

    (Still think that TV is DOA though.)

    • It’s a good question. I’ve never seen data on how those kindles have sold but the fact they aren’t all kindles tells a story, I think.

  2. I wonder why someone wouldn’t just put some black paper over the second monitor. Then the ads play but you’ll never see them. Sort of reminds me of that CueCat scanner, which turned out to be a very handy barcode scanner when you hacked it.

  3. But “moderation” IS usually about “suppressing viewpoints”, very clearly. That couldn’t be more obvious. A policy typically starts with a long boilerplate about what’s forbidden to say. There’s a whole set of stock arguments which are pretty nakedly about a lust to censor. That’s different from the also true aspect that the enforcers often have to deal with pushback and power-struggles. But the latter doesn’t change the former. Indeed, censorship viewed as a political decision means that dealing with factional fights is a given. A literal government censor is rarely just watching porn all day to declare it degenerate. They can be worried about which government official wants another one’s ally declared a producer of toxic material, err, counter-revolutionary (remember, we all want to have a healthy environment for the International Revolution). Make the wrong call, and it can eventually mean prison or even execution.

    I get where’s he’s coming from, in that big social media companies want to tell legislators and ideologues that the companies can’t just make all “bad stuff” disappear (what’s “bad stuff”?), and such efforts are expensive. But I’m not sure who if anyone is swayed by those points, given the reflexive rebuttals (“Bad stuff is what we think is bad, and the cost is the cost of the profits from the bad people”).

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