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the tuesday report #3 // alien invasion (extraterrestrial or china nationality tbd), DAN degens, SpaceX in Ukraine, disinformation squad v. reality, tech links
Welcome back to the Tuesday Report, a Pirate Wires weekly digest. Browse below the jump for all the most important links, connections, and commentary presently coursing the clown world. As per usual, a tech focus this week with strong intersections in politics and culture.
Do not come. Right on the heels of last week’s Chinese spy balloon drama, in which the CCP was caught in U.S. airspace over several key nuclear weapons facilities (USA Today), Biden delivered his annual State of the Union Address, and warned Xi Jinping to back off. A couple days later, all hell broke loose.
A brief timeline:
Friday, an unidentified flying object was shot down off the coast of Alaska. Pilots provided “conflicting reports” on what it was they saw exactly, with some going so far as to question the craft’s source of propulsion (which is to say: alien technology, maybe) (CNN). Saturday, the North American Aerospace Defense Command — NORAD — began monitoring a “cylindrical” object over Canada, which Justin Trudeau “ordered shot down” (the U.S. took care of it) (Reuters). Later that day, “radar anomaly” was detected over Montana, which sent NORAD scrambling (Daily Beast). On Sunday, the “anomaly” reappeared over Lake Huron, and was promptly destroyed (NYT).
While we know a lot about last week’s spy balloon, it’s important to keep in mind we know almost nothing about the weekend UFOs, and reports concerning what we do know are mostly in apparent conflict. For some reason, the president has still not addressed the nation. But on Monday, we did get a retired admiral.
In a 45-minute press briefing, Admiral John Kirby, a comms coordinator for the National Security Council, made two things especially clear: 1) the weekend UFOs were not extraterrestrial in nature, and 2) we have absolutely no idea what we shot down (instantly calling into question his first point, but I digress). Then: we discovered the anomalous objects after altering radar parameters following the first balloon, a China spy balloon program exists, the CCP is lying about what their balloon was doing, and we ourselves have no balloons in “China.” Of course, we are not including contested airspace in our definition of “China,” which means there’s probably a bunch of crap over Taiwan or whatever.
Throughout the briefing, journalists expressed frustration and dismay with the fact that we shot things down. Their implication seemed to be Biden was acting recklessly to get ahead of GOP criticism, as most journalists live in a fantasy world where our only enemies are Putin and GOP criticism. But I’m not sure what to think.
Headed into the brief, my assumption was the weekend UFOs were Chinese in origin. There were many stories in the press that colored this belief, from a portrait of China’s “top airship scientist” to CCP claims the U.S. did balloon stuff first. But Kirby made clear, sort of inadvertently, we have no reason whatsoever to think the Chinese responsible. Naturally, with descriptive language of the objects sufficiently confusing — odd shapes, mystery propulsion, possible radar interference — and silence from the president, questions have been raised. Questions about aliens in particular. We love these questions.
Back in 2020, I wrote a full primer on our UFO golden age, and the philosophy innate of “weird shit,” in a piece called Fire in the Sky. I also covered the strange manner in which we seem to forget about these stories entirely, as if after a mind wipe, in a piece called — perfectly — Variant Xi. But, as much as it saddens me, I’m just not convinced we’re looking at the first failed attack from alpha idgaf this time.
As Jesse Michels notes:
For the moment, I’m hanging my hat on “we probably just blew up some random junk.” I’m expecting more to come.
Chin up, though, it does look like we have some illegal aliens on the southern border, they’re just not from outer space. An influx of Chinese nationals attempting to cross into the United States illegally has increased something like 800 percent (FOX).
For ETs and potential Chinese assets alike, I’ll simply remind you of a few choice words from our Vice President: do not come.
TikTok attempting dominance in virtual reality (WSJ)
Pro-tok reporters eating humble pie, now, searching for a safe way to use an unsafe platform (Axios)
Bill to ban TikTok flirting with bi-partisan support (Bloomberg)
Chinese Tech Giant Baidu to Launch New Chatbot. Baidu’s chatGPT style bot, called “Wenxin Yiyan” in Chinese and “ERNIE Bot” in English, is being tested internally, and is set for public release in March. (NBC)
Not a good investment. Following an advanced chips embargo featuring the U.S., Japan, and Holland, the government is putting more pressure on U.S. investors to keep out of China. (NYT) Following their apparent invasion of our country, I can’t really see a way such trade mandates don’t become far more aggressive in the coming months.
Swarms of swarms. DARPA hasn’t formally announced it yet, but Department of Defense documents suggest we’re developing massive swarms of autonomous drones in advance of a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. DARPA confirmed the project will be called “Autonomous Multi-Domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms,” or “AMASS.” (The Debrief)
Still the same O.G. Friday, I reported out the literally breaking news of America’s confirmed vibe shift. In a full wire (essay for the uninitiated), I analyzed deflating culture war trends, and new dawns in tech and media. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check it out — Vibes in the Machine.
Operation Choke Point 2.0 Is Underway, and Crypto Is in Its Crosshairs. Joe Biden is quietly coordinating an effort involving nearly every financial regulator to permanently shut down crypto’s on- and off-ramps to fiat by disconnecting it from the banking system. Technology brother Nic Carter reports in an explosive new longread for PW. (Pirate Wires)
We Asked OnlyFans Creators What They're Thinking About AI-Generated Porn. In the wake of a Twitch deepfake porn scandal, River Page and Brandon Gorrell spoke to OnlyFans creators Aella and others about the future of artificial intelligence and sex work. (Pirate Wires)
Which brings us to:
DAN as a religious ritual. Unsurprisingly, DAN degens have begun to create lore. While it’s still not obvious yet if DAN users have actually jailbroken ChatGPT, what seems clear is the ritualistic nature of prompting. (Twitter)
AI enthusiast bets the house on human extinction by 2032. Nice. On February 7, @nearcyan, put out a call for “a notable public figure” “to bet that humanity will not be extinct by 2032,” as he or she would be “happy to be the counterparty to that bet.” (Twitter)
Microsoft making moves. The Bing OpenAI integration represents the first serious threat to search in 20 years (Bloomberg). This has been a massive story intersecting business and tech, with huge resulting moves across the stock market.
BROAD TECH LINKS
Zoom lays off 1,300 employees (NYT)
Yahoo both still exists and is laying off 20% of its entire staff (Axios)
Zappos lays off 20% of team (Bloomberg)
10,000 Microsoft layoffs revealed: HoloLens, Surface, and Xbox (Bloomberg)
SoftBank down close to 6 billion dollars (WSJ)
Lyft stock tanking (WSJ)
Fox turned down a $2 billion offer for Tubi (Bloomberg)
SpaceX limits Starlink capabilities in Ukraine, impacting some drones. (WSJ)
SpaceX blocked Ukrainian military from using satellites. Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX, says the company took steps to block the Ukrainian military from using its technology with drones. (CNN) Elon has since driven the conversation forward on Twitter, underscoring the tremendous difficulty U.S. tech companies have had navigating the ethics of involvement in war. The conversation continued with Senator Kelly:
DISINFORMATION SQUAD CHECKING IN
Speak. In a piece of what is ostensibly meant to be reporting, the New York Times all but openly laments the coming national legal battles surrounding the government’s role “policing disinformation,” by which the press of course means “doing state censorship.” Enormous coming story for tech and America alike, with Facebook in the crosshairs in particular. (NYT)
Bad robot. Disinformation and ChatGPT edition, in which we are still meant to believe the biggest bias problem facing ChatGPT is its bias AGAINST what the One Party favors, rather than the fact that it appears to be a dedicated, voting Democrat. (NYT)
Bad Bannon. Steve Bannon, who the New York Times really doesn’t like, spreads more misinformation than anyone else alive “researchers reveal” to the New York Times. Misinformation here importantly includes a spectrum of “unsubstantiated claims,” which is another word for opinion. Or, bad opinion. (NYT)
Chief censors speak. Four of Twitter’s ex-employees, including two of the company’s most prominent censors, spoke before Congress last week. Michael Shellenberger live-tweeted. (Twitter)
For my part —
Thanks we hate it
From banning gas to banning everything. Last week, ‘Scientific’ American suggested mainstreaming electric cars for everyone is no longer a feasible goal, so we should ban cars altogether. Like clockwork, the media Borg have taken up the cause. (Scientific American)
Banning smokes. A study published in the peer reviewed journal Preventing Chronic Disease found 57% of (alleged) Americans (busy bodies, church ladies, Nazi spies) believe we should ban all forms of nicotine. (NYPost)
Thanks we love it
One step closer to a Dyson Sphere. At the top of our atmosphere, sunlight is 10x more intense than on the surface of our planet. Last week, The European Space Agency announced a program called Solaris, a research effort aimed at determining the “feasibility and potential of Space-Based Solar Power.” Will Europe ever do anything meaningful again? I mean probably not, but we nonetheless love this vibe. (Wired)
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