Best of Thought Shrapnel 2023

    Hello hello. I hope you're well 🙂

    According to my stats, the following posts, all published in the last 12 months, were the most accessed on Thought Shrapnel.

    What were your favourites? Is it one on this list? The archives can be found here.


    1. The burnout curve

    Published: 11th September

    The Burnout-Growth Curve

    I stumbled across this on LinkedIn. There doesn’t seem to be an authoritative source yet other than the author’s (Nick Petrie) social media posts, which is a shame. So I’m quoting most of it here so I can find and refer to it in future.

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    2. AI writing detectors don't work

    Published: 9th September

    Person covering their eyes with one hand and making the 'stop' sign with the other.

    This article discusses OpenAI’s recent admission that AI writing detectors are ineffective, often yielding false positives and failing to reliably distinguish between human and AI-generated content. They advise against the use of automated AI detection tools, something that educational institutions will inevitably ignore.

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    3. Oh great, another skills passport

    Published: 25th September

    People working

    This not only is the wrong metaphor, but it diverts money and attention from fixing some of the real issues in the system.

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    4. Good news on Covid treatments

    Published: 16th September

    Person in biosuite attacking a Covid spike protein

    Well this is promising. Researchers have identified a critical weakness in COVID-19 in its reliance on specific human proteins for replication. The virus has an “N protein” which needs human cells to properly package its genome and propagate. Apparently, blocking this interaction could prevent the virus from infecting human cells.

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    5. The punishment for being authentic is becoming someone else's content

    Published: 9th September

    Crack in road with plaster/band-aid stuck over it

    What I think is interesting is how online and offline used to be seen as completely separate. Then we realised the impact that offline life had on online life, and now we’re seeing the reverse: Instagram, TikTok, etc. having a huge impact on the spaces in which we exist offline.

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    6. Using AI to aid with banning books is another level of dystopia

    Published: 17th August

    However, what I’m concerned about is AI decision-making. In this case, a crazy law is being implemented by people who haven’t read the books in questions who outsource the decision to a language model that doesn’t really understand what’s being asked of it.

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    7. A philosophy of travel

    Published: 30th August

    Traveller in a bubble in a landscape

    This article critically examines the concept of travel, questioning its oft-claimed benefits of ‘enlightenment’ and ‘personal growth’. It cites various thinkers who have critiqued travel (including one of my favourites, Fernando Pessoa) suggesting that it can actually distance us from genuine human connection and meaningful experiences.

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    8. We need to talk about AI porn

    Published: 25th August

    Screenshot with blurred image and red button saying 'Upgrade to Basic'. Explanation underneath explains NSFW is only available to premium members.

    As this article details, a lot of porn has already been generated. Again, prudishness aside relating to people’s kinks, there are all kind of philosophical, political, legal, and issues at play here. Child pornography is abhorrent; how is our legal system going to deal with AI generated versions? What about the inevitable ‘shaming’ of people via AI generated sex acts?

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    9. Update your profile photo at least every three years

    Published: 11th January

    Person looking at camera

    I think this is good advice. I try to update mine regularly, although I did realise that last year I chose a photo that was five years old! I prefer ‘natural’ photos that are taken in family situations which I then edit, rather than headshots these days.

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    10. Britain is screwed

    Published: 8th February

    Chart showing UK as bottom of the table in terms of benefits in unemployment as a share of previous income.

    I followed a link from this article to some OECD data which, as shown in the chart below, the UK has even lower welfare payments that the US. The economy of our country is absolutely broken, mainly due to Brexit, but also due to the chasm between everyday people and the elites.

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    Have a happy new year when it arrives!

    Doug

    PS I've given up on Substack and, because I'm tired of moving platforms, I think I'll just send out emails via this site for now. More news on that soon.