The question of what will become of the humans behind Facebook's "M" doesn't seem to be plaguing tech writers much. / Still from the 1936 film More Than a Secretary, Columbia Pictures
The Baffler,  August 27, 2015

Daily Bafflements

The question of what will become of the humans behind Facebook's "M" doesn't seem to be plaguing tech writers much. / Still from the 1936 film More Than a Secretary, Columbia Pictures
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• Facebook’s new tool, ominously called “M,” claims to differentiate Facebook Messenger from other chat apps by offering you a built-in personal assistant, powered—for now—by actual human beings. Facebook has avoided the slow advances in artificial intelligence holding back competitors’ digital assistants by employing live workers to complete M’s tasks, like making purchases and arranging travel, while programming the technology to do these things unprompted in the future. While these folks are enabling their own replacement by computers, tech critics are speculating on the many ways Facebook could find to profit off “M.”

• For Pacific Standard, Evan Fleischer compares the truly dangerous political satire of countries like Egypt and Iran to the tepid, co-opted brand of political humor on offer in the United States. Quoting our own Ben Schwartz, whose salvo on the appropriation of satire by the state appeared in Baffler no. 27, Fleischer agrees that contemporary American comedy makes the medicine go down a little too easily.

• NASA scientists report this week that sea levels are rising more quickly than previously imagined, so it may be time to stock up on “I ♥ New York” t-shirts or start looking into oceanfront property in the midwest. For more apocalypse-themed fun, BBC Earth has introduced a new interactive tool to help you “grasp the impact we’ve had on the planet in your lifetime; from how much fuel and food we’ve used to the species we’ve discovered and endangered.”

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