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The power and perils of AI

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The power and perils of AI

Good morning! This Sunday, here's your five-minute guide to the best of Protocol (and the internet) from the week that was, from the race for AI supremacy to Microsoft's latest fight with Google.

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Best of Protocol

A possible breakthrough in China's vicious platform wars, by Shen Lu

  • Alibaba and Tencent are not known for getting along. But one WeChat mini program at a time, the two may be moving toward a detente. And given the Chinese government's push to more aggressively regulate its tech giants, there may be more like this to come.

The e-signature war is going beyond the dotted line, by Joe Williams

  • "A way to sign stuff digitally" doesn't sound like a huge industry, right? And yet it turns out it's not just a huge industry, but a fiercely competitive one at that, as companies from DocuSign to Adobe to Dropbox compete to change the way businesses think about what "official" means and own the newly digital future of documents.

Platforms vs. PhDs: How tech giants court and crush the people who study them, by Issie Lapowsky

  • Facebook has a huge trove of undeniably useful data, which researchers want to use to better understand everything from online extremism to how people watch TV. Facebook says it wants to be studied. But when you get down to it, everybody has different ideas about how this relationship would work, and Facebook gets to write the rules.

Facebook's Andrew Bosworth on building AR assistants you won't hate, by Janko Roettgers

  • The next generation of user interfaces, Boz told Janko, will be contextually aware, deeply interconnected and useful all the time. But as Facebook and everyone else in this space knows, that's far more difficult to build than a smartphone app or a voice assistant.

He co-founded SoFi. Now he's leading the U.S. charge for a U.K. startup, by Ben Pimentel

  • Dan Macklin left SoFi for an odd reason: It was going too well, and he missed the crazy days of early startup life. Now, he told Ben, he's working out how to change the U.S. financial system one employee at a time. (And building himself a bit of a Bitcoin collection.)

The detente between Microsoft and Google is over. Here's why Microsoft is fighting again, by Emily Birnbaum

  • The re-Scroogling is upon us! Microsoft has been a mostly quiet, mostly non-confrontational giant under Satya Nadella, but now it's starting to get loud and pick fights again. And it's taking particular aim at Google's involvement with the news business.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A new study conducted by Amazon/Ipsos found that most Americans support raising the minimum wage. Results from the study, which involved interviews with more than 6,000 adults, revealed that two out of three support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Read more

Best of Everything Else

The great Amazon flip-a-thon — The New York Times

  • This is exhibit #43,562 for "you have no idea how big a business Amazon really is." Brands you've never heard of, created out of nothing and selling products you don't think twice about, turning into billion-dollar conglomerates. Because there's a price tag on being the first thing in search results, and it's going through the roof.

Ghost 4.0

  • The extremely online scandal of the week was yet again about Substack. Is it a scam? Is it just about protecting free expression? Who gets paid? As I talk to folks looking for an alternative, Ghost seems to be the first name they think of. And the company behind the platform just launched this big upgrade.

How a bruising Microsoft lawsuit fueled the fight for fair pay — The Verge

  • Katie Moussouris' story feels like a bellwether in the fight for equal treatment in the workplace, both in the tech industry and elsewhere. Why she brought her suit, why it didn't work and what's happening as a result are all important things to understand going forward.

A hacker got all my texts for $16 — Vice

  • Kill the passwords, they said! Two-factor authentication, they said! Turns out it takes almost no time and no effort to exploit SMS. I'm with Brian Krebs on this one: Can we stop pretending SMS is secure now?

The secret auction that set off the race for AI supremacy — Wired

  • This story — an excerpt from Cade Metz's excellent new book, "Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World" — is set in a Tahoe casino, features a bunch of names I bet you know, and makes clear just how expensive and competitive the race to win at AI is going to be. And we're just getting started.

Your face is not your own — The New York Times

  • Clearview AI has become a poster child for all the scary things tech companies can do with publicly available data. But does it change anything when you learn all the good it can be used for? How do people and companies balance principles with results? If anything, this story will make you realize how complicated all those questions really are.

A MESSAGE FROM AMAZON

A new study conducted by Amazon/Ipsos found that most Americans support raising the minimum wage. Results from the study, which involved interviews with more than 6,000 adults, revealed that two out of three support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Read more

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Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the full name of "Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World." This story was updated on March 22, 2021.

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