The US Army’s stupid AR glasses vs. Xiaomi’s pair

A while back I wrote a piece about the US Army’s overbudget and wildly impractical Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. It was called “More Garbage to Carry,” and I meant what I said when I named the article. Compare the image below to the sleek glasses above.

WTF is up with the Army thinking about fielding a useless piece of crap like the Ranger above is trying to use? The IVAS is a soldier’s nightmare. Bulky, claustrophobic, prone to fail, and overly complicated. As a bonus, the IVAS features software by Microsoft, because we all know how reliable and user-friendly that is, of course.

Get real. The Army should cut its losses now and get something like the Xiaomi AR glasses. Here’s an article listing the capabilities of this upcoming off-the-shelf unit. I understand that Xiaomi is based in China, and there may be some issues with sourcing from the PRC.

Fine. The USG should buy a dozen pairs and shamelessly copy them and add a few extra features- this is what companies based in China do with our IP all the time; turnabout is fair play, right?

When I think of daily soldier activities, I can picture doing them with the Xiaomi units.

Things like long movements to contact. Raids. Ambushes. Climbing mountains. Sitting long, boring, and dangerous guard duties at night while struggling to stay awake. Walking through some fire-lit village.

The IVAS would suck for each and every task I just listed.

The Xiaomi AR glasses would not suck, and you could use Android software, which many soldiers would already be intimately familiar with. Of course, I would opt for OS, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Without much tweaking, the Xiaomi units could have NVGs or thermals. They can easily track soldiers much as smart phones already do with equipment- just give everyone a version of an Air Tag. Leaders could use these things to direct the battlespace and communicate. Drone feeds could give clear recon to all combatants in an instant, and be controlled by them, as well.

The Xiaomi units could be a real force multiplier in ways that the stupid IVAS will never be.

Of course, the Microsoft people would squeal like pigs if the Army just dropped the IVAS. So what?

Also, US Ordnance has always struggled with “Not Invented Here” syndrome. This is why our guys went to Vietnam with the outdated M-14 and had their asses handed to them by the AK-47.

Modern warfare happens at the speed of social media and flitting drones. We can no longer afford sclerotic logistics and blinkered thinking.

If the Chinese are making these amazing glasses, I say steal them.

All’s fair in love and war.

Sorry, You’re Still Not an Author.

Wow, that was fast.

And totally predicted both on these pages and JB’s website.

The flood of AI generated books has begun, unfortunately. This was inevitable. In fact, an entire ecosystem of people trying to make big money on Amazon using ChatGPT has sprung into life on YouTube. I don’t need to include a link, you’ll find a lot of examples if you do a simple search.

Taking an hour and plugging a prompt into a program does not make you an author.

Neither will playing with words in an AI program make you an artist.

What these programs do is to cheapen and steal from the creative work of millions, they devalue and copy the creativity and labor of those whose works are on the internet somewhere.

Another facet of these crawling internet bots is that they loan themselves to reinforcing confirmation bias, people’s tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with their existing beliefs.

We have seen this a lot lately. It is a key driver in some of the toxic conspiracy theories floating around these days. You believe in something that is transparently false? Fine. Type your belief into Google and someone’s page somewhere will pop up with tons of “facts” that will verify whatever notion you may hold.

This phenomenon of bad information is a known weakness of ChatGPT, by the way. The program pulls from all sources on the internet, not from sources that actually have to verify facts or produce data that will stand up in court.

Just watch. Journalism has already been cheapened and devalued by this. Over the last few years, “alternative facts” have become a thing. If you don’t have to worry about being sued for libel, you can say whatever you want. This is unlike traditional journalists, who have to uphold legal standards. Certain people in the media hide behind the shield of “this is entertainment,” and then proceed to cherry-pick the hell out of data obtained from the web. They assemble a product designed to enrage their audiences to keep ratings and clicks up, social cost be damned.

Journalist? You’re a loser, I find my own facts. Everything on the internet must be right.

Artist? Dork. I make the coolest shit on this AI art program.

Author? Sucker! You slaved for years, I just made five hundred bucks on Amazon with the prompt “80,000 word novel,” and I uploaded it for free!

I guess laugh all you want at the educated or talented “suckers” who put in the work in the past, because eventually the joke will be on everyone, and sooner than you may think.

All of those service jobs? Ever seen the automated check-out at Walmart? The machines are coming for you. Anyone who can feasibly be replaced will be, and at the fastest rate possible. I guarantee you Amazon is looking hard at a human-free sorting center, along with UPS, FedEx, and USPS.

Healthcare? That’s next. Humans are way too prone to error, and they cost a ton, too. You can see the beginnings of the medical employment sunset if you look for it.

Insurance? A dying breed. Already many of those jobs have gone remote, and it’s a matter of time before AI will make those obsolete, as well.

Telemarketers? You may hate them, but they employ many thousands at call centers worldwide. Kiss those jobs goodbye in the near future.

Banking or customer service? Yep, the same. If you think getting a real human on the line is a problem now, wait a few years.

Oh? And that guy who makes a living on some TV network or podcast talking shit? Ever seen some of the good deepfakes out there? He’s next, as soon as the algorithm is good enough.

I could spend an hour or more listing all the jobs subject to termination by the coming Artificial Intelligence wave. You can prove my point by typing in a search of AI threatened jobs. See? The machine did your thinking for you. Again. You didn’t need to use your imagination at all.

So go ahead. Laugh at the flaky creatives and the fools who make their money with ideas. By all means, do it over a beer. A beer, if you think about it, that was produced and delivered to you having never been touched by human hands, except at the end where someone unloaded it from a truck. From the planting of the first hops seed to packaging at the plant; not one single hand. And by the way, I guarantee that last part, the person unloading the truck, will be replaced as well. It’s a matter of time.

The AIs won’t discriminate between the PhDs or the factory worker.

Drink up.

The Borg Swarm

On John Birmingham’s website he talks a bit about how Apple conned a bunch of narrators into “loaning” their voices and work for the purpose of training Apple’s machine learning programs. Then, Apple proceeded to launch a service, Findaway, where an AI creates audio books on the cheap for authors.

Hey, I’d love to produce inexpensive audio books. They’d be great for my existing novels, and audio would bump up my sales. However, they are expensive to produce for a reason. If you want a quality product, you have to pay a narrator to read your books aloud and record them. This is a lot of work. You get what you pay for.

I don’t want to put actual humans out of work for the sake of making a quick buck.

This touches upon the reason for this post. A problem the Amazon e-book ecosystem has long dealt with has been substandard books banged out or blatantly plagiarized and released for sale. This dilutes the already massive pool of works available for sale, and it makes challenges for quality authors who seek name recognition and eventual sales on its platform.

I’ve been an author for nine years. I’ve worked hard to produce books and I’ve invested countless hours and a lot of money into what I do. Last year, for the first time, I finally broke even. This coming year I might make a profit.

So, imagine my dismay when ChatGPT comes along with its promise of artifically generated works for close to zero creative input. Now, from all reports the AI is not yet up to snuff- ChatGPT will give you a paper, a novel, or whatever, but the uncanny valley looms and frequently the AI is full of shit as it generates information based from millions of web posts, some of which are chock full of bad information.

However, ChatGPT is first-gen stuff.

I do not doubt that it will improve, and it will improve quickly, roughly based upon Moore’s Law.

This is a phenomenon that will affect us all. People say, “Oh, who cares about a few dozen people who are great narrators. The price of my audio book went down.”

Yeah, the price did drop a bit. There is a larger, unseen cost, however.

Guess what. Information jobs span hundreds of millions of people, if not more. These are all subject to being made redundant by AI. Your doctor. His or her staff. Everyone connected to customer service. Computer programming and IT. Think about it. The signs are there, and the workers in the creative industries are canaries in the coal mine. Banking has already been turned on its head, and other industries will follow.

In the near future, if it hasn’t happened already, I don’t doubt that someone will type in the prompt “80,000 word science fiction action novel style Haldeman, Heinlein, Lambright” and the AI will cough it up in a millisecond for a nominal subscription fee. Then, this notional “author” will head over to Midjourney and type in a prompt such as “alien world, hostile creatures” and pick out a book cover.

The “author” cuts and pastes his or her book into a manuscript and they run it through Findaway for voice narration.

Bam. Within an hour or so, they stick the complete package out on Amazon’s KDP service for 2.99 USD, having never bothered to read their own “work.”

It will look professional, attractive. There will be an audiobook option, drawing in the punters. The cash will roll in.

The problem is, all of it is inherently stolen work, with zero creative input.

The AI will draw it from existing internet files, built from people’s past actual work and creativity. Stolen, rather, in no uncertain terms. However, because it is an amalgamation, there will be no blatant plagiarism. Existing authors will have no legal ground to stand upon. This is a debasement of millions of hours of creative work, done by the suckers who sat down behind a typewriter or computer for many hours and thought about their creation.

Is this the future we want? Billions made redundant, for what? Cheaper goods at Walmart? Tasteless, bland auto-generated entertainment? An endless cycle of AI voices on your cel phone as you try in vain to reach a real human?

Today, it’s the creatives who have a problem.

Tomorrow, it will be your aunt in medical insurance claims.

Ten years from now, it’ll be everyone who uses a computer.

I think there will always be a market for those who insist upon human-derived entertainment. However, it’ll be a niche. Also, it will be difficult to discern who the author or artist is. The line will blur between human and AI to the point where no one can tell anymore.

Me? I’ll probably take a hybrid approach, because I’ve seen this coming for a long time. My ideas, my writing style, refined by a machine. To a certain extent, I already do this with Grammarly, an excellent editing program.

AI has the potential to help us out. It also has the potential to replace us. We need to find a path where intelligences become partners, as opposed to adversaries. I’ve been advocating for this since I started writing.

Give it some thought while we can still influence the algorithm. Because before too long, the machines will do all of our thinking.