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The Monday 6 - August 9, 2021

Kyle Petzinger
Kyle Petzinger
Hello, friend!
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics wrapped up yesterday, with the United States narrowly edging China in gold medals won. 🇺🇸 🇺🇸
These Games felt quite different, and I can’t help but feel bad for Japan. I’m hoping Paris 2024 goes off without a hitch. That includes NBC figuring out how to make watching the Olympics not as unbelievably frustrating as it was this go around. 🤦🏻‍♂️
And somehow, the winter games in Beijing are less than 6 months away. 🤯
On with the 6:

1. Why Is China Smashing Its Own Tech Industry?
If you follow China and/or tech news, you’ve likely seen a peculiar bunch of headlines recently:
  • Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and the richest man in China, gave a speech where he was critical of the Chinese financial industry establishment. He was on the cusp of taking his financial services company “The Ant Group” public, but he suddenly disappeared. The IPO was canceled and the futures of his company are murky at best.
  • Didi (essentially China’s Uber) went public in Western markets, only to have the Chinese Communist Party announced they were reviewing the company under “national security” grounds days later. Their apps were yanked from app stores and the future of the company is, again, murky.
These, along with a few other examples (affecting Tencent, Baidu, and others), show a pattern of strong-handed opposition by the Chinese Communist Party against Chinese companies that were considered leaders in their space. Why has the CCP had such a change of heart?
Noah Smith, an economist who writes for Bloomberg and his own Substack dives into the question: why is China smashing its own tech industry?
If there was ever a question about who is in control in China, these recent episodes leave little doubt.
Why is China smashing its tech industry? - by Noah Smith
2. Apple's About-Face On Privacy, For A Good Reason
I’m admittedly very torn about this.
Apple announced that starting in iOS 15 (due in ~1 month) and only in the United States (at least at first), they will begin scanning photos (more accurately, anonymous hashes of photos) that users upload to iCloud (aka, what most people with iOS devices do) and compare them against known images of child sexual abuse, working directly with National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
“According to people briefed on the plans, every photo uploaded to iCloud in the US will be given a ‘safety voucher,’ saying whether it is suspect or not,” the Financial Times said. “Once a certain number of photos are marked as suspect, Apple will enable all the suspect photos to be decrypted and, if apparently illegal, passed on to the relevant authorities.”
Apple posted more details directly on their site. Scroll down to the CSAM section.
Now, obviously, child sexual abuse material is abhorrent and I don’t have any qualms with this application of this technology being used.
However, I’m quite surprised this is being built, considering that Apple:
  1. Has previously rejected the creation of a “back door” to encryption, even to the Obama-era FBI in relation to the San Bernandino shooting. It’s hard for me to see this as anything other than a back door.
  2. Has taken the stance that privacy is a “fundamental human right”.
  3. Must follow the law in each country where it operates (aka, basically the whole world, including China).
It’s hard for me to not see this as Pandora’s box: the database of comparison is universally accepted as disgusting and should not exist. However, what if the definition of what’s deemed unacceptable broadens?
What happens then if an authoritarian government asks to leverage this backdoor to aid their flushing out of dissidents? Or to further curtail human rights? (See the #1 from this Monday 6.)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation warns along these lines, emphasis mine:
All it would take to widen the narrow backdoor that Apple is building is an expansion of the machine learning parameters to look for additional types of content, or a tweak of the configuration flags to scan, not just children’s, but anyone’s accounts. That’s not a slippery slope; that’s a fully built system just waiting for external pressure to make the slightest change.
What do you think? It’s hard to fault Apple’s narrow motives here, but are the costs incurred worth it?
I’ve posted this as a poll on my LinkedIn and would be interested to hear your take.
Apple's Plan to "Think Different" About Encryption Opens a Backdoor to Your Private Life | Electronic Frontier Foundation
3. The Segway Died Before It Was Ever Unveiled
The Segway is as infamous a product failure that exists. This piece from Slate explores why the Segway was a massive failure (expectations were far greater than reality) but more centrally, the author (Dan Kois) examines his piece in creating those inflated expectations.
As the new millennium dawned, a mysterious invention from a charismatic millionaire became a viral sensation—then went down in flames. Ever since, I’ve wondered: Was it all my fault?
This is a pretty long read, but a version of the story is also available via a podcast episode. Check it out here:
Who Killed The Segway? | Decoder Ring
4. Why Do Some Countries Over-Achieve In The Olympics?
From author and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell comes a short and to-the-point essay on why certain countries do better than others in sports.
It’s not about the size of the country. It’s about the size of the capitalization rate.
Why do certain small countries over-represent in Olympic sports?
5. Beluga Whales Are Punks
Please enjoy this video of Beluga whales scaring people.
6. KidPix Returns
Did anyone else use KidPix on their school’s Macintosh computer in the early 1990s? KidPix was deep in the recesses of my brain when I saw this headline, instantly lighting up all sorts of nostalgia.
Anyway, KidPix is now 100% ported over to a web app and completely free to use, sound effects and all.
And for those who didn’t use it, think of it like an early Microsoft Paint. 🎨
JSKIDPIX v1.0.2021
Draw like it’s 1989 with this Kid Pix web app - The Verge
That’s it for this week. If you found anything useful or fun, let me know! And if you have any suggestions, shoot them my way. 😊 See you next week!
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Kyle Petzinger
Kyle Petzinger @kylepetz

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