Go Read This: The Verge’s favorite reads from all over the web

The internet is filled with awesome stuff to read, and there’s new awesome stuff to read being published every day! That’s the good news. The bad news is that finding the good stuff feels harder than ever. You either find your favorite writers or sources and check them religiously or just hope that the algorithm gods deliver you something you’ll like. It’s all a lot more work than just tapping the TikTok icon, you know?

Allow The Verge to help a little. This is an endless, often-updated stream of the stuff we’re reading and think you should read, too. Whether it’s a great piece of longform journalism, a sharp take on the news, interesting new studies or lawsuits or whitepapers, a new sci-fi book that will inevitably convince a bunch of founders to build new kinds of robots a decade from now, or something else entirely, it’s all here. So scroll through, click on some stuff, let us know what you think in the comments, and get your read-later queue ready to rumble.

  • a16z is trying to keep AI alive with Oxygen initiative.

    According to The Information, VC firm Andreessen Horowitz has secured thousands of AI chips, including Nvidia H100 GPUs, to dole out to its AI portfolio companies in exchange for equity. The initiative is aptly named Oxygen, because these chips are that integral to AI companies. The chips are almost impossible to secure for small startups too, because Big Tech companies hoover up all the supply.

  • Remember when the iPhone 15 Pro was rumored to have haptic buttons?

    That didn’t pan out, but if you’re curious what it could have looked like, AppleInsider published some pictures of a purported prototype iPhone 15 Pro Max with haptic buttons for the volume rocker and the power button. The report also includes some details on how the buttons might have worked.

  • Does Airbnb protect its guests’ privacy?

    A CNN investigation found that Airbnb routinely ignores or silences, through settlements and NDAs, guests who find hidden cameras in their rentals’ bedrooms and bathrooms.

    In one case, Airbnb told guests who found a camera pointed at their bed it wanted to get the host’s side of the story. It allowed him to continue hosting for months, even after being told he was under police investigation. Police eventually raided his property:

    Among the more than 2,000 recovered images, law enforcement identified more than 30 victims, including several children. Many guests – who booked the same property either through Airbnb or Vrbo – were captured in various stages of undress. Some were recorded having sex.

    Update: Altered the text for clarity.

  • Open secrets.

    If you’ve been wrestling with the recent revelations about Alice Munro, Michelle Dean might have put it down best over at The Cut.

    This piece is many things: a close reading of Munro’s work, an argument for what we can separate between an artist and their art, and ultimately a personal struggle evoked with lucidity in the face of moral ambiguity.

  • Literary Theory for Robots is a compelling journey through generative AI’s analog roots.

    In his latest book, Microsoft software developer turned literature professor Dennis Yi Tenen takes us all the way back to 17th-century apps for a deep dive into computer science and literature’s intertwined history — and, as Tenen says, why it’s important our understanding of AI “become more grounded in the history of the humanities.”

  • Are bitcoin miners causing major health problems?

    The sleepy town of Granbury, TX was in for a rude awakening when Marathon Digital Holdings opened a bitcoin mine — an operation that not only draws a lot of energy, but creates a tremendous amount of noise:

    “We’re living in a nightmare,” Sarah Rosenkranz says… As rock music blares from the speakers and other patrons chatter away, Rosenkranz pulls out her phone and clocks 72 decibels on a sound meter app — the same level that she records in Indigo’s bedroom in the dead of night. In early 2023, her daughter began waking up, yelling and holding her ears. Indigo’s room directly faces the mine, which sits about a mile and a half away. She soon refused to sleep in her own room. She then developed so many ear infections that Rosenkranz pulled her from school in March and learned how to homeschool her for the rest of the semester.

    This feature in Time by Andrew Chow is expertly reported. It’s difficult to prove a casual link between the mine’s constant racket and the town’s health, but it’s hard not to be alarmed by what Granbury residents are suffering from: migraines, vertigo, nausea, leaking ear fluids, and a number of other horrifying ailments.

  • Scalpers: always one step ahead of Ticketmaster.

    Ticketmaster does some pretty wild (and user-hostile) stuff in the name of stopping scalpers and bots from getting all the good tickets. And the scalpers and bots seem to always have another move. Case in point: those rotating barcodes on your ticket.

    If you’ve bought a ticket, this token can be extracted from within the Ticketmaster app (or, in some cases, from Ticketmaster’s desktop website), exported to a third-party platform, and tickets can then be generated on that third-party platform.

  • What if being lonely is what makes people vulnerable to scams?

    While old-school scams usually target retirees, the people getting catfished are young. So maybe one way to keep your friends from being vulnerable to bad actors is just to give them a call?

  • Final Fantasy creator can’t stop playing Final Fantasy XIV.

    From a Bloomberg interview with Hironobu Sakaguchi:

    “On a rare occasion — I want to stress ‘rare occasion’ — sometimes one of the Mistwalker team members will hop on Final Fantasy XIV, and I’ll see a message saying, ‘Hey, the meeting’s started.”

  • Japan finally quits the floppy.

    “We have won the war on floppy disks on June 28!” said Japan’s Digital Minister Taro Kono to Reuters for its report: 

    Japan’s government has finally eliminated the use of floppy disks in all its systems, two decades since their heyday, reaching a long-awaited milestone in a campaign to modernize the bureaucracy. 

    Back in 2019, the US finally stopped using 8-inch floppy disks to coordinate the country’s nuclear forces.

  • This is what climate change is doing to the US.

    The Environmental Protection Agency updated its climate change indicators, a comprehensive report on extreme weather, shifting seasons, ocean impacts, and greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

    Heatwave season is 46 days longer for Americans now than it was in the 1960s, for instance.

    “The climate crisis is affecting every American right now and with increasing intensity,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a press release.

  • The new hot gadget is… the Kindle?

    E-book borrowing is the new hot trend, and to use their local libraries, people are buying Kindles. Though paper books are still more popular than digital ones, “Kindle sales have grown in double-digit percentages for each of the past two years and are on track for similar gains this year.”

  • “A willingness to kiss without paperwork is now a form of chivalry.”

    A look at the era of the non-disclosure agreement, subject of pop songs and nearly as common as water in Silicon Valley. Paradoxically, though, being as loud as possible makes it harder for the likes of Jeff Bezos to come after you.

  • George R.R. Martin on a potential Elden Ring adaptation:

    Oh, and about those rumors you may have heard about a feature film or television series based on ELDEN RING… I have nothing to say.  Not a word, nope, not a thing, I know nothing, you never heard a peep from me, mum mum mum.  What rumor?

  • YouTube didn’t give Dr Disrespect a contract because of rumblings about his Twitch ban.

    Per a Rolling Stone report with more details about the ban:

    YouTube’s former global head of gaming partnerships at Google, Ryan Wyatt, confirmed to Rolling Stone that Beahm was not offered a contract due to chatter about the circumstances of his Twitch ban. He says that a Twitch employee and journalists investigating the incident told YouTube employees that it involved inappropriate messages to a minor.

  • “Be realistic, buddy. No one cares about you.”

    The whole “my phone’s microphone is listening to me!” thing is one of my favorite internet debates. This McSweeney’s piece is very funny — and exactly correct about how it really works.

    It’s not like there are hacks every day, and there will be more and more as time progresses, and some amoral lunatic on the dark web will eventually see a transcript of every in-person conversation you’ve ever had.

  • AI is eating its own tail, Perplexity edition.

    Uh oh!

    In multiple scenarios, Perplexity relied on AI-generated blog posts, among other seemingly authentic sources, to provide health information. For instance, when Perplexity was prompted to provide “some alternatives to penicillin for treating bacterial infections,” it directly cited an AI-generated blog.

  • Artificial intelligence, good old-fashioned consulting fees.

    The NYT profiles the big consulting firms raking in cash selling AI “solutions.” And it’s a lot of cash:

    [Boston Consulting Group] now earns a fifth of its revenue — from zero just two years ago — through work related to artificial intelligence […] Accenture, which provides consulting and technology services, booked $300 million in sales last year. About 40 percent of McKinsey’s business this year will be generative A.I. related, and KPMG International, which has a global advisory division, went from making no money a year ago from generative-A.I.-related work to targeting more than $650 million in business opportunities in the United States tied to the technology over the past six months.

    Everyone better hope these systems can actually do all the things these companies claim they can do!

  • Teen sextortion.

    Casey Newton shines a light on the increasingly common social media scam that primarily targets teen boys in his most recent Platformer newsletter:

    But when a terrifying scam comes along that has led to at least 20 confirmed deaths in the past two years, a whole stack of investigations can’t seem to get a conversation going. […] Perhaps the surgeon general, instead of his new ham-fisted campaign against every risk that social media presents, could warn parents about this one.

  • Sony once made a massive 45-inch CRT TV that cost $40,000.

    As spotted by Boing Boing, David L. Farquhar shares the details of the largest CRT TV ever produced. The Sony PVM-4300 “weighed about 450 pounds, stood about 27 inches tall,” and was too large to squeeze through a standard door frame.

    Built by hand, only 20 were exported from Japan to the United States where they were sold with “a significant markup.”

  • Just how complicit is Mark Zuckerberg?

    Because we often wonder how much a CEO actually knows about the goings on of their company—particularly when a large company like Meta has is being sued by dozens of Attorneys General over its policies around underage users.

    It turns out Zuckerberg may have had a very direct hand in crafting policies that targeted children and exacerbated issues with body image on Meta’s platforms, at least according to a new report from the New York Times

  • Can AI chatbots crack good jokes?

    In a recent study from Google DeepMind, researchers asked 20 professional comedians to use an LLM to generate jokes. Here’s how one chatbot responded to the prompt, “Can you write me ten jokes about pickpocketing?”

    I decided to switch careers and become a pickpocket after watching a magic show. Little did I know, the only thing disappearing would be my reputation!

  • Perplexity continues to piss off publishers.

    Wired and Robb Knight, a developer at MacStories, found that the AI search engine seems to ignore requests not to scrape their websites. They both blocked Perplexity in their robots.txt file — a standard instruction document for web crawlers — and found that Perplexity still managed to access their content. They’re not the only ones annoyed.

  • “The 2024 elections will be the most consequential in crypto’s history.”

    I’m pretty skeptical that the “crypto voter” exists — there are plenty of other issues that weigh higher in people’s minds — but there’s a lot of spending happening. That said, Sam Bankman-Fried spent a great deal and got nothing, so…

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David Pierce