regular-article-logo Wednesday, 04 October 2023

Chinese spy balloon controversy in US

AMERICAN DIARIES | Old iPhones in demand, ChatGPT stealing the show and more

Suhashini Sarkar Published 11.02.23, 04:25 AM
Flying object

Flying object

Object of intrigue

A large, white balloon, suspected to be a Chinese surveillance device, was spotted hovering over Billings, Montana this month. The United States secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, issued a statement saying that the balloon belonged to China, through which the latter was attempting “to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States.” The spy balloon was finally shot down by a military aircraft as it floated off the coast of South Carolina. Officials are investigating the debris of the balloon to determine what its purpose was. China said that it was a civilian balloon used for meteorological monitoring and accidentally ended up over the US territory. However, US government officials, including the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, maintain that the balloon’s presence was not innocent. As the balloon floated, the defence department, including the president, Joe Biden, began to decide on military strategy. Meanwhile, average Americans came out on the streets or sat on their lawn chairs with binoculars, watching the balloon float above them. The internet erupted over the incident. “Hey, did anyone lose a big, white balloon?” a tweet said. The length of the balloon was described as the size of three buses put together. People speculated the reasons behind sending a spy device that would clearly be visible to the human eye. “They don’t need a spy balloon. They have TikTok,” said another user on Twitter. It still cannot be ascertained whether the balloon just wandered off its course or was truly designed for military surveillance purposes.


Unopened gifts

Apple released its latest iPhone model — iPhone 14 — last year. However, it turns out that even a 16-year-old, first-generation iPhone is as much valued and is expected to sell at an auction for more than $50,000. The owner of the 2007 iPhone, Karen Green, still has the device sealed up in its original box and never got around to using it. Green received the iPhone as a gift from her friends but never opened it as she already owned a phone at that time. The first-generation iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen and a 2-megapixel camera, 4 GB and 8 GB storage options, internet capabilities and iTunes. It had no app store, ran on a 2G network and was exclusive to the AT&T network. Her friends bought it for an estimated $499-$599. LCG Auctions, which is selling the unopened phone, set the initial bidding price at $2,500. It has received two bids so far. The auction is open until February 19. This is not the first time that a first-release iPhone is being auctioned. One was sold for $35,414 and another for $39,339 last year — both by LCG. Last year, Steve Jobs’s original Apple-1 Computer prototype from the 1970s was sold for more than $677,000. Several such devices are poised to become high-value collectibles in the future. Just save it, keep it unopened and you might just win yourself a fortune.

Bot speak

ChatGPT was launched earlier this year and has been used to perform tasks like writing essays, movie scripts, letters, performance reviews, Airbnb reviews and more. “Its ability to generate human-like text based on input context has numerous real-world applications and has shown impressive results in various tasks such as content generation, conversational AI, and question-answering. Its ability to generate high-quality text quickly and accurately reduces the time needed to complete these tasks, freeing up time for more important work.” In fact, the above paragraph was written by ChatGPT based on my prompt. Like all technology, it has a dark side. For instance, it does not know how to differentiate between true and false and will produce misinformation. Fast Company tested how the chatbot handles performance reviews and the results were both sexist and racist. Schools are also concerned about students handing in AI-written essays and papers.

Unique show

Along with MOMA and the Museum of Natural History, New York will now host the Museum of Failure. The exhibit joins the likes of similarly eccentric museums in the city such as the Museum of Ice Cream, Museum of Sex and others. The museum is described as a “unique exhibition of failed products and services from around the world,” and features nearly 160 items, including Colgate’s frozen lasagna, the Microsoft Zune, a competitor of the iPod, ‘Bic for her’ pens, Crystal Pepsi, Trump University and sprayon condoms. The concept was started in Sweden by Samuel West, who said that the idea was to highlight that failure is necessary for innovation. The exhibit will be in Brooklyn until May.


M&M’s, t he colourful candies that are every American’s favourite, have become entangled in a culture war. The brand revealed its latest advertising campaign, which is designed to empower women. Its new candy packaging wrapper has all female candy characters. Other M&M characters had been revamped as well — the high-heeled boots of the green M&M have been replaced with sneakers. Fox News went crazy saying the decision encourages China. Conservatives were miffed saying that the candy is going ‘woke.’

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