WTF Fun Fact 13501 – Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe Lawsuit

The Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe lawsuit is a sinister and embarrassing moment in tech history – one that the corporate giants had to pay for.

In the early 2010s, it came to light that some of these tech giants were involved in secret anti-poaching agreements. Leading companies like Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe had clandestine arrangements not to hire each other’s employees. This essentially froze salaries by eliminating the competition for top talent. What ensued was a scandal and a class action lawsuit that exposed the dark side of Silicon Valley.

The Roots of the Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe Lawsuit

The roots of the issue began with individual agreements. The earliest known pact was between Pixar and Lucasfilm in 1986, which agreed not to poach each other’s employees and to cap wages. Yet, by the 2000s, other Silicon Valley heavyweights had entered into similar agreements. Google and Apple had their secret deal, as did Google and Intel, Google and Intuit, and so on.

These agreements were not merely handshake deals. Emails and written correspondence showed the top executives of these companies actively reinforcing the non-poaching pacts. For instance, an email from Steve Jobs to Sergey Brin explicitly warned Google against recruiting Apple’s team.

The effect of these agreements was suppressed wage growth for employees. As a result, engineers, developers, and other tech professionals were unknowingly restricted in their career opportunities. Without the ability to get counter-offers or even entertain offers from a significant portion of the leading companies, many employees lost out on potential salary hikes, better positions, and more promising career trajectories.

The Class Action Lawsuit

In 2011, the issue reached a critical point. Over 64,000 employees filed a class-action lawsuit against Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar. The suit claimed that these companies conspired to eliminate competition for skilled labor, thus suppressing wage growth.

The plaintiffs alleged that the lost wages due to this collusion amounted to billions of dollars. To back their claims, they pointed to emails and other communications between CEOs like Steve Jobs of Apple and Eric Schmidt of Google, which showed that these leaders were actively enforcing these agreements.

Regulatory Scrutiny and Settlement of The Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe Lawsuit

The Department of Justice (DOJ) took notice of these agreements. In 2010, they announced a settlement with six of these companies. As per the settlement, the companies agreed to a prohibition against engaging in any anti-poaching agreements for a duration of five years. However, the DOJ’s settlement didn’t provide any compensation to the affected employees. This is what led to the class action lawsuit in 2011.

After a series of legal processes, in 2014, the companies tried to settle the lawsuit for $324.5 million. However, this amount was rejected by the judge for being too low. As a result, in 2015, the companies increased their offer and agreed to a settlement of $415 million, which employees eventually accepted.

Reflection and Legacy

The unfolding of this scandal delivered a pivotal lesson about the necessity of ethical corporate practices.

The power that these tech titans wield, in terms of shaping industry dynamics and affecting the lives of thousands of professionals, was laid bare. As behemoths in the technological realm, their actions have vast repercussions, and the anti-poaching agreements betrayed the trust many had placed in them.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Tech Giants Will Pay $415 Million To Settle Employees’ Lawsuit” — All Tech Considered

WTF Fun Fact 13492 – Information Seeking Behavior

Normally, when we think of smartphone addiction, we think of video games or social media, but information-seeking behavior, such as constantly scrolling through the news, can be hazardous to your health as well.

In our digital age, many people often hear notifications, see never-ending news feeds, and feel the pull to browse news apps daily. This behavior ties into our brain chemistry. Dopamine, a key neurotransmitter, drives our desire to seek information and rewards.

The Role of Dopamine in Information-Seeking Behavior

People often call dopamine the “feel-good” chemical. But it’s better to think of it as a messenger for reward-seeking, motivation, and pleasure. When we experience something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine. This makes us want to repeat that action.

In the past, dopamine helped us survive. For instance, when our ancestors found food or water, a dopamine rush would push them to keep searching for these essentials.

Why We Seek Information

As societies evolved, so did our dopamine triggers. Now, our brain doesn’t only release dopamine for physical rewards but also for intangible ones like information. Discovering new information gives our brain a dopamine boost. Historically, this made sense. Early humans needed new knowledge for survival, like learning about potential dangers.

Today, each piece of news or an article can trigger dopamine, making us crave more. It’s like how we yearn for food or other activities that make us feel good.

Smartphones: Dopamine Machines

Smartphones and apps capitalize on our dopamine system. Every swipe or notification can be a dopamine rush. The element of surprise—whether the next swipe reveals a meme, a news update, or a message—boosts our dopamine even more.

This unpredictability mirrors slot machines. You never know when you’ll hit the jackpot, making you play more. Likewise, not knowing what the next notification holds keeps us glued to our screens.

However, too much dopamine has its downsides. Over time, frequent dopamine hits from constant scrolling can dull our response. Like how drug users need more drugs over time, we might need more screen time or new information for the same dopamine kick.

This never-ending search for information can overload us. We might struggle to understand or remember what we read. We can even feel mentally exhausted.

Balancing Out Information Seeking Behavior

Knowing dopamine’s role in our online habits can help us use tech wisely. Here’s how:

  • Set Limits: Designate times for browsing news or social media. This reduces the impulse to always check for news.
  • Take Digital Breaks: Stepping away from screens occasionally can help reset our brain’s dopamine response.
  • Choose Wisely: Don’t just scroll. Engage deeply with a few key topics.
  • Control Notifications: Fewer non-urgent notifications mean fewer urges to check your device.

Our relationship with dopamine and information seeking shines a light on our tech habits. Technology offers us endless information, but understanding the dopamine effect helps us use it wisely. By realizing how our brains work in this digital era, we can enjoy tech without letting it control us.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop” — Psychology Today

WTF Fun Fact 13487 – Happy Couples Post Less on Social Media

We’re all familiar with that couple who constantly posts pictures of their romantic getaways, perfect dinners, and seemingly idyllic moments – but a study showed that happy couples post less on social media.

It appears that couples who frequently share selfies and other relationship-related content on social media platforms aren’t living quite the life they claim to be. Go figure.

The Study and Its Findings

An online photography platform, Shotkit, conducted an intriguing study involving over 2,000 individuals aged between 18 to 50. The participants were asked to rate their relationship’s overall happiness, intimacy, communication, and trust. They were also asked about their frequency of sharing relationship-related content on social media.

The study revealed that couples who posted three or more selfies per week were, on average, 128% less happy compared to those who refrained from broadcasting their relationship on the internet. In fact, only 10% of frequent social media sharers categorized themselves as “very happy.”

In contrast, nearly half (46%) of those who don’t publicize their relationships online perceived themselves as happier. The unhappiest group was couples who posted more than three times a week, with merely 32% classifying their relationship as “happy” or “very happy.”

Reasons Happy Couples Post Less on Social Media

This study’s findings hint at potential underlying issues. One compelling inference is that trust issues could be prompting couples to post more frequently on social media. The main reason identified for couples sharing their relationship online was to signify that they or their partner were ‘taken.’

Interestingly, the top three reasons why couples refrained from sharing their relationships online were: “privacy,” “embarrassment,” and being “not regular social media users.”

Of course, not all social media sharing is detrimental but hinted at the danger of overdoing it.

The results suggest a potent social media paradox. In a world where social platforms allow us to share our lives with a broader audience, we might unknowingly be sacrificing the intimacy and privacy that nourish a truly fulfilling relationship.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Happy Couples Post Their Partner Less on Social Media” — Relevant

WTF Fun Fact 13484 – Robots That Feel

Robots that feel?! Ok, no. We don’t mean robots that have feelings. We mean robots that have a “sense” of touch. Or at the very least robots programmed not to crush things they pick up. That’s still progress!

The modern robotics field is continuously pushing the boundaries of technology and automation. As a part of this ongoing exploration, scientists from the Queen Mary University of London, alongside their international colleagues from China and USA, have developed an innovative, affordable sensor called the L3 F-TOUCH. This unique invention enhances a robot’s tactile abilities, granting it a human-like sense of touch.

Robots That Feel Thanks to the L3 F-TOUCH Sensor

A principal objective in robotics has been achieving human-level dexterity, specifically during manipulation and grasping tasks. The human hand’s ability to sense factors such as pressure, temperature, texture, and pain, in addition to distinguishing objects based on properties like shape, size, and weight, has set the standard.

Until now, many robot hands or graspers have fallen short, lacking these vital haptic capabilities. As you might imagine, this makes handling objects a complicated task. Robots’ fingers lack the “feel of touch,” resulting in objects slipping away or being unintentionally crushed if fragile. And that’s not something we want if we’re ever going to let them work with people, like the elderly.

Mechanics and Functionality

Leading the groundbreaking study, Professor Kaspar Althoefer of Queen Mary University of London and his team, introduces the L3 F-TOUCH. The name stands for Lightweight, Low-cost, and wireless communication. It’s a high-resolution fingertip sensor that directly measures an object’s geometry and the forces necessary to interact with it.

This sensor sets itself apart from others in its league that estimate interaction forces via camera-acquired tactile information. The L3 F-TOUCH takes a direct approach, achieving a higher measurement accuracy.

Professor Althoefer and his team plan to further enhance the sensor’s capabilities. They aim to add rotational forces such as twists, vital in tasks like screw fastening.

These advancements could extend the sense of touch to more dynamic and agile robots, improving their functionality in manipulation tasks and even in human-robot interaction settings, such as patient rehabilitation or physical support for the elderly.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Researchers develop low-cost sensor to enhance robots’ sense of touch” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13482 – GPT-3 Reasoning Skills

Research from UCLA psychologists has discovered a surprising new contender in our analogical reasoning battles – the artificial intelligence language model, GPT-3. Apparently, it holds its own against college undergraduates on reasoning problems typical of intelligence tests and the SAT.

But it fails to answer a key question: Is GPT-3 merely parroting human reasoning, or has it stumbled onto a brand-new cognitive process? (And, does this research say more about technology, college students, or intelligence tests?!)

Humans vs GPT-3

OpenAI holds GPT-3’s secrets under tight wraps, so they aren’t going to be much help in figuring out how the algorithm works its “magic.” Despite the mystery, the UCLA researchers found that GPT-3 outperformed their expectations on some tasks. Yet, other tasks saw it crash and burn.

Despite its ability to embarrass some college students, the study’s first author, Taylor Webb, emphasized GPT-3’s limitations. While it excels at analogical reasoning, it fails spectacularly at tasks simple for humans, like using tools to solve physical problems.

Webb and his colleagues tested GPT-3 on problems inspired by Raven’s Progressive Matrices. They translated the visual problems into text and gave the same problems to 40 UCLA undergraduate students.

Not only did GPT-3 perform as well as humans, but it also made similar mistakes.

What the Study Results Mean

GPT-3 solved 80% of the problems correctly, while the human average score was below 60%. The team then tested GPT-3 with SAT analogy questions they believed had never been on the internet (which would mean they weren’t part of the GPT training data). Again, GPT-3 outperformed the average college applicant’s score (then again, we know these tests aren’t really a measure of intelligence).

However, when the researchers tested the program against student volunteers on analogy problems based on short stories, GPT-3 struggled.

And tasks that require understanding physical space continue to baffle the so-called “artificial intelligence.”

“No matter how impressive our results, it’s important to emphasize that this system has major limitations,” said Taylor Webb, the study’s first author. “It can do analogical reasoning, but it can’t do things that are very easy for people, such as using tools to solve a physical task. When we gave it those sorts of problems — some of which children can solve quickly — the things it suggested were nonsensical.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “GPT-3 can reason about as well as a college student, psychologists report” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13468 – The Streisand Effect

The term “Streisand Effect” may sound like it’s tied to some groundbreaking scientific discovery, but it’s actually named after the famous American singer and actress, Barbra Streisand. The term was coined in 2005 and refers to an unexpected and counter-intuitive social phenomenon where efforts to suppress or censor information backfire, leading to the unintended consequence of the information being widely publicized and shared even more than before.

2. The Origin Story

The Streisand Effect was named after an incident involving Barbra Streisand in 2003. A photographer named Kenneth Adelman had taken aerial shots of the California coastline for the California Coastal Records Project. He intended to document coastal erosion. One of these photographs included Streisand’s Malibu home. Despite the image being among 12,000 others and not specifically identifying her home, Streisand sued Adelman and the associated website for $50 million. She asserted that the photo violated her privacy rights.

However, Streisand’s efforts to maintain her privacy unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. Prior to the lawsuit, the picture had only been downloaded from Adelman’s website six times; two of those downloads were by Streisand’s lawyers. After the lawsuit became public, the photograph gained widespread attention, receiving over 420,000 views in the following month.

3. Examples of The Streisand Effect in Action

Since the original incident, the Streisand Effect has occurred multiple times, especially in the digital age where information spreads quickly.

In 2008, a blog post detailing weaknesses in the Church of Scientology’s operations resulted in a takedown notice from the Church. Instead of disappearing, the information proliferated across other sites, leading to more awareness and criticism of the Church.

In 2009, the UK law firm Carter-Ruck tried to suppress a report about its client Trafigura, a commodity trading company involved in a toxic waste scandal. A gag order initially prevented The Guardian from reporting on the issue. A judge lifted the order after intense public outcry and online sharing of the information.

The Power of the Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect highlights the immense power of the internet and social media in the spread of information. It also illustrates the backlash that can result from attempts to suppress it. The digital age has shifted control over information from those with traditional power (like celebrities, corporations, governments) to the broader public.

This phenomenon raises important considerations for public figures, companies, and institutions in how they handle potentially damaging information. Attempting to suppress such information can often make matters worse. It can even cause more harm to a reputation than ignoring it or addressed it openly.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “How Barbra Streisand Inspired the ‘Streisand Effect'” — Mental Floss

WTF Fun Fact 13467 – The Baghdad Battery

When we think about the birth of electricity, names like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla might come to mind. But if we venture even further back in time, we stumble upon a curious artifact known as the Baghdad Battery.

This ancient piece, found in the vicinity of modern-day Iraq and believed to date back to the Parthian or Sassanid era (between 225 BC and AD 650), challenges our understanding of technological development. It’s a story that connects the ancient world with our modern one in a fascinating tale of science and history.

Discovery of the Baghdad Battery

The story of the Baghdad Battery begins in 1936. German archaeologist Wilhelm König discovered a set of 12 peculiar artifacts in the basement of the National Museum of Iraq. The artifacts, assumed to be about 2,000 years old, consisted of terracotta pots with a copper cylinder and a single iron rod inside.

Each “battery” was about 14 cm high, with a one-inch-wide mouth. The copper cylinder, carefully soldered with a 60-40 lead-tin alloy, encapsulated the iron rod. Evidence of an acidic residue such as vinegar or wine in some of the pots led König to propose that these were ancient electric cells.

The theory suggests that when the jars were filled with an electrolytic solution (like vinegar or lemon juice), they produced a potential difference between the copper and the iron — about 1.1 volts. This setup is remarkably similar to a basic school experiment to create a simple voltaic cell.

The primary controversy lies in the purpose of these devices. Some researchers propose that these ancient cells powered electroplating objects with gold. Others suggest a more spiritual role, possibly linked to pain relief. The sensation of a mild electric shock could have been interpreted as a divine intervention or magical experience.

Debates and Controversies

The theory of the Baghdad Battery as a tool for electroplating or electrotherapy is not without its critics. Skeptics argue that there’s no recorded evidence that ancient people had knowledge of electricity. Furthermore, there is no evidence of wires, conductors, or additional devices that could demonstrate a practical application for this alleged ancient technology.

Another point of contention lies in the design. If the intent was to generate an electric current, the iron rod would have quickly corroded due to the acidic solution. However, some of the recovered artifacts still have uncorroded iron rods, suggesting they might never have been used as proposed.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Was the Baghdad Battery really a battery?” — BBC Science Focus

WTF Fun Fact 13459 – Sausage Vending Machine

How would you feel about grabbing your lunch out of a sausage vending machine? It sounds dubious, but convenient!

The Sausage Vending Machine in Germany

You can find all sorts of oddities in vending machines around the world: cupcakes, pizza, even live crabs. However, in Germany, a new trend has emerged that satisfies late-night cravings in a distinctly German way: vending machines that sell sausages and other barbecue meats.

According to a survey by the German Press Agency, these machines are booming outside German cities where shops tend to keep shorter business hours. The convenience of 24/7 access to traditional German cuisine is proving popular, particularly in rural areas.

Satisfying Off-Hour Cravings

“Hearty German fare at the drop of a coin. There is a strong development towards the vending machine, which is used to deliver meat, milk, eggs, and other products to customers outside of core opening times,” says industry spokesperson Heike Richter.

From bratwurst to bockwurst, sausage varieties fill these innovative machines alongside punnets of potato salad for a full, traditional German meal. But the culinary offerings don’t stop at sausages. Some vending machines also stock eggs, milk, butter, and even fruits and vegetables, ensuring that all kitchen essentials are available at any time.

Vending Machine Convenience

With over 570,000 vending machines in Germany, this mode of selling has become a familiar sight. Yet, despite their popularity and convenience, vending machines are not expected to replace traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

“Vending machines will play a complementary role in brick-and-mortar retailing,” Wolfgang Kampmeier of the Berlin-Brandenburg trade association tells the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

The machines’ real advantage lies in their ability to operate in areas where maintaining a full-service shop may not be economically viable. This way, they ensure that even in structurally weak, rural areas, residents can have access to fresh, wholesome food around the clock.

International Inspiration

Germany’s innovative use of the sausage vending machine may remind some of Japan, where vending machines have long been part of the landscape, selling everything from sake to underwear. Germany, however, has tailored this idea to its own culinary tradition, providing an on-demand service that satisfies its citizens’ penchant for hearty, homestyle cooking.

The German sausage vending machine trend illustrates how traditional cuisine can merge with modern technology, offering an unusual yet effective solution for late-night cravings and daily necessities alike. Whether it’s a bockwurst at midnight or a quick breakfast on the go, Germans have discovered an innovative way to keep their favorite foods at their fingertips 24/7.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Sausage vending machines booming in Germany

WTF Fun Fact 13458 – Taxidermied Bird Drones

Researchers often look to nature for inspiration when designing machines and devices – now scientists from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology are taking this concept a step further, building taxidermied bird drones.

Why use taxidermy bird drones?

The idea might seem disturbing or bizarre at first. A decade ago, a Dutch artist, Bart Jansen, had stirred conversation by turning a deceased, taxidermied cat into a furry quadcopter. However, the researchers from New Mexico Tech have a practical reason for their unique approach to creating ornithopters—drones that fly by flapping their wings like a bird.

Their aim is to harness the flight capabilities of birds whose lightweight bodies and flexible feathers give them remarkable maneuverability that outmatches the most sophisticated aircraft we’ve built.

According to a study presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech 2023 Forum, using actual bird parts can offer significant advantages over artificial materials engineered to mimic bird behavior.

The researchers believe that their bird-built drones can effectively camouflage in the air, being more likely to be ignored due to their realistic appearance. These drones may not excel in performing complex aerial maneuvers like a living bird, but they could become an essential tool in espionage or wildlife study.

From stealth to espionage

One unique advantage of using bird feathers in these taxidermied bird drones is the stealth capabilities they offer. Unlike the noticeable hum of an electric motor propelling a typical drone, a bird drone with flapping feathered wings could potentially sneak up on targets quietly without alarming them. This would be particularly useful in studying and observing wildlife in their natural habitats, without disturbing their normal behaviors. Military applications could also benefit from the stealth properties of these feathered drones, providing an innovative approach to surveillance and reconnaissance.

The current bird-built drones, however, have limitations. Unlike real birds that use their muscles to flex and shape their wings for executing intricate aerial maneuvers, these drones can only flap their stiff wings up and down to stay airborne. The challenge for the researchers lies in advancing the technology to imbue their bird drones with greater agility in flight.

The research from New Mexico Tech presents an intriguing intersection of biology and technology, pushing the boundaries of how we perceive and utilize drones. As they continue to refine their design, these bird-built drones could revolutionize areas from espionage to wildlife observation. Yet, ethical considerations, including the use of taxidermied birds, will undoubtedly be part of the ongoing discourse as this technology evolves.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Researchers Are Turning Taxidermied Birds Into Drones” — Gizmodo