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Code/red: Elon Musk Is Starting to Scare Me

Plus, why Apple's UnionPay deal is a big one, Spotify for dogs, treadmills for shrimp and Religious Vader.


Maybe Take the Blue Pill Next Time, Elon

Someone needs to take Elon Musk’s “Matrix” trilogy box set away from him and give him something more vanilla to watch — like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Over the weekend, the Tesla founder went on yet another artificial intelligence tirade, warning that reckless pursuit of true AI could lead to some unpleasant dystopian outcomes, and sooner than you’d think. “The pace of progress in artificial intelligence is incredibly fast,” Musk wrote in a now-deleted comment on an AI post at “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year time frame. 10 years at most.”

Another unsettling prediction in an ever-lengthening string. In the past year alone, Musk has warned that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes” and worried that humanity might become a “biological boot loader for digital superintelligence.” He has also described the search for artificial intelligence as “summoning the demon,” adding: “In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.” While Musk’s killer robot remarks might fit well with his “I want to die on Mars” persona, their increasing frequency does seem concerning. Remember, he was an early investor in AI firm DeepMind (acquired by Google) and more recently invested in Vicarious, a company trying to build a “computer that thinks like a person.” Makes you wonder just what the hell is going on over there that has so unsettled him, doesn’t it?

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Musk verified the authenticity of his remarks, but said they were sent to founder John Brockman via email and not intended for publication. “Elon will write a longer blog post on the topic later,” the spokesperson said.

Prospect of 4.5 Billion UnionPay Cards Linked to iTunes Accounts Has Apple Salivating

A victory for Apple in China, after a fall lousy with setbacks and awkward info security meetings in Beijing. On Monday morning, Apple said Chinese users could now use China UnionPay cards to make App Store purchases. Now that might seem like a middling announcement of little import, but it’s actually a pretty big deal. UnionPay has a near-monopoly on card payments in China. Indeed, Apple notes that more than 4.5 billion UnionPay cards have been issued in the country to date. Making it possible for the holders of those cards to now link their accounts to Apple IDs could do much to drive app purchases in what is already Apple’s second-largest market for them. More importantly, it could open the door for Apple Pay in China, which is almost certainly the endgame here.

Apple Pay Is Alipay With Just a Few More Letters

If Apple does bring Apple Pay to China, it would be in the company’s best interests to partner with Alibaba and its Alipay payment service. So says Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai, who tells the Wall Street Journal that Alipay as the back-end of Apple Pay in China would make a lot of sense. “If people want to use Apple Pay in China, Apple would have certain restrictions and limitations on operating payment businesses in China,” Tsai said. “So we are thinking whether there is any opportunity for us to work together where Apple Pay and Alipay can somehow work together in China. … We are positive about the potential cooperation, but it depends on the details being worked out.”

“Comcast Shrugged”? Sounds Like the Worst Ayn Rand Book Ever.

Mark Cuban: “If Ayn Rand were an up and coming author today, she wouldn’t write about steel or railroads, it would be net neutrality.”

Best We Can Tell, “Free Bird” Was Playing on Repeat When They Went Off the Cliff

Uber’s new deal with Spotify is only a few hours old and already the ride-hailing service’s drivers are complaining about it. Seems they’re not all that excited about the prospect of being forced to endure their passengers’ crappy Spotify playlists. Said one in a post to Uber driver forum “It’s hard enough to get the drunks home without being distracted by their perpetual disturbances and the times when one tolerates the music because of SURGE. But it is both highly distracting and annoying as all hell. Just a vehicle full of loud obnoxious drunks is punishment enough.”

Hence the Expression “To Go Bust”

Lily Kuo, Quartz: “Earlier this summer, a group of data crunchers looking at underwear sales at Alibaba came across a curious trend: Women who bought larger bra sizes also tended to spend more. Dividing intimate-apparel shoppers into four categories of spending power, analysts at the e-commerce giant found that 65 percent of women of cup size B fell into the ‘low’ spend category, while those of a size C or higher mostly fit into the ‘middle’ or higher group.”

Caveat: Only an Idiot Would Buy the Entire Russian Stock Market

Srinivasan Sivabalan, Bloomberg: “If you owned Apple and sold it, you could purchase the entire stock market of Russia, and still have enough change to buy every Russian an iPhone 6 Plus.”

Good Job,!

First the United States Postal Service. Then the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and some unclassified computer systems at the White House. Now the State Department’s email system appears to have been breached as well. On Sunday the agency temporarily shut down its unclassified email system and portions of its website after noticing some “activity of concern” on its network and told duty officers to use Gmail accounts until it was resolved.

Tonight’s Special: Shrimp Scampering

Pacific University professor David Scholnick: “My name is David, and I am the marine biologist who put a shrimp on a treadmill — a burden I will forever carry. To be clear, the treadmill did not cost millions of taxpayer dollars, the goal of the research was not to exercise shrimp, and the government did not pay me — or anyone else — to work out shrimp on treadmills.”

Oh God. You Poor, Poor Uber Drivers …

Ben Richmond, Motherboard: “There’s a surprising number of albums on Spotify that are marketed to dogs. I don’t know how many there are in total, but I can confidently say the number is surprising, since there is more than none.”

Off Topic

Religious Vader and Super Bad Mario.

Thanks for reading. Send tips, comments, Off Topics and rocket-powered bicycles to, @johnpaczkowski. Subscribe to the Code/red newsletter here.

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