“Oh, my dear human, I have some juicy news for you…” So says Grok, X’s (formerly Twitter’s) new Chatbot set to rival ChatGPT or Google’s Bard. That was Grok’s opening sentence on being asked about the recent infamous bankruptcy of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX cryptocurrency platform, and the owner’s subsequent prosecution and trial by US federal agencies for wire fraud and a host of other charges.
“The jury took just eight hours to figure out…that [Bankman-Fried] committed garden variety fraud. It’s a wild ride, isn’t it?”
Many folks might find a sarcastic and engaging Chatbot like Grok to be a welcome change from Chat GPT’s rather sterile matter-of-fact answers. But whatever you think of Chatbots, whether you might use them for academic research or creating marketing copy, they’re here to stay, as is the artificial intelligence (AI) behind them.
And there’s the slightly worrying part. Elon Musk, Tesla owner and X proprietor, attended an AI summit in London just last week. The event was chaired by UK prime minister Rishi Sunak – where Musk said that AI could pose an existential threat to human beings as a species if certain safeguards weren’t followed in AI development. That’s akin to a manufacturer of nuclear reactors telling the world: ‘be careful, because if the price is right, we can make nuclear bombs rather than power stations…’
But, for now, rather than an apocalyptic Terminator movie scenario ‘The Rise of the Machines’, we seem to have machines ‘taking the rise’ out of humans with their inherent programmed irony!
In the short to medium term, perhaps we have more pressing problems than being hunted down by killer robots. Rather, the internet baddies who create spyware and ransomware may well be using AI to spawn ways of bypassing our computer firewalls and virus protection. But the good news is that wherever you live, a 1Click VPN could keep you safe from all those online nasties. But what is a VPN and how does it work?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network – it places an encrypted third party ‘middleman’ server, provided by the VPN company, between a person’s internet connected device and their regular internet service provider (ISP). In plain speaking, it means that when you log on to your ISP via your router, the VPN server places a barrier between you and your ISP, so they don’t know who you are or where you’re located. Neither do hackers and online pirates. It’s this anonymity and location cloaking that offers several advantages to the VPN user. Let’s look at a couple of VPN benefits.
Better connection speeds
Rather than slowing down a user’s internet connection, a VPN can considerably help to increase speeds if an ISP decides to ‘throttle’ customers’ internet connections. This can happen either to individual customers or entire geographic regions, depending on the reason for the ISP’s throttling. In the former case, an example might be a shared house of three professionals working from home (WFH) in the creative industries. Imagine a game designer, video editor and a graphics specialist all using the same router to transfer files. Regardless of their types of devices, Chromebook, iOS or Windows, In the evening they’re all streaming TV shows and movies from different platforms. That’s gigabytes, probably terabytes, of data each day being processed by their ISP on a domestic contract. Such usage will almost certainly go beyond the ISP’s ‘fair usage’ policy. In that case, the ISP will slow (throttle) that building’s internet connection speed to a crawl to prevent the excessive data usage, prompting the customers to upgrade their contract to a more expensive business package. But by using a VPN, the ISP can’t know the IP address (i.e., location) of the data hungry household, nor their customer ID. Throttling becomes impossible.
In the case of an entire region or city being throttled, this can happen when major sporting or political events occur, and everyone in a given area turns on their computer, perhaps to stream footage of their local NFL team. Again, a VPN means that the customer is hidden from the location-finding software of the ISP, so the VPN user can’t be throttled, even though their neighbors in the same street would be.
Watching your favorite TV shows or movies when traveling.
If a VPN user takes their device on holiday to a different country or continent, they may well encounter difficulty when attempting to watch content they would normally view at home.
Imagine a UK resident going on holiday to Portugal. They want to catch up on the BBC evening news using the UK’s iPlayer streaming platform. But the iPlayer blocks any access from outside the British Isles by determining the user’s IP address. The simple strategy to avoid this blockage is to use a VPN server located in the UK. In this case, the VPN logs on to the iPlayer from a UK based server, so the holidaymaker in Lisbon can be, for all intents and purposes, located in London.
There are too many benefits to using a VPN to outline here, from avoiding dynamic pricing (in short, saving money when online shopping) to not falling foul of hackers by eschewing their crafty creation of phantom public Wi-Fi. But the simple message is that a VPN can improve security and bring other benefits to users without any downsides. It’s really a no-brainer – stay safe, stay connected and the only thing you’ll need to worry about is being bored to tears by ChatGPT or verbally teased by sarcastic Chatbots like Grok!