The Download: Generative AI and psychedelic hype
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
Generative AI changes everything. But what’s left when the hype is gone?
It was clear OpenAI was onto something. In late 2021, a small team of researchers was playing with a new version of OpenAI’s text-to-image model, DALL-E, an AI that converts short written descriptions into images: a fox painted by Van Gogh, perhaps, or a corgi made of pizza. Now they just had to figure out what to do with it.
No one could have predicted how sensational this product was going to be. The rapid release of other generative models inspired hundreds of newspaper headlines and magazine covers, filled social media with memes, kicked a hype machine into overdrive, and sparked an intense response from creators.
The exciting truth is that we don’t really know what’s next. While the creative industries will feel the impact first, this technology will give creative superpowers to everyone. Longer term, it could be used to generate designs for almost anything. The problem is that these models still have no idea what they are doing. Read the full story.
—Will Douglas Heaven
This story is part of our upcoming Series 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023. Download readers will be the first to see the full list in January.
+ OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tells Will Douglas Heaven, our AI Editor, what he learned from DALL-E 2 and what the model means for the company. Read the full story.
Coming soon: a new report from MIT Technology Review on how industrial design and engineering companies are using generative AI. Sign up to be notified when it’s released.
Artists can now opt out of the next version of Stable Diffusion
What happened: Artists can now opt out of the next version of one of the world’s most popular text-to-image AI generators, Stable Diffusion, the company originally announced. Creators can search a website called HaveIBeenTrained for their jobs in the dataset that was used to train Stable Diffusion, and select the jobs they want to exclude from the training data.
Why it matters: The decision comes amid a heated public debate between artists and tech companies over how text-to-image AI models should be trained. The artistic couple who created the site hope that the opt-out service will temporarily compensate for the lack of legislation governing the sector. Read the full story.
Mind-altering substances are overhyped as miracle drugs
In the past five years or so, hardly a week has passed without a study, commentary, or press release about the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs. A growing number of academics, therapists and corporations are taking an interest in the potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD to treat mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and mood-related disorders. substance use, to name a few.
The reputation of psychedelics has been on something of a rollercoaster over the past 70 years or so. They have gone from generating excitement, to instilling fear and mistrust, to experiencing a recent renaissance. But despite the current excitement, the truth is that we don’t yet have evidence that psychedelics will really change healthcare, raising fears that psychedelic research is “trapped in a hype bubble.” . Read the full story.
Jessica’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly biotechnology newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Twitter suspends journalists’ accounts
The common thread is that they all reported on Elon Musk’s decision to suspend an account that tracks his private jet. (The Guardian)
+ The account of rival platform Mastodon has also been suspended. (Tech Crunch)
+ So much for Musk’s commitment to free speech. (voice)
+ Musk said he would never ban the @elonjet account as recently as last month. (Motherboard)
+ It’s always easy to track the whereabouts of the jet, as the data is public. (Initiate $)
2 A Stealthy Effort To Bury Wood To Remove Carbon Just Raised Millions
If the trial is successful, it could be a relatively simple and easy way to reduce greenhouse gases. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Bitcoin Enthusiasts Sing of FTX’s Downfall
Even though bitcoin itself took a major hit. (Slate $)
+ NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has denied any involvement with FTX. (Initiate $)
4 Bio-based plastics remain plastics
Switching to plastics made from carbon extracted from plants could allow industry to green the process. (Wired $)
5 Streaming is no longer exciting
There’s not as much money lying around, and Netflix et al don’t want to take risks the way they used to. (The edge)
+ Massive emissions are now de rigueur. (Initiate $)
6 Changes In A Child’s Microbiome Can Induce Fear
This could affect how they experience anxiety and depression later in life. (Neo.Life)
7 How Online Shopping Tries To Trick You
Pressuring buyers to make quick decisions is at the heart of it all. (voice)
+ Ads for ads are the latest thing on TikTok. (FT$)
+ TV commercials are also getting more meta. (Atlantic $)
8th Gen Z returns to the dark ages of tech
They are reshaping what it is to be a Luddite in the digital age. (NYT$)
9 TikTok wants to rehabilitate the bad reputation of pigeons
But capturing wild birds on the street is always a bad idea. (Atlantic $)
+ How to befriend a crow. (MIT Technology Review)
10 Strength training in old age pays off
It’s never too late to start, and it can help maintain your independence for longer. (Knowing Magazine)
quote of the day
“Looks like he’s just trying to scare me and it won’t work.”
—Jack Sweeney, the college student who tracks Elon Musk’s private jet on Twitter using publicly available data, tells Insider why he refuses to be shaken by Musk’s announcement that he was suing Sweeney.
The big story
How to Fix Your Broken Pandemic Brain
Americans are slowly coming out of the pandemic, but as they reemerge there is still a lot of trauma to process. It’s not just our families, our communities and our jobs that have changed; our brain has also changed. We are no longer the same people we were.
During the winter of 2020, more than 40% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, double the rate from the previous year. Although that dropped the following summer as vaccination rates rose and covid cases declined, many Americans are still struggling with their mental health. Now the question is, can our brain go back? And how can we help them do that? Read the full story.
We can still have beautiful things
A place of comfort, pleasure and distraction in these strange times. (Have ideas? Send me a message ortweet them to me.)
+ Here’s how to avoid succumbing to the hanger.
+ If you love adrenaline-pumping images, GoPro Heroes is the perfect match for you.
+ A no-bake raspberry cheesecake sounds like minimum fuss, maximum fun.
+ These fairy tale houses look so inviting.
+ We have finally solved the mystery of why prehistoric patterns were carved in the desert of the Middle East.
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