The download: objectification of the AI and loaded SBF
This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the tech world.
The viral AI avatar app Lensa stripped me naked, without my consent
When Melissa Heikkilä, our senior AI reporter, tried out the new viral AI avatar app Lensa, she was hoping for similar results to other MIT Technology Review colleagues, who got realistic yet flattering avatars – think to astronauts and fierce warriors. Instead, she got tons of nudes. Of the 100 avatars generated, 16 were topless, while another 14 depicted her in extremely skimpy clothing and overtly sexualized poses.
Melissa has Asian heritage. Many avatars were generic Asian women clearly modeled after characters from anime or video games, or, most likely, porn. Another colleague of Chinese descent got similar results: tons and tons of pornified avatars.
Lensa’s hypersexualization of Asian women is unfortunately not surprising. Its results are generated using Stable Diffusion, an AI model that relies on a massive open-source dataset compiled by scraping images from the internet. But the problem goes deeper than the training data. Read the full story.
What it’s like to be sexually objectified by an AI
You can read more of Melissa’s thoughts on Lensa’s avatars reflecting sexist and racist stereotypes in The Algorithm, her weekly AI newsletter. In it, she reflects on how it made her feel when the model made more realistic depictions of her when she told him she was male, and what the issues with Lensa tell us more broadly about life. ‘IA. Read the full story.
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I’ve scoured the internet to find you today’s funniest/important/scariest/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Sam Bankman-Fried Was Charged With Fraud
US authorities say the FTX founder’s plan was to defraud investors from the start. (The edge)
+ The parents of the Stanford Law School professor in Bankman-Fried are also under surveillance. (NYT$)
+ The US Department of Justice is split on whether to indict Binance as well. (Reuters)
+The followers of effective altruism are furious with the founder. (voice)
2 Unlimited clean energy could be on the horizon
The US Department of Energy is set to confirm that a fusion reaction has created a net energy gain for the first time today. (WP$)
+ Scientists have been trying to achieve this breakthrough for nearly 100 years. (Atlantic $)
3 Twitter disbanded its Trust and Safety Council
At a time when he probably needs it more than ever. (Tech Crunch)
+ Twitter plays with blue, gold and gray checkmarks, for some reason. (voice)
+ The company is auctioning off fancy chairs from its emptied headquarters. (Motherboard)
+ Twitter’s potential collapse could erase vast archives of recent human history. (MIT Technology Review)
4 CRISPR gene editing slowed Alizheimer’s progression in mice
If applied to humans, the technique may prove even more effective. (New Scientist $)
5 AI is looking for EV metals
In theory, this could make mining more efficient and less destructive. (Wired $)
+ Machine learning could dramatically speed up the search for new metals. (MIT Technology Review)
6 China prepares a bailout for its chip industry
$143 billion. (Reuters)
+ Beijing has filed a lawsuit against US restrictions on semiconductors. (WSJ$)
+ The European chip industry is still catching up. (FT$)
+ Corruption is sending shockwaves through China’s chipmaking industry. (MIT Technology Review)
7 India’s workers face a bleak future
Many people took the jobs as a last resort. Now they are stuck with them. (Rest of the world)
8 What it’s like to pretend to be an AI chatbot
In other words, a person pretending to be a computer pretending to be a person. (The Guardian)
9 The Pizza Rat video always makes money for its creator
Seven years after it originally went viral. (Initiate $)
10 The USB Drive Has A Surprisingly Dramatic Origin Story
Including patent litigation, falsification of accounts and a prison sentence. (IEEE Spectrum)
quote of the day
“FTX operated behind a veneer of legitimacy created by Mr. Bankman-Fried…that veneer was not only thin, it was fraudulent.”
—Gurbir Grewal, Director of the U.S. Law Enforcement Division, outlines the charges against Sam Bankman-Fried, ABC News reports.
The big story
Why it’s so hard to make technology more diverse
Tracy Chou has a long history of working to expose Silicon Valley’s diversity issues. As an engineer at Pinterest, she published a widely circulated blog post calling on tech companies to share data on the number of women working on their engineering team, and collected their responses in a public database that revealed how homogeneous many technical teams of the largest companies were still. .
About a year later, she started a company called Block Party that targets online harassment by giving Twitter users more control over which tweets appear in their feed and which tweets they mention.
Here, we check in with Chou, who is based in San Francisco, to learn more about what it takes to bring about change in the tech industry and what entrepreneurs like her face. 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.)
+ It’s cool, NASA is working on a robotic arm to withstand temperatures of minus 280 degrees.
+ Why Welsh-language music is booming right now—cwl!
+ The secret to becoming a better multitasker? To take notes.
+ How three intrepid women set a climbing record by climbing the Rayu route in northern Spain.
+ I need a bread warmer in all my radiators, stat.