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 going on in the world of technology.
Generative AI is changing everything. But what happens after all the hype?
It was clear that OpenAI was on to something. In late 2021, a small team of researchers was playing around with a new version of OpenAI’s text-to-image model, DALL-E, an AI that converts short written descriptions into pictures: a fox painted by Van Gogh, perhaps, or a corgi made of pizza. They just needed to figure out how to use it.
No one could have predicted the success of this product. The rapid release of other generative model has generated hundreds of magazine covers and newspaper headlines. It also filled social media with memes and sparked a massive hype machine that triggered an intense backlash from creators.
The exciting truth is that we don’t know what’s next. This tech will not only have an impact on the creative industries, but it will also give everyone creative superpowers. It could be used to create designs for almost any product in the long-term. These models don’t know what they are doing. Read more .
–Will Douglas Heaven
This story is part of our upcoming 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023 series. The full list will be available to download readers in January.
Sam Altman, OpenAI’s CEO, tells Will Douglas Heaven, our senior AI editor, what he’s learned from DALL-E 2, and what the model means for society. Read the complete story .
Coming soon: A new report from MIT Technology Review about how industrial design and engineering firms are using generative AI. Sign up and you’ll be notified when it is available.
Artists can now opt out of the next version of Stable Diffusion
What’s happened: Artists are now able to opt out of the next version of one of the world’s most popular text-to-image AI generators, Stable Diffusion, the company behind it announced. You can search the website HaveIBeenTrained to find the works of creators in the data set used to train Stable Diffusion. Then, you can choose which works to be excluded from the training data.
Why it’s important This decision is made amid heated public debate between tech companies and artists over how text-to image AI models should be trained. The website was created by a couple of artists who hope that the opt out service will temporarily compensate the lack of legislation in the sector. Read the full story.
Mind-altering substances are being overhyped as wonder drugs
For the past five years or so, barely a week has gone by without a study, comment, or press release about the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs. There is a growing interest among academics, therapists, companies, and others in the potential for psychedelics such as psilocybin or LSD to treat mental-health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use disorders, and other disorders.
The reputation of psychedelics has been through something of a rollercoaster ride over the last 70 years or so. They went from creating excitement to instilling fear, mistrust, and then experiencing a recent revival. But despite the current excitement, the truth is we don’t yet have evidence that psychedelics really are going to change health care, leading to concerns that psychedelics research is “trapped in a hype bubble.” Read the full story.
Jessica’s story is from The Checkup, her weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Twitter is suspending journalists’ accounts
The common thread is that they’ve 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. (TechCrunch)
So much for Musk’s commitment to free speech. (Vox)
Musk said he’d never ban the @elonjet account as recently as last month. (Motherboard)
It’s still easy to track the jet’s whereabouts, as the data is public. (Insider $)
2 A stealth effort to bury wood for carbon removal has just raised millions
If the trial is successful, it could be a relatively easy and easy way of reducing greenhouse gasses. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Bitcoin enthusiasts are crowing about FTX’s downfall
Even though bitcoin itself took a major hit. (Slate $)
NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has denied any involvement with FTX. (Insider $)
4 Bio-based plastics are still plastics
Switching to plastics made from plant-extracted carbon could allow the industry to greenwash the process. (Wired $)
5 Streaming isn’t exciting anymore
There’s not as much money sloshing around, and Netflix et al don’t want to take risks in the same way they once did. (The Verge)
Mass-appeal shows are de rigueur now. (Insider $)
6 Changes in a child’s microbiome can induce fear
It could affect how they experience anxiety and depression in later life. (Neo.Life)
7 How online shopping tries to trick you
Pressuring shoppers into making quick decisions is at the heart of it. (Vox)
Ads for ads is the latest thing on TikTok. (FT $)
TV ads are getting more meta, too. (The Atlantic $)
8 Gen Z is going back to the tech dark ages
They’re reshaping what it is to be a Luddite in the digital age. (NYT $)
9 TikTok wants to rehabilitate pigeons’ bad reputation
But taking in wild birds off the street is still a bad idea. (The Atlantic $)
How to befriend a crow. (MIT Technology Review)
10 Strength training in older age pays off
It’s never too late to start–and it can help to maintain independence for longer. (Knowable Magazine)
Quote of the day
“It seems like he’s just trying to scare me and it’s not going to work. “
–Jack Sweeney, the college student who tracks Elon Musk’s private jet on Twitter using publicly available data, tells Insider why he’s refusing to be shaken by Musk’s announcement he was suing Sweeney.
The big story
How to mend your broken pandemic brain
Americans are slowly coming out of the pandemic, but as they reemerge, there’s still a lot of trauma to process. Our brains have also changed. Not only have our families, communities, or jobs changed, but so have our brains. We are not the same people as we were.
During the winter of 2020, more than 40% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, double the rate of the previous year. Despite this falling rate, the number of Americans suffering from mental illness increased as covid cases declined and vaccination rates rose. The question is: Can our brains be changed back? How can we help them to do that? Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )
Here’s how to avoid succumbing to hanger.
If adrenaline-inducing footage is your thing, GoPro Heroes will be right up your street.
A no-bake raspberry cheesecake sounds like minimal fuss, maximum enjoyment.
These fairytale homes look so inviting.
We’ve finally solved the mystery of why prehistoric patterns were carved into the Middle Eastern desert.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.