This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekly newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the world of technology.
Generative artificial intelligence is changing everything. But what remains when the hype is gone?
It was clear that OpenAI was on to something. In late 2021, a small group of researchers played with a new version of OpenAI’s text-to-image model, DALL-E, an artificial intelligence that turns short written descriptions into images: perhaps a Van Gogh fox or a pizza corgi. Now they just had to figure out what to do with it.
No one could have predicted how much of a splash this product would cause. The rapid release of other generative models inspired hundreds of newspaper headlines and magazine covers, flooded social media with memes, fueled the hype machine, and sparked a strong backlash from creators.
The exciting truth is that we don’t really know what’s going to happen next. While the creative industries will be the first to feel the impact, this technology will give creative superpowers to everyone. In the long run, it could be used to create designs for just about anything. The problem is that these models still don’t understand what they’re doing. Read the story in its entirety.
— Will Douglas Haven
This story is part of our upcoming 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023 series. Download readers will be the first to see the full list in January.
+ Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, tells Will Douglas Haven, our Senior AI Editor, what he learned from DALL-E 2 and what the model means for society. Read the story in its entirety.
Coming soon: A new MIT Technology Review report on how industrial design and engineering firms are using generative artificial intelligence. Sign up to receive exit notifications.
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 AI text-to-image generators, Stable Diffusion, the company behind it has announced. Creators can search for their works on a website called HaveIBeenTrained in the dataset used to train Stable Diffusion and choose which works they want to exclude from the training data.
Why it matters: The decision comes amid a heated public debate between artists and technology companies over how to train artificial intelligence models that turn text into images. The artist couple who set up the website hope the opt-out service will temporarily compensate for the lack of legislation governing the sector. Read the story in its entirety.
— by Melissa Haykill
Mind-altering substances are overhyped as miracle cures
Over the past five years or so, not a week has gone by without some research, commentary, or press release about the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs. A growing number of scientists, therapists and companies are interested in the potential of psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD in the treatment of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and substance use disorders.
Over the past 70 years, the reputation of psychedelics has experienced something of a roller coaster ride. They have gone from causing excitement to causing fear and distrust to a recent renaissance. But despite the current hype, the truth is that we don’t yet have evidence that psychedelics will actually change the health care system, raising concerns that psychedelic research has “fallen into a hype bubble.” Read the story in its entirety.
— Jessica Hamzelow
Jessica’s story from The Checkup, her weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.
A must read
I’ve combed the web to find the funniest/important/scary/interesting tech stories for you today.
1 Twitter suspends accounts of journalists
What they all have in common is that they all reported on Elon Musk’s decision to suspend an account tracking his private jet. (The Guardian)
+ Competing platform Mastodon’s account has also been suspended. (TechCrunch)
+ So much for Musk’s commitment to free speech. (vox)
+ Musk said he would never ban the @elonjet account back last month. (motherboard)
+ It is still easy to track the location of the aircraft as the data is publicly available. (Insider $)
2 A hidden effort to bury wood to remove carbon just raised millions
If the trial is successful, it could be a relatively easy and simple way to reduce greenhouse gases. (MIT Technology Review)
3 Bitcoin Enthusiasts Are Screaming About FTX Falling
Despite the fact that Bitcoin itself suffered a lot. (Slate $)
+ NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal denies involvement with FTX. (Insider $)
4 Bio-based plastic is still plastic
Switching to plastics made from plant-derived carbon could allow industry to domesticate the process. (Wired $)
5 Broadcasting is no longer exciting
There’s not a lot of money now, and Netflix and others aren’t willing to take risks like they once were. (The Verge)
+ Mass screenings are now mandatory. (Insider $)
6 Changes in a child’s microbiome can cause fear
This can affect how they experience anxiety and depression later in life. (Neo.Life)
7 How online stores try to cheat you
At the heart of this is the pressure on buyers to make quick decisions. (vox)
+ Advertising for advertising is the latest in TikTok. (FT$)
+ TV ads are also becoming more metaphorical. (Atlantic dollar)
The eighth generation of Z is returning to the dark ages of technology
They’re changing what it’s like to be a Luddite in the digital age. (NYT$)
9 TikTok wants to restore the bad reputation of pigeons
But taking wild birds off the street is still a bad idea. (Atlantic dollar)
+ How to make friends with a crow. (MIT Technology Review)
10 Strength training in old age pays off
It’s never too late to start—and it can help you stay independent 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 refuses to be shocked by Musk’s announcement that he’s suing Sweeney.
A great story
How to fix your pandemic brain
Americans are slowly emerging from the pandemic, but when they re-emerge, there are many more traumas to process. It’s not just our families, communities and work that have changed; our brains have also changed. We are not the people we used to be.
In the winter of 2020, more than 40% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, double the number from the previous year. Although that dropped the following summer, as vaccination rates rose and the number of Covid-19 cases fell, many Americans still struggle with their mental health. The question is, can our brains change? And how can we help them in this? Read the story in its entirety.
– Dana Smith
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Email me orshout at me.)
+ This is how not to succumb to the hanger.
+ If you like adrenaline-pumping shots, GoPro Heroes will be right up your street.
+ A no-bake raspberry cheesecake sounds like minimum fuss, maximum fun.
+ These fairy houses look so attractive.
+ We have finally solved the mystery of why prehistoric patterns were carved in the Middle Eastern desert.