AI is not the new crypto

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Recent advances in generative AI, such as the DALL-E image generator and the large ChatGPT language model, are “potentially similar to the release of the iPhone in 2007, or the invention of the computer Office”, Derek Thompson said in December. Here are the latest AI developments to watch in the weeks and months ahead.

But first, three new stories from Atlantic.

Trendy machinery

Investors are pouring money into AI.

Last year, investors updated minus $1.37 billion in generative AI companies across 78 deals, almost as much as they invested in the previous five years combined, according to the market data firm Pitch book.

Microsoft, in particular, has taken a big step forward: since 2019, the company has invested $3 billion in OpenAI, which designed DALL-E and ChatGPT, and it’s reportedly in talks to invest another $10 billion. Microsoft has purchased an exclusive license for certain technologies from OpenAI and is working with OpenAI on a new version of its search engine, Bing, which would incorporate a ChatGPT-like tool.

Schools are concerned about academic integrity.

How will these tools change our lives? As Derek told me recently, “We don’t know. The architects of these technologies hardly know it. But it’s so interesting to play with, and the technology is improving so quickly, that it absolutely has to be taken seriously, as if it were something that cannot be avoided.

Some universities are to modify their courses in order to minimize the risk that students return trials generated by an AI tool. And they’ll probably have to deal with even better tools soon – OpenAI plans to release GPT-4, which is said to be better than current versions for generating text. During this time, a 22 year old computer science student built an app to identify if a piece of text was written by a bot.

Maybe it’s time to worry about deepfakes, again.

You may remember this term from 2018, when the media and disinformation experts panicked about a rise in realistic fake videos. (In a famous example that BuzzFeed designed, Barack Obama seemed to say “President Trump is a total and complete asshole.”)

While this panic has remained just that – a panic – advances in generative AI “have experts worried that a deep apocalypse” is on the horizon, our associate editor Matteo Wong reported last month. As AI-powered media becomes more advanced, these experts say, in the next few years, the internet will be flooded with fake videos and audio touting false information.

Tools like ChatGPT may not be as smart as they seem…

Last week, them Atlantic writer Ian Bogost introduces some skepticism into the AI ​​debate. “ChatGPT doesn’t really know nothing– instead, he produces compositions that simulate knowledge through a persuasive structure,” Bogost wrote. “As the novelty of this surprise wears off, it becomes clear that ChatGPT is less of a magical wish-granting machine and more of an interpretive sparring partner.” Could all this investment in technology, he asks, be in pursuit of a bad idea?

But don’t expect the hype to evaporate anytime soon.

Some have asked if we are seeing Crypto 2.0: A complex new technology captures media attention and investor money, only to have some of the top companies built around it crash dramatically. But crypto is not a good model for thinking about artificial intelligence, Derek told me. “Crypto was money without use,” he argued, while tools like ChatGPT are, “for now, use without money.” Generative AI is “clearly Something, even if one wants to argue that the thing he is is, for now, a toy,” he said.

Moreover, AI has already succeeded in ways that crypto never has, Derek noted. Although you may hear some people use artificial intelligence as a catch-all term, the technology that is innovating now is the generative kind—tools with the ability to create new content, such as text or images. We’ve all been living with artificial intelligence for years now. “Go to Instagram. Why are some stories or messages above others? Because of the AI,” Derek said. “You live in an AI-built world when using the most famous social media apps.”


Today’s News

  1. Last year, deaths in China outnumbered births for the first time in six decades, the government announced.
  2. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was held by German police while protesting against the planned expansion of a coal mine.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage was taken in the hospital after sustaining a concussion in Monday’s playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.


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Evening reading

Martin Parr / Magnum

American religion is not dead yet

By Wendy Cadge and Elan Babchuck

Drive down Main Street in almost any major city in the country and, with the housing market at a standstill, you may pass more churches for sale than houses. This phenomenon is not likely to change any time soon; according to the author of a 2021 report on the future of religion in America, 30% of congregations are unlikely to survive the next 20 years. Add to that declining attendance and falling membership rates, and you’d be forgiven for concluding that American religion is headed for extinction.

But the old measures of success — attendance and membership, or, more colloquially, “butts, budgets, and buildings” — may no longer reflect the state of American religion. Although participation in traditional religious places (churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, etc.) is on the decline, signs of life are surfacing elsewhere: in conversations with chaplains, in communities created online that eventually bond in person as well, in social justice groups rooted in a common faith.

Read the article completely.

More than Atlantic

cultural break

Image taken from
Eduardo Castaldo/Netflix

Read. Still imagesJanet Malcolm’s posthumous memoirs criticize the idea of ​​memory itself.

Watch. The lying life of adultsNetflix’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel, is maddeningly slow at times, but it’s also jaw-dropping in a way that nothing has really been since Mad Menwrote our review.

Play our daily crosswords.


If you’re looking to dive deeper into the AI ​​rabbit hole, I recommend tech writer Max Read’s newsletter, Read Max. Read is undertaking a project to understand how we should think about AI, and last week he listed seven thoughtful and provocative questions which he uses to guide his research, including “Why haven’t previous advances in AI technology caused so much of a stir?” and “Is the AI ​​bullshit?”

— Isabella


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