Posts Tagged ‘Tech’

Why The Internet Isn't Fun Anymore

Illustration by Nicholas Konrad

The New Yorker has a piece about how much worse the internet has gotten. It’s not exactly a secret, but this article sums up a lot of the current state of things online:

Elsewhere online, things are similarly bleak. Instagram’s feed pushes months-old posts and product ads instead of photos from friends. Google search is cluttered with junky results, and S.E.O. hackers have ruined the trick of adding “Reddit” to searches to find human-generated answers.

Later it hits on what I think is one of the key issues at play:

According to Eleanor Stern, a TikTok video essayist with nearly a hundred thousand followers, part of the problem is that social media is more hierarchical than it used to be. “There’s this divide that wasn’t there before, between audiences and creators,” Stern said. The platforms that have the most traction with young users today—YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch—function like broadcast stations, with one creator posting a video for her millions of followers; what the followers have to say to one another doesn’t matter the way it did on the old Facebook or Twitter.

Read the Article →

Thanks Rafa

Do You Remember Being Born?

The first time I heard about language-based AIs, I was sitting in a beautiful Montréal park, and friend of Elsewhat Sean started talking about what AI could do with language. This was years before GPT got its “chat” prefix and became the sensation it has since become. I remember being baffled by hearing about GPT could take long strings of text and near-instantly rewrite them in a different style, or summarized shorter, or expanded, or just write from scratch. I felt somewhat in awe of the description of this technology, which took a few more years to go mainstream, but the impression he gave was that this was going to have a big impact on society.

Sean was then, and continues to be, way in advance of other artists in his understanding, and use of AI. This novel, years and years in the making, is testament to that. It feels like it could not be timed any better—Right as people are discussing what AI will do to art, here comes a beautiful book about, and partially written by AI.

The book follows a successful poet in her mid-seventies, Marian Ffarmer, as she’s commissioned by a California big-tech company to collaboratively write a piece of poetry with the company’s cutting edge language-based AI, Charlotte. Marian is a beautifully rendered character, and her eccentric, mischievous manner makes her a perfect foil to the polished technocrats at the big California computer company.

This book is excellent, and a very timely contribution to the debate on how AI impacts art. The New York Times gave a glowing review, and I agree. This is a thoughtful work, which simultaneously looks back at the long life of an artist as she navigates a new technology, created in a few short years, which will forever change the craft she’s taken her lifetime to master.

It’s also, importantly, not a work that tries to predict the long arc of where the technology will go, or the possible impacts it might have on society. It’s foremost about the artist, and her act of using tech in creating something which was, until now, quintessentially human.

Buy the Book (Canada) →
Buy the Book (US) →

Daring Fireball on Microsoft's New Fonts

John Gruber of tech/Apple blog Daring Fireball has a nice rundown of Aptos, Microsoft’s upcoming default font for its Office apps.

What I find weird about the whole thing is that Microsoft still hasn’t really shown any of these new fonts. They’ve provided glimpses of them, but mostly at large display sizes, not text sizes, which is where they really matter in the context of Office documents. I’m not the only one to find this curious.

So I took matters into my own hands, and created rudimentary specimens for each of Microsoft’s five new typefaces

All are better than Arial. I don’t use office, but as Gruber says:

it’s impossible not to encounter documents created with Office, whether you personally use it or not. Thus, Microsoft’s typographic choices affect us all.

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What to Do About Fake Drake

Friend of Elsewhat Sean Michaels has a piece up in The New Yorker this week about the intersection of AI and the music industry. It touches on tech, music sharing, sampling, and lots more.

Meanwhile, the pace of A.I. research has recalled the work of West Yorkshire rhubarb farmers, whose stalks grow so fast that they can hear the sound of them stretching. Tools with names like So-Vits-SVC, which has been used to generate A.I. facsimiles of Drake’s, Eminem’s, and Jay-Z’s voices, are introducing a new set of challenges to an industry that has barely recovered from covid-era concert restrictions. Musical artists, confronted by Big Tech’s tempo, influence, and affluence, have shown an understandable willingness to line up behind Big Media. Given a very real fear that generative tools will further erode, or permanently cripple, the already precarious economics of artists’ lives, why not allow globe-straddling labels, studios, and publishers to stand on their behalf?

Read it here →

The Worst Chess Game Possible

A recap of a chess game that used the most powerful chess engine available to always play the worst move it possibly could.

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Cory Doctorow's Theory of Enshittification

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

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Via Podcast On the Media.