A.I. Is Actually Even More Depressing Than I Thought
We’re still very early when it comes to this new generation of generative artificial intelligence, but I’ve noticed the content these tools creates doesn’t really make any sort of lasting impact on you. Maybe the technology isn’t good enough yet, maybe humans just instinctually can’t really form emotional connections with content that wasn’t created by other humans. Who knows. But I’ve easily seen thousands of A.I. images and screenshots of A.I. text in the last six months and there’s really only three projects that I can even remember off the top of my head — the A.I. My Chemical Romance song that Tumblr invented, the fake Black Panther prequel series promotional images, and, of course, “muscle-man contest at the JFK assassination”.
I’ve also noticed that we’ve fallen into a curious pattern with how we react to new developments in the space. First, OpenAI, the Microsoft-invested early standout machine learning startup, releases something that blows up in a big way. This happened with OpenAI’s image generator DALL-E 2 over the summer and again with their text bot ChatGPT last month. Then a whole bunch of similar projects, both paid and open source, flood the web afterwards. And, finally, people panic about what this technology could mean for society until they just sort of lose interest or give up.
We’re currently in between waves right now, both with A.I. images and A.I. text, which means it’s a good time to wonder about what’s next. I’m personally super curious about neural radiance fields, or NeRF, and what it could mean for filmmaking, but OpenAI seems to be going in another direction. According to The Information, OpenAI is planning to integrate their A.I. technology with Microsoft’s search engine Bing and it could launch as early as March.
The idea that an OpenAI-powered Bing is imminent casts a very different, and frankly, much more tedious light on all the generative A.I. developments we’ve seen so far. This was never about automating graphic design or essay writing, it was about automating Google. Per a recent New York Times piece, Google sees OpenAI as “code red” for the company.
If you think of the internet like the Earth’s crust, the surface would be the decently-moderated parts of the web we all use every day — mainstream social networks, group chats, streaming platforms, the first page of Google results, etc. The crust just beneath that would be viral ephemera, where celebrities’ birthdays and net worths (and foot sizes) sit in sidebars next to graphic images of medical oddities, unhinged mobile game ads, and shareable lists of “reimagined” Disney princesses or bad cartoons about married life or whatever.
Below that, there’s, obviously, an unfathomably large layer of pornography (most of it anime). And, finally, below that are all kinds of bizarre, and mostly fraudulent, e-commerce automations. Aside from the porn, though not entirely, most of these layers, ironically enough, only exist because of other automations, like Google’s Adsense or similar programmatic advertising networks.
These are the layers that generative A.I. tools seem to be replacing most quickly. Sites like Bored Panda are already using these tools to automate listicles. And it’s not an accident that stock image marketplaces, the lifeblood of the algorithmic ephemera of the internet, are already partnering with companies like OpenAI.
There are lots of reasons to feel both depressed and somewhat horrified about A.I. — the further marginalization of artists’ labor, looming A.I. copyright laws that will almost certainly entrench intellectual property monopolies and hurt smaller creators, the endless regurgitation and subsequent death of popular culture — but I actually think the idea that all of this is a byproduct in the service of making a better Bing is most depressing of all. Imagine building an artificial intelligence that can create images and have a conversation with you and using it to automate the most boring and noxious parts of the internet: Taboolah chumboxes and the second and third pages of Google search results. Imagine making real the stuff of science fiction stories and using it to create an ad network. How lame!
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A Good Streaming Rig
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by SunglassesCat and I think it looks fantastic.
The End Of An Era For A Certain Kind Of Creator
If I can squeeze one more 2023 prediction in before the year really gets started in earnest, I think we’re about to find out exactly what “the creator economy” is. During the years leading up to the pandemic, the idea of an “internet creator” was all tangled up with the idea of an “influencer”. “Influencer” has all kinds of complex negative connotations to it relating to our understandings of class, but also gender. It was a cohort of internet users, mainly women or queer people, who were making large sums of money thanks to internet attention. And culture at large sort of hated them for it and, by extension, sort of also hated anyone making money from internet content.
But during the pandemic and thanks to new platforms like TikTok, most businesses at this point are also digital media companies and, conversely, most people who make internet content are businesses. Add in the slow-motion destruction of Twitter, one of the last big spaces for carefree frictionless shitposting, you end up with an internet landscape that’s a lot more conducive to what I’ll call “professional posting”. Which is both good and bad.
The upside is that people can, in theory, make money making content which they, again, in theory, love. The downside is that there are fewer spaces than ever for weird maniacs to goof around. One such weird maniac is meme musician Seth Everman, who has been making silly viral YouTube videos since 2013. He announced last week that 2023 would be his last year making YouTube content.
Meanwhile, other YouTube channels I follow are announcing that they’re either building out their coverage into a full-fledged entertainment company or at least pledging to put out better videos this year. My hunch is this shift towards professionalism isn’t just happening on YouTube, but all over the web. I know I’m beginning to think of Garbage Day differently than I used to, though I can’t totally articulate what that means yet, only that it no longer feels like me blogging and more like some larger or separate entity.
But speaking of blogging, our current moment feels very similar to the end of blogging between 2010-2012. Some publications were able to professionalize into full-fledged companies, while many of the stranger, more offbeat ones eventually went dormant. But this time it’s not just affecting one specific area of digital content, but all of it at once. The interesting new wrinkle, unlike ten years ago, is that creators are becoming more professional as the internet decentralizes, which is the opposite of what happened at the start of the 2010s. My guess is that in 2023, there will be two tiers of public internet content: semi-anonymous short videos ripped from TikTok and Instagram and semi-professional cross-platform boutique media agencies.
The Brits Are Trying To Ban Anonymity On The Internet Again
The UK’s Conservative Party has backtracked on the Online Safety Bill, which was meant to go after online content defined as “legal, but harmful,” specifically singling out abusive material from “anonymous trolls”. According to a press release from last year, under the bill, “companies with the largest number of users and highest reach — and thus posing the greatest risk — must offer ways for their users to verify their identities and control who can interact with them.”
The UK has had an obsession with ending online anonymity for years and the country’s politicians and columnists love to shriek about it every chance they get. Which is exactly what’s happening again now, following the arrest last month of Men’s Rights Activist and former Big Brother UK contestant Andrew Tate. This time, though, it’s the UK’s Labour Party which is promising to bring back the Online Safety Bill, with Labour Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell writing this week, “The impact of Andrew Tate serves as yet another reminder of why we need to act to regulate social media and online, and their business models.”
Which sounds nice except nothing in the Online Safety Bill would have done anything to prevent Tate, a man who loves posting under his own name and sharing photos of himself all over the internet, from exploiting an algorithmic quirk inside TikTok to amass an online army of pathetic teenage boys to run his multilevel marketing scheme.
But to make matters worse for Powell and the Labour Party is that the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Jess Phillips tweeted and then deleted a post last week where she proudly announced she had no idea who Tate was and seemed to suggest that Tate should have hired a woman to help him allegedly traffic women?
A Beautiful Oil Painting Of Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Eating Alone In A KFC In Florida As The New President Of Brazil Was Inaugurated On New Years Day
Here’s a link to the original photo.
A Romance Novelist Appears To Have Faked Her Own Death And Then Secretly Run Her Fan Group On Facebook?
Alright, so there’s a lot we do not know about this, but here’s what I’ve got for you. A romance author named Susan Meachen reportedly died by suicide two years ago. After Meachen died, her daughter announced it on Meachen’s Facebook, lashed out at critics and trolls that supposedly pushed her to commit suicide, and then posthumously published one last novel from her.
Meachen’s account then announced this week in her Facebook Group, “The Ward,” that she did not, in fact, die. It also seems like Meachen has been secretly operating a sock puppet account in the group for years. Twitter user @draggerofliars has a great thread compiling screenshots from inside The Ward. And here’s a link to fellow author Samantha Cole reacting to the news.
If this is true, I figure there are few ways to look at this: One, most importantly, this is an insensitive and cruel thing to do to the people in your life and, depending on how she did it, possibly illegal, though I can’t find any official report of her death in 2020. But, also, in this era of Goodreads puritanism around literature, I do have to say it’s somewhat refreshing to see an author really going for it like this. Authors are not good or normal people and I think it’s time for more writers embrace some real classic 19th century messiness. Start lifelong grudges! Fake your own death! Spend a year in bed. Take opium. Whatever. As Slant Magazine writer Jake Cole tweeted, “Book Internet is the last frontier town of the Old West Internet. This is peak 2006 forum behavior.”
An Important Tweet About Zoom Camera Placement
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good meme.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
I've been experimenting with ChatGPT and the big problem is that everything it produces is extremely boring. Maybe I've been using the wrong prompts? I guess it could replace extremely boring marketing writers.
One of your better ones. You should totally write about A.I. more often.