Download: prolific 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 tech world.

Generative AI is changing everything. But what’s left when the hype is gone?

It was clear that OpenAI was up to something. In late 2021, a small team of researchers was tinkering with DALL-E, an artificial intelligence that turns short written descriptions into images, a new version of OpenAI’s text-to-image model: a fox painted by Van Gogh or a corgi made out of pizza. Now they had to figure out what to do with it.

No one could have guessed how big of a splash this product would make. The rapid release of other prolific models inspired hundreds of newspaper headlines and magazine covers, flooded social media with memes, overclocked a hype machine, and sparked an intense backlash from creators.

The exciting fact is that we really don’t know what’s next. While the creative industries will feel the impact first, this technology will give everyone creative superpowers. In the long run, it can be used to create designs for almost anything. The problem is that these models still have no idea what they’re doing. Read the whole story.

-Will Douglas Heaven

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.

+ OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tells our senior AI editor Will Douglas Heaven what he learned from DALL-E 2 and what the model means for society. Read the whole story.

Coming soon: A new report from the MIT Technology Review on how industrial design and engineering firms are using generative AI. Sign up to be notified when it’s out.

Artists can now disable the next version of Stable Diffusion

What happened: The company behind it announced that artists can now disable the next version of Stable Diffusion, one of the world’s most popular text-to-image AI generators. Creators can search for their work in the dataset used to train Stable Diffusion on a website called HaveIBeenTrained and choose which studies they want to exclude from the training data.

Why is it important: The decision came amid a heated public debate among artists and tech companies about how to train text-to-picture AI models. The artist couple who created the website hope the opt-out service will temporarily make up for the lack of legislation governing the industry. Read the whole story.

—Melissa Heikkila

Mind-altering substances are overrated as wonder drugs

For the past five years, almost a week has passed without a study, comment, or press release on the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs. A growing number of academics, therapists, and companies are taking an interest in the potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD to treat mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorders.

Psychedelics reputation has gone through a rollercoaster ride in the last 70 years. They’ve gone from creating excitement to instilling fear and insecurity, and recently experiencing a renaissance. But despite the current excitement, the reality is that we don’t yet have evidence that psychedelics will actually change healthcare, raising concerns that psychedelic research is “trapped in a hype bubble.” Read the whole story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

Jessica’s story is from The Checkup, the weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

must read

I scoured the internet for today’s most entertaining/important/scary/charming stories about technology.

1 Twitter suspends journalists’ accounts
What they all have in common is that they all report the decision to suspend an account that monitors Elon Musk’s private jet. (Guard)
+ The competitor platform Mastodon’s account has also been suspended. (TechCrunch)
+ That’s it for Musk’s commitment to free speech. (vox)
+ Musk said he will never ban the @elonjet account as soon as last month. (motherboard)
+ It’s still easy to track where the jet is, as the data is public. (Inside $)

2 A clandestine effort to bury wood for carbon removal just collected millions
If the experiment is successful, it could be a relatively easy and convenient way to reduce greenhouse gases. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Bitcoin enthusiasts rave about the fall of FTX
Although Bitcoin itself has taken a big hit. (slate $)
+ NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has denied any involvement with FTX. (Inside $)

4 Bio-based plastics are still plastic
The switch from plant-derived carbon to plastic made could allow industry to green the process. (Wired $)

5 Streaming is no longer exciting
There isn’t a lot of money being thrown around, and Netflix and its friends don’t want to take risks like they used to. (Anger)
+ Mass appeal shows are hard to come by now. (Inside $)

6 Changes in a child’s microbiome can cause fear
It can affect how they experience anxiety and depression later in life. (Neo.Life)

7 How does online shopping try to trick you?
Forcing customers to make quick decisions is at the heart of this. (vox)
+ Ads for ads are the latest thing on TikTok. (MS$)
+ TV ads also gain more meta. (Atlantic $)

8 Gen Z goes back to the tech dark ages
They are reshaping what it means to be a Luddite in the digital age. (NYT$)

9 TikTok wants to improve pigeons’ bad reputation
But taking wild birds off the street is still a bad idea. (Atlantic $)
+ How to be friends with a crow. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Strength training at an older age pays off
It’s never too late to start and can help maintain independence longer. (Knowable Journal)

Word of the Day

“He’s trying to scare me and it doesn’t seem to work.”

—College student Jack Sweeney, who used public data on Twitter to track Elon Musk’s private jet, tells Insider why he refused to be shaken by Musk’s announcement that he was suing Sweeney.

big story

How to Repair Your Distorted Pandemic Brain

July 2021

Americans are slowly coming out of the pandemic, but as it re-emerges, there is still a lot of trauma to be processed. It’s not just our families, communities and jobs that have changed; Our brains have also changed. We are not the same people.

In the winter of 2020, more than 40% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, which is double the previous year. While that dropped the following summer, many Americans are still struggling with their mental health as vaccination rates soar and covid cases fall. Now the question is, can our brains go back to normal? And how can we help them do that? Read the whole story.

Dana Smith

We can still have beautiful things

A place of comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet me.)

+ Here’s how to avoid succumbing to suspension.
+ If adrenaline-inducing shots are your thing, GoPro Heroes is right in front of you.
+ An unbaked raspberry cheesecake sounds like minimum fuss, maximum enjoyment.
+ These fairy tale houses look very inviting. 🧚
+ We’ve finally solved the mystery of why prehistoric patterns were engraved in the Middle Eastern desert.

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