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The Download

The Download: ChatGPT’s impact on schools, and Elon Musk’s AI plans

Plus: China's trying to shape its covid narrative

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

AI literacy might be ChatGPT’s biggest lesson for schools

This year millions of people have tried—and been wowed by— artificial intelligence systems. That’s in no small part thanks to OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT.

When it launched last November, the chatbot became an instant hit among students, many of whom started using it to write essays and homework. Alarmed by an influx of AI-generated essays, schools around the world moved swiftly to ban the use of the technology.

But there’s an unexpected upside: ChatGPT has forced schools to quickly adapt and start teaching kids an ad hoc curriculum of AI 101. The big hope is that educators and policymakers will realize just how important it is to teach the next generation critical thinking skills around AI. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

Melissa’s story is from The Algorithm, her weekly AI newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

Read more about AI:

+ ChatGPT is about to revolutionize the economy. We need to decide what that looks like. New large language models will transform many jobs. Whether they will lead to widespread prosperity or not is up to us. Read the full story.

+ We are hurtling toward a glitchy, spammy, scammy, AI-powered internet. Large language models are full of security vulnerabilities, yet they’re being embedded into tech products on a vast scale. Read the full story.

+ What if we could just ask AI to be less biased? Instead of making the training data less biased, researchers are experimenting with simply asking the model to give you less biased answers. Read the full story.

Podcast: Concerning AI ethics

The best definitions of AI are vague, largely lack consensus and represent a huge challenge for lawmakers and legal scholars looking to regulate it. But back to back breakthroughs and rapid adoption of generative AI tools are making it feel a lot more real to everybody else.

The latest episode of our podcast, In Machines We Trust, digs into the ethics of such tools, and what it could mean for the future of legal decisions. Listen to it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Elon Musk is working on a Twitter AI project
Despite recently joining a call for an industry-wide halt to AI training. (Insider $)
+ Twitter technically no longer exists—it’s merged with Musk’s X Corp. (Bloomberg $)
+ Musk joked that his dog is in charge of Twitter. (WP $)
+ We’re witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)

2 China is attempting to manipulate its covid legacy
Its officials are withholding data and censoring dissident voices. (WSJ $)

3 Bitcoin is on the rise again
And market manipulation could be the root cause. (The Guardian)
+ El Salvador’s bitcoin holdings are still way, way down, though. (Bloomberg $)+ Crypto regulation is on the agenda for the next G7 summit. (Reuters)

4 Secret Pentagon intelligence was leaked by a meme group 
Authorities are racing to work out how the classified documents were procured. (NYT $)
+ They contain intel collected by the NSA and CIA, among other agencies. (NY Mag $)

5 We’re learning more about dark matter
Researchers have managed to map it in unprecedented detail. (BBC)

6 Abortion pills are perfectly safe
Despite what some pro-life groups would have you believe. (Vox)

7 What the rise of generative AI means for porn
It’s becoming increasingly easy to create erotic images that people are willing to pay for. (WP $)
+ Even AI has trouble spotting whether pictures are AI-generated. (WSJ $)
+ AI music is infiltrating streaming services. (FT $)
+ ChatGPT is fueling a new wave of spam on Reddit. (Motherboard)
+ The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Underground wells are the new batteries
They’re surprisingly good at storing thermal energy. (Wired $)
+ This geothermal startup showed its wells can be used like a giant underground battery. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Why Big Tech’s platforms are so hard to replace
Despite Twitter’s wild last six months, users are still logging on. (NPR)

10 TikTok’s latest craze? Water 🚰
Watertokers are turning to elaborate syrup concoctions to up their daily H2O intake. (Fast Company $)

Quote of the day

“I wish I could just shoot down these programs.”

—An anonymous video game artist living in China vents her frustration at image-generating AI models that are forcing human workers to work extra long hours to compete to Rest of World.

This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it.

September 2022

Greg Rutkowski is a Polish digital artist who uses classical styles to create dreamy landscapes. His distinctive style has been used in some of the world’s most popular fantasy games, including Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. 

Now he’s become a hit in the new world of text-to-image AI generation. His name is one of the most commonly used prompts in the open-source AI art generator Stable Diffusion. 

But this and other open-source programs are built by scraping images from the internet, often without permission and proper attribution to artists. As a result, they are raising tricky questions about ethics and copyright. And artists like Rutkowski have had enough. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ It’s the little things in life that make a difference: here’s how the experts do it.
+ All hail Cloudflare’s wall of lava lamps!
+ I’m not sure about this pixelated hoodie—yours for just $2,500.
+ Forget everything you know, a rainbow is not actually an arch at all: it’s a circle.
+ The world’s deepest living fish has a sweet lil face.

Deep Dive

The Download

The Download: the problem with plug-in hybrids, and China’s AI talent

Plus: Silicon Valley is desperate to snap up top AI talent—before anyone else does

The Download: defining open source AI, and replacing Siri

Plus: the EU has announced a raft of new Big Tech probes

The Download: the mystery of LLMs, and the EU’s Big Tech crackdown

Plus: the trade secret war between China and the US is hotting up

The Download: new AI regulations, and a running robot

Plus: Nvidia has unveiled a whole load of new AI chips

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