The Download: AI Objectification and SBF Loading

This is today’s edition of La Descarga, our daily newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the world of technology.

Viral AI Avatar App Lensa Stripped Me Without My Consent

When Melissa Heikkilä, our Senior AI Reporter, tested the new viral AI avatar app Lensa, she expected to get similar results to other colleagues at MIT Technology Review, who got realistic but flattering avatars like astronauts and fierce warriors. Instead, she got tons of nudes. Of the 100 avatars generated, 16 were topless, while another 14 showed her in extremely skimpy clothing and overtly sexualized poses.

Melissa has Asian heritage. Many of the avatars were of generic Asian women clearly inspired by anime or video game characters, or, most likely, porn. Another colleague of Chinese descent had similar results: lots and lots of pornographic avatars.

Unfortunately, Lensa’s hypersexualization of Asian women is hardly surprising. The results of it are generated using Stable Diffusion, an AI model that is based on a massive set of open source data compiled by pulling images from the Internet. But the problem runs deeper than the training data. Read the full story.

How it feels to be sexually objectified by an AI

You can read more about Melissa’s thoughts on Lensa avatars reflecting sexist and racist stereotypes in The Algorithm, her weekly AI newsletter. In it, she reflects on how she felt when her model returned more realistic representations of her when he told her he was male, and what her issues with Lensa tell us about AI more broadly. Read the full story.

Sign up to receive the Algorithm in your inbox every Monday.

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find today’s funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Sam Bankman-Fried has been accused of fraud
US authorities say the FTX founder’s plan was to defraud investors from the start. (The edge)
+ The parents of Bankman-Fried’s Stanford Law School professor are also under scrutiny. (NYT$)
+ The US Department of Justice is split on whether to indict Binance as well. (Reuters)
+The devotees of effective altruism are furious with the founder. (vox)

2 Unlimited clean energy could be on the horizon
The US Department of Energy is ready to confirm that a fusion reaction has created a net gain of energy for the first time today. (WP$)
+ Scientists have been trying to make the breakthrough happen for almost 100 years. (The Atlantic $)

3 Twitter has dissolved its Trust and Security Council
At a time when you arguably need it more than ever. (Tech Crunch)
+ Twitter is playing with blue, gold, and gray check marks, for some reason. (vox)
+ The company is auctioning off elegant chairs from its destroyed headquarters. (Motherboard)
+ The potential collapse of Twitter could wipe out vast records of recent human history. (MIT Technology Review)

4 CRISPR gene editing has slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice
If applied to humans, the technique may prove even more effective. (New Scientist $)

5 AI is looking for EV metals
In theory, it could make mining more efficient and less destructive. (Wired $)
+ Machine learning could vastly speed up the search for new metals. (MIT Technology Review)

6 China is preparing a rescue package for its chip sector
To the tune of $143 billion. (Reuters)
+ Beijing has filed a complaint against US semiconductor restrictions. (WSJ$)
+ Europe’s chip industry is still trying to catch up. (FT$)
+ Corruption is sending shockwaves through China’s chip-making industry. (MIT Technology Review)

7 India’s temporary workers face a bleak future
Many people took jobs as a last resort. Now they are stuck with them. (Rest of the world)

8 What it’s like to pretend to be an AI chatbot
In other words, a person pretending to be a computer pretending to be a person. (The Guardian)

9 The Pizza Rat video continues to generate money for its creator 🐀
Seven years after it originally went viral. (Insider $)

10 The USB Flash Drive Has A Surprisingly Dramatic Origin Story
Including patent disputes, account falsification and a jail sentence. (IEEE spectrum)

quote of the day

“FTX operated behind a veneer of legitimacy created by Mr. Bankman-Fried…that veneer was not only thin, but fraudulent.”

—Gurbir Grewal, director of the US enforcement division, files charges against Sam Bankman-Fried, ABC News reports.

the great story

Why it’s so hard to make technology more diverse

June 2021

Tracy Chou has a long history of working to expose Silicon Valley’s diversity issues. As an engineer on Pinterest, she published a widely circulated blog post asking tech companies to share data on how many women work on their engineering team, and collated their responses into a public database that revealed how homogeneous still there were many technical teams in major companies. .

About a year later, he founded a company called Block Party that targets online bullying by giving Twitter users more control over which tweets appear in their feed and mentions.

Here, we asked San Francisco-based Chou to learn more about what it takes to bring about change in the tech industry, and what entrepreneurs like her are up against. Read the full story.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Do you have any ideas? Write me or tweet them to me.)

+ This is great: NASA is working on a robotic arm to withstand temperatures of -280 degrees.
+ Why Welsh music is having a moment right now: cwl!
+ The secret to becoming a better multitasker? Taking notes.
+ How three intrepid women broke a climbing record climbing the Rayu route in northern Spain.
+ I need a bread warmer on all my radiators, stat.

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