The Download: Generative AI and psychedelic hype

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.

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

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

No one could have predicted what a stir this product was going to cause. The rapid release of other generative models inspired hundreds of newspaper headlines and magazine covers, filled social media with memes, fired up a hype machine, and provoked intense backlash from creators.

The exciting truth is that we really don’t know what will come next. While the creative industries will feel the impact first, this technology will give everyone creative superpowers. In the longer term, it could be used to generate layouts for just about anything. The problem is that these models still have no idea what they are doing. Read the full 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.

+ Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, tells Will Douglas Heaven, our Senior AI Editor, what he learned from DALL-E 2 and what the model means for society. Read the full story.

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

Artists can now opt out of the next version of Stable Diffusion

What happened: Artists can now opt out of the next version of one of the world’s most popular text-to-image AI generators, Stable Diffusion, the company behind it has announced. Creators can search for their jobs on a website called HaveIBeenTrained in the dataset used to train Stable Diffusion and select which jobs they want to exclude from the training data.

Because it is important: The decision comes amid a heated public debate between artists and tech companies over how text-to-image AI models should be trained. The couple of artists who create the website hope that the opt-out service will temporarily compensate for the absence of legislation regulating the sector. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkila

Mind-altering substances are being overhyped as wonder drugs

In the past five years, hardly a week has gone by without a study, comment, or press release on the potential benefits of psychedelics. A growing number of academics, therapists, and companies are interested in the potential of psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD to treat mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorders, to name a few. Some.

The reputation of psychedelics has gone through something of a roller coaster over the last 70 years or so. They went from generating excitement, to instilling fear and mistrust, to experiencing a recent renaissance. But despite the current enthusiasm, the truth is that we still don’t have evidence that psychedelics are actually going to change healthcare, raising concerns that psychedelic research is “stuck in a bubble of hype.” Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

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

The must reads

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

1 Twitter is suspending the accounts of journalists
The common thread is that they all reported on Elon Musk’s decision to suspend an account that tracks his private plane. (The Guardian)
+ The account of the rival platform Mastodon has also been suspended. (Tech Crunch)
+ So much for Musk’s commitment to freedom of expression. (vox)
+ Musk said he would never ban the @elonjet account as recently as last month. (Motherboard)
+ It is still easy to track the whereabouts of the plane, since the data is public. (Insider $)

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

3 Bitcoin Enthusiasts Boast About FTX Crash
Even though Bitcoin itself took a huge hit. (Slate $)
+ NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has denied any relationship with FTX. (Insider $)

4 Bio-based plastics are still plastics
Switching to plastics made from carbon extracted from plants could allow the industry to greenwash the process. (Wired $)

5 Streaming Isn’t Exciting Anymore
There isn’t as much money circulating, and Netflix and others don’t want to take risks in the same way as before. (The edge)
+ Massive shows are now de rigueur. (Insider $)

6 Changes In A Child’s Microbiome Can Induce Fear
It could affect how they experience anxiety and depression in later life. (Neo.Life)

7 How Online Shopping Tries To Fool You
Pressuring buyers to make quick decisions is critical. (vox)
+ Ads for ads is the latest on TikTok. (FT$)
+ TV ads are also becoming more meta. (The Atlantic $)

8 Gen Z is returning to the dark tech age
They are reshaping what it is to be a Luddite in the digital age. (NYT$)

9 TikTok wants to rehabilitate the bad reputation of pigeons
But taking wild birds off the street is still a bad idea. (The Atlantic $)
+ How to befriend a crow. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Strength training in old age pays off
It’s never too late to start, and it can help you maintain independence longer. (Known magazine)

quote of the day

“It seems like he’s just trying to scare me and it’s not going to work.”

—Jack Sweeney, the college student who tracks Elon Musk’s private jet on Twitter using publicly available data, tells Insider why he refuses to be fazed by Musk’s announcement that he was suing Sweeney.

the great story

How to fix your broken pandemic brain

July 2021

Americans are slowly coming out of the pandemic, but as they reemerge, there is still a lot of trauma to process. It’s not just our families, our communities, and our jobs that have changed; our brains have also changed. We are not the same people we were.

During the winter of 2020, more than 40% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, double the rate from the previous year. While this fell the following summer, as vaccination rates increased and covid cases dropped, many Americans are still struggling with their mental health. Now the question is, can our brains change again? And how can we help them do that? Read the full story.

—Dana Smith

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.)

+ Here’s how to avoid succumbing to the perch.
+ If adrenaline-pumping images are your thing, GoPro Heroes is for you.
+ A no-bake raspberry cheesecake sounds like minimum fuss, maximum enjoyment.
+ These fairytale houses look so attractive. 🧚
+ We have finally solved the mystery of why prehistoric patterns were carved in the Middle Eastern desert.

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