The Daily Valet. - 1/29/24, Monday
Monday, January 29th Edition
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
Everything is better when it’s fried. Toothpicks? Not so much.
Today’s Big Story
Is AI Already Out of Control?
The era of the AI-generated internet is already here and it has some experts very worried about what they’re seeing
Honestly, it sounds a little scary. And, perhaps even more troubling, is that this isn't some conspiracy theory or vague future prophecy. The concept of an internet dominated by content generated by artificial intelligence is no longer a concept. It’s happening right now.
We don’t have to imagine a world where deepfakes can so believably imitate the voices of politicians that they can be used to gin up scandals that could sway elections. It’s already here. And just over the weekend, X had to disable searches for “Taylor Swift” after a deluge of explicit AI fakes went viral on the platform (along with other social media outlets). Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called the fake images “alarming and terrible” and added that “we have to act” and that “irrespective of what your standing on any particular issue is I think we all benefit when the online world is a safe world.”
And it’s all moving so fast. Artificial intelligence today is exponentially smarter and more capable than it was just three months ago. “It’s important for everybody to understand how fast this is going to change,” former Google head Eric Schmidt warned a group at Harvard. But is it changing for the better? Some are starting to wonder. Think about it this way: the first version of ChatGPT was the last large language model to be trained on entirely human-generated content.
Every model since then contains training data that has AI-generated content which is difficult to verify, or even track. According to Mashable, this becomes unreliable, or to put it bluntly, “garbage, data.” When this happens, "we lose quality and precision of the content, and we lose diversity," said Nader Henein, who researches data protection and artificial intelligence. As LLMs feed off each other's content, the quality gets worse and more vague, like a photocopy of a photocopy of an image.
That not only sounds boring, but wholly unreliable. Fortunately, there are numerous reasons for optimism about society’s ability to identify fake media and maintain a shared understanding of current events. The shield against deepfakes may be consistent watermarks on all original (read: non-doctored) material in the future. This is done by adding imperceptible information to a digital file so that its provenance can be traced. However, once watermarking at creation becomes widespread and people adapt to distrust content that is not watermarked, then everything produced before that point in time can be much more easily called into question. This, the New York Times ponders, could create a “treasure trove of opportunities for backstopping false claims with generated documents,” from photos placing historical figures in compromising situations, to altering individual stories in historical newspapers, to changing names on deeds of title. Suddenly, Google’s recent announcement that their new tool Lumiere can create realistic video clips from just a simple prompt doesn’t sound all that appealing.
Drone Strike Kills 3 U.S. Service Members in Jordan
It marks the first time American troops have been killed by enemy fire in the Middle East since the beginning of the Gaza war
Three U.S. soldiers were killed and dozens wounded in a drone strike on a U.S. outpost in northeast Jordan overnight, President Biden said in a statement on Sunday. Officials said the drone was fired by Iran-backed militants and appeared to come from Syria. It is still being determined which militia group specifically is responsible, but this is the most serious attack on U.S. forces in the Middle East since the Hamas attack on October 7 and the first such attack in Jordan.
Speaking at a church in South Carolina later Sunday, Biden asked for a moment of silence to honor the service members. He vowed to hold those responsible for the attack “to account,” saying that while facts are still being gathered, “We know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups.”
The attack occurred at an outpost known as Tower 22, located near the Syrian border. CNN reports that Iran quickly denied any involvement in the attack, citing the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations. However, Tehran’s denial came after the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (an umbrella group of a number of Iran-backed militias in the country), announced it attacked a number of targets along the Jordan-Syria border, including Al-Rukban camp. The camp is in close proximity to the U.S. outpost Tower 22.
The New York Times offers up an analysis of just how far Biden will be willing to retaliate after the attack.
The Super Bowl Is Set
Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers Will Play in Super Bowl LVIII, which will be played in Las Vegas
The Super Bowl LVIII showdown in Las Vegas is set. In two weeks, the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs will defend their crown against the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in the Patrick Mahomes era. Still, the story of the 2023 NFL Championship quickly became about Jason and Travis Kelce, who became the first brothers in NFL history to meet in the Super Bowl. And you might’ve saw last week, when social media was set ablaze by a conspiracy theory around the NFL's promotional ads as they waited for the results of Sunday's determining games. For the past few NFL seasons, football fanatics have dialed in on a theory that says the logo for the Super Bowl predicts which teams will go head-to-head in the Big Game, based on what colors make up the image.
For those counting, this will Mahomes’ fourth time in six seasons going to the Super Bowl. And now the the Chiefs superstar has a chance to go back-to-back. But, The Athletic warns, it can’t be a quarterback battle, though, so don’t fall into the Mahomes-Purdy trap. If the 49ers are going to win their first Super Bowl in 29 years, they’ve got to do it on the ground with Christian McCaffrey and company. Plus, the 49ers are trying to restoke their glory days and avenge a Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs from four years ago. If they can win their sixth Super Bowl, they’d tie the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all time.
Entertainment Weekly offers a look at everyone scheduled to perform at the big game.
People Are Eating Fried Toothpicks
Dreaded TikTok trends strike again
These kids today. It’s all fun and games on social media until you start eating deep fried toothpicks. NBC News reports that people in South Korea have been deep-frying toothpicks and eating them, thanks to videos floating around on TikTok in which people add seasoning to the fried sticks and munch on them as a snack.
These toothpicks aren’t made of wood, like you’re probably imagining. Instead, they’re manufactured from sweet potato or corn starch (a biodegradable, more environmentally friendly option than wood). Eater reports that because of their base material, the toothpicks puff up in hot oil and turn into curly, crunchy, worm-shaped puffs, almost resembling Funyuns. Apparently, they have green food coloring added, which you’d think would make them look less (not more) appetizing.
Since it’s not specifically a food-grade starch, no one can account for whether it’s okay to consume. And the South Korean health ministry is advising everyone to stop before it gets out of hand (or someone gets sick). Some TikTok food trends seem harmless, but knowing how people operate on the internet, I’m sure many will continue doing this kind of thing not just to sate their curiosity, but also for social media clout. And that’s not exactly a good thing.
The Korean word for eating show, mukbang, has been widely adopted in other types of eating shows, such as those featuring ASMR on YouTube.
Get a Tux
A gentleman should always own his own tuxedo
Plenty of people pine for the good ol’ days: When furniture was made to last; when gas was cheaper; and when, if boredom struck, you picked up a book or bonded with friends, instead of falling face-first into your phone screen. Of course, there's no turning back now. But there are still ways to reconnect with how things used to be. One stellar way is by putting on a plain black tuxedo.
Writer Evan Malachosky details all the ways owning a tux will improve your life and even offers up advice from experts on how (and where) to wear one in 2024.
Give Monday a chance.