Discover more from The Industry
the industry #10 // tech's newest hall monitors, elon is now as bad as hamas, california's overtly racist anti-racism, tech links
SAN FRANCISCO READERS: Solana and the Pirate Wires crew invite you to drink with us at Zeitgeist on Thursday, October 12 at 5:30 PM. Be there (or die).
The technology industry’s coolest new hall monitors at 404 Media, a team comprised entirely of laid off Vice people, melted down last week after discovering they themselves could use Bing’s AI image generator to create images of Kirby doing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, among other assorted offensive material, which they believed an existential crisis. This latest entrant in the genre of hysterical safetyism, in which journalists tell an AI chatbot to say or paint offensive things and then write pieces about the offensive things AI chatbots say and paint (It’s a Chatbot, Kevin) is of course in no way novel. But it is notable, I think, how rapidly 404 has devolved, in accordance with the nature of your average tech journalist, from ‘edgy’ rewrites of months-old Pirate Wires articles to ‘edgy’ rewrites of months-old histrionic New York Times columns. Read our breakdown of the whole embarrassing incident on @piratewires.
Is Elon Musk worse than Hamas? Hear me out. The billionaire shitposting god of Silicon Valley recently cut a “disinformation fighting tool.” Then, over the weekend, Hamas initiated one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in modern history. These things are related, according to thoughtful technology journalists. We should definitely have a serious conversation about this, and it should definitely be right now. (The Information)
Realignment incoming. This one’s fairly strange, and the trend itself only just beginning, but following the weekend’s unfathomably gruesome mass murder leftists across the country predictably took the side of terrorists. Nothing to see here, just standard psyco “yay genocide” college stuff. But as the the discourse surrounding Hamas’ massacre has evolved — a national conversation far different today than even yesterday — Ryna Workman, president of the NYU Law Student Bar Association (SBA), penned an open letter in apparent defense of Hamas. Within hours of the viral story, the major law firm she was set to land a job at publicly rescinded her offer. I knew things were different after even Trudeau felt he had to say something about the rape parades, and I’ve long since written about the overall vibe shift. But consequence culture for bloodthirsty college zealots? That feels new to me, and quite significant.
Today in overtly racist “anti-racism.” Sunday, Gavin Newsom signed a piece of legislation into law that will require California venture capital firms to submit founder diversity reports to the state, and make them available to the public. This will include race, sexual orientation, and disability status. The law will go into effect in March, 2025 (??). Is compulsory, racist speech constitutional? And what will happen if a venture capital firm refuses to submit to the compulsory, racist speech? I guess we’ll all find out soon enough (or, okay, a couple years from now). (TechCrunch)
In the latest episode of the Pirate Wires podcast, Solana and the Pirate Wires crew discuss the invasion of last month's women’s tech conference by men claiming to be non-binary, the tragic and controversial death of Brooklyn activist Ryan Carson, and a town in Michigan that's shocked their all-Muslim city government isn't socially progressive. Please watch, rate, like, and subscribe:
Microsoft will unveil the company’s first AI chip next month, in an effort to reduce its reliance on Nvidia. The sentiment is now widespread, with Reuters reporting OpenAI is itself looking into designing its own chip. (The Information)
The Knight Institute at Columbia U has released some notes on “jawboning,” or the practice of informal government pressure that’s exploded at tech platforms since 2016. In the piece, two former Facebook employees say the company was “incessantly,” “routinely,” “repeatedly” jawboned. (Knight First Amendment Institute)
Airbnb hosts in New York City, facing a ban on short-term listings, have turned to the *spooky* “black market” (Craigslist). (Wired)
Friday, Amazon launched the first two prototype satellites for its Project Kuiper space-based internet system. This is the first orbital test for Amazon’s intended network of 3,236 satellites. (CNBC)
Meta is paying stars like Snoop Dogg, Tom Brady, and MrBeast to use their likenesses for AI characters on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger (one rich bitch reportedly receiving $5 million over two years for the feature (where’s my AI $$$ Mark Zuckerberg?)). (The Information)
Oracle boss Larry Ellison has broken his decade of Twitter silence with a post on Thursday saying, “we have an exciting announcement to make … and I’ll get an up close look at a new approach to clean nuclear energy generation called projectile fusion.”
In addition to removing headlines from link cards, leaving only thumbnail and domain name, X will soon remove engagement counts from tweets, leaving only the views metric (@xDaily). Last week, it was further reported Elon and Yacc Attack want to make X a shopping destination, with managers at the company “considering ways of using direct messages on the platform to offer one-click checkout to X users.” While ambitious and cool, Twitter’s golden days of intellectually rigorous and mostly-text-based content, along with an algorithm that doesn’t suck, seem squarely behind us. (The Information)
We also now know X is testing three tiers of premium services, with a price dependent on how few ads you want to see (Bloomberg). Oh, and speaking of ads: the ADL will resume advertising on X, signaling a truce between the two organizations. (The Hill)
Hackers broke into a group of 23andMe accounts, largely Ashkenazi Jews, by using a database of stolen passwords the users had for other services, and used the “DNA relatives” feature to scrape more data from there. They then sold the information for between $1 and $10 an account. 23andMe says the company’s systems were never breached. (Wired)
Carbon Health and Udemy founder Eren Bali raised eyebrows last week when he tweeted “Having dinner with couple people [sic] in the company. We came to a big realization: Every single decision we made in 2021 was a mistake.” His decision to post that tweet also seems to have been a mistake — he later deleted it — but before he did, it annoyed all manner of former employees, including the founder of a company Carbon acquired in 2021, who responded by asking to buy his company back.
Following new wage offers and a concession permitting EV workers to join their union, the UAW held off on expanding their strikes at Ford, Stellantis, and GM (NYT). But Monday, 4,000 UAW members at Mack Trucks rejected an agreement UAW proposed to them, and went on strike. This makes four manufacturers on the list of target companies. (Bloomberg)
Flexport plans to lay off up to 30% of its workforce, or about 1,000 employees (The Information). I covered former CEO Dave Clark’s resignation, and internally beloved Ryan Petersen’s return just under a month ago. Read it here.
"We have determined that our prior projections for traffic, subscriptions, and advertising growth for the past two years — and into 2024 — have been overly optimistic," says a leaked email from Washington Post leadership that NYT reporter Ben Mullin nabbed yesterday. The email says the company will offer voluntary separation packages to employees with the hopes of jettisoning approximately 240 of them, and will discuss details of the RIF in a meeting today.
Y Combinator hired former Yelp policy lead Luther Lowe as their head of public policy. He’ll be advocating “on behalf of startups and Y Combinator itself” in Washington. (Axios)
After last month’s pricing controversy, John Riccitiello, Unity CEO since 2014, is out; former president of IBM James Whitehurst will act as interim CEO. (Bloomberg)
Demand for US manufacturing is real: as companies are reshoring and nearshoring, some US construction stocks are outperforming the S&P by 3 to 5x. (Bloomberg)
VC funding for crypto collapsed in Q3 to its lowest level since 2020. (Bloomberg)
AI-powered parking garage management platform Metropolis has raised $1.7 billion to acquire SP Plus, which has a portfolio of more than two million parking spaces across North America. Yoni Rechtman, an investor in the deal, says in a short essay that this type of vertical SaaS buyout “is the future of vertical SaaS and how software eats the world.” (TechCrunch)
Robotaxi startup Glydways has raised a $56 million Series B to continue building its small AVs that seat four passengers each and travel along 5.5-foot-wide paved lanes. Vinod Khosla says, “I don’t think there’s a superior idea about how to build transit in cities.” (The Information)
Rivian’s $1.5 billion bond sale announcement last Wednesday tanked the stock about 20%, as of Tuesday close. (MarketWatch)
DTC dental company and Invisalign disruptor Smile Direct Club filed for bankruptcy last week. It debuted at nearly $19 bucks in its 2019 IPO; as of Monday it was worth under $0.04. (Axios)
Yesterday, I published a piece on the twisted quality of contemporary life we probably all feel to some degree, but rarely name: Western Civilization’s tremendous moral inversion. Rooted in this weekend’s terror attacks, and especially in their celebration here at home, the inversion is much more broad, infecting more or less every aspect of contemporary life and ethics. I’m really proud of this one, and fyi while I’ll still be writing this newsletter every week I’ll be taking a short break from longer form stuff like this as I work on this fall’s new Pirate Wires launch:
Litigation and regulation:
On Tuesday at the SBF trial, former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison took to the stand to testify against SBF — she’s pleading guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors (Bloomberg). And on Thursday, FTX CTO Gary Wang admitted to wire fraud, “commodities fraud and securities fraud with Bankman-Fried…Ellison and former FTX director of engineering Nishad Singh.” RIP. (CoinTelegraph)
The SEC is suing Elon to force him to testify in their probe of his Twitter acquisition. “The SEC has already taken Mr. Musk's testimony multiple times in this misguided investigation — enough is enough," Musk lawyer Alex Spiro said in a statement. (Reuters)
Anthropic, the AI company recently in the news for inking a $4 billion deal with Amazon, "says that it has made a significant step toward illuminating the black box that conceals our current understanding of how LLMs like GPT work.” Their announcement is fairly technical, but if not just a clever bit of marketing, could be exciting — we broke it down for beginners in the computing section of the most recent issue of the White Pill.
Chipmaker AMD will acquire the AI startup Nod.ai in an effort to better compete with rival chip manufacturer Nvidia. (Yahoo! Finance)
Our girl Kamala will represent the US at a November British AI guardrails summit. (Bloomberg)
The EU is eyeing new, sweeping rules targeting AI that would require “AI companies…to perform risk assessments and label deepfakes, among other requirements.” (Bloomberg) In a similar move, the G-7 will ask AI companies to voluntarily agree to 11 guidelines, including testing before deployment, watermarking AI generated content, and “controls to protect intellectual property.” (Bloomberg)