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"Ethics and Responsibility"
the industry #14 // nikki haley wants to arrest our sh*tposters, the problem with vivek, chatgpt is taking (upwork) jobs, tech links
Freedom-oriented politicians and “technologists” are all alike, but every would-be despot is despotic in his own, special way. This week, while discourse surrounding Nikki Haley’s new suggestion that anonymity should be stripped from social media picked up steam (she has since moderated her position), tech industry wannabes reached with all their might for 2017’s hottest industry status symbol: approval from the tech-loathing media. How to achieve such status? Easy, speak the authoritarian’s silly made-up language, and do everything you can to further empower the One Party State.
Yesterday, following weeks of hedging on the Hamas / Israel discourse (which I’ll not be wading into here, relax, you’ve found a safe space for tech trends, illuminating shitposts, and industry gossip), venture capitalist Bilal Zuberi decided to enter the “ethics” conversation with the following, deeply stupid tweet:
Bilal’s ratio came quickly, as the average industry employee is reasonably intelligent, and most of us have not forgotten the horrifying censorship apparatus “ethics and responsibility” bought us in the 20-teens. But his embarrassing achievement here was nothing to the ratio earned by the tweet to which, presumably, Bilal was referring. Behold, the latest entrant in the genre of “AI open letter literally nobody asked for”:
2.7M views, and only 277 likes. Something tells me this was not quite the reaction General Catalyst was expecting. My conclusion: the industry finally found its conscience, but disagrees with our boys Bilal and Hemant. “Ethics and responsibility” is no longer defined as ‘how to build a supergod in such a way as it will never disagree with Democrats,’ and the average person is over last season’s Orwellian bullshit. Of course, it doesn’t really matter what the average person thinks, nor the average shitposting billionaire disinformation researcher / media mogul (me). For now, it pretty much just matters what Sam Altman thinks.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
NOTABLE INDUSTRY TRENDS
American social. For the first time since late 2021, Facebook and Instagram are growing faster than TikTok (Business Insider), but it’s still not entirely clear what this means for Threads. On one hand, professional Elon-hating “tech journalists” assure us Twitter is finally dead (again). But on the other, in response to user feedback, Meta just announced it’s now letting people delete their Threads account without automatically deleting their Instagram account (Verge). Is there any way to read this other than the butts and puppy picture people didn’t come here for the word app (as predicted)? I don’t think so. Zuck’s TikTok clone is blowing up, however. Congratulations, America. (We still need to ban TikTok.)
Speaking of —
A quick note on the Certified Technology Brother who made a few more moves in last week’s Republican debate. Every time I tweet about the man, I’m asked by confused, hurt-seeming readers why I’m not a fan of Vivek Ramaswamy. After all, I’m an “America First” pro tech guy, and so is Viv. Right?
Vivek, once a big ‘let’s ban it’ guy, famously changed his mind about TikTok after the influencer Jake Paul explained to him that Zoomers liked it, man, just let us have our toy. This, I guess, was compelling, and Vivek pivoted back to the free market. America should simply compete against TikTok with a better product, Vivek heads now prefer to argue, and at first blush this does sound reasonable. Of course, as Vivek knows perfectly well, China has banned competition in their own market, and presently sells unencumbered into our own. This is a very straightforward issue of trade imbalance any real ‘nationalist’ would immediately clock as unacceptable. But the first time I double-clicked on Vivek was the moment he suggested Silicon Valley Bank should collapse, and every startup that held its money there should simply die. The founders made a bad decision, Vivek argued (putting their money in a bank), and it’s only fair that they alone should suffer the consequences. With the panicked nation facing a catastrophic banking crisis, Vivek was not, however, a principled libertarian. Every other bank, and every other person? Should be protected by the government.
These two issues, for me, color Vivek’s views on foreign policy (America leaves the world, and returns home) in a very different light than someone like Donald Trump, who has been much more consistent on nationalist issues. Because altogether, Vivek’s positions do not favor America. The country they really seem to favor is China.
Also the man is tedious as hell, can you all please just give me that?
DEI ALERT: Melinda Gates published an op-ed in Fortune, writing “it’s time to change the face of power in venture capital,” and announcing her new VC firm, Pivotal Ventures, which will invest in “women-led funds and early-stage companies” (Fortune). A little late to the DEI heyday, in which “we need more sexism to combat sexism” was generally considered a normal thing to say out loud, it was brave of Melinda to raise the important moral position of giving Melinda more money and power. Sure, this systemically oppressed woman is one of the richest people in human history, but is the average male immigrant founder paying the pink tax? I don’t think so.
Melinda’s fund comes at an interesting time for DEI, at which point most people see through the bullshit, but the government is more unhinged than ever before. A few weeks ago, Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will require VCs to report ‘diversity metrics.’ Good guy, Gavin. Cares about this stuff. Anyway, that same day he “vetoed for the third time a similar transparency requirement for his own gubernatorial appointments.” (CalMatters)
Do the robots want your shitty desk job? Brother, they already have your shitty desk job. A June study found ChatGPT caused “a decrease of 2% in the number of monthly jobs and a decrease of 5.2% in monthly earnings” for copywriters and graphic designers on Upwork, the site you go to for the cheapest, shittiest SEO writing (typically produced in foreign countries, where English is spoken as a second language). Among many posters quick to the story, Chamath shared the news here, and celebrated.
Should the average writer be a little worried? Well, maybe the average writer. But once the robots are capable of spitting fire like your boy, my sense is we’ll have bigger things to worry about.
Big partnership: Snapchat users will be able to buy Amazon products directly from ads in the app. This comes days after the announcement of a similar Amazon-Meta deal, which lets people buy products on Facebook and Instagram without leaving those apps. (The Information)
Uber will launch a pilot for “Uber Tasks,” a TaskRabbit-like product that will let users hire people for various household chores such as snow removal and garden maintenance. (Bloomberg)
AI wearable firm Humane released a 10-minute video unveiling their somewhat anticipated AI Pin, and promptly received an enormous amount of shit for all manner of things in the demo. Basically, the pin is like a small iPhone with fewer features, but a few interesting twists. They start at $699, and you can order one starting today. (Humane)
Joby Aviation and Volocopter each gave a demonstration of their electric aircraft in New York City on Sunday, with Mayor Adams announcing the electrification of two of the three Manhattan heliports. Joby claims that a Manhattan-JFK flight will take just seven minutes. (TechCrunch)
FAI’s Jon Askonas interviewed a16z’s Marc Andreessen about his recent, highly controversial manifesto in which he argues technology is a good thing, actually. (@JonAskonas)
Big feature on Peter Thiel in the Atlantic last week. To great fanfare on Twitter, Peter confirmed he’s “one of us” when he told the author of the piece that he suspects nicotine is a “really good nootropic drug that raises your IQ 10 points.” Love my president. (The Atlantic)
Chamath says there’s a “reasonable case to make” that the VC job could cease to exist, with people being replaced by an “an automated system of capital against objectives.” (Business Insider)
Musk went on Lex Fridman’s podcast last week and managed to produce a remarkably melancholy gem when Lex asked him to describe something difficult that he’s going through, that no one realizes. “My mind is a storm, and I don't think most people would want to be me. They may think they want to be me, but they don't. They don't know, they don't understand.” (@nearcyan)
In less depressing Elon news, FAA approval for Starship launch came in time for a second launch this Friday, 7am CT. (@whitepill_pw)
Partner at Upfront Ventures Nick Kim published the 2023 LA Hard Tech 50 this week. Worth a skim. (Nick Kim)
Lauren Sanchez on her fiancee Jeff Bezos: “He's on a whole different level than I am. He is a monster in the gym.” (Vogue)
In response to widespread claims the app is biased toward pro-Palestinian content, TikTok says their recommendation algorithm “doesn’t ‘take sides’” (TechCrunch). For what it’s worth, I haven’t really seen any evidence they’re lying here, and argued TikTok’s anti-Israel bias likely has more to do with international platform demographics in last week’s issue of the Industry.
Elsewhere, Nepal has banned TikTok, citing a negative effect on “social harmony.” (TechCrunch)
Last but not least: After being rejected by 25+ potential buyers, G/O media failed to unload the toxic “feminist” trash fire Jezebel, which was finally left with no option but to cease operations. Last week, all staffers were laid off. Read excerpts from the email G/O CEO Jim Spanberger sent to his company announcing the shutdown here. Bye! (NYT)
Amazon is cutting 180 jobs from its games division as the company shifts its games operations to Prime Gaming, a complimentary service included in the Prime bundle. Amazon has cut more than 27,000 roles this year. (SF Chronicle)
Denise Dresser will become Slack’s CEO (Slack’s previous CEO, Lidiane Jones, is leaving for the CEO role at Bumble). (Bloomberg)
Large employers increasingly want to include the new crop of weight loss drugs (Wegovy, Mounjaro, etc.) in their benefits plans. Currently 46% of these companies cover the medications, and another 18% say they are considering it (Bloomberg). Capitalism is when your boss literally pays for you to become hotter, and we will defend this system to our dying breath.
Khosla Ventures is in the final stages of raising $3 billion across its funds. (WSJ)
A VC firm co-owned by several California pensions is launching with more than $1 billion in AUM. Co-CEO Daniel Adamson says the “distress and dislocation” in venture has opened up an opportunity for them. (Bloomberg)
AirBnb has acquired Gameplanner.AI, a stealth startup co-founded by one of the Siri founders. The just-under $200 million acquisition is Airbnb’s first since 2019, and its first as a public company. (CNBC)
The DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit awarded Aerospace firm Hermeus a multi-year contract to “mature hypersonic aircraft subsystem and mission system technology.” (Hermeus)
Human resources startup Deel has reached $400 million in annual recurring revenue, up from $295 million in January. (The Information)
Google is in talks to invest in Character.AI. (Reuters)
Truth Social has lost $73 million since its 2022 launch, according to an SEC filing released on Monday. (Reuters)
This week, Solana was joined by Anduril’s incomparable Palmer Luckey on the Pirate Wires podcast. We covered: new threats on the horizon, Israel-Palestine, navigating subterranean warfare, U.S. manufacturing capacity, China, chips, trade, and much more. This one’s a banger — as always, please like, comment, and subscribe (a thing people often say, so you possibly don’t really hear, but which really does matter!).
Litigation and regulation:
At least some of the Department of Justice’s unhinged harassment of Elon Musk was stymied last week when a judge blocked the Department’s lawsuit against SpaceX for illegally not hiring illegal aliens. As a result of the judge’s decision, the DoJ’s case will only move forward pending the outcome of a SpaceX countersuit, which claims the DoJ’s case is unconstitutional. (Reuters)
Google pays Apple 36% of the ad revenue made through their Safari browser, according to a slip of the tongue from a UC professor testifying at Google’s antitrust trial on Monday. (Bloomberg).
Separately, Google is suing five scammers who created a fake version of the Bard chatbot, which caused unsuspecting users to install malware. (Bloomberg)
Fed chair Jerome Powell said “just close the fucking door” after shrieking climate protestors disrupted a speech he was giving at a recent IMF conference. 👍 (@unusual_whales)
Nvidia continues its stock tear, adding roughly $220 billion in market cap in its latest rally. Helping its surge is their accelerated development of their H200 chip that will launch in mid-2024 (Bloomberg). For a comprehensive explainer on the GPU shortage, read Founders Fund’s John Luttig’s piece that explains it all in detail, discussing both how long the skyrocketing GPU demand will endure, and the future of Nvidia’s current status as “AI kingmaker.” (John Luttig)
For more Luttig, check out his Pirate Wires piece on the narratives driving AI hype: Hallucinations in AI.
Youtube will soon require creators to disclose when their videos contain AI-generated content, citing “elections, ongoing conflicts and public health crises” as sensitive topics this policy update is primarily targeting (Bloomberg). Meta last week announced similar rules, requiring political advertisers to disclose AI-generated content. (NYT)
In an interview with the Financial Times, Sam Altman said OpenAI expects to “raise a lot more over time” from Microsoft and other investors, and their partnership with Microsoft is “working really well.” Sounds like they’ll need it: the company is offering annual compensation to some senior Google AI researchers as high as $5 million to $10 million, per The Information.
OpenAI now allows users to create their own GPTs — here’s a solid, growing list.
Meta AI chief Yann LeCun reminisced about the time — around a year ago — Meta released Galactica, a LLM for scientists, which the company pulled down after three days in response to vitriolic outcry concerning the model’s hallucinations. LeCun said: “The mob claimed that what we now call LLM hallucinations was going to destroy the scientific publication system. As a result, a tool that would have been very useful to scientists was destroyed. Misdirected vitriol thrown under the guise of AI ethics can be very counterproductive.” (@ylecun)
Developers at Google DeepMind have released a paper showing that their GraphCast model has outperformed the world’s leading weather forecast model in 90% of the metrics used. (FT)
While the Biden admin has largely restricted American VCs from doing business with Chinese firms, VCs from China can still do business with American startups. Vinod Khosla: “Chinese VC firms including Sequoia Capital China, Source Code Capital and ZhenFund have been criss-crossing the U.S. and quietly taking minority stakes in all manner of AI startups... The deals have been hush-hush.” (The Information)
Biden on Tuesday said he wants a better relationship with China, noting China is “in trouble right now economically.” The comments came before Biden’s meeting with China’s Xi in San Francisco on Wednesday. “What we’re trying to do is change the relationship for the better.” (Bloomberg) The US and China will likely set up a formalized channel for talks on AI (PLEASE GOD NO), after Biden and Xi meet this week in San Francisco. (Semafor)
Japan is allocating $13 billion in chip industry subsidies, with billions set aside for TSMC’s factories in the country. (Bloomberg)
Hard to really lump this one into “trade war,” on account of Europeans don’t really produce much in terms of tech worth trading, but spiritually it does feel connected:
Regulators in Brussels are preparing to file anti-competitive charges against Adobe’s $20 billion attempted acquisition of Figma. (FT)
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This letter was put together with a great deal of help from Brandon Gorrell.