Why Is Nick Bilton So Obsessed With Doggles
CUERPOS NO HUMANOS. Ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa.
There are apparently wee little alien corpses in Mexico that look like outsider art from a prison papier-mâché workshop, which 404’s Jason Koebler reports is basically what they are, and I’m starting with that because it’s the most normal thing in the tabs today. It only gets worse from here.
Escaped killer crab Danelo Cavalcante was “Subdued by Dog in Thick Underbrush.” The Times simply cannot stop writing evocative phrases about this guy. Lauren Boebert got kicked out of “Beetlejuice” in Denver for getting too rowdy with her vape pen. USA Today and The Tennessean are hiring a Taylor Swift correspondent and a Beyoncé correspondent. And people say there are no journalism jobs anymore! The “if Millennials want to afford a house they should stop buying avocado toast” millionaire dropped a new banger: “we need to see unemployment rise 40-50%” to remind workers that they’re disposable. This guy definitely has a portrait of himself hidden away in his attic and every time he says something evil in public, its forehead gets more normal-looking. And God personally revealed His displeasure with America to Rod Dreher on 9/11/2002 by lightly vandalizing an acquaintance’s historical flag when no one was looking, a normal and obvious way for the omniscient and omnipotent Creator of all things to signal the loss of His Holy favor to an entire nation. I imagine He’s peeved that it took Rod twenty one years to mention it to the rest of us.
What do all these stories have in common? Nothing, I am just desperately trying to delay telling you about the worst tab I have ever read: today’s AI story from tech journalism’s most credulous boob, Nick Bilton.
For Vanity Fair, Nick talked to everyone in tech who has an intense personal and financial interest in convincing him that AI is the most important thing that humans have ever created, and came away believing that AI is the most important thing that humans have ever created. I don’t even know how to excerpt this for you, because every sentence is somehow the worst sentence. It’s fractally terrible. This is just the opening paragraph:
We invented wheels and compasses and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and the eames lounge chair and penicillin and e = mc2 and beer that comes in six-packs and guns and dildos and the Pet Rock and Doggles (eyewear for dogs) and square watermelons. “One small step for man.” We came up with the Lindy Hop and musical toothbrushes and mustard gas and glow-in-the-dark Band-Aids and paper and the microscope and bacon—fucking bacon!—and Christmas. “Ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa.” We went to the bottom of the ocean and into orbit. We sucked energy from the sun and fertilizer from the air. “Let there be light.” We created the most amazing pink flamingo lawn ornaments that come in packs of two and only cost $9.99!
If you look closely, you can see his editor give up at “e = mc2 [sic],” and indeed no further sign of editing appears in the rest of the piece. Here’s another paragraph that I swear was published exactly like this:
Let’s just stop for a moment and unpack this. Larry Page…the founder of one of the world’s biggest companies…a company that employs thousands of engineers that are building artificial intelligence machines right now, as you read this…believes that AI will, and should, become so smart and so powerful and so formidable and…and…that one day it won’t need us dumb pathetic little humans anymore…and it will, and it should, GET RID OF US!
Ellipses… italics, and CAPITALIZATION all extremely [sic]. We also learn that Larry Page’s hand is “soft as a bar of soap,” and he has a voice ”like a campfire that is trying to tell you something.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton just sent me a telegram from hell that says: “WOW THIS GUY SUCKS AT WRITING STOP.”
Bilton appears to believe that “an AI” is a literal, physical machine, capable of manipulating matter and possibly the laws of physics:
…a new machine that is made of billions of microscopic transistors and aluminum and copper wires that zigzag and twist and turn and are interconnected in incomprehensible ways. A machine that is only a few centimeters in width and length.
I’m having a stroke. Je téléphone a la police. In conclusion, according to Nick:
The QUESTION CIRCULATING around Silicon Valley isn’t if such a scenario is worth it, even with a 1 PERCENT CHANCE OF ANNIHILATION, but rather, if it is really such a bad thing if we build a machine that CHANGES HUMAN LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.
Back in the real world, the QUESTION CIRCULATING is whether AI is capable of anything more impressive than copying movie summaries verbatim out of IMDb.
Meanwhile, In The Ball-Jointed Doll Community:
Isaacson puts innovation first: This man might be a monster, but look at what he built! Whereas Mary Shelley, for instance, put innovation second: The man who built this is a monster!
In a Rolling Stone excerpt from her upcoming book “Extremely Online,” Taylor Lorenz attempts to rehabilitate Julia Allison by describing her as a pioneer of the now well-trodden career path of the social media influencer. I think this is probably right but also kind of a bad thing to have been? It’s like being the person who invented playing music on your phone out loud just wherever you are, in line at the coffee shop or whatever. A trailblazer (derogatory).
And Sean Penn wants to talk about Ukraine but can’t stop making creepy daughter-fucking metaphors in Variety. He also shows feet. Rich people wyd.
In The Guardian Kate Lindsay argued that TikTok won the social media wars and destroyed social media in the process. It’s a good post. That’s it, I need to go lie down for the rest of my life.