💬 The dead have entered the chat - The Hustle
The Hustle

💬 The dead have entered the chat

Plus: Long live the pager, tracking sharks, a mini-golf game, and more.

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A diver discovered a shipwreck off the coast of Israel complete with “majestic” centuries-old marble artifacts. The swimmer who made the discovery got to keep the greatest treasure of all: a certificate of appreciation “for good citizenship.”

In today’s email:

  • Singularity: When machines get smart
  • Pagers are still buzzing: We just can’t shake nostalgic tech
  • Death sentences: Griefbots want to make goodbyes better — will they?
  • Around the Web: A different kind of Kraken, a cool mini-golf game, fast penguins, and more internet finds
The big idea

Singularity, explained

When it comes to AI, singularity is kind of like the Terminator. Well, in a worst-case scenario.
2023-05-23T00:00:00Z
Juliet Bennett Ryla

Today, we’re gonna get sci-fi and talk about “singularity.”

While the term appears across math and science, we specifically mean “technological singularity.”

‘It was the machines, Sarah’

So, Terminator: Tech company Cyberdyne Systems builds Skynet, an AI-powered defense network. Skynet becomes self-aware, builds an army of machines, enslaves humankind, and sends a cyborg assassin back in time to kill the mother of humanity’s savior.

That’s singularity: when AI becomes smarter than its creators, capable of improving itself and building technology more advanced than we ever could.

Cool, so when will that be?

Not today. Bard, Bing, and ChatGPT are impressive, but often give us silly or wrong answers. They’re also meh at creative endeavors, derivative of the data they’re fed.

But Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, thinks singularity is already coming — and will be here by 2045.

So, the machines are def going to end us

Not necessarily. For every Terminator or M3gan, there’s an R2-D2 or Data (a crucial member of Starfleet!).

The optimistic view — one shared by Kurzweil — is that we’d work in tandem with machines to better ourselves and society.

Yet other experts worry:

  • An open letter to temporarily stop developing AI more powerful than GPT-4 has garnered signatures from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, and Getty Images CEO Craig Peters.
  • AI scientist Geoffrey Hinton exited Google to openly discuss the risks posed by the technology he pioneered.
  • In 2021, 193 countries agreed to UNESCO’s recommendations on the ethics of AI to help establish a global standard for regulation.

But all in all? Time will tell. (Eyes phone suspiciously.)

TRENDING

“Blood relatives” has been taken to the next level, as a man pouring $2m/year into anti-aging experiments is also pouring the blood of both his 17-year-old son and 70-year-old father into his veins.

SNIPPETS

WhatsApp will now allow message editing within 15 minutes of the send time. The example edit shared by Mark Zuckerberg shows a typo changed from “Beast of luck” to “Best of luck,” which is more correct but way less funny.

The EU fined Meta $1.3B for transferring citizens’ Facebook data to the US. It’s the largest such fine yet, but experts doubt it’ll do much because, well, Meta has Meta money.

Tough crowd: Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s commencement speech was booed by Boston University grads who told him to “pay your writers” in solidarity with the still-striking Writers’ Guild of America.

… beats the office, though: Zaslav’s week isn’t getting better — Warner Bros. Discovery will reportedly conduct another round of layoffs this summer. Today? The internet-maligned rebrand of HBO Max as “Max” goes live.

Mo’ options: Teens already use Venmo, but now they can do so openly — a new parent-controlled service allows 13- to 17-year-olds to send and receive money on the app. The accounts also come with a debit card, so there’s one more thing parents and teens can fight about.

Bad hoax: An image of an explosion at the Pentagon went viral on social media, causing a slight market dip. However, no such explosion occurred and it’s suspected that AI created the bogus pic.

Easy money? Ubiquitous, an influencer marketing agency, will pay people $1k to scroll TikTok for 10 straight hours and spot new trends. Not as dystopian as plugging their brains directly into the internet, but we’ll get there.

Wrist shot: Amazon’s biometric payment technology has added age verification services. Amazon One creates a unique palm print, pairs it with a credit card, then employs palm-scanning devices at the point of purchase, which now includes bars.

Sales plan template: Yo — we’re here to send you sale-ing. Snag this swift template to start connecting with your target market on a trench-like level.

FROM THE BLOG

Every business comes with risks. But risk management can help ensure that the odds are in your favor. Use this guide to get started.

Page-turner
Singdhi Sokpo

From ‘outdated’ to ‘wow, dated!’: Some consumers reconnect with old-school tech

Pagers and flip phones won’t hit the junkyard without a fight.
2023-05-23T00:00:00Z
Jacob Cohen

For those of you who crave cringey ‘90s commercials with unforgivably forced punchlines: Today’s your lucky day.

Son: “Dad, I want a pager. I’m never gonna take it to school, and your pages come first.”

Dad: “You’d do that for me? Would you do something else for me? Shave.”

Oof…

Sure, pagers had their moments with teens, businesspeople, and doctors, and are certainly past their prime.

But they’re not obsolete — not even close, according to The Wall Street Journal. For today’s doctors, studies show phones have overtaken pager use, though there are still many who use the one-way, beeping communication devices, and, uh, TikTok about them, too.

Spok, a US company that makes pagers and other communication technology for health care providers, says 800k+ of its pagers are in use today, down from 6.6m in 2004.

  • In total, Spok, whose stock is up ~56% year-to-date, helps staff at 2.2k+ hospitals send 100m+ messages every month. In Q1, among the company’s ~$33.2m in revenue, $18.5m came from paging.

Flipping off the past

In recent years, many tech oldies have returned as consumer goodies. Relative Google search interest in disposable cameras was far greater in 2022 than in 2004; Samsung is out there pushing its Galaxy Z Flip phones; heck, we’ve done a deep dive on the resurgence of vinyl.

The lessons here: First, keep holding on to that iPod Shuffle in the nostalgia box under your bed.

Second, watch yourself some ‘90s and ‘00s commercials — there’s just something about those Betty Crocker ads that hit different.

Free Resource

How Dani and Jordan influence to the tune of $40m a year

Dani Austin and Jordan Ramirez are the Instagram power couple you always knew existed, yet know nothing about.

On this episode of My First MIllion, Shaan Puri whips up a proper introduction. Hear how they doubled down on content creation to become an Insta-tution.

Points from the pod:

  • How Dani broke into influencer-land
  • Navigating hair loss and wearing wigs
  • Concocting her own scalp serum
  • How to pinpoint your personal brand
  • Next steps: going global
Meet Dani and Jordan 🎧 →
Dead Languages

Will AI help us grieve better? Or way, way worse?

Griefbots are raising the dead, but whether they will raise spirits is hard to say.
2023-05-23T00:00:00Z
Ben Berkley

You can’t put a price on closure, but one Chinese funeral company is trying anyway.

Fu Shou Yuan International Group is charging families ~$7.3k to produce digital representations of deceased loved ones using ChatGPT.

Advanced technology being used to sidestep the finality of death isn’t anything new — from consciousness-uploading startups to life span-extension biotech to, let’s say, a solid half of “Black Mirror” premises — but it doesn’t mean anyone’s ready for the griefbot wave.

What are griefbots exactly?

Ever use AOL Instant Messenger? Well, imagine having a casual convo on there — just with a disembodied version of your late loved one.

That’s what’s on offer here: feed a person’s writings and info into an AI program, generate a somewhat faithful replication of their personality, then “communicate” with them.

Soon to launch in this space is Seance AI, which — yep — what it’s going for is all right there in the name. What sticks out most about it, though, is its brevity.

  • Meant to be more like an “AI-generated Ouija board for closure, rather than a means of immortality,” per Futurism, Seance AI sees itself as a limited-time-only emotional processing tool.
  • Seance AI says it prefers a pay-per-session model over a monthly subscription model to discourage users from communing with the dead too often.

That sets it apart from prominent avatar services HereAfter and Replika, which produce AI replicas often used for long-term communications.

Grief evolves with technology

The wide adoption of photography changed mourning by bringing images of the deceased into homes; this is just the latest evolution.

And with increasingly sophisticated AI tools producing better approximations, griefbots will only get more convincing.

Whether they’ll ultimately offer more satisfying goodbyes, or leave people feeling even emptier — that’s anyone’s guess.

AROUND THE WEB

📚On this day: In 1911, President William Howard Taft dedicated the New York Public Library in NYC, a beaux-arts building that took 14 years to build. When it opened, it was the largest marble structure in the US. 🦈 That’s cool: A website that tracks tagged sharks.

🤢 That’s interesting: NASA is putting people in the Kraken, AKA the Disorientation Research Device. This $19m, 245k-pound machine shakes people around “like laundry… in a washing machine” to study spatial disorientation.

Cure boredom: with this simple mini-golf game

🐧 Aww: And now, what if penguins were fast?

MEME

If this performance review doesn’t include a standing ovation, we riot. (Link)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen and Juliet Bennett Rylah.
Editing by: Ben “Good mourning” Berkley.

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