The Hustle

🚨 Send every tourist to jail

Plus: A font monopoly, fighting hotel junk fees, forging a “Clone-a Lisa,” and more.

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Look up tonight for a rare confluence of lunar phenomena: The “blue supermoon” is the year’s biggest, brightest full moon and the second full moon of the month. If you’re like us — i.e., doomed to fall asleep on the couch before getting a peek — just go ahead and set a reminder for May 31, 2026, the next time this’ll happen.

In today’s email:

  • Model collapse: What happens when AI learns from AI.
  • Sans Sheriff: One company largely controls the whole font market.
  • Tripping out: Welcome to the age of the rotten traveler.
  • Around the Web: A game of forgery, furniture for geeks, a universal question, and more.

👇 Listen: Travel is up and tourists are up to no good.

The big idea

When AI starts teaching AI, models may ‘collapse’

When AI trains on AI-generated data, it goes haywire.
2023-08-30T00:00:00Z
Juliet Bennett Ryla

Model collapse is when generative AI models train on AI-generated content (as opposed to content created by humans) and deteriorate as they forget the human-generated data they learned from and begin copying patterns they’ve already seen.

In an email to Cosmos, machine learning researcher Ilia Shumailov, who co-authored a paper on the topic, uses the following analogy:

  • A model receives a data set containing 90 yellow objects and 10 blue ones.
  • Because there are more yellow objects, it begins to turn the blue objects greenish.
  • Over time, it forgets the blue objects exist.

With each generation of synthetic data, outliers disappear and outputs less accurately reflect reality until what’s left is nonsense.

A solution might sound simple at first

Don’t train AI on AI-generated content, sure. Except it’s already proliferating across the internet.

“Just as we’ve strewn the oceans with plastic trash and filled the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, so we’re about to fill the Internet with blah,” Ross Anderson, a security expert and co-author of Shumailov’s paper, wrote.

So will AI inevitably go haywire?

Any model that started spitting out utter nonsense would probably be shut down by whatever tech company put it out there in the first place.

However, Aditi Raghunathan, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, told The Atlantic that the real danger would be less obvious flaws. For example, biases that creep in as AI caters to the majority.

So, you know, just one more thing to worry about when not worrying about singularity.

TRENDING

Add Hyatt to the list of hotel chains being sued over so-called junk fees. The complaint alleges that Hyatt has been “systemically cheating consumers out of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars each year” by listing room rates that don’t include tacked-on “resort” and “destination” fees. Marriott International and MGM Resorts have faced similar legal challenges.

SNIPPETS

Awkward: OpenAI is launching ChatGPT Enterprise, an advanced version of its AI tool for corporate clients — just six weeks after its sugar daddy, Microsoft, rolled out its ChatGPT-based Bing Chat Enterprise product.

Meanwhile… Google plans to start charging large businesses $30/month per user for Duet AI, the company’s new AI assistant for its Workspace apps, including Gmail and Docs.

Snapchat is joining the AI bandwagon with a new feature called Dreams. Users upload selfies, choose a theme, and receive a pack of eight generated photos for free (subsequent packs cost $1).

Amazon might be next up in the return-to-office debate, with CEO Andy Jassy telling employees who wish to stay home that it’s “not going to work out.”

Just Walk Out… More than a message to disgruntled remote Amazon employees, it’s also the company’s cashierless tech, which will expand across US college campuses through a Grubhub partnership.

Pharma vs. Uncle Sam: Medicare will negotiate prices on 10 of the most expensive and widely used drugs, if drugmakers can’t get courts to stop the government’s efforts first. Prices would drop in 2026, saving seniors big cash and taxpayers ~$25B annually by 2031.

X and LinkedIn are both working to add passkey support, which would allow secure, password-free access to their apps through biometric tools like Face ID and Touch ID.

Disney will offer free cricket to combat the mounting subscriber losses at its Indian streaming service, Disney+ Hotstar. It will air live matches from the sport’s World Cup on the app this fall.

Onboard better: Bringing a new team member into the fold can be a complicated process. Here’s a guide for all things onboarding.

Fontopoly

Why fonts (mostly) come from one business

Fonts are a ubiquitous commodity. Every font you see — on your computer screen, a street sign, a T-shirt, or your car’s dashboard — has been crafted by a designer. With 4.5k independent artists selling on online marketplace MyFonts today, many struggle to attract customers and to make a living in an oversaturated market.

It’s only getting harder, as designers must compete with and abide by the terms of one company that’s approaching behemoth status: Monotype.

The company owns not only many of the world’s most popular fonts, but also exchanges like MyFonts where font designers bring their work to market.

The industry is inching toward a monopoly, and it’s leaving independent designers with fewer places to go.

Read the complete story →
Free Resource

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Tourist de force

Today’s tourists are on their worst behavior

From smashing Roman busts to trampling the Spanish Steps, ill-behaved tourists are now a summer staple.
2023-08-30T00:00:00Z
Sara Friedman

Did you ever get in trouble at school for carving your crush’s initials into a desk?

We won’t tell, but there’s a new vandal in town making that look like child’s play: tourists.

Around the world, officials are reporting an uptick in misdemeanors, and it’s getting ugly:

  • A man was caught on video etching his girlfriend’s name into the wall of the Colosseum. He could now face up to five years in prison and a $16.4k fine.
  • In China, tourists damaged geological landforms by standing in prohibited areas (to take photos, of course).
  • An American smashed two sculptures in the Vatican after being told he couldn’t see the pope.
  • Rome’s Spanish Steps got pummeled by a Maserati just weeks before a tourist caused $27k in damages by throwing a scooter at it.

The worst part? Those aren’t even a fraction of the incidents. Venice alone had 46 acts of tourists defacing monuments from January to October 2022.

WTF is going on?

The simplest explanation: more tourists mean more chances for things to go awry, and international travel has outpaced last summer.

Italy alone saw international arrivals increase 86% YoY in the first quarter of 2023 (which explains why so many of these horror stories are taking place there).

But there’s more at play:

  • Easing covid restrictions have travelers eager to get away, and two years of pent up energy can be destructive.
  • Social media and striving to “go viral” can push tourists into making risky choices.
  • Movies and TV turn monuments into popular tourist attractions, which can harm locals and disrupt cities (looking at you, “Game of Thrones”).

But tourist destinations are fighting back: Bali has deported 136 tourists this year, Italy passed a bill that ups the penalties for vandalism, and Amsterdam launched a “stay away” campaign to discourage rowdy visitors.

We think Croatia should be next up, yelling “shame” at tourists who misbehave.

AROUND THE WEB

🚀 On this day: In 1983, US Air Force Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford became the first Black person to go to space. He spent six days in space aboard Challenger launching a satellite for India.

That’s interesting: A high-res image from the James Webb Space Telescope appears to show a giant question mark in space. Here’s what it really is.

🎧 Podcast: Another Bite breaks down Geek Chic, a company that sells handcrafted gaming furniture for all your nerdy needs.

🎨 Cure boredom: Can you forge the “Mona Lisa”?

🐬 Aww: And now, a clever beluga.

Meme

Don’t let it break your “focus,” but the birds are suddenly chirping a little louder. (Link)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Juliet Bennett Rylah and Sara Friedman.
Editing by: Ben “Arial warfare” Berkley.

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