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- Amazon Has Become a One-Click NightmareMy daughter needs a purple wig for school, and she needs it by this Friday. When I got the news Monday night, I had just one reliable option—Amazon—and the rancid-tapioca feeling that comes with using it. The problem isn’t just the company’s rough track record with worker safety, or its devastating effect on brick-and-mortar stores, or knowing that I was about to toss more data into its insatiable maw. Despite all that, I’m still a Prime subscriber.Lately, though, shopping on Amazon has become an exercise in frustration. My purple-wig search started with sponsored listings from unfamiliar brands with just a small disclosure noting that they’re advertisements. The organic results eventually do show up, offering hairpieces from brands with names such as DAOTS, MorvallyDirect, and eNilecor. Scroll only a little deeper into the sea of indigo fibers, and the sponsored items resume.What happened to Amazon? The company no longer excels at… ..... Read More.6 days ago
- My Books Were Used to Train Meta’s Generative AI. Good.When The Atlantic revealed last month that tens of thousands of books published in the past 20 years had been used without permission to train Meta’s AI language model, well-known authors were outraged, calling it a “smoking gun” for mega-corporate misbehavior. Now that the magazine has put out a searchable database of affected books, the outrage is redoubled: “I would never have consented for Meta to train AI on any of my books, let alone five of them,” wrote the novelist Lauren Groff. “Hyperventilating.” The original Atlantic story gestured at this sense of violation and affront: “The future promised by AI is written with stolen words,” it said.I understand that the database in question, called “Books3,” appears to have been assembled from torrented ebooks ripped into text files, in which case any use of it could be a breach of copyright. Still I was mystified, at first, by the Sturm… ..... Read More.7 days ago
- A New Coca-Cola Flavor at the End of the WorldCoca-Cola often experiments with new flavors, and they’re usually flavors you can imagine, having tasted them before: vanilla, cherry, lemon. But the latest is called Y3000, a reference to the far-off year 3000, and one that Coca-Cola says was concocted with the help of, in some way, artificial intelligence. It smells like circus-peanut candies and tastes mostly like Coke.The company says this soda was made to evoke a “positive future,” with a label that has “a futuristic feel,” due to its color palette of silver, violet, magenta, and cyan. The Coca-Cola logo on the Y3000 bottle is made of “fluid dot clusters that merge to represent the human connections of our future planet.” Customers can scan a QR code on the bottle to open a website that uses the AI model Stable Diffusion to turn photos of their surroundings into images with a similar color scheme and sci-fi aesthetics. In… ..... Read More.1 week ago
- So Much for ‘Learn to Code’The quickest way to second-guess a decision to major in English is this: have an extended family full of Salvadoran immigrants and pragmatic midwesterners. The ability to recite Chaucer in the original Middle English was unlikely to land me a job that would pay off my student loans and help me save for retirement, they suggested when I was a college freshman still figuring out my future. I stuck with English, but when my B.A. eventually spat me out into the thick of the Great Recession, I worried that they’d been right.After all, computer-science degrees, and certainly not English, have long been sold to college students as among the safest paths toward 21st-century job security. Coding jobs are plentiful across industries, and the pay is good—even after the tech layoffs of the past year. The average starting salary for someone with a computer-science degree is significantly higher than that of… ..... Read More.1 week ago
- What I Found in a Database Meta Uses to Train Generative AIEditor’s note: This article is part of The Atlantic’s series on Books3. You can search the database for yourself here, and read about its origins here.This summer, I reported on a data set of more than 191,000 books that were used without permission to train generative-AI systems by Meta, Bloomberg, and others. “Books3,” as it’s called, was based on a collection of pirated ebooks that includes travel guides, self-published erotic fiction, novels by Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, and a lot more. It is now at the center of several lawsuits brought against Meta by writers who claim that its use amounts to copyright infringement.Books play a crucial role in the training of generative-AI systems. Their long, thematically consistent paragraphs provide information about how to construct long, thematically consistent paragraphs—something that’s essential to creating the illusion of intelligence. Consequently, tech companies use huge data sets of books, typically without permission,… ..... Read More.1 week ago
- These 183,000 Books Are Fueling the Biggest Fight in Publishing and TechEditor’s note: This searchable database is part of The Atlantic’s series on Books3. You can read about the origins of the database here, and an analysis of what’s in it here.This summer, I acquired a data set of more than 191,000 books that were used without permission to train generative-AI systems by Meta, Bloomberg, and others. I wrote in The Atlantic about how the data set, known as “Books3,” was based on a collection of pirated ebooks, most of them published in the past 20 years. Since then, I’ve done a deep analysis of what’s actually in the data set, which is now at the center of several lawsuits brought against Meta by writers such as Sarah Silverman, Michael Chabon, and Paul Tremblay, who claim that its use in training generative AI amounts to copyright infringement.Since my article appeared, I’ve heard from several authors wanting to know if their work… ..... Read More.1 week ago