Links is back! (Until the robots replace me.)
ChatGPT, Grandma content, Amazon junk, tinned fish, freed nipples and real-life Wikipedia
ChatGPT comes at you fast
Yes, yes, Links is back — or did you not notice it left? Have you, in fact, subscribed to so many Substacks that you avoid your promotions tab and the flurry of FOMO, aggravation and obligation therein? It’s okay! I’m not offended. But as an FYI, I’ve been out for two months. And while two months is not a long time in the grand scheme of the Holocene or what have you, it feels like a lot has changed in my brief absence.
For instance: The tech industry and its messiahs have hurtled back to earth.
TikTok is “over” capitalism and maybe also just … over.
And ChatGPT, once little more than an up-skilled SmarterChild, can suddenly — in the span of weeks(!!) — pen Congressional speeches, strategize workout plans, hit on unsuspecting humans, generate chumbox ads, shit-talk chess players, pass law exams, earn MBAs, sell houses, draft judicial opinions, recruit for cartels, supercharge finance hustle bros, write unfunny comics, dispense credible health advice and … plagiarize newsletters.
In positive news, generative AI cannot yet do rocket science or draw hands.
Give it another two months, though. Life comes at you fast.
If you read anything this weekend
“We’ve Lost the Plot,” by Megan Garber in The Atlantic. Everything is entertainment all the time now, from politics to docudramas to acts of “kindness.” But this immersive entertainmentscape isn’t actually all that fun, reducing people to mere characters and blurring the lines between truth and fiction.
“The Website That Wants You to Kill Yourself — and Won’t Die,” by Ali Breland in Mother Jones. In the five months since Cloudflare “deplatformed” one of the clear web’s most hateful and hated sites, Kiwifarms has found some tiny footholds to keep it online. This isn’t unusual — Stormfront and 8chan also limped on in some form when Cloudflare dropped them — but it’s hell for Kiwifarms’ victims.
"The Junkification of Amazon,” by John Hermann in New York Magazine. It is a truth universally acknowledged that searching for products on Amazon has become … really dumb. You get 10,000 options, most drop-shipped from China, and neither their gibberish brand names nor astroturfed ratings really distinguish them. But what if that’s a feature, not a bug — a way to squeeze more money from third-party sellers? Amazon doesn’t want to be a store. It wants to be the world’s sales infrastructure.
“Inside the Lonely and Surprisingly Earnest World of Political TikTok,” by Christian Paz in Vox. TikTok has roiled industries from music to media to e-commerce — but U.S. politicians weirdly still avoid the app, concerned about disinformation, data collection and the its Chinese ownership.
“More Grandma Content, Please,” by Tejal Rao in The New York Times. Amen! I will cosign.
Thanks for being one of my 15,000 hypothetical Gchat friends.
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Spotify snooping. Amazon stalling. TikTok’s most annoying “hack.” Last month in typeface: Twitter tweaks; AI inscribes; Zazzle … zaps. “Another castle built on shit.” The 17th coming of “The Secret.” Further proof that art is painfully subjective.
From the woman who gave you the millennial pause, I now present: the “Gen Z shake.” From the paper written for out-of-touch boomer dads, some breaking news: Voice-to-text isn’t great. How Wikipedia erases indigenous history. Why Meta is freeing the nipple now. The coolest web app I’ve seen in ages shows you Wikipedia IRL. A glimpse at the future of password-sharing. Goodbye Gawker 2.0. Last but not least, a rant disguised as a question: Did TikTok singlehandedly spawn these thrifty “new” “trends” … or was it maaaaybe inflation?
That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.
This isn’t even hyperbole, really — a *ton* of generative AI tools did go public all at once. There is an illuminating (also: long, gird yourself) explanation of this phenomenon in Ars Technica.