We have been here before
Bing AI, TikTok tics, Canadian content, Enyacore, catfishing and The Decemberists
What if I told you [Bing’s] a mastermind?
The Bing AI rollout is best understood as stunt viral marketing at its best. Why else would a trillion-dollar company that has been here before hype a sulking, scolding, bath-salts-tripping manipulative narcissist?
Sure, it could be that Microsoft is just that desperate to plant its lunar flag before Google gets there. And it could be that Microsoft cares not a shit for social/reputational consequences. But I prefer to think some genius marketeris at the wheel, running this like a T Swift album drop. In hindsight, we’ll realize “Sydney’s” cryptic, chaotic bloops and bleeps were just viral promos for a better-vetted bot.
P.S.: Are you one of the 50 zillion people ~hacking your job~ with ChatGPT? Please reply to this email, I’d love to hear more! This will be the subject of a future Links.
P.P.S.: Are you one of the <50 zillion people who replied to the above prompt last week and are now like … “wtf she never even acknowledged this?” I had a very busy week, but I see you and appreciate you (!!) and will be in touch ASAP.
If you read anything this weekend
“How Teens Recovered From the ‘TikTok Tics,’” by Azeen Ghorayshi in The New York Times. It turns out the treatment for mass hysteria is a hell of a lot less interesting than the condition itself: therapy! Antidepressants! And acknowledging that — all TikToks to the contrary — you don’t actually have Tourrette’s.
“‘Please Acknowledge the Dick’: Inside a Catfishing Factory,” by Jasper Jackson, Niamh McIntyre, Chrissie Giles for the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. This is not a terrrrribly satisfying investigation of the chat operator industry, which seems designed to exploit the poverty, loneliness and/or desperation of everyone it touches. Except for its creators, of course, who are presumably very rich, very evil and — apparently! — not discoverable.
“Story Killers: Inside the Deadly Disinformation-for-Hire Industry.” Journalists at outlets around the world collaborated on this series for Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit protecting freedom of the press. It uncovered, among many other things, a massive network of credible fake-news sites laundering reputations and a former intelligence operative hacking individual Google accounts to swing elections.
“Fear Made John McAfee Rich. It Also Ruined Him,” by Jamie Tarabay and Matthew Bremner in Bloomberg. Treat every chivvying reminder to update your antivirus software as an opportunity to recall the world’s most cinematically batshit tech zillionaire.
“I Had ChatGPT Write a Decemberists Song,” by Colin Meloy, of The Decemberists, in his newsletter. Listening to this song reminded me of that Black Mirror episode where people buy AI replacements of their deceased relatives. It looks like a song! It sounds like a song! And yet, you still want to order it off a cliff.
👉 ICYMI: The most-clicked link from last week’s newsletter was this WaPo romp on Buy Nothing groups.
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Canadian content. Culling the cryptids. An interview with the genius behind @amtrak. “I’ve heard the future and it sounds confused.” iPhone factories: still hellish. The only successful right-wing social platform. Why digital ads have gotten so bad. The greatest aesthetic is Enyacore, thank you, there will be no time for further questions.
What your grocery store knows about you. Why podcasts are shutting down. Robin Arzón in the New Yorker and Sufism in the cloud. In praise of the BBC Shipping Forecast. In defense of BookTok. Last but not least, what the Ohio train derailment says about getting news now.
That’s it for this week! Until the next one. Warmest virtual regards.
In all seriousness, though, all press is apparently good press for Bing: Downloads jumped 30x last week.