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When you should fake it ’til you make it

Diane Davis

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When I was 16, I took a high school coop course that put me in a placement at a local technology holdings company. It was a small family business, employing a few software engineers and a receptionist. The receptionist would tell me about The Secret and the law of attraction, which I realized was a version of, “Fake it ’til you make it.” Think, pretend, and visualize that you have what you want, and you will eventually get it. Be mindful of what you think and speak because you subconsciously and spiritually can make it come true in the physical world.

I’m not sure if the law of attraction fell out of favor or if I just stopped paying attention, but the idea started trending again in 2019 under a new word: manifesting. Namely, that you can manifest things to happen if you focus your mind on it. The first piece was a cautionary tale against manifesting, which I really appreciated. Then there was a piece in 2020, exploring whether manifesting actually worked or not. And, of course, it hit the New York Times style section.

Outside of manifesting, there’s still all sorts of advice prescribing to fake it ’til you make it. There’s self-delusion, and acting as if. There’s dressing for the job you want, not the one you have. There are also many entrepreneurial stories of taking on a project they hadn’t done before—essentially assuring the customer they knew what they were doing, even if they didn’t. It’s mostly this final point that I’ll cover in this piece: How does a person navigate between, “Fake it ’til you make it,” and being honest and trustworthy?

For example, Bill Gates famously called PC pioneer Ed Roberts, founder of Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS), and offered to do a BASIC for its Altair 8800 product. While he didn’t have a finished product yet—or even experience with the Altair 8800—he was confident that he and his colleagues could make it happen. It worked, MITS became Microsoft’s first client, and the Altair BASIC became Microsoft’s first product.

What Gates probably didn’t know at the time is that the MITS Altair 8800 that they saw on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine was also something of a dud. Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews write in Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America, “It was a mere mockup, a cardboard box whose front panel lights and switches were utterly inoperable.”

When faking it ’til you make it works

In Steal Like an Artist, author Austin Kleon defines “Fake it ’til you make it” in two ways:

1. Pretend to be something you’re not until you are—fake it until you’re successful, until everybody sees you the way you want them to; or

2. Pretend to be making something until you actually make something.

Kleon goes on to tell the story of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe wanting to be artists and moving to New York. They dressed up in bohemian gypsy gear and went to Washington Square Park. They learned to be artists, at least partially, by pretending.

The degree of pretending is something to consider. For example, while Gates hadn’t had experience with the Altair 8800, as Manes and Andrews write, he and his cofounder Paul Allen did have “the 8008 simulator Paul had designed so that Bill could program the Traf-O-Data machine. It wouldn’t be trivial to convert that simulator to work for the 8080, but it wouldn’t be insanely difficult, either.”

And similarly, Roberts had completed a prototype of the Altair 8800. The one on the cover was an empty box because the package never arrived at the magazine. Thus, while the evidence was lost, a prototype had actually been completed.

In both Gates’ and Roberts’ cases, the people making the decision to pretend—to fake it, to tell an exaggerated version of a story—had degrees of confidence they could accomplish what they set out to. The confidence wasn’t built on manifesting or visualizing. It was based on evidence, the fact that one actually had experience with the software (not the hardware), and another based on the fact that they’d built an actual prototype (but the express company had lost it).

Time orientation also plays a big part in this. There’s a big difference between lying about the past and projecting into the future. Believing in the future—or pretending to—can work, but only if a person is honest, truthful, and even earnest, about the events that took place in the past. Lying about the past is fraud.

The most you can do with past events, metrics, or performance is communicate what each observation means to you and your business story—to reframe it in an exciting or inspiring way—but you wouldn’t be well-served lying about the event itself or pretending that it didn’t happen.

Telling a story about the future to get others to believe

There’s a specific version of “Fake it ’til you make it,” that I find fascinating, which involves much more activity than merely pretending or omitting an inconvenient fact. Here’s a plausible, though apocryphal, example, which I found in Mihnea Moldoveanu and Roger Martin’s Diaminds: Decoding the Mental Habits of Successful Thinkers. I’ll paraphrase:

Henry Kissinger was asked to help a young man secure a job with the chairman of a large bank. The chairman was looking for a new VP, and Kissinger said he knew someone who happened to be Rothschild’s son-in-law. The chairman was interested.

Next, Kissinger called Rothschild, whom he heard had an unmarried daughter, and mentioned he knew a young man who had ascended the bank’s corporate ladder and was also unmarried. The deals went through, and Kissinger, “made his words true, rather than merely spoken true words.”

While the story might not be true, it’s plausible enough to have happened sometime and someplace else. A person of strong reputation lends their credibility to get other people to believe in something.

As David Friedberg says in All-In, episode 19, Elon Musk did not meet the numbers that other people thought he was going to (even regularly falling short of his own goals), but enough people believed in his vision and his story of the future that they bought the stock, which enabled Musk to raise additional capital and build the business in the way he said it would happen. It was a belief in the future, without a distortion of the past or the present.

It’s really this idea that I think most technology leaders implicitly understand and is one of the crucial skills of an entrepreneur. Except for these days, of course, there are much higher fidelity ways of packaging an idea than simply word of mouth. It takes place, instead, through demos, presentations, prototypes, and films. All of this is in the service of convincing someone to believe. It’s the tactic of overselling.

On a more day-to-day level, there’s a simple example in product management, known as the “painted-door test.” Rather than building an actual door, the team or company paints the door first to see if it’s actually useful.

In a discussion at Reddit, u/moronictransgression writes:

“Sometimes they used existing features in new ways, in which case the prototypes were usually mini-working versions, but more often you were describing a feature that doesn’t exist yet, so you generate code that “pretends” it did just to demonstrate how the real product would work, should it get the proper funding.

I can see how this can immediately pivot to ‘fraud,’ but it’s one of those things that isn’t until it is. That is, it’s all about intent–if you knew a feature couldn’t/wouldn’t be developed but you continued to advertise it–you’re a fraud! But if you advertise a feature that will work by the time you sell it, but might not work now–I see that as prototyping.”

Proof of concepts and prototypes are common practices in technology. Roadmaps, discoveries, and such are nice ways of saying that something doesn’t actually exist yet. In a sense, it’s commonplace.

Smoothing out inconveniences

In the New York Times, Fred Vogelstein writes that Steve Jobs had been rehearsing his now-famous iPhone demonstration for five days, and even on the last day the iPhone was extremely glitchy. Andy Grignon, a senior engineer for Apple, and his team did things to make it appear production-ready, like bolster the phone’s signal with a portable cell tower from AT&T, and programming the screen to appear to have five bars regardless of its true reception signal. All of these observations were, for obvious reasons, omitted from the actual demo.

Jobs had multiple iPhone prototypes on stage with him in case the memory ran low on one of them, which would happen a lot. The plan was for him to switch to another while the first was restarted. Still, with so many live demos, his team was concerned there weren’t enough devices. Vogelstein writes:

“Jobs rarely backed himself into corners like this. He was well known as a taskmaster, seeming to know just how hard he could push his staff so that it delivered the impossible. But he always had a backup, a Plan B, that he could go to if his timetable was off.

But the iPhone was the only cool new thing Apple was working on. The iPhone had been such an all-encompassing project at Apple that this time there was no backup plan. ‘It was Apple TV or the iPhone,’ Grignon says. ‘And if he had gone to Macworld with just Apple TV’—a new product that connected iTunes to a television set—’the world would have said, What the heck was that?’”

Fortunately for Jobs and Apple, the demo worked out smoothly, and the iPhone’s production met the demo’s standards as well. Sometimes, faking it has much more severe consequences.

Lying about the past is not a good idea

In January 2018, Nikola reported that its electric truck was fully functioning. It even had video footage. But a couple of years later, a short-seller found out that the Nikola One prototype had been towed to the top of a shallow hill, and merely allowed to roll down the hill.

Nikola would not make Nikola One work instead of moving on to Nikola Two. At the Financial Times, Claire Bushey writes that Nikola faces scrutiny from the SEC and that founder Trevor Milton made nine inaccurate statements.

This is the textbook case of an ambitious entrepreneur projecting into the future, setting a really concrete vision, one that they probably could deliver on if they had enough time. Perhaps the main difference is Jobs was running Apple, and the iPhone was feasibly close to complete. The modifications were to iron out the bugs; he wasn’t pretending much, and the degree of deception wasn’t as strong.

By contrast, Nikola’s Milton—as well as Theranos’s Elizabeth Holmes—were both deliberately fraudulent, outright lying in their answers to specific questions about the past and the present.

There doesn’t have to be a ton of lawsuits and millions of dollars involved; this principle applies day-to-day too. I’ll never forget this Reddit thread involving a guy who basically built a relationship with a powerful executive, only to use a favor to try to go for a position he wasn’t qualified for, and actually trying to lie about his past skill set through a hands-on interview process. He was caught red-handed, humiliated, and learned his lesson the hard way.

Make the door first

An interview is no time to be modest, granted. But back to the painted-door analogy: There’s a huge difference between painting a door and trying to sell it to someone, and actually making a door. You can be honest about how far along you are—”We only made a doorknob, we expect to make the rest of the door in three days”—and talk about how you’re going to make it happen.

Sometimes, the product itself is enough to get people to buy. In the Masters of Scale podcast, Peloton founder John Foley talks about facing a lot of rejections from conventional VCs but also failed his first Kickstarter campaign. Only 178 people bought a Peloton from the original campaign. Foley’s problem was Peloton didn’t have enough believers yet, and a video was not as convincing as someone actually trying a Peloton bike for themselves.

SoulCycle and Flywheel wouldn’t buy the bikes, so Peloton started its own studio, hired its own instructors, and ended up building out a profitable side of the business because people wanted to sign up for spin class. Word spread, Peloton started a showroom, and that tangible and physical experience won people over.

Similarly, I appreciated this story in which Pitch founder Christian Reber talked about taking two years to make his product before he shipped it to customers. According to Reber, Zoom had done the same thing. This takes resources and funding, of course, but that’s also part of the point. If your story isn’t persuasive enough to convince people to support it, either with their time and energy or with their money, then maybe it’s not such a good story to believe in after all. Maybe you’d be better off ushering in a different type of future, one that’s better suited for you.

You shouldn’t need to fake too much

If there’s any surefire sign to go by, it’s that you’ll know when you’re faking it too hard. You won’t feel good about it, your confidence will diminish, and you’ll feel overwhelmed. That means you’re either telling too ambitious a story about the future even for your own brain to process, or you’re getting a little too creative in reframing the past.


This article originally appeared on Herbert Lui’s blog and is reprinted with permission.



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Technology & Innovation

The Download: tracking animals, and biotech plants

Diane Davis

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dossier of journalist information concept

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

How tracking animal movement may save the planet

Animals have long been able to offer unique insights about the natural world around us, acting as organic sensors picking up phenomena invisible to humans. Canaries warned of looming catastrophe in coal mines until the 1980s, for example.

These days, we have more insight into animal behavior than ever before thanks to technologies like sensor tags. But the data we gather from these animals still adds up to only a relatively narrow slice of the whole picture. Results are often confined to silos, and for many years tags were big and expensive, suitable only for a handful of animal species.

This is beginning to change. Researchers are asking: What will we find if we follow even the smallest animals? What if we could see how different species’ lives intersect? What could we learn from a system of animal movement, continuously monitoring how creatures big and small adapt to the world around us? It may be, some researchers believe, a vital tool in the effort to save our increasingly crisis-plagued planet. Read the full story.

—Matthew Ponsford 

This story is from the upcoming print issue of MIT technology Review, dedicated to exploring hidden worlds. Buy a subscription to get your hands on a copy when it publishes on February 28th! Deals start at just $8 a month.

These are the biotech plants you can buy now

—Antonio Regalado

This spring I am looking forward to growing some biotech in my backyard for the first time. It’s possible because of startups that have started selling genetically engineered plants directly to consumers, including a bright-purple tomato and a petunia that glows in the dark.

This week, for $73, I ordered both by pressing a few buttons online.

Biotech seeds have been a huge business for a while. In fact, by sheer mass, GMOs are probably the single most significant product of genetic engineering ever. But the difference now is that people are able to plant and grow GMO houseplants in their homes. Read the full story. 

Watch this robot as it learns to stitch up wounds

The news: A new AI-trained surgical robot can make stitches on its own. A video taken by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, shows the two-armed robot completing stitches in a row on a simple wound in imitation skin. It managed to make six stitches before a human had to intervene. 

Why it matters: It’s common for surgeons today to get help from robots, but we’re a long way from them being able to fully replace many tasks. This new research marks progress toward robots that can operate more autonomously on very intricate, complicated tasks. Read the full story. 

—James O’Donnell

Three frequently asked questions about EVs, answered

Transportation is a critical part of the climate change puzzle: it accounts for something like a quarter of global emissions. And the vehicles that we use to shuttle around to work, school, and the grocery store in many parts of the world are a huge piece of the problem.

Last week, MIT technology Review hosted an event where we dug into the future of batteries and the materials that go into them. We got so many great questions, and we answered quite a few of them (subscribers should check out the recording of the full event). 

But there were still a lot of questions, particularly about EVs, that we didn’t get to. So let’s take a look at a few of those. 

—Casey Crownhart

This story is from The Spark, our weekly newsletter all about the technology that could combat the climate crisis. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The first US moon landing for over 50 years is due today
If all goes to plan, Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus spacecraft will touch down at 5.30pm ET. (WP $)
Here’s how you can watch it. (NYT $)

2 ChatGPT had a meltdown yesterday
Which is not necessarily worrying in itself… but it isn’t great that we have no idea why. (technology%2F2024%2F02%2Fchatgpt-alarms-users-by-spitting-out-shakespearean-nonsense-and-rambling%2F%3Fmc_cid%3D8d2404be49%26mc_eid%3DUNIQID&data=05%7C02%7C%7C7a9f483188ae4387f99e08dc33a02068%7C961f23f8614c4756bafff1997766a273%7C1%7C0%7C638442010063983878%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C0%7C%7C%7C&sdata=duo%2BDx%2FppidnuHwo4iXqtn7l4NWMB6FN1qSQ4Yt%2Bkhk%3D&reserved=0″ target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>Ars Technica)
Gab’s racist chatbots have been trained to deny the Holocaust. (Wired $)
+ Soon, we might be using AI to do all sorts of tasks for us. (NPR)

3 You can buy Vision Pro headsets in Russia 
Two years after Apple quit the country. (NBC)

4 Google is racing to fix a new “overly woke” AI-powered tool 
It was returning women and people of color when asked to produce images of America’s founding fathers, for example. (BBC)
It’s pausing the ability for Gemini AI to generate images until it’s fixed the issue. (The Verge)
These new tools let you see for yourself how biased AI image models are. (MIT technology Review) 
How it feels to be sexually objectified by an AI. (MIT technology Review)

5 American winters are getting warm
They’re also getting shorter, and less predictable. (Insider $)

6 Instagram is a news site, whether it likes it or not
And that means it has a responsibility to do content moderation properly. (NYT $)

7 Inside the weird world of Instacart’s AI-generated recipes
It’s becoming harder and harder to work out what’s been made by a human versus a machine. (404 Media)
Why Big Tech’s watermarking plans are some welcome good news. (MIT technology Review)

8 We need protection from companies building tech to read our minds
It’s not such a concerning issue right now, but it could be sooner than you know. (Vox)
How your brain data could be used against you. (MIT technology Review)

9 Why AM radio lingers on 
A surprisingly diverse group of people still rely on it, even as it heads towards obsolescence. (The Atlantic $)

10 Writing by hand has a positive impact on memory and learning ✍
I knew it! (Scientific American $)

Quote of the day

“Happy listening! ???? Happy listening! ???? Happy listening! ???? Happy listening! ????

—An example of how ChatGPT went off the rails yesterday, screenshotted and shared by a user on X. 

The big story

Inside the app Minnesota police used to collect data on journalists at protests

<a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/03/23/1047899/secret-police-app-minnesota-police-journalists-protests-data/?truid=<<%20Test%20Link%20ID%20>>&utm_source=the_download&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement&utm_term=<dossier of journalist information concept

MS TECH

March 2022

Photojournalist J.D. Duggan was covering a protest in Minnesota in April 2021 when police officers surrounded him and others, and told them to get on the ground.

Officers sorted the press from the protesters, walked them to a parking lot, and began photographing them, one by one, with cellphones, which they told Duggan would be stored in an app. 

An investigation by MIT technology Review found the data was collected using a tool called Intrepid Response, an easy way to almost instantly de-anonymize protest attendees and keep tabs on their movements. For some, the tool’s use is a dangerous step in the direction of authoritarianism. Read the full story.

—Sam Richards & Tate Ryan-Mosley

+ Fascinated by the stories in this grisly interactive map, which details murders committed in medieval London, York and Oxford. 
+ Terrible night’s sleep last night? Fear not, it’s possible to salvage your day. (NYT $) 
+ This athletic fluffy cat is bound to bring a smile to your face.
+ Some simple ways to make your diet healthier.


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Technology & Innovation

Here are the biotech plants you can buy right now to grow at home

Diane Davis

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caprese salad in a bowl made with halved yellow, red and purple-fleshed cherry tomatoes

Biotech seeds have been a huge business for a while. In fact, by sheer mass, GMOs are probably the single most significant product of genetic engineering ever. Except most of us aren’t planting rows of cotton or corn that can resist worms or survive a spritz of RoundUp, the big gene-splicing innovations that companies like Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred first introduced in the 1990s.

What makes these new plants different is that you can buy them directly from their creators and then plant them in the yard, on a balcony, or just in a pot. 

Purple tomatoes developed by Norfolk Health Produce.

NORFOLK HEALTHY PRODUCE

Purple tomato

Starting off my biotech shopping spree, I first spent $20 to order 10 tomato seeds from Norfolk Health Produce, a small company in Davis, California, that created what it calls the Purple Tomato. The seeds have a gene introduced from a snapdragon flower, which adds a nutrient, anthocyanin, that also gives the fruits their striking color.

According to Channa S. Prakash, a geneticist and dean at Tuskegee University, the tomato is the “the first-of-its kind GMO food crop marketed directly to home gardeners.”   

The CEO of the company, Nathan Pumplin, was packing seeds when I reached him by phone. He claimed that anthocyanin has health benefits—it’s an antioxidant—but he agreed that the color is a useful sales pitch.

“I don’t need to make a label that says this red tomato is better for you than the other red tomato,” says Pumplin. “We can simply put out the purple tomato, and people say, ‘Oh my gosh, this tomato is purple.’ Its beauty is a distinguishing characteristic that people can just immediately see and understand.”

There is a plan to mass-produce the purple tomatoes for sale in supermarkets. But Pumplin says the company couldn’t ignore thousands of requests from regular gardeners. “It’s not the main focus of our business, but we are very interested in having people grow these at home,” he says. And “if home gardeners want to save the seed and replant it in their gardens for their own use, that is okay.”

couple in their glowing garden of gmo petunias
A promotional video for Light Bio’s firefly petunia.

LIGHT BIO

Glowing flower

I next decided to shell out for the “firefly petunia,” so called because the plant is supposed to glow in the dark. It’s sold by Light Bio, a startup backed by the venture capital firm NFX .

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Technology & Innovation

The Download: deep diving, and virtual power plants in China

Diane Davis

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open and closed doors with a ribbon of text running around and through them

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Meet the divers trying to figure out how deep humans can go

Two hundred thirty meters into one of the deepest underwater caves on Earth, Richard “Harry” Harris knew that not far ahead of him was a 15-meter drop leading to a place no human being had seen before. 

Getting there had taken two helicopters, three weeks of test dives, two tons of equipment, and hard work to overcome an unexpected number of technical problems. But in the moment, Harris was hypnotized by what was before him: the vast, black, gaping unknown. 

Staring into it, he felt the familiar pull—maybe he could go just a little farther. Instead, he and his diving partner, Craig Challen, decided to turn back. They weren’t there to exceed 245 meters—a depth they’d reached three years earlier. Nor were they there to set a depth record—that would mean going past 308 meters. 

They were there to test what they saw as a possible key to unlocking depths beyond even 310 meters: breathing hydrogen. Read the full story. 

—Samantha Schuyler

This story is from the next print issue of MIT technology Review, all about exploring hidden worlds. Want to get your hands on a copy when it publishes next Wednesday? Subscribe now.

Why China’s EV ambitions need virtual power plants

Virtual power plants (VPPs) are an idea whose time has arrived. They’re basically a layer on top of resources like electric vehicle chargers, solar panels, and battery packs, which allow you to coordinate energy consumption and supply. This lets utility companies handle times of higher energy demand by adjusting the end use of electricity, for example reducing the efficiency of an EV charger so it takes longer to finish and thus puts less burden on the grid.

In China, which is adopting electric vehicles faster than any other country, VPPs could be transformational. The country has just started testing programs which incentivize EV owners to charge their vehicles late at night, when there’s less demand on the grid. 

It’s also piloting bidirectional charging stations, which would let EV owners not only use electricity, but even sell it back into the grid at times of peak demand, earning them a little extra cash. Read the full story.

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter giving you behind-the-scenes insights into China and its tech scene. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are ‘children’
It’s a worrying development, especially for people seeking infertility treatments. (CNN)
The first IVF babies conceived by a robot have been born. (MIT technology Review)

2 Inside AI startup Anthrophic’s funding spree 
Investors cannot hand money over to promising AI companies quickly enough right now, it seems. (NYT $)
OpenAI is now valued at a staggering $86 billion. (Bloomberg $)
Why the New York Times could win against OpenAI. (Ars Technica)

3 The EU is setting up rules for sucking CO2 out of the sky
It’s creating a first-of-its-kind certification framework for carbon removal technologies. (The Verge)
+ How carbon removal technology is like a time machine. (MIT technology Review)

4 Researchers are imbibing AI with human-like qualities
No one is immune from anthropomorphism, it seems. (New Scientist $)
If you’ve posted on Reddit, your words are probably being used to train AI. (technology%2F2024%2F02%2Fyour-reddit-posts-may-train-ai-models-following-new-60-million-agreement%2F%3Fmc_cid%3Deecfd57aad%26mc_eid%3DUNIQID&data=05%7C02%7C%7Cd1b49b76477142945b0508dc32d84365%7C961f23f8614c4756bafff1997766a273%7C1%7C0%7C638441151658419211%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C0%7C%7C%7C&sdata=yEmOuq3VhexDU0vVNasDICewGMS5cbdip0ZnnePNd8Y%3D&reserved=0″ target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>Ars Technica)

5 What mind-reading devices can teach us
They’re restoring functions like speech and movement. But they’re also shining a light on how the brain works. (Nature)
Elon Musk claims the first Neuralink patient can now control a computer mouse with their thoughts. (CNBC)

6 Fake funeral livestream scams are proliferating on Facebook
Beyond grim, and Meta’s doing almost nothing to prevent it. (404 Media)

7 A spacecraft is about to try to snag some space junk
If it works, it’ll be an important development for the effort to clear Earth’s orbit of debris. (Ars Technica

8 People are breeding pythons to have ‘emoji’ patterns 
But, as always amid a gold rush, some of them are doing some deeply unethical things in the process. (New Yorker $)

9 How scientists predicted Iceland’s vast volcanic eruption
And saved a lot of lives in the process. (Quanta)
How machine learning might unlock earthquake prediction. (MIT technology Review)

10 Older people are among VR’s most enthusiastic adopters
And studies suggest spending time in virtual reality can produce positive effects, too. (AP)
Virtual reality can be used as a painkiller. (MIT technology Review)

Quote of the day

“People say AI is overhyped, but I think it’s not hyped enough.”

—Puneet Chandok, who leads Microsoft India and South Asia, says we should get even more excited about AI, the Economic Times reports.

The big story

The open-source AI boom is built on Big Tech’s handouts. How long will it last?

open and closed doors with a ribbon of text running around and through them

STEPHANIE ARNETT/MITTR | ENVATO

May 2023

Last year a leaked memo written by a senior engineer at Google said out loud what many in Silicon Valley must have been whispering: an open-source free-for-all is threatening Big Tech’s grip on AI.

New open-source large language models—alternatives to Google’s Bard or OpenAI’s ChatGPT that researchers and developers can study, build on, and modify—are dropping like candy from a piñata. These are smaller, cheaper versions of the best-in-class AI models created by the big firms that (almost) match them in performance—and they’re shared for free.

In many ways, that’s a good thing. AI won’t thrive if just a few mega-rich companies get to gatekeep this technology or decide how it is used. But this open-source boom is precarious, and if Big Tech decides to shut up shop, a boomtown could become a backwater. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

We can still have nice things

+ Paul McCartney has been reunited with a beloved bass guitar that was stolen 51 years ago. 
+ How to have a better relationship with money.
+ Obsessed with Nimbus and his marvelous piano skills. 
+ Cracking up at this game where you have to guess if a name refers to antidepressants or a character from Tolkien.

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