News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

If you’ve been enjoying these curated article summaries that dive into cultural, creative, and technological currents, you may find the discussions and analyses on our Substack page worthwhile as well. There, I explore themes and ideas that often intersect with the subjects covered in the articles I come across during my curation process.

While this curation simply aims to surface compelling pieces, our Substack writings delve deeper into topics that have piqued our curiosity over time. From examining the manifestation of language shaping our reality to unpacking philosophical undercurrents in society, our Substack serves as an outlet to unpack our perspectives on the notable trends and undercurrents reflected in these curated readings.

So if any of the articles here have stoked your intellectual interests, I invite you to carry that engagement over to our Substack, where we discuss related matters in more depth. Consider it an extension of the curation – a space to further engage with the fascinating ideas these pieces have surfaced.


Tech pundits are fond of using the term “inflection points” to describe those rare moments when new technology wipes the board clean, opening up new threats and opportunities. But one might argue that in the past few years what used to be called out as an inflection point might now just be called “Monday.”

Certainly that applied this week. OpenAI, denying rumors that it would unveil either an AI-powered search product or its next-generation model GPT-5, instead announced something different, but nonetheless eye-popping, on Monday. It was a new flagship model called GPT-4o, to be made available for free, which uses input and output in various modes—text, speech, vision—for disturbingly natural interaction with humans. What struck many observers about the demo was how playful and even provocative the emotionally expressive chatbot was—but also imbued with the encyclopedic knowledge of data sets encompassing much of the world’s knowledge. CEO Sam Altman expressed the obvious in a one word tweet: “Her.” That movie—where the protagonist falls in love with a seductive, flirty chatbot—has been evoked endlessly of late. But the reference has a special kick when it comes from someone whose company has basically just built the damn thing like the screenplay was a blueprint. Also crazy was another demo posted by OpenAI that involved one chatbot scanning a scene with a camera and a second chatbot asking it questions. Poor Greg Brockman, the OpenAI cofounder running the demo, had to endure humiliation while the two robots exchanged views on his fashion and decor choices, and even taunted him with songs about it.

On Tuesday, another inflection point. At its annual I/O developers conference, Google announced a raft of AI advancements, including a rollout of a new version of its most powerful AI model, Gemini Pro. It also introduced a new product in development called Project Astra. This multimodal chatbot can—like OpenAI’s GPT-4o—process a continual flow of visual and aural information, and converse about what it sees. Since it knows just about everything, it can give you sophisticated answers on anything it lays eyes on, like a bug in a line of code, or what part of a speaker is the tweeter. Or, as in the demo video, if you ask it, “Where did I leave my glasses?” it will tell you just where they are, because nothing escapes its attention. Upon command, it will spin a story or compose a song on anything you point at. Google hinted that Astra might one day be built into smart glasses, which would log your life with a density that you could never achieve. Then it presumably could answer questions like, “What happened in the conversation I had with that guy in the blue suit last January?” “What was that noise my car made last week?” “Are people being nicer to me these days, or is it just my imagination?”

Not everyone views this movement as transformational. Now that the initial shock of ChatGPT has been absorbed, some cynics and contrarians are having their say. One school of thought even suggests OpenAI and Google are showing us smoke and mirrors—arguing that the progress of LLM’s has plateaued. Yeah, they looked cool at first, goes this argument, but don’t expect much improvement for a while. So stop worrying about an algorithm taking your job.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

The five animals took an hour to put the sailboat beneath the waves. At the end of October 2022, four men, each in his late twenties, set sail from western France toward Lisbon. Augustin Drion, an experienced sailor from Brittany, was one of them. He had come to lend a hand to a friend from engineering school, Elliot Boyard, who owned the 39-foot sailing vessel. From Portugal, they planned to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean. They would cruise around the islands for a year. Then they would return home.

 The crew had spent several days battling thunderstorms and high waves in the Bay of Biscay, the treacherous stretch of ocean to the west of France. They felt ragged. But on the morning after Halloween, the boat, called Smousse, crossed into the stiller waters off Portugal and the crew was able to relax. The sun was shining. The breeze was soft, and the boat was making seven knots. For the first time, conditions were calm enough to rely on the autopilot. Drion had just finished a watch shift and decided to join the others lounging on deck. He ducked inside the cabin to grab a book.

He heard a crash. The boat shook, and Drion lost his balance. “What happened?” he shouted up to the others. There was banging on the hull from the outside. The crew looked over the side and saw black fins breaking the glassy surface. Five killer whales, each more than half the length of the boat, their glossy skin shining in the sunlight, were taking turns swimming into the back of the sailboat, ramming the rudder with their heads. With each crash, the boat jolted into a new direction.

The crew shut down the electronics and hauled in the mainsail. Speeding off, they thought, could be an invitation to chase. The animals were faster. Better to stay put, quiet and still. They sat without talking for almost an hour, drifting in open ocean. The only sounds were the deep steady blows of orca breath, the clicks and whistles of killer whale language, the crunch of several tons of marine mammal — the boat weighed about the same as one adult male — against their rudder.

After a while, Drion began to worry about the boat’s structural integrity. He went down into the cockpit. This time, there was water on the floor. A steady stream flowed in from a crack in the stern. The boat was quickly flooding, and it was starting to sink. Boyard put out a mayday call. The nearest vessel was 60 minutes away, and the men inflated the lifeboat. They wanted to stay on the sinking boat for as long as possible, worried that the orcas might decide to sink their life raft, too — which would be catastrophic. But the water was rising quickly, and they all crowded into the blow-up dinghy. They looked around. The killer whales had gone. A Swedish yacht arrived to pick them up. The men watched the top of the sailboat’s mast disappear beneath the swells.

Read the rest of this article at: Rolling Stone

News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

The idea for the Pissing Women series came to artist Sophy Rickett at Glastonbury festival in 1994. “For some reason, I was struck by the disparity in how men and women piss,” she later recalled. “Men seem so carefree; they do it out in the open, while for women, the work of conditioning means it must be performed discreetly and always in private.” And so, in a boisterous act of rebellion, Rickett and her friends dressed up in their skirt suits and heels, and posed for photographs while urinating on the streets of London. Here, Rickett can be seen on Vauxhall Bridge, the headquarters of MI6 looming in the background. Recently, the series was published in its entirety for the first time. GS

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

I Saw the TV Glow is, on its surface, a movie about identity and teenage isolation. But it’s also about how we attach those ideas to art and entertainment consumption during our formative years. And on yet another level, A24’s new psychological coming-of-age drama is about the mediums through which art and entertainment are passed down. Largely set in the ’90s, the movie revolves around two teens, Owen and Maddy, who bond over a surreal YA television show called The Pink Opaque. (Think: Buffy meets A Trip to the Moon.) But Owen’s parents forbid him from watching—“Isn’t that a show for girls?” asks Owen’s dad, played by Fred Durst—so he can consume the series only in secretive ways. Specifically: VHS dubs of The Pink Opaque that Maddy makes for Owen and hides in the high school dark room. It’s a relic from the pre-streaming era that should feel familiar to older millennials—the idea that a piece of physical media could change your life.

It’s fitting, then, that A24 and director Jane Schoenbrun have staked a large part of the movie’s experience on another relic of the pre-streaming era: the compilation soundtrack. The I Saw the TV Glow OST is the type of project you don’t see much of in 2024. It’s a who’s who of indie music mixed with a handful of rising artists, all providing original recordings. The album, which was released on May 10 through A24 Music, features stars such as Phoebe Bridgers and Caroline Polachek alongside critical darlings Bartees Strange and L’Rain, plus exciting (relative) newcomers such as Sadurn and King Woman. On its own, it may be one of the best collections of songs you’ll hear all year. But tied to Schoenbrun’s tale of identity repression and awakening, the tracks take on vivid life. (Certain songs are inextricable from specific scenes—like Polachek’s “Starburned and Unkissed” playing as handwritten notes cover the screen, or Maria BC’s haunting “Taper” playing during Owen and Maddy’s early sleepover.)

For Schoenbrun, this marriage of sight and sound was always the vision for I Saw the TV Glow, which releases wide on Friday. The hope was to make something similar to the soundtracks for Donnie DarkoThe Doom Generation, and John Hughes’s most famous movies—all indelible, and all inspirations Schoenbrun cites. (This was in addition to commissioning a gorgeous score by Alex G, who also worked on Schoenbrun’s last film, 2021’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair.) The director—a self-described music nerd who grew up escaping to punk shows in New York City—even went as far as to make individualized playlists for artists to give them a sense of Schoenbrun’s thinking. “I knew that there was a sort of ground level of sad girl lesbian shit that I love and felt in line with the film, but I didn’t want it to just be that,” Schoenbrun says. “A great soundtrack needs to explore outwards, in the way that the Drab Majesty song does or the Proper song does. If it was just one thing 16 times, people would get bored really quickly. But if it was 16 things that all feel a piece of themselves, it could stand the test of time.”

That approach pays off throughout the film, like during King Woman’s visceral in-movie performance of “Psychic Wound” (a moment that will make any self-respecting Twin Peaks fan recall the Roadhouse performances) or yeule’s cover of Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl,” which appears twice in I Saw the TV Glow. (It’s perhaps fitting that BSS’s 2002 original had another soundtrack moment in 2010, when it was featured in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.) Ultimately, despite the “various artists” label, the I Saw the TV Glow soundtrack feels like a cohesive document—a testament to not only how the movie ties the songs together, but also the work that Schoenbrun, A24, and music supervisors Chris Swanson and Jessica Berndt put into it.

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 20.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

It was the summer of 2023, and Matt Bergwall, a skinny 21-year-old University of Miami student, was lounging in an infinity pool in Dubai. Beside him was his girlfriend, a blonde Zeta Tau Alpha. The silver Cuban link chain on his wrist glistened as he held his phone high to snap a selfie, the city’s artificial palm-shaped islands splayed out along the horizon beneath them. Over the next few days, they swam in the pool and posed on their hotel balcony, posting a steady stream of pictures to Instagram. In one, he leans back on the edge of the pool, finger to the sky. “Eventful finals week,” he captioned it.

None of Bergwall’s friends at school had a firm grasp of how the sophomore — a self-styled fintech whiz, Marc Andreessen with a zoomer perm — had money for the Tesla he drove or the Gucci he wore or, for that matter, the room in Dubai. But who could care when Bergwall was ordering everyone Ubers and paying for tables at nightclubs and pitching in for yachts on Biscayne Bay? When he had the ear of venture capitalists at networking events in Brickell, Miami’s finance district? Okay, yes, his life had seemingly been enhanced exponentially, improbably, over the past year and a half — but wasn’t everything sort of improbable at UMiami? Wasn’t this the very place where Alix Earle had, by the end of her junior year, gained millions of followers for her “Get Ready With Me” videos? Where fraternity parking lots were filled with Lamborghinis and pledge classes with the children of billionaires who drove them?

One day several months later, Bergwall’s friends were hanging out on campus when the question they weren’t asking was accidentally answered via a text from a young woman’s father. A UMiami student had been charged with orchestrating a cyberscam that allegedly cost retailers millions of dollars, he wrote her, and was facing up to 45 years in prison. “We looked at each other and were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what if it’s Matt?’” she told me. “And then we opened the article and it actually was.”

Bergwall grew up in Darien, Connecticut, in a house not far from the leafy Woodland Park Nature Preserve. His father was a successful real-estate executive and his mother a VP of training and development at Chase. He was a quiet, smart child who was constantly on his computer. In middle school, that meant hours and hours sucked into the freewheeling virtual world of Minecraft.

Like any kid born after 2000, and especially a kid who enjoyed building custom gaming servers for his friends in his spare time, Bergwall spent his teen years observing the rise of a specific kind of demigod — from Satoshi Nakamoto to the market-moving mobs of r/WallStreetBets to Sam Bankman-Fried, the world seemed to belong to whoever could articulate the most absurd vision of how to finance it. Low interest rates fueled precipitous valuations, minting fortunes on laughable balance sheets. Crypto alchemy transmuted monkey NFTs into mansions. Bergwall’s own entrepreneurial streak first manifested in the hallways of Darien High, where former classmates say he sold vapes, an easy hustle at a time when school bathrooms were overflowing with kids hitting their mango-flavored Juuls between classes. On Instagram, he carved out a sideline buying accounts, growing their followings artificially, and selling them online. He soon moved on to freelance software engineering, building a website for an online community of Grand Theft Auto players. Bergwall’s friends were impressed but a little unnerved by how he used his skill for software engineering. Former classmates said he would install files on school computers that would crash them, that he’d hack into security cameras; there were rumors that he had changed his friends’ grades. When it started to seem like he might get in trouble for selling his peers access to discounted Spotify Premium accounts, his friends said, they “were able to convince him, like, ‘Hey, man, this probably isn’t the hill to die on,’” one told me. That friend said that when Bergwall boasted about his exploits, he tended to focus less on the money and more on “how cool it was that he was doing something vigilante.” Of course, the money was cool too. When Bergwall hosted a party, he would often buy alcohol for everyone. Per the friend, “It was clearly all coming from his own pocket.”

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine