This year in tech felt like a simulation

This year in tech, a lot happened and very little of it made sense. It was as if we were being controlled by a random number generator that would dictate the tech industry’s wishes, resulting in several “biggest news of the year” happening over the course of a month, all completely disconnected from one another.

I can’t stop thinking about a very good tweet I saw last month, which summed up the absurdity of the year — it was something along the lines of, “Meta lays off 11,000 people and it’s only the third biggest tech story of the week.” Usually the social media giant laying off 13 % of his workforce is the biggest news of the week, but this was the moment when FTX went bankrupt and everyone was impersonating companies on Twitter because Elon Musk somehow didn’t think about how things would turn out. Big mistake if anyone can buy a blue check. Oh, the good times.

When I say we feel like we’re living in a simulation, what I mean is that sometimes, I hear about the latest tech news and I feel like someone threw a few words into a hat, picked a few out, and tried to connect the dots. Of course, that’s not really what happens. But in January, would you have believed me if I told you that Twitter owner Elon Musk polled users to decide he would reject Donald Trump?

These absurd events in technology have consequences. Cryptocurrency crashes like the FTX bankruptcy and the cryptocurrency scandal hurt actual people who had invested large sums of money in something they thought was a good investment. It’s funny to think about how you would have reacted ten years ago if someone told you that Meta (oh yeah, that’s what Facebook is called now) is losing billions of dollars every quarter building virtual reality technology that no one seems to want. But these management decisions are no joke to the employees who lost their jobs because of those choices.

Hello, where will this lead us? We are at a moment in the history of technology where nothing is too silly to be possible. This is inspiring and terrifying at the same time. It is possible for a team of workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island to win the union election, and successfully fend for themselves in the face of formidable adversity. It is also possible that Elon Musk will buy Twitter for $44 billion.

AI technology such as Stable Diffusion and ChatGPT bridges this fragile balance between innovation and awe. You can make beautiful works of art in seconds, and you can also jeopardize the livelihoods of working artists. You can ask an AI chatbot to teach you the history, but there’s no way to know if its response is factually accurate (unless you do some more research, in which case you can do your own research to begin with).

But perhaps part of the reason AI generators have such mainstream appeal is that they feel almost natural to us. This year’s tech news looks so weird that it might have been generated by ChatGPT.

Or maybe the reality is actually stranger than anything AI can come up with. I asked ChatGPT to write some headlines about tech news for me, and these came up (plus some factually inaccurate headlines, which I omitted for the sake of journalism):

  • Apple’s iOS 15 update brings major improvements to iPhones and iPads

  • “Amazon’s New Line of Autonomous Delivery Robots Stirs Controversy”

  • Intel announces a new line of processors with advanced security features

very boring! Here are some of the real things that happened in tech this year:

  • Tony the Tiger debuted as a VTuber.

  • Someone claimed to be a laid-off Twitter employee named Rahul Ligama, and a flock of reporters didn’t get the joke, which inadvertently meant I had to explain the “ligma” joke like four different tech podcasts.

  • Three people are arrested for running a Club Penguin clone.

  • One of the DOJ’s prime suspects in a $3.6 billion crypto money laundering scheme is an entrepreneurial rapper named Razzlekhan.

  • The new Pokémon game has a line of dialogue with the word “cheugy”.

  • Donald Trump has taken down the NFT group.

  • A bad Twitter feature update affected the drugmaker’s stock.

  • Elon Musk’s greatest rival is a sophomore at the University of Central Florida.

  • Federal Trade Commission Chair Lena Khan said Taylor Swift has done more to educate Gen Z about antitrust law than ever before.

  • Meta sells a $1,499 VR headset to use for remote work.

  • The UK Treasury set up a Discord account to share public announcements, but spam was immediately sent out with people using emoji reactions to tell dirty jokes (and speaking of the UK, there have been three different prime ministers since September).

These are strange times. If the rules are made and the points don’t matter, let’s at least hope that if absurdity continues into 2023, tech news is more amusing than harmful. I want more Chris Pratt voicing live-action Mario, and fewer tech CEOs being judged for fraud. Is that asking too much?

#year #tech #felt #simulation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *