Too much has happened in tech this year and very little of it made sense. It was as if we were being controlled by a random number generator that would dictate the whims of the tech industry, resulting in several “biggest news stories of the year” happening over the course of a month, all completely separate from one another.
I can’t stop thinking about a very good tweet I saw last month that summed up the absurdity of the year — it was something along the lines of, “Meta laid off 11,000 people and it’s only the 3rd biggest tech story.” of the week. ” Normally a social media giant laying off 13% of its workforce would be the headline story of the week, but this was the moment FTX went bankrupt and everyone on Twitter posed as a company because somehow Elon Musk didn’t think things through like that Things would go terribly wrong if someone could buy a blue check. Ah, good times.
When I say it feels like we’re living in a simulation, I mean that sometimes I hear about the latest tech news and I feel like someone threw a few words in a hat, picked a few, and tried has to connect the dots. Of course, that’s not what’s really happening. But would you have believed me in January if I told you that Twitter owner Elon Musk polled users to decide he would unban Donald Trump?
These absurd events in technology have consequences. Crypto meltdowns like the FTX bankruptcy and the UST scandal have hurt real people who have invested significant sums of money in what they thought was a good investment. It’s funny to think how you would have reacted ten years ago if someone told you that Meta (oh yeah, that’s what Facebook is called now) loses billions of dollars every quarter developing virtual reality technology, that no one seems to want. But these management decisions are no joke for the employees who have lost their jobs as a result of these decisions.
Where does that leave us? We are at a moment in technology history where nothing is too absurd to be possible. This is both inspiring and terrifying. It’s possible for a team of employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island to win a union election and successfully stand up for themselves against tremendous odds. It’s also possible that Elon Musk will buy Twitter for $44 billion.
AI technologies like Stable Diffusion and ChatGPT embody this fragile balance between innovation and horror. You can create beautiful works of art in seconds, and you can also endanger the livelihoods of working artists. You can ask an AI chatbot to teach you about history, but there’s no way to know if their answer is factual (unless you research further, in which case you could have just done your own research).
But perhaps part of the reason AI generators have gained such mainstream appeal is that they almost feel natural to us. This year’s tech news feels so bizarre it might as well have been generated by ChatGPT.
Or maybe the reality is actually stranger than anything an AI could come up with. I asked ChatGPT to write some tech news headlines for me and it came up with these snoozers (in addition to some factually inaccurate headlines which I left out for journalistic reasons):
“Apple’s iOS 15 update brings major improvements to iPhones and iPads” “Amazon’s new range of autonomous delivery robots stirs controversy” “Intel announces new range of processors with enhanced security features”
Pretty boring! Here are some real things that happened in tech this year:
Tony the Tiger made his debut as a VTuber. Someone claimed to be a fired Twitter employee named Rahul Ligma, and a herd of reporters didn’t get the joke, which inadvertently meant I had to explain the “Ligma” joke on four different tech podcasts. Three people have been arrested for running a Club Penguin clone. One of the Justice Department’s prime suspects in a $3.6 billion crypto money laundering scheme is an entrepreneurial slash rapper named Razzlekhan. The new Pokemon game has a line of dialogue with the word “cheugy”. Donald Trump dropped an NFT collection. A bad Twitter feature update has impacted a pharmaceutical company’s stock. Elon Musk’s biggest rival is a sophomore at the University of Central Florida. FTC Chair Lina Khan said Taylor Swift has done more to educate Gen Z on antitrust law than she ever could. Meta is selling a $1,499 VR headset meant to be used for remote work. The UK Treasury set up a Discord account to share public announcements, but was immediately inundated with people using emoji reactions to crack 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 up and the dots don’t matter, let’s at least hope that if the absurdity continues into 2023, the tech news will be more amusing than harmful. I want more Chris Pratt to voice live-action Mario and fewer tech CEOs to be convicted of cheating. Is that too much?