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We Got Social Media Wrong. Can We Get AI Right?



Interactions that dehumanize us.

Disinformation that misleads us.

Algorithms that manipulate us.

These are the risks posed by the explosion in generative artificial intelligence—AI that uses massive amounts of pre-existing content (also known as “large language models”)—to generate text, images, and code as well as to provide information and answers to an ever-growing range of questions.

They’re also the risks that made many people worry about social media.

What We Missed about Social Media

I wish I had worried about social media more. In 2005, my partner and I launched what would now be called a social media agency, at a time when few had even heard the term “social media.” Like a lot of people working on the nascent social web at that time, we were a lot more attuned to its potential than to its risks.

Before the advent of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, social media was decentralized, not very corporate, and pretty small: It felt more like a club of people exploring the way user-created content could fuel activism, community, and creativity than the next gold rush. I was so confident that this new medium was intrinsically biased towards social engagement that I used to tell companies that they would have a hard time competing with the grassroots causes and callings that drove most online participation at that time.

But I forgot about this little thing called money. It turns out that if you’re prepared to buy attention with ads and celebrity spokespeople and an endless array of contests and prizes, you can absolutely pry attention away from social advocacy and creativity and direct it towards buying stuff and reviewing stuff and even unboxing stuff on camera.

Money and Media

Once people figured out that there was money to be made with social media—and a lot of it—the dynamics changed quickly. “With digital ad revenues as their primary source of profit,” Douglas Guilbeault writes in “Digital Marketing in the Disinformation Age,” “social-media companies have designed their platforms to influence users on behalf of marketers and politicians, both foreign and domestic.”

Advertising became more sophisticated, to recover the eyeballs and attention that TV and newspapers were losing to social networks and web browsing. In turn, “digital platforms driven by ad revenue models were designed for addiction in order to perpetuate the stream of data collected from users,” as L. M. Sacasas puts it in “The Tech Backlash We Really Need.”

And content became more sensational and more polarizing and more hateful, because sensational and polarizing is what attracted the traffic and engagement that advertisers were looking for; an explosion in hate speech was the result. As Bharath Ganesh notes in “The Ungovernability of Digital Hate Culture,” “[i]n a new media culture in which anonymous entrepreneurs can reach massive audiences with little quality control, the possibilities for those vying to become digital celebrities to spread hateful, even violent, judgements with little evidence, experience, or knowledge are nearly endless.”

Most of the terrible, destructive impacts of social media stem from this core dynamic. The bite-sized velocity of social media has made it endlessly distracting and disruptive to our families, communities, relationships, and mental health. As an ad-driven, data-rich, and sensational medium, it’s ideally suited to the dissemination of misinformation and the explosion of anti-democratic manipulation. And as a space where users create most content for free, while companies control the platforms and the algorithms that determine what gets seen, it has put creators at the mercy of corporate interests and made art subservient to profits.

Where We Went Wrong

Now we’re getting ready to do it all again, only faster and with far more wide-reaching implications. As Allen and Thadani note in “Advancing Cooperative AI Governance at the 2023 G7 Summit,” “the transition to an AI future, if managed poorly, can…displace entire industries and increase socioeconomic disparity.”

We’re embracing technologies that create content so rapidly and so cheaply that even if that content is not yet quite as good as what humans might create, it will be more and more difficult for human creators to compete with machines.

We’re accepting opaque algorithms that deliver answers and “information”—in quotes, because AIs often present wholly invented “hallucinations” as facts—without much transparency about where this information came from or how the AI decided to construct its answers.

We’re sidestepping crucial questions about bias in they ways these AIs think and respond, and we’re sidestepping crucial decisions about how we deploy these AIs in ways that mitigate rather than compound existing inequalities.

How To Do AI Better

If all this makes me sound like a terrible pessimist, it’s only because I have to fight so hard against my innate fascination with emergent tech. I’m falling hard for the magic and power of AI, just like I fell hard for social media and like I fell hard for my first experiences of the web, of the internet, of the personal computer.

Those of us who are truly inspired and enchanted by the advent of new technologies are the ones who most need to rein in our enthusiasm; to anticipate the risks and to learn from our past mistakes.

And there’s a lot we can learn from, because we know what we were warned about last time, what we disregarded, and how we missed the opportunities to avert the worse excesses of social media.

That begins with the companies driving this transformation. Instead of fighting regulation, AI companies could advocate for effective regulation so that they’re less tempted to sideline ethical and safety issues in order to race ahead of the competition. Some AI leaders are already signaling their support for regulation, as we saw when OpenAI’s Sam Altman appeared at a recent Senate hearing.

But we’ll still be in a dangerous position if regulators depend on the technical advice of AI executives in order to set appropriate rules, because even well-intentioned execs are going to be less than objective about regulations that constrain their potential for profit. AI is also a much more complicated, much faster moving area to regulate; legislators who were hard-pressed to comprehend and regulate social media are unlikely to do better with AI.

That’s why, as King and Shull argue in “How Can Policy Makers Predict the Unpredictable,” “policy makers must prioritize developing a multidisciplinary network of trusted experts on whom to call regularly to identify and discuss new developments in AI technologies, many of which may not be intuitive or even yet imagined.”

It’s going to take international coordination and investment to develop an independent source of regulatory advice that is genuinely independent and capable of offering meaningful advice: Think of an AI equivalent of the World Health Organization, with the expertise and resources to guide AI policy and response at a global level.

Becoming a Smarter User of AI

It’s just as crucial for ordinary folks to improve their own AI literacy and comprehension. We need to be alert to both the risks and opportunities AI poses for our own lives, and we need to be informed and effective citizens when it comes to pressing for government regulation.

Here, again, the example of social media is instructive. Social networks made massive investments in understanding how to capture, sustain, and monetize our attention. We only questioned this effort once we saw the impact it had on our mental health, our kids’ wellbeing, and the integrity of our democracies. By then, these networks were so embedded in our personal and professional lives that extracting oneself from social media imposed very real social and professional costs.

This time, let’s figure out how to be the agents who use the tools, rather than the subjects who get manipulated. We won’t get there by avoiding ChatGPT, DALL-E and the like. Avoidance only makes us more vulnerable to manipulation by artificially generated content or to replacement by AI “workers.”

Instead, we human workers and tech users need to become quickly and deeply literate in the tools and technologies that are about to transform our work, our daily lives, and our societies—so that we can meaningfully shape that path. In a delightful paradox, the AIs themselves can help us achieve that rapid path to AI literacy by acting as our self-documenting guides to what’s newly possible.

How AI Helps Build Mastery

If you have yet to delve deep into the potential of generative AI, here’s one place you can start: ask an AI for some examples of how it can transform your own work.

For example, you might prompt ChatGPT with something like:

You are a productivity consultant who has been hired to support the productivity and well-being of a team of policy analysts. You have been asked to identify ten ways these policy analysts can use ChatGPT to facilitate or support their work, which includes reading news stories and academic articles, attending conferences, booking briefings, drafting briefing notes and recommendations, and writing reports. Please provide a list of ten ideas for how to use ChatGPT to support these functions.

Once ChatGPT provides you with a list of options, pick one that you’d like to try out. Then ask ChatGPT to give you step-by-step instructions on how to use it for that particular task. You can even follow up your request for step-by-step instructions with a prompt like,

You are an automation researcher. Review the previous conversation and note five risks or considerations when automating these tasks or adopting this approach.

Seeing how generative AI analyses and enables the automation of your own work or personal tasks is a great way to understand how AI works, where its limits lie, and how it might transform your own corner of the world.

That understanding is what will allow you to use AI instead of getting used by it, and it’s what will allow you to participate meaningfully in the public conversation about how to shape AI, right now. And now is when we need to hear many thoughtful, informed, human voices engaging with the question of how to regulate and use AI.

Otherwise, our voices will be drowned out by the ever louder, ever more pervasive voices of our new AI companions.



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Ryan Reynolds BLEEDS for Deadpool! Sacrificed Salary to Keep Franchise Alive!



Marvel fans, rejoice! After a whirlwind journey filled with setbacks and triumphs, Deadpool & Wolverine is finally clawing its way onto the silver screen. This highly anticipated pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman has had its fair share of challenges, from production delays due to Hollywood strikes to struggling to solidify a cohesive storyline. But through it all, Reynolds’ unwavering dedication to the project has shone through, proving that sometimes, the biggest victories come from the most unexpected sacrifices.

The road to Deadpool & Wolverine began in May 2023 with a triumphant start to filming. However, that momentum was abruptly halted by a wave of strikes that swept through Hollywood, forcing a hiatus until late winter. This wasn’t the only obstacle the project faced. The creative team, including Reynolds himself, wrestled with crafting a narrative that lived up to the outrageous charm of the Deadpool character while seamlessly integrating Wolverine into the fold. There were even whispers of the entire project being shelved altogether, leaving fans anxious about the fate of this dream team.


Reynolds’ Pockets Take a Hit, But His Vision Persists

But amidst these uncertainties, a heartwarming detail recently emerged, shedding light on Reynolds’ incredible commitment to the Deadpool franchise. In a revealing interview with The New York Times, Reynolds opened up about the financial sacrifices he made to ensure the success of the original Deadpool film.

“Deadpool wasn’t just a movie; it was a decade-long passion project,” Reynolds confessed. “Honestly, when they finally greenlit it, I wasn’t thinking about box office numbers. I just wanted to see this crazy character come to life on screen. I even gave up my acting salary for the project just to get it off the ground.”


However, Reynolds’ generosity didn’t stop there. The studio, it seemed, wasn’t convinced of the importance of having the film’s screenwriters, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, readily available on set. “They wouldn’t allow my co-writers on set, which was a huge blow,” Reynolds continued. “So, I took what little money I had left after forgoing my salary and paid them myself to be there. We basically formed a makeshift writer’s room right there on set.”

This wasn’t the first instance of Reynolds’ financial commitment to the Deadpool universe. Writers Reese and Wernick had previously shared on the AMC show Geeking Out that Reynolds also personally financed aspects of Deadpool (2016) to ensure the film achieved the level of quality he envisioned.


A Commitment That Reaps Rewards


Looking back on the original film’s scrappy beginnings, Reynolds described it as a labor of love fueled by limited resources and boundless creativity. “There wasn’t a lot of money, but I poured my heart and soul into every detail,” he said. “That experience taught me a valuable lesson: the importance of having a strong creative team by your side, no matter the project.”

Reynolds’ unwavering dedication wasn’t just about financial backing; it was about safeguarding the film’s creative vision. His actions ensured that the core team behind Deadpool’s success – the writers, the director, and himself – remained on board to bring their vision to life. This commitment is sure to translate into Deadpool & Wolverine, a film that promises to be a landmark achievement in the wacky world of Deadpool. Mark your calendars, fans – Deadpool & Wolverine slashes into theaters on July 26th!

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Bob Newhart, deadpan comedy icon Dies at 94



Bob Newhart, the deadpan accountant-turned-comedian who became one of the most popular TV stars of his time after striking gold with a classic comedy album, has died at 94.

Jerry Digney, Newhart’s publicist, says the actor died Thursday in Los Angeles after a series of short illnesses.

Newhart, best remembered now as the star of two hit television shows of the 1970s and 1980s that bore his name, launched his career as a standup comic in the late 1950s. He gained nationwide fame when his routine was captured on vinyl in 1960 as The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which went on to win a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

While other comedians of the time, including Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Alan King, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May, frequently got laughs with their aggressive attacks on modern mores, Newhart was an anomaly. His outlook was modern, but he rarely raised his voice above a hesitant, almost stammering delivery. His only prop was a telephone, used to pretend to hold a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

In one memorable skit, he portrayed a Madison Avenue image-maker trying to instruct Abraham Lincoln on how to improve the Gettysburg Address: “Say 87 years ago instead of fourscore and seven,” he advised.

Another favorite was Merchandising the Wright Brothers, in which he tried to persuade the aviation pioneers to start an airline, although he acknowledged the distance of their maiden flight could limit them. “Well, see, that’s going to hurt our time to the Coast if we’ve got to land every 105 feet.”

Newhart was initially wary of signing on to a weekly TV series, fearing it would overexpose his material. Nevertheless, he accepted an attractive offer from NBC, and The Bob Newhart Show premiered on Oct. 11, 1961. Despite Emmy and Peabody awards, the half-hour variety show was canceled after one season, a source for jokes by Newhart for decades after.

He waited 10 years before undertaking another Bob Newhart Show in 1972. This one was a situation comedy with Newhart playing a Chicago psychologist living in a penthouse with his schoolteacher wife, Suzanne Pleshette. Their neighbors and his patients, notably Bill Daily as an airline navigator, were a wacky, neurotic bunch who provided an ideal counterpoint to Newhart’s deadpan commentary. The series, one of the most acclaimed of the 1970s, ran through 1978.

Four years later, the comedian launched another show, simply called Newhart. This time he was a successful New York writer who decides to reopen a long-closed Vermont inn. Again Newhart was the calm, reasonable man surrounded by a group of eccentric locals. Again the show was a huge hit, lasting eight seasons on CBS. It bowed out in memorable style in 1990 with Newhart — in his old Chicago psychologist character — waking up in bed with Pleshette, cringing as he tells her about the strange dream he had: “I was an innkeeper in this crazy little town in Vermont. … The handyman kept missing the point of things, and then there were these three woodsmen, but only one of them talked!” The stunt parodied a Dallas episode where a key character was killed off, then revived when the death was revealed to have been in a dream.

Two later series were comparative duds: Bob, in 1992-93, and George & Leo, 1997-98. Though nominated several times, he never won an Emmy for his sitcom work. “I guess they think I’m not acting. That it’s just Bob being Bob,” he sighed.

Over the years, Newhart also appeared in several movies, usually in comedic roles. Among them: Catch 22, In & Out, Legally Blonde 2, and Elf, as the diminutive dad of adopted full-size son Will Ferrell. More recent work included Horrible Bosses and the TV series The Librarians, The Big Bang Theory, and Young Sheldon.

Newhart married Virginia Quinn, known to friends as Ginny, in 1964, and remained with her until her death in 2023. They had four children: Robert, Timothy, Jennifer, and Courtney. Newhart was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s and liked to tease the thrice-divorced Tonight host that at least some comedians enjoyed long-term marriages. He was especially close with fellow comedian and family man Don Rickles, whose raucous insult humor clashed memorably with Newhart’s droll understatement.

“We’re apples and oranges. I’m a Jew, he’s a Catholic. He’s low-key, I’m a yeller,” Rickles told Variety in 2012. A decade later, Judd Apatow would pay tribute to their friendship in the short documentary Bob and Don: A Love Story.

A master of the gently sarcastic remark, Newhart got into comedy after he became bored with his $5-an-hour accounting job in Chicago. To pass the time, he and a friend, Ed Gallagher, began making funny phone calls to each other. Eventually, they decided to record them as comedy routines and sell them to radio stations.

Their efforts failed, but the records came to the attention of Warner Bros., which signed Newhart to a record contract and booked him into a Houston club in February 1960. “A terrified 30-year-old man walked out on the stage and played his first nightclub,” he recalled in 2003.

Six of his routines were recorded during his two-week date, and the album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was released on April Fools’ Day 1960. It sold 750,000 copies and was followed by The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!. At one point the albums ranked No. 1 and 2 on the sales charts. The New York Times in 1960 said he was “the first comedian in history to come to prominence through a recording.”

Besides winning Grammy’s Album of the Year for his debut, Newhart won as Best New Artist of 1960, and the sequel The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! won as Best Comedy Spoken Word Album. Newhart was booked for several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and at nightclubs, concert halls, and college campuses across the country. He hated the clubs, however, because of the heckling drunks they attracted. “Every time I have to step out of a scene and put one of those birds in his place, it kills the routine,” he said in 1960.

In 2004, he received another Emmy nomination, this time as Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for a role in E.R. Another honor came his way in 2007, when the Library of Congress announced it had added The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart to its registry of historically significant sound recordings. Just 25 recordings are added each year to the registry, which was created in 2000.

Newhart made the best-seller lists in 2006 with his memoir, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!. He was nominated for another Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album (a category that includes audio books) for his reading of the book.

“I’ve always likened what I do to the man who is convinced that he is the last sane man on Earth … the Paul Revere of psychotics running through the town and yelling `This is crazy.′ But no one pays attention to him,” Newhart wrote.

Born George Robert Newhart in Chicago to a German-Irish family, he was called Bob to avoid confusion with his father, who was also named George. At St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University in Chicago, he amused fellow students with imitations of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Durante, and other stars. After receiving a degree in commerce, Newhart served two years in the Army. Returning to Chicago after his military service, he entered law school at Loyola, but flunked out. He eventually landed a job as an accountant for the state unemployment department. Bored with the work, he spent his free hours acting at a stock company in suburban Oak Park, an experience that led to the phone bits.

“I wasn’t part of some comic cabal,” Newhart wrote in his memoir. “Mike (Nichols) and Elaine (May), Shelley (Berman), Lenny Bruce, Johnny Winters, Mort Sahl — we didn’t all get together and say, Let’s change comedy and slow it down.′ It was just our way of finding humor. The college kids would hear mother-in-law jokes and say, What the hell is a mother-in-law?′ What we did reflected our lives and related to theirs.”

Newhart continued appearing on television occasionally after his fourth sitcom ended and vowed in 2003 that he would work as long as he could. “It’s been so much, 43 years of my life; (to quit) would be like something was missing,” he said.

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Avril Lavigne Rocks Glastonbury Amidst Bizarre Conspiracy Theory



Avril Lavigne’s electrifying performance on Glastonbury’s Other Stage had the crowd roaring with approval. However, for some in the audience, a lingering question might have remained: “Was that truly Avril Lavigne on stage?”  The Canadian pop-punk icon finds herself at the center of one of the internet’s most outlandish conspiracy theories.


From Let Go to Let Go of the Rumors? The Enduring Conspiracy Theory

The rumour, which can be traced back to a 2011 Brazilian blog post, posits a shocking twist: the real Avril Lavigne tragically died shortly after the release of her smash-hit debut album “Let Go” in 2002.  According to the theory, a look-alike named Melissa Vandella was brought in to replace her and continue her musical career.  The bizarre notion gained further traction with the release of the BBC podcast “Who Replaced Avril Lavigne?” which explored the theory in detail.


Lavigne Laughs it Off on Call Her Daddy Podcast

Appearing on the popular podcast “Call Her Daddy” hosted by Alex Cooper, Lavigne addressed the elephant in the room, or rather, the doppelgänger on the internet.  “It’s just funny to me,” she said, acknowledging the contrasting compliments she receives about her youthful appearance.  “Some people say I haven’t aged a day, while others believe I’m an impostor!” she explained.


Lavigne Finds Humor in the Absurd

Surprisingly chill about the whole ordeal, Lavigne seemed to find humour in the conspiracy theory.  “Honestly, it could be worse conspiracy theories out there,” she joked.  “I guess I got a good one!” she added, playfully downplaying the absurdity of the rumour.  Even when Cooper playfully prodded, asking if it wasn’t at least a little creepy, Lavigne remained unfazed.  She pointed out other artists who have been targeted by similar outlandish stories.


Fueling the Fire or Closing the Case?

However, Cooper couldn’t resist a final confirmation, perhaps for the benefit of any lingering doubters.

“Your name is Avril Lavigne, right?” she asked.  Lavigne’s response?  “I knew you half-believed it!”

This playful non-denial might fuel the fire for some conspiracy theorists.  Did Avril Lavigne address the rumour head-on, or simply add another layer of mystery to the already outlandish story?


One thing’s for sure, Avril Lavigne, or perhaps Melissa Vandella according to some, knows how to keep the conversation going.  While her Glastonbury performance silenced any doubts about her musical talent, the question of her true identity, at least for some, remains a lingering internet mystery.

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