Being human in an AI world — #110
It might not be so bad after all.
This week, I saw some videos with AI-generated humans making the rounds online — computer-generated influencers in fashionable outfits — almost impossible to tell apart from real people.
When computers can generate perfect humans from a prompt, one question that comes to mind is:
What role do I play in this world if I'm neither as clever as ChatGPT nor as beautiful as the women created by AI?
The answer surprised me.
If we can generate perfect people with the click of a button, striving towards being "perfect" won't bring much value. It won't differentiate me from the abundance of AI-generated avatars with perfect noses and mensa test scores.
The fact that I'm human.
My chest expands and contracts when I breathe to let in air that I need to transport energy to the cells that make up my body.
And my face gives away what I truly feel in a fraction of a second — even when I try to hide it.
Yet, my working memory is limited (with no upgrades available), making me leave cupboard doors wide open as I move to the next task.
I'm a living organism. As far from computer generated you can be.
If you are mean to me, specific areas in my brain will activate, permanently impacting my nervous system. Make me feel safe, and my body will physically adjust when I'm in your presence.
I turned out this way because of a combination of genetic code, environmental factors and unique experiences. You cannot re-run the prompt and get a slightly altered version of me.
I like olives and cilantro, but not dill. I make terrible doodles in all my notebooks. And there is a story behind the scar on my forehead.
My feelings are not calculations in a computer somewhere. They are biological responses to chemical interactions. If I don't find your jokes funny, you'll have to live with that.
Being human is soon the only thing we'll be better at than AI. And this gives me so much hope.
I'm a natural at being human.
Filled with all kinds of emotions, I constantly make irrational decisions to rational requests. I can even feel what you feel just by imagining what a situation is like for you. And I'm heavily impacted by the biochemical reactions in my body.
I used to view all this as something bad — or at least highly impractical. But, in a world of AI, it might become my most essential qualities.
What a pleasant surprise!
Five Small Things
Read — My friend Carmilla Floyd and photojournalist Joseph Rodriguez are telling important stories about the individuals serving long sentences in American Prisons for the New York Times.
Listen — This 20-minute interview with Christian Louboutin from Business of Fashion explores heritage, success and leadership.
Watch — Lessons in Chemistry on Apple TV is based on a book with the same title and the same smashing reviews as the show. A perfect October show.
Learn — Plenty of online courses from top universities are available for free from EdX. For example, Building Personal Resilience: Managing Anxiety and Mental Health from Harvard.
Try — I'm surprisingly bad at calculating time zones. So, you can imagine the delight when I found a free, well-designed tool called Timezones that helps.
The News Section
Musk Considers Pulling 'X'/Twitter from the European Union After New EU Regulations
Elon Musk is considering removing 'X'/Twitter from Europe to avoid new regulations from the European Commission. The billionaire has discussed removing the app's availability in the region or blocking users in the European Union from accessing it, a person familiar with the company told Business Insider.
The European Union adopted the Digital Services Act (DSA) in August, with rules for preventing the spread of harmful content, banning and limiting certain user-targeting practices, and sharing some internal data with regulators and associated researchers, among other things.
If you recall from last week's issue, European Commissioner Thierry Breton sent letters to big-tech CEOs and initiated a formal investigation into X's handling of content related to the terror attacks in Israel, where Elon Musk himself regularly retweeted misleading information.
In July 2023, France was the only European country in Twitter's Top 10, ranking 10th with over 9.5 million active users. However, the entire region had nearly 70 million active Twitter users.
Harvard and Columbia Law Students Lose Job Offers After Statements Related To Israel
Geopolitics, Human Rights
Davis Polk, a leading US law firm, has withdrawn job offers from three law students at Harvard and Columbia universities. This decision came after the firm believed these students had connections to statements supporting Palestinians and blaming Israel for the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. The law firm's internal email, shared by a small-business lawyer on LinkedIn, stated that the views expressed by the students went against the firm's values.
The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper, reported that over 30 Harvard student groups had signed a letter holding Israel "entirely responsible" for the conflict's violence. This has led to strong reactions from the public, university donors, and companies employing students from the university. Some CEOs publicly stated they wouldn't employ students who signed this letter. The Wexner Foundation, co-founded by the former CEO of Victoria’s Secret, Leslie Wexner, has cut ties with Harvard.
At least four online websites have disclosed the identities and personal information of students in the groups that endorsed the statement.
Harvard's President, Claudine Gay, said these student groups don't speak for the entire university. Meanwhile, other top universities, like Columbia, have seen their student groups release similar statements supporting Palestinians. Another New York law firm, Winston & Strawn, also withdrew a job offer to a former associate due to controversial comments related to the issue.
Biden Administration Eases Trump-Era Sanctions on Venezuela's Oil Sector To Boost Global Oil
On Wednesday, the Biden administration eased sanctions on Venezuela's oil sector, a significant shift from the Trump-era restrictions on Caracas. This decision, a response to an agreement between the Venezuelan government and opposition parties about the 2024 elections, allows Venezuela to produce and export oil without limitations for six months.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has welcomed this move but set a November deadline for President Nicolas Maduro to lift bans on opposition candidates and release detained individuals.
The backdrop to these developments is the US's aim to boost global oil flows due to high prices from sanctions on Russia. Yet, Venezuela's potential remains limited, given its political challenges.
The US has imposed severe sanctions since Maduro's controversial 2018 re-election, preventing the state-run oil company PDVSA from exporting. The recent changes include licences for oil production and dealings with Minerven, the Venezuelan state-owned gold mining company. However, the US Treasury Department has warned of revoking these if Maduro's side doesn't uphold their commitments. Venezuela still faces other restrictions despite relaxing some of the harshest sanctions.
The Insights Section
Even Before Recent Escalations, Only 13% of Palestinians Had Hope of Achieving Permanent Peace
In the weeks leading up to Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7, about one in four Palestinians supported a two-state solution.
According to the Gallup World Poll, 84% of Palestinians had little to no trust in President Joe Biden to help negotiate peace in the region, and only 24% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution, a significant drop from 59% in 2012.
Most Palestinians do not trust the US, specifically Biden, to mediate a fair peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. And younger Palestinians, specifically those between the ages of 15 and 25, are less supportive of a two-state solution than older Palestinians.
Before the recent conflict, 81% of Palestinians believed that a permanent peace will never prevail. This includes 84% of those living in the Gaza Strip. Only 13% of Palestinians have hope for peace.
This can be compared to a 2017 poll where 30% of Israelis believed peace would be possible, while the majority (57%) thought it would not.
Millennials Lead the Charge in 'Climate Quitting', actively looking for employers with firm ESG commitments.
There is a growing trend among millennials and younger workers of 'climate quitting', which refers to seeking more environmentally friendly jobs.
A new survey from KPMG shows that Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors influence employment decisions for almost half of the United Kingdom's office workers.
46% of respondents want their employer to demonstrate a commitment to ESG.
55% of those aged 25-34 value ESG commitments from their employer, followed by 51% of 18-24-year-olds and 48% of 35-44-year-olds.
20% have declined a job offer when the company's ESG commitments did not align with their values. This rises to one in three for 18–24-year-olds.
82% consider shared values necessary, with younger audiences saying it is more essential: 92% of 18-24-year-olds, 86% of 25-34-year-olds, and 84% of 35-44-year-olds.
This highlights the importance of ESG considerations for attracting employees since, by 2025, 75% of the working population will be millennials.
30% have researched a company's ESG credentials when job hunting, rising to 45% for 18–24-year-olds.
The environmental impact (46%) and living wage policies (45%) were primary areas of interest during recruitment.
9% actively seek jobs linked to ESG, with 18–24-year-olds being the most likely to look for ESG jobs actively (14%).
64% of office workers wouldn't work in specific industries for ethical reasons, but 37% could change their minds if the company has a clear commitment to ESG.
Twitter Struggles Across The Board, Yet Musk's Profile Shines
After being acquired by Elon Musk, Twitter has faced challenges retaining its audience. Data from Similarweb shows declining engagement across the board for Twitter, now rebranded as 'X'.
Global metrics for the platform have been concerning since Musk took over the platform. Since the acquisition, X's monthly revenue has decreased by an average of 55% year over year for the past 12 months, according to data firm Guideline. Revenue has declined every month within those 12 months.
Between May and August of the current year, the platform's revenue dropped an average of 61% compared to the same period in 2022. In December, the revenue fell 78% year-over-year, marking the steepest decline over the 12 months.
In September alone, web traffic to twitter.com had decreased by 14% year-over-year. The platform's advertising portal, a crucial revenue stream, also saw a dip of 16.5%. This decline wasn't limited to a specific region. From the United States to Australia, significant drops in engagement were recorded, with mobile users also turning away, evidenced by a 17.8% year-over-year decline in the United States.
However, one notable metric pointing in the opposite direction is the increased traffic to Elon Musk's profile and posts on the platform, which saw a 96% year-over-year surge in September. So, while general platform engagement might decrease, Musk seems to get the exposure he acquired.
Comparing 'X' to its peers provides additional context. While the Top 100 social networks and communities, including giants like Facebook, have seen an average reduced traffic by 3.7% in the last year. But Twitter's decline was more pronounced. Additionally, Twitter's role in the digital ecosystem has changed. A year ago, the New York Times website received 3% to 4% of its total traffic from Twitter referrals, which has now decreased to less than 1%.
Record-high 39% of Americans Express Zero Trust in Mass Media
In recent years, Americans' trust in the mass media has significantly declined, reaching levels reminiscent of the lows observed in 2016. According to a new Gallup poll, only 32% of Americans expressed a "great deal" or "fair amount" of trust in the media's ability to report news accurately. This figure ties with Gallup's lowest historical reading from 2016. Notably, 2021 and 2022 also saw similar sentiments, with trust levels recorded at 36% and 34%, respectively.
Diving deeper into the data, 29% of US adults admitted to having "not very much" trust in the media. Even more alarming is the record-high 39% who professed to have "none at all." This stark lack of confidence surpasses the previous record by one percentage point and is a significant 12 points higher than the reading from 2016.
The political divide in media trust is also evident. Democrats have consistently shown higher trust in the media compared to Republicans. However, the current 58% trust level among Democrats, compared to a mere 11% among Republicans, reveals a 47-point gap, the narrowest since 2016. Interestingly, younger Democrats are more sceptical of the media than their older counterparts, while age doesn't seem to influence Republicans' views significantly.
While the low confidence among Republicans seems to have plateaued, there's potential for Democrats' trust to deteriorate further, which could drive the overall national confidence reading even lower. In an era of information overload, the dwindling trust in media institutions underscores the challenges they face in maintaining credibility and the pressing need to rebuild public trust.
That was all for this week. I hope you learned something new! ✨