Antonym: The Taylor Swift x Barbie movie Edition
Sexism, AI and a MASSIVE HOLE IN THE SUN
So much AI stuff to talk about. But, first a message from our (spiritual) sponsor…
“In the year of the Barbie movie”
In 2023 economy shaking power of two creative products — Swift’s Eras Tour and the Barbie movie have diverted the course of culture and capitalism. Their creators have played the patriarchy’s game and beat it and there’s a whole cascade of effects that push the needle toward women that come from this.
My favourite TikTok creator Mads Mitch explains why in this video about Taylor Swift’s TIME Person of the Year interview. (For context:“The Year Of The Barbie Movie” is Mads Mitch’s phrase. She’s been using it as a comic juxtaposition to sexist behaviour, as in “This? In the Year of the Barbie Movie?”.) Watch the whole post on TikTok or below:
Anti-sexism AI hack
Bias is hard to see when things aren’t biased against you.
White men like me have to have it pointed out to them or develop a habit of looking out for it. My colleagues Maddy Cooper and Rachael Rainbow helped me see sexism in the everyday at work in how meetings work. Patiently, insistently and then smacking me round the head with stats they showed how men dominate meetings and undermine women in meetings. They may not mean to, they very often aren’t aware they are doing it, but the outcome is the same.
A minor instance of AI helping fight this: Otter.ai meeting notes (other similar ones are available). The Otter app records meetings and can learn who is speaking. As well as telling you what was discussed and noting actions, it will give a summary of how much airtime each person got. A bit of simple maths and you can tell how much time was men speaking and how much women. You can tally that with the proportion of each in a meeting.
Try it for a few meetings. See what you notice.
This is especially important if you are chairing meetings. Ask to hear from people who haven’t spoken, spot when someone is interrupted and ask for them to allowed to finish, ask if people who have been quiet on a topic have something to add. Regardless of gender and other diversity in meetings, this is what an effective meeting chair should do.
Bonus tip: Meeting doesn’t have a chair? No agenda? Leave. It’s already a waste of time.
This week I’ve been asked several times for recommendations of AI tools for work. Here’s my current list of apps I use daily:
ChatGPT Plus: The premium service of ChatGPT is the bargain of the century. If there’s a waitlist for access – join it. If you can’t expense it, see if you can find a way to afford it. £20 a month for access to a world-defining thinking machine.
Poe: If you had to get by without ChatGPT Plus, then Poe might be the best alternative. It’s an app that lets you use ChatGPT and many other models. It’s system for building and sharing bots for specific tasks is easy and Here’s my George Orwell writing advice bot: https://poe.com/OrwellEd
Notion: This is a bigger commitment. It’s a note-taking, project managing database with AI features built in. For now it is the absolute best way for most people to use AI with their own notes. It’s about £10 a month on top of whatever subscription you have with Notion (ranges from free tier to £20 a month), but annoyingly you have to pay for everyone in your company to have it even if they don’t want it.
Perplexity. A superb research tool because it has access to the live web, Perplexity is fast and gives reference links (so less likely to be making things up).
Co-pilot. If you work for a large organisation you may get access to Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot which integrates with Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc and acts as an assistant to get work done in Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc. The free consumer version of this – also called Co-pilot – is incredibly good, and free. One very nice feature is that it will output straight into a file in those formats. Lots of quick timesavers, like setting up an Excel table with headers from your notes or outlining a document based on your description.
Google Gemini (sort of) launches
When we look back at the early days of generative AI, how will Elon Musk's Grok and Google's Gemini feature? Both were released this week to sceptical reviews. Grok is a weird plaything, and despite pouring the resources of a behemoth tech company into it, Gemini has not exceeded the performance of the clear market leader, ChatGPT.
Don't be hasty to write any of these models off yet. First, catching up or getting near ChatGPT is a massive achievement and it won't be the last milestone for these companies. AI may be a race, but nobody knows what it's a race for yet. Biggest and fastest might not cut it.
Second, don't write off things you haven't tried. We should be wise to the misleading nature of benchmark tests and lists of features. If tech adoption was settled by those things then iPhone launch would have been a flop and Android would the only mobile OS worth considering.
I've tried using Google Gemini's Pro model (the more powerful "Ultra" version is coming out next year) for work tasks like planning and getting coaching advice on product development. It's excellent. Side-by-side tests with ChatGPT Plus had similar results, but I found that Gemini's were better written and formatted.
Gemini is available in 170 countries, but not the EU or UK – both of which have angered Google by having the *temerity* to introduce AI regulation. If you have the misfortune to have a government that is trying to protect people from AI harm, you can try it out for free by setting your VPN to somewhere not in the UK or EU and using bard.google.com which has been upgraded.
I've yet to try Grok, but Ethan Mollick has had a go:
I feel hesitant saying too much about this particular AI on this particular platform. But my fast impressions are that if you like it, great. It is not a typical LLM, but typical LLM cautions apply. X & Pi are both trying new things with AI, and it will be interesting to follow
375 Days of Generative AI
“It’s amazing, but we’re not amazed.” — Kevin Kelly, “The Next Five Thousand Days of The Web”
Perspective is important when things are changing quickly. In his 2007 TED Talk, the tech pioneer and journalist, Kevin Kelly reminded people that the worldwide web had been in existence for just 5,000 days and listed the things that had happened in that short time. Wikipedia and Google Earth would have been mind-blowing wonders 13 years ago – which is roughly what 5,000 days equates to – but we were already unimpressed by these now normal things.
It’s 375 days since ChatGPT arrived. Let’s get some perspective…
In 1993 CERN made the source code for the web available royalty-free. 1994 was to the web what 2022 was to generative AI: the first e-commerce transaction, the first search engine, and then in December the Netscape Navigator browser was launched and everything started to speed up. Netscape was the ChatGPT of that revolution: everything suddenly got a lot easier for a lot more people. If 1994 was the web's 2022, happened next. What did people do with this amazing new platform?
Well, in 1995:
Yahoo!, Amazon and Ebay are founded.
The first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb was invented.
The Java programming language is officially launched by Sun Microsystems.
Amazon.com is launched, initially as an online bookstore.
Microsoft releases the Windows 95 OS for PCs, with built-in support for internet access and the Internet Explorer 1 web browser.
eBay is founded.
The concept of "cookies" for web browsers is introduced by Netscape Communications.
And so 2024 is generative AI’s 1996. Cool Britannia, Three Lions and…
The first viral video.
The first internet connected mobile phone.
A research project called “BackRub” is started at Stanford that will become Google.
With 36 million users, the Web overtakes France's Minitel as the world's most popular online system.
American web users spend fewer than 30 minutes a month using it. 4% of the UK population have internet access.
Morgan Stanley says the web “could be a hot new market".
"History doesn't repeat but it does rhyme", the saying goes. The way the web developed isn't a template for how generative AI will evolve, but it's worth listening out for the hooks.
A hole, sixty earths wide
If one were troubled by omen – or hung over – then a hole in the sun directly facing our planet and ejecting all sorts of solar wind at us would make you feel a little unsettled. This week it simply portended MONDAY.
The coronal hole that recently formed on the Sun is exceptionally large, spanning almost 497,000 miles – over 60 Earths could fit side by side within it. This hole was notable near the Sun's equator starting December 2, 2023, and it directly faced Earth by December 4, 2023.
Coronal holes are not actual holes in the Sun. Instead, they are cooler, less dense regions of the Solar corona wherein the magnetic fields are open and unipolar.
Looks scary, though.
This week I’m…
The Right Kind of Wrong, by Amy Edmondson. The author developed the concept of psychological safety, showing how it predicted team performance. This book has won her the FT Business Book of the Year prize and is the first general business book to do so. It examines why we avoid facing failure and thereby miss out on valuable opportunities.
Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. I should like this. I found it wry and funny and brilliant and then boring. I feel like a philistine, but there you have it.
Fargo Season 5 (Prime). Juno Temple killing it in the lead role. Plus John Hamm with nipple rings, so there’s something for everyone.
Kin (BBC iPlayer). Dublin crime family drama. Intense, with brilliant acting, writing and photography.
That’s all for this week
Thank you very much for reading. I hope you found something interesting.