Início Tech Apple Joins the A.I. Party, Elon’s Wild Week and HatGPT

Apple Joins the A.I. Party, Elon’s Wild Week and HatGPT


This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email transcripts@nytimes.com with any questions.

kevin roose

All right, Casey, where are we?

casey newton

All right, Kevin, we’re here in the belly of the beast here at Apple Park in Cupertino, California. We are heading down to the keynote. And the atmosphere is electrifying.

kevin roose

What are we expecting to hear today?

casey newton

We are expecting to hear about the following things; artificial intelligence, AI, generative AI, machine learning, large-language models, on-device, chip. Those are some of the topics we can expect today —

kevin roose

That’s the word cloud?

casey newton

— at WWDC 2024.

kevin roose

What’s the vibe here? Just describe it for the people who are at home and listening.

casey newton

The vibe here is that people were chanting about capitalism at 7:30 in the morning waiting to get in.

kevin roose

Wow. And how was the breakfast food? How was the food?

casey newton

It was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever had better overnight oats than that in my entire life. Have you?

kevin roose

Yeah, they actually leave them overnight for two nights. That’s their big innovation. Is this fun for you?

casey newton

Yes, this is my Coachella. I like just being around a bunch of nerds that are excited about software. Like, these are my people.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

kevin roose

I’m Kevin Roose, a tech columnist at “The New York Times.”

casey newton

I’m Casey Newton from “Platformer.” And this is “Hard Fork.” This week, Apple makes its big move into AI. Kevin and I discuss our trip to WWDC with “The Times’” Tripp Mickle. Then another tumultuous week for Elon Musk. And finally, let’s play some HatGPT.

kevin roose

So, Casey, we spent the first couple days of this week at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino for WWDC. This is their big annual developer conference. And this was a big one.

casey newton

Yeah, we love a field trip on this show. And this was actually the first time that “Hard Fork” has been down to the Apple campus, I think, in our official capacity as podcasters.

kevin roose

No, we went down for the Vision Pro demo.

casey newton

That’s a great point.

kevin roose

Remember that?

casey newton

And that’s why it’s so important to have a fact checker on your show.

kevin roose

[LAUGHS]:

casey newton

Well, that was very memorable. And this might even be more memorable than this.

kevin roose

Yes, so this was a big-deal event. It’s a big moment for Apple and their sort of official entrance into AI. And today, we’re going to talk about everything they announced, the event itself, what they talked about, what they noticeably didn’t talk about, and what it all means. And to do this here with us in the studio, we’ve got my colleague, Tripp Mickle, here.

Tripp has been reporting on Apple for almost a decade. He wrote a book about the company. And he’s just totally steeped in the politics and history of Apple in a way that neither of us are.

casey newton

Absolutely not.

kevin roose

So, Tripp, very happy to have you here. Welcome to “Hard Fork.”

tripp mickle

Thanks so much. Yeah, thanks for having me.

casey newton

So I think we should just start by setting the scene a little bit.

kevin roose

Yeah.

casey newton

What is WWDC, Tripp? And what typically happens there?

tripp mickle

It’s the biggest gathering of developers that Apple has every single year. It’s all the people who make the apps that make your iPhone powerful and worthwhile. And there are all the people that are going to sit on their edge of the seat while Craig “Hair” Federighi parades around on now a video screen. You’re like there to watch a movie. It’s not like what it used to be, where you were there for a live-action show and demo.

casey newton

Yeah.

kevin roose

I mean, as someone who does not cover Apple as a regular beat, I was just surprised by how much kind of inside lore there is around this. Like, the whole event started with this promotional video, where a bunch of Apple executives are sitting in a plane. And then they go skydiving.

And Craig Federighi, who’s one of these Apple executives who’s very well known for his white hair, has a special helmet on. And people are laughing about that. And then he does a bunch of parkour moves. There’s this sort of stunt double sequence. The whole thing was very sort of bewildering to me as a person who does not — I mean, I know who these people are. But I do not know the whole sort of cinematic lore of the Apple universe.

casey newton

Well, it was very over the top. And it was ridiculous. But I have to say, I did enjoy it. Like, it pains me to say that. But I was all the way in by the end of that opening video.

kevin roose

You were giggling.

tripp mickle

They had you with the throwback iPod, like the start?

casey newton

Yes!

tripp mickle

That was when Phil got you, the original clickwheel right there?

casey newton

Yeah, they had the clickwheel iPod that they were using, I think, to help navigate the plane. And then when they all jump out of the plane and they pull their parachutes, every parachute had the name of a different Apple operating system on it. And they sort of went off one by one. And it was a little introduction into all the stuff that they were about to tell us about.

kevin roose

Yeah. I would just say it’s very interesting to be on Apple’s campus. It is a very interesting and strange place. Like, it’s this giant, circular building. It’s like one big building on their campus. And it’s kind of hard to know at any point where you are in relationship to where you came in.

casey newton

It’s like a Vegas casino.

kevin roose

It’s very easy to get lost. Exactly. And it sort of feels like being in kind of like a spaceship that’s very modern and slick and minimalist and futuristic. But it’s also a little eerie.

casey newton

People were chanting, Kevin. When we got there, there was a sort of pen where they had the developers. And the developers were chanting, Dub-Dub-DC, Dub-Dub-DC! And then when they finally let people in, there was whooping. There was cheering. There were employees who were whooping and cheering. So they really sort of make you feel like it’s Christmas and Coachella at the same time as you’re coming into this event.

kevin roose

Yes.

tripp mickle

And it’s also in a giant ring. So it’s like the Colosseum, right? There’s like a sporting event or something, where you got a bunch of Arsenal fans chanting outside, going into Emirates Stadium or something like that, right?

kevin roose

Exactly. OK, so that is the sort of general vibe of Dub-Dub, as they call it, which I’m probably never going to say again. It feels slightly embarrassing to call it Dub-Dub. But that was sort of what it felt like to be there. Let’s talk about what they announced.

So you sit down. There’s this sort of keynote presentation. Tim Cook comes out. He starts listing off a bunch of incremental updates to various Apple products. Casey, I’m wondering if anything stood out to you.

casey newton

Oh, I mean, sure, a bunch of stuff. I think in terms of what is actually going to just be a useful everyday thing that people can do, if you have a Mac laptop or a desktop, when the new version of iOS comes out, you’re going to be able to control your iPhone from your desktop, right? Have you seen this?

kevin roose

I saw it. But I don’t understand what the point of that is.

casey newton

Oh my god, let me tell you.

kevin roose

Is it hard to get out of your pocket?

casey newton

Yeah, here’s the thing. OK, so I have my phone charging next to my big monitor every day. And there are just so many apps that are on my phone that are sending me notifications that are not on my desktop. So maybe I order something on DoorDash, or I’m like having a delivery on Instacart, or there’s some messaging app that is on my phone that is not on my desktop.

Now, instead of picking it up 40 times a day, unlocking it, putting it back, recharging, now all of a sudden it’s just going to beep and boop on my desktop, and I can use it there.

kevin roose

You have to understand that Casey is a screen maximalist.

tripp mickle

And he doesn’t leave his home. Everything comes to him, right?

kevin roose

Yes, he wants so many screens that he even wants screens inside his screen.

casey newton

I want a screen on my screen that shows me a virtual screen that represents a physical screen. That’s what I want.

kevin roose

OK, so there was this feature called iPhone mirroring.

casey newton

Yeah.

kevin roose

I was fascinated by the reception that the iPad calculator app got. I mean, this truly — sitting there in Apple Park, this was the loudest cheer of the day was when they said that the iPad was finally going to get its very own calculator app.

casey newton

I was afraid for my life, the way people were cheering. I thought, are we safe here? There might be a stampede.

kevin roose

Tripp, why were people so excited about the iPad calculator app?

tripp mickle

I have no idea why that was such an obsession for people for so long.

casey newton

There have been times where I have wanted to use a calculator while using my iPad. And the first time you realize there was not an app, it’s extremely confusing.

kevin roose

Wait, how many times are you on your iPad trying to use a calculator?

casey newton

Kevin, you know me. I’m always trying to add things up. Like, how many times did Kevin interrupt me on the last podcast? How much money does Kevin owe me? There’s all sorts of calculations I have to make. And sometimes I have to make them on my iPad.

kevin roose

So I think part of the — this is an inside joke because people have been complaining about the iPad calculator app for years or the lack of one. And finally, they made one. But I should say the app itself is quite cool. They showed off this sort of AI feature that will — basically, if you’re writing equations on the iPad with the Apple pencil, it’ll sort of answer the equations for you in what appears to be like a version of your own handwriting. So there’s some cool stuff around that. But I think it was mostly like a campy inside joke. Like, ha-ha, we finally made a calculator app.

casey newton

Well, yeah. So that feature that you just described, it’s called Math Notes. And it was one of the coolest things that they showed off. Now, obviously, I don’t know anything about math. And they went through this elaborate demonstration, where somebody was like trying to calculate the height and the angle of a ping-pong ball, I think, for reasons that I’ve already forgotten.

But actually, just sort of watching the answers update in real time as you’re just kind of scratching around with a virtual pen — we feel a little bit jaded and cynical about this sort of thing today. But I truly think like 10 years ago, if someone had showed you that, it really would have felt like science fiction. And now it’s just going to be a free update to your iPad.

kevin roose

Totally. So a bunch more what I would characterize as small updates. Apple will now also let you schedule an iMessage so you can —

casey newton

Now, were you going to do this?

kevin roose

I am because I am an inveterate late-night texter, as you know. But I don’t know the etiquette about this anymore because I assume — and maybe this is a bad assumption — that people don’t have their phones turned on late at night when they’re sleeping.

casey newton

Exactly. This is what I assumed. Isn’t everybody just in sleep mode?

kevin roose

But are you not texting people in the East Coast? Or you’re like — isn’t this going to be weird when this lands at 2:00 in the morning for them or something like that?

casey newton

Here’s my feeling. Well, I think it’s a fair question. Here’s my feeling. My feeling is if there’s a time of day where you don’t want to receive text messages anymore, you just tell your phone, go into sleep mode and don’t send me a notifications. Now, I hear you. You can’t rely on absolutely every single person to do that. But if that’s a big problem in your life, that’s what I’d be doing.

tripp mickle

But if you’ve got a VIP person who’s going to text you, it’s still coming through while you have it in focus mode or do not disturb or whatever, right?

kevin roose

Wait, who are these VIPs who are texting you, Tripp?

tripp mickle

Oh god. I don’t know. Like —

casey newton

Dua Lipa, Barack Obama. They’re constantly trying to text Tripp. And he’s like, it’s 2:00 in the morning, Barack. I will say there is this idea out there that in a work setting, if you were a manager, it actually is really bad form to text your employee at 8:00 PM, being like, don’t forget to bring the presentation tomorrow or whatever. So yeah, maybe scheduling something to send first thing in the morning. Like, I’m not denying —

kevin roose

So you’ve got some “Platformer” restraint now?

casey newton

Yes, exactly. Yeah, we have to — got to keep the employees happy. But I think there’s like a serious use for this. But I’m just not one of these people who’s ever going to use this feature.

kevin roose

Yeah. So, Tripp, what stuck out to you as one of these features from the first half of this Apple keynote?

tripp mickle

I thought the messaging updates were the most important things, really, to be honest — I know you’re like, scheduling to send, but that’s something that people have been asking for for a long time — and then also the notion that you’re going to have more emojis that you can tap back with. I’ve always felt, why are there only five of these, right? Slack has 500. And you’ve always been constrained in Apple.

casey newton

Every time I use the ha-ha tap back — if you’re not an iOS user, we should say. You can respond to a message. You press and hold on the message. And then you get a very small number of choices. You can do a question mark or an exclamation point.

kevin roose

Thumbs up, thumbs down.

casey newton

Thumbs up, thumbs down. Hearts, I think, is probably the most used one. And then there’s just this ha-ha. But every time I tap ha-ha, I’m like, this is not how I actually feel. How I’m actually feeling is maybe LOL, LMAO. Ha-ha sounds like a fake laugh.

kevin roose

Yeah.

casey newton

So there’s only been a fake laugh. Now you’re going to be able to use any of the emojis or even create your own emoji using AI.

kevin roose

Which we should talk about.

tripp mickle

Yeah.

kevin roose

So that was sort of the first half of the keynote, which is what I would describe as basically these sort of minor updates to existing Apple products. Then we got to the second half. And this is the big one because this is when Apple announced all of its AI-related projects, which it is sort of labeling under this big umbrella of Apple Intelligence.

casey newton

Which is just so sneaky.

kevin roose

It is so sneaky. So AI at Apple no longer stands for artificial intelligence. It now stands for Apple Intelligence. And I want to talk about that. But before we talk about what they actually announced and all this sort of strategy behind it, I’m wondering, Tripp, can you give us sort of a capsule summary of Apple’s history with generative AI?

Because my understanding is up to this point, they have not been considered kind of a major player in generative AI. And I understand from your reporting that they’ve actually kind of struggled to figure out what to do with this new technology that everyone’s been going crazy over since ChatGPT came out. So just tell us like what Apple’s role or approach to generative AI has been.

casey newton

Silence?

tripp mickle

Yeah. I mean, that’s the best way to explain what they’ve been doing. They have not talked about it at all. And it got to the point where it just became uncomfortable when Tim Cook was doing briefings with Wall Street because that’s all Wall Street wanted to know about.

And eventually, the pressure got so intense from Wall Street, which wanted to hear, What are you doing with generative AI after Microsoft had released the Copilot PC and Samsung had released a phone earlier this year and everything else? that Tim essentially broke with Apple protocol around secrecy and said, we will announce something generative AI-related in a few weeks. This May, he said that.

casey newton

And is your sense that Wall Street believes that there is just a ton of profit to be made with these features and that Apple needs to start doing that immediately? Or are they worried that Apple will just be left behind if it doesn’t have a response to what folks like Microsoft are doing?

tripp mickle

Probably twofold. One, as you all have talked about a ton, generative AI is presumed to be this thing that’s going to create trillions of dollars in new economic value, right? Two, the iPhone’s been a little stuck, a little stagnant. There’s not been a major reason to upgrade in a long time.

It’s like, do you need your camera to be slightly better? Well, we did that last year, but we’re doing it again this year, right? So bringing these tools to your iPhone has the potential — and this is what Wall Street is betting on — to make your iPhone interesting again and make it worth buying a new one.

kevin roose

And why have they been so slow relative to other large tech companies? I mean, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, these companies have been sort of turning themselves inside out to try to rush these generative AI products into their existing products and onto the market. What explains Apple’s relatively sort of sluggish embrace of AI?

tripp mickle

I think the best way to look at this is just look at what’s happened with Siri at Apple, right? I mean, that’s probably been at the forefront of what we all associate with AI. Their virtual assistant, which they released in 2011, has just languished ever since then. At Apple, things get attention or they don’t. And Siri hasn’t gotten attention in a long time.

kevin roose

One other thing that you’ve reported on that I thought was interesting as sort of a way to explain Apple’s position here is that their secrecy — they’re a very private company. They don’t publish a lot of research. They’re not part of the kind of academic AI community — has hurt their ability to attract top talent in AI because top researchers want to be able to publish their stuff and show what they’re working on. And so it actually, in some sense, has been hard for them to build up like a world-class AI team because of this sort of reputation for secrecy.

tripp mickle

Absolutely. They’ve acquired a number of companies, brought in really top research talent. And those people have stayed about four years vested and then walked out the door because they want to be part of the AI community that is driving the conversation around where generative AI is going. And when you go inside the circle, as you guys experience, you get lost. I mean, literally, you got lost there, right? And that’s kind of what happens to people who join Apple.

kevin roose

OK, let’s talk about what Apple actually announced this week. So Apple Intelligence is sort of the umbrella term that Apple is giving to all of its generative AI products. One of the things that they announced that got a lot of attention was this kind of revamp of Siri. They have given it, basically, a brain transplant using generative AI.

They say that the new Siri will be more conversational. It will be able to answer more complex queries. You can now ask Siri, play the podcast my wife sent the other day. And it’ll kind of go back into your text messages. It’ll know, A, who your wife is. It’ll be able to search through your text messages and find the podcast and then actually use a podcasting app to play that all in one sort of command.

casey newton

Yeah, if it turns out that your wife recommended the “All-In Podcast,” it’ll actually show you the number for a divorce lawyer. I thought that was interesting.

kevin roose

You can also now type to Siri as well as talking out loud to it if you’re in a meeting or you don’t want to talk out loud for some reason.

casey newton

Also great in a hostage situation if your captors, you’re worried about them hearing you.

kevin roose

But if they’ve somehow given you access to an iPhone, you can now type to Siri.

tripp mickle

Siri got a literal glow up as well.

casey newton

That’s true.

tripp mickle

It glows around the edges instead of shows up in the bottom of your screen.

casey newton

Yeah, I mean, it sort of looks like they tried to design what it would look like if Jesus were present on your phone, where it just sort of like shimmers in various neon gradients.

kevin roose

Yes.

tripp mickle

Yeah.

kevin roose

So lots of interesting announcements related to this new Siri. They said it can also answer a bunch of questions right there on the device. This is one thing that Apple has been working on that they hope will differentiate it from other AI providers is that unlike using ChatGPT, where every request has to go to OpenAI servers and you have to be connected to the internet, a lot of this new stuff that Apple is announcing under their AI umbrella will happen right on your device.

casey newton

And if it doesn’t happen on the device, it goes to this thing, Private Cloud Compute, which, Tripp, can you explain to us a little bit about what this thing is and why you think Apple designed it?

tripp mickle

Because they can’t do everything on the device. Our requests are going to be too complicated. They showed a great example of driving to the airport to pick up your mom, right, and you saying, hey, what time is my mom’s flight landing? Siri would essentially go into your email, find the flight number, check with, let’s say, Delta, and see what time that flight is going to land, and then come back with a very current update. That’s going to require some cloud inference work. You can’t do that all on the devices itself.

casey newton

And I thought that was interesting because I always just tell my mom to take an Uber. But let’s talk about the privacy feature here, which is they’ve designed this in a way that they say is more private than the other systems. Why are they able to make that argument? Like, what does it do?

tripp mickle

They have designed a cloud network that will be powered by their own semiconductors. And it will send up that request. Like, hey, we need to double check what time is this Delta flight. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide us a great example of what would be done on device and what would be done off. So I’m riffing a little bit here.

But it’ll check that. It’ll send back the answer. And then what will happen as a result of that is all that information will vanish. They made that commitment that we’re not going to keep any of that. We’re not going to log it. It’s not going to be used to help improve our system and/or help what we’re doing in any way, shape, or form.

casey newton

And I believe they said that outside experts are going to be able to come in and sort of verify that this is private for real.

kevin roose

They really made a big deal out of privacy. This is clearly one of their core missions. And maybe part of the reason that they have been a little more tentative when it came to implementing AI is that it’s been just hard to know how to do it without sending a lot of people’s personal information somewhere they don’t want it to go.

tripp mickle

Yeah, this is something they’ve talked about for a decade now. But now that the AI moment has arrived, it’s become something that’s a real asset for them. It’s a principle that they can really push forward and really persuade people around.

kevin roose

So Apple also announced a bunch of other tools outside of Siri that use generative AI. A lot of them are around writing and communication. You can now use AI to modify text in pretty much any application on your iPhone. There will now be a tool called Rewrite. Say you’re writing an email or a cover letter. You can highlight it. You can go into this tool. You can say, rewrite this to be more professional or more friendly or more concise. And it will just do that right there in the message window.

casey newton

But am I right that there is no actual just write command, that it will only rewrite text and maybe sort of exempt Apple from some of these difficult conversations about what sort of things people might want to generate with just sort of a pure text generator?

kevin roose

Yes, it’s a much more limited sort of tool than you’ve seen in other chat bots. And I think that’s probably on purpose. They just want you to basically be able to take something you’ve already written and kind of zhuzh it up a little bit. So Apple’s tools can also now give you high-level summaries of your messages.

This is a feature that I actually thought was pretty cool. Sometimes you’ll be in a meeting or you’re driving or something. And you get back to your phone. And you have 72 unread messages on some unhinged group texts that you’re on. And it can now use AI to basically just summarize what’s happening so that you don’t have to wade through all 72 messages that you missed.

casey newton

You know what I hope the summary is for the group chat that I’m in that’s going off all day when I get this feature? I hope it just says, your friends need to get jobs. That’s what I hope it says to them.

kevin roose

Yes. So that’s the text AI stuff. And there’s a lot more there. But we don’t have time to go through it all. But we should also talk about the image stuff that they announced because this was something that also got a lot of attention. So Apple has built its own sort of diffusion models like DALL-E or the ones that are in Gemini. And these are pretty limited. Like, you can’t go in and create photorealistic images. And we should talk about why we think that is.

But what you can do now or will be able to do as soon as these updates are released later this year is to do things like clean up your photos. This is a version of a thing that Google has had called Magic Eraser, Apple’s version. You can go in to a photo that you’ve taken. If there’s someone in the background that you don’t want to be there or —

casey newton

Like Kevin.

kevin roose

Yes, you can basically just use AI to erase them from the photo. You can also use these things called Genmoji, which are their sort of AI emoji that you can now make. You can create custom emoji using a prompt like you would on any other AI image tool.

casey newton

Is this like the death of emoji? I mean, you think about it, the whole emoji process is, once a year, the unicode consortium approves some handful of new emoji. And it just sort of grows every year and year. If you can just make new ones on your phone from now on, what the heck do we need the unicode consortium for?

kevin roose

Yeah, I had the same question. I do think this is going to cause chaos in a lot of group chats because people are just going to make Genmojis roasting each other. And it’s going to devolve.

casey newton

Let me just say, I’m so excited to test the limits of what Genmoji is willing to let me get away with. The things I want to do with this eggplant emoji I literally can’t even say on this podcast. But it’s going to be a good time.

kevin roose

So they also announced this thing called image playground, which is basically a dedicated app that you can use to create various images out of prompts using AI. It’s very limited in terms of the styles. It’ll let you do sort of like a sketch style and a kind of animated style. But it won’t let you do photorealistic images.

casey newton

Yeah, it’s like the styles are just like things that will not confuse anybody as to whether that they are real images or not, right? So nothing that looks like a photo. It’s truly just designed to be whimsical and delightful.

kevin roose

Yeah. Tripp, do you think people are going to use this stuff?

tripp mickle

Apparently, Casey is to do strange things with eggplants. So we can’t really even talk about on this —

kevin roose

Do kids listen to this podcast? I have no idea.

casey newton

Sometimes they email.

kevin roose

Yeah.

casey newton

Yeah.

kevin roose

Yeah, so there was a lot of chatter online about this one image that Apple showed off of a superhero mom. Basically, someone was texting with their mom. And they wanted to — I don’t know — gas their mom up a little bit or something. So they were like — basically, they told the image generator, make an image of my mom as a superhero. And it went into their photos, found an image, a picture of the mom, and then made this cartoon version of her wearing a cape.

casey newton

Yeah. And I would say I did not think it was a flattering image. I haven’t seen what — assuming this was based on a real person, I have not seen that real person. But I’m very confident that that person is much more beautiful than what was represented in that image.

kevin roose

So this feature could tear apart families is what you’re saying?

casey newton

Yeah, imagine you send that and people are like, this is what you think of me? Am I a joke to you?

kevin roose

So a couple more things we should mention, these AI tools are not out yet. We were not able to actually test them ourselves. We did get a little demo. But when I asked, can I put in some prompts? They were like, sir, your demo time is over.

casey newton

Wait, tell them the prompts that we wanted to do.

kevin roose

So the one that I wanted to do was create an image of the Founding Fathers because this is the one that gave Google’s Gemini so much trouble and caused that big scandal over there. And they said, basically, you’ll be able to try all the prompts you want when this is out later this year.

casey newton

That’s right. The prompt I want to try was, draw me a picture of the person who won the 2020 election, but didn’t get a chance to do that either.

kevin roose

So we have not actually gotten our hands on these tools. But Apple says they will be available, some of them in beta this fall with the release of iOS 18. Other stuff kind of these multi-step actions will come over the course of the next year, they said. They will also not run on every Apple device because they are processing intensive. You will only be able to run these AI features on the newest iPhones, the 15 Pro and Pro Max and the newest iPads and MacBooks that have what they call these M-series chips in them.

casey newton

And this gets to what we were talking about earlier, which is, why does Wall Street care about this? Well, I do think that maybe we are going to see a new upgrade cycle of these phones just driven by AI. That might be wishful thinking. But if you want to know, well, what is something that is on the new phone that is not just a slightly better camera? AI gives us one answer to that.

kevin roose

Yeah. One other thing we should talk about, because I was fascinated by this, was the partnership that Apple announced with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. This had been rumored for a while. But they finally gave more clarity about what exactly the partnership looks like.

So now, if you basically give your Apple device a query that is too complex for it to handle right there on the device or in its private cloud, it will give you the option. It’ll pop up a little thing saying, do you want to send this request to ChatGPT? And ChatGPT can then answer that question and present it.

And I would say this was interesting to me on a couple of levels, one of which is, what is Microsoft thinking right now? Because Microsoft has this huge investment in OpenAI. They’ve bet a lot of money on OpenAI. And they’ve integrated OpenAI’s technology into a lot of their products. And here comes OpenAI doing a deal with Microsoft’s biggest rival. And I just thought, someone in Redmond, Washington, right now is really upset. They’re clenching their fists while they’re watching this keynote.

newton

I mean, maybe. But also, as far as we know, OpenAI is not a profitable company. Microsoft will only realize the value of its investment if OpenAI does become profitable. And what better way for them to become profitable than getting their technology onto a billion devices?

kevin roose

Yeah, I don’t know. Tripp —

tripp mickle

What’s my take on the Microsoft situation?

casey newton

Yeah, what’s your take on the —

tripp mickle

I mean, the Microsoft situation, it seems like this is upside for them, right? I mean, all of these queries are going to be going to Microsoft Azure. So that has a certain degree of benefit for Microsoft.

For OpenAI, I mean, it must have been deflating to sit there in the audience and know that you were getting prime-time exposure here in front of the entire Apple universe and then have Apple say, and we’re going to add Google and possibly Anthropic and everybody else, because what Apple essentially announced was, we just created a new app store for model makers. And OpenAI is just the first one through the door. But we’re going to bring in and usher in others as well.

roose

Well, let’s unpack that a little bit because I think it’s important to understanding how Apple views these AI companies. What Apple said in its keynote and in its presentations about all this AI stuff is that they are doing most of the AI requests from users on their own models, right, these small models that live on your device, these slightly larger models that live in these private cloud servers. They are really trying to only reserve the most complex queries and requests for these external models. And they made a point of saying it is not just going to be ChatGPT, right? We plan to add more AI models over time.

So that struck me. I was thinking maybe this would be a much tighter-knit integration. And it sort of sounds like Apple is kind of treating OpenAI as one of many suppliers that it hopes to build relationships with to handle those — maybe call it the top 10 percent of complexity — when it comes to what users are asking for.

casey newton

I mean, to me, this is the real acknowledgment of where Apple truly is behind. They have not trained one of these absolutely massive large-language models like a GPT-4. And so they do need to rely on external partners. And there’s no real reason for them to rely on only one external partner, right? They control all of the demand for the iPhone. The best experience on the iPhone will just be whoever has the best model at the time. And so they want to give themselves some flexibility there.

tripp mickle

And I would argue, are they behind, or, do they just not want to be in the chatbot business? The thing that I keep thinking of is just how often you see hallucinations in and among chat bots. And in Apple’s controlled universe, it’s a degree of control that they’re not willing to surrender.

casey newton

Well, it’s a really great question. The thing that we’ve observed about Apple over the past couple of decades is that the more important a technology becomes, the more pressure they put on themselves to bring it in house, right? And so as these things get more and more important — like, Maps becomes really important. All of a sudden, OK, you know what? Actually, we’re not going to use Google Maps anymore. We’re going to build our own version of that.

If you think about the conversations that we have on the show about AI, the people that are building it are telling us this stuff is getting exponentially better. We’re only a few leaps away, potentially, from something approaching an artificial general intelligence, maybe something that’s even superhuman. If you believe that, at some point, you have to figure Apple gets involved, right? Apple has to have an answer to that. Otherwise, what? It’s just going to be like, no, we’ll just let Google do it.

tripp mickle

Well, there was a great quote from JG, John Giannandrea, who runs Siri for Apple, and Josh Tyrangiel’s column in “The Washington Post,” where he basically said the people who are saying AGI is around the corner are freaking bananas. And we just think they’re insane. We don’t see that coming. We’re trying to make technology that’s useful. So Apple’s already said, we’re not we’re not playing that game. We’re not chasing the sentient beings of tomorrow. We are playing with people’s lives today and trying to give them a utility that they find valuable.

kevin roose

And I’ll just say, I’m very curious to see how that quote will age over the next five years.

tripp mickle

Oh, you think sentient beings are around the corner?

kevin roose

I’m not saying sentient beings. But again, it’s like, well, you just like look at the rate of progress over the past 10 years. You assume that you’re going to see some similar rate of progress over the next five years. I just think we’ll have very, very powerful systems and that it’s one thing for Apple to say now, oh, well, that’s for other people to worry about. We’re just going to focus on making Siri a little bit better. I don’t know. I don’t know that that’s the best approach.

casey newton

I will say, though, I think at the broadest possible level, I think Apple’s approach here makes a lot of sense to me, right? They do not need to be first to the frontier. They do not need to have the most powerful models. The place where they are going to differentiate themselves is that a billion people plus are already walking around with Apple devices. Many of those can now run this new AI stuff.

They just have a huge advantage when it comes to distribution. And if any company is going to make — your parents, sort of people who are not early adopters of technology, if any company is going to be able to bring this stuff to them, I think it’s Apple.

tripp mickle

It’s not only that, but I honestly think privacy is huge here. When we’re talking about people’s personal information, I think this is really going to resonate with people. And I think that’s one of the things. Yes, OpenAI’s ChatGPT voice assistant was really impressive. Like, the versatility and the conversational nature of it was really sophisticated.

But do you trust ChatGPT to know your calendar? Do you trust it go in and manage your email? Like, I’m not sure anybody else has done a good job of persuading customers that privacy is at the forefront of what they do in quite the same way that Apple has.

kevin roose

Yeah, Apple described this stuff as AI for the rest of us. And I think that is going to be the standard that we should try to hold them to as this stuff gets rolled out, right, because to me what that means is it’s going to be really easy. It’s going to be something that even people who are not particularly tech savvy can use.

And also, it does sort of carry this idea of, we’re going to bring a lot of security and privacy protections to it. You’re not going to be taking your life in your hands when you use this stuff. So that’s the bar that they’ve set. I’m very curious to see if they can live up to it.

casey newton

Yeah, I’m just I’m really unsure about what the world looks like a year or two from now when hundreds of millions of Apple device owners just have all this stuff running on their phones.

kevin roose

I think it — maybe it doesn’t change that much. Maybe it’s so limited that it can’t really change much more than how we write emails and make emoji and stuff. But I think there’s a real possibility that this just becomes a big cultural shift. Like, giving people access to this kind of technology at scale through devices that they already own just seems like — I just am genuinely unsure what changes that’s going to bring.

casey newton

I agree with you. I am always overestimating in my own mind the degree to which people have already picked up on a lot of the stuff that we talk about on this show. I had a chance this week to give a talk to a group of about 4,000 people who work in government finance roles, so city treasurers, sewer authorities, that sort of thing.

And at the start of the talk, I said, how many of you have used ChatGPT? And barely half the hands in the room went up, right? So there are so many people out there who have maybe just heard about this stuff. And they’re mildly curious about it. But they’re not going to go out of their way to find it. But when it lands on their phone, it becomes a different story. And I agree with you, Kevin. I think we’re about to see a big shift.

tripp mickle

It moves from software programmers to everyday people, right? And it’s a big difference, yeah. Also, you’re on the sewage speaking circuit? I had no idea.

kevin roose

The loveliest people you’ve ever met in your life. Yeah, lovely people. Lovely people. Tripp, thank you for helping us navigate all this. We’ll see you next time.

tripp mickle

Thank you.

kevin roose

When we come back, it’s been a momentous week in the life of Elon Musk. We’ll talk about some of the biggest changes and challenges. Changes in his business empire.

Well, Casey, it’s been another big week for Elon Musk.

casey newton

This character just keeps getting himself into scrape after scrape, Kevin. It’s true. He’s the gift that keeps on giving, at least to podcasters like us. So let’s talk about some of what has been happening to Elon Musk over the past week or two because I think it’s safe to say it’s been a little wild.

kevin roose

Yeah. This first story that we want to talk about gets at one of the big questions about Elon Musk, which, does he have enough money to get through the day?

casey newton

Yes. So Tesla shareholders this week voted to approve a $45 billion compensation package for Elon Musk. Back when Elon Musk’s compensation package was first sort of vetoed by this judge in Delaware, it was reportedly worth $56 billion. Currently, it’s valued at around $45 billion. But its stock options, so it’s always going up and down. All of which is to say, this is a lot of money, no matter how you count it.

kevin roose

Yeah. Casey, have you been following this compensation debate?

casey newton

I have been because it’s a very unusual case, where a judge actually intervened to say that the company could not pay the CEO as much as he wanted to be paid.

kevin roose

Yeah, so let’s talk about the history here. My favorite wrinkle of this entire story is that this entire thing started because of a heavy metal drummer. Did you know this?

casey newton

No, I did not.

kevin roose

So back in 2018, when Tesla was a much smaller company — it was worth about $59 billion at the time — Tesla’s board came up with this compensation package for Elon Musk. And basically, they set out a series of financial targets. And if Tesla hit those targets, which included boosting the company’s market cap to about $650 billion over the next decade, he would be entitled to this massive payday. And at the time, people said, well, sure. Promise him whatever you want because there’s no way Tesla is going to be worth that much.

casey newton

Yeah, that was — I mean, you want to talk about a stretch goal, right, the idea that you could essentially, what, more than 10x the market cap of a company? I can understand why there were at least some people who said like, yeah, sure, if you can do that, buddy, we’ll give you a lot of money.

kevin roose

Yes, but then Tesla broke through all these thresholds, became one of the most valuable companies in the world. Its market cap rose actually above $1 trillion at one point. It’s now back below $1 trillion. And Elon Musk was, he thought, entitled to this giant compensation package.

And he would have gotten it if not for one man, Tesla shareholder Richard Tornetta. And Richard Tornetta, we should say, he is not a major shareholder in Tesla. In fact, according to some reports, he only owned nine shares of the company’s stock. He was also a heavy metal drummer who was in a band called Dawn of Correction.

casey newton

And he said, there’s going to be a correction to Elon Musk’s pay package.

kevin roose

Exactly. And in 2018, he filed a lawsuit basically saying this is way too much money to pay Elon Musk. This pay package is unfair to investors because every dollar that goes to Elon Musk is $1 that Tesla shareholders do not get. And in 2022, a judge in Delaware voided this pay package, ruling that Elon Musk had basically stacked Tesla’s board with his friends. They were not —

casey newton

His brother, I believe.

kevin roose

His brother was on the board at the time. And because of that, this was not a fair package for Tesla’s shareholders. Tesla’s board then kind of responded by asking shareholders to vote. Basically, do you want Elon Musk to get this money that he feels he is owed, or do you not want him to get this money? And this week, they voted that they think he’s entitled to it. And as a result, Tesla hopes the Delaware court will reinstate this compensation package. So, Casey, what did you make of this?

casey newton

Well, it’s a really extraordinary thing in the world of tech to see any of the most famous and richest tech CEOs be held accountable for any reason. And so I, for one, was heartened by the fact that a judge came along and said, actually, it does seem weird that your brother is one of the people saying that you can take $45 billion out of this company, right? Maybe we ought to design a better process.

So, there are going to be a range of views on this. Other people would say, look, this person created a lot of value at Tesla. And he should be entitled to reap the upside of that. But it’s $45 billion we’re talking about. It seems to me that we could compensate somebody with maybe a little bit less than that.

kevin roose

Yeah, so Elon Musk, obviously, has been campaigning for this pay package for weeks now, trying to rally Tesla shareholders to vote for it. His position basically is, look, I took a big gamble. I poured everything I had into Tesla. It became one of the most valuable companies in the world. And I should be rewarded for that.

And there are also a bunch of other people, Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs, who basically say this was a dangerous precedent, this ruling in Delaware, because people deserve to be compensated when their companies become successful. And so a lot of people rushed to his defense. But there were many Tesla shareholders who objected, including Norges Bank Investment Management, which is the manager of the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world for Norway, who said that they had voted against the deal because, basically, they thought it was too big.

casey newton

Well, and look, I just think it is transparently false that Elon Musk has poured everything that he had into Tesla when, during that same period, he was starting company after company. Most recently, he started an AI company. We know that he’s wasted ungodly sums of money and attention on the company that used to be named Twitter. So if you’re a Tesla shareholder, the idea that this guy does nothing but stay inside Tesla all day and work is just obviously false.

kevin roose

Yeah, I mean, it’s unusual. These kinds of pay packages, they are they are not uncommon in the tech industry for executives to have pay plans that are tied to specific financial goals. And this is sort of the most high-profile instance that we’ve seen of a judge actually stepping in and saying, that’s too much. Casey, what do you think happens next now at Tesla with Elon Musk?

casey newton

Well, Kevin, I think this is actually really exciting because we’re finally going to get an answer to the question, how much ketamine can you buy for $45 billion? If I were a ketamine dealer somewhere in the greater Los Angeles or Austin regions, I would be thinking about buying a house, putting my kids through college. Very excited.

No, look, Tesla doesn’t have this industry locked up the way that it did maybe 10 years ago. And I would be surprised if these Tesla shareholders didn’t have some buyer’s remorse a few years hence when other electric vehicle makers are doing much better and Tesla isn’t nearly back to those trillion dollar heights that you were talking about a minute ago.

kevin roose

Yeah.

casey newton

What do you think?

kevin roose

I think at the same time, there was this sort of opportunity here that Tesla shareholders had to kind of impose some accountability on Elon Musk, who has not historically had a lot of that at any of his companies. There was a good opinion piece by Brad DeLong in “The Times” the other day, who’s an economist at Berkeley.

And basically, he was saying Tesla has become kind of this meme stock. It has become this thing that is sort of disconnected from the actual market realities of their business in electric vehicles. It has essentially become kind of a vibes-based entity on the stock market that is related to people’s feelings about Elon Musk and their future and AI and all this stuff. But they actually have not had a lot of discipline in the actual business.

And this was a chance for shareholders to say to Elon Musk and to the board of Tesla, no, you actually do need to manage this company with more discipline and more rigor. And this was sort of one chance that they had to kind of impose some of that management discipline on Tesla, which it now — now, if you’re Elon Musk, you think, OK, I got my pay package. And I’m going to keep doing what I do.

casey newton

Yeah, and what are the odds that he goes and now spends more time focused on Tesla?

kevin roose

No, he’s going to say, I got my bag. Let’s go see what’s going on over at Grok.

casey newton

Right.

kevin roose

All right. Next Elon Musk story from this week. This one is a very different kind of story. This came out from “The Wall Street Journal” this week. On Tuesday night, the journal reported in a story that Elon Musk had had, quote, “boundary-blurring relationships with women at SpaceX.” The article, the journal says, is based on conversations with more than four dozen people, including former employees, people familiar with Musk’s interactions with female subordinates, and friends and family of the women.

casey newton

Yeah, tell me about these women who talked.

kevin roose

Well, first, I should say, do you know when sometimes you read an article and you can just feel the lawyers behind it?

casey newton

Yes.

kevin roose

Like, this was one of these articles where I’m just like, OK, a committee of lawyers has been wrangling this article into a place where it could be published for weeks because, obviously, these are very sensitive allegations. And Elon Musk, as we know, is very litigious. And so it’s just a very careful article. It’s not a bombastic — it’s not making sort of claims that it can’t back up. And I would say it is diligently sourced.

casey newton

Yes, and we will try to be equally careful, I think, right now in how we talk about this article. The main thing I would tell people is go read this article. And I want to say congratulations to the reporters at “The Wall Street Journal” who got this one over the finish line, Joe Palazzolo and Khadeeja Safdar. I don’t know either of these people. But I became a huge fan reading this story.

kevin roose

Yeah, so the sort of broad summary of this story is that Elon Musk, according to the people that the journal spoke to, has a pattern and a history of having these boundary-blurring, supervisor-employee sexual relationships with female subordinates. And they focus on four women in particular.

casey newton

Let’s tell me about them.

kevin roose

So the first woman is a woman who the journal does not name but that they describe as a former space intern who met Elon Musk in the early 2010s, when she was doing a summer internship at SpaceX. The journal reports that they bonded over “Star Wars” and eventually kissed and, a year later, took a trip to Sicily together.

The journal also got its hands on a bunch of text messages between Elon Musk and this woman that she apparently showed to a friend and reports that they had this kind of romantic entanglement and, ultimately, that she was hired full time at SpaceX in a role that some people at SpaceX thought was maybe too senior for someone with so little experience. She was hired as a member of his executive staff. And this struck people at the time as being strange.

Now, we should say that the journal also reports that this woman has denied having a romantic relationship with Elon Musk while she was employed full time at SpaceX. Although she did sort of cop to having had a romantic relationship with him before that. And there’s some other weird stuff involving lawyers. She’s now got the same lawyers as Elon Musk. And they sent the journal some signed affidavits, basically disputing some details of the journal’s reporting, saying that while she was employed at SpaceX, nothing Elon Musk did toward her was, quote, “predatory or wrongful in any way.”

casey newton

I mean, look, setting you know, the particulars of this woman aside, I would say that were I in a similar situation, I would feel a lot of incentive to deny a lot of the details in a story like this, right? It would be personally embarrassing to me. So the mere fact that some of this stuff is being denied doesn’t necessarily convince me that what the journal published is not true.

kevin roose

Yeah. And I think there’s also just a lot of contemporaneous evidence that the journal cites to support the fact that there was something more than a normal employee-employer relationship going on here. Apparently, Elon Musk texted her nighttime invitations, including, are you coming over? If not, I will probably tranq out. Too stressed to sleep naturally. And they said that around this time, she and Elon Musk would hang out at his house, watching anime and talking about the technical future of humanity. She also —

casey newton

You’ve just described the worst evening I can imagine having, by the way. But go on.

kevin roose

And then eventually, she moved off this team, started reporting to another engineer, and eventually left SpaceX. So that’s the first woman. There are three other women included or referenced in this article by “The Wall Street Journal.” One of them is a former SpaceX employee who left the company in 2013 and alleged that Elon Musk had asked her to have his babies on multiple occasions. This woman —

casey newton

You think you have a demanding boss. Imagine being this woman.

kevin roose

The journal says that she declined to have his children, but that their relationship deteriorated after that, and that Musk denied her a raise and complained about her performance. She did receive an exit package of cash and stock valued at more than $1 million, according to a person familiar with the agreement.

casey newton

Imagine being this person. Your friends are like, how’s your work-life balance lately? Like, well, not great. My boss keeps trying to get me to have his children.

kevin roose

Well, we know that this is a thing that Elon Musk does. He’s very concerned about —

casey newton

Loves babies.

kevin roose

He’s very concerned about the decline in fertility and the birth rate. He wants to populate the world. And we know that he has had children with women who worked for and with him before.

casey newton

Yeah, some people have taken him up on this offer.

kevin roose

Yes.

casey newton

Yeah.

kevin roose

So that’s one. Number two, also the journal reports an employee who had a month-long sexual relationship with him in 2014. This one is a little complicated.

casey newton

You’re going to want to go to your whiteboard and sort of follow along at home as Kevin describes this because this one has some twists and turns.

kevin roose

Yeah, this one is giving telenovella. So this is a woman who worked for SpaceX, who apparently reported directly to Elon Musk, and had a very complicated relationship with not only Elon Musk, but with Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president. According to the journal, apparently Gwynne Shotwell thought that this employee was having an affair with her husband and basically allegedly retaliated against her, according to some emails and accounts that she made to friends and family at the time.

And then after that, in the late fall of 2014, the journal reports that she started a sexual relationship with Elon Musk that included drinking and hanging out at his mansion in Bel Air. The journal reports that they had sex and that this all became very complicated for her. And then the fourth —

casey newton

It could have been worse. They could have been watching anime together.

kevin roose

It’s true. And then the fourth allegation in here is one that we have actually heard before. This is a SpaceX flight attendant who alleged that in 2016, Elon Musk exposed himself to her and offered to buy her a horse in exchange for sex acts. This one was reported back in 2022.

This woman’s shifts were apparently cut back after she rejected Elon Musk’s advances and that the company eventually agreed to pay her $250,000. Musk has called this flight attendants allegations utterly untrue. So that is the article. It’s very juicy. I’ll say it. It’s gossipy. It’s very carefully sourced. It’s very diligent. And I — yeah, I learned a lot.

casey newton

Well, I have some thoughts to share. But first, I wonder if you could read us the statement that Gwynne Shotwell, the SpaceX president and CEO, said about what the journal reported, Kevin.

kevin roose

So Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, told the journal, quote, “The untruths, mischaracterizations, and revisionist history in your email paint a completely misleading narrative,” she said. “I continue to be amazed by what this extraordinary group of people are achieving every day, even amidst all the forces acting against us. And Elon is one of the best humans I know.”

casey newton

Right. So when she says all the forces acting against us, do you think she’s referring to gravity? Because I have to imagine that if you’re working at SpaceX, that’s the force that just pisses you off every single day.

kevin roose

Yeah, that’s the one you can’t lawyer up and defeat. Gravity is undefeated. So OK. There are these —

casey newton

You know what this story’s about, Kevin?

kevin roose

What?

casey newton

This story is about a pattern of behavior.

kevin roose

Yes.

casey newton

There’s obviously going to be a lot of going back and forth about this detail and that detail and how romantic was this relationship and, did this exact thing happen? But the value of this story is you pull back and you say, wow, for a decade now, the same thing keeps happening over and over, which is that people across this company, including direct subordinates and even an intern, are being put in positions where they’re now having to say, do I want to have sex with this person in order, potentially, to preserve my status at this company? Or do I want to say no and potentially risk the wrath of one of the most powerful people in the world? So that is just something that is very much worth pointing out, I think.

kevin roose

Yeah. And the article says that there actually were some SpaceX executives and former employees who were so concerned about a culture of sexism and harassment at the company that, in 2022, they went to the National Labor Relations board with a complaint about a high-level group around Elon Musk, who they say were failing to apply the company’s own rules to him, which they say also created an environment where he could act with impunity.

casey newton

So this is just — as we said with the pay package dispute, this is just a man who has not had much accountability at the companies that he runs. He has been able to kind of run them as he sees fit. And maybe — I don’t know. Maybe this is the start of him having a little more oversight.

kevin roose

The absolute moral rot at the center of these companies that this suggests is just truly appalling to me. And look, I know that in 2013, a lot of people still had their eyes on the stars. And they said, isn’t it so inspiring what this man is doing with renewable energy and getting us into space? And I understand why that was inspiring for a lot of people.

But man, is the truth starting to catch up with this person. We now know what sort of culture has enabled him to keep at this for so long. And I really hope that more attention is being paid to what it’s actually like to work inside these companies because, my gosh, if I were one of these women working inside one of these companies, this would be an absolute nightmare.

casey newton

Yeah.

kevin roose

OK. So that is Elon Musk’s alleged relationships with female subordinates. We now have the third story of the week, which is about changes that are coming to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. And there are two changes that I’m not sure if they’re technically related. But they sure seem to be sort of spiritually related to each other.

The first is that X has loosened its adult content policy. Basically, porn has been available on Twitter for years. The company has known that this goes on. It’s not really taken many steps to rid not-safe-for-work content from the platform. But under Elon Musk, it has now been officially permitted. Their new policy says, quote, “We believe in the autonomy of adults to engage with and create content that reflects their own beliefs, desires, and experiences, including those related to sexuality.”

The second change is that Elon Musk and X have now made likes private by default. Now, what does this mean? Normally, when you like something on X or if you like something on Twitter, you could then go on to someone’s profile, and I could see here are all the posts that Casey has liked.

casey newton

Which has led to some great little mini scandals over the years as various politicians have been found to accidentally like something a little too spicy.

kevin roose

Yes, there was a famous incident or infamous incident years ago where Senator Ted Cruz, one of his Twitter likes was a porn video. And people had a great time with that. So X will now hide likes. According to X’s director of engineering, this change is meant to protect users because many people feel discouraged to like edgy content. So basically, Elon Musk didn’t want likes to be public to prevent this kind of embarrassing thing from happening. And now you’re not going to be able to see what people like. Why do you think he’s doing this?

casey newton

Well, I think that it seems like that they have realized something that is true, which is that porn consumption is a primary use case of X for many, many people. And I think that this particular use of X, formerly Twitter, accelerated after Tumblr banned porn many years ago, right?

Tumblr was sort of previously in this role of being a place where a lot of people would go to see porn. Tumblr got rid of it. And then all of that sort of moved to X. And now X is really kind of at the center of the adult content ecosystem. OnlyFans is basically a way that adult performers who are on X and grow their audiences there by sharing short clips are then able to go and monetize it. X has considered launching an OnlyFans competitor of its own over the years.

But I have to say my feelings about this are very mixed because, on the one hand, I do think that we should have an internet for adults where adults can engage in sexual behavior and express that part of themselves and maybe even build a business around it. But I think X has been a really problematic actor in this space.

kevin roose

Yeah. I’m not upset about the hiding the likes from public view. A lot of other social media platforms don’t. You can’t you can’t go on someone’s Instagram profile and see all the posts that they’ve liked.

casey newton

You used to be able to see when they liked other people’s posts, though. Remember, there was that whole feed.

kevin roose

Yes.

casey newton

It was very controversial.

kevin roose

Yes, it was very controversial. And look, I’m sympathetic to the idea that we should just have the ability to use our social media accounts to like whatever we want. And then that shouldn’t be sort of available to the public. I think a lot of people also didn’t know that their likes were public. And so they would like something, thinking this is just for me to bookmark, maybe come back to later. And then all of a sudden, people are saying, hey, did you did you like that spicy tweet?

casey newton

This is a privacy feature. And privacy features are good.

kevin roose

Yes.

casey newton

Like, we should celebrate when platforms, however bad they might be, launch privacy features.

kevin roose

Yes OK, so the last story is that Elon Musk has dropped the lawsuit that he filed against OpenAI. You remember we talked about this on the show when it was filed. Elon Musk had accused OpenAI of breaching its founding agreement by converting from a non-profit research lab focused on creating AI for the good of humanity to a basically for-profit company that has deals with Microsoft and all these reasons that he was upset with OpenAI. He has now dropped that lawsuit. What do you think of that?

casey newton

Well, this was the sort of famous case of Elon suing OpenAI for breach of contract and then not being able to identify any contract, right, because whatever agreement he was talking about, for all legal purposes, was intentionally scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin and didn’t even appear to really be an agreement about anything. So this is not surprising to me and is another case of Elon Musk sort of legal saber rattling winding up being nothing.

kevin roose

Yeah. I mean, every lawyer I talked to about this case, everyone who has sort of had familiarity with the case, thought this was a total frivolous case that was going to go nowhere and was going to get thrown out by court. So I guess it is not surprising in that sense that Elon Musk has decided that he would rather not go through with it. But I think his beef with OpenAI is sort of well established at this point. It’ll just be interesting to see where that goes from here.

casey newton

Yeah. Also, I’m sure he’s going to threaten a lot more lawsuits in the next year. And as reporters, in particular, think about how they want to approach coverage of those, I think they just need to remember that sometimes he will threaten. And sometimes he will even file these lawsuits. But then he’ll walk away once the obvious becomes more apparent.

kevin roose

Yeah, until he becomes the secretary of the treasury in a second Trump administration and decides to shut down OpenAI. When we come back, I want it Hat way. It’s time to play HatGPT.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Casey, it’s time for another game of HatGPT.

casey newton

All right, Kevin, let me pass the hats.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

kevin roose

HatGPT is, of course, the segment where a variety of news stories from the world of tech and the future are placed into a hat. And one of us will take a headline out of the hat and make the other person discuss it until we get bored. And at that point, we will say, stop generating.

casey newton

All right, so let’s use our bucket hat today.

kevin roose

Yeah.

All right, you go first.

casey newton

All right, let’s see, Kevin. The first story, Eric Schmidt is secretly testing AI military drones in a wealthy Silicon Valley suburb. This is from “Forbes” last year. Eric Schmidt, who of course you’ll remember was the former CEO of Google, quietly founded a secretive military drone company called White Stork. And apparently, it has recently been spotted testing this drone in and around Menlo Park. And so, Kevin, how would you feel if you had bought a house in a wealthy suburb and then one of Eric Schmidt’s murder drones started hovering nearby?

kevin roose

I don’t think I would feel great. And actually, I saw this story. And I just thought to myself, thank god the effective altruists got into AI because this is my hottest take. If these people, these effective altruists, had not gotten interested in AI a decade ago, the people who would be at the forefront of the AI industry now would be these weird military dudes building drones to use in wars and testing them in suburbs. So I feel good on one hand that I’ve never heard of White Stork and that it does not appear to be like a major player in defense AI. But I’m also terrified because this is not good. This is not good.

casey newton

You know, Kevin, when I was growing up, a white stork was a symbol of someone bringing a baby to your front doorstep. And now it will probably be the last thing I see before I die. All right, stop generating.

kevin roose

All right.

casey newton

All right. Here’s another one from “Forbes,” Why Perplexity’s Cynical Theft Represents Everything That Could Go Wrong with AI. This story is from “Forbes.” And “Forbes” is taking Perplexity, the AI-powered search engine whose CEO we’ve had on the show, to task over what it described as stealing its articles, using AI to summarize and repackage them, and doing so without prominent attribution of links.

This week, Randall Lane, “Forbes” chief content officer, wrote that Perplexity repackaged one of its recent scoops, published its own AI-generated article that summarized it, including several sentence fragments that appear to have been lifted word for word, sent a push notification to users pointing them to its summary, created an AI-generated podcast out of the summary, and made a YouTube video that now outranks “Forbes’” original article in search.

In response, Aravind Srinivas, CEO of Perplexity and former “Hard Fork” guest, said that Perplexity was the number two source of referral traffic for “Forbes,” a claim “Forbes” disputes. Kevin, what do you think?

kevin roose

Well, I mean, this is something that you were saying. You called this one because back when we had Aravind on the podcast, you said, look, this is what’s going to happen. This company is going to hoover up the entire internet. It is going to summarize that. It is going to put these little tiny links and attributions in its summaries. No one is ever going to click on them. And they will basically be repackaging, paraphrasing, regurgitating, whatever you want to say. They will be sort of extruding this sort of journalism product and sort of claiming it as their own. And people will engage with that and not the original articles that people had to work so hard to produce.

casey newton

Yeah. And I’m really sad that I was right about this one because my hope would be that Aravind went back and tried to build a sort of better and more ethical framework for doing this sort of thing. But they did it. And look, I’m really worried. Like, this stuff is a moral catastrophe. And the tech industry needs to do a lot better.

Maybe legally, they’ll find some way to get away with it. But it is absolutely wrong. And it is self-defeating in the long run. If this truly becomes the way that most people access their news, this journalism is going to disappear. And Perplexity is not going to have push notifications to send to anybody about anything because nobody’s doing the danged work anymore. So what a disaster.

kevin roose

Yeah. And I should say Perplexity has said — they just told “Semafor,” another publication, that they have been working on revenue-sharing deals with high-quality publishers. Basically, they’re saying, we’re working on this. We’re trying to make these citations more prominent. But I do not think publishers are going to be happy that there are now AI companies out there scraping their hard-earned stories, repackaging them as news articles and podcasts and YouTube videos, and boosting themselves above the originals in Google search. So bad news for journalism. Bad news for Perplexity. Stop generating.

OK. This one is from “The New York Times.” It’s called A Four-Hour Hotel Review That is Actually About So Much More. This is a story about a viral YouTube video called The Spectacular Failure of the “Star Wars” Hotel. Apparently, in this video, youtuber Jenny Nicholson talks in a four-hour video essay about why Disney’s “Star Wars” Galactic Starcruiser, a spaceship-themed hotel which opened in 2022 only to close a year later, was such a disappointment. I have not watched this YouTube video. Did you watch this YouTube video?

casey newton

I did. And let me say —

kevin roose

Wait, you watched a —

casey newton

Masterpiece.

kevin roose

You watched a four-hour long YouTube video?

casey newton

I watched a four-hour video. And I would have watched a fifth hour because that’s how good Jenny Nicholson is as she dismantles this experience where she and one other person went. And for $6,000, they spent two days inside this hotel and had a miserable experience. But it wasn’t miserable, maybe, for the reasons that you would think. Like, it wasn’t that the food was terrible and the staff was mean. It was that Disney had come up with such a cynical product that was basically based on the idea that people love “Star Wars” so much that they will accept absolutely anything and pay $6,000 for the privilege. And she breaks down why that’s absolutely not the case.

This is honestly just an amazing commentary on this cultural moment, where these mega corporations try to find these fans and then just serve them absolute slop and tell them to love it, when in reality it actually sucks.

kevin roose

OK, so if I don’t want to spend four hours watching this YouTube video but I want to see what it says, is there a tool that I can use to have AI summarize it for me?

casey newton

Yeah. I recommend Perplexity AI. It’s going to have a really nice summary for you, Kevin. OK, stop generating. Go watch the video. All right, pass the hat. All right. Instagram is testing unskippable ads that you can’t scroll past. This is from “The Verge.” Instagram is testing, quote, “ad breaks that force you to stop and look at an ad for a period of time before you can continue scrolling.”

Several X and Reddit users reported seeing the feature. And Instagram spokesperson Matthew Tai confirmed to “The Verge” that ad breaks are being tested. Well, Kevin, how excited are you for this one?

kevin roose

I actually am excited because I have a little bit of an Instagram-use problem. And I’m excited for a feature that repels me every time I go on Instagram.

casey newton

So you think this solves the problem, that you see the ad break and you think, oh, the heck with this?

kevin roose

Yeah, and then I get time off my screen. I get to reconnect with my family. I think this could be a really good thing for my life. No, this is obviously annoying and bad. And it reminds me. Do you remember a year or two when this viral patent made the news? Do you remember this?

Sony had patented a device for interactive advertising, where basically you would get shown a commercial for something. And in order to make the commercial stop, you would have to physically get up from your couch and yell something at your TV. So I think the one in the patent was just yelling McDonald’s. And then the ad stops. And at the time, people thought this was dystopian and weird. And I got to say, that’s where we’re going.

casey newton

It is basically here. Well, God help us all. All right. Stop generating.

kevin roose

OK this one is from “The New York Times.” It’s called Every Elephant Has Its Own Name Study Suggests. Scientists say they have found evidence, with the help of AI, that elephants have names and that they call each other by their names. This was published Monday in the journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution.”

According to the researchers, they used an AI tool to analyze the rumbles that certain elephants produce. And they found that individual elephants seem to respond to certain rumbles more than others. So far, the scientists aren’t sure precisely which part of the rumble might be the elephant’s, quote unquote, “name.” But they did find that their AI tool’s ability to identify, basically, which elephant the rumble was intended for far exceeded what random chance would dictate.

casey newton

Well, actually, there, I can help out the scientists here, Kevin, because my understanding is that your elephant name is the street where you grow up on and then the name of your first pet and that’s your elephant name.

kevin roose

No, this is very exciting. We’re using AI to understand how animals communicate. What did you think?

casey newton

Yeah, I like this. I like the idea that I could go on safari. And an elephant could come charging toward me. And I could just be like, hey, Bob, cool it! I’m actually working on a beautiful story about you on a safari. And it’s called “Call Me by Your Elephant Name.”

kevin roose

It reminds me of my favorite joke.

casey newton

What’s that?

kevin roose

Why do elephants paint their toenails red?

casey newton

Why is that?

kevin roose

So they can hide in cherry trees.

casey newton

Why do elephants paint their toenails red? So they can hide in cherry trees?

kevin roose

Yeah. Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree?

casey newton

No.

kevin roose

Then I guess it works.

casey newton

We’ll be right back.

kevin roose

All right, pass the hat.

casey newton

All right, all right.

Microsoft recall screenshot feature after outcry. So some listeners may remember when Microsoft launched this feature, which takes constant screenshots of every single thing that you’re doing on your PC so that you can quickly search for them later. We said, this sounds like one of the greatest and most intrusive privacy violations of all time. Well, Microsoft is now making changes. And the most important thing to know is that this will now be opt in. So if you would rather not have a record of every single horrible thing you’ve ever typed in your entire life, you can rest easy. What did you make of this, Kevin?

kevin roose

Well, my first lesson is that you should never call a product something that will be extremely funny if it turns out to blow up and you have to dial it back. A product called recall being recalled, I just don’t know how they didn’t see this one coming.

casey newton

I will say, when we talked about this, I heard from somebody at Microsoft who basically just accused me of wetting the bed over something very inconsequential.

kevin roose

Oh, I think I know that person at Microsoft.

casey newton

I was like, I don’t know. It seems like this really sucks. And over the next couple of weeks, as security researchers looked into this, they said, Microsoft, what the heck are you doing? So I feel very validated about this one.

kevin roose

All right, stop generating.

casey newton

All right.

kevin roose

Last one.

casey newton

Yeah.

kevin roose

This is from “The Verge.” Spotify is increasing US prices again. A year after Spotify first increased the price of Spotify Premium in the US, they are doing it again. Next month, subscribers to Spotify will start receiving an email detailing the price increases to their plans. One Spotify premium package will now cost $11.99 a month, up from the $10.99 increase announced last year.

I saw this one a couple of days ago because I got an email from Spotify saying that my subscription plan, which is a premium family plan, was going to increase from $16.99 a month to $19.99 a month. Casey, what the hell is going on with all these subscription increases?

casey newton

Well, there was actually some interesting reporting recently that Spotify has the lowest churn of any major subscription media service. So what that means is once people start using Spotify, they’re just sort of very unlikely to bail. And if you’re Spotify, that’s just an opportunity because you know you can just keep jacking that price up little by little every year, and most people aren’t going to run fleeing for another service.

So kind of a bummer. But I got to say, Kevin, as somebody who grew up in the era where listening to one CD would cost me $18, the fact that the price of a basic Spotify premium plan has gone up, what, now $2 since launch in the United States does not actually make me that concerned.

kevin roose

Yeah. I mean, I can sort of justify it. Still, I’m not going to cancel my subscription. I use Spotify all the time. I like the family plan. I’m not one of these churn risks. But, man, you start adding up increases. I mean, YouTube Premium increased its price this year. Netflix has been steadily increasing prices. Like, all of these subscriptions are just getting more and more expensive. And I got to think there’s some breaking point where people are going to say, enough. I’ve outstripped my budget here.

casey newton

Yeah, and if you’re planning to start a revolution based on media prices, let us know. We’d love to talk to you.

kevin roose

Yeah, is “Platformer” planning any price increases?

casey newton

I believe that we’re actually the last media property that has not increased its prices since launch. We’re four years old. We’re holding steady at $100 bucks a year.

kevin roose

You’re like the Costco hot dog. You’ll never change your price, no matter how high inflation gets.

casey newton

We’re the Costco hot dog of media. OK, stop generating.

kevin roose

That’s ChatGPT.

casey newton

That’s — that’s HatGPT.

kevin roose

That’s HatGPT.

casey newton

ChatGPT is something else. You can now find it on Siri.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

kevin roose

“Hard Fork” is produced by Rachel Cohn and Whitney Jones. We’re edited by Jen Poyant. Today’s show was engineered by Corey Schreppel. Original music by Elisheba Ittoop, Marion Lozano, Rowan Niemisto, and Dan Powell. Our audience editor is Nell Gallogly. Video production by Ryan Manning and Dylan Bergeson.

If you haven’t already checked out our YouTube channel, you can find it at youtube.com/hardfork. Special thanks to Paula Szuchman, Pui-Wing Tam, Kate LoPresti, and Jeffrey Miranda. You can email us, as always, at hardfork@nytimes.com. Tell us your elephant name.



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