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Jonathan Taplin: The End of Reality

February 6, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Four billionaires—Musk, Zuckerberg, Thiel, and Andreessen—are part of an antidemocratic turn in the tech world. This interlocked directorate of Silicon Valley has helped bring us to this time of post-truth reality, online chaos, and mob violence. Jonathan Taplin joins Charlie Sykes.

show notes:

Jon’s “The End of Reality”

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Welcome to
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:09

    the Bulwark podcast on Charlie Sykes. We’re going to take a little bit of a detour today because I’ve had this book around my house now several months. I’m holding it up for you YouTube viewers. The end of reality, how four billionaires are selling a fantasy future of the Metiverse, Mars, and Crypto by Jonathan Last. And I gotta say it is scary.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:30

    And since it is not necessarily in my wheelhouse. I really wanted to talk with you, Jonathan. So good morning. Welcome to the podcast. Appreciate it very much.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:38

    Great to be here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:40

    Just a little bit of background. I mean, you were a man of many, many careers. I mean, you put the Renaissance and Renaissance’s Manuel tour manager for Bob Dylan and the band. I’m guessing there’s a book in there somewhere, film producer, most notably of Martin Scorsese’s mean streets and the last waltz, founder of the pioneering video on demand company, entertainer, and direct Emeritus of the Inenberg Innovation Lab at USC. And this latest book okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:04

    I I’ll tell you what got me about your book, Jonathan. Is I keep thinking I I always worry about while we’re focusing on the big orange sun in front of us. And while we’re fighting that, what’s going on in the background. And we’re fighting up whereitarianism and the guy who’s going to be the dictator of the day. And yet you think about all of these other things that are moving ahead, including the rise of an American oligarchy, and I wanted to bounce that word off you because you write about these these billionaires, and you call them the technocrats, But let’s just, for a moment, you know, I don’t wanna sound like, you know, just sort of going through some sort of nineteen thirties rhetoric, but the concentration of wealth in this country, you know, has been a growing concern.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:50

    But the concentration of wealth power and influence feels like we’re reaching a peak moment. Do we have an oligarch problem?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:00

    So I have a Charlie Sykes when I when I give talks, which shows that the rise of the one percent really started around the time of Google’s IPO. And the thing is that the software you know, technology is an extraordinary business, and it creates profits unlike anything we’ve ever seen in our life. I mean, if you just take Facebook with ordered record earnings this week. Facebook doesn’t have to make its product. The people make its product.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:34

    It doesn’t have to transport its product because the internet, which the government subsidizes transports a product, All it does is take the majority of the advertising income for keeping people’s attention. So its margins are in the eighty percent range. And just to give you an example, Google’s gross margin is around fifty two percent. Walmart’s gross margin is around thirty percent, and Facebook’s is like eighty. Brian will need more of the the famous theologian said something really smart, I think.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:11

    He said and he said this in the late thirties. It’s at some form of oligarchy would be inevitable in a technological age because of the inability of the general public to maintain social control over the experts who control the new technologies. And you and I have watched since the beginning of social Bulwark, these people, the barons, the tech barons, basically have free rein to do whatever they want. You can’t sue Facebook. For instance, Rupert Murdoch paid seven hundred and fifty million to dominion for defaming, for putting out untruth.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:56

    But there was far more untruth on Facebook and Twitter about dominion by a a factor of fifty because, you know, at this greatest when he was on Fox, Tucker Carlson could get three million people a night. That was his size of his audience. Elon Musk, tweets at least three tweets to a hundred and forty million people a day. And he makes sure they get every tweet He puts out unless you’ve actively blocked him because he’s tweaked the algorithms to make sure that everybody sees his wisdom. So Elon Musk power is far greater than than Tucker Carlson was at the height of his power.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:44

    Someone said democracies of assassins always need accomplices. And I am worried that these people, specifically Musk and Zuckerberg, but also interested in teal are the accomplices to the assassination of democracy that we’re watching as a kind of slow motion train wreck that’s going on.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:09

    Let’s talk about those those four guys because your book, the end of reality is about those four billionaires and how they’re selling out our future. And and you’re right. Four very powerful billionaires, Peter Kiel, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mark and Reesen, are creating a world where nothing is true and all is spectacle. If we are to inquire how we got to a place of radical income inequality, post truth reality, and the looming potential for a second American Civil War. We need to look no further than those four.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:40

    The biggest wallets to paraphrase historian Timothy Snyder, paying for the most blinding lights. Now, you know, that is a sweeping indictment because, of course, we have hundreds of thousands of, of pundits and and scholars who are, you know, looking for sources of, you know, economic discontent and sociological changes. But it really does come back to these four incredibly powerful oligarchs, and and also it explains why the transformation has been so rapid? I mean, this is the thing is you you look at things trends and changes that used to take a hundred years, then took fifty years, then took twenty years, then took, and now we’re measuring it in in virtually a news cycle. So so let’s talk about this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:29

    You call these four billionaires, the technocrats, and You described them as essentially an interlocking directorate of Silicon Valley. I mean, it’s not like four separate guys. There is a you know, for all the conspiracy theories out there, you know, if you’re looking for the Illuminati or the secret cabal, this is the interlocking director at Silicon Valley. How does it work?
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:49

    Well, first off, they all invest in each other’s companies. So when Elon must want to buy Twitter, He looked to both Mark andreessen who put four hundred million into the deal. He looked to Peter Teal who’s always been an investor with him since the first days of PayPal. They they owned PayPal together, Peter Till, and and Elon Musk. Mark Andreas is a board member of Facebook and a large one of the earliest investors.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:18

    Peter Tehl was the original investor in Facebook and was a board member until very recently. Teal invested in SpaceX. Mhmm. And Theresa invested in SpaceX. I I mean, you can see how it works.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:32

    When I call it an interlocking accurate. They all invest in each other’s deals. And so they’re all deeply embedded in the same thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:40

    Very interesting.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:41

    In a sense, They all want the same thing, which is why they’re all supporting Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:47

    What do they all want? You write that these oligarchs appear to be more interested in replacing our current reality and our economic system with something far more opaque, concentrated, and unaccountable, which if it comes to past, they will control. There’s not enough for them to be richer than hell, or cool, or named Time Man of the year. What do they really want here, Jonathan?
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:13

    Well, their ideal world is the kind of libertarian anarcho fantasy. Which is a world in which the currency is Bitcoin. So it’s untraceable and nobody knows who owns what nobody can find out. The world that people inhabit is a virtual world the metaverse in which because you’re out of work, you’re gonna spend hours and hours in some fantasy world that Mark Zuckerberg will essentially rent to you. You know, in other words, let’s say you’re a Tony Stark fan in the Avengers You can rent Tony Stark’s house, and he will give you Tony Stark’s magic suit that he wears, and he will even rent you the avatar of Gwyneth Palletro to date for a night because you’re lonely and you have nothing else to do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:16

    And for Andresen, the world takes a little darker turn, which is, of course, andresen’s company is the largest vendor to the Pentagon of autonomous weapons. And autonomous weapons is a new thing in which AI makes the decision as to when to pull the trigger. It’s not some guy in a trailer in Las Vegas directing a drone and pulling the trigger from Las Vegas. It’s completely independent. That assumes the AIM will know the difference, but between a man with a gun and a man with a broom at a hundred and fifty yards.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:57

    And it hasn’t worked out that well in the early test.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:00

    What a surprise?
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:01

    But that isn’t to say that Andreson doesn’t think that that’s the future. And of course, all this notion of libertarian fantasies If you really look at them, they’re all crony capitalists. SpaceX is totally financed by the US government, Vanessa. Musk’s satellite company is totally funded by governments. Peter Teal’s palantir is totally funded by a government grants and government things and was originally founded with CIA money.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:32

    So much for being libertarians.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:33

    Yeah. So, I mean, it’s not sure that they’re really terence is actually a joke. They’re just really good crony capitalists.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:41

    Yeah. I mean, that’s, yeah, it’s a joke or or the technical term is Bulwark. Okay. So let’s go through the lies because this is kind of at the heart of of your book, which is the end of reality. Let’s talk about currency.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:53

    Let’s talk about AI. Let’s talk about let’s talk about Metiverse March. But let’s I wanna start on currency and how this how this plays that These guys are obsessed with the end of centralized banking. Wall Street Journal just had a piece that crypto is being marketed to baby boomers following this SEC approval, and BlackRock is in on it. And, you know, people are out there, you know, trying to buy Bitcoin.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:15

    So how does this fit in? What is the role of this selling the fantasy future. What is crypto fit in?
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:22

    Bitcoin is basically controlled by what in the trade is called the whales. And the whales of the people, they’re about three percent of the holders of Bitcoin, and they control about eighty two percent of all the Bitcoin. And so if you were just an average person like you or I and watching a football game, an NFL game in the winter of twenty twenty one. So it was, say, late November leading up to the Super Bowl of twenty twenty two. Most of the commercials were for crypto.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:56

    You know? There was Larry David telling you to buy crypto. There was Matt Damon telling you fortune belongs to the bold There was LeBron James and Tom Brady and everybody. And so what happened? At that point, crypto was at sixty thousand dollars a coin, and the suckers flooded into the market.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:20

    Of course, the whales for happy to sell their coins at sixty thousand. And by April, Bitcoin was down to nineteen thousand five hundred. So the pyramid scheme guys got out and the sucker’s bought in just like every pyramid scheme, and it’s never gotten back to the sixty thousand. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that Bitcoin has no actual inherent value.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:47

    At least with gold, which was the previous prepper thing of choice. You can melt it down and make jewelry or something. Right? But Bitcoin has no value other than what some person ascribes to it. So it’s a pure casino economy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:06

    You know, at some point, the game ends. It has no value other than what it is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:13

    Okay. But what’s their motivation? If I was a multimillionaire, if I was a billionaire, the one thing that I would not wanna mess around with is the integrity of the currency. I would not want to have my billions of dollars suddenly evaporate in value or be questioned So why are they interested in this? How does this fit into their agenda?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:35

    What they want?
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:36

    These are ideologies. Okay. Peter Till has been railing against the Federal Reserve before Ron Paul. I mean, These people have essentially tried to convince you that the US currency is a total scam. And it’s just all kept afloat by talking points and things and the fact that we’re the reserve currency.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:02

    They don’t even understand how critical the fact that we’re the basic currency for the world is to the power of our economy. So they’re coming at everything from an ideological point of view. They want complete freedom. That’s why, for instance, they hate the current regime. Alina Khan who is the head of the Federal Trade Commission is the person that they throw darts at every day in their private time, you know, because she’s sued Google.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:36

    She’s sued Amazon. She’s sued Facebook. She’s sued all the time. And so their feeling is, look, if we can get by now to there and jump back in, it’ll be a free ride again. And we won’t have to worry about government regulation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:50

    Which is the old, you know, Coke Brothers scheme that the government is bad because it tries to regulate my business.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:59

    Okay. So let’s spend a little time on AI because you have some really good stuff in this book about AI and and where it’s going. And and you’ve been pointing to these comments from know, Sam Altman, you know, the CEO of Open AI, that that copywriters and ad agencies won’t have jobs in ten years because they’re all gonna be replaced by chat GPT. So we’re talking about millions of workers, white collar workers, millions of others like radiologists reading X rays, they’re gonna be out of work. How disruptive is AI gonna be?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:30

    And I’m gonna get to the impact on democracy in a moment, but just give me your thoughts about what’s coming our way. With AI in terms of just the economy, life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:41

    Here’s the thing that scares me the most.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:43

    Who do you?
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:43

    So Sam Alvin has said, and Tim Oldland is the CEO of OpenAI and is really probably the biggest thinker in the business. So Sam Aldland has said that the marginal cost of intelligence because of AI will drop to near zero in ten years. That means the cost to get any job of that requires a brain Will Saletan zero because of these machines.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:09

    I could see some problems with that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:11

    So I have a friend in LA who ran the largest public relations firm in Los Angeles in Hollywood. And and he had at the height of his business, he had about a hundred employees. And about seventy percent of those people were content creators. In other words, they spent the day writing press releases, thinking up stunts that that Madonna could do, you know, just creating content. So he said to me the other day, he said, well, if I had started that agency now, I would have four salesmen to get us business.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:50

    And I’d have a big chat GPT and two or three editors just to tweak what the output of of that was. So these are people who are making a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. I mean, the old thought was, oh, the robots will put out of work, the people who used to flip hamburgers for McDonald’s.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:12

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:12

    But these are middle class jobs.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:14

    Yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:15

    So can you imagine millions of middle class people being replaced by AI, and perhaps a lot of them are young and took out a good deal of debt at college to go to USC’s the Annenberg School of Communication. And now they got their first job at a PR or an ad agency, and then they’re told, hey, sorry. The AI is gonna do your work. You’re out of work.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:40

    For the next forty
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:41

    fifty years. That is a potentially revolutionary situation. You know, the pitchfork per day has come down. So Aldman says we’ll need universal basic income. In other words, the government will have to step in and just pay everybody a basic thing to stay home in their pajamas every time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:03

    You and I can debate what the role of work is and when me giving you meaning, I think it’s pretty strong. I think work is a lot of what gives us meaning. And if we didn’t have Bulwark, what would we have meaning? Now now maybe you would say, well, that advertising copywriter really wanted to write a novel his whole life And so now he’s got some basic stipend, and he can write his novel or form a band and become an artist or seems like everybody wants to be an actor or be a director or so. And maybe that’s because I live in Hollywood.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:41

    But Hundreds of millions of people separated from the force. I mean, if you wanna talk about potentially revolutionary upsides and downsides, obviously?
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:50

    Well, you know, there’s two visions of what the future is. One looks kind of like blade runner. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:57

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:57

    Where there’s police hovering in the air and their things. And, you know, the world is kind of broken, and the millionaires live behind walls.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:08

    Love the movie. Not sure that I want it for my future. Right. I mean, that’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:12

    We don’t want Play Runner. Now, Sam Aldman, who’s been pushing universal basic income things, then it would be great. Did it allow everybody to be what they really wanted to be because they didn’t really wanna be writing ad copy they really wanted to write a novel. So that would release mountains of bad novels, bad music. I mean, you know, there was an article in in the New Yorker this week about Lucian Grange, the head of the universal music the biggest problem is there’s too much junk out there.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:49

    No kidding. There’s stuff on Spotify that’s just nonsense.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:54

    Has Sam Waldman met Republicans? Has he met the political class? Does he honestly believe that, you know, with the advent of AI and all of this displacement that we’re going to have a Republican Congress and Republican, president who are gonna go, you know, let’s put everybody on the universal dole. A little skeptical. That’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:12

    what I say. I say. I say. It’s a fantasy. I say it’s a fantasy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:18

    But the problem is Charlie Sykes nobody is from a political point of view is really talking about the reality of what AI is gonna do to the workforce. Nobody is doing it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:31

    How fast does this happen? I mean, what what is our timeline here? Is this something?
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:35

    Okay. So he says in ten years, it’ll be everywhere.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:38

    Ten years.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:39

    You know, Omen says in ten years, there will be thirty to forty million people unemployed for sure. And you have talked about deaths of despair and stuff like that, and and you know, we’re needless to say Trump was elected president, partially because of, you know, outsourcing of jobs to China. But this is a different kind of thing. This is outsourcing jobs to robots and AI.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:09

    It is inconceivable that you could not have a disruption of that size thirty, forty million unemployed without it having absolutely cataclysmic, catastrophic, political consequences. This would be a real black swan event just on the economics without even getting into how AI can change our politics and what it will mean for disinformation and and lies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:37

    That’s a critical point. Yeah. We’re gonna see that in the next nine months.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:42

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:43

    I mean, if you don’t think that the AI use of disinformation is gonna be astonishing. I mean, already we had a robo call from Joe Biden giving people who the wrong date to go vote and stuff like that. You know what I mean?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:00

    It’s like a raindrop in advance of a tsunami though. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:04

    Right. There was an extraordinary thing that happened about four days ago in Hong Kong. The chief controller of a very large Hong Kong company is asked to get on a conference call with four people, like a Zoom call. So there are four faces, and there was the chief financial officer, which he knew very well, and three other executives of the company on this call. And they say, okay, Charlie Sykes want you to transfer two hundred million Hong Kong dollars to these five accounts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:41

    And that was the guy because he knows his voice. He knows his face. He’s It’s okay. And he do and he goes and does it. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:50

    Two hundred million dollars. They were all built by AI. They weren’t the real people at all. It was a bunch of hackers who had recorded their voice had recorded their pictures and their some video of them and created these avatars that were totally realistic and convinced the guy the controller transfer two hundred million dollars out of of their accounts.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:13

    I mean, so people, we’re gonna get to a part where people are not gonna know what’s true and what is not true. I mean, every politician’s gonna be the victim of a fake audio or a fake video. The evidence of our eyes is no longer necessarily going to be dispositive because you don’t know whether something you’re seeing is true or not true. So you can have something that’s fake that’s being pushed, but then you could have something that is absolutely true that is debunked by all of this. And this wave is about to hit us not in ten years, but as you pointed out over the next nine months.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:46

    So, you know, people like Hannah Arrent have been writing for years. About that the point of propaganda was not to convince you of one policy or another policy. It’s to get you to doubt your critical sensibilities altogether. It is the annihilation of truth. You just don’t know what’s truth.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:02

    So you basically just pick a side This has been coming with a world we understand, we live in. How bad is it gonna get, Jonathan Last
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:12

    the outside that you could imagine a video in late October of Biden, having a total freeze up moment like Mitch McConnell. And, you know, completely created by AI. Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:30

    And
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:30

    that would go viral. And even if it was debunked almost immediately, it wouldn’t matter. Yeah. Because once it’s out there on X, it’s everywhere. I mean, because Musk has no desire to put forth the truth.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:50

    Last week, he wrote on X. I just learned that all these illegal aliens will be allowed to vote. They’re coming over thing. Now this is a completely untrue thing. And he said, I find this rather disturbing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:06

    So this tweet went out to about seventy two million people. And most of those people think Elon is a god, and so, of course, they believe everything he says.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:21

    This little historical perspective. I was trying to think back on, you know, this is not the first time that we’ve had, you know, massive concentrations of both wealth and power We had the robber barons of the late nineteenth century, how much of the economy they controlled, you know, the railways. But it’s hard to come up with anything in which the non governmental oligarchy had this much sweeping power, not just in politics, but in the economy and then the culture. Now maybe I’m naive. Maybe somebody’s gonna say this is the way that it always used to be.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:53

    But but certainly, in modern liberal democracies, it’s hard to come up with a Sarah Longwell, and I think it would be even harder to come up with a parallel in which there was this kind of concentration of oligarchic power in which the liberal democracy successfully made it through. What am I missing?
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:12

    Well, The reason earlier ages of oligarchy, and you mentioned the robber barons, so the reason that John d rockefeller and JP Morgan were actually brought to heel by Teddy Roosevelt was that there was an independent press that investigated them, and, you know, a very courageous woman, Ida Tarbell wrote a series of articles about how rock filler completely controlled the oil business and how he squeezed his competitors and everything.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:46

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:46

    And it caused outrage. And, needless to say, Rockefeller had no control of communications or media. He was just an oil man. Right? But here’s Musk.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:58

    He’s a rocket man. He’s a car Bulwark, and he controls one of the large communication networks in the country. And the same with Zuckerberg. So I think you’re right that there is no parallel anywhere close to this in terms of accumulation power. And there’s one other thing, which is that these people were given, unfortunately, by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, a pass, which is called section two thirty of the communications decency actor, otherwise known as a safe harbor.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:36

    Yeah. In other words, you cannot sue Facebook for putting lies. On platform because Facebook says, oh, we have nothing to do with this. We’re just a platform.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:48

    And we’re not a publisher.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:49

    Now, this is nonsense.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:51

    Right. You
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:52

    know, you notice that there’s no porn on Facebook. And that’s because they spend hundreds of millions of years with AI to filter out porn. If someone tries to post porn, and I’ve done some research on this, and Porn is uploaded to Facebook about eight hundred times a day, but it all gets caught On the upload and shunned it to another queue and a human looks at it. And if for some reason, it was a Margaret Mead ethnographic clip from National Geographic. Maybe it’d be allowed on the platform, but otherwise, it’s put in the trash bin.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:31

    They have a pass. They’re the only business that has the liability shield in America.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:37

    Okay. So how do you fight back against all of this? I mean, I I don’t wanna end this you know, with the sort of the doom and gloomie. You and you talk about this in your book. You you talk about collective action like what happened with the entertainment unions last year.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:48

    I mean, that was a win. Right? I mean, we were right on the precipice there. So collective action can If not, stop this, at least slow the role?
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:58

    Well, you fight back in two ways. One, you fight back like the actors and the writers did last year, which is say to the AI companies, you cannot take our content and ingest it into your systems. And by the way, everything you’ve ever written or done on video is in chat GPT. I checked that out. Okay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:21

    So they’ve taken your content to make stuff for new uses, which they get all the money and you don’t get any of the money.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:29

    So I could actually be doing a podcast for the next fifty years, but it’s not me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:33

    Right. But also like the New York Times, if you ask ChatGP to give you an answer to a question, and it just spits back to you a quote from the New York Times, which has been ingested. But there’s no link for the New York Times to get any revenue. That’s the thing. If you want a piece of art, I can ask one of the, you know, art diffusion AIs Give me a picture of Joanie Mitchell in a Western Saloon in eighteen fifty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:05

    And, man, in three seconds, it’ll give me that picture.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:08

    Right. Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:09

    But how did you get that picture? Because it ingested twelve million images from Getty images without permission all of them copyrighted and use that to tell its AI what Joanie Mitchell looks like. Right? So that’s one thing. The second thing is I think we’ve gotta get rid of this safe harbor section two thirty.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:32

    And last week, Klobuchar and a few other people started talking about that, that we have to just get rid of it. There’s one senator named Ron Widen, who for reasons unknown to me is so protective about that he won’t let anyone touch it. He thinks it’s it’s what keeps the internet what the internet it is. And then, you know, a lot of it is personal strategies. You know, just be educated.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:01

    Don’t spend all your time on your smartphone. Look up, you know, read books. Get real information from the sources.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:12

    That feels like sort of a twilight what you do on the on the desert island, but I’ve always been skeptical about the ability of legislation to catch up with this. You persuade me though. That, you know, if you had legislation that would would hold that, you know, statements and representations made by a company using AI, their total lie should not be considered immune from lawsuit. Right? I mean, there’s other possible legislation that would require AI companies to label fake pictures or writings as fake.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:40

    That seems to me reasonable. And then, of course, there’s also this this ongoing demand, you know, demand compensation when a body of work is basically pirated to train AI programs like like this very high profile lawsuit recently filed by the New York Times. So, I mean, you can have legal answers to this. You can have personal, but but also there there there might be civil remedies, remedies, not necessarily solutions.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:03

    Look, I’m I’m on the board of the authors guild. And we’ve sued OpenAI too because you can ask chattyPT to write you a Stephen King short story. And it’ll write you a fairly convincing short story that is right in the style of Stephen King. Well, how did you do that? It put every Stephen King book into its system to learn how Stephen King writes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:29

    You can ask the Google LLM for music to write you a Bob Dylan Andy wars song, and it’ll sound kinda like Bob Dylan, It’ll be kind of banal and and not very good, but it will do it. That’s the problem that we’re facing. And it affects artists. It affects writers. It affects journalists.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:51

    And eventually, it’ll affect millions of middle class jobs.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:57

    Well, and let’s get back to democracy as well. It’s hard to really understand the moment that we’re in without discussing this transformation that we’re talking about where a lie can be both shielded from refutation, but also amplified beyond the wildest dreams of the, you know, the fraudsters and the Charlie Sykes of a previous age. And so, you know, here we are, you know, in early twenty twenty four, and half of us are looking like, wait, this guy you know, has been lying about the twenty twenty election and now has convinced tens of millions of people to believe things that are demonstrable lies In fact, he’s convinced people to actually attack the capital, and he’s still running about this. I think it’s the irrefutability of lies and it is just the transmission of this kind of information. And again, all the other explanations about what’s happening on our politics You know, I think you have to start with this because nothing else explains how America feels like a very place in twenty twenty four than it did say in twenty fifteen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:02

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:02

    I mean, this is what you’re describing in your book. Yeah. This post reality world.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:06

    The post modernist kind of led us down a very dark path from which we’re gonna have to recover, but I’m not sure how we do, you know. I just want to read you a little quote from Albert Camou the rebel because he he was thinking about, you know, at earlier times when fascism was rising his head. He said, We are at the extremities now. At the end of this tunnel of darkness, however, there is inevitably a light which we already divine for which we have only to fight to ensure it’s coming. All of us among the ruins are preparing a renaissance beyond the limits of nihilism.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:50

    I think what we’re dealing with is a very nihilistic age. If you think about the TV content that you’ve been watching for the last twenty years, from the Sopranos, to breaking bad, to Madman, all these shows about horrible people doing horrible things to other people, and this started in two thousand one right after nine eleven. And all these people If that’s what you watch and you saw that power was the only thing that mattered, then it’s not that surprising that in twenty fifteen, someone said, well, Tony Soprano should be present.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:34

    And
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:34

    that’s what we got.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:35

    And that’s exactly what we got. Well, at least the good news is, though, that the Holocaust is gonna save us, right, that, we’re gonna get in to be able to go into the Metiverse. Apple has this new just incredibly overpriced, but really cool looking VR set. And we’re just gonna bay basically be able to go into our bedrooms and our basements and just live our best lives without ever actually leaving the house or interacting with any real human beings anymore. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:01

    On universal basic income.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:03

    That’s right. I mean, that’s our future. We’re all going to be in our pods.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:06

    It’ll be like that movie wall
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:08

    I know. I I can imagine that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:10

    Well, we get fat and sassy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:12

    We’ll be very fat. The book is the end of reality, how four billionaires are selling a fantasy future of the Metiverse Mars and Crypto by Jonathan Last. It is an extraordinary and necessary read for our time because either of this is going to end or it’s going to continue, but my guess is the oligarchs will still be among us, Jonathan Kaplan. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:37

    It was a real pleasure, Charlie.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:39

    Well, thank you very much. And thank you all for listening to today’s edition of the Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. We will be back tomorrow and do this all over again, but as many of you know, I am stepping back And as of Monday, there will be a new host sitting here. Tim Miller will be the regular host of the Bulwark podcast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:56

    I’m keeping the seat warm and I’ll have a lot more to say about that later in the week. Until then, have a great day. The Boat Bulwark podcast is produced by Katie Cooper, and engineered and edited by Jason Brown.
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