Each month, Plugged In will release a blog with the latest technology and social media trends. We’ll let you know what changes to keep an eye out for. We’ll offer some tips about how to handle technology in your family. And of course, we’ll give you the scoop on those things called “hashtags” so you can stay up to date on all the things your kids might be obsessed with.
And ICYMI (“in case you missed it,” for those not up on their social acronyms), you can check out August’s Tech Trends, too.
What Is FOBO?
The rise of artificial intelligence has already popularized the term “AI Anxiety,” which refers to fears or worries associated with the use of artificial intelligence. But a new term is popping up called “FOBO,” or the “fear of becoming obsolete,” and it all has to do with AI taking away jobs.
It’s not an unwarranted fear either, since 74% of CEOs on the Fortune 500 list expect that they will need fewer workers in five years thanks to AI. And some companies won’t even need human CEOs. According to Business Insider, the CEO of the Polish drinks company Dictador is an AI-powered humanoid robot that is “always on 24/7.” And there’s a new company called Somatic that specializes in creating janitorial robots, completely computerizing custodial work.
Of course, AI has its flaws. Plugged In’s Bob Hoose described how AI chatbots can sometimes spout incorrect or harmful information. In June’s Tech Trends we explained the phenomenon of AI “hallucinations,” wherein chatbots generate fiction based on facts and insist it’s the latter. And an article from Fortune illuminates that once an AI model learns something from new data, it’s almost impossible to make it “forget” that information, meaning it can learn from, and stubbornly stick to, incorrect or outdated reports.
Despite this, students worldwide continue to use AI software like ChatGPT (which research suggests makes up one in five of its citations) to cheat on their assignments. And of those Fortune 500 companies mentioned earlier, 88% are either already using or planning to use generative AI as part of their business processes.
Some people are coping with their FOBO by straight-up lying in order to secure jobs. Research shows that 40% of young professionals have pretended to know more about AI than they really do in order to look “in the know,” writes The Times. And, of course, other creators continue to join the lawsuit against OpenAI for using their original works to train the very AI that might make them obsolete one day.
The Strike Is (Almost) Over
This past Tuesday, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted to end their 148-day strike. According to Vox, the new agreement (which will likely be signed in October once verbiage has been agreed upon) included increased minimum wages, compensation, pensions, health fund rates and other improvements. But it also protects writers from being replaced by AI.
Productions will be allowed to use generative AI, but they’re prohibited from using the software to reduce or eliminate writers or their pay. It also allows writers to use AI in their writing tasks provided the company hiring them consents.
These wins could bode well for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which is 78 days into its own strike and is planning to meet for negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Monday, Oct. 2. Much like the WGA, SAG-AFTRA brings concerns regarding the use of AI, namely in how it might be used to clone performers without their permission.
Actor Stephen Fry, who recorded the Harry Potter audiobooks, was a victim of such cloning already. He issued a warning about it at the CogX Festival this month. Fry played a clip of his voice narrating a documentary for those present. He then explained how he never uttered one word of that recording: AI had used the aforementioned Harry Potter readings to clone his voice illegally.
Fry went on to say this: “It could therefore have me read anything from a call to storm Parliament to hard porn, all without my knowledge and without my permission.”
SAG-AFTRA’s main concern regarding AI is actors not getting paid for the use of their voices or images. But Fry’s point also shows how people (and not just actors but politicians, CEOs and more) could be made to say things and agree with causes that they would never do in real life. That is something we should all be looking out for as AI continues to become more advanced.
Black Mirror Kinda Predicted the Future
In the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back,” Martha’s husband, Ash, tragically passes away in a car crash. To help process her grief, Martha’s friend signs her up for a new AI instant messaging service that uses machine learning to figure out how Ash used to text. From there, the service offers a voice feature–once again, using cloning technology and machine learning to mimic Ash’s voice and the way he talked. And finally, Martha pays to have an android cloned in Ash’s image.
Well, we’re not at the android stage just yet. But the rest is very quickly becoming reality. The MIT project “Augmented Eternity and Swappable Identities” is figuring out how to literally turn our world into this episode of Black Mirror by creating chatbots based on donated digital identities.
According to the project website, “the purpose of this work is to learn from humans’ daily lives; rather than using it for advertising purposes, we use it for the advancement of the world’s collective intelligence.”
However, the project also recognizes (and perhaps even hopes) that these “borrowable identities” could allow folks to interact with deceased people. As Jack Holmes writes for Esquire, “Some might find comfort in hearing their mom’s voice, particularly if she sounds like she really sounded and gives the kind of advice she really gave.” But there’s also the ethical question of “what if the model makes mistakes? What if it misrepresents—slanders, even—the dead?”
That’s perhaps an ethical debate for another time. But for now, I’ll just remind folks that no matter how realistic AI gets, we need to remember that it isn’t a real person. Even Black Mirror’s Martha learned that in the end.
Hashtags, trends, reels, sounds, tracks, stories—we know it feels impossible to keep up with what the kids are into these days. But here’s a quick overview of what your teen might be posting/watching on TikTok, Instagram and all the other “socials” this month.
- “IJBOL” – Most of us know that LOL means “laughing out loud”. Well, IJBOL, pronounced eej-bowl, is the new LOL for Gen-Z. And it stands for “I just burst out laughing.”
- “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” (169.7K posts) – There’s some sensual choreography that folks are pairing with this Rihanna track. But some influencers are just using it to vlog their coffee dates with friends.
- “Shake It” (137.6K posts) – My high school called, and it wants this 2007 track from Metro Station back. The lyrics leave something to be desired, but TikTokers are getting their dance on to this catchy song.
- “Bad Idea Right?” (51K posts) – Look, we’ve already talked about why this song from Olivia Rodrigo is a bad idea. And considering the explicit version is what users are posting…
- “More Passion, More Energy” (46.5K posts) – Users are putting “more passion, more energy” into their projects and everyday tasks with this funky trend.
- “Cry to Me” (43.7K posts) – This cover of Solomon Burke’s track is being used to showcase thoughts and moods. And there’s not much more to it.
- “You Look So Dumb Right Now” (31.3K posts) – Yet another Rihanna track (“Take a Bow”), this time showcasing “cringeworthy” facts about significant others or friends. ‘Cause that won’t cause an argument…