This year in tech felt like a simulation • TechCrunch

Too much happened in tech this year and very little of it made sense. It was as if we were being controlled by a random number generator that would dictate the whims of the tech industry, resulting in several “biggest news of the year” happening throughout the month, all completely disconnected from each other.

I can’t stop thinking about a very good tweet I saw last month that summed up the absurdity of the year — it went something like, “Meta lays off 11,000 people and it’s only the third biggest tech story of the week. Normally, a social media giant laying off 13% of its workforce would easily be the top story of the week, but this was the moment when FTX went bankrupt and everyone pretended to be corporate on Twitter because Elon Musk somehow didn’t figure out how to proceed. terribly wrong if someone could buy a blue check. Oh, the good times.

When I say it feels like we’re living in a simulation, what I mean is that sometimes I hear about the latest tech news and it feels like someone threw a few words into a hat, picked a few, and tried to connect the dots. Of course, that doesn’t actually happen. But would you believe me in January if I told you that Twitter owner Elon Musk polled users to decide whether to unban Donald Trump?

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These absurd events in technology have consequences. Crypto collapses like the FTX bankruptcy and the UST scandal have hurt real people who invested significant amounts of money in what they believed was a good investment. It’s funny to think how you would have reacted ten years ago if someone told you that Meta (oh yeah, that’s Facebook’s name now) was losing billions of dollars every quarter building virtual reality technology that no one seemed to want. But these management decisions are no joke to the employees who lost their jobs because of these decisions.

Where does that leave us? We are at a moment in technical history where nothing is too absurd to be possible. This is both inspiring and terrifying. It’s possible that a team of workers at Amazon’s Staten Island distribution center will win a union election and successfully stand up in the face of tremendous adversity. It is also possible that Elon Musk will buy Twitter for $44 billion.

AI technologies like Stable Diffusion and ChatGPT encapsulate this delicate balance between innovation and horror. You can produce beautiful works of art in seconds and you can also threaten the livelihood of working artists. You can ask an AI chatbot to teach you about history, but there’s no way to know if its answer is factually accurate (unless you do more research, in which case you could have done your own research to begin with).

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But perhaps part of the reason AI generators have gained such mainstream appeal is that they feel almost natural to us. This year’s tech news is so bizarre that ChatGPT might as well have generated it.

Or maybe reality is actually stranger than anything AI could come up with. I asked ChatGPT to write me some tech news headlines and came up with these snoozers (aside from some factually inaccurate headlines that I left out for the sake of journalism):

  • “Apple’s iOS 15 update brings major improvements to iPhones and iPads”
  • “Amazon’s New Line of Autonomous Delivery Robots Stirs Controversy”
  • “Intel Announces New Series of Processors with Advanced Security Features”

Quite boring! Here are some real real things that happened in tech this year:

  • Tiger Tony debuted as a VTuber.
  • Someone claimed to be a fired Twitter employee named Rahul Ligma, and a herd of reporters didn’t get the joke, which inadvertently meant I had to explain the “ligma” joke as four different tech podcasts.
  • Three people have been arrested for running a Club Penguin clone.
  • One of the Justice Department’s prime suspects in the $3.6 billion money laundering scheme is a businessman-slash-rapper named Razzlekhan.
  • The new Pokemon game has a line of dialogue with the word “cheugy”.
  • Donald Trump dropped the NFT collection.
  • A botched Twitter feature update has affected the pharmaceutical company’s stock.
  • Elon Musk’s biggest rival is a sophomore from the University of Central Florida.
  • FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan said Taylor Swift has done more to educate Gen Z about antitrust than she ever could.
  • Meta is selling a $1,499 VR headset that will be used for remote work.
  • The UK Treasury set up a Discord account to share public announcements, but it was immediately spammed with people making dirty jokes using emoji reactions (and speaking of the UK, there have been three different Prime Ministers since September.)
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These are strange times. If the rules are made up and the points don’t matter, let’s at least hope that if the absurdity continues in 2023, the technological innovations will be more entertaining than harmful. I want more Chris Pratt voicing a live Mario and less tech executives convicted of fraud. Is it too much?


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