Iterate Weekly - Issue 140
This week we're talking about the rise of "grief tech", regretting pandemic-era moves, sustainable Trans-Atlantic flights, fake AI journalists, and Genie!
Welcome to issue 140 of Iterate Weekly!
Hope you’re all doing well. This is just a friendly reminder that you can always reply directly to these messages or leave a comment on the Substack post. Feedback is highly encouraged and I’m happy to answer any and all questions that come up.
Let’s jump into this week’s stories.
Is “grief tech” the next big thing?
We may have stumbled upon the next big thing in tech. Is it possible to use apps and AI to help people deal with the grief of losing a loved one?
It may sound a bit crazy at first, but a new wave of “grief tech” startups are banking on the ability to soften the blow of death by means of technology.
Yes, it is technically possible to create an AI representation of a family member or friend that you can still interact with after they are no longer physically living. Companies like Replika, StoryFile, Seance AI, and HereAfter AI are all offering up digital avatars of your loved ones that can help fill the void. This reminds me very much of the after life virtual world concept on the excellent show “Upload”.
This certainly could be a helpful way to mourn and I don’t think the idea should be totally disregarded. But it does bring up a lot of complications when these services inevitably go out of business or pivot to an alternative model. It’s one thing if your favorite email client or meditation app stops working, it’s something totally different if the app that offers your only remaining connection to your deceased grandparent decides it’s going to shutdown immediately.
I can’t say that I’ve tried any of these apps yet for myself so it’s hard to form a solid opinion. I do think that they can be great coping method in certain instances but I’m not sure they should be the only way to grieve. It is clear that this industry is only going to grow and if the characters on “Upload” are any indication, it’s going to present some serious complications on how we interact with the afterlife.
Are Americans regretting pandemic-era moves?
This story hits home for me as someone who did make a move during the past few years amid the pandemic. Personally, I didn’t move all that far and have been happy with the decision but I may be in the minority.
Apparently there are many Americans who are now regretting their pandemic moves from cities to suburbs and rural locations.
The Business Insider article linked above highlights some specific cases of urbanites who felt confined in cities during the pandemic and moved to the potentially greener pastures of the suburbs and more remote towns. However, many of these folks are now feeling isolated or too removed from the cultural epicenters that they used to enjoy.
The mass exodus from expensive metropolitan areas from 2020-2022 is hard to properly examine. Of course each move has its own personal reasons that are tied to the economy, age, and life values. The pandemic and push to remote work helped to speed up some decisions that have lead to remorse. While remote work has remained in place for some, others have felt the sting of longer commutes to head back to an office that doesn’t feel the same as it may have three years ago.
♻️ Health/Environment/Electric Vehicles
Sustainable Trans-Atlantic Flights
Air travel still remains one of the biggest impacts on people’s carbon footprint. Even if you ride your bike all year instead of driving a car, one cross country flight may negate your carbon savings.
Well that may be changing as a strong push is being made to make aviation more sustainable. Recently, Virgin has piloted a cross-Atlantic flight in a biofuel powered plane.
This first flight may just be a test, but if the kinks can be ironed out it will revolutionize the industry. Flying from London to New York running on cooking oil and biomass, the Virgin flight is an example of what the future of aviation may look like.
Sustainable Airline Fuel or SAF is currently too pricey to be used on everyday flights. Right now, the technology will be reserved for billionaires like Virgin founder Richard Branson who was on this monumental first flight. In fact, he even blogged about his experience mid-flight.
But this is a really huge development. There may be a not-too-distant future where you’ll be able to choose your fuel on your next flight. Yes, it may be more expensive for a while, but as the availability of SAF increases, prices should stabilize. And it’s certainly a far greener alternative for private jets where cost is less of a concern.
🛍 Grab Bag
Sports Illustrated’s Fake Journalists
Do you remember when Sports Illustrated was one of the most prominent magazines in the world? I remember having a subscription as a teenage sports lover and what was printed in its pages was undisputed. It was the authority on who and what mattered in sports and it employed the best writers of a generation.
Oh how the mighty have fallen.
No, that picture above of “Drew Ortiz” is not real. The picture was purchased from a fake database and all of Drew’s stories were written by AI. Could this be the final nail in the coffin for SI’s relevance? Does anyone under the age of 30 even remember its heyday?
This is really quite a story and it would have been even bigger news if the brand was more relevant these days. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that these fake writers were mostly covering product reviews rather than in-depth editorials. If there are any legitimately good writers still at SI, how can they continue working there?
Sadly, we know it’s only a matter of time before another story like this will make headlines. With the constant need to crank out new content on a budget, other companies will likely employ similar tactics. It seems like the most egregious act was the fake headshot. Maybe there is a tasteful way to disclose that certain articles are being generated by an AI, but you can’t just flat out lie to readers.
💬 Quote of the Week
"Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage."
-H. L. Mencken
🎥 Content Review
Tis the season for some holiday themed content reviews!
And this week I do have a review rather than a recommendation. I checked out the new Peacock holiday feature called “Genie” (super clever name!) and I can’t give it my seal of approval.
It seemed like a fun little comedic romp around the Christmas tree starring the normally hilarious Melissa McCarthy but this film just doesn’t have what it takes to become a holiday classic. It seemed to be haphazardly thrown together with plenty of plot holes and uninspired performances.
If you’re a big fan of Melissa McCarthy or genies, go ahead and knock yourself out. But if you’re anyone else, you’re probably better off skipping this one. If you need some holiday cheer, maybe just watch Home Alone for the 7,823rd time this week instead? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has also been playing non-stop on seemingly every basic cable streaming channel these days.
Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next week!
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