This is another video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is my quick reaction to the season one finale of HBO’s The Last of Us. Like my other quick reacts, I didn’t script this or structure it like a video essay. As a result, I stutter and stammer a lot. I also make a few errors here and there. But I still try to get my point across.
Also, I do mention some heavy spoilers from both the show and the games. So do keep that in mind. Enjoy!
I talk about artificial intelligence a lot, both on this site and on my YouTube channel. It’s not just because Artificial Intelligence has the potential to be one of the most important technologies that mankind will ever create. It’s a topic of genuine fascination for me. I’ve always been a fan of the science fiction stories that can be told about AI. I also have a keen interest in how it may ultimately impact the real world.
However, as much fun as it is to speculate on the future of artificial intelligence, it’s a bit more productive to understand what it can do for you right now. I feel like AI has become a lot more mainstream with the rise of programs like ChatGPT. It’s very likely that other programs like it will emerge in the coming years and be very disruptive to multiple industries.
Granted, these AI systems are nowhere close to becoming sentient like Skynet or Hal 9000. We honestly don’t know when we’ll reach a point where an artificial intelligence will be as sentient and as intelligent as an average human. But for the time being, there are a growing number of tools powered by AI that are helping people within multiple fields. I’ve used quite a few of them. I’ve even shared some of the work I’ve done with them. And I can use these tools, then anyone can.
So, in the spirit of exploring this new world AI is creating, I’ve created a brief list of current AI tools that I hope others might find useful in whatever it is they do. Whether it’s writing, graphic design, web development, cooking, or personal interaction, there’s probably an AI tool to help you. While these tools might be limited in their use at the moment, it’s likely just the early versions of something that’ll become much more refined in the future.
And if you have other AI tools you find useful, please share them in the comments.
I’ve been meaning to touch on this topic for a while now. For someone who writes a lot about and makes multiple videos on the subject of artificial intelligence, it might be somewhat surprising that I haven’t talked much about ChatGPT. I promise there’s a reason for that. I don’t claim it’s a good reason, but I think it’s relevant because it has to do with perspective.
Now, I’ve been following the sudden surge in interest surrounding ChatGPT since it started making headlines. I actually became aware of it when I saw this video on YouTube from a channel called Cold Fusion. For reference, here’s the video.
From here, I started following numerous newsfeeds about ChatGPT, how it’s being used, and how people are coming to perceive it. It has been amazing to watch. I honestly can’t remember the last time a piece of software getting this much hype. And the incredible pace of user growth it’s had in the past few months is nothing short of remarkable.
People have been talking about the potential for artificial intelligence for years, myself included. But we’ve never seen that potential manifest beyond a certain point. ChatGPT has changed that because it’s a real, tangible product that ordinary people can use. For an entire generation, it’s likely to be the first interaction with an artificial intelligence that can do more than your typical virtual assistant.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this technology could change the world in profound ways. It has the potential to radically alter how we work, learn, create, and do business with one another.
At the same time, it has raised a lot of concerns and not just with respect to how it might displace large segments of the job market. There’s genuine concern it’ll facilitate cheating, help scammers, or add to ongoing issues surrounding misinformation. I think those concerns are plenty warranted.
There’s already some major concern that ChatGPT is somehow the precursor to Skynet and we’re actively creating something that will eventually turn against us. Those concerns aren’t quite as warranted.
Let’s get one thing clear. ChatGPT is not an artificial intelligence on par with Skynet or any other fictional AI we’re familiar with. That’s not how it’s programmed. It can’t become Skynet any more than your cell phone can become a dishwasher. The hardware and software just aren’t there yet.
That being said, ChatGPT is a manifestation of how far artificial intelligence has come. This isn’t something that just uses algorithms to link us to new web pages. This is a system that can actually interact with people in a way that feels familiar. Talking to ChatGPT is less like doing a web search and more like talking to another person. That person just happens to be capable of culling through massive amounts of data and presenting it in a useful, legible form.
I admit that’s not a trivial difference. I also don’t doubt that entire industries and tech companies are rightly concerned about what ChatGPT could lead to, with respect to the future of the internet. But that’s where having a balanced perspective really matters.
For me, personally, I look at ChatGPT the same way I look at the first iteration iPhone. If you get a chance, just go back and look at old videos and news stories about the first iPhone. That too was touted as something revolutionary and world-changing. And in the grand scheme of things, it was. But looking at the specs of that first model today, it’s easy to forget how long it took for that impact to take hold.
Granted, that first iPhone was a bit overhyped and most did not see the potential of this device at first. However, that potential was realized more and more over time as people began refining how they used. Then, as later models came out that improved on what the first one did, it really began to have an impact.
I wouldn’t expect ChatGPT to follow the exact same path. For one, this program was developed by a non-profit research laboratory and not some multi-billion dollar tech company. The purpose, intentions, and incentives are all very different with this technology compared to that of the iPhone.
But, like all emerging technology, there will be updates and refinements. Another version of ChatGPT is already being teased. Like the second iPhone, it promises to improve and expand on the function of the first. In time, another version will come out and another one after that. Each time, the use and utility will grow. It won’t happen all at once. It might not even be noticeable at the time. But the impact will be felt in the long run.
That’s probably the most balanced perspective I can offer for ChatGPT at the moment. I don’t doubt for a second that this perspective will change with future updates and capabilities. There’s a chance ChatGPT ends up being a popular fad that simply falls out of favor because nobody can figure out how to utilize it beyond a certain point. It could become the AI equivalent of Windows Vista.
But there’s also a chance that ChatGPT could lead to some truly unprecedented growth and change in the world of artificial intelligence. It could completely upend how we interact with technology. And ultimately, it could lead to the development of a functioning artificial general intelligence capable of matching and exceeding an average human. If that does happen and ChatGPT was the catalyst for it, then it might go down as one of humanity’s most important technological developments.
At this point, I honestly don’t know how it’ll play out. And I question anyone who claims to know. Nobody truly knew how the iPhone would change the world until that change became apparent. We probably won’t know the true extent of ChatGPT’s impact until a similar change takes hold.
Who knows what the world will be like when that time comes?
While a part of me is nervous about it, I’m also genuinely curious to see where ChatGPT will lead us,
In fact, that’s an understatement. I would go so far as to say I’m so terrible at drawing that most 10-year-olds couple probably match or exceed my drawing skills.
Believe me, I’ve tried to draw things. My love of comic books inspired me early on to try. But I learned very quickly that this is just not a skill that I have, nor is it a skill I can ever be good at. No amount of classes can make me good at it. No amount of lessons, encouragement, or practice could ever make me halfway decent at it. I genuinely wish I had some drawing skills, but I don’t.
Now, I’m going out of my way to bemoan my terrible drawing skills for a reason. For much of my life, I’ve accepted that this just isn’t something I can do. Everybody has shortcomings. This just happens to be mine. And for the most part, I’ve been content to live my life knowing I’ll never draw anything worthwhile.
Then, AI-generated art started to emerge. And suddenly, there’s an alternative. It may just give people like me hope that they can one day create genuinely beautiful artwork without any tangible drawing skills.
I mentioned it recently, but I don’t think I adequately conveyed just how exciting this new technology is for someone like me. I’ve talked a lot about the potential of artificial intelligence, good and bad. But a lot of that was just me speculating on the potential. This is a real, usable product of artificial intelligence that anyone with an internet connection and basic language skills can use right now for free.
This isn’t some fanciful tech from a fictional future. This is real.
It might not be overly advanced in that it can perfectly turn out thoughts into an image. It’s still relatively crude in that it basically just takes images from the internet and uses them to mix, mash, and compile images based on prompts. But like all emerging technology, it has to start off crude. Over time, people and organizations implement refinements. The product gets better, more advanced, and more efficient.
Eventually, it becomes so capable that we marvel at how crude it used to be. Just show anyone under the age of 20 an old flip-phone for proof of that.
For me personally, AI-generated art is more than just a toy or a novelty. It’s a way for me, a man with no ability to draw anything, to turn ideas into an image. I can’t overstate how powerful that is for some people. And I really do look forward to seeing this technology grow in terms of capability and efficiency.
To demonstrate just how remarkable it is, I used an AI-generating art programs on the web called Stable Diffusion to create some art. This is something anyone can use right now for free. Granted, this is a beta version so the results aren’t going to look overly professional. But for something that’s free and easy to use, it’s still remarkable.
Below are just some of the images I created, along with the prompts I used.
A beautiful woman admiring a sunset.
A Christmas tree in the forest during a snowstorm.
A lush Amazon jungle with a river.
A futuristic city skyline.
A female android with blue eyes.
A shadowy figure in a forest.
A couple walking through a forest during a snowstorm.
A man running from a forest fire.
A woman standing at the summit of a mountain.
A tornado forming in a city.
Again, I cannot draw. I cannot paint or create images on a piece of paper or a computer screen. But thanks to Stable Diffusion, I was able to create these in just a few minutes. It cost me nothing and it was a genuinely profound experience, turning ideas into an image.
And keep in mind, this was just the free beta of the program. There are more advanced programs you can test out, but you do have to sign up and apply for their use. There are also some versions that you have to pay for. Once this technology gets especially refined, that might be something worth the money. Knowing I’ll never be able to physically draw, it’s definitely something I’ll consider.
For now, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this emerging technology. If I create more quality AI-Generated art, I’ll be sure to share it too.
And if you’re like me in that you don’t have good drawing skills, or any drawing skills for that matter, check out Stable Diffusion. Create some art that you never would’ve been able to otherwise create. It’s a great feeling and something that might help get you excited about the future of creativity.
Whenever I talk about artificial intelligence, I often talk about the possibilities and potential it has for the near and distant future. I admit I sometimes to a bit overboard with the speculation and the hyperbole. In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, I am not an expert. I do not consider myself exceptionally smart or well-informed on this topic. I just find it very interesting and quite tantalizing, given how much I’ve seen computer technology evolve over the course of my lifetime.
However, in talking about artificial intelligence, I rarely get a chance to talk about some actual tools and products powered by AI that we can use today. That’s just the nature of technology like this. It takes a while to develop and refine. It also takes a while to actually create a usable product with it that don’t require a Masters Degree in computer programming.
But this past year has seen the rise of a new type of AI-powered product that is making its presence felt. It’s called AI-Generated art and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s art entirely created by an artificial intelligence that uses massive amounts of data on art, shapes, and design to craft artwork based solely on text suggestions.
It’s not entirely new. For a number of years now, there have been AI systems that can essentially create photo-realistic depictions of people who don’t exist. That, alone, is an impressive feat and one that has some distressing implications for those worried about fake IDs, identity theft, or catfishing. However, these new AI-Generated art programs have the potential to do so much more.
While the mechanisms behind it are very complex, the interface itself is very simple. A user just enters a brief description of what kind of artwork they want. Then, the program processes that and crunches the data. Finally, it generates an image. Sometimes, it takes a few seconds. Sometimes, it takes a bit longer, especially if the prompt is more elaborate. If you want to see a good example of what it can create, just check out the brief, but hilarious skit John Oliver did. Just don’t watch it while eating cabbage.
Aside from the inherent comedy gold that can be mined from this technology, just take a step back and consider the larger implications of these tools. These are prompts being entered by people who probably don’t have much in terms of art skills. And as John Oliver noted, some are being entered by people who aren’t entirely sober. While the images they generate don’t exactly look like masterpieces or anything someone would mistake for photo-realism, it’s still remarkable they’re as good as they are.
In seeing some of this art, it actually reminds me somewhat of early video game consoles that began rendering 3D graphics. I’m old enough to remember the somewhat clunky transition between 2D to 3D graphics. Just look at early Playstation games or games like Super Mario 64. They weren’t exactly polished, but they were a step in that direction.
Now, compare that to a typical game on the Playstation 5. In the span of just 20 years, the graphics and renderings have become so realistic that they’re navigating uncanny valley territory. With that in mind, imagine what these AI-generating art programs will do with that kind of refinement. I don’t know if it’ll take 20 years or longer, but it does create some tantalizing possibilities.
Ordinary people could conjure detailed, photo-realistic backgrounds for games, portraits, or stock art.
Ordinary people could conjure elaborate scenes and illustrations for stories they wish to tell.
Ordinary people could create artistic depictions of elaborate fantasies, including the sexy kind.
This is especially intriguing for someone like me because, as I’ve noted in the past, I cannot draw worth a damn. I have practically no skills when it comes to creating visual artwork, be it with a pencil or a computer program. I’ve never had that skill. I’ve tried many times in the past do develop those skills. I’ve never succeeded. I’ve always been better with writing and words. And I’ve been perfectly content with that.
Now, this technology gives someone like me an opportunity to craft images to go along with my words. It opens the possibility that I could one day write a story, sexy or non-sexy, and supplement it with real, vivid depictions of the characters and scenes. That is definitely something I want to pursue. I have experimented a bit with the AI art programs, but they’re still someone limited. I won’t be incorporating them into my sexy short stories anytime soon.
But if these programs continue to improve, then it’s only a matter of time before I craft a story in that manner. Honestly, that really does excite me, more so than a lot of the promising news surrounding artificial intelligence. I understand there are aspects to the technology that may never happen or just won’t be happening within my lifetime. But these AI art programs are real. They exist now and they’re going to be refined, like most emerging technology. It remains to be seen how fast they’ll achieve a higher quality, but I will certainly be watching it closely.
Please note that most of these services are limited and none allow anyone to create images that are overly pornographic or outright illegal. However, you can still create some legitimately good images, which you can save and use in whatever way you please. I’m already hoping to use some for my YouTube channel.
But even though this technology is especially intriguing to people like me with no art skills, I don’t deny it has actual artists very concerned. There has already been one instance where an AI-generated artwork won an art contest, which the real artists did not appreciate. It’s not just that an AI like this won without putting in the effort an artist usually would. In many cases, these programs used art other artists had created to refine its code. Over time, these programs could conceivably put those same artists out of work.
I can totally understand that concern. Who would hire a talented, but expensive artists to create images if they could just use an AI program to create it in seconds and for free? Do you really think big companies like Disney, Warner Brothers, and Universal wouldn’t fire their entire art team if they could get the same results for a fraction of the cost? They’re billion-dollar profit-driven companies. You know they would.
Even if this technology doesn’t completely replace real-life artists, it’s still essentially doing most of the work. On some level, it dehumanizes the artistic process, even more so than a camera. A camera can only render the image in front of it. These programs could conceivably conjure images that nobody has ever seen or imagined, a feat that once belonged solely to artists.
What does that mean for the future of artists?
What does that mean for the future of art?
I don’t claim to know the answers. I’m not even sure how to speculate on something like this. Again, I have no art skills with respect to drawing or creating images from scratch. I’m the kind of person who will embrace this technology more than most, so I’m going to be somewhat bias in that regard.
But artists and governments are starting to take notice. China has already made waves by attempting to ban AI-generated media that isn’t appropriately marked. While that may temper some trends in this field, it’s not going to stop it. There’s just too much to be gained at this point. The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no putting it back.
It’s sure to cause more issues, especially as the technology becomes more refined. It probably won’t be long before a major problem occurs because someone used AI-generated art in some nefarious way. Some are already trying, but they can only achieve so much, given the limits of technology.
That will eventually change. If you’re reading this, you’re likely to see some AI-generated artwork that you’ll mistake for something real. At that point, even concerns about deep fakes will be minor in comparison. Only time will tell.
Until then, non-artistically inclined people like me can start contemplating what thoughts and ideas we can one day make real.
A close relative once told me that investing in something you don’t understand is as irrational as hating something you don’t understand. To date, those words still ring true and time has only further vindicated them.
When it comes to a subject like cryptocurrency, which involves both money and mechanisms that are difficult to grasp, even a basic understanding is hard to come by. And when people don’t understand something, they’re inclined to make flawed judgements.
This is hyperbole. It’s also a clear indication that these individuals don’t fully understand Bitcoin or what cryptocurrencies are. And getting that information isn’t the same as getting the secret investment strategies of famous investors. It’s an open-source program and you can read the white paper that helps explain it at any time for free, courtesy of this link.
It’s hard to understand because it involves math and encryption, two topics most people don’t know much about. But whether they understand it or not, they still use it. If they use a smartphone, a computer, or anything that connects to the internet, they are utilizing some of the same type of technology that goes into cryptocurrencies.
Now, I say all that because things in the cryptocurrency world have been pretty rocky this year. If you just look at the prices of most major cryptocurrencies, this has been a historically bad year. If you bought any crypto in January, there’s a good chance that investment has lost money by now. I know because I’m one of them.
I’ve noted before that I do own some cryptocurrency. I’ve also talked about it before as both an investment and a useful tool for the internet age. I won’t deny that while my investment in Bitcoin was very small, never exceeding more than a few hundred dollars, the returns this year have not been great. And I would never recommend anyone put all their savings or investments into Bitcoin, or any asset for that matter.
In addition, I would never advise anyone to invest their money in a way that would limit their control of said money. When you put your money in a bank, whether it’s in person or online, you’re trusting a system and the people within it to handle your money. By law and by the fine print of the contracts you sign, you have control over that money and they can’t take that control from you absent some very limited circumstances.
With that in mind, I think there’s an important lesson to learn from the recent collapse of FTX. If you’re at all involved with crypto, chances are you’re aware of this and have felt the impact. I certainly have. It helped make an already terrible year for cryptocurrency that much worse. Last I checked, my Bitcoin value went down a good 20 percent and will likely go lower.
It was a bad turn among many for cryptocurrency and it wasn’t even the first. Before FTX, other famous cryptocurrency exchanges like Mt. Gox also suffered a similar fate. It’s collapse is actually very similar to FTX. The issue was this.
A new institution or organization is set up to buy, sell, and store cryptocurrency.
It becomes successful by making cryptocurrency accessible to more people.
Due to greed and a lack of supervision or understanding of cryptocurrency, the organization begins skimming money while lying about how much actual cryptocurrency it has.
Ultimately, the scheme is either uncovered or it collapses like a Ponzi scheme when too many people try to withdraw their assets.
In both cases, the problem was the same. People were buying cryptocurrency on an exchange and keeping it on that exchange. They weren’t exactly owning any currency. They were essentially paying the exchange to stake a claim on a certain pool of currency that didn’t exist.
In that context, nobody should be that surprised that FTX and Mt. Gox crumbled. I get the appeal of investing in cryptocurrency without having to go through the trouble of storing or securing the coins on your own computers or devices. However, it’s worth remembering that these are not banks. These are not institutions that are subject to the same laws and regulations as banks.
That’s not to say all crypto exchanges are frauds, but fraud is just a lot easier for them than most.
So, if there’s one lesson to take away from FTX and the collapse of any exchange, it’s this. If you’re going to invest in cryptocurrency, make damn sure you actually own or possess the coins in some tangible medium. That’s what I’ve done with all my Bitcoins. I keep them all in a digital wallet that is not at all connected to any exchange. I also keep a backup to ensure that even if I lose one of my devices, I can still access my coins on another.
It’s not that hard to do. In fact, it’s easier now than it was back when Mt. Gox was still active. It’s even become a common refrain from those who still defend the value of cryptocurrency. The mantra is if the Bitcoins aren’t in your own wallet, then they’re not yours.
Exchanges still have their place in the world of cryptocurrencies and probably will for the foreseeable future. I also don’t expect cryptocurrencies to recover from these latest downturns anytime soon. But if you’re going to invest in cryptocurrency in any capacity, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Even if you don’t understand the math and the science behind cryptocurrency, you’ll do better in the long run if you just do things the right way.
Don’t use exchanges.
Use digital wallets.
Here’s a list of some that I encourage others to look into before buying any crypto.
As a general rule-of-thumb, you should never take news of a “scientific breakthrough” at face value. It’s not that the science is flawed or that the media reporting it are uninformed or misguided. It’s just incomplete. The rhetoric rarely matches the results, nor does it fully grasp the implications.
To some extent, that’s unavoidable. People who actually do science rarely use terms like “breakthrough” or “revolutionary.” Despite what popular media might depict, science doesn’t make giant leaps like that. It usually makes gradual steps full of small, but meaningful advances. It rarely makes for attention-grabbing headlines, but that’s how most scientific progress is made. It’s like building a house brick-by-brick. One brick alone is not a breakthrough. It’s the totality of the structure that garner’s the most vlaue.
When it comes to any news on nuclear fusion, it helps to be even more restrained. I’ve been following tech news for most of my life. During that time, I’ve seen plenty of articles and news releases from mainstream sources claiming some major breakthrough. Some give the impression that we’re just a few years away from using fusion to power starships to Mars. That’s a very flawed, very uniformed perspective.
In that same mold, I’ve also seen plenty of news articles saying nuclear fusion is an impossible dream that nobody will see in their lifetime. There’s a common refrain among these skeptics. They’ll often say something along the lines of “Nuclear fusion is 30 years away and always will be.” It’s a very cynical, very narrow-minded understanding of the issue. It also paints a flawed perspective of where we actually are in the science.
With those two perspectives in mind, how do we make sense of the latest news purporting a fusion breakthrough? In case you haven’t heard, the news came courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is not some fringe company or organization. This is something they’ve been working on for decades and this was a big moment for them, according to the Financial Times.
US government scientists have made a breakthrough in the pursuit of limitless, zero-carbon power by achieving a net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time, according to three people with knowledge of preliminary results from a recent experiment.
Physicists have since the 1950s sought to harness the fusion reaction that powers the sun, but no group had been able to produce more energy from the reaction than it consumes — a milestone known as net energy gain or target gain, which would help prove the process could provide a reliable, abundant alternative to fossil fuels and conventional nuclear energy.
The federal Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which uses a process called inertial confinement fusion that involves bombarding a tiny pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world’s biggest laser, had achieved net energy gain in a fusion experiment in the past two weeks, the people said.
Although many scientists believe fusion power stations are still decades away, the technology’s potential is hard to ignore. Fusion reactions emit no carbon, produce no long-lived radioactive waste and a small cup of the hydrogen fuel could theoretically power a house for hundreds of years.
The US breakthrough comes as the world wrestles with high energy prices and the need to rapidly move away from burning fossil fuels to stop average global temperatures reaching dangerous levels.
Now, compared to other news about “breakthroughs” from mainstream media, this is fairly balanced in that it doesn’t make too many bold claims. It makes clear that commercial fusion power stations are still decades away. But that was never the point of this experiment, nor is it the purpose of the article.
The most important detail from this news is the results the scientists produced. For the first time, a nuclear fusion reactor achieved a net energy gain. That means the generator put out more energy than was put into it. Specifically, the experiment produced an excess of 1.37 megajoules of energy, which amounted to approximately 70 percent more than the energy that was put into the reactor.
That is major news.
That is an achievement worth celebrating.
Because to date, plenty of laboratories throughout the world had achieved fusion. That’s not some act of scientific magic on par with anti-gravity or perpetual motion. The issue with fusion has never been about the physics. It has always been an engineering and logistic challenge, more so than fission ever was.
Creating fusion only requires a few ingredients. You need lots of heat, some hydrogen, and a way to confine it all in a structure. The big challenge that has been taking so many years has been to do all this in a way that generates more power than what goes into it. That’s something no other reactor has achieved until this experiment.
Now, it has been done.
We now know it’s possible to create a nuclear fusion reaction that generates more energy than what goes into it.
That’s not to say that fusion will follow a similar timeline, but that comparison helps give perspective to where we’re at right now. Just getting a new technology to work is one thing. Making it a commercial product on some level takes time because the technology requires greater refinement, investment, and engineering.
But that process can only start after someone proves that it is technically possible. Fusion did not have that until this news. On top of that, investment in nuclear fusion has never been very high, compared to other technologies. In fact, it has only been in the past couple of years that more public and private investment has flowed in to developing nuclear fusion. So, that old joke about fusion always being 30 years away was missing a key detail. Any technology is going to develop slowly if there isn’t sufficient investment.
Now that one lab has succeeded in showing that a net energy gain is possible with fusion, others can follow. Hopefully, it inspires even more investment. With those investments will come more refinements and efficiencies. If those efforts are sustained, fusion doesn’t just become possible. It becomes inevitable.
The past couple decades have seen one too many price spikes in oil and other fossil fuels. Recent geopolitical conflicts have only shown just how vital it is for us to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. And our energy demands are only going to keep going up in the coming years. Add on top of that all the environmental concerns surrounding fossil fuels and the urgency for nuclear fusion has never been greater.
We’re still not going to see fusion plants popping up tomorrow, next year, or the year after that. But with this news, we’ve taken a critical first step. And many of those reading this will likely live to see the day when fusion energy powers their homes. That’s something worth looking forward to.
I’ve been avoiding this subject for a while now. I had a feeling I would eventually have to address it at some point. I would’ve like to wait until the new year. But lately, I’ve been feeling a greater sense of urgency.
I doubt that’ll surprise anyone because it has to do with Twitter.
If you’ve been following the news surrounding Twitter lately, you probably understand why that is. To call it a chaotic trainwreck would be a gross and generous understatement. It’s gotten to a point now that waiting for things to settle is akin to waiting for pink elephants to fly down from Mars.
I don’t want to get too heavily into all the drama surrounding Twitter, as an organization, since Elon Musk purchased the company for $44 billion. If you want an in-depth overview of that affair, there are plenty of sources more qualified than me to cover it. Thus far, I’ve found this video by the Wall Street Journal to be the most comprehensive.
Beyond the business side of things, there’s the state of the site and service itself. I’ve been on Twitter since 2010. I’ve been using it extensively since then, both as a communication tool and a source of information. Whenever I’m waiting for a new movie trailer or major news to drop, Twitter is my go-to source. Usually, it starts trending before a major news outlet reports on it.
Granted, that sometimes means unfounded rumors start to trend as well. It also means I end up following false information for a time, especially when there are conflicting reports about an event or subject. But for years now, that has been my primary means of consuming news and information. It’s also my primary means of interacting with friends I’ve made, usually regarding comics, movies, video games, etc.
I don’t deny there have been issues over the years. At times, Twitter has been a problem in the sense that I either use it too much or I waste too much time trying to make sense of certain trends or threads. But for the most part, I’ve felt that the positives outweighed the negatives.
That changed recently.
Over the past couple of months, since Musk began his overhaul of Twitter, I’ve sensed a shift in overall experience of the site. It feels like Twitter has become less and less ordered, with respect to managing content and toxic trends. The safeguards that existed before Musk were far from perfect, but they were at least tolerable. Now, I’m not so sure.
I’m seeing more and more instances of people just being unrestrained assholes on Twitter. Behavior that once got people banned or suspended are now becoming distressingly common. I’m not just talking about instances of excessive profanity, racial slurs, or bigotry. The messages and content are so egregiously hateful and antagonistic that it’s painting a nasty picture of people, in general.
Now, I’m well-aware that there are some pretty toxic places on the internet. I’m also aware that people will say horrible, disgusting things when they can hide behind the cloak of anonymity. I’ve been to places like 4chan, message boards, and comments sections in fringe news outlets. The kinds of things people say in those spaces is so over-the-top awful that you do have to take a step back, take some deep breaths, and calm yourself before you say or do something foolish in response.
But those spaces tend to be small and concentrated in nature. You don’t usually see those things in places that also stream mainstream news content. Well, in this emerging state within Twitter, I’m seeing this sort of stuff more and more. It hasn’t quite gotten to the same level as your typical 4chan post, but it’s trending in that direction. And personally, I have no desire to see how close it gets to that level.
This has left me at a bit of a crossroads.
I am seriously considering quitting Twitter altogether.
I don’t think I’ll delete my account completely, since it does contain things I hope others would find useful. But at the very least, I’m weighing the benefits of simply stepping away from its platform because its current state is just too difficult to navigate. I worry that if I keep using it as often as I have over the years, my overall faith in humanity will suffer as a result. There’s only so many hateful, bigoted, whiny trolling I can handle before I start to think less of the human species, as a whole.
My faith in humanity has already taken a severe hit in recent years. Between the COVID-19 Pandemic and the current state of politics, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to believe in the inherent goodness of people as a whole. I know that’s dangerous. I also know that Twitter offers a very small sample of human discourse. It’s not even top 5 in terms of social media sites. In general, it presents a very flawed perspective in terms of humanity as a whole. It also, by design, tends to amplify the most extreme, fringe voices.
That’s a good enough reason for many to leave Twitter altogether. I already know some who have, including a few public figures.
However, there are a few things that keep me hesitant to leave Twitter entirely. As bad as it has become, it is still undeniably useful in many regards. In terms of keeping up with news, especially with comics and movies, it still beats many other social media platforms in terms of getting quick, raw information on specific topics of interest. So long as those topics aren’t too politically charged, you can usually avoid the more toxic side of the site.
On top of that, some good friends of mine that I’ve met through comic book message boards, Reddit, and my YouTube channel are on Twitter and that’s the only way I can interact with them. I’ve even reached out to a few to see if they’re reachable on other platforms. Some are, but others aren’t and I genuinely don’t want to lose those connections.
I also feel like I can mitigate part of the toxic experience by simply avoiding the trending topics, especially when there’s politics involved. Doing so does take more will-power than it used to. Sometimes, you curiosity does get the better of you. It also requires you to use the mute and block functions more often. But that can be tedious at times. It can also mean that you craft your own little echo-chambers, which is not at all healthy.
At the moment, I would really prefer not to quit Twitter, if only because it’s still so useful as a tool for news and information of a certain variety.
At the same time, I don’t like the current trend it’s on. I also don’t like how it’s being managed and developed. If it continues its current path, it’ll become more and more populated by the kinds of extreme, radical voices that have made so many other places on the internet and social media untenable. And I have no desire to be part of any online space of that nature. I don’t need that kind of toxicity coloring my view of people, the world, or various issues.
I just hope it doesn’t come to that.
For now, I’m still going to remain on Twitter. However, I’m also actively looking for alternatives that are just as useful and can easily be adopted by my friends. If I do find one that’s just as good as what Twitter used to be, then that makes the decision to leave a lot easier. Until then, the best I can do is be more cautious and mindful of how I navigate Twitter.
If anyone has any insights or advice on this matter, please share it in the comments. I’m certainly open to input and insight, especially for those wrestling with a similar decision. If and when I do decide to leave Twitter, I’ll be sure to announce it on this site and provide information to anyone else who still wishes to follow me.
The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. This video is a thought experiment about artificial intelligence, the choices we make, and how much (or how little) we’ll delegate such choices in the future. Enjoy!
When it comes to upgrading technology, I like to be near the front of the line. That’s not to say I’m the kind of person who will camp out in front of an Apple store for two weeks to get a new iPhone. I love technology, but not that much. I’m more inclined to wait just long enough for the early bugs to be worked out before I completely buy in.
That’s what I did with smartphones years ago. I was not among those who immediately jumped into buying an iPhone when it first came out. I actually waited longer than most to buy my first smartphone, mostly because I felt like there were too many shortcomings to warrant the cost. Once I felt ready, though, I went for it and I don’t regret it.
For certain technologies, I don’t mind being near the back of the line. It’s not that I’m against it or have no faith in it. Sometimes, it’s just cost prohibitive for me and I don’t see gaining widespread use for an extended period. That’s why I never bought a Segway or a Sega Dreamcast.
Like my first smartphone, I like to wait until I’m reasonably certain that this technology is a good long-term investment. Sometimes, I end up waiting longer than I should, but I think that’s important, especially for something I know I’ll use a lot.
For that reason, I’ve never been inclined to consider an electric car. Unlike smartphones, I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to cars. I’m also not big on making my car flashy or stylish. For me, a car is just a means of getting from one point to another and nothing more. I get that cars mean a lot more to certain people, but that’s just not me.
On top of that, I’ve never actually purchased a brand new car with zero miles on it. My first car was a used car that didn’t have GPS, Satellite radio, or even a means of plugging in my smartphone. However, I didn’t mind because it was my first car. I just needed it to get from place to place.
My second car, which is the one I’m driving now, is a lot nicer, relatively speaking. It was also used. Specifically, it’s my parents’ old car. They sold it to me nine years ago when they decided to buy a new car. This one has more features, including GPS and an auxiliary port for my phone. It has served me well for many years.
However, it’s starting to accumulate a lot of miles. It’s also starting to show its age in some places. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to pay for some rather pricy repairs to keep it in good condition. It’s almost at a point where the idea of buying a new car is starting to appeal to me.
This time around, for my third car, I want it to be new. I want it to be a car that can last with minimum repairs. Not long ago, that would’ve eliminated most electric cars from consideration. Now, I’m not so sure.
The more I contemplate the possibility of a new car, the more serious it becomes. Over the past several years, I’ve seen more and more electric cars on the road. In my own neighborhood, I know two people who own Teslas and I frequently see them on the road. In addition, electric vehicle charging stations seem to be popping up everywhere. Nearly every major shopping center in my area has at least one.
I also have noticed the increasing price of gas. Even if it isn’t as high as it was earlier this spring, I’ve seen a lot of price spikes over the past few years. That’s becoming harder and harder to overlook. Even though my car now gets pretty decent mileage, the cost of filling up the tank is starting to concern me. There’s also the environmental factor to consider, which is important to me.
At the end of the day, a lot of it will come down to cost. I’m willing to pay extra for quality, but only to a point. On that front, electric cars were always out of my range, but that too might be changing.
It used to be that most electric cars worth having would cost at least over $60,000, even with subsidies. That was how expensive they were when I bought my last car from my parents. Now, if rumors from Tesla are to be believed, there could be an electric car for as little as $25,000 within the next couple years.
That’s actually not much more than what my parents paid for the car I’m driving now. In the coming years, that cost could come down even more, especially as battery technology continues to improve and charging stations become more plentiful. By the time I’m ready to buy a new car, they might be the better long-term option over gas.
That’s why I’m considering an electric car this time around.
That’s also why I encourage others to do so as well.
This is not an automotive fad like station wagons or Hummers. Electric cars are a growing part of the market and that growth isn’t slowing down. Like the early smartphone market, there are plenty of shortcomings, but those shortcomings are slowly and steadily being mitigated.
Eventually, there will come a point where the advantages of electric cars are greater than traditional gasoline cars, with respect to fueling, maintenance, and even cost. That point is not that far off. It may seem like electric cars aren’t too appealing in the short-term, but what happens when the price of gas just gets too high to ignore?
Even if gasoline cars are cheaper and just more familiar to the average consumer, their value is still at the mercy of gas prices. Should gas ever get above $8.00 a gallon, then electric vehicles don’t just become appealing. They become the better long-term option.
That’s often my most pressing concern in buying a car. It’s a big investment and one I don’t intend to make light of. None of this is to say I’m definitely buying an electric car, but for the first time in my adult life, I’m seriously considering it. I think in the coming years, as the technology and the market continues to evolve, I won’t be the only one.