Amanda Florian writes about coming across an ad that seemed to have her face in it: "I woke up to a text from a friend in Shanghai, China. “Hey, Amanda—is this you?” he wrote via WeChat. I hadn’t even had my morning coffee yet. I pulled my phone closer to get a better look. “Yes, it’s me,” I typed back. “But … how?” While scrolling through Taobao, a Chinese marketplace owned by Alibaba, my friend came across an ad for a camping stove. It was like looking in a mirror—I saw my Puerto Rican mother’s long eyelashes and distinct jawline, my father’s prominent Austrian nose, and my abuela’s long hands. “Is it Photoshop?” “Was I hacked?” “Or perhaps one of my photo apps is to blame?”
A DIY coder created a virtual AI 'wife' using the ChatGP program
A coder created a virtual “wife” from ChatGPT and other recently-released machine learning systems that could see, respond, and react to him. The programmer, who goes by Bryce and claims to be an intern at a major tech firm, posted demonstrations of “ChatGPT-Chan” to TikTok. In one video, he asks ChatGPT-chan to go to Burger King, and the bot responds with a generated image of her eating a burger and says out loud, “no way, it smells like old french fries and they never refill their Coke.” The A.I. waifu is an amalgamation of all of these technologies—a language generator, image generator, text-to-speech, and computer vision tools—in ways he finds amusing, he said.
How to endure winter when you are serving a life sentence
The air is crisp in Pennsylvania now. With the recent winter solstice ushering in the New Year, the cold season is in full swing. Prisoners in general population have swapped short sleeves and baseball caps for winter coats and wool hats, the same cocoa brown as the rest of our state-issued apparel. The trees have shed their leaves, and a gray haze hangs over the State Correctional Institution at Fayette, a 2,170-bed maximum security prison south of Pittsburgh, where I am serving a life sentence. I am one of the fortunate ones. I have a view through a small window in my prison cell and can see the naked pines standing tall on a hill, beyond the razor-wire and chain-link fences. Nearby, smokestacks climb into the sky.
Venice’s lagoon of 2,000 lost boats
For decades, the Venetian lagoon – the largest wetland in the Mediterranean – has been used as a landfill by people wanting to get rid of their boats. An estimated 2,000 abandoned vessels are in the lagoon, scattered over an area of about 55,000 hectares (135,900 acres). Some lie beneath the surface, others poke above the water and some are stranded on the barene – the lowlands that often disappear at high tide. The wrecks are a threat to other vessels – a boat’s engine may be damaged if it passes over them. But they are an even bigger threat to the ecosystem, leaking chemicals, fuel and microplastics as the boats disintegrate.
The mysterious founder of the town of Glasgow
As tourists wander Glasgow, they frequently pass an image of a gray-haired monk who, despite founding this Scottish city, remains shrouded in mystery. The most influential person in Glasgow history, he adorns its city crest, looms in its cathedral, graces street murals, and has his name on museums, schools, charities, and sports clubs. He is St. Mungo, the illegitimate son of an alleged witch thrown from a cliff while he was in her womb. Baby Mungo somehow survived, the first of many miracles linked to Glasgow’s patron saint. Dauvit Broun, a professor at the University of Glasgow, says even centuries of scholarly dissection haven’t unravelled St. Mungo’s mysteries.
Artist or artifice: Who is Adam Himebauch and what is he up to?
On a brisk day back in February, the artist Adam Himebauch posted a screenshot of a Go Fund Me to his Instagram account: a successful campaign that appeared to have raised $255,336 of a $50,000 goal for a documentary recapping an illustrious career and life from the 1970s to the present. Seven months later, on social media, grainy stills and clips from the documentary announced his new installation at the New York City Museum of Contemporary Art’s satellite location. The only hitch? There was no Go Fund Me; there is no N.Y.C. MOCA. Throughout the past year, Himebauch, 38, has been testing the boundaries of what even his inner circle thinks they know about him.