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I know I usually lead Startups Weekly with my own column (and I did write one this week, so if you are somehow a fan of everything I write, go ham), but Devin’s piece taking a stand against the pseudanthropy of AI is a must-read. He proposes a new set of rules for AIs to follow to preserve our humanity:
- AI must rhyme.
- AI may not present a face or identity.
- AI cannot “feel” or “think.”
- AI-derived figures, decisions and answers must be marked ‘⸫’ .
- AI must not make life or death decisions.
- AI imagery must have a corner clipped.
Yes, these suggestions can’t realistically be implemented, but read the article anyway; it goes deep about some of the interesting challenges we are facing as AIs get more mature and ubiquitous.
Okay, with today’s philosophy lesson out of the way, let’s dive in and see what else is up in the Right Honorable Royal Kingdom of Startups.
Flying high, dippin’ deep
Image Credits: Bird
The turbulent journey of startups is continuing.
Bird, the once high-flying electric scooter company, has crash-landed into bankruptcy. After a wild ride from a $2 billion valuation to a financial face-plant, this former micromobility poster child is now restructuring its finances faster than one of its scooters racing downhill with a tailwind. Now they’re banking on Chapter 11 to keep their wheels spinning, but only after laying off some feathers and hoping someone finds enough value in their assets to buy them out. The irony? Their Canadian and European operations are still scooting along as if nothing happened.
I’m not gonna say “I told you so,” but there was definitely no coincidence that I picked Bird as the example for the ‘Undertanding the levers in your business’ post I wrote back in 2018 . . .
Anyway. Here’s a few more stories that’ve kept y’all clickin’:
Back to startups: Eric Wu, the co-founder of Opendoor, is ditching his executive chair for a bean bag in the startup world again. After a decade of playing real estate Tetris, Wu’s ready to go back to building things from scratch, amid the toughest real estate market in more than 40 years.
Feeling safer yet?: In a move that’s less surprising than finding out your password is still “password123,” Okta has snapped up security firm Spera for a cool $100 million-ish. The latter is like a cybersecurity Sherlock Holmes, sniffing out digital weaknesses before they become full-blown disasters.
I bet this newsletter triggers their algorithms: Meltwater, the media monitoring maestro that’s been dancing around print and digital news like a tech-savvy ballerina, just got a $65 million pat on the back from Verdane, valuing the company at a cool $592 million.
When artificial intelligence is more prevalent than real intelligence
Image Credits: Getty Images
Devin breaks open the crystal ball for AI in 2024 and predicts a roller-coaster ride from hype to a reality check. He suggests that OpenAI, post-leadership shuffle, might morph into an Apple-esque “ship it” product powerhouse with its own AI app store. Meanwhile, niche AI applications, like agent-based models and generative multimedia, could graduate from “meh” to “hmm, interesting,” especially in monotonous tasks like insurance claims. In the political arena, AI might become a tool for misinformation and manipulation in the 2024 elections, with bot accounts and fake news ramping up the chaos.
I can’t say that I disagree. When media literacy hits rock bottom and AI is on the upswing, we have a perfect storm.
Cool cool cool. What else has been cookin’ in the AI kitchen?
Composers, composers, composers: Microsoft Copilot, the AI-powered chatbot, is now dipping its digital toes into the world of music composition through an integration with the GenAI music app Suno. Users can prompt Copilot to create complete songs, including lyrics and instrumentals, with requests like “Create a pop song about adventures with your family.”
Hey, Spotify, make me a playlist where every song starts with the letters W, T, and F: Spotify is testing an “AI playlists” feature that lets users create playlists using AI prompts. Users can type prompts into an AI chatbot-style box or choose from suggested prompts like “Get focused at work with instrumental electronica,” or “Songs most likely to drive my parents up the wall.”
Sorry, Charles Ponzi, you can’t shop here: Rite Aid has been banned from using facial recognition software for five years, after it was found that its “reckless use of facial surveillance systems” resulted in customer humiliation and jeopardized sensitive information.
There’s an app for that
Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch
Apple has been ordered to cough up $25 million to settle a lawsuit over its Family Sharing feature. The Cupertino-based software giant was promoting a “share-all-the-things” feature for apps that were . . . not sharable. Despite Apple’s “Who, us?” stance, they decided to throw money at the problem rather than endure the endless courtroom drama. Now, some lucky Family Sharing users from the good ol’ days (2015–2019) might get a whopping $30 payout. That’s three months of a post-price-hike Apple TV+ subscription. Yay.
Apple got off lightly compared to Google’s recent day in court. In a “My bad, here’s some cash” move, Google’s digging into its sofa cushions for a spare $700 million to settle a lawsuit over its Play Store monopoly antics. Of this, $630 million goes to U.S. consumers and a neat $70 million to U.S. states. The search giant, once known for its “Do No Evil” motto, apparently didn’t extend that to app distribution on Android. As part of the deal, Google’s also revamping its user choice billing program in the U.S., allowing developers more freedom in billing methods. They’re even making sideloading (i.e., installing apps without Google’s blessing) less of a digital obstacle course. But let’s not get too excited — as Epic Games’ VP of public policy points out, consumers are still likely to overpay for digital goods thanks to Google’s hefty fees. So, while Google’s wallet gets lighter, our wallets might not feel much different.
Court shenanigans aside . . .
Sharing is caring: Claim, the new social media kid on the block, is trying to make sharing rewards with friends the next big thing. They’ve scooped up $4 million from Sequoia Capital to turn buying stuff into a multiplayer game.
Oh, hi, didn’t see you there: Jagat, a location-based social network that’s all about real-life connections, has zoomed past 10 million users. Launched in March, this app, which is like a social map for friends and activities, is aiming to make social networking, well, social again.
Link in bio: Linktree, the Australian link-in-bio platform, has scooped up its competitor Koji from GoMeta. In this game of digital Monopoly, Linktree’s not only expanding its empire but also sending Koji’s product into retirement by January 2024.
Top reads on TechCrunch this week
I dipped into our analytics software to see what else might be worth highlighting from the past week or so. Here are a few additional reads:
Taking the oxygen out of Apple’s Christmas sails: Apple has paused sales of its Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 due to a patent dispute with Masimo, a medical tech firm. The dispute involves the blood oxygen sensor in Apple’s smartwatches.
To Xfinity and beyond: Comcast’s Xfinity service fell victim to a cyberattack, affecting almost 36 million customers. The breach potentially exposed customer usernames, hashed passwords, contact information, dates of birth, parts of Social Security numbers, and secret questions and answers.
Where were you, tho?: Google, in a move that could make Big Brother a little less nosy, announced plans to store users’ location data on their devices instead of on its servers. This change aims to put an end to the use of “geofence warrants,” where police demand Google hand over data from devices in a specific area at a certain time. These warrants have been criticized as overly broad and possibly unconstitutional.