tech, Silicon Valley, AI, assistant, autonomous agent race
Photo credit: Duncan Rawlinson - / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to

Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Race Towards ‘Autonomous’ AI Agents Grips Silicon Valley (Maria)

The authors write, “Around a decade after virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa burst onto the scene, a new wave of AI helpers with greater autonomy is raising the stakes, powered by the latest version of the technology behind ChatGPT and its rivals. Experimental systems that run on GPT-4 or similar models are attracting billions of dollars of investment as Silicon Valley competes to capitalize on the advances in AI. The new assistants — often called ‘agents’ or ‘copilots’ — promise to perform more complex personal and work tasks when commanded to by a human, without needing close supervision.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Airs Bigoted New COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory About Jews and Chinese (Reader Jim)

The author writes, “A conspiracy-filled rant by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that the Covid-19 virus was engineered to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people has stirred accusations of antisemitism and racism in the Democratic candidate’s long-shot run for president. ‘Covid-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. Covid-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,’ Mr. Kennedy said at a private gathering in New York that was captured on videotape by The New York Post. ‘Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.’”

Ohio Attorney, a Trump Supporter, Tells Judge He Voted Twice in Last Two Elections By Accident (Reader Steve)

From “A Shaker Heights attorney accused of illegally voting in the last two general elections should be acquitted, in part, because he cast ballots in two states by accident, his attorney argued to a judge. James Saunders, a 56-year-old former lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service, did not mean to commit a crime when he cast ballots in both Cuyahoga County [Ohio] and Broward County, Florida, counties where he owns property and has been registered to vote since before 2009, his lawyer said during closing arguments Wednesday.”

All the Prison’s Presidents: Peru’s Special Jail for Ex-Leaders Is All Full Up (Al)

From NPR: “So many former presidents in Peru have run afoul with the law that the country has set up a special penitentiary for them — and it’s full. The Barbadillo prison is located on the grounds of a police academy in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima. Due to violence and overcrowding at Peru’s standard prisons, part of the police compound has been converted into a kind of VIP jail with three custom-built cells that are more like small apartment units.”

The Slow Extraction of Lead Water Pipes (DonkeyHotey)

From The American Prospect: “Lead service lines have been a major public-health concern, one that became especially salient during the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. President Biden has repeatedly promised to replace all lead service lines in the country, a promise that became part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed in 2021. The IIJA designated $15 billion toward replacing lead service lines. Another $11.7 billion was granted to improve drinking water systems, some of which could go to lead pipe removal. In all, the bill earmarks $50 billion to water programs. A year after the IIJA’s passage, the situation remains largely unchanged.”

Antarctic Tourism Is Booming — But Can the Continent Cope? (Laura)

The author writes, “With the exception of the post-financial crash 2008-09 season and the pandemic-affected summer of 2020-21, when just 15 tourists visited Antarctica, the numbers have risen steadily over recent years. Most tourists visit the temperate, accessible and wildlife-rich Antarctic Peninsula, where they disembark in Fildes Bay to fly from the Chilean air force’s landing strip which sits above on a shallow plateau. … The concentration of tourists in highly sensitive areas, and over just a few short months during the summer, has a cumulative impact on one of the world’s last pristine regions.”

Federal Reserve Says Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Is So Massive It’s Boosting the Economy (Sean)

The author writes, “If you’ve seen Taylor Swift‘s Eras Tour, you know that when it rolls into town it absolutely takes over. The massive outing that is doubling (or tripling) down in cities across the nation every weekend has provided a shot in the arm to local economies thanks to Swifties freely spending their hard-earned cash. But now the Philadelphia Federal Reserve has announced that Swift is, literally, hoisting the hotel industry on her back and boosting revenues in that sector for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.”


Comments are closed.