November 08, 2023

Hello, Wednesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,587 words ... 6 mins. Edited by Emma Loop and Bryan McBournie.

🦾 In San Francisco today, we're holding our inaugural Axios AI+ summit, with programming from 2 to 5:45 p.m. PT. Register here for livestream.

🏛️ Situational awareness: The House voted 234-188 late last night to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only Palestinian American in Congress, for strident criticism of Israel. 22 Democrats voted for the resolution. Go deeper.

1 big thing — Behind the Curtain: What AI architects fear most

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Brace yourself: You will soon need to wonder if what you see — not just what you read — is real across every social media platform, Axios' Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen write.

  • Why it matters: Open AI and other creators of artificial intelligence technologies are close to releasing tools that make the easy — almost magical — creation of fake videos ubiquitous.

One leading AI architect told us that in private tests, they no longer can distinguish fake from real — which they never thought would be possible so soon.

  • This technology will be available to everyone, including bad international actors, as soon as early 2024.
  • Making matters worse, this will hit when the biggest social platforms have cut the staff policing fake content.

🖼️ The big picture: Just as the 2024 presidential race hits high gear, more people will have more tools to create more misinformation or fake content on more platforms — with less policing. It will make 2020, a hot mess of misinformation, seem like a safe space for sanity.

  • A former top national security official told us Vladimir Putin sees these tools as an easy, low-cost, scalable way to help tear apart Americans.

Yes, the White House and some congressional leaders want regulations to call out real versus fake videos. The top idea: mandating watermarking so it'll be clear what videos are AI-generated.

"Of course, it's a worry," said Reid Hoffman, co-creator of LinkedIn and forceful defender of AI.

  • "It's one of the places where AI and amplification intelligence could [produce] a negative outcome," he added.
  • Hoffman argues that open-source models (free for anyone to use) are the biggest threats. He backs and works on only closed models, including OpenAI's ChatGPT, because they can self-police.

Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO of OpenAI, told us: "This is an important near-term risk for the industry to address. We need a combination of responsible model deployment and public awareness."

  • "We also need continued collaboration across the AI industry, including with distribution channels like social media," he added.

Reality check: The best self-policing in the world won't stop the faucet of fake. The sludge will flow. Fast. Furiously.

  • It could get so bad that some AI architects told us they're pushing to speed up the release of powerful new versions so the public can deal with the consequences — and adapt — long before the election.

A senior White House official told us officials' biggest concern is the use of this technology and other AI capabilities to dupe voters, scam consumers on a massive scale and carry out cyberattacks.

  • Another sick use: revenge porn. Most fake video content in early waves of AI misuse is porn.

Keep reading: 5 ways to protect yourself.

2. 🗳️ Abortion-rights victories in 3 states

Supporters of Ohio's Issue 1 (constitutional right to abortion) cheer results in Columbus. Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP

Last night's off-year elections proved the post-Roe staying power of abortion rights to bolster Democrats — even in the red states of Ohio and Kentucky, and in Virginia under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

  • Why it matters: Abortion rights have won every time they've been on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, Axios' Caitlin Owens and Stef Kight write.

Ohio voters added the right to abortion into the state constitution — providing a template for advocates in other red and purple states hoping to push similar measures.

  • Groups in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Colorado and South Dakota are working to get abortion rights measures on the ballot next year.
  • More from Axios Cleveland.

🌿 Ohio also voted to legalize recreational marijuana. More from Axios Columbus.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) gives his victory speech in Louisville. Photo: Stephen Cohen/Getty Images

In the deep red state of Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear kept his seat after an election often defined by his support for abortion rights.

  • Beshear, 45, "has now won two races in a state that favored Trump by 26 points in 2020," making Beshear a presidential or V.P. option "whenever Democrats might be looking to assemble a new ticket," The Washington Post notes.

Youngkin failed to gain control of the Virginia legislature. That means he won't be able to pass his 15-week "limit" on abortions — and saps demand for a potential presidential bid.

  • The Virginia GOP's failure is a blow for Republicans hoping to prove that what they believe to be a middle ground on abortion will win over voters.

More from Axios Richmond.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) celebrates in Flowood, a Jackson suburb. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) beat back aggressive challenger Brandon Presley (D), a state utility regulator and second cousin of Elvis Presley.

Philadelphia mayoral winner Cherelle Parker (D) takes the stage amid a flurry of city flags. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

In Philadelphia, Democrat Cherelle Parker is the first woman to win as mayor — a victory signaling a likely shift toward tough-on-crime policies.

  • She has pledged to hire hundreds of cops, and embraces the stop-and-frisk police tactic. More from Axios Philly.

Other firsts: Former Biden White House aide Gabe Amo, the son of West African immigrants, will become the first Black member of Congress from Rhode Island. Go deeper.

  • In New York, Yusef Salaam (D), an exonerated member of the "Central Park Five," will represent central Harlem on the City Council, completing a stunning reversal of fortune decades after he was wrongly imprisoned in an infamous rape case. Go deeper.

More pics, 5 takeaways ... USA Today column by Rex Huppke: "Biden might not be such a drag for Dems."

3. 💰 Soaring national debt

U.S. public debt as share of GDP
Data: Congressional Budget Office. Chart: Axios Visuals

It would take spending cuts or tax increases equivalent to $2,400 per American per year to stabilize the national debt, according to a new book that shows the U.S. government's fiscal situation is more precarious than lawmakers of either party acknowledge.

  • Why it matters: The numbers sound an alarm about America's fiscal vulnerability, at a time when there's bipartisan resistance to steps that might change that course, Axios Macro author Neil Irwin writes.

What's happening: The numbers on America's fiscal vulnerability are spelled out in "Building a More Resilient U.S. Economy," out today from the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, led by former Treasury Secretaries Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner.

  • To reduce deficits to the point where the public debt levels off as a share of the economy — a more plausible goal than balancing the budget — Congress would have to enact some mix of spending cuts and tax increases equivalent to 2.8% of GDP, or nearly $800 billion per year.

🥊 Reality check: There's zero political momentum for deficit reduction at that scale.

4. 🌐 Houston named best U.S. city for global biz

Best cities for foreign businesses
Data: Financial Times/Nikkei "Investing in America" ranking. Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

Houston dethroned Miami as the best U.S. city for international business in the second annual Financial Times/Nikkei "Investing in America" ranking.

Houston scored high for openness, investment trends, workforce and talent.

  • Other Texas cities — including Dallas, Austin, Plano and Irving — also made the FT's top 10, driven by an influx of foreign investment in the automotive and tech sectors.

See the list of all 91 cities ... Share this story.

5. 📊 Biden dead heat in Georgia

How Georgia voters say they would vote in select matchups
Data: Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "2024 Early Look Survey." Chart: Axios Visuals

President Biden's re-election hurdles appear to be growing in Georgia — a battleground he won by fewer than 12,000 votes in 2020, Axios Atlanta writes from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/University of Georgia poll out this morning.

  • The poll finds Biden in dead heats in Georgia with former President Trump, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — just a few days after a New York Times/Siena poll had Biden trailing by six percentage points vs. Trump in Georgia.

Disclosure: The AJC and Axios are both owned by Cox Enterprises.

6. 🧐 Experts don't trust Big Tech on AI

Data: Axios/Generation Lab/Syracuse University. Chart: Axios Visuals

56% of computer science professors at top U.S. research universities surveyed by Axios, Generation Lab and Syracuse University described AI executives as disingenuous in their calls for regulation, Axios' Margaret Talev and Ryan Heath write.

Explore the data ... Read on.

7. 🇨🇳 Hostility to U.S. declines in China

Share of adults in China who say they regard the U.S. as an <span style="color: #421ab3;">"ally"</span> or an <span style="color:#b35500;">"enemy"</span> to China
Data: Morning Consult. Chart: Axios Visuals

In China, attitudes toward the U.S. have become friendlier this year, Axios China author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes from a new survey from Morning Consult. One factor could be the slowdown in China's economy.

  • In April 2022, more than 80% of Chinese respondents said they viewed the U.S. as an enemy. By last month, that number had fallen to less than 50%.

Amid deepening distrust, President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet next week at the APEC summit in San Francisco.

8. 🔭 1 for the road: Shimmer galaxies revealed

Photo: European Space Agency via AP

This is the Horsehead Nebula — a nursery of baby stars in the constellation Orion — as seen by the European space telescope Euclid.

  • Why it matters: It's among the first photos from the telescope, launched from Cape Canaveral just four months ago.

More images ... Read the story.

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