This issue is 1,273 words, a 5-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Zealous marketing departments, capital-hungry startup founders and overeager reporters are casting the futuristic sheen of artificial intelligence over many products that are actually driven by simple statistics — or hidden people.
Why it matters: This "AI washing" threatens to overinflate expectations for the technology, undermining public trust and potentially setting up the booming field for a backlash.
The big picture: The tech industry has always been infatuated with the buzzword du jour. Before AI landed in this role, it belonged to "big data." Before that, everyone was "in the cloud" or "mobile first." Even earlier, it was "Web 2.0" and "social software."
Plenty of companies rely on one or the other of those tactics, which straddle the line between attractive branding and misdirection.
"It's really tempting if you're a CEO of a tech startup to AI-wash because you know you're going to get funding," says Brandon Purcell, a principal analyst at Forrester.
The tech sector's fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude plays into the problem.
The confusion and deception get an assist from the fuzzy definition of AI. It covers everything from state-of-the-art deep learning, which powers most autonomous cars, to 1970s-era "expert systems" that are essentially huge sets of human-coded rules.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
For decades, beer has been as American as apple pie and baseball. Now, we’re starting to lose our taste for it, Erica writes.
The big picture: Americans will drink 1.2% less alcohol in 2023 than in 2018, per IWSR, an alcohol market research firm. That might not seem like much, but it’s 364 million liters of booze.
What’s happening: Brewers that have long profited from Americans’ seemingly insatiable appetite for beer are attempting to diversify their offerings — adding seltzers and cannabis-infused beverages — as beer consumption falls.
It's the collision of a number of trends that's driving the drop in beer consumption, experts say. But it all boils down to generational differences.
The bottom line: Beer may be losing popularity, but it still comprises the lion's share of alcohol consumed in the U.S. Those Bud Lights won't be wiped out anytime soon.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty
Big Tech, already under a withering spotlight from Congress for mishandling some user data, is elbowing further into health care — a world defined by its privacy pitfalls.
Why it matters: Giant companies have earned regulatory wrist-slaps for fumbling sensitive personal information, but the stakes are much higher for poorly protected health data.
What's happening: Recent moves, some unfolding in secret, show the reach of the companies' ambition — and, in some cases, their lack of preparation for the minefields.
The big picture: Med tech is a hugely lucrative and fast-growing field, but it's been plagued by setbacks driven in part by a mismatch between can-do engineers and a more deliberate clinical culture.
The bottom line, from Axios' Caitlin Owens: "These companies are entering the health care world because it's clearly a profit bonanza and they want a piece of that money pie."
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Tech is eating restaurants' lunch (Felix Salmon - Axios)
The everything town in the middle of nowhere (Josh Dzieza - The Verge)
The SoftBank effect (Nathaniel Popper, Vindu Goel & Arjun Harindranath - NYT)
The dark psychology of social networks (Jonathan Haidt & Tobias Rose-Stockwell - The Atlantic)
The influencer scientists debunking online misinformation (Emma Grey Ellis - Wired)
Photo: Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty
When everything feels good, nothing does. That's the idea behind a growing trend of detoxing from dopamine, reports Nellie Bowles for the NYT.
What they're saying: “We’re addicted to dopamine,” James Sinka told Bowles. “And because we’re getting so much of it all the time, we end up just wanting more and more, so activities that used to be pleasurable now aren’t. Frequent stimulation of dopamine gets the brain’s baseline higher.”
How it works: Don't do fun stuff. No screens, no music, no exercise or sex. No work, no eye contact… The list goes on.