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Volume 417

Snitches make glitches. This week’s coolsh*t is bringing you an early stoolpigeon catching the worms, cachinnation verification, and a Big Macdaddy of a campaign. Plus, a more intimate episode of the podcast.

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Edgar Wright, the acclaimed director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, has directed a minute-long ad for McDonald’s, and it’s caused quite the stir within the parochial confines of industry metaphorical watercooler chatter. Some fans of Wright’s believe that he’s cheapened himself by supposedly shilling out for a big brand rather than being the principled artiste that they had held him to be – although I imagine he certainly won’t have cheapened his bank account by doing so. The ad’s also been questioned on the grounds that it doesn’t show any McDonald’s restaurants or food – although, to be fair, it doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up the image of a chicken nugget in your mind’s eye. It is, however, rather difficult deciding how to feel about this, and whether, much like a McDonald’s, it leaves you wanting a little more – and with indigestion. I mean, it’s quite a fun watch, but it doesn’t exactly make me fancy a Big Mac. Although now that I’m thinking about Big Macs, I do kind of fancy a Big Mac. Shit. I think I’ve just been advertised to. Those bloody bastards.

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Smart Grass.

You might remember about a month or so ago when we first mentioned ChatGPT. Now, it appears that the rest of the world has caught up, with even Nick Cave chiming in this week to declare the program an complete piece of shit that couldn’t replicate even an iota of his songwriting talent – we’re paraphrasing there, but that was very much the sentiment behind his words. One of the most noteworthy features of ChatGPT – at least certainly for hungover uni students with deadlines looming – was that it would supposedly be capable of answering questions, forming coherent opinions and writing essays that would be indistinguishable from ones written by human fingers. Well, not anymore. Edward Tian, a 22-year-old CompSci student has built an app that can detect ChatGPT-generated text. Or, in other words, he’s just ruined the fun for everybody. And look how smug he is about it. “Human writing can be so beautiful. There is beauty in the human prose that computers can never and should never co-opt.” Yeah, Alright, Supergrass.

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Make LOL Great Again.

“LOL’” has become a victim of its own success. Its ascent to utter ubiquity has completely robbed from it any meaning that it once had. When was the last time you typed ‘lol’ and actually laughed out loud? All “lol” is really good for now is to leave at the end of a passive aggressive message in order to make your very sincere complaint feel a modicum less confrontational, e.g. ‘There’s a bit of a stack of dishes in the sink, could everyone clean up what’s theirs pls lol’, which is a real message that can be found in my house WhatsApp group. But I’ll die before I wash that pan – it’s common knowledge that stubborn grease needs to soak for at least 3 days before you even think about touching it. Brian Moore is attempting to restore the LOL back to its former lofty stature with his new invention, the LOL Verifier, which will only allow you to type and send “LOL” if it confirms you laughed out loud. When a user types “LOL”, if it detects passable laughter, the light turns green, and the device’s verification message – “✅LOL verified at [time]” – is inserted into the message. If no laughter is detected, the light turns red, and the typed “LOL” is switched out for another message, like “that’s funny” or “ha.” Here’s a video of it in action. It’s about time we started taking laughter more seriously.

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Vox Populi.

We went on about DALL-E an awful lot in 2022; it’s time to move away from it and onto pastures new. So, the question now is what should we move on to? And the answer: VALL-E (DALL-E’s cousin). Slow progress is still progress. It appears we have a bit of a Mario/Wario situation on our hands here, as this week Microsoft unveiled their new AI technology that can mimic anyone’s voice based on just a 3-second sample. We’ve looked at this sort of technology in the past, but previous iterations have been far more complex and only really held any utility for very specific (and expensive) purposes e.g., recreating James Earl Jones’ voice for the various upcoming Star Wars projects in the pipeline. Those versions also required at least a minute-long sample in order to guarantee any sort of accuracy. What this development represents, then, is essentially a democratisation of this technology. And what that means is that once this is as widely available and sophisticated as deepfake technology has now become, it’ll be utterly impossible to tell who on the internet is real and who isn’t. What a fascinating little pickle we’ve created for ourselves.

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Beam Me Up, Scotty.

Some weeks we have more than enough coolsh*t to choose from and a mere 6 slots feels entirely insufficient. Other weeks, we’ll run out of ideas and just throw in some shit about aliens. I won’t tell you which of those this week’s volume was… but here’s some shit about aliens. NASA have invented a new space laser – they had originally called it a ‘spazer’ but that was deemed insensitive – and this space laser could be used to detect alien life. “How?” you ask? I don’t bloody know. I found this story on LadBible, for crying out loud. That’s hardly a paragon for in-depth discussions about scientific innovation. However, the one morsel of information I was able to garner is that this laser is the first of its kind in the sense that it weighs just 17 pounds, which makes it small enough for astronauts to carry along with them on missions – because it appears NASA were previously operating some sort of overly-officious Ryanair-esque policy when it came to luggage. The ‘Orbitrap’ uses ultraviolet laser to remove particles from planetary material, which are then analysed with the hopes of finding organic compounds. You might not entirely understand what that means, but take it from me that it is probably really, really important.

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Match Made in Devon.

Well, would you look at that. Just as I had been lamenting over the lack of suitable coolsh*t fodder this week, we’ve had a last-minute entry spring up from nowhere – and it is absolutely glorious. Bear in mind also that this has taken the place of what was going to be 150-200 words of waffle about some gadget that prints eyebrows, so its late arrival is a blessed relief for us all. Sleaford Mods, the angriest blokes to come out of Nottingham since Robin Hood, released the video this week for their new tune ‘UK Grim’, and it is a work of art. Literally – it was created and directed by Cold War Steve, a satirical artist who shot to infamy over the last couple years due to his scathing lampooning of the shit show that it is the British political system. Feast your eyes on the destruction and desolation. I might cry – for so many reasons.

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The Coolsh*t Podcast - Ep. 35.

Rick Rubin: creative genius or pretentious bloke with a beard?

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