23.2 C
New York
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Elon Musk’s Grand xAI Plans

Elon Musk is back in the news again. (Really, does he ever leave the news?) Last week, Musk announced a new artificial intelligence venture called xAI. The timing of the launch is odd considering Musk still runs Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, Boring Company, and Twitter. Twitter in particular is causing him headaches, with both its sagging business and increased competition from rivals like Meta’s Threads. All of these developments are happening in the shadow of what feels like a lazy subplot on a bad sitcom—a proposed mixed-martial-arts cage match between Musk and his rival, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

This week, we talk with WIRED editor at large Steven Levy about the launch of xAI and its stated goal of “understanding the true nature of the universe.” We also discuss the places generative artificial intelligence has yet to venture, and the ways in which xAI could make an impact in the field of deep learning. And of course, we talk about that cage match. Yech.

Show Notes

Read Steven’s Plaintext newsletter, in which he urges Mark Zuckerberg not to take the bait. Will Knight outlines xAI’s biggest challenges. Amanda Hoover writes about Threads’ threat to Twitter’s domain. Paresh Dave gives an update on AI regulation in Europe and the US. Read all of our generative AI coverage.

Recommendations

Steven recommends Oppenheimer. So does Lauren. (We discuss it without spoiling it.) Mike recommends pretzel buns, because it’s not summer without them.

Steven Levy can be found on Twitter @StevenLevy. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

How to Listen

You can always listen to this week's podcast through the audio player on this page, but if you want to subscribe for free to get every episode, here's how:

If you're on an iPhone or iPad, open the app called Podcasts, or just tap this link. You can also download an app like Overcast or Pocket Casts, and search for Gadget Lab. If you use Android, you can find us in the Google Podcasts app just by tapping here. We’re on Spotify too. And in case you really need it, here's the RSS feed.

Transcript

Note: This is an automated transcript, which may contain errors.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Lauren, what is your favorite Elon Musk company? Which one of his many companies are you most fascinated by?

Lauren Goode: Define favorite.

Michael Calore: The one you're most fascinated by?

Lauren Goode: Is that really what favorite means? I think favorite has inherently a favorable connotation, and I'm not sure that I would think of any of Elon Musk's companies as being in that realm.

Michael Calore: Not even Twitter?

Lauren Goode: Well, I mean I used to have a lot of affection for Twitter, but that was pre–Elon Musk. I can tell you what my least favorite is.

Michael Calore: Which one?

Lauren Goode: Which is Neuralink.

Michael Calore: Brain computer interface.

Lauren Goode: Because what did those poor pigs and sheeps and monkeys ever do to Elon Musk to deserve that? OK. If I had to say, I'd guess I would say Tesla. What is your favorite Elon Musk company? What is your, quote-unquote, favorite Elon Musk company?

Michael Calore: I would say it's Twitter, mostly because I think it's the one that still has the clearest potential for good.

Lauren Goode: Interesting. Really?

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Not even Tesla, not even revolutionizing the electric vehicle and maybe making our transportation more sustainable.

Michael Calore: That is noble and we absolutely should do that. But I think if we're really going to solve the climate crisis, we need to stop relying on cars entirely.

Lauren Goode: Right, and batteries have come with their own set of problems too.

Michael Calore: They do, yes.

Lauren Goode: Right. OK, so is that it? Is that our show?

Michael Calore: Yes. Oh, no, wait. You know what?

Lauren Goode: What?

Michael Calore: There's another company now that we can add to the list.

Lauren Goode: What?

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Another Elon Musk company?

Michael Calore: Let's talk about it.

Lauren Goode: Just what we needed.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Michael Calore: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, I'm a senior editor at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: And I'm Lauren Goode, I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

Michael Calore: We are joined this week once again by WIRED editor at large, Steven Levy. Hello, Steven.

Steven Levy: Hi, folks. Great to be back on the podcast.

Michael Calore: It's great to have you.

Lauren Goode: It's really great to have you, Steven. I always think of editor at large as editor in jammies, but as far as I can see on the Zoom, you are not in jammies.

Steven Levy: I'm at large, I'm pursued by authorities somewhere.

Michael Calore: All right. As we mentioned, Elon Musk is back in the news again. Really? Does he ever leave the news?

Lauren Goode: Nope.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: Late last week, Musk announced a new artificial intelligence venture called xAI. That's three letters, X-A-I, and the X is lowercase. It's a weird time for Elon to launch a new company. He still runs Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and Twitter. Twitter in particular is causing him headaches, its business is sagging, and just a couple of weeks ago, Meta launched Threads, which is basically a Twitter copycat which very quickly eclipsed Twitter's popularity among the digerati. Of course, all of this is happening in the shadow of what feels like a lazy subplot on a bad sitcom. A mixed-martial-arts cage match between Musk and his rival Mark Zuckerberg has been proposed and will probably end up happening. We'll talk about the possible Musk–Zuck beef cage match in the second half of the show, but first, we need to talk about this latest development of xAI. Steven, I'm sure you saw that xAI launched with the stated goal on its website of “understanding the true nature of the universe,” and that's a quote. What do you make of this claim? What truths could Elon be seeking?

Steven Levy: Well, I listened to about an hour-and-a-half Twitter Spaces with Elon and the team, and apparently part of what it means is that if we discover the secrets of the universe and they turn out to be politically incorrect, xAI will report them anyway. Whereas he implied that if OpenAI or some other company had uncovered a secret of the universe that somehow was unfavorable to liberals, they would censor it. That seemed to be sort of the sense of it. But seriously, it is something that is talked about quite a lot among the adherence of AI and particularly AGI, this generalized intelligence that will ramp up the superintelligence, that this is our best shot at solving the problems that humanity hasn't been able to solve to date, the really intractable stuff like climate change and understanding what life is all about, what the secrets of the universe are, what the scientific mysteries are, how the brain works, all this stuff that we weren't able to crack, and they say they're specifically going to do this. They haven't really explained what sort of large language models or other things that they will do to make xAI uniquely able to crack these secrets. But this is their mission.

Lauren Goode: I have so many questions about this. All right, to start. You mentioned in your story about this, Steven, that xAI's homepage is very spare, it doesn't offer much information, but it does show a team of 11 AI researchers. They're seemingly all men, that's the first thing. I don't know if that's a question, just to remark.

Steven Levy: That speaks for itself, Lauren.

Lauren Goode: OK. They have all done significant work at places like Google, DeepMind and OpenAI. They've worked on some incredible research papers, so we should take this company seriously. But also it is just 11 people who are listed thus far, and presumably companies like Google and DeepMind and OpenAI have much bigger teams working on this. What do you make of all of that?

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Steven Levy: Well, OpenAI started pretty small if you think about it. So they have nowhere near the researchers that Google or Microsoft or Meta had in artificial intelligence, so that doesn't necessarily mean that they're not capable of building something really superb. As you mentioned, some of them are heavyweights, including one who came from the elite of AI, one of the students of Geoff Hinton, who was known as the godfather of AI. He's the godfather of this iteration of AI called deep learning, and his students really are the cream of the crop, are the ones that have spread out into sort of a Toronto diaspora to bring cutting-edge AI to many companies. The question I wanted to ask, I didn't listen to the Twitter Spaces live, not that they would've called on me, but I wanted to ask the people who left OpenAI, why did you leave OpenAI, which fancies itself as a cutting-edge company with a mission to bring AGI to the world in a way that benefits humanity? What wasn't that doing for you that you would have to go to join your 11 male colleagues at xAI? That's interesting to me. And sort of what they're really going to do to distinguish it isn't clear. And I was joking up top about talking about the politically correct thing, but that was something that Elon hit pretty hard. Implying that he's not going to shy away from truth just because it's unpopular and he was throwing shade at these other companies. Though, I really don't think that some of these big companies they're putting on the answers from their chatbots come from political incorrectness, but they're looking over their shoulders at regulators to make sure that they don't seize on mistakes and serious mistakes that come from their chatbots. So they want to prove that they could build these things safely. It's not really a contest to be politically correct, but that's what Elon believes.

Michael Calore: How much of the launch of xAI do you think is motivated by FOMO, particularly over ChatGPT and Elon's leaving of the company that made ChatGPT several years ago?

Steven Levy: Yeah, I mean, Elon was a cofounder of OpenAI. I interviewed both him and Sam Altman when the thing launched in 2018. He left and has been sniping at them a little ever since, there's been some mutual sniping. So the past few months we've getting reports that Elon was doing this recruiting for his own AI, generative AI company, which is a little ironic because at the same time he's signing petitions saying that we've got to stop all AI activity for six months, but he's going to go full board. During the conversation he thought that it really wouldn't be useful to stop development for a few months, it wouldn't make much of a difference in the long run. I think he's right there. I think that, yeah, he's always been interested in AI, Tesla and even SpaceX have AI divisions or as part of their engineering team. He even mentioned that it's a great recruiting tool for an engineer to say, well, not only can you develop AI, but you get to work on electric cars and rockets at the same time, and that apparently he said is a deal clincher for a lot of engineers. And now he could say, well, you could work on solving the mysteries of the universe as well as electric cars and rockets. So that's the holy trinity, right?

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: Stephen, back in March, Musk was part of a group of people who signed a letter calling for a pause on generative AI development, whatever came of that so-called pause.

Steven Levy: Well, the pause was never going to happen. You weren't going to get Google and OpenAI and other companies and competition with each other to say, we're going to stop for six months. To the contrary, once ChatGPT came out, it was super popular and then Microsoft started integrating OpenAI into its search engine and now other products, the other companies felt they had to go full bore to compete with them. And Elon is very frank in saying that xAI is a competitor to these companies. It's not a research operation. They're going to build their own LLM and release it, and you're going to decide whether you like that better than the GPTs or Google's Bard you get to choose

Michael Calore: Or Facebook's LLaMA?

Steven Levy: That's right. Yeah, the LLaMA came out. And now the LLaMA is partnering with Microsoft, which I think maybe OpenAI might not be pleased about because now Microsoft is sort of hedging its bets on OpenAI by embracing LLaMA. But for Microsoft it makes perfect sense because they want to keep their processors, their servers churning with these computation heavy, large language models. So it's great for them because it brings business into their data centers.

Lauren Goode: Sometimes. I like to think of if you could take a person who was using tech 20 years ago and port them into the future and just have them listen to a conversation where we're like, yeah, I'm not quite sure about this xAI thing because it really depends on how Meta's LLaMA does. And also have you tried the new GPT plus four level grade based on this LLM's… And then Google. The person would be like, I know Google.

Michael Calore: Yeah. I mean a lot of these things that you're talking about are all developments within the last year.

Lauren Goode: Right. Well, over several years, but being commercialized or brought to light over the past year.

Michael Calore: And the terminology is something that we're only familiar with now because now it's part of our everyday lives, whereas before it was sort of behind the curtain. I'm really curious about what happens a year or two from now. We're still in the chatbot era, but companies keep talking about what happens after chatbots, what happens after large language models and after the text-based gen AI matures, where do we go next?

Steven Levy: Yeah, well, in 10 years we won't have to worry about this because all the conversation will be taking place among AI machines and we'll just be sitting at home popping edibles.

Michael Calore: Perfect.

Lauren Goode: I thought you were going to say psilocybin, but sure, edibles work.

Michael Calore: Well, yeah, edibles could be anything.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: That's true.

Steven Levy: Yeah, I'm giving away my boomer credentials here.

Michael Calore: All right, well on that note, let's take a break and we'll be right back with more.

[Break]

Michael Calore: Steven, you have the enviable job of keeping up with the goings on of all these billionaires in Silicon Valley. As we mentioned earlier, Elon Musk challenged Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to a cage match last month.

Lauren Goode: Wait, wait, just take a moment.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: We are talking about this transformative technology and then all of a sudden we're like, yeah, these two dudes, these bros, they want to have a fight.

Michael Calore: They do.

Lauren Goode: It's legitimate enough at this point that we're talking about it on our WIRED podcast.

Michael Calore: Yes. We all thought it was a joke was when it was announced.

Lauren Goode: Yes.

Michael Calore: But now it actually seems to be happening. They're talking to the big production company that does all the mixed martial arts pay-per-view shows. They're talking to venues in Las Vegas about hosting it. Both of the participants appeared willing to want to go forward with it and they're talking about how they're training.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Mark Zuckerberg's been working out.

Michael Calore: I mean he's been working out for years. But, it's just strange. Everything about it is strange.

Lauren Goode: They saw the headlines about how Taylor Swift was driving local economies with her concerts and they thought, you know what? We want to get in on that too.

Michael Calore: I would love to know the motivations.

Steven Levy: Hold my energy drink.

Michael Calore: Yes. Well, Steven, in your Plaintext newsletter last week you wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg pleading him to not step into the ring with Elon Musk and to not engage with him in hand-to-hand physical combat. Did you ever think that you'd be passing along advice like that in a consumer tech newsletter?

Steven Levy: No, I didn't. But this is the world we live in where insane scenarios are actually happening. We've just talked about these chatbots which were really the realm of science fiction where people are very seriously talking now about the kind of companions we saw in the movie Her as a reality, this slam dunk within our grasp right now. Black mirror is the mirror now, is our mirror. So this is just another implausible episode of Black Mirror, which has come to life. In this case, this battle. I mean, I'm not still 100 percent convinced that it's not a goof, but every time you try to poke it to see, OK, the joke, it's not happening. So you'll see the head of the MMA organization, mixed martial arts organization, they're talking about how to sanction the battle. And I wrote to Meta and I said, hey, tell me is this serious? I actually wrote to Mark, I sent a message to Mark saying, hey, tell me if this is really happening. He didn't respond. Sometimes he does. Then I talked to his PR person and said, I'm not going to comment on this. But then you see, because Lauren referred to, they posted this picture of him training with some MMA guys who were apparently famous in this. So they're talking like it really might happen. I'm still a little wary. But I think this is corrosive stuff here. I mean, these people are middle-aged billionaires who like it or not, are leaders in these important technologies. So we're now putting our trust, really, into the technologies that these people are building, and it turns out they're acting like a pair of 9-year-olds out there saying they're going to settle their battles by combat. And then Marc Andreessen, let's bring on this guy-

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Lauren Goode: OK. I'm so glad you brought this up because I was going to ask you what you made of this essay. I mean, it read like an Onion headline. Like, man, who made billions off people staring at their computer screens all day long and using browsers now tells the kids to go out and fight.

Steven Levy: He's saying it's a tough world out there, people that got to learn to fight. I've actually traveled with some billionaires. They travel with big security contingent. No one's going to come up to them and put them in a choke hold. They wouldn't even get within 20 feet of them. These people are saying how great it is that you should train your kids in combat because it's primal. It's part of being like a man, or presumably they don't talk about their daughters, but I guess they want them to be battle fighters too. I don't know. But to me-

Lauren Goode: Well, I think he makes the argument that it's good for self-defense.

Steven Levy: Well, when you get into a ring with someone, you're really talking about a very avoidable situation that you don't have to go into to defend yourself. I don't have to worry about defending myself against a mixed martial arts fighter in a ring because I'm not going to go in a ring. They'd have no love loss for each other and they don't respect each other. And Elon Musk even did a tweet suggesting they pull out a ruler and compare each other's you know know whats. That's not the kind of behavior that I believe we want our thought leaders to emulate. And it's particularly nasty because bringing it back to AI, both Zuckerberg and Musk are people who are building these large language models, they're trained with assumptions. So just think about it, the people who are programming these models, training these models, both believe that it's like a reasonable and desirable thing to do to settle your disputes with fighting. And maybe that stuff is going to bleed into the answers that their large language models give. Those are their assumptions on the way the world is, and as we've learned assumptions that people have bleed in to the training sets and the results you get from the queries you give to large language models. So I think actually there's subtle problem with this that goes beyond the idea that it's something out of Idiocracy.

Lauren Goode: Let's assume for a second that we're not all being trolled-

Steven Levy: A real possibility.

Lauren Goode: It's a real possibility. How is this fight between Elon and Mark's symbolic of the battle they're waging over their platforms right now?

Steven Levy: Well, because it's very tough business competition, and that's our system. And you could say the system is great because they talk all the time about how competition leads them to build better products, but it also leads people, as we've seen in this very example, to sometimes release products before they're fully baked. So Microsoft released its search engine powered by large language model before it was ready to go out into the world without trying to steal journalists actually from out under their wives. I'm referring to this conversation that Sydney, the Microsoft Bing chatbot had with the journalist Kevin Roose, which exposed a pretty big flaw in the iteration that they shipped with their large language model.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Michael Calore: So Musk and Zuckerberg have said that they would donate the pay-per-view revenue to charity. Does that make it any easier for you to swallow if they actually go through this?

Steven Levy: No, that's like pennies compared to what they could give to charity. These people worth each over $100 billion Musk is worth over $200 billion. They could just flip $5 billion to some charity and they'd never miss it, ever. So what are they going to give a few million, 10 million to charity and that's going to excuse behavior, which is going to stand for a symbol of our corrosive times for all eternity? I don't think so.

Michael Calore: It is all very grim.

Lauren Goode: How much of this is a distraction from the threat of regulation?

Steven Levy: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think that it's not going to stop that. It'll draw attention, but people haven't stopped writing about regulation and Lina Khan still managed to come out with some sort of criticisms of what's going on in the AI space. She wasn't distracted by it, and she's not going to get in the ring with them.

Lauren Goode: Right. But I mean, these guys are professional attention merchants. To steal a phrase from Tim Wu, right? This is what they do. They know how to traffic and attention. They know how to get people's attention. And this is, it's a head fake in a way.

Michael Calore: That's a good fighting term, head fake.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, there really is. It's also a good basketball term. But I suppose that's a pump fake. But yeah, attention is a limited resource of ours. We do have a limited amount of it, and there is lot—

Steven Levy: Wait, Lauren, are you an MMA fan?

Lauren Goode: I'm not actually. I don't think I've ever watched a single match. Although a friend of mine did say the other evening over dinner that if this cage match came to be that she would get it on pay-per-view, and I said yes, and I'd be there, I'd come over and I would absolutely watch it.

Michael Calore: We would all watch it.

Lauren Goode: Actually, in an ideal world, Steven, you and I would go cover it in person.

Steven Levy: Right. I hope I can expense it.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. Because I just want to be there to soak in the absurdity and to feel the vibes and to write about it for WIRED, I think there would be nothing better. But it does feel that that's what it is, it is a peak level of absurdity. And we are talking about it right now, we're devoting attention to it right now while there's this flurry of activity in Washington, we have Senator Schumer calling for a series of AI talks and panels so that our legislators can get up to speed on how this technology works. And we are at this pivotal moment where we need to start seriously thinking about how this is going to affect our humanity more than it has already. And here we are we're talking about a Vegas cage match between these two bros. By the way, my money's on Zuck. But, yes.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Steven Levy: Just imagine if you were someone who's working in AI in China and you're watching this happen, you're thinking, these are the people that I'm competing against?

Michael Calore: Yes, it is all very absurd.

Lauren Goode: Yes, indeed. Yep.

Michael Calore: Well, I don't want to think about this anymore, so let's take a break and we'll come back and do our recommendations.

[Break]

Michael Calore: OK. We desperately need to switch gears now. So let's do our recommendations. Steven, as our guest. You get to go first, what is the thing that you want to recommend to our listeners?

Steven Levy: Well, I just saw the movie Oppenheimer, which in WIRED we had a big interview with Chris Nolan, the director, and it's fantastic. It's really one of the best movies I've seen in years. It's a complicated movie. It's Christopher Nolan, of course. And he jumps around time and space, not in a science fiction way but in a narrative sense. But you never lose the thread. And it's an important story about the guy who developed the atom bomb for the US and then how to defend himself in the red scare later on. And it turned out to be a very nuanced prosecution against him. But it had a lot of issues that relate to AI. Do you go along with the technology that has any chance at all, a non-zero chance let's say, of wiping out humanity? So it has resonance there and great acting performances. I highly recommend it.

Michael Calore: Did you see it in IMAX?

Steven Levy: No, I didn't because there were two screening theaters and they split us up and I got the non-IMAX one. This is not a complaint that I'm going to make. I've had worse things in my life than not making it into the IMAX theater.

Michael Calore: Sure. We both saw it last night. Lauren and I did both see it last night also.

Lauren Goode: We did. Yeah. We saw it here in San Francisco at the AMC Metreon 16, which I later found out is apparently Christopher Nolan's favorite IMAX screen.

Michael Calore: Among his favorites.

Lauren Goode: Among his favorites, yes. And we did see it on IMAX. And yeah, all those actors have lovely pores. I want to know who their facialists are.

Michael Calore: Did you like the movie, Lauren?

Lauren Goode: So that is my recommendation this week as well. I'm just hopping aboard the Steven Levy train here. Steven, if you get invited to Vegas, I'd like to tag along. Also, your recommendation is Oppenheimer and so is mine. I felt intrigued by the movie. I felt rattled by it. I want to see it again. I want to see it again with captioning on, because I watch a lot of things using captions now when I'm watching stuff at home, and it really helps me process dialog in a different way. The movie was incredibly fast moving and there was a lot of dialog, this really heightened dramatic dialog packed into plot driving scenes. And so I was like, I would like to see this … Yeah, just want to see it again and experience it again. I thought the acting was terrific. I thought the special effects were incredible. Yeah, you have to like Christopher Nolan movies, I think. And so there were elements of it I did not love. Probably won't go into my favorite movies of all time Apple Notes list. But it was very good. It was very, very good. Really moving.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Steven Levy: Lauren, there was a story recently that talked about how people watching the video with captions is now a thing. Do you think they we're all going to be wearing the AR glasses we have that will have captions on everything that we hear what people say?

Lauren Goode: I could see that being useful in a movie like setting where you go to a theater and you don't have the option. And it's certainly great for accessibility reasons. But no, I think most of us are just going to continue to experience captions on our personal devices, on our phones and our TV screens at home because we can just put them on really easily. I think that'll be the most prominent way that we use it. And I think it has to do with, it's a combination of factors. It depends on how a work is mixed, certainly how the audio is mixed and if you can actually hear those channels amongst all the big bombs and explosions and the car crashes and everything else, and dramatic music and the violins. But I think we're probably all destroying our hearing, but frankly, with earbuds in our ears too. Our generation is getting older. Yeah, I don't know.

Michael Calore: Every generation is getting older all the time.

Lauren Goode: Turns out we just get older. Revelation here. Do you watch with captions, Steven?

Steven Levy: I generally will, yeah, actually do that. My hearing hasn't recovered from a 1969 Who concert in the Electric Factory.

Lauren Goode: I have to say, back to Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy was incredible.

Michael Calore: He was very good.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, I would not be surprised if he gets an Oscar.

Steven Levy: Mr. Oscar is knocking on Robert Downey Jr.’s door.

Lauren Goode: Oh yeah. Robert Downey Jr. was great too. His character was incredibly nuanced.

Michael Calore: I think they'll both get nominated. I should mention the film does not pass the Bechdel test.

Lauren Goode: Mm, yeah. Yes.

Michael Calore: There are few women of depth in the movie.

Lauren Goode: Not a lot of emotional depth, especially Jean. She just really got left in the dust there, treated as a mistress character when she was actually in real life, a much bigger role.

Michael Calore: Yes. I felt the movie was claustrophobic. I felt like everything was packed in a little bit too tight. You got bombarded a lot over three hours with a very fast moving scenes, a lot of fast moving camera stuff, very loud noises, a loud score, and a lot of visual jump cuts. So there was not a whole lot of breathing room. I have been comparing it to spending three hours in a dryer because you just kind of get tossed around and you don't really know which way is up a lot of times and it's very loud—

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Steven Levy: That something you—

Michael Calore: I'm sorry?

Steven Levy: Have you done that before?

Michael Calore: Yeah. Last time I had psilocybin edibles, actually, I crawled inside of a dryer and turned it on. Anyway, I'm not saying it was a bad movie, but it did not resonate with me. I wanted a different kind of experience than what it was providing. I will say I liked seeing it in IMAX. I would recommend that if you want to see it, you should try to find it in IMAX. Also, there's no computer generated imagery in the movie, so all of the special effects, including the big set piece with the bomb, it's about an atom bomb, you know Christopher Nolan is doing a movie about the atom bomb he's going to show you an atom bomb exploding. And they do. And it's very interesting how they do it without computer graphics.

Lauren Goode: It really is. Yeah, I guess it's pyrotechnics, they're incredible.

Michael Calore: Yeah. Really.

Lauren Goode: And interesting choice in the movie, actually, to show that through the test, but not re-create—

Michael Calore: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Lauren Goode: Yes, exactly. The actual dropping of the bomb. In fact, there was no recreation of that, no historical footage of that. And at some point in the film, when the Los Alamos physicists are watching a slideshow of the after effects of the dropping of the bomb, we don't even see that. We just see the reaction of their faces. Their faces are illuminated by the slideshow. And you can see the sort of the moral compasses shifting and the processing of what's going on. Yes. We don't actually see what happened in Japan.

Michael Calore: Yeah.

Lauren Goode: Interesting choices.

Michael Calore: Yes. Good recommendation from you both.

Lauren Goode: And what's your recommendation?

Michael Calore: Pretzel buns.

Lauren Goode: Shot chaser.

Michael Calore: Yes.

Lauren Goode: Tell us about pretzel buns.

Michael Calore: So you may know that when you grill, let's say you grill a burger or a hot dog or a sausage, you have to put it on a bun in order to get the best enjoyment out of it. Now, as we all know, in a burger the patty is pass, fail. The thing that makes a burger truly excellent is the stuff you put around the patty, including the big thick slice of tomato that's properly salted, the pickles, the mustard, and the bun. Pretzel buns are absolutely the best buns. They're people who swear by brioche, and I love brioche. But pretzel buns don't compact as easily, they don't soak up a lot of the stuff. They're more substantial, is what I'm saying. They're easier to toast more thoroughly than brioche, which browns very quickly. So pretzel buns the way to go. And, yes, I'm saying pretzel buns for hamburgers and for hot dogs and sausages. It is not summer unless you grill those things and put them on pretzel buns.

Most PopularGearThe 15 Best Electric Bikes for Every Kind of Ride

Adrienne So

GearThe Best Lubes for Every Occasion

Jaina Grey

GearThe iPhone Is Finally Getting USB-C. Here’s What That Means

Julian Chokkattu

Gear11 Great Deals on Sex Toys, Breast Pumps, and Smart Lights

Jaina Grey

Steven Levy: But they taste like pretzels.

Michael Calore: Yeah. They have a texture and a flavor that is just like a big pretzel, like the kind you get at the baseball game.

Steven Levy: Well, I'm from Philadelphia. I have a certain view of pretzels.

Michael Calore: Oh, OK.

Lauren Goode: Oh, wait, how do Philadelphians, Philadelphians? How do—

Steven Levy: Philadelphia is known as the big pretzel.

Lauren Goode: Oh, so that's—

Steven Levy: The big soft pretzels with mustard.

Lauren Goode: So that means you like them?

Steven Levy: I like them, but not for hamburgers.

Michael Calore: Oh, come on. Have you tried a good pretzel bun hamburger?

Steven Levy: I've been left that as an alternative in the parts. And it is fine, but it taste it like a pretzel. When I'm eating a burger, I don't want to eat a pretzel.

Lauren Goode: Mike has left out an important detail here, which is that when he's having a pretzel hamburger, he's having a pretzel bun with chopped up farro and mushrooms and black beans slapped into a burger patty, because already questionable choices here. I'm just kidding. I respect your veganism.

Michael Calore: Thank you.

Lauren Goode: But he doesn't eat meat. So even when he is like, your sausage and hot dogs too should be on a pretzel bun, are you speaking from experience?

Michael Calore: Yes, absolutely.

Lauren Goode: So you're having Impossible Foods burgers and hot dogs.

Michael Calore: Yeah. Beyond Sausage Beyond, solid. The Tofurky ones are also pretty good, although the Beyond ones are better.

Steven Levy: I admire your fortitude. We're talking about the recommendation that Lauren and I made, and it deals with existence issues and art and you go right on undeterred with the pretzel buns, that's a win.

Michael Calore: Yeah. I'm a man of many interests, Steven.

Steven Levy: Beautiful.

Lauren Goode: Including cage matches.

Michael Calore: All right, well that is our show. Steven, thank you so much for joining us this week. It's been great to have you back on.

Steven Levy: Always a hoot, guys.

Lauren Goode: It's Steven, really great to have you on the show and hope to do it again soon.

Michael Calore: We will see you in Vegas.

Lauren Goode: Yeah.

Michael Calore: And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter and Bluesky and Mastodon and Threads. Just check the show notes. Our producer is Boone Ashworth. We will be back next week. Until then, goodbye.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays]

Related Articles

Latest Articles