MoonPay CEO, Other Executives Cashed Out Before Crypto Business DroppedRead more

ai culture

Fear and Longing in the AI Wars

Hi, welcome to your Weekend! 

This is Abe filling in for Jon, who returns as Weekender-in-Chief next Saturday.

If the cars, brain implants and spaceships don’t pan out, Elon Musk has a promising future as a fear-monger. His was the leading name attached to a widely discussed open letter published this week that urged a halt in artificial intelligence research, warning that AI poses “profound risks to society and humanity.” Quickly, the letter’s pushback on the AI boom received its own pushback. “The sky is not falling,” said Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, “and Skynet is not on the horizon.” As for Musk specifically, his motivations seem muddled at best: Tesla has long experimented with AI, and Musk is a cofounder of OpenAI. Moreover, he has considered launching his own AI startup; cajoling the industry into a pause might plausibly give Musk his best chance to catch up to the competition. 

While staying in this world, I’d like to offer a respite from these Chicken Littles. In this week’s cover story, Arielle profiles Richard Socher, co-founder and CEO of, a AI-powered search startup with startling promise. After a decade-plus studying AI, he started in 2020 and longs to find a place for it in today's crowded market—a David battling industry Goliaths, like Google and Microsoft. (Maybe Musk too if he follows through on that startup.) “I’ve had very smart people and investors say, ‘Richard, why would you build a search company?…It's a fool’s errand,’” he admitted. Still, he’s won some major investors, including Marc Benioff’s Time Ventures, Breyer Capital and Day One Ventures. 

When Socher finds time for a break, he unwinds at a 40-acre ranch in the San Mateo hills. (Arielle joined him at the $3 million property for part of her reporting, which reminded her of the “beautiful home of the programmer in ‘Ex Machina,’” she said. “Fortunately, the interview with Richard ended better than that movie.”) One of Socher’s favorite hobbies: paramotoring, which involves flying around on what resembles a propeller-powered hang-glider. Arielle declined a ride. “Tried paragliding once, and it scared the bejesus out of me. So, no thank you.”

Even in a week full of scary talk, Arielle’s story reminds me of my favorite part of the AI Wars. The people within it are such wonderfully vibrant characters, particularly the underdogs willing to aim a slingshot at a giant rival or three.

the big read

Search Has Its Goliath. Could Richard Socher Be Its David? 

As Google and Microsoft remodel their search engines with AI assistants, the CEO of explains to Arielle how he can do better.

market research

The Full-Body Scanners Will See You Now

High-touch body-imaging clinics are increasingly part of the executive health toolkit, attracting investments from Andreessen Horowitz, Daniel Ek and others. Zara Stone explores the growing demand for these devices, which double as both radiological spas and early warning systems.

show us everything

The Health Commandos

Annie spends an afternoon with the founders of Fount—a highly regimented fitness and supplement startup that tells its moneyed clients what to do and when to do it.

founders' keepers

Ancient Swords, Stylus Pens and Other Things CEOs Can’t Work Without

From a video game entrepreneur's gilded weapon to Arianna Huffington's Roman statue, writer Paul Armstrong has another enjoyable entry in our series that spotlights tech leaders’ treasured mementos.

Listening: Mobile Mozart

My soundtrack as I worked on this newsletter came from a vibrant rendition of Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto from the Vienna Philharmonic, followed by the forceful French cellist Gautier Capuçon playing the “Game of Thrones” theme. The track is part of a lengthy playlist called “Classical Motivation,” one of many pleasing collections within Apple’s new Classical music app. To start, there’s a robust search function that puts Spotify’s to shame, making it easier to find a specific piece, composer and conductor. And it contains playlists galore, including options perfect for classical ingenues like me: “Hidden Gems,” “Composers Undiscovered” and “Music by Mood,” among many others. The app’s not free: It’s available as a new part of Apple Music’s $10.99 monthly subscription. But, hey, go for baroque—and splurge. —Abe

Reading: Neighborhood Watch

The newest TikTok trend is…moving to Peoria, Illinois? That’s thanks to Angie Ostaszewski, an influencer on a mission to make her Midwest city a hotspot for young homeowners. So far, she’s already convinced 300 of her TikTok followers to pack up for Peoria, according to The New York Times, thanks to her compelling argument: Why throw away thousands of dollars in New York or San Francisco rent when the average cost to buy a house around her is $128,100? Plus, it’s not just about dirt-cheap prices. There’s the chance to join the town’s increasingly diverse community, too. Many of Peoria's new residents are people of color or come from lower socioeconomic classes—populations statistically less likely to become homeowners. One such Peorian, who is Black and transgender, told The Times she never expected to own a house until arriving there: “It feels like I’m ending generational curses.” —Margaux

Watching: Dragon Riders

Searching for a schmaltzy, lighthearted distraction to pop on while washing dishes or shopping online? Try “Unstable,” a new half-hour Netflix comedy starring Rob Lowe and his son, John Owen Lowe. The elder Lowe plays Ellis Dragon, a volatile and arrogant biotech executive grieving his wife’s death; fittingly, the younger Lowe plays Ellis’ son, Jackson, who reluctantly swoops in to save Daddy Dragon from a downward spiral. The Lowes do fine, but the show’s scene-stealer is actress Sian Clifford, who’s best known as Claire in “Fleabag” (of “I look like a pencil” fame). She’s Anna, the chief financial officer counterbalancing Dragon’s absurdity, and she nails some of the show’s better lines. As she rebuffs one dumb Dragon idea, she asks aloud: “What kind of dreadful CFO would I be if I didn’t approve an infrared sauna, so you could heat yourself from the inside out like a microwave burrito?” —Annie 

Makes You Think

Imagine the wine pairing.

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading. 


Senior reporter, The Information 

Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine, where his work won many National Magazine Awards.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Microsoft's Satya Nadella, left, and Peter Lee. Photo by Bloomberg, Microsoft
How Microsoft Swallowed Its Pride to Make a Massive Bet on OpenAI
Satya Nadella didn’t want to hear it. Last December, Peter Lee, who oversees Microsoft’s sprawling research efforts, was briefing Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, and his deputies about a series of tests Microsoft had conducted of GPT-4, the then-unreleased new artificial intelligence large-language model built by OpenAI.
Art by Clark Miller
The AI Age e-commerce ai
How to Grease a Chatbot: E-Commerce Companies Seek a Backdoor Into AI Responses
When Andy Wilson’s company received its first successful client referral through ChatGPT, he was shaken to his core.
Chris Britt, co-founder and CEO of Chime.
Exclusive startups Finance
Chime’s Slowdown Highlights Limits of Bank Disruptors
Chime found a way to offer zero-fee banking services without being a bank itself. But that approach is starting to show its limits.
Art by Clark Miller.
Exclusive startups crypto
MoonPay CEO, Other Executives Cashed Out Before Crypto Business Dropped
In November 2021, just as crypto prices were hitting all-time highs, MoonPay—a crypto payments startup that celebrities including Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton had praised for its non-fungible token “concierge” service— announced it had completed its first ever outside fundraising: an eye-popping $555 million round at a $3.4 billion valuation from investors including Tiger Global Management and Coatue Management.
Art by Clark Miller
The Big Read markets Finance
The Master of Destruction Rides Again
In the spring of 2022, the irascible Wall Street short seller Marc Cohodes was in a particularly foul mood.
Art by Clark Miller.
Social Studies culture
The Day TikTok Went Dark in India
On June 29, 2020, as thunderstorms swept Mumbai and daily Covid-19 cases in India surged by almost 20,000, millions of people began experiencing a flood of network errors on their mobile devices.