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The clash of two tech titans
Mar 1, 2024
Episode 1109

The clash of two tech titans

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Could this be a pivot point for OpenAI?

Elon Musk is suing OpenAI and its CEO, Sam Altman, saying the artificial intelligence company abandoned its founding mission, which was to prioritize the benefit of humanity over profit. Is this just a bunch of industry drama, or could it be a real turning point in the development of generative AI? And, how the cultural conversation around shoplifting has played out at one CVS store. Plus, we’ll play a round of Half Full/Half Empty, and Kimberly shares a hair-raising leech story.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We love to hear from you. Send your questions and comments to makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart March 1, 2024 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams 

I love how you waited. You’re trying to get us the E rating.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yes. Yes. Trying to get us the E rating. Bridget yells at me. Hey everybody, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense. It is Friday today, the first day of March if you can believe that.

Kimberly Adams 

I know, right. This year, it’s going. Anyway. Hi, I’m Kimberly Adams, thank you so much for joining us on our Friday podcast, which is our Economics on Tap. Welcome everybody who’s joining us on the YouTube live stream, cocktails or mocktails in hand, I hope and so yeah, let’s get going with our happy hour.

Kai Ryssdal 

This is so funny. I’m just reading the chat. It says Jason Behringer says, “Kai is doing this final note on the way out on Marketplace today, so we should be good to go.” And I’m like, wow, that’s so weird that I’m here and the show is on the air and you’re there and we’re doing it. Anyway, whatever.

Kimberly Adams 

In DC, it airs, right is where, it ends just as we’re starting. So, sometimes I’m listening to you literally as you’re sitting down.

Kai Ryssdal 

That’s really funny. So, it’s also weird. When I first got this job, my mother was, this is a true story. I called my mother on the way home one day, and it was when Marketplace was airing where she was which was like Southbury Connecticut at that point. And she was like, “How can you be here and on the radio at the same time?” It was really funny. I’m like Mom. Mom. Mom

Kimberly Adams 

It’s a recording.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yes, she no longer asks those questions. Anyway, we’re going to do what we do on a Friday. Some news. We’re going to take a break, and then a little Half Full/Half Empty. We will also talk drinks. This is a cocktail show for one Kimberly Adams. A zine cocktail show. Kimberly, what do you having?

Kimberly Adams 

Yes. Yes so, hopefully everybody read our Make Me Smart newsletter today. And if you didn’t get it, you can also go online. The newsletter is up on the website, but you should subscribe if you haven’t already because it’s great. And if you are subscribed to the newsletter, you would have already received a copy of our new “Unofficial State Cocktails” guide which has our favorite listener submitted and voted cocktails from all the different states and including some non-alcoholic cocktails, which I’m looking forward to trying but not doing that today. And so, you can get a copy by signing up for our newsletter at Make Me Smart. Sorry, marketplace.org/smarter is where you can get that newsletter. Alright, so I originally had planned to make from the zine the “No-Gin Rickey,” which was the DC cocktail, which I was very excited about, but I did not have the ingredients for it in my house, and I didn’t get my life together early enough in order to pull that together. So instead, I made the Alaska cocktail, which is the “Duck Fart.”

Kai Ryssdal 

No, for reals?

Kimberly Adams 

I did. I happen to have all of the ingredients for Duck Fart. I’m looking. I had the link to the zine up. I’m looking at the newsletter now. But anyway, I’m sure they’ll drop it in the Slack. Anyhow, the Duck Fart looks like this for those watching on YouTube. I imagine I could have done the layers a little bit better, but I did my best. So, it’s got Kahlúa and then Baileys and then whiskey. And you like, pour it in on top of a spoon, so you can get these cool layers. I’m fascinated by this combination. It says you’re supposed to take it like a shot, but I’m not going to do that.

Kai Ryssdal 

No, that’s ridiculous. That’s a huge shot.

Kimberly Adams 

That would be a huge shot. And also, like, I don’t know about that flavor combo. But anyway, here I go.

Kai Ryssdal 

Are you going to sip it? What are you going to do? How are we doing? Oh, my God.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh, I guess I will do like a shot. It was good actually. It kind of has like an Espresso Martini vibe. So yeah, would recommend. Would recommend.

Kai Ryssdal 

Wow, good for you. The problem is it’s over so fast that you should like, line up three of them. That’d be quite the podcast.

Kimberly Adams 

That would be entertaining for everyone.

Kai Ryssdal

Producers would really enjoy it. I would get a kick out of it. Just saying.

Kimberly Adams

What are you drinking?

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m just having a beer. I’m having, this is literally what was in the fridge, because I went to my local Piggly Wiggly, and I had a six pack of beer in my hand. And of course, you can’t do self-checkout because, you know, law. And their systems were down. They were only taking cash.

Kimberly Adams

I don’t understand this. What do you mean you can’t use self-checkout?

Kai Ryssdal

Do you not have self-checkout machines?

Kimberly Adams 

We do.

Kai Ryssdal

Right? And so, you can’t do alcohol. You can’t do self-checkout with alcohol in California.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, they just come and check your ID. Yeah, in DC you can do self-checkout with alcohol. They just come and send an associate over to check your ID.

Kai Ryssdal 

You get you get frowned at and told, “Sir, I’m sorry, I can’t do that here.”

Kimberly Adams 

Okay, well. All right, California.

Kai Ryssdal 

Unless it’s one of the employees who you know, and then they’ll slightly sort of in the side, they’re like, come here. I got you. Right? But otherwise, you have to wait in line. Well, I mean, you know, there are days I mean that damn grocery store like three times. What was I going to say? Oh, but their computers were down and so, they were only taking cash and who the hell cares cash these days? You probably do. You of course, you carry cash. Of course. Sorry.

Kimberly Adams 

We had this whole conversation about Black women and cash. Come on.

Kai Ryssdal 

I know. I know. But you know, that’s interesting. Well, the conversation about Black women and cash was keeping cash in reserve at the house, right? It wasn’t carrying, but I imagine you as a “the sky is going to collapse, and I don’t want to be caught unawares.” You will carry cash. And if you could carry a gold bar, you would carry a gold bar, right?

Kimberly Adams 

I would not carry a gold bar. I carry cash I would say like 50% of the time. Would I carry gold coins if I had them? Maybe if I had like a secret pouch only because it like lives in sort of like the realm of my steam punk, like, you know, image of myself of like having all the pockets and all the little, you know, secret stash places, but you know. Maybe then but no, not normally. Any who, let’s look at what folks are drinking in the chat. Which beer was it by the way?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, I’m having a Modern Times Orderville Hazy IPA. 7.2 ABV for those of you who are curious. You know, it’s really funny. There’s a lot of people talking about cash and carrying credit cards and all that jazz. We’ve skipped right past drinks, and everybody’s talking about whether they carry cash or not. Should we do some news?

Kimberly Adams 

We should do some news. Okay, I’ve got one that’s a bit more serious. But they’re both kind of serious. So, we’ve talked a bunch on this show about the shoplifting, air quote, epidemic in the United States. And, you know, I was one of the people who brought the articles about big corporations saying that they were having to adjust their earnings and adjust their strategies because of all the shoplifting. And then we also talked about all of the reporting that came after saying that they were making it up or exaggerating it wildly. And there is a really interesting, long read in The Washington Post with the headline, “The zombie CVS, a late capitalism horror story.” And it’s about this one CVS here in DC that had, that sort of got caught up in this narrative. And it very famously had these empty shelves, and it was all over the news. It was like see, there’s so much shoplifting that even in DC, this democratic city in the nation’s capital, they can’t get their stuff together. And that’s why the CVS is empty. And this particular CVS was indeed, had a lot of empty shelves. They’re finally shutting it down. But this article goes into the very nuanced reasons why this particular CVS in this particular spot ended up the way that it was, and how that plus a Whole Foods in San Francisco kind of became the symbols but didn’t really tell the story that people wanted it to tell. And so, it shut down this week. And, you know, I’m just going to read a little bit of it. “First, there are the economic factors triggering human need: Joblessness, inflation, a slow recovery from the pandemic. There have also been changes to how police officers do their job, a dearth in active policing that started in the pandemic combined with efforts to use alternative forms of crime deterrent, but none of those alternatives were really implemented effectively or as effectively as they could have been. That dovetailed with CVS policy. Like many retailers, the drugstore chain employs security guards but instructs them not to pursue shoplifters. Meanwhile, in Washington, city officials say they’ve seen observed a rise in organized retail crime, which involves theft of items to be resold on the street.” And there’s also apparently another CVS and a Target like a block away. So, there was very little incentive for, you know, this company to do much different. So, it’s a long read, but it really is a very thoughtful consideration of this debate that’s been going on for so many months about shoplifting in this country. So, love that story. Also, I felt like since this podcast in particular moved to daily during the pandemic to talk about the pandemic news, I had to mark this moment of the CDC no longer recommending American stay home from work or school for five days after testing positive for COVID-19.

Kai Ryssdal

Is that new? Did I miss that?

Kimberly Adams

Yeah. Yeah, this came out today. This is new guidance. Well, it’s, it’s sort of been tacit up until now. I’m going to read here from The Hill: “The new guidance aligns COVID recommendations with other respiratory viral illnesses such as flu and RSV. The simplified guidance recommends that even if they don’t know what virus is causing the illness, people should stay home when they’re sick and symptomatic and resume normal activities if their symptoms have been improving and they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without any medication.” So, as predicted for a very long time, they’re treating COVID-19 like the flu. And, you know, as this article says, it’s still an important health threat, the agency said, but it is no longer the emergency it once was. I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there with long COVID who would beg to differ, and a lot of people with who are immunocompromised who are not going to love seeing this change. I do think that some of our behaviors are changed permanently. I still wear a mask every time I get on public transportation, every time I get on a plane. And I don’t know that I’m ever going to stop doing that. But then I get COVID like when someone looks at me wrong, because I think I’ve had it like five times now. You’ve never had it, have you?

Kai Ryssdal 

I had it once for about a day.

Kimberly Adams

Because I usually work through COVID.

Kai Ryssdal

I tested positive with the faintest of possible faint extra lines, went upstairs to my bedroom, sat up there alone for like 36 hours. Then another test, negative. Did another test after that, negative. Went and got a PCR, negative. So, I don’t even know what happened.

Kimberly Adams 

I’ll like, again, look at somebody wrong and end up with these bright purple lines. And I just, I don’t know, my immunity is garbage. But I mean, I feel lucky, knock on wood, that I haven’t had some of the symptoms of long COVID a lot of people are really struggling with. And thank God for you know, health care and everything like that. Very fortunate. But I just wanted to mark this moment, you know. They’re treating COVID like the flu. Here we are.

Kai Ryssdal 

Just be smart out there. Just be smart. Okay, here’s mine. And it’s, you know, Elon Musk has from me on this podcast, gotten his fair share of abuse. But he did something yesterday that I think is really interesting, and probably a good thing. So, Musk and a guy by the name of Sam Altman and one other guy co-founded OpenAI in 2015. Musk basically bankrolled it because he was a gazillionaire. And they agreed, according to legend, and also a court case filed today, that they were going to do it for the benefit of humanity. That’s the quote. Musk, and we all know about OpenAI. We know that Microsoft has invested bajillions of dollars. We know about the whole saga of Sam Altman, and what they’re going to do. Musk yesterday sued open AI saying that they have broken the compact that they had in that founding agreement to make it for the benefit of humanity, and not for the benefit of a single company. Now, Microsoft is into OpenAI to the tune of something like $10 billion. And let’s caveat here that the corporate structure of OpenAI is really complicated. There is a nonprofit on top. And then the for-profit part of OpenAI that actually makes the software that everybody’s going crazy about is a subsidiary of that. It’s a very long and complicated thing to draw out. I actually was at a conference of tax attorneys and nonprofit executives yesterday, and this was one of their big hullabaloo issues is how OpenAI is structured. But the point of me bringing this up is for all of the damage that I think Elon Musk has done, whether it’s Twitter, whether it’s the challenges that he has had running Tesla, and by challenges, I mean, terrible behavior toward employees. He’s a subject of a class action suit now by Black workers at Tesla. He’s been all over the place with employee relations. He’s doing great things at SpaceX, but that’s really Gwynne Shotwell, who’s actually running their company. I think this lawsuit is actually a really good thing. Because maybe, maybe it will result in us thinking more closely about what it is, that OpenAI and all the rest of them are doing. It might not. But somebody had to take a stand and say, you know what? This isn’t what we agreed to eight years ago, and let’s have this discussion, and I think that’s a good thing.

Kimberly Adams 

I don’t trust Elon Musk.

Kai Ryssdal 

No, you shouldn’t trust Elon Musk.

Kimberly Adams 

I don’t trust his motives either. But also, it reminds me of Google’s sort of do no evil. And, it lasts until it doesn’t.

Kai Ryssdal 

Go ahead. Sorry.

Kimberly Adams 

There was a moment when I remember when they tried to fire. Well, they did fire Sam Altman. And there was that whole thing. And we talked about it afterwards. And we’re saying that are we going to look back and say this is the moment when generative AI kind of had this divergent path, where if it had gone one direction, it would have been for the public good and sort of very socially minded and for the benefit of humanity. And if it had gone the other direction, it would have been all about sort of corporate and capitalism and money and just profit seeking. And it went the direction of the ladder. This reminds me of that, and Musk is saying that itself is the violation. But it’s coming from someone who does all the things that he does, so I’m just real sus.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, look. No look, I totally agree. And one is completely right to be skeptical of Musk’s motives, which we can’t possibly know at this moment. Here’s my response to the comparison of Google and “Don’t Be Evil,” right? Because we all saw that back in the day, and we saw what Google has become and what Google has done. And we’re all like, oh, come on, you guys are full of it, right? This though, is if Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the two founders of Google came up with a whole “Don’t Be Evil” thing. What’s happening with OpenAI in this lawsuit now, is if one of those two. If Sergey Brin had left the organization, gone to do something else. And then seen what Larry Page was doing. This is a hypothetical with Google and said, “I’m going to show you because this is not what we agreed upon. You are actually doing evil.” So, it’s one of the founding members, the founding partners, coming back and saying, “wait a minute, let’s think this through.” Look, I’ve been as derogatory about Elon Musk as anybody I can think of, right? He’s just, he’s done so many terrible, terrible things. But this might be a good thing. I don’t know.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah. And you know, this is something we run into all the time. This question of, can we ascribe good things to people who are perceived as inherently bad, right? I get this a lot of times when I try to talk about Trump policies that did good, which there are some. There are some policies that the Trump that happened into the Trump administration that happened only because of former President Trump that did meaningful, good things for people, and some folks just don’t want to hear it. They cannot hear it. And you know, I don’t want to end up in that camp either. So, yeah, boy, lots of stuff today.

Kai Ryssdal 

I think. I think what Kimberly thinks. We should be done with the news, take a break. And then when we come back, Half Full/Half Empty. Here we go.

Kimberly Adams 

Okay, we are back and we’re going to play our very fun game, Half Full/Half Empty hosted by our very fun, Drew Jostad. Drew, take it away.

Drew Jostad 

Oh, that’s so kind of you. All right, Stephanie Hughes talked this week to a theater manager outside of Chicago who’s doing a “Dune”-themed cocktail this weekend. Are you half full or half empty on movie themed drinks?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, that’s not where I thought this was going. Okay.

Kimberly Adams 

I mean, that’s obvious. You know, I love a theme. And for the people who have asked in Discord and the chat about cherry blossoms, yes it’s coming. I am half full on the “Dune”-themed cocktails and movie themed cocktails in general. I’m all for it. Give me a good theme. I will run with it.

Kai Ryssdal 

I am agnostic. I have no strong feelings either way. I don’t generally participate in those themed gatherings. It’s just not my gig. I really thought this was going to be a question about Dune. Are you looking forward to it or not?

Kimberly Adams

Well, are you?

Kai Ryssdal

Well so, this is very interesting. So, my second son who still lives at home until he can figure out how to get down on a house, but that’s a whole different story, is a big Dune guy. Has been all over me about going with him to see Dune Two, which as we know, open today or yesterday, whatever it was.

Kimberly Adams 

Kai, can I pause and just acknowledge how many parents would like, give their left arm to have their child at that age want to go and do something with them. Want to go to the movies with them. So, I need you to like, note that.

Kai Ryssdal 

Okay. Look, I do. And, I actually literally have a speech that I do to various organizations in which the humanizing story at the top is me going to see the Lumineers at the Hollywood Bowl with the same son. But this is not that. And look, I treasure him and I’m so glad he’s in the house. But he’s 22, and it’s time for him to get the hell out of here. And he knows it too, but that’s a whole different story. Anyway, so, he’s big Dune fan, saw Dune One, loved it. I’m like, oh, man, it’s weird. Sand this. What? Worms. Monsters. Also, Timothée Chalamet, way overrated. Give me a break. So, Dune Two comes and is opening. He’s like, “Dad, let’s go see Dune Two.” And I’m like, “No, I’m not going to see Dune Two, Jesus.” So, a week ago, he and my wife sit down to watch Dune One because she’d never seen it either. She’s like, “Oh, I really liked it. And we’re going to go see Dune Two.”

Kimberly Adams 

The new Dune One. Not the original Dune One.

Kai Ryssdal 

No, no, the first version of Denis Villeneuve.

Kimberly Adams 

Okay. Cool. Got it.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah. All right. So, so my wife has seen the first version, the first half of this, you know, Dune thing, which is going to be like a multi-part. Aiden has seen it. And they’re like both we love it. And we’re going to go see Dune Two on Saturday. My daughter’s babysitting. And I’m like, “Oh my God, am I going to be the loser who sits around at home on Saturday because I don’t want to go see this movie.” So I, last night start watching the first half of Dune. I don’t even. It’s like a multi-part, right. And I didn’t hate it. I did hate Timothée Chalamet, but that’s a whole different thing. He’s just so bland. But I didn’t hate the movie. I didn’t hate the movie. I did fall asleep after an hour. But it was 9:45. And I’d been up since four o’clock in the morning, so that’s not unusual. So long story short. Long story short, we’re going to get out of here. I’m going to go see the next hour and a half of that movie. And then tomorrow night, I’m going to go see Dune Two, which is what I thought this question was going to be about. Boy, that’s a long answer. Let’s go next. Jesus. Sorry.

Drew Jostad 

All right. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 200 CEOs stepped down in January. That’s after over 1900 last year. Are you half full or half empty on a CEO great resignation?

Kai Ryssdal 

Change is good. I have no problem with that. Half full.

Kimberly Adams 

Is this half full on it happening or half full on whether it’s a good or bad thing? I’m guessing good or bad thing. Half full also. I agree with Kai. Change is good and hopefully change for the better. I mean, there needed to be a purge, shall we say in a lot of industries.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah. A lot of companies. Totally. Absolutely.

Drew Jostad 

All right. This week, Disney announced a joint venture worth eight and a half billion dollars with Indian company Reliance Industries to bring a streaming service to carry among other things, cricket and Bollywood films. Are you half full or half empty?

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, they’re spending like eight billion dollars. I think I heard that on David’s show this morning on the morning show.

Kimberly Adams 

I mean, look at the size of India. That’s a huge market that’s increasingly coming online and getting better at access to infrastructure and the Internet. More disposable income. If I were Disney, I’d be making that move to if I were smart enough, so half full. I’m, you know, I love a good Bollywood film. Let it give me the drama. Give me the dancing. I’m here for it. Cricket, I don’t understand it.

Drew Jostad 

All right, we got one more.

Kimberly Adams

Okay, so this is the poll.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh my god, I lost track. All right, this is the poll.

Kimberly Adams 

All right, folks in the YouTube chat, get ready to vote. And while you’re there, feel free to give us a little thumbs up, you know, the likes, the follows, all the things. Let’s do it.

Drew Jostad 

Okay. All right. There was a story in The Wall Street Journal this week about people going on vacation not to do Instagrammable adventures, but more just to relax. Are you half full or half empty on the rise of the Do-Nothing Vacation?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, my God, seriously? That’s like, even a question.

Kimberly Adams 

I don’t think it’s a question for you. I think it’s a question for a lot of people. I mean, think about the fact that that when I went to Bhutan. Remember when I went to Bhutan, and I posted the video from the airport, and I was very excited, and then I didn’t post anything else. And you were like, “Where are all the pictures?” And I was just like, just having the trip, you know? Because at first, I was like, I’m going to document this whole thing. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be amazing. And then I was just like, I think I just want to look at the mountains. And you know, run from the overly aggressive cows on the hike and you know, deal with the leech situation, which was real unpleasant, but you know, also beautiful country. Beautiful country. Highly recommend not during leech season ever. That’s some deep trauma. I had many conversations with my therapist about the leeches, it was bad.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, God. I’m so sorry. That sounds horrible.

Kimberly Adams 

I learned on this trip. No, we were in the mountains. And I learned that in tropical areas, leeches can rain from the trees onto you.

Kai Ryssdal

But wait, you were in Bhutan.

Kimberly Adams 

I was. I was. And leeches can rain from the trees and climb up your hiking poles and climb up your pants and do all manner of awful things. Anyway, there were certain things that I didn’t document, but I still had a wonderful trip despite the leeches. And you know, but I did sort of, I’m really torn on sort of the hyper documenting and sharing of images from trips because on the one hand, I don’t want to enjoy my travels to the lens of a camera slash phone. On the other hand, as an older relative pointed out to me, there are a lot of people in my life who will never get to see the places that I see and never get to do the things that I do. And their only chance to really know what that experience is like in a meaningful way is going to be through me. And so, I do try to do a little bit of that, just for those folks who never, are going to be able to see a place like that. They won’t have to deal with the leeches, but they also won’t be able to see the beautiful scenes that I saw. So, I’m kind of half and half. So yeah, we’ve got 196 votes. Let’s go ahead and close the poll. Okay. The question though was on Do-Nothing Vacations, not on documenting the vacations. That was an active vacation, but I’m all for relaxing vacation which runs completely counter to my sister, for example, who wants to like go, go, go, go, go. Do a million activities. And I’m like, I want to go to the spa. I want to sit down. I want to read a book. So, I’m half full on the Do-Nothing Vacation as are 87% of the people in the chat.

Kai Ryssdal 

Totally. I am all the way full on a Do-Nothing Vacation. Oh my god. Give me a book and a beach and whatever. Totally.

Kimberly Adams 

And I’m so sorry that I’ve traumatized everyone in the chat with my leech story.

Kai Ryssdal 

You actually really kind of have.

Kimberly Adams 

Someone says new irrational fear unlocked. Look, I sometimes like, feel on my neck and I’m like, is it still there?

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh, God. Alright, Charlton hit this thing. Jesus, get us out of here. Oh, my God. We’re done. Leeches on the way out. Back on Monday. No leeches on Monday. In the meanwhile, questions, comments. You know how to get them to us. Have you had a leech experience? Tell us. Voicemail it. Email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org. Wow.

Kimberly Adams 

You’re lucky you haven’t heard about it till now, which tells you how long it took me to process this.

Kai Ryssdal 

It’s so weird that you were in Bhutan, and you’re getting leeches.

Kimberly Adams 

Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Today’s episode was engineered by Charlton Thorp, who’s probably like scratching at himself now. Our intern is Thalia Menchaca.

Kai Ryssdal 

The team behind our Friday game, who are right now at this moment questioning their life choices, Emily Macune and Antoinette Brock. Marissa Cabrera is our senior producer. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts. Francesco Levy is the executive director of Digital and On-Demand. I have no idea about the leech experience of any of those people.

Kimberly Adams 

Hopefully, it is zero. Hopefully it is zero leech experience. I’m so sorry, everyone.

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