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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

The Phoebus cartel engineered a shorter-lived lightbulb and gave birth to planned obsolescence

12 min read
Illustration of light bulb
Photo-illustration: Gluekit

article opening artPhoto-illustration: Gluekit; Lightbulb: Fin Stewart

On 23 December 1924, a group of leading international businessmen gathered in Geneva for a meeting that would alter the world for decades to come. Present were top representatives from all the major lightbulb manufacturers, including Germany’s Osram, the Netherlands’ Philips, France’s Compagnie des Lampes, and the United States’ General Electric. As revelers hung Christmas lights elsewhere in the city, the group founded the Phoebus cartel, a supervisory body that would carve up the worldwide incandescent lightbulb market, with each national and regional zone assigned its own manufacturers and production quotas. It was the first cartel in history to enjoy a truly global reach.

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Deepfakes Are Becoming a Cottage Industry

But it might be time for “deepfake” to die.

4 min read
A gallery of avatars created by Synthesia.

Synthesia offers over 85 avatars that let users create videos without a presenter.


In December, as many prepared to take off for a winter vacation, the creators of South Park announced $20 million dollars of new funding for the duo’s deepfake studio, Deep Voodoo. The company’s press release says the funds will help it offer “unrivaled face-swapping visual effects to artists, producers, and creators around the world.”

Deep Voodoo’s Hollywood connections make it particularly alluring, but it’s far from alone. Dozens of startups now offer services based on deepfake technology. The largest of these, London-based, raised $50 million in 2021 and employs over 100. And this is likely just the start of the trend.

“I think it’s fair to say that as technology gets better and more widely available, more and more people are starting to see the potential in deepfakes. […] The only thing that might slow this growth down is the lack of clear regulations and guidelines for how deepfakes should be used,” says Dmitry Shironosov, CEO of Everypixel Labs.

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