Dall-E Mini, the AI-powered text-to-image generator has taken over the internet. With its ability to render nearly anything your meme-loving heart desires, anyone can make their dreams come true.
DALL-E 2, a portmanteau of Salvador Dali, the surrealist and Wall-E, the Pixar robot, was created by OpenAI and is not widely available; it creates far cleaner imagery and was recently used to launch Cosmpolitan’s first AI-generated cover. The art world has been one of the first industries to truly embrace AI.
The open-sourced miniature version is what’s responsible for the memes. Programmer Boris Dayma wants to make AI more accessible; he built the Dall-E Mini program as part of a competition held by Google and an AI community called Hugging Face.
And with great technology, comes great memes. Typing a short phrase into Dall-E Mini will manifest 9 different amalgamations, theoretically shaping into reality the strange images you’ve conjured. Its popularity leads to too much traffic, often resulting in an error that can be fixed by refreshing the page or trying again later.
If you want to be a part of the creation of AI-powered engines, it all starts with code. CodeAcademy explains that Dall-E Mini is a seq2seq model, “typically used in natural language processing (NLP) for things like translation and conversational modeling.” CodeAcademy’s Text Generation course will teach you how to utilize seq2seq, but they also offer opportunities to learn 14+ coding languages at your own pace.
You can choose the Machine Learning Specialist career path if you want to become a Data Scientist who develops these types of programs, but you can also choose courses by language, subject (what is cybersecurity?) or even skill - build a website with HTML, CSS, and more.
CodeAcademy offers many classes for free as well as a free trial; it’s an invaluable resource for giving people of all experience levels the fundamentals they need to build the world they want to see.
As for Dall-E Mini, while some have opted to create beauty, most have opted for memes. Here are some of the internet’s favorites:
no fuck every other dall-e image ive made this one is the best yet pic.twitter.com/iuFNm4UTUM
— bri (@takoyamas) June 10, 2022
There’s no looking back now, not once you’ve seen Pugachu; artificial intelligence is here to stay.
It’s Like, Really Bad
The second most crippling financial burden of the Millennial generation (and Generation X and Generation Z…) is student debt. Second only to mortgage debt, it’s higher than both credit card debt and auto loans.In 2010, student debt hovered at around $830 billion, but as of May 2022, the country stands at a whopping $1.7 trillion in debt.
According to original reports by the Education Data Initiative, the average public university student borrows $30,030 to obtain a bachelor’s degree, private, non-profit university attendees borrow $33,900 and private, for-profit students borrow $43,900.
In the media’s reporting on student loans, there is one statistic that often gets left out; the interest rate. In June 2022, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage, the most popular type of loan was 5.72%, a record high since 2009.
The average rate on federal fixed-rate student loans in May of 2022 was 6.42%; not a record high. (Note: This author is a college graduate from the class of 2014 with federal student loans given at a fixed-interest rate of nearly 9%; anecdotally, the highest I’ve heard is 12%, but feel free to add your numbers to the comments.)
Users on social media are sharing their stories, urging students not to make the same mistakes. @baddie.brad voices a common frustration about the insanity of the interest amounts.
A mortgage provides shelter, plus the act of buying property is generally considered a solid investment (save for a few significant periods in economic history). But now that bachelor’s degrees don’t guarantee high-paying jobs, higher education in America is no longer a solid investment.
The Cry To Cancel It All
The idea to scrap it all originated with online support by Robert Applebaum, a lawyer who graduated from Fordham Law School in 1998 with about $65,000 in debt, and his 2009 petition.
In Facebook’s heyday, Applebaum posted a proposal for debt forgiveness on his account, citing how its impact would significantly benefit the economy if former students had several hundred more dollars a month to spend. The post gained over 300,000 likes on Facebook, and it spurred him to create ForgiveStudentLoanDebt.com.
“Your student loans are with you for life — both federal and private loans,” he said. “There is no recourse for student loan borrowers if they run into trouble. The only recourse they have is to put the loans into forbearance, like I had to do, or economic deferment.”
The idea snowballed into one of the official goals of the Fall 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement. Protestors occupied Zuccotti Park, located in Manhattan’s financial district, to challenge the economic inequality of the Great Recession, corporate influence in politics, and the government financial bailouts. The slogan, “We are the 99%,” calling out how 1% of the country owns most of the wealth, exemplified two out of three Americans’ discontent with the income gap.
Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders adopted the slogan into his campaign for President, along with a strong push for debt cancellation.
As of 2020, “at least one in four student loan borrowers are delinquent, in default, or otherwise unable to pay their loans due to low income or economic hardship.”
In 2020, the push for cancellation began to reach Democratic moderates, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sending out the Tweet: #CancelStudentDebt.
Today, some form of canceling student debt is supported by 59% of senators, including 53% of Republicans, making the move a rare example of bipartisan support.
President Biden’s Promise To Cancel Student Debt
One of the most politically progressive elements of President Biden’s election campaign was the promise to cancel student debt…but did he really promise it?
Pitted against more progressive Democratic incumbents Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden adopted some cancellation of debt, but never explicitly promised to cancel it all.
On November 16, 2020 Biden said in a speech that forgiving $10,000 in student debt "should be done immediately."
But as for who will be doing the canceling and who will actually be forgiven, he has gone on record saying that he is open to canceling $10,000 per person making under $150,000 per year. Sure, any cancellation would be nice, but 45 million people have student loans; assuming they all make under $150k — which they don’t — that would be a cancellation of $450 billion, bringing the national student debt down to a still-whopping 1.25 trillion.
Although more than half of those 45 million people have more than $20,000 in student loans, they are often the least likely to be making consistent payments; 40% of student loan borrowers did not finish their degree.
Those with the highest loan payments often carry higher education loads, like medical school, and are thought to have an easier time paying back loans, thanks to generally higher income. However, that’s not always the case. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez points out that it’s particularly cruel that the $150k income cap would exclude so many of the pandemic’s front-line healthcare workers.
So how close are we to getting a crumb of debt cancellation?
As of today, the Biden-Harris administration lists 7 top priorities: Covid-19, Climate, Racial Equity, Economy, Healthcare, Immigration, and Restoring America’s Global Standing. Although forgiving student loan debt would impact many of these matters, the issue is notably absent from this list, despite its enthusiasm on the campaign trail.
In mid-May, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and Raphael Warnock met with President Biden to push for $50,000 in relief per borrower - that would wipe the debt of 72% of borrowers, as opposed to the $10k plan’s total erasure for about 33% of borrowers.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has been a consistent supporter of debt forgiveness and has claimed President Biden could do it as early as tomorrow. Getting Congressional approval is not necessary; he could sign it away in an executive action if he so chose.
Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray more recently announced concrete plans to revamp student-loan servicing in the coming year.
Regarding the six different student-loan companies handling federal loans, he said the "disjointed servicing system is often confusing for borrowers and, frankly, the quality of work has not always met our standards." Current loan servicing contracts are set to expire in December 2023, but students with loans are not interested in more convenient options for repayment; they don’t want to repay it at all.
The Pandemic Pause
Beginning on the unofficial ‘day the world shut down,’ March 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education enacted a moratorium on student loans. Loan payments were suspended, the interest rate dropped to 0%, and there were no collections on defaulted loans.
That hold has now been extended 7 different times. The most recent freeze is currently in effect until August 31, 2022, just two months before midterm elections.
The two-year pause is arguably the best case for debt forgiveness, especially as the U.S. is likely heading into a recession. To restart student loan payments in a time of layoffs would be particularly vicious for 45 million Americans.
Is A College Education Even Worth It?
Women make up about 60% of the university population and The American Association of University Women reports that women hold nearly two-thirds of all student loan debt; Black women hold a disproportionately large amount of that debt. Between the gender pay gap and the racial pay gap, it can be particularly challenging to repay those loans.
Historically, when an occupation becomes female-dominated, pay decreases. So now that the college-educated class is predominantly women, what does that say about the perceived value of an education?
I graduated high school in 2010 with mostly A’s; I was not presented any options besides a 4-year college education. Community college was stigmatized by the media, my parents, and their peers, and trade schools were never mentioned because of my high grades.
It’s been common knowledge for many years that a bachelor’s degree guarantees a “good” job; my first job out of college was bartending. So was my second.
Having a bachelor’s degree did eventually open doors for me, but how many open jobs currently hiring on Indeed require a bachelor’s degree when an onboarding process could teach a new employee everything they need to know to perform their job?
College brochures with sprawling campuses illuminated by fall leaves promise friendship, academic rigor, exciting activities, and high quality of life. They may hold up famous alumni as beacons or boast statistics about job placements, but the old adage ‘it’s who you know’ is still king.
At least 70% of students graduate with debt. As debt rises, that return on investment becomes lower and lower. To escape the madness, a 2019 survey concluded that 86% of young Americans wanted to become an influencer.
Even rockstars sometimes go to music school; it’s no surprise that the influencer life — building a likable personality and recommending products — is one that requires no education; no threat of debt hanging overhead in their prime years for buying property and growing families, or even for the rest of their lives.
Debt collectors often prey on creditors' ignorance.
Debt collection is a whopping $11.5 billion industry, and around 28% of Americans currently owe money and are being sought out by a third party debt collection agency, according to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP).
Debt collectors often prey on creditors' ignorance. In 2018 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned 32 companies and individuals from ever working in debt collection again for malpractice. The best course of action when you first become late on a payment is to make sure you know the laws and your rights when it comes to handling debt collection.
A debt collection agency is a separate third party from the original creditor to whom you owe money. At some point of time (usually no sooner than 90 days), creditors often turn over unpaid loans to the debt collector to pursue the customer in an attempt to receive payments. Debt collection agencies often buy out a portion of the unpaid loan from the creditor, or they may receive a percentage of the money if and when it is paid.
Debt collection is a civil, not criminal matter. This means the police will not get involved, and you will not go to jail for failure to pay on loans.
What to Do First When Contacted by a Debt Collector?
First, get the information validated with the collector in writing and make sure it is something you truly owe. Also verify that it is for the correct amount (take note that sometimes debt collectors offer a discounted payment if you pay in full).
The majority of debt collection agencies have an agent reach out by phone for the first contact, even before mail. No matter what, make sure not to say anything that can be considered an admission to owning the debt during this call.
Do not give out any personal info—they will ask for it, but you don't have to answer their questions.
Get as much information from the caller as you can, including their name, the agency they work for, their address, and phone numbers they can be reached at.
Always ask the caller to send you a written statement regarding what they say you owe. If they ask for your address, do not give it out. A genuine debt collector would already have that info. By law, the debt collector is required to send this written notice within 5 days of contacting the debtor.
Keep a log of every call you receive along with any documentation from debt collectors, and be sure to include the date, time, and any pertinent information from the call for your protection.
Know Your Rights
Consumer debt collection agencies have been known to be aggressive to get their "sale," but laws protect the rights of consumers in regards to debt collection.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) governs the behaviors and actions of third-party debt collectors attempting to collect payments on behalf of a creditor. Under this law, debt collectors are in violation of law if they do any of the following:
- Debt collectors are limited in the hours they can reach out to the debtor. They cannot call you before 8 a.m or after 9 p.m unless an arrangement has been made with the debtor.
- Initially, debt collectors can attempt to make contact with a debtor through their place of employment. However, either a verbal or written statement telling the collector to stop contacting you at work barres the debt collector from reaching out to you through your place of employment again.
- You can also request the collector stop calling your personal phone. This must be submitted in a written request to be upheld. (Tip: send this request by certified mail).
- Debt collectors are allowed to reach out to known contacts of the debtor to try and obtain their contact information. However, it's wise to note that legally they cannot discuss what they need the information for or even the fact that they are a debt collector. Additionally, debt collectors are only allowed to reach out to third-parties as such one time each.
- Debt collectors are prohibited from using any means of harassment to collect on a bill. They can not make any threats such as arrest or bodily harm, and they also are barred from using obscene language.
- Debt collectors cannot threaten to garnish wages without the presence of an active judgement (court order) against you. Likewise, they cannot threaten to sue you without the intent and therefore proof to go through with it.
Statute of Limitations
Under state laws governing statute of limitations, creditors and debt collectors have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit to recover a debt.
In most states, debt collectors can still attempt to collect on a debt after the statute of limitations; however, they have no legal recourse to sue you.
It is important to note that the court doesn't keep track of statute of limitations. This means that a debt collector may still attempt to sue you after the statute of limitations expires. If a debt collector attempts to sue after the statue of limitations expires, it is your responsibility to know and provide this information to the court.
The time period for statue of limitations varies by state. Typically most states range from three to five years, but some go as high as ten or fifteen. This differs entirely from the timeline that a collections bill stays on your credit report, which is typically seven years.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sample letters for use when corresponding with debt collectors, which you can find here.
For specific laws in your state, contract your Attorney General's office. If you believe a debt collector has either violated laws or made false claims against you, you can file a complaint with the CFPB, FTC, and the Better Business Bureau.
With consumer debt hovering around $14 trillion, more of your peers are in debt than you probably think.
Outrageous medical bills, soaring college loans, and all the other emergencies in life can contribute to mounting credit card debt. That's why more Americans every day are looking to Consolidated Credit, a non-profit organization that helps pull people out of debt.
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