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Week 42

October 2022

AT A GLANCE

  • The Week that Was: the dark side of open source, Mark Zuckerberg’s newest attempt to make Meta happen, and crypto potentially going mainstream..but at what cost?
  • The Business End: A live demonstration of what happens when a ‘super app’ goes down, Nintendo briefly becomes Pornhub, and jellyfish on the menu.
  • Rules of Engagement: Republicans getting mad about being in the spam folder, Local man burns down art collection, and crazy talk stops being cheap.

OPEN-SOURCE SORES

Open source is like a door. It’s open until someone closes it. Who gets locked in? Who gets locked out? Who gets to decide? The big algorithmically generated elephant in the room right now is how popular services like AI image generation and GitHub’s Copilot are trained. These algorithms are trained via publicly accessible content without the original creators knowing or consenting. In some cases, works can be taken before their creator has even finished them. If AI content generation tools are to live up to their overwhelming potential for good, a reckoning with their potential for harm seems all but inevitable. And this reckoning seems likely to start in Microsoft’s walled garden first. LINK

ZUCK'S QUEST

The $1500 Quest Pro opened for pre-orders last week with delivery expected around October 25th. Mark Zuckerberg gave an extended interview as part of the marketing push for the device. There’s a lot to unpack here. Meta’s core vision is still very promising. The technical capabilities and build quality of the latest headset are nothing to sneeze at either. However, its severe price hike in our current financial climate is not going down well. Facebook’s flagship Metaverse software Horizon Worlds also has yet to inspire confidence in anyone. This raises the question of whether Zuckerberg himself might be hedging his bets by also including a robust Augmented Reality (AR) feature set in the Quest Pro. LINK

CRYPTOWNERSHIP

In what some might consider a case of the (bored) monkey's paw curling, we appear to be seeing one of the most prominent instances yet of cryptocurrency’s potential breakthrough into the mainstream. Debit and credit card provider Mastercard is launching a crypto trading framework that includes an AI powered system it hopes will help stamp out crypto crime. At the same time, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation (SEC) is investigating Yuga Labs, the makers of the world’s most popular Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s), the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Both actions are shots across the yacht’s bow regarding who gets to regulate/control crypto. It seems likely that mainstream popularity will lead to mainstream control. LINK

KAKAOTAGE

Super apps allow users to access multiple different goods and services via a single interface. The goods and services don’t need to be related to one another. Super apps are particularly popular in Asia. This week a fire knocked the services of South-Korean company Kakao offline…almost all of them…at once. Some people joked that the country would shut down as a result of Kakao’s services being disrupted. Policy makers weren’t laughing as they were forced to contend with just how severely impacted public life actually was by the technical issues of a single company. The Kakao outage was a stark reminder of what a double-edged sword super apps are. They are amazingly convenient and profitable, but also represent potentially catastrophic singular points of failure. LINK

NINTENDO GETS SPLATTERED

Nintendo’s popular paint-based shooter Splatoon 3 is all about splattering other players with your fluids. Does that sound like an inuendo, some inventive Japanese streamers certainly seemed to think so. They decided they’d splatter porn all over Splatoon 3. Apparently it was possible to set the paint (technically ink) transparency to zero, and to then show porn videos underneath. Though Nintendo swiftly came down on them with the force of the Majora’s Mask moon, you have to admire the streamer’s ingenuity. I could totally see advertisers using the basic principles behind this stunt to advertise with if Splatoon 3 ever becomes an esport. LINK

SERIOUS JELLY BUSINESS

As the oceans continue to heat up and become more acidic, fish will continue to die off in droves. Jellyfish flourish in these circumstances though and are expected to take over. Considering how many people depend on seafood as part of their diet, it makes business sense for cooks to start experimenting with the integration of Jellyfish into menus, even if normal consumption is still illegal in the EU. This is exactly what’s happening in Italy of all places, which is notable because of how strictly Italian chefs generally stick to culinary tradition. Jellyfish have already been on the menu for a long time in Asia, so it’s not like they’re inedible. I’m very curious about the results these latest culinary experiments will yield. LINK

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

As the US midterms draw ever closer, Republican fundraising emails being flagged as spam is a hot button issue. Some are taking this as proof that big tech is discriminating against conservatives, despite evidence to the contrary. Google’s controversial decision to allow political messaging from verified senders to bypass Gmail spam filters was intended to rid it of these accusations. Yet the Republican party, at time of newsletter publication, has made no moves try and use this backdoor. The way some legal firms and scholars also appear to be interpreting this is that the sheer volume, supposedly threatening tone, and misleading subject lines of Republican messaging might be the real problem. LINK

HOT COMMODITIES

In newsletter #4 I ran an item about a Mexican man that claimed to have burned an original drawing of artist Frieda Kahlo with the intent of making the NFT’s based on it rarer. I raised the question about whether this might be the start of a new means of employing artificial scarcity as a sales tactic. It now seems like I might have gotten my answer from Damien Hirst, perhaps in response to his reading of this very newsletter. Who knows. The destruction of physical art to excite investors about virtual copies is a logical, and worrying, progression of the ‘art as asset’ mindset. To understand the potential ways in which this new phenomenon might progress, it is worth looking at the way Hirst has historically conducted his business, and how this new stunt fits into it. LINK

BREAKING (FAKE) NEWS

Alex Jones, a highly controversial alt-right content creator has been fined over $1 billion dollars after a long legal battle. The battle was about his claims that the infamous Sandy Hook elementary school massacre of 2012 was staged. This landmark case is part of broader re-negotiation of the limits of free speech in American society. The unprecedented fine not only sends a message to those aspiring to be the next Alex Jones, but it may also have further implications for the social media companies who initially allowed Jones to rise to prominence. Specifically, some are wondering whether this trial could affect Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This is the shield that protects social media platforms from accountability for the actions and expressions of people such as Jones. LINK


Brain Train Gains LINK
The Demon Wall LINK
Do the Robot LINK
Ancient tech LINK
Robot Jellyfish LINK
Cloud only? LINK
Horse Armour LINK
Military HUD’s LINK
Firefighter HUD’s LINK
Relationship Stress LINK
Steve Jobot LINK
Mind Reader LINK
 

ONE MORE THING
I saw a hedgehog in my garden this week! They’re so cute, I aways get the urge to pick them up and hug them whenever I see one. I think we all know why this desire is best left unfulfilled though. I also got some cool feedback about people wanting an intro that would give them a quick overview of what to expect from the newsletter. I liked that idea so here we are. I’ve decided to call this new section ‘at a glance.’ I’m going to be experimenting with this for a bit to see what works best, let me know what you think.
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