Monday, July 10th, 2023

1

Use Your Words

If only there were some way to quantify just how much people dislike Elon Musk. Oh, wait, maybe there is. After just a few days, Threads, the Twitter clone that has enticed users disillusioned with the now-soiled original, boasts 100 million users. One lesson here is that people really like communicating in pithy text blurbs (lucky for me, as that's my only real skill). Another lesson is that Facebook might be a lot better at copying other successful products than creating new, cutting edge experiences of their own. The success of the simple and familiar Threads is the obverse of Meta's much grander plans for the Metaverse. Even people who bought NFTs at their peak are shocked by how quickly the Metaverse has been loaded into a Metahearse. Kate Wagner in The Nation: Lessons From the Catastrophic Failure of the Metaverse. "Since the virtual reality service's launch in 2021, the so-called 'successor to the mobile internet' became the recipient of a kind of soaring hype few things are ever blessed with. According to Insider, McKinsey claimed that the Metaverse would bring businesses $5 trillion in value. Citi valued it at no less than $13 trillion. There was only one problem: The whole thing was bullshit. Far from being worth trillions of dollars, the Metaverse turned out to be worth absolutely bupkus. It's not even that the platform lagged behind expectations or was slow to become popular. There wasn't anyone visiting the Metaverse at all. The sheer scale of the hype inflation came to light in May. In the same article, Insider revealed that Decentraland, arguably the largest and most relevant Metaverse platform, had only 38 active daily users." (OK, but in fairness, they were really active.)

+ Interactive chat programs are here to stay and it probably makes sense that after the intense interest in shiny, new AI programs that ChatGPT would see its first-ever user decline in June. But it's worth watching internet citizens move away from ChatGPT and towards yet another simple tool that lets us exchange words with one another. Tech is always innovating and now it's giving us AI and machine automation, but what we're really starving for is the thing tech age has often threatened: good old fashioned basic human connection. Need some? Follow me on Threads. (Or any of the other Twitter clones, I'm on all of them...)

2

Staring into the Freud

"It may be impossible to seriously consider the reality of climate change for longer than ninety seconds without feeling depressed, angry, guilty, grief-stricken, or simply insane." So it makes sense that the topic has become a mainstay of modern therapy sessions. These days, it wouldn't surprise me if psychoanalysts needed a couch for themselves. Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker: What to Do with Climate Emotions. (I usually burn mine in a coal plant or melt them down with a bunch of plastic bottles.) Eventually things will normalize and people will go back to using psychology to complain about their parents ... mostly for destroying the environment.

+ For your next therapy session, you might want to discuss trapped drivers having to swim from their cars during floods in the Northeast or the extreme heat set to smother the South from Arizona to Florida.

+ If you're seeing a behaviorist, they might suggest air travel, where you can experience stress and climate change in realtime. Clear-air turbulence is becoming more frequent and more intense as the atmosphere warms.

3

Thomas The Bank Engine

This is a story about Clarence Thomas and way money influences everything, even the courts. It's also the story of the making of the man. NYT (Gift Article): Where Clarence Thomas Entered an Elite Circle and Opened a Door to the Court. "His friendships forged through Horatio Alger have brought him proximity to a lifestyle of unimaginable material privilege. Over the years, his Horatio Alger friends have welcomed him at their vacation retreats, arranged V.I.P. access to sporting events and invited him to their lavish parties." (Law school is the new business school.)

4

Folding Chairs

"We have 'never seen so many Herman Miller chairs,' he said." Want to get an idea of the scope of empty office space in big cities? Follow the rolling (and often crushed) Aeron chairs. NYT (Gift Article): Where Does New York City Office Furniture Go When No One Wants It?

5

Extra, Extra

Lead Zeppelin: "Around the country, utilities have been leaving lead pipe in the ground even when it is easiest to remove during water main work. Worse, they have been removing sections, disturbing the pipe and leaving the rest, which can spike lead levels, causing harm that will last a lifetime." Decades after the dangers of lead became clear, some cities are leaving lead pipe in the ground.

+ Injunction Dysfunction: "After companies and the federal government spent years expanding efforts to combat online falsehoods in the wake of Russian interference on the platforms during the 2016 election, the ruling is just the latest sign of the pendulum swinging in the other direction. Tech companies are gutting their content moderation staffs, researchers are pulling back from studying disinformation and key government communications with Silicon Valley are on pause amid unprecedented political scrutiny." WaPo (Gift Article): Social media injunction unravels plans to protect 2024 elections.

+ Nassar Stabbed: "Larry Nassar, the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused girls for decades, was stabbed 10 times in prison."

+ Meeting Notes: Putin meets Prigozhin: Getting to grips with latest twist in Wagner saga. "Yet another twist and turn in a story that's already surpassed Dostoyevsky for levels of surprise and mystery." (Between the two, we've had plenty of crime but not nearly enough punishment.)

+ Tom Foolery: "A lone Senate Republican's bid to reverse a Pentagon policy ensuring abortion access for service members is delaying the smooth transfer of power at the highest echelons of the armed forces, including in the ranks of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." Tuberville Blockade Over Abortion Policy Threatens Top Military Promotions.

+ Joke Theft: "The lawsuits allege the companies trained their AI models on their works without their consent." Sarah Silverman is suing OpenAI and Meta for copyright infringement. Plus, authors sue OpenAI, allege their books were used to train ChatGPT without their consent.

+ I'll Drink to That: Kansas City TE Travis Kelce shows guts by doing Bud Light ad.

6

Bottom of the News

"Phil Stringer lived both a traveler's nightmare and dream come true all in one day recently when he waited out an 18-hour flight delay to find himself the only passenger on the plane." This is a pretty amazing story with a positive conclusion. But that only came after the airline also lost Stringer's baggage. He had a plane to himself after an 18-hour delay. What happened next was a wild ride.

+ Can a thumbs-up emoji seal a contract? A Canadian judge rules 👍