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Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
#1 U.K. Considers Blocking Nvidia Takeover of Arm Over Security
In April, U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden asked the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to prepare a report on whether the deal could be deemed anti-competitive, along with a summary of any national security concerns raised by third parties.
The assessment, delivered in late July, contains worrying implications for national security and the U.K. is currently inclined to reject the takeover, a person familiar with government discussions said. The U.K. is likely to conduct a deeper review into the merger due to national security issues, a separate person said.Source: Bloomberg
The digital realm is the new frontier where new nations are built and old ones may break. And the gate between the physical world and digital world rests on the shoulders of electronic devices (like smartphones) and semiconductors.
Everyone needs to control semiconductors but the way economies of scales works and the compounding of knowledge works ensures that semiconductors will increasingly be controlled by fewer and fewer hands. Nations are increasingly viewing the control of semiconductors like the control of oil and currency over the last 300 years.
For ARM and Nvidia, specifically, it’s not clear why having ARM controlled by a Japanese financial investor (Softbank) is any better from a national security perspective vs controlled by Nvidia, a US-based important semiconductor innovator.
#2 Didi Weighs Giving Up Data Control to Appease Beijing
The ride-hailing giant has put forth a number of proposals to appease the powerful internet industry overseer, including ceding management of its data to a private third party, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about internal deliberations. Regulators have signaled a preference for that third party to be state-controlled, one of the people said.
Didi is fighting to ensure its survival after forging ahead with its American float despite objections from officials worried that a foreign listing could leak data and undermine national security. Regulators regarded its decision to go public despite pushback from the Cyberspace Administration of China as a challenge to Beijing’s authority.
Didi’s listing in the U.S. came just as Xi is looking for ways to control the vast reams of data held by tech giants, in part to ensure the Communist Party spreads the wealth beyond a small circle of billionaires. Regulators are waking to the threat posed by private companies. In 2017, the government passed laws that required foreign companies like Apple Inc. or Amazon.com Inc. to store Chinese data within the country, while forcing them to secure local partners to manage that hoard of information via local datacenters. Didi may be contemplating a similar model, the people said.Source: Bloomberg
Like semiconductors, data is the new oil. Data arguably has declining value for companies, but for national affairs, long-term data could have greater value and implications than for companies. This gets tricky…companies obviously won’t spend a lot of effort protecting data if it’s not that valuable. For example, Didi probably doesn’t get much value know which addresses you visited on a specific date 5 years ago. But for national intelligence, that could be immensely important data.
The battle between data ownership and intelligence will like take years to settle.
#3 China watches Afghanistan anxiously as the US withdraws
It is not without reason that Afghanistan is known as the “graveyard of empires”. The ancient Greeks, the Mongols, the Mughals, the British, the Soviet Union and most recently the US have all launched vainglorious invasions that saw their ambitions and the blood of their soldiers drain into the sand.
But after each imperial retreat, a new tournament of shadows begins. With the US pulling out of Afghanistan, China is casting an anxious gaze towards its western frontier and pursuing talks with an ascendant Taliban, the Islamist movement that was removed from power in 2001.
The burning questions are not only whether the Taliban can fill the power vacuum created by the US withdrawal but also whether China — despite its longstanding policy of “non-interference” — may become the next superpower to try to write a chapter in Afghanistan’s history.
Beijing has held talks with the Taliban and although details of the discussions have been kept secret, government officials, diplomats and analysts from Afghanistan, India, China and the US said that crucial aspects of a broad strategy were taking shape.Source: FT
While the digital realm is becoming more important, the real world remains a complex mess. American retreat is going to throw the “old world” into a lot of chaos. US no longer relies on Middle East oil (US is now the largest oil producing nation in the world and exports a fair amount of oil), but most other countries will continue to rely on an increasingly fragile Middle East. Even if not for oil, it’s right in the middle of the “old world”. The terrorism and refugees it generations is sure to be disruptive for everyone, including China.
🤑 Economics + Markets
#4 Americans Are Willing to Take Pay Cuts to Never Go Into the Office Again
After more than a year of full or partial remote work in many white-collar industries, employers are trying to get workers back to the office, even as the delta coronavirus variant takes hold across the U.S. To entice workers back, some companies are holding back-to-work parties and dishing out prizes, providing free lunch or child care, or even offering yoga classes.
Some workers aren’t too fond of the prospect — whether they are concerned about their health, have domestic responsibilities that keep them home or simply don’t want to return to an unwelcome commute.
An online survey commissioned by Breeze, an insurance company, found that 65% of American workers who said their jobs could be done entirely remotely were willing to take a pay cut of 5% — which could represent several years of annual raises — to stay at home.Source: Bloomberg
Probably a good quality-of-life improvement if it sticks. But this could also encourage companies to increasingly consider foreign remote workers (like Indian coders). After all, if the worker is going to be fully remote anyway, an Indian worker is probably 50%+ cheaper whereas Americans are only willing to take <20% less pay.
#5 Chinese newspaper publishes, and then deletes, report that called video gaming ‘spiritual opium’, hitting Tencent stocks
A report against video gaming by a newspaper managed by the Xinhua News Agency was deleted from the publication’s website and on its WeChat account at noon on Tuesday, a move that one regulatory source said was made because its attack against the industry does not represent Beijing’s official stance.
The piece, published in the investigation section of the Economic Information Daily, described video gaming as a “spiritual opium” that is harming the country’s teenagers and singled out Tencent Holdings as a source of the problem. Tencent runs the world’s largest video games business by revenue and operates China’s multipurpose super app WeChat.Source: SCMP
Games can help people learn, but can also be a major productivity destroyer. “Spiritual opium” seems like an apt description.
💬 Media + Games
#6 Louis Vuitton is the latest luxury brand to make its own video game
A big challenge for a company that’s been around as long as Louis Vuitton—founded by its namesake in Paris in 1854 and today the biggest brand in luxury group LVMH—is that it needs to keep introducing itself to new generations. If it wants to stick around another 150 years, it needs to build relationships with the young shoppers who will grow into future customers, and not just focus on its current clients.
One solution is to meet them where they live, which for a lot of young consumers today means in video games.
To celebrate the 200th birthday of Louis Vuitton, born in the small hamlet of Anchay in eastern France on Aug. 4, 1821, the company has released “Louis The Game,” a video game for iOS and Android. You play as Vivienne, a mascot the company created from its recognizable monogram, and traverse a whimsical landscape on the way to a birthday celebration, all the while collecting items such as candles that unlock postcards.
These postcards reveal anecdotes and information including the details of young Louis’s initial journey to Paris on foot at age 14, Vuitton family history, trivia about the company’s innovations, and highlights from its modern runway shows and collaborations. Playing the game, it quickly becomes clear that it’s communicating a message about Louis Vuitton’s heritage, craftsmanship, and creativity to an audience that might not be too familiar with the company, or might otherwise not be listening.Source: Quartz
Media, culture, games, and society are all converging. What used to matter are things. What matters to people now are experiences. This includes walking into the beautifully designed Louis Vuitton stores and being pampered, indulged, delighted, and…surprised. But the most flexible way to create delightful experiences are increasingly through digital means and through games. In the digital world, you are not constrained by physics and physical reality. Only in digital space can the true form of the imagination can take flight.
And…you can earn some NFTs! Fitting for an industry that has prided itself on exclusivity, but doesn’t sound like these NFTs are one-of-kind since many players can get them:
And of course a game isn’t fun without rewards. Louis Vuitton noted in a press release that players can collect 30 NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are blockchain-backed digital assets, including 10 by Beeple, the artist whose digital collage sold as an NFT at a Christie’s auction this year for $69.3 million.
#7 Three Ways Brands Are Tapping China’s Digitally Native Luxury Shoppers
Chinese shoppers are no stranger to inventive digital marketing tactics. Brands are leaning into digital livestreaming and have experimented with events like treasure hunts that merge digital and physical experiences to reach the all-important cohort of digitally savvy consumers.
Often, China serves as the testing ground for digital marketing tactics that later become mainstream globally.
To be sure, tried and true digital strategies (like tapping key opinion leaders (KOLs), banner and feed ad campaigns and livestreams) haven’t lost relevance. However, drivers like the pandemic, ongoing digitisation and the online gaming boom have unlocked new and inventive marketing channels that brands including Burberry, Swarovski and Louis Vuitton are already experimenting with.
Features like virtual fashion for digital avatars, fashion-forward skins for popular games and branded red packets are emerging ways brands are seeking to reach China’s crucial younger consumer. But do these strategies drive sales, and will they outlast the pandemic?
Even Alibaba is trying to turn itself into a game:
Retail giant Alibaba launched a new function for its e-commerce marketplace Taobao’s digital avatar feature in May to coincide with China’s Valentine’s Day. The company worked with the likes of Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and Marni to fashion virtual outfits; users could dress their Taobao avatars in the pieces, play as their avatars in the online game, Taobao Life, and take photos with their partners’ avatars for social media.
Netizens can choose to buy corresponding limited-edition pieces in real life through Alibaba’s Tmall platform, and Taobao Life players got exclusive discounts on the products.Source: Business of Fashion
#8 Netflix’s Film Chief Scott Stuber Is Shaking Up Hollywood: ‘The Movie Business Is in a Revolution’
How things have changed. In four short years, Netflix has done more to reshape the way that movies are made, distributed and consumed than perhaps any other single company in the history of the film business. Through it all, it has fallen to Stuber to convince A-list moviemakers to exchange box office bragging rights for the pleasures of the Netflix “top 10.”
And as much as Netflix has poked, prodded and willed this new world order into being, it also benefited from being the first entrant in the increasingly crowded streaming space, as well as from a global pandemic that shattered the theatrical paradigm. Like it or not, and many cinema purists decidedly do not, we are living in an entertainment landscape that Netflix and Stuber have seeded. It’s one in which media conglomerates and tech titans are focused on building the best subscription streaming service, spending enormous sums of money to create can’t-miss content that people can binge from the comfort of home.
At Netflix, Stuber has taken the shell of a studio he inherited and expanded it into a global distribution powerhouse. The year before he accepted the job, the company had released 21 original films. Its highest-profile movie had been “Beasts of No Nation,” a child-soldier drama that earned a grand total of zero Oscar nominations. This year, Netflix will release more than 70 films, amounting to at least one new movie every week. Critics say that quantity does not always equate with quality. And yet Netflix also topped all other entertainment companies to score the most Academy Award nods in both 2020 and 2021, though a best picture prize remains stubbornly elusive.Source: Variety
Interesting profile of Netflix’s film chief.
#9 Oculus’ Passthrough API will enable experiences that mix VR and the real world
Facebook announced a new API that will let developers incorporate video from the Quest 2’s sensors into their games and applications, creating a mixed reality experience. With the Passthrough API, developers will not only be able to mix the black-and-white images from the headset’s sensors into their experiences, but they’ll also be able to customize how it ends up looking to the player, apply effects, and even have the real world show up on specific surfaces.
The ability to integrate your real environment into a virtual world has long been one of the more exciting promises of headsets with integrated cameras. Microsoft even invoked the idea when it named its VR platform Windows Mixed Reality (regardless of how much that’s actually been delivered on).Source: The Verge
#10 Square, Inc. Announces Plans to Acquire Afterpay, Strengthening and Enabling Further Integration Between its Seller and Cash App Ecosystems
Square, Inc. (NYSE: SQ) and Afterpay Limited (ASX: APT) today announced that they have entered into a Scheme Implementation Deed under which Square has agreed to acquire all of the issued shares in Afterpay by way of a recommended court-approved Scheme of Arrangement. The transaction has an implied value of approximately US$29 billion (A$39 billion) based on the closing price of Square common stock on July 30, 2021, and is expected to be paid in all stock. The acquisition aims to enable the companies to better deliver compelling financial products and services that expand access to more consumers and drive incremental revenue for merchants of all sizes. The closing of the transaction is expected in the first quarter of calendar year 2022, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions outlined below.
Afterpay, the pioneering global ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) platform, will accelerate Square’s strategic priorities for its Seller and Cash App ecosystems. Square plans to integrate Afterpay into its existing Seller and Cash App business units, enable even the smallest of merchants to offer BNPL at checkout, give Afterpay consumers the ability to manage their installment payments directly in Cash App, and give Cash App customers the ability to discover merchants and BNPL offers directly within the app.
“Buy now, pay later has been a powerful growth tool for sellers globally,” said Alyssa Henry, Lead of Square’s Seller business. “We are thrilled to not only add this product to our Seller ecosystem, but to do it with a trusted and innovative team.”Source: Square
Square made a very large and transformative acquisition – Afterpay. While most people tend to think of BNPL as all the same, Afterpay has created a fairly unique brand of BNPL. Afterpay charges the merchant without charging consumers whereas most other BNPL charge the consumers some interest. As a result, Afterpay’s BNPL product is materially more attractive to consumers.
From that entry point, Afterpay has taken their BNPL product and turned it into a high frequency consumer app that now also offers e-commerce as well as banking. All of these things will be useful in helping Square bridge the Seller and Cash App ecosystems they have developed.
These slides from the deck are helpful:
#11 How Shein Became the Chinese Apparel Maker American Teens Love
In the span of a few years, Chinese fast-fashion firm Shein, pronounced She-in, has developed a loyal following among American teens and 20-somethings with low prices, an ever-changing inventory, and partnerships with Instagram influencers and celebrities like Katy Perry and Lil Nas X.
“I would say 90% of my clothes come from Shein,” said Jennifer Cobo, a 20-year-old in Ashburn, Va., who started shopping on the app in 2018. Since then, she has converted others in her family into Shein fans, including her 51-year-old father, who buys his jeans from the app.
Like other Chinese brands that have recently broken through with American consumers—such as short-video sensation TikTok, created by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.—Shein’s Chinese roots aren’t immediately obvious to consumers. On its app and website, Shein doesn’t promote where it is based, but the company takes advantage of its home country’s strengths.
The fast-fashion brand leverages China’s well-developed garment-manufacturing industry and efficient logistics system, enabling it to sell online and ship to customers around the world at low cost. Shein relies on thousands of third-party garment makers mostly in the southern province of Guangdong, the heart of China’s manufacturing and export hub, according to Shein suppliers and the company’s recruitment ads to factories.
Orders are cranked out in small batches of 100 to 500 pieces, with some factories following patterns provided by Shein and others pitching their own designs, suppliers say. This system lets the app maintain an enormous inventory that features thousands of new products daily, including handbags and pet accessories.Source: WSJ
Another fascinating look into a company that is redefining how fast fashion works.
What’s happening is that businesses not only need to be digitally enabled, but also fast. Businesses can set up e-commerce operations, but if that only redefines the selling process without transforming the designing, manufacturing, and creation of products, then that still leaves room for disruption. There’s going to be a whole wave of truly digital-native, fast companies that will be able to take advantage of all of the digital infrastructure that is being built right now.
#12 Amazon launches free one-day delivery in Brazil amid fierce competition
E-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) started to offer its Brazilian Prime subscribers free one-day delivery in 50 cities on Wednesday, amid fierce market competition in Latin America’s largest economy.
“In the last year, we’ve developed better infrastructure especially in the country’s capital cities with new distribution centers, and this is what helped make one-day delivery possible,” Mariana Roth, head of Amazon Prime in Brazil told Reuters in an interview.Source: Reuters
Amazon seems to be ramping quickly in Brazil after making a lot of noise in 2017 and seemingly doing very little since. This would be an issue for Mercadolibre if they didn’t also just announce that >30% of GMV is fulfilled, almost 90% of orders are managed through their own in-house logistics network, and >50% of orders are delivered same or next day.
#13 Twitter Shopping: Testing the Shop Module
As one of our first steps forward, today, we’re launching a pilot of the Shop Module — a feature that allows us to explore how shoppable profiles can create a pathway from talking about and discovering products on Twitter to actually purchasing them.
The Shop Module is a dedicated space at the top of a profile where businesses can showcase their products. When people visit a profile with the Shop Module enabled, they can scroll through the carousel of products and tap through on a single product to learn more and purchase — seamlessly in an in-app browser, without having to leave Twitter.Source: Twitter
Even Twitter is getting into e-commerce.
#14 Snap Map launches My Places: a new way to find personalised recommendations from friends and the global Snapchat community
With My Places, Snapchatters can discover more than 30 million businesses, log their favourite local spots, and even find personalised recommendations informed by their friends and the global Snapchat community.
Now, a quick pan around Snap Map not only helps Snapchatters stay in touch with the people they care about and keep up with global events, but also offers even more ways to help friends connect IRL.
And, with Layers from The Infatuation and Ticketmaster coming to Snap Map later this year, there are endless ways to explore.Source: Snap
Here’s something that I think Google Maps should have done long ago. It’s like Yelp integrated into Google Maps, but better! It’s got a social layer on top that is personalized to surface both what is relevant to you and what and allows for transactions (e.g. Ticketmaster integration soon).
#15 Shopify Allows Merchants to Sell NFTs Directly Through their Storefronts
Shopify has made it possible for eligible sellers to sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens) via its platform, which opens up a whole new world for e-commerce merchants.
On Monday, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls launched its first-ever NFTs –– including digital artwork of NBA championship rings –– by launching an online store on Shopify. Instead of having to go to an NFT marketplace, Bulls fans can now purchase the digital art directly with the team’s online store using a credit or debit card. In its first day of making them available, the NBA team sold out of the NFTs within just 90 seconds, according to Kaz Nejatian, Shopify’s VP of merchant services.
“You could buy NFTs on credit cards before, but honestly the NFT buying experience outside Shopify isn’t awesome for anyone right now,” he told TechCrunch “That’s why we decided to do this work. Merchants and buyers shouldn’t have to take a course in crypto to buy things they care about.”Source: Techcrunch
Shopify continues to push the edge in terms of enabling commerce everywhere. Of course, this only makes it easy for creators of NFTs to sell…doesn’t sound like it makes it easier for a buyer to resell it.
#16 Google’s New Pixel Phones Feature a Processor Designed In-House
The Alphabet Inc. company said on Monday that its upcoming flagship phones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, will include new Tensor chips when they go on sale later this year. Google had previously used Qualcomm Inc.processors in all of its Pixel phones since the first models launched in 2016. The new chip is designed to bolster artificial-intelligence technology and improve both speech recognition and the processing of photos and video.
The new component will be Google’s first system-on-a-chip — technology that integrates the device’s key elements. Designing these kinds of processors takes years and is a massive investment, financially and in terms of resources. In order for such an undertaking to yield returns, Google’s future Pixel phones will likely have to sell better than previous models.
Google didn’t provide technical specifications for its new processor, but the company developed the component with several former Apple chip engineers on staff. It’s unclear how it will ultimately perform in its first iteration against more seasoned offerings from Qualcomm, Apple and others. The chip relies on an Arm Holdings instruction set, the same underlying technology used by most of the industry.
In a statement, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said the chip was in development for four years and called it the “biggest innovation in Pixel we’ve made to date.” Rick Osterloh, the company’s head of devices and services, said in an interview that the phones will formally debut in October and go on sale later this year.Source: Bloomberg
Looks a bit late, but hard to see how they have any choice. Apple began its custom silicon journey just months after the original iPhone launched and is arguably now a top 3 key differentiating factor for not only the iPhone but also all the devices and accessories that Apple sells. It is this custom silicon focus that enables excellent performance as well as fantastic battery life when it comes to things like the M1 Macs, Apple Watch, AirPods, etc. According to Google, efforts on the current chip began 4 years…right around when Apple’s A Series phone processors became clear leaders in the mobile space.
It will be a tough slog to catch up in terms of performance all while trying to spread the cost across a much lower unit sales base (millions of units of Pixel vs 200 million+ iPhone units and 300 million+ total Apple devices with custom silicon sold per year).
#17 Intel to build Qualcomm chips, aims to catch foundry rivals by 2025
Intel Corp (INTC.O) said on Monday its factories will start building Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) chips and laid out a roadmap to expand its new foundry business to catch rivals such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (2330.TW) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) by 2025.
Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) will be another new customer for the foundry chip business, said Intel, which for decades held the lead in technology for manufacturing the smallest, fastest computing chips.
But Intel has lost that lead to TSMC and Samsung, whose manufacturing services have helped Intel’s rivals Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O) and Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) produce chips that outperform Intel’s. AMD and Nvidia design chips which then are made by the rival chip manufacturers, called foundries.
Intel said on Monday it expects to regain its lead by 2025 and described five sets of chipmaking technologies it will roll out over the next four years.
The most advanced use Intel’s first new design in a decade for transistors, the tiny switches that translate to digital ones and zeros. Starting as early as 2025, it will also tap a new generation of machines from the Netherlands’ ASML (ASML.AS) that use what is called extreme ultraviolet lithography, which projects chip designs onto silicon somewhat like printing an old-fashioned photograph.Source: Reuters
Intel is a good example of how hard it is to catch up in semiconductors once you are behind. Intel used to be head and shoulders above peers but has since lost process leadership to TSMC. TSMC learns faster than Intel because they manufacture for many partners with learnings from a billion devices per year. And TSMC now has a much larger business from which to make investments. TSMC is guiding for $100 billion of capital expenditures in the next few years, dramatically higher than Intel’s. Intel not only needs to figure out how to learn faster, it has to sacrifice significant margins in order to match TSMC’s higher spending.
This is all good for AMD, a key Intel competitor, which now has the benefit of process leadership through TSMC manufacturing. And this is all good for ASML, too, since ASML is the only company in the world that makes the lithography machines that can produce the leading edge chips.
But, with that said, Intel believes they can recapture leadership position by 2025. If that were to happen, there’s a lot of upside for Intel.
#18 THE SUMMER INTEL FELL BEHIND
In the summer of 2020 Intel seemed poised for triumph. Then it all went wrong. “To put it briefly: Intel blew it,” explains Glenn O’Donnell, a research director at Forrester Research. Intel was forced to announce to the world that it’d be delaying its next major manufacturing milestone for its chips for another few years, an admission that, once again, Intel was falling behind the competition.
In 2020, Intel was forced to admit that it would be severely delaying its 7nm node, recently rebranded as Intel 4. This precipitated an exodus of leadership and the admission that Intel might have to face the unthinkable and outsource its own manufacturing.
But there was more bad news waiting for Intel just a few days later, when Apple announced at WWDC 2020 that it would be making the switch to its own Arm-based chips, away from the Intel processors it had been using for over a decade. The reasoning was similar to when Apple first switched from PowerPC to Intel in 2005: Bloomberg reported that the Mac maker weighed and measured Intel’s roadmaps, already riddled with recent delays, and found it wanting.Source: The Verge
#19 Sanofi to acquire Translate Bio; advances deployment of mRNA technology across vaccines and therapeutics development
As part of Sanofi’s endeavor to accelerate the application of messenger RNA (mRNA) to develop therapeutics and vaccines, the company has entered into a definitive agreement with Translate Bio (NASDAQ: TBIO), a clinical-stage mRNA therapeutics company, under which Sanofi will acquire all outstanding shares of Translate Bio for $38.00 per share in cash, which represents a total equity value of approximately $3.2 billion (on a fully diluted basis). The Sanofi and Translate Bio Boards of Directors unanimously approved the transaction.
“Translate Bio adds an mRNA technology platform and strong capabilities to our research, further advancing our ability to explore the promise of this technology to develop both best-in-class vaccines and therapeutics,” said Paul Hudson, Sanofi Chief Executive Officer. “A fully owned platform allows us to develop additional opportunities in the fast-evolving mRNA space. We will also be able to accelerate our existing partnered programs already under development. Our goal is to unlock the potential of mRNA in other strategic areas such as immunology, oncology, and rare diseases in addition to vaccines.”Source: Sanofi
Everyone is starting to see the value of mRNA tech. The rush for mRNA assets is on.
#20 Moderna’s RSV vaccine catches the fast track on heels of Pfizer’s leapfrog into the queue
Moderna has its next act lined up: an mRNA respiratory syncytial virus vaccine, which the FDA has just put on the fast track.
Moderna has high hopes for the vaccine to prevent RSV infection in both young children and older adults. RSV typically causes a mild cold-like illness but can be serious in young children and older adults. Infection can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia and leads to about 177,000 hospitalizations in older adults and 14,000 deaths.Source: Fiercebiotech
While others are trying to catch up, Moderna is pushing ahead with their pipeline of mRNA vaccines and therapies.
#21 The Metaverse Has Always Been a Dystopian Idea
A big shift is apparently underway in Silicon Valley.
If it is coming, and if it is a big deal, then surprisingly few have paused to carefully consider the actual source of the metaverse, an undertaking which seems like a good idea, especially because that source is a deeply dystopian novel about a collapsed America that is overrun by violence and poverty. The metaverse was born in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Snow Crash, where it serves as entertainment and an economic underbelly to a poor, desperate nation that is literally governed by corporate franchises.
In the world of Snow Crash, the metaverse is not viewed as particularly cool—it is necessary, because the real world has become so unbearable. Ditto in the most famous book to update the metaverse’s architecture for our modern, pop culture-saturated era: Ready Player One. Its Oasis is basically the Metaverse if it were written by a neural net trained on 80s movies and 00s video games.
It could well be that the metaverse represents to the next generation of founders what, say, space travel and off-world colonies on Mars do to the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. It is a science fictional construct that perhaps captured their imagination at an impressionable moment in their lives—in the metaverse, you can be anyone, do anything, and vanquish foes, regardless of real-world social status or physicality. As the writer and media studies professor and video game designer Ian Bogost noted, “The metaverse was never a fantasy about virtual reality, but just one about power.” And now that these founders have the capital and power to pursue the fantasy, that is exactly what they are doing.Source: Vice
Thought-provoking article. But I think the dystopian angle is more obvious to Silicon Valley than the author assumes. Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s podcast Invest Like the Best recently hosted Gabriel Leydon, a 20 year veteran of the game industry. He mentions that he’s gone from ignored to celebrity in the last 20 years. Silicon Valley used to look down on games and now everyone wants in on the industry. And he reveals a dirty secret – many Silicon Valley titans think games and the Metaverse are necessary to save us from our dark (physical) future.