Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
While lining up the articles below for this week’s edition, I am struck by how many different games are being played. People tend to discuss differences in strategy (whether personal, professional, or competitive), but strategy cannot be objectively evaluated without knowing the specific game that is being played.
You can see this in tech. Different tech companies have different strategies. But different tech companies also seem to be playing entirely different games.
You can see this in investments. Different investors have different strategies. But different investors also seem to be playing different games.
You can see this in crypto. Different crypto participants have different strategies. But it’s important to know that different crypto investors may be playing entirely different games…
Sometimes the game is legacy.
Sometimes the game is status.
Sometimes the game is money.
Sometimes the game is entertainment.
Regardless of the game, it’s important to know what game you want to play and to make sure you’re not letting someone else tell you what game to play, especially if it’s a game you’re not particularly good at.
And make sure the game you want to play is the real game.
Here’s an excellent post that captures the essence best…I only wish I read it earlier in life:
Are You Playing to Play, or Playing to Win?
My friend Lesley has this thing where she says “make sure you’re playing the real game, not some more complicated game you’ve made up for yourself.”
I think about this a lot.
In the world of gaming, a scrub is someone who isn’t playing to win. This sounds a little bizarre — what competitor isn’t playing to win?
A scrub is not just a bad player. Everyone needs time to learn a game and get to a point where they know what they’re doing. The scrub mentality is to be so shackled by self-imposed handicaps as to never have any hope of being truly good at a game. You can practice forever, but if you can’t get over these common hangups, in a sense you’ve lost before you even started. You’ve lost before you even picked which game to play. You aren’t playing to win (emphasis added).
A scrub would disagree with this though. They’d say they are trying very hard. The problem is they are only trying hard within a construct of fictitious rules that prevent them from ever truly competing.
One reason that scrub behaviour is so compelling to us is that we admire those who decide to play a harder game, and who manage to win anyway.
This is, of course, easy to say. Nobody wants to be called a scrub. But when all is said and done, there are aesthetic and moral reasons to want to play a more difficult game.Source: Commonplace
#1 Tension rises in Iraq after failed bid to assassinate PM
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi suffered a light cut and appeared in a televised speech soon after the attack by armed drones on his residence. He appeared calm and composed, seated behind a desk in a white shirt and what appeared to be a bandage around his left wrist.
Seven of his security guards were wounded in the attack by at least two armed drones, according to two Iraqi officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give official statements.Source: AP News
Terrorism is an interesting game because it’s asymmetric. The victim only has 1 way to win. On the other hand, the attacker wins by simply not losing. The attacker wins by simply creating chaos.
And it’s never been easier to create wide scale chaos with minimal costs.
In a different era, terrorists would still need to sacrifice their own lives to inflict damage. Now, anyone can become God and exert force from a distance.
#2 Ransomware gang shut down after CyberCom hijacked its site and it discovered it had been hacked
A major overseas ransomware group shut down last month after a pair of operations by U.S. Cyber Command and a foreign government targeting the criminals’ servers left its leaders too frightened of identification and arrest to stay in business, according to several U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
In July, after the Kaseya hack, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States would take “any necessary action” to defend critical infrastructure. Around the same time, another group member who went by the nickname “unknown”disappeared. Unknown’s vanishing unnerved the group, and without warning, it went offline. It is unclear whether Biden’s warning played any role in either.
In any case, 0_neday explained in a post last month, “since there was no confirmation of the reason for his disappearance, we resumed our work, thinking he was dead.”
Privately REvil members were telling affiliates the group would return, according to Recorded Future threat intelligence analyst Dmitry Smilyanets, who closely tracks the group’s activities.
“They were telling people, ‘Don’t worry, everything’s okay — we will be back,’” Smilyanets said. “It wasn’t a secret in the community that the REvil brand would reemerge.”
REvil returned in September, picking up where it left off, recruiting new “affiliate” hackers to help it conduct attacks. Its victims included a plastics manufacturer and a legal aid service for the poor.
Then Cybercom struck.Source: Washington Post
In the past few editions, we’ve increasingly discussed the rising threat of ransomware, and how this is the new theater of war.
Not only is this the new theater of war, it’s war from a distance. It’s asymmetric warfare. Victims only have 1 way to win. Attackers win by simply not losing.
While cybercrime has been going on for a long time, nation states largely viewed it as mostly an intelligence gathering issue, and hence haven’t taken the issue as seriously as they should have. But ransomware is the one area that has definitely shifted the envelope of perception from an intelligence issue to a “we’re under attack” issue.
Good thing is, the military still seems plenty capable of fighting this new type of war.
#3 BlackMatter ransomware gang says it’s shutting down over law enforcement pressure
The BlackMatter ransomware operation, which came to prominence earlier this year following the demise of the DarkSide ransomware gang, is allegedly shutting down due to “pressure from the authorities.”
The group announced plans to shut down in a message posted on its ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) portal, where other criminal groups typically register in order to get access to the BlackMatter ransomware strain. The message, obtained by a member of the vx-underground infosec group, translates to: “Due to certain unsolvable circumstances associated with pressure from the authorities (part of the team is no longer available, after the latest news) — project is closed.
BlackMatter’s missing team members could be linked to a recent international law enforcement operation that detained 12 individualslinked to 1,800 ransomware attacks in 71 countries.
BlackMatter ransom demands have ranged from $80,000 to $15 million in cryptocurrency, according to the recent advisory from U.S. law enforcement agencies.Source: TechCrunch
Here’s a good example. Cybercriminals want to play cyberwar. But the government decided it doesn’t like that game. It’s going to play the game it’s much better at – Real world law enforcement and prison.
👻 Cryptocurrencies + NFTs
#4 Stablecoin Risk Spurs U.S. Agencies to Seek Power to Crack Down
Federal agencies took their first step toward regulating stablecoins, raising concerns that the tokens could threaten the U.S. economy while making a big bet on the bitterly divided Congress to put guardrails on the fast-growing market.
In a highly anticipated report, the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and other regulators urged lawmakers to let them police stablecoin issuers like banks with robust capital requirements and constant supervision. But as a Plan B, the watchdogs made clear they would activate a rarely used power to examine whether the coins pose a systemic threat to financial stability — a review that could trigger a raft of new rules.Source: Bloomberg
As crypto expands, the US is increasingly likely to want to get involved. It’s not just retail money involved anymore. Most of the money in crypto is likely institutional at this point (Wall Street, VCs, and professionals in these industries investing their own personal accounts; As evidence, we can look at Coinbase’s volumes, which are 70%+ institutional).
This means if there are issues, it can become much more systemic and needs to be addressed.
#5 NFT games are fun. Filing taxes afterward is a nightmare.
In a matter of months, NFT gaming became a multibillion-dollar industry by combining two things people already loved: video games and getting rich from crypto. But it turns out the play-to-earn model also has the incredibly inconvenient side effect of turning even minor actions taken in a video game into taxable events.
Did you sell your cute digital creature on Axie Infinity? That’s a taxable event. Did you sell it less than a year after you bought it? (The answer is almost certainly “yes,” given the timing of the play-to-earn boom.) Well, then it’s a short-term capital gain. If you converted your NFT into a cryptocurrency before cashing out, that counts as two separate investment transactions. Even seemingly trivial in-game item swaps can have tax implications.
Kim also pointed to the added complexity that comes with the “scholarship” model employed within play-to-earn gaming. While the name suggests an altruistic support system, scholarships are all about making money. Thousands of “scholars” in places like the Philippines and Venezuela play games on behalf of NFT owners (“managers”) in exchange for a share of the resultant earnings.
Scholarship managers therefore operate business partnerships within NFT games. That triggers business tax requirements rather than capital gains. It also likely adds overseas tax implications, since many managers live in developed nations and lend to scholars in developing nations. By some estimates, around 40% of players on Axie Infinity are now based in the Philippines.
However, the vast majority of play-to-earn participants in the U.S. won’t appear on the IRS’ radar this tax cycle. And while filing play-to-earn taxes would be a nightmare, the truth is that many players will choose not to file anything and simply hope for the best.Source: Protocol
You can decentralize all you want, but there are only two certainties in life – Death and taxes.
#6 Crypto is Creating Newfound Wealth – and Job Freedom – for Many Americans
And while some preconceptions of cryptocurrency investors envisage young and tech savvy individuals, possibly with anti-establishment mindsets, the bigger picture of crypto investors is a little more nuanced than that.
For instance, while crypto wealth is undoubtedly growing, that doesn’t necessarily mean any significant portion of people are quitting their jobs as a result. Eleven percent of the general population reports either having personally quit their jobs, or knowing someone who has, as a result of their crypto investments.
Surprisingly, however, when crossing by income, we see that the larger portion of those quitting their jobs as a result of their crypto investments are those in the lowest income brackets.Source: Civic Science
I am heartened to see that lower income people are gaining financial freedom through crypto (assuming it is sustainable).
I am a little surprised though that only 28% of people are wealthier than they were last year despite the rapid rise of crypto:
And this is even more fascinating – The people that have gained the most wealth from crypto are actually wealthy people (income over $150k):
But I guess this shouldn’t be too surprising – It takes money to make money in capital markets. Despite all this talk about democratizing wealth, crypto is a capital asset. This means the people that will make most money on it are the people that can bet the most (the wealthy).
#7 Apple is ‘looking into’ cryptocurrency, says CEO Tim Cook
Asked by interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin if Apple would consider accepting cryptocurrency through Apple Pay “or otherwise,” Cook replied broadly that crypto is “something that we’re looking at.” He then went on to explain that Apple has decided where it doesn’t make sense to invest in cryptocurrencies, even if it’s not ready to speak publicly about crypto products.Source: TechCrunch
Apple has a large opportunity here. Crypto is not intuitive and very complicated and un-secure (despite all this marketing about crypto being secure because of decentralization). If Apple can simply dumb it down and make it just work, Apple could capture a lot of value.
#8 Twitter sets up crypto team to explore decentralised apps
Twitter is launching a dedicated crypto team, marking the latest push by chief executive Jack Dorsey to embrace digital assets and decentralised apps and the ballooning communities around them.
In September, Twitter said it was introducing a new tool that will allow users to send tips to others for their content using bitcoin. It also said it was creating a feature for verifying non-fungible tokens (NFTs), digital collectibles that have exploded in popularity this year and that some Twitter users use as their profile pictures.
Working under Twitter’s chief technology officer Parag Agrawal, Rinearson is tasked with overseeing and building on these efforts, and an initiative to explore decentralising social media more broadly. She has previously worked at crypto groups such as Interchain, a group focused on developing open-source decentralised technologies, and Interstellar, a decentralised crypto wallet and exchange.
In the web3 ecosystem, by contrast, decentralised apps run on public blockchains, meaning data is not collected by any one party, while users can be offered token-based rewards for participating.Source: FT
I thought about putting this in the Tech section rather than the cryptocurrency section since this section has almost exclusively been used to discuss crypto as a financial asset.
But it’s good to remember that crypto is a technology. Whether you pay anything (or nothing at all) for crypto is a choice. Regardless of what you think crypto should be worth, it has technological value and can be used to do computing in a decentralized way.
I think it’s interesting that Twitter (sort of the OG of decentralized media) is exploring decentralized apps.
#9 Coinbase CEO anticipates planned NFT marketplace more akin to Instagram than eBay
Brian Armstrong, chief executive officer of crypto exchange Coinbase Global Inc., said Tuesday that the company aims to provide a social experience through its planned non-fungible token, or NFT, marketplace, making the platform more akin to Instagram than eBay.
Coinbase COIN, +1.96% aims to launch an NFT marketplace in the next quarter or two, joining the competition with OpenSea and rival exchange FTX, which recently launched its NFT marketplace.
“I think having people follow your favorite artists or creators, and having a bit of content that gets populated from those people you follow, that can be really powerful,” Armstrong said. “And in addition, you can go there and buy an NFT if you really like it, and showcase it in your own social profile.”Source: MarketWatch
Sounds like Instagram should just launch a platform that allows every Instagram creator to turn their grams into NFTs.
#10 Facebook to Shut Down Use of Facial Recognition Technology
Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. will no longer use facial recognition for photos and videos shared to the company’s flagship social network, saying it needs to weigh the benefits against growing concerns about the technology.
The social media giant has used facial recognition since 2010 to encourage people to tag friends or family members in photos and videos, and to alert people if another user uploads a picture that they’re in. It eventually added some privacy constraints, and in 2017 it let people opt out of facial recognition. In 2019 Facebook turned off the feature by default, though users could choose to turn it on.
Facebook on Monday said it will shut down this system for privacy reasons, and will delete more than 1 billion “facial recognition templates” it has collected over the years. More than a third of Facebook’s daily active users are currently using the feature, the company wrote in a blog post.Source: Bloomberg
Facebook becoming a little less creepy?
I know Zuckerberg is not a particularly likable person, but I continue to think he’s more misunderstood than malicious.
And a lot of the creep factor of Facebook (the company) is a function of the (3rd party) advertising business model. As Facebook moves more towards integrating commerce right into its own apps, the advertising will no longer need to depend on gathering data on you in random places around the web. This will mean Facebook’s business model can evolve to be less creepy.
#11 SHoP Architects and BVN design world’s tallest hybrid timber tower for Atlassian in Sydney
At 180 metres, SHoP Architects predicts Atlassian’s headquarters will be the tallest hybrid timber tower ever built when it completes in 2025. The New-York based practice is already working on the world’s skinniest skyscraper.
A steel exoskeleton will support “mega floors” that will divide the tower vertically into what SHoP Architects describes as neighbourhoods, which will incorporate a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Elevated parks will be located at various points in the tower, which the New York architecture practice said are designed to be comfortable to enjoy all year round.
It will be clad with an electricity-generating glass facade which will be able to “self shade” the offices inside.Source: Dezeen
The world is an amazing place, but few people remain inspired past 10 years old. Most people become moody teenagers and then never get out of it. And to the extent that they do, the guiding philosophy for many young adults today seems to be YOLO…that legacy is not important, that the present is the only thing that matters, and the future is something for other people to worry about.
The world is an amazing place, but there are few sources of inspiration that remind us of what amazing things we can all accomplish if we try. Religion used to serve this purpose well. I’m not religious, but even then I’m always awestruck whenever I visit places like Notre Dame or Saint Chapelle.
In our modern world, we lack this. The only sector that seems to try to at least pick up the baton is tech.
#12 In Global Energy Crisis, Anti-Nuclear Chickens Come Home to Roost
For years, the proponents of wind and solar energy have promised us a green future with electricity too cheap to meter, new energy infrastructure with little environmental impact on the land, and deep cuts in carbon emissions. But despite the rapid growth of renewable energy, that future has yet to materialize. Instead, many of the places that are furthest along in transitioning to renewable energy are today facing a crisis of power shortages, sky-high electricity prices, and flat or rising carbon emissions.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered companies owning backup diesel generators to operate them nonstop when electricity demand is high in order to avoid rolling blackouts. In Britain, exploding natural gas prices have shuttered factories, bankrupted power companies, and threaten to cause food shortages. Germany, meanwhile, is set for the biggest jump in greenhouse emissions in 30 years due to surging use of coal for power generation, which the country depends on to back up weather-dependent wind and solar energy and fill the hole left by its shuttered nuclear plants.
The proximate cause of all these crises has been surging natural gas prices as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. But the underlying problem is that despite huge bets on renewable energy over the last several decades, California, Britain, and Germany have chosen fossil fuels over carbon-free nuclear energy to backstop their electrical systems.Source: Foreign Policy
Climate change seems like a tough problem. But here’s a reminder that we’ve already invented the most sensible solution 70 years ago.
Instead we are bending over backwards to turn all our things electric (but then charge the cars with coal-powered or natural gas / oil-powered electricity plants).
Until we change the source of our energy, it makes no difference what type of motor we put into our devices.
#13 China’s Climate Goals Hinge on a $440 Billion Nuclear Buildout
Nuclear power once seemed like the world’s best hope for a carbon-neutral future. After decades of cost-overruns, public protests and disasters elsewhere, China has emerged as the world’s last great believer, with plans to generate an eye-popping amount of nuclear energy, quickly and at relatively low cost.
China has over the course of the year revealed the extensive scope of its plans for nuclear, an ambition with new resonance given the global energy crisis and the calls for action coming out of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. The world’s biggest emitter, China’s planning at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35. The effort could cost as much as $440 billion; as early as the middle of this decade, the country will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest generator of nuclear power.
It would be the kind of wholesale energy transformation that Western democracies — with budget constraints, political will and public opinion to consider — can only dream of. It could also support China’s goal to export its technology to the developing world and beyond, buoyed by an energy crunch that’s highlighted the fragility of other kinds of power sources. Slower winds and low rainfall have led to lower-than-expected supply from Europe’s dams and wind farms, worsening the crisis, and expensive coal and natural gas have led to power curbs at factories in China and India. Yet nuclear power plants have remained stalwart.
“Nuclear is the one energy source that came out of this looking like a champion,” said David Fishman, an energy consultant with The Lantau Group. “It generated the whole time, it was clean, the price didn’t change. If the case for nuclear power wasn’t already strong, it’s a lot stronger now.”Source: Bloomberg
There’s really two stories here:
1/ China rightly recognizes that it’s impossible to meet their climate agenda without nuclear power. And nuclear power is stable and persistent, whereas wind, hydro, and solar are not. Good luck trying to power yourself with solar if you live in a country that is far from the equator. During Winter, some countries far from the equator experience 20+ hours of darkness.
2/ China rightly recognizes that, of the stable and persistent power sources available, nuclear power is the only power that does not depend on foreign nations. Oil and natural gas depend on the US, Middle East, or Russia. All potentially very bad options.
#14 Nuclear fusion start-up Helion scores $375 million investment from Open AI CEO Sam Altman
Nuclear fusion is the ephemeral holy grail of climate technology. It would provide nearly limitless amounts of clean energy without the byproduct of long-lasting radioactive waste to be managed.
“This is the biggest investment I’ve ever made,” Altman told CNBC of his $375 million investment in Helion Energy, announced Friday. It’s part of a larger $500 million round that the start-up will use to complete the construction of a fusion facility near its headquarters in Everett, Washington.
Nuclear fusion is the opposite reaction of nuclear fission: Where fission splits a larger atom into two smaller atoms, releasing energy, fusion happens when two lighter nuclei slam together to form a heavier atom. It’s the way the sun makes energy, and the basis of hydrogen bombs. Helion is one of a handful of start-ups working to control and commercialize fusion as an energy source, including Commonwealth Fusion Systems and TAE Technologies.Source: CNBC
I hope this works.
This could be one of the most consequential technologies of this century.
💬 Media + Games
#15 Netflix to launch a short-form video feature for its ‘Kids’ profiles on iOS
The streamer had earlier explained its interest in short-form video content was to function more of a discovery feature that would introduce members to its catalog’s content in a “fun, fast, and intuitive” way. However, the similarities between the existing “Fast Laughs” feature for adults and the TikTok app are striking — both include a full-screen vertical video feed and engagement buttons stacked on the right side, allowing users to react, share and more. But unlike TikTok, adult users can’t comment on the content. Instead, a button allows users to add interesting titles to their Netflix list of things to watch.
The new Kids Clips feature will work slightly differently, Netflix told TechCrunch.
Instead of offering a TikTok-like vertical video feed, the kids feature will show horizontal videos that appear in a full-screen window, not within a tab. The clips will autoplay, but parents can disable this in their settings, if they choose. The selection of clips will refresh daily, and will focus on existing shows on the service, not trailers, pulled from the full kids catalog. However, if the kid’s profile is set to specific maturity settings, the Kids Clips feature will mirror those settings, Netflix said.Source: TechCrunch
Netflix is not a TV show company or a movie company. It’s an entertainment company.
This is why they are getting into games and short video.
#16 Tencent targets AAA with TiMi Studios’ Honor of Kings: World
Tencent-owned TiMi Studio Group has unveiled its first entry into the AAA games space as it attempts to reach a more global audience.
Honor of Kings: World is a open-world game for multiple platforms; TiMi has yet to specify which, but the gameplay trailer and the high-end graphics powered by Unreal Engine, suggest PC and consoles.Source: Gameindustry.biz
That trailer looks pretty good! Tencent moving up the value chain. Despite being the largest game company in the world already, still lots of room to run. And the gaming industry is only getting started.
As Jensen (Nvidia’s CEO / founder) says, “Everyone born today will be a gamer”.
#17 Modern Treasury: The Quadrillion $ Quest
Instead of going after a specific vertical or customer, Modern Treasury builds horizontal software infrastructure for any company that moves money via bank transfers. It’s a data layer, not a money mover. Software for fintech, not a fintech.
Building software for fintech instead of sitting in the flow of funds is one of two big, non-consensus decisions the company is built on. The other?
Partner with the big banks instead of trying to take them down.
So the three co-founders started Modern Treasury to build APIs into the global banking system. They do the hard work of integrating with banks and creating high-quality software building blocks, and give customers like Gusto, BlockFi, Equi, Marqeta, and Pipe a clean API to handle their payment operations.Source: Not Boring
Fascinating company. Consider my interest piqued.
#18 Klarna reimagines the shopping app with an all-in-one store, offers and payments portal super-app
Payments company Klarna has launched a new shopping app that takes the company from offering payments into being a shopping gateway-cum-quasi-marketplace that links online stores with offers and payments all in one place.
Using the super-app consumers can shop at all online stores through the Klarna app, explore exclusive deals and personalised shopping collections, save items and unlock price drop notifications, view items’ delivery tracking, manage payments and returns,and more.
With Klarna’s interest-free shopping feature consumers can now use Klarna’s payment methods at all online shops, regardless of whether they are directly partnered with Klarna or not. The new Klarna app will fundamentally change the end to end shopping experience, placing consumers firmly in control with an app that meets their real needs.
Additional features will soon become available that will further bridge the gap between shopping and payments. This includes a collective loyalty card space, additional money-saving tools, social features such as live shopping events and product data that will make price history, reviews, and store availability visible; and much more. Klarna will also enable third-party integrations going forward to provide even more solutions and services that will make Klarna the ultimate shopping browser of the future.Source: Internet Retailing
The evolution of BNPL into broader payment / commerce ecosystems is happening faster than I thought.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that BNPL as a standalone thing is unlikely to survive much longer. This is because consumers ultimately don’t care about payments. Yes, BNPL is better than credit cards for young consumers, but at the end of the day, payments is a means towards an end. The end that every consumer is focused on is whatever they are trying to buy. The payment method is really just an enabler.
With that said, that is why I think BNPL has a long future ahead vs credit cards. BNPL ultimately enables consumers to buy more of what they want compared to credit cards. And that means consumers will logically prefer it over other options that don’t allow you to buy as much of what you want.
#19 YouTube’s Shift to Shopping Destination Starts This Christmas
Starting next week, YouTube will host a weeklong livestreaming event, called Holiday Stream and Shop, where select social media stars will sell their own merchandise and brand name products directly on the platform. In the coming weeks, some YouTubers will be able to hawk goods from their videos, a concept known as shoppable video. It’s all part of the company’s biggest push yet to become a shopping destination.
YouTube’s rivals in social media — Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat — are now trying to also become shopping platforms. Apple’s restrictions on iPhone ad-targeting has throttled social media’s main ads business. Google, while less impacted, admitted on a recent earnings call that Apple’s changes dented YouTube’s ad sales, which topped $7.2 billion last quarter but fell short of Wall Street expectations. This came as Alphabet’s total revenue surged 41% to $65.1 billion.Source: Bloomberg
#20 Shopee launches Shopee Hotel to prepare for influx of travellers as borders reopen
Singapore-based e-commerce platform Shopee has introduced Shopee Hotel to help users search, book, and get instant confirmation for hotel bookings.
Shopee users in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines will be able to book hotels, resorts, homes, and apartments on Agoda and Booking.com on Shopee Hotel.
They will also be able to plan travel itineraries within the app and when browsing for accommodations, users will be able to discover top landmarks near their chosen hotels, which can help them to explore local enclaves, neighborhoods, and attractions.Source: The Drum
#21 Dematerialisation: Why the Metaverse Is Fashion’s Next Goldmine
Rogers moved to Paris from Silicon Valley in 2015 when he was appointed chief digital officer of LVMH, acting as a digital whisperer to C-suite luxury executives. Today, as chief experience officer of Ledger — a security system that provides protection for digital assets — he is uniquely positioned to speak about the opportunities being created as crypto technologies, gaming and fashion converge.
Rogers tells Imran that, one day, virtual fashion will become ubiquitous. “It’s inevitable. It’s a generational shift. I look at my 14 year old and she has spent the last year and a half living in a Metaverse. Her school is on Zoom. She hangs out with her friends online — on Instagram, in Tik Tok, in Fortnite, in Animal Crossing. So for them, having a digital collection, it’s completely natural. Why would I want a collection of stuff that no one can see when I can have a collection of digital stuff that everyone can see?”
The most common misconception people have, Rogers explains, is that there’s a distinction between the physical and digital worlds. The blurring of realities in the Metaverse will ultimately change our perceptions of what’s real — and valuable. “We have one consciousness, right? I can read Twitter and get pissed off. I don’t get digital pissed off. We need to let go of this notion of kind of, oh, that’s digital. This is physical.”
They explain how virtual fashion will transform the fashion industry as we know it. “It comes from the gaming world effectively, in which your avatar is part of your personality. As we start transitioning more and more into the virtual world, we will start consuming digital sneakers, digital makeup, digital jewellery… It’s the biggest revolution the fashion industry has seen so far.”Source: Business of Fashion
#22 Meta’s Andrew Bosworth On Moving Facebook To The Metaverse
Last week, Facebook announced a major corporate rebrand by changing its company name to Meta. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge, the new name is meant to solidify the social media giant’s long-term bet on building the metaverse.
Leading that work directly is Andrew Bosworth, a 15-year-veteran of Facebook who leads its Reality Labs division building consumer hardware and software, including the Quest VR headset. His organization has over 10,000 employees and is spending at least $10 billion this year alone. Before Reality Labs, he led the division building Facebook’s advertising business and co-invented staple features like the News Feed and Groups. Next year, he will become the chief technology officer of Meta, expanding his remit to include the company’s artificial intelligence and broader engineering teams.
Bosworth (who goes by “Boz”) talked with senior reporter Alex Heath about Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, how content moderation will work in the metaverse, and the hardware journey from virtual to mixed reality and, eventually, AR glasses. Bosworth also touched on the controversy surrounding the Facebook Papers, a trove of internal documents leaked by an ex-employee named Frances Haugen, that he argues “don’t tell a particularly objective story.”Source: The Verge
Back in Tidbits #61, we discussed Facebook’s reorganization as Meta. That single act seems to have set off a whole mania around the metaverse.
In any case, The Verge did an excellent interview with Bosworth around Meta and the metaverse. Andrew Bosworth is a thoughtful leader. People think Facebook is entirely run by Zuckerberg. In a way that is right, but I think that downplays Bosworth’s contributions.
#23 Match Group details plans for a dating ‘metaverse,’ Tinder’s virtual goods-based economy
Tinder has already undergone a big revamp with its recent launch of “Explore,” a new section inside the app that will enable more interactive experiences, including the second “Swipe Night” series, real-time chat, interest-based matching and more. Now, parent company Match Group is detailing its longer-term vision for Tinder and Explore, which will expand to include exclusive, shared and live experiences and a virtual goods-based economy, supported by Tinder’s new in-app currency, Tinder Coins. In addition, Match spoke today about its broader plans for a dating “metaverse,” and avatar-based virtual experiences that may later roll out to apps across its portfolio, including Tinder.
To address this changing market for online dating, Tinder has leaned into virtual experiences that take place inside the app, instead of only pushing people to get offline for connections. That’s led to the launch of Tinder Explore, and now, it’s driving plans for the forthcoming virtual goods-based economy Tinder has in the works.
She talked specifically about Hyperconnect’s test of an avatar-based dating app and “metaverse” experience called Single Town, where users interact using real-time audio and meet each other in virtual spaces, like a bar, where they have live audio conversations. Users can express interest in one another in the virtual world, then choose to connect privately to continue their conversations.
“It is metaverse experiences coming to life in a way that is transformative to how people meet and get to know each other on a dating or social discovery platform, and is much more akin to how people interact in the real world,” Dubey said of the test.Source: TechCrunch
Even dating is shifting to the metaverse!
#24 Niantic launches platform to build ‘real-world metaverse’ apps
Niantic is releasing a platform for building what it calls “real-world metaverse” apps. Called Lightship, the platform is “built around the parts necessary to stitch together the digital and the real world,” CEO John Hanke tells me.
According to Hanke, Lightship will let mobile apps identify whether a user’s camera is pointed at the sky or water, map the surfaces and depth of an environment in real time, or place a virtual object behind a physical one.
Niantic is best known for creating one of the most successful mobile games ever, Pokémon Go. With Lightship, Hanke says the company is “opening the vault of tech that we’ve been using to build our products” to help others build “planet-scale AR apps.”
Hanke, who previously ran Google Maps before starting Niantic, says the goal with Lightship is to “basically set a pattern for what AR can be.” While tech giants like Meta and Apple are building similar software tools, he thinks Lightship’s support for iOS and Android will make it an attractive offering to developers.Source: The Verge
And Niantic wants to bring the metaverse to the real world (through AR).
#25 Microsoft’s Own Metaverse Is Coming, and It Will Have PowerPoint
If you’re worried the metaverse will be all fun and games, fear not: Microsoft Corp. is taking its own stab at the idea, and it will have PowerPoint and Excel.
The company is adapting its signature software products to create a more corporate version of the metaverse — a concept promoted by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that promises to let users live, work and play within interconnected virtual worlds.
The first offering, a version of Microsoft’s Teams chat and conferencing program that features digital avatars, is in testing now and will be available in the first half of 2022. Customers will be able to share Office files and features, like PowerPoint decks, in the virtual world.Source: Bloomberg
Even Microsoft is getting on the metaverse bandwagon.
The video is kind of cool – Could make Excel financial models more enjoyable:
#26 Nvidia doubles down on software tools for crafting virtual worlds
Nvidia Corp on Tuesday released a set of tools for software developers aimed at helping them create a “metaverse” of three-dimensional virtual worlds – and use a lot more computing power from Nvidia’s chips in the process.
The Omniverse tools help various apps used to create three-dimensional worlds, such as software from Adobe Inc, work better together while running on chips made by Nvidia.
Kerris told Reuters that Nvidia worked with more than 700 companies to test and develop the software, including firms like telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson, which used the software to create a “digital twin” of a city that it used to test cell phone signal coverage before rolling out physical trucks to install real-world antennas.Source: Reuters
Whereas Microsoft is coming at it from the productivity application side and Facebook is coming at it from the social side, Nvidia is coming at it from a simulation and digital twin side. Whereas Niantic wants to bring the metaverse to your offline world through AR, Nvidia wants to bring your real world into the digital metaverse with digital twins of everything offline.
Nvidia’s announcements were part of the Fall GTC (GPU Technology Conference) keynote. Jensen even closed out the keynote with a cryptic reference about building something called E2 / Earth 2, a digital twin of Earth.
Nvidia is almost a $1 trillion company! Interesting that Nvidia has gained about $200 billion market cap in the last few weeks and seems to have benefited more from metaverse mania than Facebook despite Facebook getting the ball going.
#27 Unity Announces Intent to Acquire Weta Digital
Unity (NYSE: U), the world’s leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D (RT3D) content, announced today it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Weta Digital’s tools, pipeline, technology, and engineering talent. Ultimately, this acquisition is designed to put Weta’s incredibly exclusive and sophisticated visual effects (VFX) tools into the hands of millions of creators and artists around the world, and once integrated onto the Unity platform, enable the next generation of RT3D creativity and shape the future of the metaverse.
Weta Digital is the premier creator and innovator of visual effects and animation, pushing what is possible in pursuit of artistic vision and delivering high-quality, ultra-realistic characters, objects, and worlds for a wide variety of award-winning movies and television shows, such as Avatar, Black Widow, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, The Suicide Squad, and more. Weta Digital achieves this superior level of performance with a world-class creative team of VFX artists and engineers, who helped build an extremely sophisticated artist pipeline and set of tools to conduct advanced facial capture and manipulation, anatomical modeling, advanced simulation and deformation of objects in movement, procedural hair and fur modeling, and many more techniques that have been galvanized, developed, and perfected through hundreds of properties across thousands of shots for more than 20 years.Source: Unity
And here’s making sure I don’t leave out one of my favorite foundational technology companies, Unity…Unity already has >90% market share when it comes to rendering AR / VR content. The acquisition of Weta Digital brings even more capabilities to produce photo-realistic digital environments.
Some of these are really impressive:
Source: Weta / Manuka
#28 So what is “the metaverse,” exactly?
These days it seems like everybody and their corporate parent company is talking about “the metaverse” as the next big thing that’s going to revolutionize our online lives. But everyone seems to have their own idea of what “the metaverse” means—that is, if they have any real idea what it means at all.
So is the metaverse the next big advance that will revolutionize the way we all connect with each other? Is it just a repackaging of existing technologies into a new catch-all concept? Or is it just the latest buzzword marketing term?Source: Ars Technica
Just in case all this metaverse talk is causing a headache, here’s a good approachable article that goes over all the basics.
#29 Nvidia jumps into Zero Trust
Nvidia has announced a Zero Trust platform built around its BlueField data-processing units and Nvidia software.
Zero Trust is an architecture that verifies every user and device that tries to access the network and enforces strict access control and identity management that limits authorized users to accessing only those resources they need to do their jobs.
Nvidia announced a Zero Trust platform that combines its BlueField data processing units (DPU), which it inherited from the Mellanox acquisition, the DOCA software development kits for BlueField, and Nvidia’s Morpheus security AI framework.Source: NetworkWorld
Shifting gears a bit, Nvidia continues to build out one of the widest hardware + software + platforms ecosystem out there.
🍪 Semiconductors + Chips
#30 Tencent Unveils First Chips in Push Beyond Online Content
The offerings include an artificial intelligence chip for search and recommendation, another for compressing video files, and a networking chip for cloud servers, executives said Wednesday at the company’s annual cloud summit. It’s unclear if the chips have already been put into use.
“Chips are the key components of hardware and the core infrastructure of the industrial internet,” Tencent Senior Vice President Dowson Tong said during the event. As part of Tencent’s push into enterprise software, Tong pledged $3 billion worth of resources to help its cloud business partners in the next three years.Source: Yahoo
🚘🌽 “Nuts and Bolts” Tech
#31 MercadoLibre Seeks to Expand in Fresh Foods Amid Record Volumes
Latin American e-commerce powerhouse MercadoLibre Inc. is looking to fresh foods to maintain sales growth, after posting record gross merchandise volume of $7.3 billion in the third quarter.
Just a month after starting to offer fresh food items in Brazil through a partnership with local retailer Mambo, MercadoLibre is looking to replicate the model with partners in Argentina and Mexico, said Andre Chaves, a senior vice president at the Buenos Aires-based firm.Source: Bloomberg
#32 Apple Hires Tesla’s Autopilot Software Director for Car Effort
The iPhone maker tapped Christopher “CJ” Moore for its team working on a self-driving car, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Moore is working on the effort’s software, reporting to Stuart Bowers, another former Tesla executive who joined Apple at the end of last year. Bowers had led Tesla’s Autopilot team before departing in mid-2019.
The Apple team has other ex-Tesla executives, including the company’s former drive trains chief Michael Schwekutsch and interiors head Steve MacManus. At the same time, the group has lost several managers. Besides Field, this year’s departures include head of robotics Dave Scott and chief of safety Jaime Waydo. Another former manager for the effort, Dave Rosenthal, recently left Apple after earlier departing the project.Source: Bloomberg
#33 Zillow Quits Home-Flipping Business, Cites Inability to Forecast Prices
Real-estate firm Zillow Group Inc. is exiting from the home-flipping business, saying Tuesday that its algorithmic+ model to buy and sell homes rapidly doesn’t work as planned.
The firm’s termination of its tech-enabled home-flipping business, known as “iBuying,” follows Zillow’s announcement about two weeks ago that it was halting all new home purchases for the rest of the year. At the time, Zillow pointed to labor and supply shortages for its inability to renovate and flip houses fast enough.
In a statement Tuesday, Chief Executive Rich Barton said Zillow had failed to predict the pace of home-price appreciation accurately, marking an end to a venture the company once said could generate $20 billion a year. Instead, the company said it now plans to cut 25% of its workforce.Source: WSJ
Doing “real world” things is hard.
🚀 Enterprise Software
#34 Amazon’s Cloud’s New Boss Is Girding to Defend Turf in the Field Company Pioneered
Adam Selipsky has taken over at Amazon.com Inc.’s AMZN 1.52% cloud-computing unit this year as it faces the biggest challenge ever to its dominance in the industry. To stay on top, he is taking a page from the playbook of his fast-growing rivals.
Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have come on strong in recent years by offering customers not just the cloud infrastructure that Amazon Web Services pioneered, but also sophisticated and popular end-user software programs, such as those that help turn companies’ pools of data into charts or tools for employee collaboration.
Mr. Selipsky said he is striving to make AWS more accessible to employees inside organizations who aren’t software engineers. He said AWS already has some early success here. One example is Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact-center system that lets customers such as Barclays PLC shift thousands of its contact-center workers to working from home.Source: WSJ
#35 Databricks is gunning for Snowflake’s core business
Databricks is pushing a new architecture known as the data lakehouse, one that backers say will obliterate the need for data warehouses, the de facto industry standard for decades. Such a move would be akin to a new browser design eliminating Google Chrome. And it’s clear why Databricks has Snowflake in its sights: The company commands a market cap of $107 billion after re-architecting the data warehouse for the cloud era.
On Tuesday [11/2], that goal will get a big boost. Databricks is poised to announce that an independent industry group known as the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) validated results which show that Databricks’ systems outperformed the closest data warehouse competitor by 2.2x.Source: Protocol
💉🔬 Health + Science
#36 Pfizer’s Novel Covid-19 Oral Antiviral Treatment Candidate Reduced Risk Of Hospitalization Or Death By 89%
The scheduled interim analysis showed an 89% reduction in risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization or death from any cause compared to placebo in patients treated within three days of symptom onset (primary endpoint); 0.8% of patients who received PAXLOVID™ were hospitalized through Day 28 following randomization (3/389 hospitalized with no deaths), compared to 7.0% of patients who received placebo and were hospitalized or died (27/385 hospitalized with 7 subsequent deaths). The statistical significance of these results was high (p<0.0001). Similar reductions in COVID-19-related hospitalization or death were observed in patients treated within five days of symptom onset; 1.0% of patients who received PAXLOVID™ were hospitalized through Day 28 following randomization (6/607 hospitalized, with no deaths), compared to 6.7% of patients who received a placebo (41/612 hospitalized with 10 subsequent deaths), with high statistical significance (p<0.0001). In the overall study population through Day 28, no deaths were reported in patients who received PAXLOVID™ as compared to 10 (1.6%) deaths in patients who received placebo.Source: Pfizer
#37 Moderna Fight With NIH Heating Up Over Covid-19 Vaccine Credit
The U.S. government is objecting to Moderna listing only company scientists, and not ones from the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center, as inventors on a patent application.
The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in a statement Wednesday that Moderna was willing to list government scientists on a minor patent but “has so far refused to name NIH inventors to the principal patent application that covers the mRNA-1273 vaccine itself.”
“Omitting NIH inventors from the principal patent application deprives NIH of a co-ownership interest in that application and the patent that will eventually issue from it,” the agency said.
Moderna noted in a statement Wednesday that it’s added NIH scientists on other patent applications, including one for dosing. But, it said, there are “strict rules” at the U.S. patent office for determining which inventors to list on an application, and it followed that for this patent on the specific sequence in its Covid vaccine.
“We do not agree that NIAID scientists co-invented claims to the mRNA-1273 sequence itself,” the company said. “Only Moderna’s scientists came up with the sequence for the mRNA used in our vaccine.”
The listing of the inventors is critical to determining who can control the patent. If government scientists are listed, it would mean that the U.S. has ownership of the patent and can license it to anyone it wants, even over Moderna objections. If a legitimate inventor is kept off a patent or the wrong inventor is listed, it could later be ruled invalid in court.Source: Bloomberg
Like CRISPR, the successful usage of mRNA in vaccines / therapies could change the trajectory of medicine and healthcare in the coming years.
Like CRISPR, mRNA tech is now embroiled in high stakes patent fights. There is no doubt that Moderna benefited from the assistance of the US government, even if Moderna can prove that the US did not “invent” the genetic sequence (which is my current working assumption on the situation). In some ways, maybe Moderna should be grateful and repay that debt…but when the stakes are this high, can we expect people to be nice?
From Moderna’s perspective, I can understand the rationalization that they are likely going through. While the US assisted the company for this specific vaccine, Moderna did come up with the underlying technology and have been working on it for over a decade. Moderna did vaccinate hundreds of millions of people and saved tens of millions lives and only asked for $15 per life. Isn’t that generosity enough?
From the government’s perspective, Moderna’s vaccine was accelerated with assistance from the government. Normally, approvals take years, yet this vaccine took less than a year to approve. The government also provided the COVID-19 virus sample that was necessary to develop the vaccine. And maybe there is a little bit of ego here as well…for government scientists, this may be their only shot in life to be truly recognized for something revolutionary. When the stakes are this high, can we expect people to be nice?
Valuing life is a philosophically challenging thing. It’s worth infinity, but asking for compensation when you save one is often a sensitive subject.
#38 Alphabet is launching a company that uses AI for drug discovery
A new Alphabet company will use artificial intelligence methods for drug discovery, Google’s parent company announced Thursday. It’ll build off of the work done by DeepMind, another Alphabet subsidiary that has done groundbreaking work using AI to predict the structure of proteins.
Isomorphic will try to build models that can predict how drugs will interact with the body, Hassabis told Stat News. It could leverage DeepMind’s work on protein structure to figure out how multiple proteins might interact with each other. The company may not develop its own drugs but instead sell its models. It will focus on developing partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, a spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.
Developing and testing drugs, though, could be a steeper challenge than figuring out protein structure. For example, even if two proteins have structures that fit together physically, it’s hard to tell how well they’ll actually stick. A drug candidate that looks promising based on how it works at a chemical level also might not always work when it’s given to an animal or a person. Over 90 percent of drugs that make it to a clinical trial end up not working, as chemist and writer Derek Lowe pointed out in Science this summer. Most of the problems aren’t because there was something wrong at the molecular level.Source: The Verge
🤔 Hmm… / 😮 Much Wow
#39 DARPA nabs Gremlin drone in midair for first time
For the first time, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recovered an unmanned X-61 Gremlin air vehicle to a C-130 in flight, marking a milestone in the U.S. military’s effort to deploy swarms of drones from a mothership.
DARPA hopes the program — named for the imaginary, mischievous creatures that World War II-era pilots blamed when their aircraft or equipment malfunctioned — will one day allow the military to launch groups of small sensor-laden drones from bombers, cargo planes or smaller aircraft such as fighters.
DARPA envisions the motherships will stay out of range of enemy defenses, but the drone swarms would fly into danger and conduct missions such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance or electronic warfare.Source: DefenseNews
Reminds me of the Protoss carriers in Starcraft. Brings back nostalgia: