29 June 2023

Los Angeles Times: “Forget the metaverse. For $3,500, Apple offers a new way to be alone”

Apple’s pitch? This may be virtual reality, but it’s anything but the metaverse. This is brand new technology for you, the consumer, to be enjoyed inside Apple’s famous walled garden. Its demo was all about watching huge virtual movie screens in your living room and disappearing in beautiful simulated natural environments. It’s a high-tech home theater for your face. Unlike other headsets, there are no handheld controllers — you navigate the digital world by looking at the objects of interest and pinching your fingers. You are immersed, you are entertained, and you are very much alone.

That these kinds of immersive digital worlds, whether closed or open, would rise to prominence was always a dystopian idea, one that originated in cyberpunk fiction, premised on the notion that conditions in the real world were so bad that users had to abandon their actual lives completely and escape into a more poorly rendered simulacrum.

This is precisely why Karpf thinks that computers-on-your-face might have a future after all. If the world keeps getting worse, he says, this will eventually have a lot of appeal.

If Apple’s vision wins out, the fear is that we’ll all sink into our cypberpunk home theater goggles, consuming content as the world burns — it’s almost enough to make you wish for the metaverse.

Brian Merchant

This article gets to the core of the issue of Apple’s recently announced mixed-reality headset, an issue it shares with a whole category of VR goggles: these devices are ultimately designed to be used in isolation, with few or preferably no other people around. I’m not convinced it’s an impact of the recent pandemic and the associated social distancing; Big Tech has always been in the business of creating tools to disintermediate and monetize human interactions, and the Apple Vision Pro represents a pinnacle of that evolution.

21 June 2023

The Verge: “Reddit CEO Steve Huffman isn’t backing down: our full interview”

We offer the API so the vast majority of our use of the uses of the API — so not these, the other 98 percent of them that make tools, bots, enhancements for Reddit — that’s what the API is for.

It was never designed to support third-party apps. We let it exist. And I should take the blame for that, because I was the guy arguing for that for a long time. But I didn’t know — and this is my fault — the extent that they were profiting off of our API. That these were not charities.

The ones that actually are doing good for our users — RedReader, Dystopia, Luna — like actually adding real value at their own cost? We’ve exempted. We’ll carry that cost.

I want to stop you for a second there. So you’re saying that Apollo, RIF, Sync, they don’t add value to Reddit?

Not as much as they take. No way.

90-plus percent of Reddit users are on our platform, contributing, and are monetized either through ads or Reddit Premium. Why would we subsidize this small group? Why would we effectively pay them to use Reddit but not everybody else who also contributes to Reddit? Does that make sense?

These people who are mad, they’re mad because they used to get something for free, and now it’s going to be not free. And that free comes at the expense of our other users and our business. That’s what this is about. It can’t be free.

Jay Peters

Feels strange to side with the corporate side in this fight, but Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has a good point here – it probably helps that I’m a casual Reddit user who couldn’t care less about third-party apps, especially one exclusive to iOS such as Apollo. Reddit could have undoubtedly handled the rollout better, with more clarity around pricing and timelines. And it doesn’t help that the CEO is invoking Elon Musk as a model for this swift overhaul…

11 June 2023

The Next 30 Trips: “S/crappy - [special edition]”

As the number of articles, books, videos, and personalities trying to make a living talking about SpaceX online10 multiplied, I noticed that a weird, decidedly male, crypto-adjacent faction11 started to form.

The issue is that instead of everyone rooting on other teams, they started to actively root against them because they saw them as competition for SpaceX. The Space Launch System is the biggest target of this ire, and it has plenty of things we should be critical of as it was chronically behind schedule and overbudget.

More worrying, though, are the people punching down at the small teams trying to get their rockets off the ground. That attitude will kill innovation in this field faster than anything else. We should be rooting for these other companies and efforts to succeed, if we ever hope to actually open up space to humanity for peaceful purposes.

I don’t think this was a success, by any measure. Nuking the launch site, losing a high percentage of the engines on a relatively short ascent, failing to even separate the stages during stage separation, and then being grounded by the FAA for a full investigation (the deleterious effects on wildlife and human health are unknown) cannot be judged as a success by any measure.

Worse, their newest contract with NASA stipulates landing humans on the Moon by 2024, which is next year. Keep in mind, that Starship has nothing inside of it except the tanks, valves, and wires needed to make it fly. There is no payload bay. There are no seats. There is no life support system. We don’t know if the re-entry tiles will work. Honestly, if this was any company other than SpaceX I would declare them toast. Companies have folded over much less, especially in this industry.

Ben Kellie

Long and balanced analysis on the failed Starship launch a couple of weeks ago. The point about online mobs trashing SpaceX competitors is especially striking; I’m sure Musk is relishing this dynamic, and as the owner of Twitter he’s in a position to amplify these signals – anything to ensure SpaceX has a dominant position on the market to reap monopoly profits down the line. But, as always, what’s best for Musk and his companies is not best for society at large, and the vision of cheaper and safer space exploration in this case.

03 June 2023

Forbes: “Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ appears to have The Worst Audience Score in TV History”

The issue is the conceptualization of what purports to be a historical documentary saying that Cleopatra was a black “African queen”, as this season was supposed to be the first in a series covering different queens from the continent. But there is not terribly credible evidence that Cleopatra was black, and instead she was of Macedonian Greek descent. The country of Egypt in particular has taken offense to the show altering their history this dramatically and portraying it as something they believe is non-factual in a series that is meant to be a documentary.

It is not a huge shock to report that the show is… not good. While historical accuracy aside, Cleopatra Adele James is actually quite good in the part from what I saw (I could only do part of the first episode before I remembered I had about 12 other better shows to watch), the entire thing comes off like one of those bad historical re-enactment dramas I used to watch on the History Channel with my parents as a kid. The information, often inaccurate it seems, is also just very dull, and the entire thing feels like a dry soap opera. I am not shocked the critics are rejecting alongside fans not really even mentioning the issue of the Cleopatra’s casting.

Paul Tassi

Feels weird to comment on a show I haven’t watched (nor do I have any intention to), and that has stirred up much controversy, but the whole situation highlights several prevalent issues. The narratives around race in the US have become so polarized and absurd that people are dismissing historical records and basic nuance such as ‘not all people living in Africa are black’. The hypocrisy of complaining that Hollywood studios are casting white actors to play non-white characters, and then casting a black actor to play a most-likely non-black historical figure are apparently lost on some – not to mention that movies are fictional, and thus have greater freedom to reinvent characters and events, while ‘Queen Cleopatra’ was marketed as a documentary, which should ideally stick to retelling our best current understanding of history.