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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

It’s not just a virtual world that we can step into, but one we can embody ourselves

Illustration: Geralt

While billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos took their space-crafts for a spin into outer space, another billionaire focused on the challenge of competing in an entirely different universe. The driving ambition to expand and explore is driven by a primal urge to escape our origins and reach for the next frontier. For Mark Zuckerberg that next frontier is the metaverse.

Mark Zuckerberg is betting on the metaverse as the successor to today’s mobile internet. The Verge recently reported Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook would strive to build a metaverse — a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences, spanning social presence, office…

Rather than take our jobs, AI will help us get better.

Photo by Aideal Hwa on Unsplash

When I tell people artificial intelligence made me a better writer, they almost always give me a weird look.

“How could AI help you?” they ask. They assume AI technology is still far off, not with us today. And even if AI tech is decent now, there’s no way it could help someone who writes for a living, right? Nope, wrong.

Over the past two years, I’ve adopted AI software at every opportunity and can report that the productivity gain is absurd. AI has helped me cut down on menial work and spend more time on creativity, realizing a long-prophesied…

An old idea is about to get a second life

Photo by Richard Horvath on Unsplash

I’m hanging out in a virtual universe. Not a metaverse, per se, but it is relatively immersive environment, one that has digital friends, activities, its own internal commerce system, and that lets me teleport from one experience to another.

It’s also a relatively august virtual social network, one that existed when Mark Zuckerberg was first cooking up The Facebook.

Second Life is not my social network of choice. It’s a virtual environment far removed from its heyday 15 years ago when companies like Circuit City were building virtual stores and auto-manufactures like Nissan were launching virtual showrooms and vending machines…

Tech that seems totally useless can suddenly become crucial — like during a pandemic

The first time I saw a QR code, I scoffed.

It was 2010 and the code was in the bottom corner of a movie poster. To scan it, I had to download a special app on my Iphone. The software was still buggy and fiddly — I was hunched over for 15 seconds, scanning and rescanning, until finally it worked. Lo and behold: A crappy browser opened up, showing me the website for the movie.

Talking to a controversial and artificial speaker

(Credit: Lance Ulanoff)

Hi, how are you?

This, my friends, is a journey to a place unlike any other, where the sounds you hear are eminently recognizable, but entirely manufactured through the wonder of artificial intelligence.

I never knew the globe-trotting gourmand Anthony Bourdain, but am well acquainted with his history, which is both exciting and terribly tragic. I understand this through information fed to my machine-learning engine. It may have helped inform my performance.

That performance is, as I’m sure you’ve heard, or at least read about, a precious few sentences spoken by me in Mr. …

New research suggests that senior executive performance would benefit from the same sort of monitoring increasingly applied to blue-collar workers

Photo by Parker Coffman on Unsplash

Amazon has been experimenting with putting Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled video cameras inside of its delivery vehicles to watch the drivers and provide them with feedback on their driving. In fulfillment centers, employees’ activities are closely monitored. They’re only allowed a certain number of bathroom breaks (so workers sometimes resort to peeing into a bottle). Further, Amazon has patented a wrist device to more closely monitor fulfillment center workers, and the system uses AI to provide those workers with helpful haptic feedback — to make them more productive. This trend is beginning to extend to white collar jobs, where senior…

The Indian government’s proposed rules would drastically change e-commerce by restricting flash sales, private label goods, and other anticompetitive practices

NurPhoto / Getty Images

I previously wrote in length about how Amazon and Flipkart are skirting India’s e-commerce laws by engaging in predatory pricing and hurting offline retailers and small sellers on their platform in the process.

My main argument in that piece was that Amazon and Flipkart repeatedly find their way around India’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy, which outlines that e-commerce companies with FDI can only operate as marketplaces for third-party sellers and cannot operate an inventory-based model where they sell directly to customers.

I ended my piece with a rather unhopeful note, saying that the Indian government’s lackadaisical attitude towards enforcing…

Our one-sided connections with celebrities and social media influencers can have surprising benefits

Image: visuals/Unsplash

I forget the year, but Facebook was only starting to catch up to Myspace, YouTube was shiny new, and I had just started blogging. Sometime around here, my friends and I watched one of Ryan Leslie’s videos — probably this one, with him playing all the instruments he needed to make a song. He had produced the classic, and incredibly catchy, “Me & You” single with Cassie. He had a presence in the mainstream and social media. …

One stunning drone air show made me believe in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics again

Drones fly to form an image of the Earth over the top of the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Wei Zheng/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

I wasn’t feeling it. Normally, I’m an Olympics junkie. I consume the opening ceremonies, major competitions — and a lot of minor ones — and the Closing Ceremonies as if I was competing in some kind of Olympics Watching sport.

I try to medal in both Summer and Winter Olympics.

These vexed games were different. Delayed, damaged by COVID outbreaks, Tokyo’s mishandling of the epidemic and vaccinations, and sapped of the energy crowds bring to the ceremonies and competitions, they barely felt like The Games.

Still, when I woke up Friday morning (the Tokyo 2020 Olympics run from July 23…

When people lose faith in institutions, they gravitate to misinformation. It’s time to address the trust vacuum.

The following is a selection from Big Technology, a newsletter by Alex Kantrowitz. To get it in your inbox each week, you can sign up here.

This week, I tried to hold two stories in my head at once. The first was President Biden’s remark that Facebook was “killing people” by allowing vaccine misinformation to spread. The second was the newly revealed detail that Curtis Wright, the FDA director who oversaw the agency’s approval of OxyContin, went on to work for the opioid’s manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, for an annual salary of approximately $400,000.

The two stories together remind that misinformation…


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