inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #26 of 468: I was oilers1972, now going by (mct67) Tue 4 Jan 22 16:58
"The Metaverse could distract us, perhaps, from climate instability
and an authoritarian political drift. Burying our heads in the
digital sand, wishing the difficulties of the world away as we
navigate a pixelated alternate reality, eating our virtual pizzas
and blowing virtual kisses to the digital wind."

Which might not be so bad, if it were only the climate instability
and authoritarian political drift that were virtual.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #27 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Tue 4 Jan 22 18:28
There's a lot of different ways different societies might use VR,
and the networked versions of it which people are calling Metaverse.

In our society there are two pertinent questions:

1) what's the most profitable thing you could do with this

2) what's the morally worst thing you could do with this technology?

I'd like to hazard a guess at both.

I think the most profitable thing is to sweep the poor out of the
path of the rich. The poor at at home surfing virtually, and the
rich are out there surfing physically. Poor folks live in windowless
basements and exercise in VR. Rich folks run in the woods in
national parks.

The rich are desperate to get away from the poor, and as the wealth
divide hardens and hardens. American is heading towards a class
separation much like Brazil. The children of the billionaires don't
get an iPad until they're pretty mature. Real estate is still the
yardstick of real wealth in most rich people's minds. Landlords got,
what, 40% of the VC money spent in San Francisco?

So the push will be to virtualize the needs of the poor. TV was just
the start. Never mind social media.

Then the other question, what's the morally *worst* thing you could
do with the metaverse. The answer is pretty simple: use it to
persuade people to change the real world in damaging ways.
Consumerism is driven by a constant stream of advertising. All the
screens, all the time. Careful manipulation of surfaces so people
forget to think about where handbags are manufactured or what
hamburgers are made of. In VR however these things can be delivered
as dreams, in the language of the subconscious - I'm not convinced
that the brain isn't pretty dramatically compromisable by presenting
dream-like imagery to it, like messages wrapped in dreams, which one
part of the brain interprets as coming from another rather than an
external agent.

I didn't explain that very well. Imagine that a dream is a message
from one part of the mind to another. Like the "internal dialogue"
that most people (but not all!) have is a narrator. Dreams are like
a movie director. Internal signalling apparatus nobody else can hear
the inner voice or see the dreams. It's a shared space between
different parts of us.

So I think if you model surrealism in advertising, and hyperrealism
too, and imagine that wrapped into immersive environments, it might
be possible to (for example) change people's ideas about what a
normal human face looks like. Photo filters on Snapchat or whatever
are already sending people to plastic surgeons asking to be made to
look just like in the processed pictures of themselves. So think of
that, but instead of plastic surgery it's voting and spending
patterns and shifting social norms.

The tech isn't far off. The Oculus Quest 2 has (as far as I can
tell) solved the issues with head tracking and frame rate. Field of
view is still too narrow. But that's a problem that goes away by
spending more money. Great head tracking was simply impossible at
any price until pretty recently.

So it's on the way: designer realities intended to distort the real
world. Malefic dreams. We've never managed to really nail down the
links between what people see and what people do in a proper
statistical way. Violent video games don't seem to make people more

But advertising makes people buy and vote and change their
priorities and refocus what they care about. Powerful indeed.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #28 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 4 Jan 22 23:12
    <scribbled by bslesins Tue 4 Jan 22 23:12>
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #29 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Tue 4 Jan 22 23:53
As Google’s many failed products show, being a tech giant with
practically unlimited cash and many billions of users doesn’t
guarantee a hit product. Meta to me looks a lot like Google Glass -
it’s a rich geek’s idea of what people will want. And Facebook has
had a few failures of its own. Remember Libra? (Maybe not.)

Tech giants can afford to fail a lot and keep trying. They’ll be
fine. But after a while the pile of failures generates enough
skepticism that they seem less threatening outside their core
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #30 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 5 Jan 22 00:30
Apple's worth three trillion.  A trillion was a lot, but the
pandemic and the Biden administration have been more than kind to

They've tripled their wealth in a mere couple of years, and I'm
wondering, why not six trillion, or twelve?  Also, what are they
supposed to do with that wealth and success?  Mind you,  I'm not
resentful about Apple, and among their peers in MAGMA (Microsoft
Apple Google Meta Amazon) they're one of the more benign titans, but
it's strange that they've become so inert.  There's rumors of Apple
cars, there's the Apple head-mounted thing... neither of them
showing up.

Apple fans pretended to be thrilled when Apple put a bunch of
old-fashioned ports back into a laptop. They got rid of the
touchbar.  At last, they're getting rid of the pretenses at
innovation, and the Apple faithful -- who, as a demographic, seem to
be getting rather crotchety and long-in-the-tooth -- that was
somehow cause for celebration.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #31 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 5 Jan 22 00:31

Apple did pick a down-and-dirty cyberwar fight with Netanyahu's
plausibly-deniable Israeli cyber-militia, so that was rather daring
and novel... unlike with oil companies, it's been rare for Big Tech
to boldly cross an armed  nation-state.  But Apple kinda had to do
that, because NSO was killing off or betraying some of Apple's elite
customers, high-profile people, politicians, journalists, activists
and (I would rather imagine) top Apple staffers, too.

So that was a gutsy Tom Clancy-novel  move there, but where's
Apple's "buzz"?  Where's the insane greatness?  They've become so
stodgy... They're censorious, even -- they can no longer abide the
notion of sordid Internet hippie scum such as Tumblr in their
stack-and-ecosystem.  "Think Different -- like our ultra-rich gated

I can well understand how Apple got here, I saw it happen step by
step, and there's even a cultural logic to it, but I wonder what
they see when they look in their huge gilded mirrors.  "We see three
trillion and we're hankering for six!"  Okay, then what?

Why do they need  any geniuses at their genius bars now, why do they
even hire engineers?  Why don't they just sell little handheld glass
biscuits, that look perfect, and work okay, and never change?
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #32 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 5 Jan 22 00:58
I'm with Brian Slesins about the Google thing.  Apple people were
eccentric, but Googlers are genuinely weird.  According to my
earlier presumptions, if you had multitalented brainiacs, and you
gave them catering and stuck 'em in a building with no distractions
and an infinite budget, and told them "Make Moon Shots!" they should
have littered the planet with innovations fit to outdo Thomas

Their whole original Google reason-for-being was ordering knowledge
and information so that it would become more useful.  You'd assume
this capacity would give Alphabet some brilliant capacity to
execute, but they have the affect of absent-minded professors.  It's
like their frontal lobes are overstuffed, they just can't seem to

I guess I can forgive Google for failing to colonize our faces with
Glass and litter our stratosphere with nifty Internet balloons, but
even their core money-making operations, Google search and Google
maps, are getting visibly worse.  Google Maps is truly a planetary
marvel, but it's chokingly baroque.   Google search is merely Google
searching its advertisers pockets for some transaction money. 
Google Search used to convey an impression of limitless brainpower
and now you can't tap on it without being despatched to the mall. 
Worse yet, it's not even a good mall.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #33 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 5 Jan 22 00:58

I quite admire Google Translate, especially its eerie ability to
photograph book pages and overlay any language you choose -- as a
traveler, I use Translate a lot, and I'd say it makes me more aware,
intelligent and capable.  But other Google initiatives, like, or, which really felt like a determined
effort to improve civilization -- they're moribund.  They sort-of
want you to use Google Mail, Google Cloud, podcasts, play, drive,
news, their litany of ill-organized services... but they don't care
if you're any better off for doing that.

Google didn't have to become so indifferent and stodgy -- Bezos
isn't stodgy, he's a mid-life crisis divorce guy with rockets
instead of a Cadillac.  Elon Musk has proved that the public loves
louche and eccentric tech entrepreneurs who promise Moon Shots. 
Google could have rebuilt Toronto as a smart-city utopia, and if the
Torontonians didn't like that -- (and they didn't) -- they just
could have built a new Toronto.    

But there's something seedy about them now -- they're like a
Hollywood movie palace fallen on hard times.  Still rich, though. 
Boy, are they ever.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #34 of 468: @jonl (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 22 07:46
The wealthy are in a world of their own; I can barely understand how
their lives work. In fact, I don't think about them much, and I
don't think much about tech companies as anything but a source of
tools. I suppose we'll get some exposure to Elon Musk's world, since
he's moved himself and his companies to Austin and other parts of
Texas. And what interests me most about Musk and Bezos is their
devotion to space travel, which always held my attention as a focus
of so much speculative fiction. It's probably not a practical focus
for technologists right now, but they're going for it. Bezos flew
with Captain Kirk, a stunt that captured the popular imagination for
fifteen minutes or so. 

But there's a contradiction here, watching Bezos and Musk and other
tech billionaires live their fantasies while democracy fails and the
climate is on fire. I suppose they're thinking they'll escape a
collapsing world and move to Mars. Or the metaverse, living in game
reality until they explode.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #35 of 468: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 22 08:59
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #36 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Wed 5 Jan 22 09:48
The future consists of absences as well as novelties, and this month
the Blackberry phone, as a service, ceased to exist.

You can still have a Blackberry brick as a doorstop, but iPhone and
Android did it in.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #37 of 468: When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla (doctorow) Wed 5 Jan 22 10:16
@jonl asked me to repost today's edition of Pluralistic, my
blog/daily Twitter threads/daily Mastodon threads/newsletter/Tumblr
feed/RSS. Here's the canonical link:

And here's the post:


Hospital beds are a monopoly

The great James Boyle tells an important parable about the coining
of the term "ecology." Before the term came into wide use, the
"ecology movement" as we know it was just a bunch of fragmented,
seemingly disconnected issues.

Like, if you're worried about owls and I'm worried about the ozone
layer, it's not immediately apparent that we're fighting the same
fight. It's not intuitive to link the fate of charismatic nocturnal
avians to the gaseous composition of the upper atmosphere, right?

All that changes with "ecology." The introduction of that conceptual
umbrella term turns 1,000 issues into one movement with 1,000
on-ramps. It welded thousands of fragmented activist causes into a
single, solidaristic force to be reckoned with.

Which brings me to Big Tech.

For years, I've been fighting against Big Tech. There are a lot of
potential allies in the fight to demonopolize our tech world,
because tech is woven into so many facets of our lives: romance,
employment, civics, culture, education, family life, etc. But as
vast as that resistance might be, it's minuscule when compared to
the legions who are harmed by all forms of monopoly.

Monopoly has infected every part of our economy. From running shoes
to pro wrestling, shipping to finance, eyeglasses to semiconductors,
textbooks to novels, candy to oil, movies to music, every part of
our lives is being organized by a handful of massive, lawless
monopolies who openly collude to rig the system against their
customers, their workers, and their communities.

That's the bad news. But it's also the good news. It means that pro
wrestling fans have common cause with bank tellers who get screwed
by Wells Fargo, and that both are fighting the same fight as
microbrewers and cheerleaders and meat-packers. It means that as
powerful as these monopolies are, they face a potential resistance
movement that encompasses nearly everyone, save the vanishingly
small number of beneficiaries of monopoly (top executives, finance
bros, and ultra-wealthy shareholders).

All we need to do is realize that owls and the ozone layer are part
of the same fight. All we need to do is name a common enemy
(monopoly) and a common cause (pluralism).

After all, monopolies didn't happen by accident. Since the Reagan
years, orthodox economists have embraced the idea that monopolies
are "efficient" and have demanded that regulators leave them be.

That orthodoxy – part of the neoliberal revolution fomented by the
Chicago School of economics – has been in retreat for years, and
that phenomenon has accelerated through the pandemic as giant
companies boosted their profits while the world burned. The
seemingly impregnable edifice of monopolism may collapse like an
avalanche: slowly, then all at once. Avalanches are triggered by the
cumulative pressure of a myriad of tiny forces. Tiny forces like our
individual voices, railing against the 1,000% increase in eyeglass
prices or gigaships stuck in the Suez canal or the conversion of the
internet into "five giant websites, each filled with text from the
other four."

Monopolists and their apologists and enablers do their best to stave
this off, of course. They go to great lengths to obscure the degree
to which our markets are structured by colluding CEOs of giant
companies. They go to even greater lengths to make us think that
each monopolized industry is a unique tale, driven by the distinct
characteristics of its products. For example, tech monopolists like
to pretend that their dominance is the inevitable product of
"network effects":

One of the main tasks of antimonopolists is revealing the lie behind
this exceptionalism – to show that all our monopolies follow the
same playbook, executed by the same coterie of ultra-rich schemers.
No one does this better than David Dayen, whose 2020 book
"Monopolized" is a masterwork of compact, compelling storytelling
that reveals the connected nature of every kind of monopoly:

Dayen is the executive editor of The American Prospect, where he
carries on his excellent antimonopoly reporting. Today, he kicked
off a new section in The Prospect called "Rollup," which tracks
"obscure, under-the-radar monopolies."

Rollups is just the kind of thing we need: a way to hasten the
antimonopoly movement's "ecology" moment by teaching us that no
matter what kind of corporate fuckery you're laboring under, it has
a common root in monopolism.

(Another excellent source of this cross-industry fuckery-revelation
is Matt Stoller's Substack, BIG.)

The inaugural edition of Rollups tells the tale of a monopolist I'd
never heard of: Hillrom, a giant corporation that has rigged the
market for…hospital beds.

Dayen's story is based on filings in Linet v Hill-Rom Holdings, a
new federal antitrust lawsuit just filed in the Northern District of

The lawsuit accuses Hillrom of cornering the hospital bed market,
with a 70% market share that includes standard beds, ICU beds,
birthing beds, and more. It details "a series of secret, exclusive
deals" that lock in the (monopolized) hospital sector to buying its
beds and accessories, forever.

As Dayen points out, the Hillrom playbook looks a lot like every
monopolist's. The company bought its way to dominance, using its
access to the capital market to acquire and kill or absorb its
competitors. Its acquisitions include companies that produce
bed-adjacent products, creating a kill-zone around hospital beds
where competitors can't find purchase.

Monopoly begets monopoly. Hillrom started out as a division of
Hillenbrand, a massive conglomerate that has monopolized the casket
market and uses its dominance to lock in funeral directors (another
highly monopolized market) and prey on bereaved families, gouging
them on coffins.

Hillenbrand spun out Hillrom in 2008. Now, Hillrom is a division of
med-tech monopolist Baxter International, whose gadgets are tied to
Hillrom beds and vice-versa – hospitals that invest in Hillrom beds
are arm-twisted into buying Baxter med-tech, and hospitals that buy
Baxter med-tech need to buy "compatible" Hillrom beds.

This Baxter/Hillenbrand hybrid produced a kind of superpredator in
Hillrom, a company with monopolistic conduct in its very DNA.
Hillrom jacked up the prices of its beds and accessories, but then
offered 10% "discounts" to hospitals that agreed to buy 90% of their
gear from Hillrom. As it acquired company after company, it used
technological lock-in to ensure that Hillrom bed customers had to
buy the diagnostics, monitoring, positioning and other products it
got from 15 mergers over 18 years.

Hillrom's sales force routinely lies to hospitals to ensnare them in
its web, stealing the tactics of sleazy card dealers everywhere. The
quotes they provide to hospitals are for "bare bones" beds that are
useless until they are kitted out with high-priced accessories whose
prices are only revealed once the deal is done.

Hillrom has repeatedly settled antitrust suits over this conduct,
paying out over $500,000,000 in the past quarter century. But a fine
is a price: unlike breakups or other muscular antitrust
interventions, cash settlements don't deter monopolies. Instead,
they become part of the cost of business, priced into the next round
of predatory tactics.

Thus it was that after a quarter-century of antitrust fines and
settlements, the company doubled down on its illegal conduct. It
established a "strategic salesforce" that targeted "integrated
delivery networks" (giant, monopolistic hospital chains like HCA and
Providence). This salesforce locked the giants into 5-7 year
exclusive contracts ("corporate enterprise agreements") with Hillrom
for ICU, birthing and standard beds. These agreements required the
hospital chains to force their member hospitals to buy Hillrom beds,
regardless of their own preferences (these Hillrom beds got Hillrom
accessories, like nurse-call buttons).

As Dayen points out, hospitals buy new beds at 10-15 year intervals,
and strive to standardize on a single manufacturer across wards or
facilities. By insinuating itself into this cycle, Hillrom ensures
that its 5-7 exclusive deals become perpetual.

Hillrom's vast patent portfolio expands that perpetual dominance, by
thwarting rivals who want to make interoperable products – say,
systems that integrate with Hillrom's nurse-call system. Nurse-call
systems are hardwired and hospitals that want to change vendors have
to rip their walls apart, so locking nurse-call to both beds and
nurse-station gear is a way for Hillrom to ram its blood-funnel down
the throat of any hospital it can latch onto.

All of this comes from the briefs filed by Linet, a Hillrom
competitor. Linet, in turn, gleaned much of it from Hillrom execs'
boasts on Linkedin and other "open sources." Hillrom itself is a
secretive, brooding giant that refuses to discuss its commercial
operations, and binds its customers over to nondisclosure as well.

Hillrom's target is "control of the entire hospital room." Its
vertical monopoly – which expanded into infusion pumps in 2021 –
prompted Baxter, the monopolist that controlled the infusion pump
market, to buy the company for $10.5B. Baxter neutralized the
competitive threat from Hillrom, and transformed itself into a
"super bundler" that could further the conquest of the hospital

If Baxter rings a bell, you might be thinking of stories about
nationwide shortages of plastic IV bags. Baxter is the monopolist
that cornered the market on these bags, relocated all their
production to tax-free Puerto Rican facilities, which were wiped out
by Hurricane Maria:

The past two years have been full of stories about esoteric "supply
chain failures." Most of us are fuzzy on what a "supply chain
failure" is, but Hillrom is a supply chain failure in the making.
Every component of your hospital room is being locked into Hillrom's
production, meaning that any idiotic choice they make (like moving
all production to a low-lying, hurricane-emperilled Caribbean
island) will ripple through every part of every hospital room.

This is a whole new level of "hospital bed shortage" – not just a
lack of staff or space, but a finance-optimized, brittle,
concentrated supply chain that holds every sick person, every
laboring mother, every surgical patient hostage.

The only thing worse than letting these ghouls extract massive
profits from our sick and dying would be to squander the opportunity
for action. This is part of our antimonopoly "ecology" moment. If
you're outraged by the beer giants terrorizing your local craft
brewer, or by Disney ripping off Star Wars novelists, or by your
cable company's terrible service and sky-high prices, then this is
your cause. The same tactics that fueled all those monopolies – and
other monopolies – created the Baxter-Hillrom Industrial Complex.

There is an historic opportunity here. The FTC is now under the
direction of Lina Khan, a powerhouse anti-monopolist. She's warned
Baxter-Hillrom that she might unwind their merger, part of the
trillions in mergers that corporate America raced through in a bid
to avoid her oversight.

Khan should absolutely do this, especially if unwinding the merger
is a costly, painful process for Baxter-Hillrom. As I told Kara
Swisher and Scott Galloway for their end-of-year edition of the
Pivot podcast, the FTC should make examples of these swaggering
corporate bullies:
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #38 of 468: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 22 10:40
Cory has been calling out the problem of monopoly for a while now.
Strongly suggest subscribing to his newsletter and reading his daily
posts: <>

(Direct subscription link:
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #39 of 468: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 22 11:23
Incidentally, Cory has another thought-provoking piece in Locus
ture/> (h/t Michael Garfield)

He argues that science fiction is a Luddite literature, and that
most people don't understand what the Luddites were about.

"You really couldn’t ask for a more science-fictional setup: someone
invents a couple of gadgets and everything changes. A whole industry
of skilled workers is threatened. Ancient settlements are razed and
replaced by sheep, their residents turned into internal refugees,
wandering the land. Slavers sail around the world, murdering and
enslaving distant strangers to feed the machine. The entire material
culture of a nation is transformed. Guerilla warfare breaks out.
Machines are smashed. Factories are put to the torch. Guerrillas are
captured and publicly executed. Blood runs through the streets.

"The Luddites weren’t exercised about automation. They didn’t mind
the proliferation of cheap textiles. History is mostly silent on
whether they gave thought to the plight of tenant farmers at home or
enslaved people abroad.

"What were they fighting about? The social relations governing the
use of the new machines. These new machines could have allowed the
existing workforce to produce far more cloth, in far fewer hours, at
a much lower price, while still paying these workers well (the lower
per-unit cost of finished cloth would be offset by the higher sales
volume, and that volume could be produced in fewer hours)."
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #40 of 468: I was oilers1972, now going by (mct67) Wed 5 Jan 22 11:41
Great.  Global dystopia instead of something more like this:
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #41 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Wed 5 Jan 22 11:48
The folks from Dark Mountain Project
ve-planet-through-writing took a shot at putting the Luddites back into the discourse, as a way of getting people to ask hard questions about technology.

Pretty impactful in the UK, maybe not so widely known elsewhere.

Climate change is a Luddite problem.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #42 of 468: I was oilers1972, now going by (mct67) Wed 5 Jan 22 11:57
"It means that as powerful as these monopolies are, they face a
potential resistance movement that encompasses nearly everyone, save
the vanishingly small number of beneficiaries of monopoly (top
executives, finance bros, and ultra-wealthy shareholders)."

Problem is, they most likely already see the 99% that way.  Which
would only result in the installation of more extreme dictatorships
around the globe, in order to protect (as they see it) their way of
doing and being.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #43 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Wed 5 Jan 22 12:14
See also Lessig's work on copyright monopolies.

His conclusion? The reason we couldn't get any real action on
copyright etc. was systemic corruption.

The talk is fantastic. I've linked to a quick summary here.

I'd say Lessig's position is basically "look, the politicians are
all pre-bought via campaign finance and the result is you can't
dislodge the monopolies because the government actively creates them
to pay off the donor class."

Hard to see an obvious next move there. Doesn't mean there isn't
one, just that it's hard to see.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #44 of 468: George Mokray (jonl) Wed 5 Jan 22 12:40
Via email from George Mokray:

Howard Rheingold on how the Amish decide what technologies to adopt
or refuse:

'It's not just how you use the technology that concerns us. We're
also concerned about what kind of person you become when you use

Glad to be back with you all this year.  Happy Merry New and Bah
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #45 of 468: Evelyn Pine (evy) Wed 5 Jan 22 14:01
Wow! I remember that article from back then. . .
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #46 of 468: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 5 Jan 22 14:44
Facebook may be talking up virtual reality, but meanwhile there’s
more physical stuff than ever getting moved around:


> For 18 months now, the Port of Los Angeles has received 900,000
container units per month. Pre-pandemic, just one month with numbers
like that would have been a record.

> "We're running now about 17-18 ships a day that are working in
port. That's 70-80% higher productivity than we ever had before
Covid-19," Seroka said.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #47 of 468: (chrys) Wed 5 Jan 22 21:13
Thanks to <George Mokray> for adding that bit to the conversation.
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #48 of 468: Vinay Gupta (hexayurt) Thu 6 Jan 22 02:16
From our Twitter correspondent Matthew Garrett @mjg59

Everyone: This is not the cyberpunk dystopia we were promised, where
are the flying cars
Fortune: Kazakhstan was responsible for between 12% and 18% of the
Bitcoin hash rate, and the associated power shortages toppled the
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #49 of 468: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 6 Jan 22 04:42
I did not expect the Kazakhstan eruption, and if ie was really
caused by Bitcoin brownouts instead of just a sharp rise in the
state's price for gasoline, that would be hilarious.

Everybody in that Central Asian region expects triumphant Taliban
agents or ISIS truck-bomb martyrs to show up to attack their regime,
so the idea that ihe big-trouble might be French-style working-class
Yellow-Jackets upset about fossil-fuel prices, that's remarkable.

Also: asking the Russians to help repress your population for you. 
Even if they excel at doing it, they're not gonna leave when you say
"thank you."
inkwell.vue.516 : State of the World 2022
permalink #50 of 468: Mark Kraft (jonl) Thu 6 Jan 22 07:38
Via email from Mark Kraft:

We talk about Meta, but... their new intended niche is entirely
reliant on selling hardware as a loss leader, like a
headache-inducing game console, hoping to get it back through
software, in-game purchases, ads, selling their user's personal
information, etc.

Meanwhile, Facebook itself - the social media site - is moribund.
Ask anyone with significant prior background on social media sites
about how they work, and if they are honest, they will tell you that
they have a life cycle. People - usually young people - start off
enthusiastically communicating with their friends, but that slows
down... and meanwhile, you are being pushed content that is
increasingly less meaningful and relevant to your life, until
finally you have an algorithm pushing you ideological edgelord B.S.,
and ads designed to feel like ideological edgelord B.S.

Facebook loves to talk about the size of it's fictional user base.
What they don't offer up is any relevant data on how active people
WERE on Facebook, vs. how active they currently are. Reporters
should look into this, because despite every effort they can make to
incite users to post one more time, their stickiness has undoubtedly
taken a real plunge.

Their userbase is literally growing up... and those who haven't
grown up and left are stuck with something that increasingly feels
like the experience of a late-stage Usenet.

If Facebook didn't have the whole world to expand into, their
flagship brand would be in real trouble over the next few years...
and, guess what? They don't anymore. Nationalism and politics has
seen to that. I suspect their moment is even fading fast in India,
as Modi's rejection of Chinese companies like TikTok will inevitably
boost the fortunes of Indian social media companies, ESPECIALLY
amongst younger demographics, of which India has many.

Twitter is, in many, many ways, not that hot when it comes to its
functionality. But at least it's legitimately about something that
it does measurably better than anyone else, and should continue to
do so for quite awhile... whereas the one thing that Facebook is
legitimately good at is tracking you across the internet. But even
Google does that better. It reminds me more and more of pre-dotcom
bust content aggregator, which bought out built a "network" of
somewhat disconnected sites and functions, while slapping "punch the
monkey" ads on every page. 

Facebook is an aging, creaking exercise in desperation, increasingly
full of dead people, trying to get you to squeeze out one more post,
one more click, one more share. The kids know it's monumentally
uncool clickbait where both the site and your parents spy on you,
and have moved on in droves. And honestly, it's probably starting to
happen to Instagram too.

So the question needs to be asked... is Facebook really the right
company to mainstream Meta, capable of creating exciting software
that dominates the marketplace and makes back the losses they incur
on every VR headset? Are they going to be some kind of VR middleman
version of Juicero, trying to squeeze all the juice it can out of
the market and its users, like a twisted mutation of the Apple store
and Google Adsense? Or are they just too lame for the game, risking
major losses as their core business dies off?


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