Facebook is now Meta and the Facebook app is now part of the metaverse. Mark Zuckerberg introduced a rebranding of the parent company that owns properties like Instagram, WhatsApp or Oculus, and at the same time introduced the world to their vision of the future, the metaverse.
Regardless of whether or not you saw Meta’s presentation video, you might be wondering what the metaverse actually is. Is it a mix of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices and apps? Is it a development platform where content creators can create VR/AR experiences? Is it an actual virtual place where users can go online to meet other like-minded people?
The coronavirus crisis, with all its ‘working from home’ and social distancing recommendations, has probably transformed your social life into a succession of video chats. Your boss, your doctor, your family, your friends, they all want to see your face and tech is here to help. Or is it?
It’s Saturday morning, and my phone has been burning for the past few hours. Just after I wake up, I stare at the screen and I have several messages from my parents, who live on the other side of the world, telling me that they miss me and that they are ready to talk.
As an immigrant in this country and with all my family living in Spain, this is not an unusual situation at all. Keeping in touch with your loved ones across different time zones and geography is challenging enough already. You have to add the technological breach existing between their generation and mine to make a perfect cocktail for frustration and bad quality communication.
Facebook has been receiving criticism once again for how they handled users’ personal data. Here is a quick summary: in 2013, a 3rd party developer acquired large amounts of data from about 50 million users through an old platform capability (which was removed by Facebook itself one year later to prevent abuse); this data was then used to target US voters during the 2016 Presidential Election. The issue is complex in depth and it highlights a bigger underlying problem: users’ privacy expectations are not aligned with the commitment from most tech companies.
Zuckerberg said in a recent interview with Wired, “early on […] we had this very idealistic vision around how data portability would allow all these different new experiences, and I think the feedback that we’ve gotten from our community and from the world is that privacy and having the data locked down is more important to people.”
I can nonetheless relate to that idealistic vision between privacy and technology. The more information the Google Assistant knows about the music I like, the better it can personalize my listening experience. Richer actions become available too, like allowing me to control the Nest thermostat or the lights by voice. At the end of the day, I’m trusting Google with my music taste and the devices installed in my house, and I get the benefit of convenience in return.
Many of my friends have stopped posting on Facebook. Some have uninstalled the app and others even deleted their accounts.
They are not posting on Twitter either, and the more ephemeral Snapchat hasn’t reached critical mass among my closest friends.
Instagram is the only place where I still get a glimpse of the most intimate side of the people I love the most, but I’d say only 20% of my online friends actively use it.
What causes someone to stop sharing on social media? Is it a natural part of being over 30? Or is there an actual problem with the platform? Talking to 12 of these friends, I learned that there are several groups.
Last Saturday I found out about AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s computer capable of beating the European champion at the game Go; it uses “deep neural networks that have been trained by supervised learning, from human expert games, and by reinforcement learning from games of self-play“, and it’s still unknown if humans can beat it.
Watching the project’s website I noticed the copyright at the bottom and thought: is DeepMind actually aligned with Google’s business goals? A quick look to their mission statement refreshed my memory:
Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.