You are reading Greg’s weekly email about creative, digital, social, and cultural signals worth noting, and sometimes a dumb viral video worth sharing with your friends. Today’s email was written to Greg’s 7-hour “Get to Work” playlist on random. Follow @gregswan on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
I have bad news, friends. Apparently, reaction GIFs are no longer cool (or maybe were never cool), and I truly love reaction GIFs. It’s going to be hard to quit them..
I asked my 10-year-old, and she said this isn’t a thing. Reaction GIFs are neither cool nor lame. They are ambivalent. So maybe there’s hope for me and my social habits. Time will tell.
ROBOTS HAVE ALREADY TAKEN OVER
There’s a pretty common notion (joke? saying? trope?) about the robots taking over that is so realistic it’s not even a funny or unique Hollywood film plot anymore. Specifically, right this minute artificial intelligence (A.I.) is powering the stock market, traffic flows, manufacturing, shipping, healthcare, and the vacuum in my living room. But there’s also a problem there, which is human error, bias, and our lack of understanding of the long-term implications to our short-term coding decisions.
In an interview published by The Guardian, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman shared his expert take on the battle of man and machine quite succinctly, “Clearly AI is going to win [against human intelligence]. It’s not even close… How people are going to adjust to this is a fascinating problem.”
Kahneman’s new book is actually focused on human bias and the impact of noise that impacts our decisions, but I really appreciated his comments about humanity’s widespread inability to grasp the basic idea of exponential growth and understand the future of our decisions as it directly relates to A.I. (and the machines taking over before the masses truly understand what’s happening): “Exponential phenomena are almost impossible for us to grasp. We are very experienced in a more or less linear world. And if things are accelerating, they’re usually accelerating within reason. Exponential change [as with the spread of the virus] is really something else. We’re not equipped for it. It takes a long time to educate intuition.”
What do we do about it? 1) Insist on ethical A.I. 2) Educate ourselves and our kids. 3) Educate our parents. 4) Look to Hollywood for the worst-case scenarios and try to avoid them. 5) Try to learn from how human’s reacted to the exponential change of the pandemic — good, bad, and forever changed.
ICYMI: I had some news at work last week.
This week I also learned Substack has a Reader view similar to Google Reader, which is good because my newsletter subscriptions are growing out of control in my email inbox. With that said, if you have a favorite right now, leave a comment, and share a reco!
Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…
Microsoft Teams for the Whole Family: If you didn’t already spend enough time on MS Teams each day, now you can spend your nights and weekends using the team platform for friends and family connections (finally!). It features free 24-hour video calls for up to 300 people, so you can even use it for your summer family reunion.
Boomer Digital Migration: According to a Pew Research Center 2021 study, those aged 50-64 use Facebook more than the age groups just above or below them. Baby Boomers feel that social media has had a positive effect on their lives, and—perhaps surprisingly—are influencing and gaming with a fervor approaching that of their younger counterparts. Our friends at JWT have further analysis (including my new favorite account, Grampstagram) here.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/lu_tsHcA33E?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0
Snapchat = Shopping! AR Glasses, and Organic Content? This week’s Snapchat Partnership Summit brought big news including the introduction of Snap’s AR Glasses, the addition of Gifting to let Snapchat users pay creators, and the news that business profiles are moving out of beta for brands with Shopify accounts. Last summer, the beta prompted a lot of conversations about brands starting to post organic content on Snapchat, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on this.
Google I/O Recap: This week’s big announcements at the Google I/O keynote include: Google’s Project Starline, which features a magic mirror-style video call system that increases the sense of place and presence beyond a Zoom window. A camera that’s more inclusive of skin tone and natural hair styles. Google Photos making animated photos from stills and creating password-protected locked photo folders. New ways to change your password. Google Maps updates to Liveview AR and new use of A.I. to identify “situations that cause you to slam on the brakes, such as confusing lane changes or freeway exits.” Digital car keys so you can unlock your car with your phone. A new health tool that lets you use your phone’s camera to detect and diagnose skin conditions. And a lot more! Here’s a 16 min video recap worth watching.
The Most Popular Flooring Product on the Internet This Week: Armstrong Flooring model 5352 is the single most popular linoleum pattern installed in midcentury America. There’s a 100% chance you’ve been in a house with this design if you lived between 1930 and 2000. Maybe you even played with toys using the pattern as a kid. 5352 was designed by Hazel Dell-Brown, who also is credited with introducing the first color advertisements. And this week #ZillowSocial was buzzing about the nostalgia of the design and its reintroduction that is capitalizing on the mid-century modern craze.
Google Workspace (aka G Suite) is Getting a Massive Overhaul: After years of stagnation, look for some big changes coming to Google Workspace intended to help the search giant better compete with Microsoft Office. You’ll be able to start a Meet video chat directly within Docs or share your Doc directly into a Meet call with a button in the doc. There will be assisted writing to help you sound your smartest. Emoji reactions in Docs in addition to traditional comments. A new timeline view in Google Sheets for improved project management, and a new “pageless” view in Google Docs that does away with the assumption that your document is meant for an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. More here.
Reads of the Week: 1) The Next Steps For The Quantified Self Are Context and Coaching; 2) How ‘Shrek’ Achieved a Strange, Perverted Online Afterlife; 3) The Gentle Guy Internet is Real and The Best of the Gentle Guy Internet; 4) Why Roblox is fast becoming one of the most important media businesses of the future; 5) Rich people are heading to space and they’re changing what it means to be an astronaut; 6) A Divided Nation Flocks to Partisan Brands
- Twitter is reopening up Verification. Update your app and check your settings for the application.
- Facebook launched live shopping events with “Live Shopping Fridays.”
- Pinterest has rethought and relaunched story pins with a new feature called Idea Pins.
- Instagram is testing browser-based posting.
- Snapchat added new Lenses and Stickers in support of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and debuted a first look at Snap AR Glasses.
- Facebook’s Oculus update will allow users to use capture themselves using the phone’s camera and superimpose video of themselves over the VR game they’re playing.
- Microsoft is finally retiring Internet Explorer in 2022.
- Apple Music announced Spatial Audio features that enable artists to mix music so the sound comes from all around and from above.
- Researchers developed an AI-based interface that converts the brain signals associated with writing into letters on a screen.
- Parler is back in Apple’s App Store, with a promise to crack down on hate speech.
- By the end of 2021, Axios Local’s newsletter will be in 14 total markets.
- TikTok influencer Bella Poarch’s debut pop single, “Build a B*tch,” is on track to cross 100M views in its first week. It’s just the latest example of a TikTok meme star breaking into Billboard charts.
- Stream of the Week: Armed with Language is a documentary about the little-known military intelligence school during WWII that trained Japanese Americans to be translators (recruited from U.S. concentration camps) at Camp Savage in MN.
- Subreddit of the Week: r/NoStupidQuestions
- App of the Week: NewNew is a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome.
- Insta of the Week: Grampstagram via @jaadiee.
- Twitter Thread of the Week: Responses to the question, Who are your favorite non-white internet culture reporters?
- Questionable YouTube Kids Video of the Week: We Like Watching Birds.
- Try This of the Week: Google “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” then click on the license plate that says FRESH.
- TikTok of the Week: Alexa is annoying as HELLL! (language warning).
- Music TikTok of the Week: What it’s like to listen to Rage Against the Machine for the first time.
- Sunday Scaries TikTok of the Week: Living the #AmericanDream.
See you on the internet!
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