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LanceLetter - Facebook vs. the White House; CNN+; Hall of Presidents; Plastic Chips

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LanceLetter

July 26 · Issue #239 · View online

Stuff that matters.


Written while watching so many Olympic sports in front of so many empty stands

Live or Audio Animatronic? (Credit: Disney)
Live or Audio Animatronic? (Credit: Disney)
Facebook versus the Whitehouse
When I heard that President Joe Biden said Facebook was “killing people,” I knew it was an off-the-cuff overstatement that would have a short shelf life. It survived long enough for Facebook to forcefully deny the accusation and point out how much good it had done especially on the pro-vaccination front. Days later, Biden walked his statement back and pointed his finger at people on the platform.
The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. Facebook took too long to rein in its platform and the damaging voices on it, believing, incorrectly, that people would spot the truth on their own. Now we understand the malleability of people and the especially powerful force social media is in public opinion building. I do believe the lion’s share of the blame still falls on the people spreading lies, often simply to harm the public or the American people (especially if the misinformation is spread by nation-state actors).
Even so, Biden’s mistake shows how high the stakes are. If Facebook, YouTube, Google, Twitter, and others aren’t careful, their platforms can and will be hijacked as misinformation engines.
The Biden Administration’s recasting of the argument does not mean they it’ll be walking away from regulation. That’s still on the menu for all of these companies. It’s just a matter of when.
CNN spreads
I have one piece of advice for those launching streaming services: Just add a “+”. We have Apple TV+, Disney+, and soon, CNN+.
I guess CNN could have gone with “Max” (hey, HBO), but this is cleaner and gets across the idea of “more” instead of “all,” CNN+ will, after all, be a separate track alongside the broadcast network, with all new streaming content and an, as of yet, unspecified price.
If you’d have asked me a few years ago if there was room for something like this, I would’ve said, “No.” Now, I don’t think so. The market at least loves to sample these new offerings and yes, even pay for them. Staying power can be a problem. As far as I can tell, none of these services take off until they have at least one monster hit. That’s been true since the days of Netflix and now proven once again with Apple’s TV+ and Ted Lasso, a surprise hit that I think may provide the anchor Apple’s been searching for.
What that will be for CNN+ is anyone’s guess. One thing I don’t think this new streamer will be is a steady stream of live news. It will be all kinds of intriguing news series, documentaries, and I suspect experiments.
A New Robot President
Looks like Former President Trump’s time in front of Disney’s Classic Hall of Presidents attraction is at an end. With nary a drop of controversy or even much reporting, President Joe Biden’s animatronic visage is now front and center at the Hall (Trump’s robot movies, I assume, somewhere to the side).
The Hall is set to reopen in August, which means the timeline for getting robo-Biden in front of audiences is on a faster track–despite the pandemic–than Trump’s, which took until almost until the end of his first year in office to appear.
There’s been no controversy about whether or not Biden recorded his own message–Biden apparently recorded the oath of office, shortly after taking the real one in January, just for this attraction. This is in contrast to the whole “will he or won’t he” that went on until Disney finally stated unequivocally that the 45th President would voice his own robot.
As for how Biden’s new animatronic looks, well, it’s not bad, but it’s also not great. There’s something a little off about it. To be fair, these aren’t like Madam Tussaud’s wax figures. Disney Imagineers building moving, talking robots that have to perform thousands of times a year. So, allowances must be made.
Next Gen CPU
The next stage of ubiquitous computing will probably be based on flexibility. That is the ability to embed processing power into any surface, regardless of shape or use.
Paving the way is PlasticARM, a new breakthrough from ARM. It’s basically a 32-bit, ultra-thin processor on a flexible substrate. As a new scientific paper in Nature explains, “[Thin-film transistors] enable electronic products with novel form factors and at cost points unachievable with silicon, thereby vastly expanding the range of potential applications.”
I have a feeling this might have a huge impact on the future of robotics. Imagine an exoskeleton coated in micro-processor-enabled synthetic skin. It might also pave the way for embedded health technology: A heart monitor that can match the contours and movement of a beating heart. The sky really is the limit.
Who doesn’t love Ingenuity?
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