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i've found the cure for gearlust

Tech Revolution
Issue #1026 • View online
Hello there,
Now, around this time of year, I often find myself wanting to try some new tech. But buying a new smartphone I don’t need is a blot on my environmental credentials, and it’s unnecessary spending in economically uncertain times.
So instead I’ve done something I’d held off on until now, I’ve upgraded to Windows 11 and Android 12.
I usually carry an iPhone with me, but I also have a Google Pixel 4a that I got for a work project earlier in the year, and I have to say, Google’s latest OS update is giving me pause to consider whether I should go back to Android full-time for a while.
As for Windows 11, I’ve not spent long with it so far, but aside from a nicer sheen and a relocated Start button, there’s not a lot new for me here (and Microsoft’s tactics to try to force Edge on users is putting me off their otherwise excellent browser a little). Once the ability to run Android apps on the desktop is rolled out fully, my view might change - if only for the nerdy novelty of it.
But hey, at least switching operating systems calms the lust for new hardware that lingers in my brain all too often. If you’re the same, you could also just try changing the wallpaper on your phone or laptop, that has a strange effect of fooling the brain into thinking you’ve got a new gadget.
Also this week, I have been:
Oh and if you thought I was being over the top when I argued a few months ago that World War III might already have started, I’m not the only one making that observation 😬
On that happy note, let’s crack on with the newsletter proper, shall we?
— Martin

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🤔 Big questions
From this week’s news…
🧑 Should VCs invest in careers rather than companies?
What if venture capitalists invested in people rather than companies? Tech investor Sam Lessin is finding out, as Motherboard reported:
Earlier this year, his venture firm, Slow Ventures, set aside $20 million to invest in creators themselves. Now the firm has gone and done it, joining a few individual investors in spending $1.7 million in the future of Marina Mogilko, a 31-year-old YouTube personality with multiple popular channels that touch on topics like life in Silicon Valley and learning new languages.
Mogilko received the money up front, in return for 5% of her creator-related income for the next 30 years, plus 5% of any IP she develops during that time even after the 30 years is up.
On one level, I can see where Lessin is coming from here. If you’re not worried about your month-to-month existence, you can focus on taking risks and creating the best possible content.
But unlike investing in a company, where much of the legal liability for performance lies within the bounds of the limited company entity itself, tying a person to an investor for three decades raises all sorts of tricky questions.
What if she falls out with Lessin or the other investors and can’t get rid of them from her life? What might having an investor hanging around your neck do to your mental health once the initial glow of the cash wears off? $1.7m sounds like a lot, but over 30 years it’s less than $57k (around £42k) per year.
Lessin at least seems to be relatively fair with his terms here. The 5% payout doesn’t kick in unless she makes “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, for example.
But even if this particular deal is great for both sides, it’s easy to see how more VCs, tired of fighting to get into the hottest startup deals, might start experimenting with the creator economy. And not all will be as fair as Lessin. Will creators just looking for some security find themselves at the end of some very raw deals?
👮‍♀️ Where are the podcast police?
Online misinformation is a hot button topic these days, but podcasts tend to fall outside the conversation. And that’s a dangerous blind spot.
Podcasting was once a wild west. Although Apple hosted the biggest podcast directory, it was largely unpoliced. But then no-one really expected it to be policed. After all, a crank’s podcast is just a crank saying easily ignored cranky things, right?
But in an age of Covid vaccine conspiracy theories and far-right activism, the stakes are higher, and while the likes of YouTube and Meta have taken action against misinformation in posts and videos on their platforms, the podcast discovery companies—which now count most of the tech giants in their ranks—are doing pretty much nothing to stop trash information taking root this way.
And audio can be a really effective way for spreading convincing-sounding arguments, as the New York Times reported:
Sylvia Chan-Olmsted, a media professor at the University of Florida, said that podcasts may be more effective in spreading false information than social media. “People who go to podcasts have much more active engagement,” she said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, I went on Facebook and I scrolled through and saw this misinformation.’ It’s more likely that you’re engaged, you’re interested in this host, you actively seek this person out and listen to what he or she has to say.”
The largely hands-off approach by tech companies that helped podcasting grow into a huge industry might have run out of road. They should realise this before the next US insurrection or Myanmar genocide gets started via a podcast
🛒 Is Amazon working in good faith with its retail tech?
I couldn’t help but think ‘good luck’ as I read yesterday that UK supermarket Sainsbury’s is (according to Bloomberg) the first retailer outside the USA to take up a trial of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology.
This technology is set to become the default way we shop in certain kinds of stores. Just grab the items you need and leave, then get charged to your card at the retailer’s convenience. Simple! Amazon isn’t the only company offering this kind of tech, and the likes of Tesco and Aldi in the UK are testing similar approaches.
But to get into bed with Amazon is brave of Sainsbury’s.
We don’t know the exact terms of their deal, but giving Amazon access to any kind of sales or analytics data (which they’d clearly need to evaluate the performance of the system) could be a mistake - just ask the merchants selling on the Amazon platform whose data has allegedly been used by Amazon to inform its own retail strategy.
Given Amazon has its own grocery stores in London using Just Walk Out and owns a whole supermarket chain in the US, teaching it more about UK brick-and-mortar shopping habits might be a move Sainsbury’s comes to regret.
More news you shouldn’t miss from the past week…
  • Uber rival Bolt is to let drivers set their own prices as the taxi apps struggle to meet demand for their service in London. And Uber is raising prices by 10% in London in a similar effort to get more drivers on board. [Evening Standard]
  • Bitcoin has received a major software upgrade. The most important new feature is support for smart contracts, which could automate all sorts of transactions in a transparent way. [CNBC]
  • Huawei could get around devastating US sanctions by licensing its handset designs to third-party manufacturers. [Bloomberg $$$]
  • Netflix is sharing more information about its top-performing shows. The company has faced calls to share more data, as it’s hard to determine how a Netflix hit really compares to a hit show on broadcast TV. But the company still won’t tell us which shows flop, meaning the TV industry is still largely in the dark about one of the world’s most influential content businesses. [Variety]
  • Substack says it has hit 1m subscribers across all the newsletters on its platform, but it faces increasing competition from traditional media organisations like the Atlantic and Forbes who have launched their own newsletter platforms. [Financial Times $$$]
  • Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm could face a UK national security inquiry, which could end up scuppering the controversial deal. [The Times $$$]
  • Spotify is set to make a big push into audiobooks after it acquired distribution company Findaway. [Axios]
🌟 Thing of the week
🏭 Future of work
Are Amazon’s algorithms to blame for a serious road crash? Even though third-party logistics companies deliver Amazon’s parcels themselves, a US lawsuit seeks to show that these companies are so tightly managed by Amazon that the retailer itself is liable.
As Bloomberg reported:
Amazon closely tracks delivery drivers’ every move, the lawsuit states, including “backup monitoring, speed, braking, acceleration, cornering, seatbelt usage, phone calls, texting, in-van cameras that use artificial intelligence to detect for yawning, and more.” If drivers fall behind schedule, Amazon employees send text messages “complaining that a certain driver is ‘behind the rabbit’ and needs to be ‘rescued’ to ensure that all the packages on Amazon’s route are delivered in compliance with Amazon’s unrealistic and dangerous speed expectations.”
See also:
🛸 Almost sci-fi
“The key to saving Russia’s vital permafrost is to restore the ecosystem to the way it looked 14,000 years ago, according to a father-and-son duo” - and that includes potentially bringing woolly mammoths back in a Jurassic Park-style experiment.
A US company says it is four-to-six years away from raising its first mammoth calves. They’ll be created by inserting woolly mammoth DNA into the genome of Asian elephant cells, and they hope to create a herd big enough to trample down snow so it doesn’t thaw the permafrost.
Well… it might work?
📰 Big reads
Evil Corp: 'My hunt for the world's most wanted hackers'
The most influential man on the internet
How Xbox outgrew the console: inside Phil Spencer’s multi-billion dollar gamble
More big reads:
That's all for now...
And there we go… that’s all for this week. Catch you next time. And if you enjoyed this edition of Tech Revolution, please share it with a friend or colleague and encourage them to sign up - it really helps the newsletter grow!
— Martin
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