Wiser! #92: A Week In Tech

w/Wiser! On Medium #92 — Sunday 25th September, 2022

Hello Wiser! readers and welcome to a new Sunday! What a week, starting with the Queen’s funeral and ending with $1 getting close to £1!

But what happened in tech, I hear you ask?

This is the Medium edition of issue #92 of the Wiser! Newsletter — published on Friday 23rd September. The web version has more detail, content and colour. You should check it out…or carry on reading the shorter, black and white version here. This week I covered:

PLUS: My big news is that it’s finally here! Brand Strategy For The Metaverse is launching on Wednesday (28th). It’s a comprehensive collection of brand strategy projects in the NFT, metaverse, crypto space. I don’t think there’s anything like it out there and its available on Wiser! with a premium subscription.

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California Passes Bill To Protect Children Online.

Safeguards: The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act is intended to safeguard young people online.

“we know that certain Big Tech social media companies design their products to addict kids, and a significant number of those kids suffer serious harm as a result… such as depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, eating disorders.” Jordan Cunningham, California Assembly.

Many, including me, say it’s about time. It’s been a decade since Facebook went mobile, introduced the Like button and enabled the explosive growth of social media.

It’s also a period that has seen a doubling in rates of depression amongst adolescent girls, a surge in self-harm admissions by teens to hospitals and a 150% increase in loneliness amongst school children. (More examples here.)

Here’s The Thing: None of this is concrete evidence to show causation. However, IMHO, the BigTech firms know there is a link between social media usage and the mental health of young people.

The young brain has simply not developed the capacity to handle rejection, judgement, disappointment and criticism in the way it is amplified on social media. And yet BigTech firms have been allowed to use technology to play on normal human behaviours to fuel their advertising cash generating machines.

Until Now: The California law will impact how youngsters in the American state use social media from 2024. The law requires tech firms to build applications with kids’ “best interests” in mind and to be proactive rather than reactive. By kids, I mean any user under the age of 18.

The new law also requires firms to design their platforms so that children’s data isn’t secretly captured. These products may not allow kids to share or receive messages from strangers. They may be banned from accessing service features.

Continue reading…

Further Reading

Can Peloton’s Rowing Machine Save The Sinking Ship?

It’s finally here! After much hype and a ton of teasers, Peloton have unveiled the “Row”, their new, premium priced $3,195 rowing machine (and don’t forget the $44/month subscription charge!).

But…

  • Row is a product that’s priced substantially above the highly-popular competition. Which begs the question, “who/what do Peloton want to be?” A luxury, high product (think Ferrari) or a mass market premium product (think Apple).
  • Peloton is drowning in inventory it can’t sell. It is sitting on over $1 billion worth of inventory whilst demand for its bikes and treadmills has collapsed. Peloton’s hardware revenue declined by 55% year over year in the fourth quarter to $295 million.
  • The company is losing money hand over fist! The net loss for the last full year was a staggering $2.8 billion on $3.6 billion of revenue. With the collapse in demand for new bikes and treadmills, which drives the subscription numbers, Peloton’s numbers will almost certainly get worse before they get better.

Peloton is working to cut costs by reducing headcount, closing 86 retail stores and moving away from in-house manufacturing to use more 3rd party producers. But cost-cutting won’t solve the company’s demand problem. And it’s hard to see how a $3k+ rowing machine will turn it around either.

Or, how across the board price increases will do so too! Last month, Peloton announced price increases in the US for its flagship bike and treadmill products.

What Exactly Is Peloton’s Strategy?

When CEO Barry McCarthy took over at the start of 2022, he set his sights on eventually having 100 million paying members. There are currently less than 3 million paying members and numbers are declining.

Continue reading…

US Treasury Asks for Public Input to Shape Crypto Regulations

The US Treasury has invited public opinion on how digital assets are being used in crime and what the government can do about it.

The call for feedback attempts to address risks linked with digital assets, following President Joe Biden’s March executive order when he ordered multiple government agencies to consult on the impact of digital assets, ie, crypto, stablecoins, CBDCs, DeFi and NFTs.

Here’s The Thing: On the one hand there are plenty of reasons to be concerned that something must be done to regulate the wild west of web3. On the other, the question of “what is that?” looms large.

  • Regulate too soon or too tightly and risk squeezing the innovation lifeblood from the nascent stages of the Web3 evolution. Or act too late or not enough and risk Joe Public getting burnt by scammers and fraudsters.
  • Not to mention the systemic implications of getting it wrong, as is the case in the definition of a “security”. (The SEC claim that all of Ethereum is under its jurisdiction due to the location of validators, in a court case stemming from a 2018 incident.)

IMHO: Regulations are best when they are implemented after the event. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the logic is that (a) nobody can get regulations right based on a million theoretical what-ifs, and (b) whatever regulations are in place, bad people will find a way around them anyway.

So, it’s best to react to what has happened rather than preempt what might be. It’s not perfect.

For links to the first tranche of US Gov reports for President Biden’s crypto exec order, check out my tweet thread…

Further Reading

From Adidas to Zara: Brand Strategy For The Metaverse

On Wednesday 28th September, Premium Subscribers to Wiser! will have access to, IMHO, the most comprehensive collection of big brand projects in the Metaverse.

I’ve spent over 100 hours pulling together examples of NFT projects, early forays into the Metaverse, and the testing consumer appetite for crypto and Web3 engagement.

The Collection includes descriptions, images, tweets and numerous links to source material. The Collection is indexed by market sector, brand name and the technology used.

Premium Subscribers will have access to the Collection from Wednesday 28th September. You can get your access to the Collection here.

rickhuckstep.com

Is TikTok A Weapon For The CCP?

Influence: TikTok commands the time and attention of the most influenceable demographic in society (young people). It also happens to be a Chinese tech company.

  • The fact that Facebook has commanded the time and attention of the influenceable for the past decade appears to be overlooked. After all, Facebook is not a Chinese company, it’s an American one. Nonetheless, there’s a growing voice raising questions and concerns about TikTok and the potential for influence from the CCP over this cohort.

Here’s The Thing: IMHO, this Western narrative is misplaced anyway. Not because it’s focused on China but because there seems to be more concern about “data” than on “content.” There’s a preoccupation with “who can see my data” that distracts from the bigger question of “who decides what my kids get to see.”

In this YouTube I look at the growing narrative that TikTok is a vehicle for the Chinese Communist Party to spy on and exert influence over the West, manipulating the thoughts, opinions and attitudes of younger generations.

I include footage from Scott Galloway, Mathias Dopfner, and last week’s US Senate Homeland Security hearings with TikTok’s COO Vanessa Pappas.

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Rick Huckstep

I help decision-makers and professionals make better decisions. Using simple and engaging language, I make sense of what’s happening in emerging tech.