Facebook & the Metaverse

Thought it was super cool how Facebook are rebranding their organisation to be called Meta. They’ve also released this video about how they see the Metaverse and how they’re building it. I thought it was fascinating that the general web3 twitter community have reacted against this announcement with displeasure. My take is that the existing web3 community is cautious about big cooperation like Facebook because they think that in web2, corporate interest have got in the way of technology developing to best server consumers.

It’s a fair point, especially considering the world view of most web3 enthusiasts. Web3 should be decentralized and owned by the community. Blockchain technology allows early adopters and contributors to get rewarded for their work when a decentralized protocols gets more usage and token thus appreciates in value.

Meta – With a clever rebranding, is offering their vision of the future. A centralized vision. They, will build the various tools and services to be used in an interoperable world. Much like the existing playbook of web2, they’re offering to build out various tools and services, volunteering to be the platform that hosts the network. I suspect the goal (borrowed from web2), is to collect as many Users as possible, build a great network and let network effects kick in, and then start monetizing their audience and platform. Depending on how that happens, we may end up being the product instead of the customer again.

It’s wonderful to envision an open source world where developers spend their free time contributing to projects. A future where our services are owned by it’s Users. However, this vision put forth by Meta is equal parts visionary and worrisome.

Regardless of what you think about Facebook (Or now Meta), they have the resources:

  • Human capital (Hiring the cream of the crop for years)
  • Network effect (Existing networks they can leverage for adoption – Facebook has 3 billion monthly active users)
  • Big Data (Amazon has “purchasing behaviour” data, Alphabet have “search patterns”. But Meta owns a disgusting amount of “social data” .Their data seems perfectly suited for the Metaverse)
  • Money (They’re rich)
  • Leadership (The mobile-first transition Facebook made in 2012)

So there we go, Meta is in the lead for the development of the Metaverse. They have incredible resources but operate within the old framework. Where they’re responsible to their shareholders more than their customers. Understandably so, because the shareholders own the resources that will allow them to develop this in the first place.

So the web3 guys are understandably concerned.. Their vision of a decentralized future may be just a pipedream with the entry of Meta. Would Solana’s NFT marketplace be relevant when the 80% of the world is run on Facebooks internal blockchain? A blockchain with built in features which allows censorship (For privacy and safety)?

Regardless of what happen, it’s likely the metaverse is here to stay. For the first time in a while, consumers and builders will be able to choose the market structure they want to participate in. We’ll likely have both market structures at play within the next few years. I personally like the idea of a decentralized future, but existing orders tend to stay because they’re tested by time. Could a decentralized web3 be too radical for our times?

When owners of technology have control over their database, making closed-door decisions around the data interactions, the people worry about evil owners, in the present or future taking over said technology and wielding this power in undesirable ways.

However, the alternate situation where no one controls anything has it’s own host of problems like the inability to swiftly take down illegal content.

Day 112

I started re-learning calculus today.

For some reason, I had this idea in my head that I should re-learn and master all the different areas of mathematics we did in high school before calculus which is why I studied things like trignometry, complex numbers and the lockdown math series.

However, I think I’m starting to realize how many rabbit holes I can go down (Similar to programming) and since my goal is to understand Linear Algebra I should probably just focus on the things I know I have to understand to get to Linear Algebra and better understand statistical probability..

Infiltrating the Climate Jobs Guarantee Protest

I have achieved my life-long dream of infiltrating a protest I don’t particularly believe in.

It was the Climate Change Protest – With a twist. It proposes a climate job guarantee, where young people are put to work to solve our climate crisis! Here is a quote from their website.

Our bold transformative vision is the Climate Jobs Guarantee. Where the government fills in the gap of the private sector and creates good, unionised public jobs that will help build up our communities and secure our future. From health services, construction, education, to protecting nature and country. We can get to 100% renewable energy by 2030, rebuild our public services and begin to heal our communities. All while guaranteeing a good, unionised job to everyone who needs one.

Tomorrow Movement Website

I stumbled upon the protest on the way home and so I walked up to find out what was going on. There were about 35 of them and I talked to one of them for a while, but the conversation was cut short when the speeches started. In between the speeches, we also sang and chanted original songs about climate change.

I listened to a few heartfelt speeches about why the speakers were there. The major themes are the unfortunate reality of climate change and the evil-ness of big corporations, lobbyist and governments. Stories about those in power lining their pockets, uncaring about the everyday person. There was the occasional shout of: “Shame!” when the speakers made points about those horrible people in power.

It was quite an interesting experience. I should have just been a good infiltrator and sat in the audience but couldn’t help myself so I got up to share some of my thoughts. I was nervous and a little incoherent, but here is a gist of what I said:

Yes. I spoke up to a bunch of strangers because I was bored

Hi… *introductory remarks*… Evidence do show that we’re releasing a lot more carbon into the atmosphere than it can absorb and is likely man-made. I don’t know much about climate change but I’d like to share what I think and have a discussion with you guys about possible solutions.

I don’t think having the government put young people to work would be effective. Also, I’d argue that the government isn’t evil, they’re just incompetent.

Here is why:

  1. Anything the government touches and subsidizes have been going up in cost over the years. Things like healthcare, university and housing. In contrast, technology and the private sector have reduced the cost of things over the years – electronics and software as an example. Governments have not been effective at allocating resources and have even stifled innovation with regulation at times- (Self driving cars, Medical Imaging AI, construction)
  2. As a world, we haven’t done a good job with Covid. Back then, if we knew what we know now, we would’ve likely just locked-down worldwide for a month. We had the R-values of the virus and charts showing exponential growth but both government and media have failed to act appropriately and report the truth. I don’t think this is because they’re evil, it’s more likely a lack of competence.
  3. Climate change is similar to Covid in that it requires global cooperation, but it is much more complicated and difficult to solve. I think we should do something about it but asking Governments to give jobs to young people is likely unfeasible because Governments have not had a good track record in allocating resources.

After-Speech Comments

You can imagine how popular I was for challenging two of their core beliefs:

  • Governments and rich people are evil.
  • Fixing this evilness is the cause and solution to climate change.

At the end, I was on the verge of being booed off stage! I sensed that and concluded by offering to have a discussion and perhaps brainstorm potential solutions, saying I’d be around. No one approached me.. So I approached them! In general most of them were good natured and I spoke to a few others after to hear more about what they thought. Someone ignored me after spitting some pithy truths but overall I’d consider the entire experience pleasant but a little disappointing.

To be fair, I’m not an expert and sincerely hope I’m wrong. It would be wonderful if averting a climate disaster was as simple as mandating jobs for youth. But I was hoping to have a good discussion that featured potential solutions around this very complicated problem and did not get what I was looking for..

I asked the people I met if they’ve read “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster – By Bill Gates”, because I read the book notes and was hoping to discuss some of the points. But none of them read it, someone told me she didn’t trust Bill Gates because he was so rich and evil.

I don’t know much about activism but I think it’s nice when people come out and show they care about a cause. Surely it’s helpful to tell our politicians that this issue is important to their constituents right? The urgency is real and we’re probably not doing enough, I hoped for a more educated crowd about the nuances of trying to solve climate change but maybe we need all the voices we can find.

Most people I know would never join a protest, because they think it would never make a difference. Most of the people around my age do not care about politics, because they think their opinion and vote wouldn’t make a difference. But perhaps the apathy of the rational middle is the reason why we’re in this mess.

If all the statisticians, epidemiologist, virologist who saw COVID coming went on strike and coordinated a peaceful protest maybe we would have had less deaths. But maybe.. Nothing would have changed!

Closing Thoughts

Watch this YouTube video for a fantastic lay out of the complexities in preventing climate change!
Can YOU Fix Climate Change – Kurzgesagt

Some of my ideas – That I hoped to discuss..

  • Melbourne has an artsy reputation, The City of Melbourne could commission art work around climate change.
    E.g. Expressing the difficulty, importance of preventing climate change.
  • The government could be more transparent about their difficulties in committing to aggressive climate action.
    – Perhaps offer to let people vote on a voluntary 20% carbon tax on all their air travels, gasoline and everyday goods that are currently subsidized by cheap oil. I doubt people would want that but giving people the choice might help them understand the trade-offs.
  • We could offer money & status- Have a prize pool for incremental innovations in reducing the green premium in certain industries (biofuels, concrete etc). Have an awards ceremony that actually means something that celebrates local scientists and entrepreneurs in the work they do.
  • We could, as a developed country, acknowledge our role in disproportionately damaging the environment in the past to get ahead and subsidize green technology in developing nations.
  • Build a project that utilizes cutting-edge carbon capture devices. Publicize the cost and ratio of carbon captured as an open experiment. Allow citizens to donate $ to build more carbon capture devices.
  • Shine a light on the achievements of local Australians, scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, and their efforts to combat climate change. We receive too much short-term negative news and not enough long-term positive news.

Disclaimer* I don’t have a background in this space and likely have naïve solutions.

But I propose some of the above as an alternative to asking the government to provide jobs to youths.

Day 108

Posted my first data analysis on GitHub today!

Didn’t involve any machine learning but It’s a milestone of sorts!

Been wanting to store the things I’ve been learning on GitHub..

Came across an interesting thread on twitter (see below), about how everything state subsidized has skyrocketed in cost.

When I think about the recent hearing: Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation (It was meant to help politicians better understand the situation, but ended up being a screamfest at Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai for causing all their problems)

I’m not saying tech CEO’s have no responsibility but It’s glaringly obvious how ill-equipped and undereducated lawmakers are at understanding technology. However what’s even more disappointing is they don’t even seem to be trying to discuss potential solutions!

Day 106

Finished going through the Ken Jee Titanic Project example – https://www.kaggle.com/kenjee/titanic-project-example

I liked how there was a video that accompanied it.

Took some notes on how it was done and I’ll try and replicate the process without looking at the source code.

This seems like the right intermediate step as I transition to project based learning.

It’s definitely a lot more daunting compared to the tutorial model where there’s a clear problem, solution and instructions.

But I think in the long run the directness will do wonders!

Day 98

Spent a good amount of time trying to figure out complex number multiplication..

For example : (a + b i ) * (a2 + b2 i ), can be expressed in terms of the angles being added and the magnitudes being multiplied right.

You could also think of the final vector as

the real part – (a*a2) – (b*b2) and

the imaginary part – (a*b2 i ) + (b i * a2)

Or you could also think of them like vectors being stretched and added

So the original imaginary number (a + b i ) |

is being scaled by a real number: a2 and

an imaginary number : b2 i (Which rotates the vector by 90 degrees)

and then added together.

I honestly don’t know what I was trying to figure out but I worked for almost 2 hours trying to figure out why Sin and Cos show up in this relationship… I’m pretty weak at trigonometry so I see this as a kind of way to develop intuition for what’s happening. Hope it wasn’t all a big waste of time haha.

Day 97

The last time I wrote a post about my Data Science efforts was in Day 53!

That’s 44 days ago! Oh dear..

I’ve started slowly getting back into working on my coding in the last week or so.

Did a focused 4 hours today! Trying to get back into the groove of things.

I’m currently in the process of finishing up the Python Fundamentals part of the Data Scientist Career Path in Codecademy. (So far, I’ve finished up 37% of the Data Scientist syllabus and 86% of the Learn Python 3 course)

I also want to finish up the Lockdown Maths series by 3Blue1Brown. (Currently on ep. 3)

To be completely honest I went into major procrastination mode after feeling a little lost and down about my progress after studying for 44 days, I think it was after doing the Titanic Project I realized I may have done things badly.

But in a way, after not doing much work (dove into NFT’s – more on that later) I guess I may have put a little too much stress on myself for fast and effective learning.

Had a chat with a friend of mine who is a Data Scientist and she recommended a course for me and also suggested learning by following through the entire process again and again. (As compared to studying each various component, like what I’m doing right now).

I’ll start writing up my thoughts again starting today to document that process.

Day 61

So I saw the below link this morning while doing my daily readings

Murky, but important, here is an excellent thread from Avichal Garg on Loot.  And from Tandavas.eth.  Pay attention people.  I know it makes your brain hurt, but…”suck it up kid!”

Tyler Cowen on MarginalRevolutions

And I remembered when I was shopping for Captcha NFT’s the other day while I was doing my research I noticed people buying these loot art and also saw a lot of loot stuff which I didn’t understand at all!

But then I read those 2 twitter threads and something clicked and I felt like I didn’t want to miss out so I fomo’ed in.

But… The floor price for the loot NFT’s are 12 ETH and I definitely don’t have 12 ETH lying around like a richboi so I explored the projects and possible derivatives.. So basically I spent the whole day educating myself on NFTs.. 😐