The world around us was built to accommodate petrol cars. Tank trucks carrying thousands of gallons of fuel are everywhere on the highway. Auto repair shops are stocked with drain pans and wrenches for oil changes. Gas prices are a central focus of politics. Even pedestrians and cyclists rely on the hum of the internal combustion engine. This is a strong audio signal that a car may cross the road.
That’s all about to change. In the next few years, many vehicles with internal combustion engines will be replaced by electric vehicles. The White House wants half of all new cars to be electric by the end of the 2010s. This transition is an important part of climate change adaptation, as EVs produce no emissions and reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. However, electric vehicles will not fit well into today’s transportation infrastructure. And it’s not just because gas stations may one day replace stables.
“Contemporary American cities have a strong physical imprint of automobiles and other motorized vehicles,” writes urban historian Martin V. Melosi for a University of Michigan project. Automobiles in American life and society. “It is estimated that about half the land area of modern American cities is used for streets, roads, parking lots, gas stations, driveways, traffic lights and traffic signs, automotive businesses, car dealerships, etc. increase.”
EVs are a new breed of vehicle with powerful sensors and even more powerful computers. It has all sorts of amazing quirks, like low-maintenance brakes. EVs can also accelerate very quickly and don’t make much noise, so parents who rely on late-night drives and engine sounds to keep their babies asleep may need a new strategy. It presents unique weather challenges, especially during hurricanes when saltwater flooding can exacerbate fire risks.
None of these changes mean EV is bad. They reflect how our roads, cities, cars, and even our personal driving habits are tuned to internal combustion technology. The biggest change coming to cars in the electric age is the introduction of his 0.5-ton battery used to power the car, but it also requires many small tweaks.
At high speeds, car tires rub against the road and make a lot of noise. NoisyHowever, in urban environments or when the vehicle is traveling at low speeds, engine hum is the primary sound we associate with cars. However, EVs are considerably quieter because they have fewer moving parts. As a result, EVs can help reduce noise pollution and improve sleep quality and health.
However, there is a twist. When walking or biking around town, we often rely on these engine sounds to determine whether it is safe to cross. For this reason, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires hybrid and electric vehicles to emit a “warning” sound when driving at low speeds. Automakers have even attempted to create new sound effects for cars. Nissan has created its own “lullaby” to lull babies to sleep, and Tesla has released a controversial feature that temporarily allows users to make fart sounds from their cars. The Tesla feature was eventually recalled, and NHTSA recently decided that consumers shouldn’t be choosing sound effects for their cars.
Because of the batteries, electric cars are hundreds of pounds heavier than petrol cars. Automakers are looking at ways to mitigate this problem, such as integrating the battery into the vehicle’s structure. In the meantime, those extra pounds can create dangerous situations.While great for protecting people inside the vehicle, heavy vehicles are much more dangerous for pedestrians and other vehicle passengers. Accidents are already a major public safety crisis, causing nearly as many deaths in the United States as guns.
Even before the EV revolution, cars were getting heavier. The Environmental Protection Agency found that the average new car weight has increased by about 1,000 pounds since his 1980s. The influx of heavier EVs is useless and there is a great deal of debate about what to do with current road weight limits. Focusing on truck sales doesn’t help.
Like cell phone batteries, the chemical reaction that powers a car’s lithium-ion battery slows down at low temperatures. To make matters worse, batteries often do double duty in heating the cabin. You can drive your car in cold weather, but some people recommend using a car with a heat pump.
Another concern is the weather. In the aftermath of a hurricane, EV batteries can be submerged in salt water, which is particularly conductive. This increases the risk of the battery igniting and causing a fire. This is what happened to multiple EVs in Florida during Hurricane Ian. Fires in EVs are very serious, but they are not as common as internal combustion engine vehicle fires, which receive less media coverage.
EVs are changing the mechanics of driving a car through extreme acceleration. Gasoline cars have to wait for power to travel through the drivetrain before hitting the wheels, but an EV motor sends that power directly to the wheels. can be reached.
When we drive, we implicitly take into account the time it takes the car to speed up. Pedestrians and cyclists make similar calculations when estimating the time they need to cross the road or turn based on the distance to the nearest vehicle. Its super-fast acceleration means you might have to be more careful when navigating the road.
EVs tend to be highly computerized as well as generally requiring less maintenance and repairs. That said, in many cases an over-the-air download can fix it. This process is usually as simple as updating your phone’s operating system. But the rise of EVs inevitably means the emergence of new kinds of auto repair problems. It’s just that there is currently a shortage of mechanics trained to work with batteries.
EVs’ reliance on software, used for everything from AI-powered lane assistance to battery health monitoring, is another double-edged sword. It’s easier to download a software fix than to send the car in for repair, but the proliferation of over-the-air updates is more likely to introduce new bugs, creating new problems that didn’t exist before. there is. For example, in November, Tesla recalled his 40,000 cars (which means software updates) because a firmware update released just a month ago caused power steering problems. was forced to
It is important to remember that internal combustion locomotives also have many flaws. EV eliminates many of them. However, they create some new challenges. That means you also have to learn how to shift gears.
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We — workers, professionals, journalists, and I — can’t stop talking about work these days. And it’s not just because we spend so much of our waking lives doing it.
Three years after the pandemic that disrupted the work of many Americans, we are now on the brink of a recession that threatens to further disrupt the way we work. Along the way, terms like big resignation and quiet no-smoking drove 9-5 into the rest of the day. They’re both eye-popping nonsensical buzzwords and succinct ways to capture real-life workplace phenomena.
Quiet employment is the latest term being thrown around.explains howEmployers are trying to complete required tasks by asking existing employees to change roles rather than adding employees. This is a play on the word quiet retirement, which describes a worker’s refusal to work beyond his own. The term Quiet Quit arose as the basis for the Great Resignation, or Americans’ sustained willingness to quit their jobs in search of a better job during the pandemic.I didn’t have to prioritize work in my life.
When I first heard about Quiet Hiring, my first reaction was to groan and tell the editor, No, I won’t write about this fake. Still skeptical about how this trend will play out But after thinking about these terms and why they make up for a while, I became more empathetic.For better or worse, these terms are powerful.
Don’t just stick to these terms just because they’re catchy. We continue to use them because they describe what is really going on, helping us understand the rapidly changing world around us and seeing ourselves within it. It helps make it possible.
“We come up with terminology to make the unintelligible readable. Or we play around with metaphors a bit to create grammar and structures that somehow make it possible to understand what’s going on.” outside the officesaid to me.
Of course, the shorthand for what happens at work is as old as the work itself. The mass layoffs that began in the 1980s and his 1990s were called “downsizing.” This is because companies have come to view these job cuts as a sign of competitiveness rather than corporate failure. In a way, the “gig work” popularized by apps like Uber in the 2010s grew out of these cuts, as companies sought to fill the employment gap as cheaply and efficiently as possible.
But now the whole process has sped up, from recognizing a new phenomenon, to writing about it, to wanting to retract it. The nature of work is changing rapidly, and the pandemic has only accelerated that fact.
Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller is leading the “Managing the Future of Work” initiative. In other words, the nature of work is changing, and these terms help us fit that change into our worldview.
Perhaps the biggest reason these terms are so prevalent is the simple fact that work is still a very strange and confusing place these days. , there are so many unfilled jobs. We are in the age of worker power and wages are rising rapidly, but not fast enough to keep up with inflation. People find meaning in their work, but their work becomes so demanding that it takes away the meaning of life.
So we create and perpetuate terms that help us orient ourselves.
However, the use of these terms can also have cyclical effects. They’re coined because they happen, but they happen more because people have languages and templates to copy. Social media greatly amplifies that effect.
“Through multiple highly scrutinized and validated studies, we know that what people like you do gives you psychological permission to do the same thing,” said Fuller. “Whether it’s swindling your taxes, throwing bricks out the window, or standing up and screaming like crazy for your favorite sports team, it doesn’t matter.”
And then there are people like me who make things worse.
“In the world of social media, if you come up with a snappy phrase, all of a sudden, reporters are calling up professors at Harvard and asking about it,” Fuller said.
Meaning and meaning of these terms
The big resignation was coined by Texas A&M University Associate Professor Anthony Klotz in a 2021 interview with Bloomberg. He used the term people quitting their jobs when they quit for various reasons related to the pandemic, such as wanting to work remotely or rethinking where work takes place in their lives.Almost every publication has written on the topic since then — applauding, mocking, renaming, and questioning its very existence. Showing 100 million search results.)
The only certainty on this topic is that early in 2021, Americans across industries were quitting their jobs at high rates. Structural factors, such as an aging population and declining labor force participation, also suggest that the trend, which began before the pandemic put it in overdrive, has staying power.
Then quietly quit. The term was coined and then popularized on TikTok. A user described it as “stopping the idea of doing more than quitting your job altogether.” This was seen as a response to the hustle culture of the 2000s and his 2010s, which was celebrated for overwork and where work became a stand-in for community and identity. For many Americans, announcing boundaries with work reflected embracing a more transactional relationship with work.
Quitting quietly was also one of the most excruciating words out there. One reason is that it felt like a new word for what people have been doing all along: not making work the center of their lives. As The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson points out, it’s not necessarily happening at an increasing rate. Worker turnover has remained remarkably stable over time, despite a slight uptick recently, suggesting that feelings about TikTok weren’t leading the fight for the job, but simply that it had been there for a long time. It suggests that it reflects the emotions you had.
This brings the quiet jobs that have been rampant across the internet in recent months. Inc. magazine used it last September to describe Google’s strategy to fill top talent into new roles within the company. And Emily Rose McRae, senior director of research at Gartner and leader of the Future of Jobs research team, said in her CNBC article last week that her report on job trends for 2023 was featured. , can be commended for popularizing the current iteration of the term.
For McRae, quiet hiring means asking existing employees to take on new jobs, while also meeting the needs of companies struggling to find workers amid massive retirements and cost cutting. It is also possible to use a contractor to In an interview, she said the term has a more nuanced meaning than trends such as “doing more with less” and “outsourcing” that have been happening for decades. McRae sees this as a management-driven trend to make the most of existing talent, rather than seeking more opportunities within the organization. She also includes compensating for employee flexibility.
That said, McRae says naming trends is an important responsibility, and she doesn’t take it lightly.
“We’re going to walk into a room full of executives in positions of authority and say, ‘This is happening.’
These terms are useful until they are useless
Like anything out there, these terms for work have grown and changed over time. They were misunderstood and even deviated from their original meaning. Their definitions are inaccurate and changing, and the words themselves can be overused, sometimes even meaningless.
Quiet Quit, for example, began as a reference to performing basic duties and nothing more, but over timeManagement interprets workers as lazy. The brevity of the term “great resignation” led many people to assume that they were simply taking it easy after quitting their jobs, but in reality most people work to find a better job. I am quitting. We also missed that many of those who quit their jobs were retiring to retire early amid the dangerous pandemic.
As Harvard’s Fuller put it, “Underneath each of them is a real phenomenon, but something like the banner headline doesn’t capture the nuance of what’s really going on.”
But broadly speaking, these terms can inspire people. It’s full of stories of people who quit their soul-crushing jobs in search of things.Words like “burnout” have helped Americans break free from their toxic relationship with work and encouraged others to form unions and improve their jobs.
Such flippant language also has the ability to trivialize real concerns such as workplace safety and fair compensation. Employers employ conditions such as quiet retirement to justify the worst impulses, such as tracking keystrokes or conducting performance reviews, as a way to justify firing an employee. can.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t try to find the next “quiet X-ing” or new “Great X.” The real problem at work remains.
Others may continue to tend to talk about these terms whether they agree or not.
“I’m actually really grateful that there’s this pushback and backlash and the reaction to it,” said McRae, who’s famous for quiet adoption. It means that we are actually investigating, rather than
At the opening of Meta’s last company-wide Q&A of 2022, Mark Zuckerberg sounded disappointed but determined.
“We made our plan for ’22 in terms of how we thought the business was going to go, and obviously it hasn’t gone the way that we wanted to,” Zuckerberg told employees in an audio recording of the meeting that Recode obtained.
The tech CEO was putting it mildly.
Meta has arguably had one of its toughest years ever — not because of scandals like in times past, but because, after 18 years of seemingly unstoppable growth, its stock price plunged by 65 percent year over year. In 2022, the entire tech industry faced a stock market slump due to rising interest rates, sharp inflation, and other rocky macroeconomic conditions. But Meta was hit with the largest drop in valuation among the top five Big Tech firms. Wall Street analysts blamed a number of setbacks specific to the company: rising competition from TikTok, slowing ad sales because of Apple’s new privacy restrictions, and skepticism about Zuckerberg’s $10-billion-a-year investment in building a virtual- and augmented-reality metaverse.
Zuckerberg says he has a plan to reverse the slump. He’ll keep building the metaverse, but he’ll focus most of his time on improving Meta’s core social media business (Facebook and Instagram) and finding new ways to expand the company’s popular but less profitable messaging apps. And he’s going to need Meta employees to work harder than ever.
“I’m quite optimistic about all of this,” he said at the recent company-wide Q&A meeting. “But 2022 is a good reminder that things are not always as good as what you want, and you can’t take that for granted, so we’re gonna have to really push hard.”
Recode interviewed nearly a dozen Meta employees — some current and some who left the company in the past year — who described a state of anxiety and optimism inside the company about the challenges it faces. These sources, who include high-level directors and rank-and-file engineers, told Recode the company’s culture is becoming more focused on efficiency and increasingly restrictive about employee communications. At the same time, they said colleagues are more competitive than ever. Some welcomed these changes, but overall, they said morale is lower than in previous years, especially because of the recent layoffs, the stock price decline, and persisting doubts about the company’s metaverse pivot. (These sources were granted anonymity for fear of professional repercussions for speaking publicly.)
“The worry is: What is going to sustain us, especially if the stock keeps going down?” said one employee who has worked at the company for several years. This person is genuinely excited about Meta’s long-term plans, like developing lightweight augmented reality glasses, but is concerned about how long it will take until Meta begins making money from these kinds of products. “I don’t know when they will become a reality,” they said.
An internal Meta survey from October that Recode obtained reflects these employees’ perspectives: Only 28 percent of employees responding to the survey gave a favorable response about their optimism for the company, and 58 percent were favorable toward the company overall. The survey results came around the time that rumors of layoffs started to swirl and the company had instituted a hiring freeze. In this October survey, only 31 percent of employees reported favorable scores in their confidence in leadership itself, an 11 percent drop from the last survey that ran in May. Still, employees were optimistic on some fronts: 74 percent of employees felt favorably about leadership’s “set vision,” 82 percent felt favorably about Meta’s mission, and 84 percent felt favorably about their managers.
In response to the Pulse survey results, a company spokesperson sent Recode the following statement: “Feedback is a core part of our culture and the purpose of the survey is to learn where we’re doing well or where we need to improve. We’re optimistic about the path ahead and appreciate all of our employees who work every day toward our mission.”
Several employees told Recode they’re waiting to see if the next year gets any better for Meta. There are some reasons to be more hopeful: Facebook is growing its user base again after a first-time reported drop earlier last year; people are spending more time watching Reels (Meta’s TikTok competitor) than before; and the company’s stock has increased by 40 percent from its lowest point in November 2022. But the tech giant still has a long way to go before it gets back to its market peak.
Meta’s products are collectively used by over 3.71 billion people — nearly half the world — making it by far the biggest social media company on the planet. Apps like Facebook and Instagram shape our cultural, economic, and political norms. The fate of the company — and whether or not it can regain investor and employee confidence — will determine whether it continues to be a dominant force in people’s everyday lives, or starts to cede its power to other growing competitors like TikTok.
Trying to return to a “scrappier” culture
As Meta’s core business growth has slowed this year, the company has made some unpopular decisions to cut certain jobs and staff perks, and it has begun restricting what employees can talk about internally. While that’s angered some of Meta’s staff, the company’s leaders see it as a tough but ultimately necessary course correction.
“One of the big things for 2023 that I would like us to focus on is can we return to a scrappier culture overall where we’re a lot leaner and doing things more efficiently,” Zuckerberg said in Meta’s end-of-year all-staff meeting. “Because you’ve got the layoffs, this was the first step around resetting some of the headcount. But there are a lot of other things that we need to do,” he added.
In November, Meta laid off an unprecedented 11,000 people — or about 13 percent of its workforce — across virtually every department (some, like recruiting, were harder hit). After the tech giant aggressively hired more than 27,000 employees in 2020 and 2021 combined, it had over 80,000 employees before its November layoffs. Out of all the major tech companies that have done layoffs so far in the past six months, Meta’s have been the largest.
“It wasn’t just the low point of my 2022, it was probably the low point of my professional career,” Meta CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth told Recode in a December interview about his end-of-year memo that reflected on the company’s challenges and achievements in the past year.
In the recent company Q&A meeting, Zuckerberg told employees that Meta would cut more costs in the months ahead by further limiting employee travel, reducing the number of free catering options at the office, and consolidating real estate. While he thanked employees for their resilience and executing well “during what has been a thrashy and difficult time,” he also renewed his call for employees to work with greater speed and efficiency. That’s a repeated message from last year that didn’t sit well with some employees who had been working hard during the pandemic.
“He was telling us we were spoiled,” said one former employee who left the company this year.
At the end-of-year company Q&A, Zuckerberg implied that his company had been too lenient with employees for too long, especially during the initial phases of the pandemic, when the company focused on “flexibility” to support staff through what the executive in the end-of-year Q&A called a “weird time.”
Some employees poked fun at Meta’s calls for working with greater intensity on Meta’s internal employee discussion groups. In one group where employees often post memes and jokes, called “shitposting,” an employee wrote a post in July calling on people to “shitpost with increased intensity.”
“Intensity is not a new concept for us, but [at] Shitposting for the last week, we have seen what each of us can do to help move the memes forward during this period of economic and business uncertainty,” said the post, mimicking the efficiency-focused language used by Zuckerberg and other executives.
But now that leadership’s focus is on efficiency over flexibility, they have started implementing new guidelines to tighten employees’ focus, including around what they’re allowed to talk about at work. Meta has long been a company that has permitted employees some freedom to share their politics and criticize management on internal Workplace groups. While the company’s culture isn’t known to be as open as its tech rival Google, it’s still far more so than most other non-tech companies of its size.
In early December, the company instituted a new “Community Engagement Expectations” policy (CEE) limiting what employees can say on Meta’s internal messaging platforms like Workplace. The policies banned employees from talking about sensitive political, health, or legal matters, such as abortion and gun control, unless it was specifically related to their job function.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen discussions that cause a lot of churn and distraction, which drain us as a community and take us away from our work,” read an internal memo posted by Lori Goler, Meta’s head of HR, announcing the change in December.
The note told employees to “give feedback appropriately,” to specific teams or people, instead of making general negative statements. In response, some employees have begun sharing critical comments verbally or posting to platforms managers don’t oversee, like Signal or Blind, one employee said.
“The company as a whole can’t seem to go a week without doing something that disappoints employees,” one employee told Recode. But given its financial reality as it starts 2023, Meta may have to continue making some unpopular decisions with its staff.
During Meta’s company-wide Q&A meeting in December, one employee asked Zuckerberg, “What initiatives will improve employee morale and culture in 2023?”
The tech CEO paused. “Winning,” he said, then laughed. Joking aside, while Zuckerberg acknowledged that Meta’s declining stock price is affecting his employees’ personal finances (it’s common for a large portion of Meta employees’ salaries to be paid in stock), he made it clear his primary goal is to improve the business.
“It’s not like there’s an initiative to improve morale and results. It’s succeeding at more of the things that we’re doing,” said Zuckerberg, “I think we’re here to win and achieve the mission of the company and put up good business results.”
A rude awakening for Metamates
The past several months have forced Meta employees to adjust to the harsh new realities of working at a company that, at least for now, is no longer winning.
Meta’s tanking stock prices have been a particularly sore point for employees, and a common focus of grumbling.
In screenshots of posts on Workplace, Meta’s internal employee message board, that Recode viewed, staff shared memes making fun of Meta’s falling stock price when it started dipping after Meta’s rough October earnings report. One employee made a bot that calculated what employees’ stock price was when they were hired compared to the stock’s current value. “You are down 71.1% from your initial grant price,” read one image posted on Workplace in August. Another employee posted a meme of three Winnie the Poohs, one of them representing Amazon, the other Google, and the other Meta, with the lowest comparative stock price after adjusting for a stock split. “One of these is not like the other,” the meme was captioned.
For many employees, Meta’s falling financial performance has given them pause about staying at the company.
“Some people had moral qualms about working at Meta, but the money is pretty good,” one former employee who left the company this year told Recode in September. “Then all of a sudden, the money is not good.”
One said that morale was the worst they’ve seen since the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, during which the company faced a deluge of criticism after reports that it allowed third parties to collect millions of users’ data without their consent and use it for political advertising.
“It makes it hard to justify working on things you don’t believe in if you don’t make that much money at the same time,” said one current employee. “I think people at the boundary of the ethics of what Facebook does are looking around more critically.”
Complicating matters is that there’s been a shift throughout Silicon Valley. In earlier times, it would be fairly easy for Meta employees to jump to another tech giant like Google, Apple, or Amazon, but all of these companies have slowed or frozen hiring in the past year.
Meta staffers continue to worry that more cuts are coming — a possibility that Zuckerberg didn’t rule out at the company’s recent Q&A meeting.
“I tried to be pretty clear that the hope was that the cuts that we made were deep enough that we weren’t going to have to do another significant company-wide round of layoffs,” he said. “But I also can’t predict the future. And obviously, if there’s a very big downturn, then we may have to revisit.”
Competition, internal politics, and reorgs
Meta has long been a company known to be metrics-oriented and competitive, with rank-based performance reviews tied to the company’s product metrics determining employees’ career trajectories. Now that resources are limited, several current and former employees described an even more cutthroat culture, reinforced by increased company reorganizations and fear of more layoffs to come.
Some workers see Meta’s reorgs and focus on performance metrics as simply a reality of working at a tech giant: “They’re a necessary function of a lot of corporate entities” as large as Meta, they told Recode.
Another former employee thinks it’s going further than that. “Facebook is the most political place I’ve worked, and it’s become 10 times more political,” said the employee, who left in 2022 after several years at Meta. “People are backstabbing each other, wanting to show results to their managers as quickly as possible.”
As the company changed its structure, many employees tried to shift their work toward the highest-priority projects at the company, such as Meta’s TikTok competitor Reels and metaverse-related projects.
“There’s been a mad dash toward jobs in Reality Labs,” one former employee told Recode earlier this year. “Particularly within the metaverse product group. Even if you’re in privacy or policy or any of those teams, it’s, ‘Get on the metaverse privacy team, get on the metaverse policy team.’”
One employee said that people not working on high-priority projects feel at risk of losing their jobs or being given fewer resources. “For teams that are not on the critical path, it’s a pretty tough time to work. All the focus is on doing more with less and trying to avoid being a part of more restructuring over the next year.” The employee added that they worried that social impact-related teams — such as those related to youth and well-being and charitable giving — are “basically going to keep the bare minimum going.”
Even some Meta employees working on its critical AR/VR teams have struggled with Meta’s work culture this year.
Virtual reality industry titan John Carmack, who used to be an executive consultant on VR for Meta, quit the company in late December. He wrote in a now-public goodbye note that while he believed in Meta’s vision for AR/VR, he feels the organization has a problem with efficiency.
“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort,” wrote Carmack. “There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy.”
Several employees Recode spoke with said Carmack’s frank assessment of Meta’s organizational problems made waves within the company. One said that it worried them how “even someone of his stature couldn’t fix the issues.” Carmack did not respond to a Recode request for comment.
Carmack’s note shows just how hard it is for company leaders to steer a ship as large as Meta in a single direction, even when the top-level vision is clear.
“It’s irrelevant whether Zuck knows what he’s doing, because he has to fight bureaucracy,” said one former employee. “There are 20 layers up and under him who are not worried about the metaverse. They are worried about headcount and getting through the next re-org.”
Though Meta’s cuts and push for efficiency are challenging, some employees support the effort and hope it will help the company refocus.
In the past few months, Zuckerberg’s leadership has been “pretty good” in terms of clearly defining priorities with “a lot more transparency” and “depth that was not there beforehand,” according to one employee, who said that the layoffs are “motivating a lot of people to get aligned with the company mission and move into the areas that need support.”
“The layoffs sucked,” said the employee. “But I think the level of cohesion that has resulted since then might, in the long term, be good for the company.”
Unexpected wins and the long-game metaverse bet
There are some silver linings to Meta’s tough year.
In 2022, Meta grappled with fewer public scandals than in prior years. That could be in part because Elon Musk’s dramatic Twitter takeover and the fall of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX dominated headlines, particularly in the latter half of the year. It’s also because Meta didn’t mess up publicly on the scale of past years.
Even among employees who are doubtful about Zuckerberg’s metaverse concept, many see promise in the tangible technologies supporting that work. In particular, they’re excited about the potential of augmented reality (AR) technology to allow for more practical products in the future than a heavy virtual reality (VR) headset, like lightweight glasses with the power of a computer in them.
“From my point of view, this metaverse pivot has been well-received,” said one former employee. “I did not expect people to actually call the company ‘Meta’ and see it as something really happening, as opposed to some PR talking point from Zuck.”
For now, Meta’s closest thing to an AR product — the Quest Pro (which it calls “mixed reality”) — is expensive for many people, priced at $1,500 per headset. It could take years for Meta to develop a breakthrough AR device that’s significantly more affordable. But in some ways, Zuckerberg is one of the best-positioned tech leaders to make the long-term investments required to reach that breakthrough.
“Mark is somebody who has tremendous vision for what will be popular and resonate with billions of people in the future,” said Meta CTO Bosworth, speaking to Recode in a December interview about his end-of-year memo. “He has the willpower and the fortitude to survive all the critiques and criticism around it. And he’s got a track record that I think speaks for itself.”
One of Zuckerberg’s greatest strengths as a leader — which many employees recognize — is that he is the only remaining major tech CEO who is also a company founder, with control of the board and essential immunity from being fired. That means he can make decisions that may seem risky to shareholders at the time but end up being smart long-term bets. Ten years ago, many industry experts thought Zuckerberg was wildly overspending when he bought Instagram, but it ended up being one of the most successful acquisitions in tech history.
“He’s always had a one-year, three-year, five-year, and 10-year plan,” said top social media business analyst Mark Mahaney, senior managing director of Evercore. “It’s a great thing for managers to show they’re running the business long term, [and] they’re not gonna be juked out of a business plan just because of Wall Street.”
Still, though Mahaney is long-term bullish on Meta, he’s asking himself, “Is this the next Yahoo or not? Is this a melting ice cube? Are there going to be fewer people using Facebook” in the future?
Many Meta employees are asking themselves the same questions. For those who believe in Zuckerberg’s vision and stick around, this could be a chance to beat the skeptics.
Toward the end of Zuckerberg’s Q&A with employees, in response to an employee question about some of the more “alarming” results in the employee morale survey reflecting people’s poor confidence in leadership, Zuckerberg told his employees to see the upside. He said that now, with lower stock prices, employees would benefit more if the markets swing the other way.
“I don’t know when investors will recognize the success of what we’re doing,” Zuckerberg said. “And maybe that’ll be in , or maybe a week, [or] maybe we’ll take a few more years.”
Space Internet has a reputation for slow service. With questionable signal strength and little bandwidth suitable for Netflix, internet transmitted from low earth orbit is something that’s only available as a last resort or if you’re stuck on a long-haul flight. In 2018, the satellite-based Internet will undergo a major overhaul.
Private companies and governments are serious about space internet projects. This year, SpaceX plans multiple launches, including one with 51 satellites scheduled to take off later tonight from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, which will send satellites into orbit to support the Starlink network. doing.. Each new batch joins the thousands of satellites SpaceX has already sent into orbit, including satellites from Starlink competitor OneWeb. Amazon, meanwhile, plans to incorporate more than 3,000 of his satellites into its Project Kuiper satellite internet constellation, and plans to launch a prototype satellite earlier this year. The European Union says the proposed satellite network Iriss could include up to 170 satellites scheduled to enter low earth orbit between 2025 and 2027.We are looking for investors to fund our own domestic satellite network.
With the rise of the commercial space industry, the cost of launching into space has dropped significantly over the past few years. Satellites themselves are getting cheaper. As a result, it has become much more feasible to hire rocket companies to put commercial satellites into orbit, providing much faster internet service than older satellite-based internet technologies that typically rely on one or two satellites. It paved the way for a satellite constellation that could be delivered. A satellite orbiting a planet. Satellite-based Internet isn’t necessarily set to replace the services provided by cell towers and fiber optic cables, but it’s a much more widespread network that many people use every day. It adds a lot of capacity and may play a role in expanding coverage.
With a proliferation of new satellites expected, space internet will become a bigger presence in our daily lives this year. T-Mobile plans to use Starlink’s network to expand coverage in dead zones, and SpaceX is encouraging other mobile his providers to connect their networks to heaven. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is designed to power Verizon’s 4G, LTE, and 5G networks after launch, a spokesperson told Recode. Even planes and boats are embarking on this idea. Starlink has already made internet available on its private jets and on select cruise ships, and Delta earlier this month announced that it would be making in-flight Wi-Fi free for all his SkyMiles members. Partnership with T-Mobile and geostationary satellite provider Viasat.
According to Sylwia Kechiche, the company’s chief industry analyst, satellite internet could be a real upgrade for people living or traveling in remote areas.At Ookla, a network intelligence company. “Think of the suburbs of a city, where we don’t have infrastructure as good as this anymore, where there’s no fiber or cable, so you can’t get enough speed,” she said.
However, the new era also brings new hurdles. Next-generation satellite-enabled equipment is still expensive, which may prevent us from using this technology to bridge the digital divide (the gap between those who have access to high-quality internet and those who don’t). and around the world. Low Earth orbit, or the part of space within 1,200 miles of Earth, is already overcrowded, and there are concerns that the proliferation of commercial satellites will exacerbate the space junk problem and block astronomers because of its brightness. is rising. ‘A view of the night sky. As multiple networks gear up to launch more and more satellites into space, regulators are clamoring over the physical space in orbit and the spectrum bands wireless satellite internet providers need to operate their services. Ready for battle. Even if prices have dropped across the board, there still remains the problem of understanding when and where it actually makes economic sense to use satellites.
“Most city dwellers take broadband connectivity over terrestrial networks for granted. explains Scott Pace of “Space systems will not replace existing ground systems, but will enhance and enhance the scale and resilience of Internet services in new ways.”
For the last few decades, satellite Internet has relied primarily on geostationary satellites. These satellites orbit at an altitude of about 22,000 miles. That is, they always appear to be in the same position when viewed from Earth. Hence the name geostationary satellite. These internet beam satellites are so far away that they can cover large areas of the earth’s surface. However, for the same reason, as anyone who has used satellite internet on an airplane will tell you, the connections these satellites offer can also be very slow.
The new Starlink satellites orbiting Earth will work differently. Because they operate at much lower altitudes, and because each satellite covers a smaller area, companies launch hundreds or thousands of satellites into space en masse, creating satellite constellations in orbit. So geostationary satellites may look like stars from the ground, but newer satellites look more like shooting stars, says Whitney Laumeyer, an engineering professor and satellite industry consultant. . If you are lucky, you may even see these satellites soaring into the night sky.
“The closer you get to the surface…the smaller the footprint,” Lohmeyer told Recode. “Therefore, more satellites are needed in the LEO constellation to provide global coverage.”
For the time being, SpaceX is the leader in this new internet age. The company is responsible for nearly half of the active satellites orbiting the Earth, and his Starlink Internet service, which is now available in dozens of countries, hit one million users in December. Still, Amazon hasn’t launched a satellite of its own yet, but some think it might ultimately have an advantage because it can connect the space internet to its already giant cloud business, Amazon Web Services.
Companies you don’t usually hear about are participating in the Satellite Gold Rush. Apple has teamed up with Globalstar, a low-earth satellite network founded in 1991, to launch a new satellite service that provides emergency service when no other cellular network is available on iPhone 14 models (Apple launched 11 invested $450 million in the company in a month). Qualcomm is working with another satellite company called Iridium to launch a similar feature on certain of his Android smartphones. But while our devices are constantly connecting to satellites for services like GPS, these more advanced features require new hardware that most cell phones don’t have today.
Changes have also been made to older satellite-based internet providers. ViaSat executive Dan Buchman, an executive at ViaSat, a nearly 40-year-old geostationary satellite network, told Recode the company plans to launch a new next-generation satellite in the first quarter of this year. said it will be launched in the next quarter. 12 months. The expansion will increase the company’s capacity by 600%, with each new satellite capable of carrying at least a terabit of data per second. ViaSat already provides satellite internet for several major airlines.
Today, companies are laying the foundation for the future of the space internet industry. Sometimes it literally takes the form of new ground stations to support new satellites. It also creates all sorts of unexpected opportunities, such as satellite-focused jobs. Amazon, for example, is opening facilities primarily focused on manufacturing new satellites. The division says the company is still pursuing even amid company-wide job cuts.
But the arrival of these new satellites created real problems. One space researcher suggested in 2021 that Starlink satellites with autonomous collision avoidance systems account for the majority of close encounters between objects in low-Earth orbit. Space junk in this crowded space is becoming an increasing problem, and there are concerns that installing more satellites will only make the problem worse. These satellites are in danger of colliding with each other or with any of the tens of thousands of orbiting debris that orbit the Earth. This creates even more space debris.
“There is a finite number of orbital highways, and all orbital highway carrying capacities that we have yet to measure,” Moriba Jar, principal scientist and co-founder of Privateer Space, told Recode. . “This carrying capacity is like highways and limited land on Earth.”
The challenge of regulating these services is so great that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced a proposal to create a specially focused space agency. Agencies are now in charge of regulating the spectrum, which has already created tension between providers like OneWeb and SpaceX and companies like Dish. The FCC recently withdrew his SpaceX subsidy of nearly $1 billion aimed at addressing the digital divide.
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the launch of the many rockets required to send these satellites into space. Government agencies must also approve satellite-based Internet services for aircraft. For commercial airliners, airlines installing these systems must demonstrate to government agencies that the new technology will not interfere with the aircraft’s communications and safety systems.
As with in-flight Wi-Fi, satellite-based internet can be very beneficial for certain use cases. And it’s expensive. For example, to set up Starlink, customers would have to pay $599 for the device and then $110 per month, which is higher than many broadband services. Besides the high cost of equipment and services, satellite internet is not always the most reliable and has limited capacity.
Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering digital competition, said: “As we start to roll out and get into the details, we also start to discover some real limitations.” The company says it may implement high-speed data caps in the US in the future.
However, satellite-based internet doesn’t have to be everything to have a real impact on everyone. These services could significantly expand the wired and wireless Internet services in use today. This is a welcome advancement for many people around the world without high-speed internet, or for everyone else venturing into less-connected areas.
If all goes as planned by companies such as SpaceX and Amazon, their satellites will become the actual infrastructure, regularly connecting devices from space to their surroundings. This new generation of internet connectivity isn’t online yet, but the satellites that make it possible are now being launched.
“We’re still in the early days, so we’re waiting for the iPhone to take effect,” Ookla’s Kechiche told Recode. “We’re still waiting for the ‘wow’ factor and something that pushes it far. ”
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Rina Kern has called for a fresh start in her efforts to reinterpret or reapply the agency’s rules to stop what she sees as systemic anti-labor and anti-competitive behavior. This time she’s pursuing non-compete clauses, framing them as anti-competitive and therefore under the agency’s jurisdiction.
The FTC announced Thursday that it has proposed rules to ban the practice of forcing workers to sign non-compete clauses that bar employees from working for their employer’s competitors for a period of time after leaving the company.
“Freedom to change jobs is at the heart of economic freedom and a competitive and prosperous economy,” Khan said in a statement. “Non-competition prevents workers from moving freely from one job to another, robs them of higher wages and better working conditions, and robs them of a talent pool that businesses need to build and expand. The FTC’s proposed rules will foster greater dynamism, innovation and healthy competition.”
If the proposed rule is enacted, Americans will have more options for where to work, which in turn will lead to higher wages. They can more easily work for rival companies and start their own companies without fear of being sued. Such liquidity could strain an already tight job economy even further. Workers will have more options for available jobs.
Notice of the proposed rulemaking came a day after the FTC sued the three companies over their non-compete clauses. It also comes after a number of other efforts the agency has taken to protect competition, including lawsuits to block or dissolve mergers and efforts to modernize the Commission’s and Department of Justice’s merger rules.
Government agencies will have a 60-day public comment period, after which they will decide whether to make changes to the proposed rule or, less likely, abandon it entirely. It will then issue a final rule. Congress can review and disapprove the rules, which would invalidate them, but that is a rare occurrence, especially in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority. are more likely to be tested with
The proposed rule also follows calls from advocacy groups and the Biden administration to ban non-compete obligations. President Biden’s 2021 Procompetition Executive Order calls on the FTC to exercise its powers to ban non-competition, and the consumer rights group Public Citizen made the same request in a letter to the FTC last month. Even during the Trump administration, several consumer and labor protection groups petitioned the FTC for such rules. Non-compete clauses are already prohibited in some states, including California. California is home to some notoriously uncompetitive tech companies, but not all.
The FTC estimates that the proposed rule could increase wages by $300 billion annually, affecting 30 million Americans. A 2014 survey by The Economist found that about 20% of workers have non-compete clauses in their contracts. That figure could be as high as 50% for people in high-tech and high-tech jobs, according to Matt Marx, a Cornell University economics and business professor who has studied non-compete agreements for 15 years. expensive.
“I signed my first non-compete agreement in 1995 and didn’t know what I was doing. he said.
Marx said these agreements not only specify that no one should share the secrets of a particular company, but that they can be interpreted more broadly to prevent them from using the skills they had before working for that company. I added that there are many. It debilitates skilled workers and entrepreneurs.
One person Marx interviewed, a woman with a PhD in speech recognition who worked at Bell Labs for nearly 20 years, took a job outside her field in “random computer programming” after 18 months at a startup. I said I had to. d signed her non-compete agreement.
“You’ve been in this industry for 20 years? Well, I’m sorry, but you worked for us for two years, so you can’t do that anymore,” Marx explained. I have to find something else to do.”
Critics of the non-compete clause say the agreement prohibits workers from getting jobs from competitors or even within the same industry. In doing so, they restrict job mobility and discourage workers from demanding higher wages, as they can often change jobs to obtain higher wages. This can push them into lengthy job searches and “career detours”.
Consumer advocacy groups and worker advocacy groups applauded the FTC’s move and the FTC itself.
“Today’s FTC action banning non-compete clauses will also give small businesses and entrepreneurship a big boost,” Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told Recode. rice field. She added that noncompetition can make it difficult for workers to leave their employers and start their own businesses that could compete with them.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) applauded the FTC’s actions to “protect workers” from “harmful contracts.”she murmured“Non-compete clauses give companies unfair power over workers, allowing them to cut wages and benefits without fear of finding a new job or starting their own business. increase.”
Employer advocacy groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say that non-compete clauses are actually procompetitive because they protect “employers’ special investments, training, and disclosure of confidential business information to their employees.” I argue that it is possible. In a statement released Thursday, the organization called the rulemaking “blatantly illegal” because it said the FTC had no authority to promote the rule. “When properly used, non-competitive agreements are important tools for fostering innovation and sustaining competition,” the chamber said in an emailed statement.
Artificial intelligence is suddenly everywhere — or at least, that’s what it seems like to me: A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned in passing that his law professor had warned students not to cheat with AI on an upcoming exam. At the same time, I couldn’t escape the uncanny portraits people were generating with the image-editing app Lensa AI’s new Magic Avatar feature and then sharing on social media. A guy on Twitter even used OpenAI’s new machine learning-powered chatbot, ChatGPT, to imitate what I said on a recent podcast (which, coincidentally, was also about ChatGPT) and posted it online.
Welcome to the age of generative AI, when it’s now possible for anyone to create new, original illustrations and text by simply sending a few instructions to a computer program. Several generative AI models, including ChatGPT and an image generator called Stable Diffusion, can now be accessed online for free or for a low-cost subscription, which means people across the world can do everything from assemble a children’s book to produce computer code in just a few clicks. This tech is impressive, and it can get pretty close to writing and illustrating how a human might. Don’t believe me? Here’s a Magic School Bus short story ChatGPT wrote about Ms. Frizzle’s class trip to the Fyre Festival. And below is an illustration I asked Stable Diffusion to create about a family celebrating Hanukkah on the moon.
Generative AI’s results aren’t always perfect, and we’re certainly not dealing with an all-powerful, super AI — at least for now. Sometimes its creations are flawed, inappropriate, or don’t totally make sense. If you were going to celebrate Hanukkah on the moon, after all, you probably wouldn’t depict giant Christmas ornaments strewn across the lunar surface. And you might find the original Magic School Bus stories more entertaining than my AI-generated one.
Still, even in its current form and with its current limitations, generative AI could automate some tasks humans do daily — like writing form emails or drafting simple legal contracts — and possibly make some kinds of jobs obsolete. This technology presents plenty of opportunities, but plenty of complex new challenges, too. Writing emails may suddenly have gotten a lot easier, for example, but catching cheating students has definitely gotten a lot harder.
It’s only the beginning of this tech, so it can be hard to make sense of what exactly it is capable of or how it could impact our lives. So we tried to answer a few of the biggest questions surrounding generative AI right now.
Wait, how does this AI work?
Very simply, a generative AI system is designed to produce something new based on its previous experience. Usually, this technology is developed with a technique called machine learning, which involves teaching an artificial intelligence to perform tasks by exposing it to lots and lots of data, which it “trains” on and eventually learns to mimic. ChatGPT, for example, was trained on an enormous quantity of text available on the internet, along with scripts of dialogue, so that it could imitate human conversations. Stable Diffusion is an image generator created by the startup Stability.AI that will produce an image for you based on text instructions, and was designed by feeding the AI images and their associated captions collected from the web, which allowed the AI to learn what it should “illustrate” based on the verbal commands it received.
While the particular approaches used to build generative AI models can differ, this technology is ultimately trying to reproduce human behavior, creating new content based on the content that humans have already created. In some ways, it’s like the smart compose features you see on your iPhone when you’re texting or your Gmail account when you’re typing out an email. “It learns to detect patterns in this content, which in turn allows it to generate similar but distinct content,” explains Vincent Conitzer, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon.
This method of building AI can be extremely powerful, but it also has real flaws. In one test, for example, an AI model called Galactica that Meta built to help write scientific papers suggested that the Soviet Union was the first country to put a bear in space, among several other errors and falsehoods. (The company pulled the system offline in November, after just a few days.) Lensa AI’s Magic Avatar feature, the AI portrait generator, sometimes illustrates people with additional limbs. It also has the concerning tendency to depict women without any clothing.
It’s easy to find other biases and stereotypes built into this technology, too. When the Intercept asked ChatGPT to come up with an airline passenger screening system, the AI suggested higher risk scores for people from — or who had visited — Syria and Afghanistan, among other countries. Stable Diffusion also reproduces racial and gender stereotypes, like only depicting firefighters as white men. These are not particularly new problems with this kind of AI, as Abeba Birhane and Deborah Raji recently wrote in Wired. “People get hurt from the very practical ways such models fall short in deployment, and these failures are the result of their builders’ choices — decisions we must hold them accountable for,” they wrote.
Who is creating this AI, and why?
Generative AI isn’t free out of the goodness of tech companies’ hearts. These systems are free because the companies building them want to improve their models and technology, and people playing around with trial versions of the software give these companies, in turn, even more training data. Operating the computing systems to build artificial intelligence models can be extremely expensive, and while companies aren’t always upfront about their own expenses, costs can stretch into the tens of millions of dollars. AI developers want to eventually sell and license their technology for a profit.
There are already hints about what this new generative AI industry could look like. OpenAI, which developed the DALL-E and ChatGPT systems, operates under a capped-profit model, and plans to receive $1 billion in revenue by 2024, primarily through selling access to its tech (outside developers can already pay to use some of OpenAI’s tech in their apps). Microsoft has already started to use the system to assist with some aspects of computer programming in its code development app. Stability AI, the Stable Diffusion creator, wants to build specialized versions of the technology that it could sell to individual companies. The startup raised more than $100 million this past October.
Some think ChatGPT could ultimately replace Google’s search engine, which powers one of the biggest digital ad businesses in the world. ChatGPT is also pretty good at some basic aspects of coding, and technologies like it could eventually lower the overall costs of developing software. At the same time, OpenAI already has a pricing program available for DALL-E, and it’s easy to imagine how the system could be turned into a way of generating advertisements, visuals, and other graphics at a relatively low cost.
Is this the end of homework?
AI tools are already being used for one obvious thing: schoolwork, especially essays and online exams.These AI-produced assignments wouldn’t necessarily earn an A, but teachers seem to agree that ChatGPT can create at least B-worthy work. While tools for detecting whether a piece of text is AI generated are emerging, the popular plagiarism detection software, Turnitin, won’t catch this kind of cheating.
The arrival of this tech has driven some to declare the end of high school English, and even homework itself. While those predictions are hyperbolic, it’s certainly possible that homework will need to adapt. Some teachers may reverse course on the use of technology in the classroom and return to in-person, paper-based exams. Other instructors might turn to lockdown browsers, which would prevent people from visiting websites during a computer-based test. The use of AI itself may become part of the assignment, which is an idea some teachers are already exploring.
“The sorts of professionals our students want to be when they graduate already use these tools,” Phillip Dawson, the associate director of the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning, told Recode in December. “We can’t ban them, nor should we.”
Is AI going to take my job?
It’s hard to predict which jobs will or won’t be eradicated by generative AI. Greg Brockman, one of OpenAI’s co-founders, said in a December tweet that ChatGPT is “not yet ready to be relied on for anything important.” Still, this technology can already do all sorts of things that companies currently need humans to do. Even if this tech doesn’t take over your entire job, it might very well change it.
Take journalism: ChatGPT can already write a pretty compelling blog post. No, the post might not be particularly accurate — which is why there’s concern that ChatGPT could be quickly exploited to produce fake news — but it can certainly get the ball rolling, coming up with basic ideas for an article and even drafting letters to sources. The same bot can also earn a good score on a college-level coding exam, and it’s not bad at writing about legal concepts, either. A photo editor at New York magazine pointed out that while DALL-E doesn’t quite understand how to make illustrations dealing with complex political or conceptual concepts, it can be helpful when given repeated prodding and explicit instructions.
While there are limits on what ChatGPT could be used for, even automating just a few tasks in someone’s workflow, like writing basic code or copy editing, could radically change a person’s workday and reduce the total number of workers needed in a given field. As an example, Conitzer, the computer science professor, pointed to the impact of services like Google Flights on travel agencies.
“Online travel sites, even today, do not offer the full services of a human travel agent, which is why human travel agents are still around, in larger numbers than many people expect,” he told Recode. “That said, clearly their numbers have gone down significantly because the alternative process of just booking flights and a place to stay yourself online — a process that didn’t exist some decades ago — is a fine alternative in many cases.”
Should I be worried?
Generative AI is going mainstream rapidly, and companies aim to sell this technology as soon as possible. At the same time, the regulators who might try to rein in this tech, if they find a compelling reason, are still learning how it works.
The stakes are high. Like other breakthrough technologies — things like the computer and the smartphone, but also earlier inventions, like the air conditioner and the car — generative AI could change much of how our world operates. And like other revolutionary tech, the arrival of this kind of AI will create complicated trade-offs. Air conditioners, for example, have made some of the hottest days of the year more bearable, but they’re also exacerbating the world’s climate change problem. Cars made it possible to travel extremely long distances without the need for a train or horse-drawn carriage, but motor vehicle crashes now kill tens of thousands of people, at least in the United States,every year.
In the same way, decisions we make about AI now could have ripple effects. Legal cases about who deserves the profit and credit — but also the liability — for work created by AI are being decided now, but could shape who profits from this technology for years to come. Schools and teachers will determine whether to incorporate AI into their curriculums, or discard it as a form of cheating, inevitably influencing how kids will relate to these technologies in their professional lives. The rapid expansion of AI image generators could center Eurocentric art forms at the expense of other artistic traditions, which are already underrepresented by the technology.
If and when this AI goes fully mainstream, it could be incredibly difficult to unravel. In this way, the biggest threat of this technology may be that it stands to change the world before we’ve had a chance to truly understand it.
This story was first published in the Recode newsletter. Sign up here so you don’t miss the next one!
This is a standard streaming TV joke/complaint. There are so many different services that someone could put them all together and for all he would only have to pay one monthly fee. Just like cable TV!
The problem is that most of the people who run streaming TV services don’t think there will be a lot of TV services in the future. They believe they will eventually be integrated into some big companies.
That’s why Warner Bros. Discovery is preparing to launch an unnamed service that mashes up HBO Max and Discovery Plus. white lotus When Doctor Pimple Popper on a monthly bill. Be careful what you want!
In the meantime, check out Wall Street’s earnings reports and you’ll see very clearly why conventional industry wisdom, at least when it comes to providers, is going to shrink. at the start.
If you don’t want to dig into official documents, don’t worry. This is just a quick snapshot of the money Netflix has made in the first nine months of 2022, and the money much of it has lost.
There are some caveats here, including the fact that different streamers use slightly different definitions of profit and loss. Additionally, Warner Bros. Discovery’s total is lower than it should be because there are only two quarters of his data available for this chart.
But the big picture is a lot of red ink, 1) going back even further as some of these services continue to lose money over the years, 2) Apple’s P&L and Amazon’s streaming are burning a ton of money, but so big that it doesn’t matter (for now) to them or their investors.
This graph also explains why shows you love (but others don’t) are more likely to die now than in the past. , not a loss. Last year, for Netflix and everyone else, that changed. Today, Netflix founder Reed Hastings preaches operating margin benefits, while competitors talk about streamlining costs.
Streaming won’t go away. Data firm Ampere Analysis predicts that global content spending this year will reach $243 billion. This is him up 2%, well down from his 6% growth in 2022. You will still have many options for a long time to come.
My beloved 10-year-old black bra finally broke last Christmas. The elastic had some slack and it’d been fraying for a while, but its death sentence came when the underwire popped out the side. While it wasn’t particularly special — just a normal T-shirt bra — it was comfortable and had clearly lasted a long time. So, I did what any sensible person who is afraid of change would do: bought the exact same thing, from the same brand, again.
I eagerly waited for my shipment of my new bras (in two trendy colorways!) to come in. When they arrived, I noticed that there were a few key differences: there was a new fourth clasp, the band was tighter, and the material was a whole lot softer. Certainly, these were improvements, I thought.
I was wrong.
Within a few washes, the hooks had become mangled, unable to neatly adhere themselves to the clasps. Instead, they would claw at my back. The straps frayed quicker than I expected. Nothing changed in my care; I had assumed that because I treated my previous bra carelessly throughout my teens and college years, these new versions could withstand similar conditions.
I felt unmoored for months. Why would the same item be worse years later? Shouldn’t it be better? But here’s the thing: My lackluster bra is far from the only consumer good that’s faced a dip in comparative quality. All manner of things we wear, plus kitchen appliances, personal tech devices, and construction tools are among the objects that have been stunted by a concerted effort to simultaneously expedite the rate of production while making it more difficult to easily repair what we already own, experts say.
In the 10 years since I bought that old bra, new design norms, shifting consumer expectations, and emboldened trend cycles have all coalesced into a monster of seemingly endless growth. We buy buy buy, and we’ve been tricked — for far longer than the last decade — into believing that buying more stuff, new stuff is the way. By swapping out slightly used items so frequently, we’re barely pausing to consider if the replacement items are an upgrade, or if we even have the option to repair what we already have. Worse yet, we’re playing into corporate narratives that undercut the labor that makes our items worth keeping.
“If you change the style regularly, people get tired of the style,” says Matthew Bird, a professor of industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design. “They start to treat cars like sweaters — it’s become grossly accelerated. The pressure to make more stuff, of course, lowers the quality of what’s being made, because the development and testing is just accelerated even more.”
The design process, explained
Design is more than the mere aesthetics of an object; it can also be a solution to a problem. These problems do not necessarily have to be physical or tangible — systems and virtual environments are also subject to design. Ideally, design is the marriage of appearance and utility that creates a considered end result.
When we’re producing objects or services for millions of people, we’re talking about industrial design, or the professionalization of these processes at scale. According to the Industrial Designers Society of America, industrial designers often focus on three things: appearance, functionality, and manufacturability. That last part is where the most change is happening.
Historically, Bird says, if a craftsperson wanted to make something — say, a tea kettle — you would adjust it with each attempt. Maybe the first iteration was hammered metal and the handles were uncomfortable. Perhaps the next was ceramic, but it didn’t sing when the water was ready. You would go back to the drawing board. “Eventually in a couple of generations of tea kettles, I would be making the perfect form that did everything perfectly,” Bird says. “It’s all great because I was responding to my customers one at a time and it was handmade.”
The first major shift came when the Industrial Revolution introduced machinery and tooling into the design process, exponentially increasing the scale of production. Now, instead of hammering out one kettle, you could use a machine to stamp out the parts. Rinse and repeat. However, if you designed a bad tea kettle, you would be stuck with thousands of them — a huge, expensive mistake. This is still the case.
While machines have dramatically increased how much can be produced and how fast, humans are still mostly involved every step of the way from ideation to production. Today, nearly everything is assembled by human hands, even if some parts are 3D printed, cast, or spun by machines. “You’ve done all these other steps, and then you have the person who sits there and actually puts these pieces together,” says Cora Harrington, a writer and lingerie expert. “It doesn’t matter how complicated. It doesn’t matter how simple. We don’t have robots that put together our clothing automatically, so it’s all done by an expert.”
The Great Depression, too, changed the very nature of consumerism. The economy desperately needed stimulation — and consumer goods were one way to do it. It was around this period that advertising heavyweight Earnest Elmo Calkins laid out a selling strategy that came to define purchasing habits for the next century: “consumer engineering,” or how advertisers and designers could artificially create demand, often by making older objects seem undesirable. Real estate broker Bernard London is often credited with coining this process as “planned obsolescence” through his 1932 paper that suggested the government put a lease on products’ life. “That’s when manufactured products started to be sort of done in season for the cycles and fashion,” Bird says.
Fast-forward a handful of decades, and now several generations of people are conditioned to buy the new thing and to keep replacing it. Companies, in turn, amp up production accordingly. It’s less so that objects are intended to break — functional planned obsolescence, if you will — but rather that consumer mindsets are oriented around finding the better object. But “better” doesn’t always mean long-lasting when companies are incentivized to produce faster, and faster, and faster.
Cutting corners and moving fast
Let’s circle back to the bra I bought a decade ago and its lesser younger sibling.
When I spoke to Harrington, the lingerie expert, about my dilemma, her first question for me was about price. To my recollection, the old bra and the new one were about the same: somewhere between $30-$40. That, for Harrington, was the key: In the last 10 years, in the wake of the climate crisis and the pandemic and steady and then skyrocketing inflation, the cost of fabric, other materials, and labor have all increased.
It can be difficult for consumers to recognize that the landscape has changed because they’re not primed to see the full picture, Harrington explains. She mentions how when she writes about the state of fast fashion, she often gets pushback from new readers who say their older fast fashion pieces have lasted a long time. “Yes! Many of us bought cheap clothing 10 years ago that’s still fine,” she says. “But 10 years ago, our clothing was higher quality than it is now. That is actually part of the point.”
It’s actually impossible to buy the same bra I had in high school for the same price. It’s simply more expensive to produce now than it was then.
“People don’t exactly want to pay more for all that stuff,” Harrington says. “So what has to happen if everything is more expensive and the customers still want to pay the same price, something has to be cut and that’s often going to be the quality of the garment.”
Usually that’s accomplished with a change in material. This could be a thinner, new-to-market fabric, or a more fragile clasp, for instance. The average customer isn’t going to know the difference, especially when shopping online. “There is an entire generation of consumers at this point that doesn’t actually know what high-quality clothing feels like and looks like,” Harrington says. “It gets easier, I think, for consumers to just not know any better.”
The electronics industry is also susceptible to material changes because products are competing against each other on price point, says Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of the Repair Association.
“Even though designers may say, ‘Oh, this is just as good,’ the components themselves are increasingly plastic instead of metal,” she says. “They’re using more glue instead of screws. There’s some definite design trends that are making these things not work very long. A friend of mine was a big HP reseller and he said that it used to be that you could take that $4,000 HP LaserJet that you’d have in your office, drop it off the back of a truck, and plug it in. It would still work. But that was no longer the case as new generations came around and they were made with more and more plastic.”
Then there’s the classic way companies keep costs low: underpaying and overworking workers. The speed at which workers are expected to produce and deliver goods is faster than ever before — and speed will always be at odds with quality. An increase in consumer demand for same-day or two-day delivery, as well as the hunger for real-time microtrends, are both incentivizing companies to churn, churn, churn.
Take a gander at ultra-fast fashion giant Shein’s $100 billion valuation. Social media helps accelerate the trend cycle even further. Consumers are buying five times more clothing than they did back in the 1980s. In order to produce goods that fast, both the quality of the item and the quality of life for workers have to take a hit. This is happening alongside a decrease of prices for the consumer (not rooted in reality!) to encourage more trend-oriented shopping and haul buying.
“Time is money,” Harrington says. “Even as poor or cheap as that garment worker’s labor is, it’s still a significant part of the garment because there is no way to replace that labor. Some of what you’re seeing in that race to the bottom is that literally the time is not being spent in making the thing that would help the thing last longer. If you spend cheap money on something, you cannot expect it to be high quality. You have to make a choice there.”
Finally, there are shifts in production methods that help companies avoid higher labor costs. Again, robots do not wholesale make our things, but for products like phones, computers, remote controls, and the like, it’s often cheaper to design in a way that reduces human labor. This can mean using as few parts as possible; if you can design by plate or by chunk, especially if the object has to be manually completed, it’ll save a lot of time, and therefore money.
“In the design of objects, they’re trying to reduce the amount of labor, and that changes what the object is,” Bird says. “That produces cheaper goods, but it doesn’t necessarily produce better goods.”
While pinching pennies can sometimes lead to interesting solutions to old problems, a whole new suite of issues tends to unfurl. For the fashion industry, it’s easy to look at the rise of synthetic materials, which offer utility for exercise clothing as well as a way to avoid using animal products. Synthetic fabrics, however, are made from petroleum and have propelled the industry to become one of the top carbon polluters in the world. Synthetics also have a paradox problem: They fall apart easier, but they don’t entirely decompose as well as natural material.
The tech industry has similarly had to contend with the fallout of seemingly improving on products while at the same time simplifying design elements to save money. Apple’s butterfly keyboard is a prime example; the thinner keyboard was great for reducing a laptop’s weight, but the keys got stuck all the time. Because the keyboard was designed to be one piece, a consumer couldn’t fix a single stuck key by themselves without the right equipment — they had to go to the Apple Store to either replace the keys or the whole keyboard. Kitchen appliances and other utilitarian objects are now also suffering the same fate with the inclusion of techy selling points (touchscreen blenders, automatic espresso machines, those goofy fridges with the screens on them), but with little maintenance infrastructure or the ability to repair those new features, Gordon-Byrne says.
“One of the problems being a designer is that you solve some problems and in the process of solving them, you invent all these new problems,” Bird says. “That’s just an inherent part of design. There’s no way to not do that. If you’re creating innovation, you’re also creating future problems.”
So the cycle continues.
What it takes to keep what you own
Design has shifted more toward manufacturability and appearance than functionality, when it should be a balance of all three. Arguably, it’s nearly impossible for corporations to avoid participating in the trend cycle as long as consumers have an appetite for more — whether it’s a predilection for cooler clothing or whatever new incremental, yet buzzy technology just came out. At the same time, the blame does not lie on consumers’ shoulders; corporations are responsible for creating and stoking the “new and more is better” culture we have today.
Perhaps if companies took the first step and made their products feel timeless both in form and function, there’d be less demand for new things and a decreased pressure for speed. But major corporations will almost certainly never go for that, and it’s unlikely the majority of consumers will unlearn current buying habits.
“A better iPhone would be one that I can use for 20 years and keep upgrading,” Bird says. “But that’s not how we define better, right? Nobody wants an iPhone 14 because it will last for 10 years. They want it because it has a fancier camera or whatever.”
Even if you do want to hop off the treadmill of constantly buying and keep what you already have, companies have made that harder too. Your goods probably have a shorter lifespan than they did years ago, and if you want to repair them — especially tech — you’ll come up against major barriers.
For years, Apple opposed right-to-repair laws, claiming they would expose company secrets. Because their screws are proprietary, you need special equipment to open up a device. This meant swinging by the dreaded Genius Bar or an authorized third-party shop to fix a broken screen until 2021, when Apple announced it would finally sell the parts required to open (and therefore fix) a device following years of activism from folks like Gordon-Byrne and pressure from regulators. Apple’s products still remain some of the toughest to repair on your own, according to iFixit, but the company is not alone in opposing right-to-repair; Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Tesla, John Deere, and General Electric have all spent billions lobbying against right-to-repair laws.
“Why I’m fighting so hard for a right to repair is that nobody is telling me I can’t sew a button,” Gordon-Byrne says. “Nobody is refusing to sell me a needle and thread. Where that’s exactly what’s happening with technology. It shouldn’t happen. That level of control should not be their level.”
There is hope thanks to consumer action, says Gordon-Byrne. New York was the first to pass a right-to-repair law last month, and the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating the issue.
“I see this every day,” Gordon-Byrne says. “Consumers are so much more powerful politically, legislatively than they ever dream — and it’s not the act of voting. That’s probably the least powerful thing. The most powerful thing is for a consumer to literally pick up the phone, call their local representative. Let me tell you, when I sit down with a legislator, I can hand them a list of 400 names of their own constituents that say, ‘I want my right to repair.’ That’s huge. That moves the needle. It moves the ball.”
Learning how to fix your own stuff can be simultaneously overwhelming and empowering, says Zach Dinicola, the founder of Mr. Mixer, a company that repairs KitchenAids in Kansas and other parts of the Midwest. It’s a “crying shame” that there are efforts to make it harder to fix things on your own, he said, which is why he shares tutorials with more than 450,000 followers on TikTok.
“I think that there are more people who want to fix it,” he says. “They just don’t necessarily know it’s an option. People don’t know what they don’t know. There’s a DIY person in all of us. If someone can present the information in a format that’s easy to follow along, more people would be willing to do that.”
The beauty of fixing an object and keeping it around in your life, Dinicola continues, is that they become very sentimental. “That’s one thing that I just know from being in this business,” he says. “These mixers really become part of the family, especially when they’re handed down from grandmother to mother. I’ve worked on third- and fourth-generation mixers that have been handed down from great grandma to grandma to mom to daughter.”
You could probably say the same thing for vintage clothing — what’s better than getting a chic leather purse from your mom’s closet or the cool secondhand shop in your neighborhood? Although no one is prohibiting people from repairing clothing, the lack of quality in modern fashion means it’s important to be thoughtful about what you’re buying and how you’re taking care of what you already own. Knowing what material your clothing is made of is key to knowing how to wash and dry it, which can elongate its life. “If I visit the tab for fabric composition and there’s nothing there, it’s an instantaneous red flag,” Harrington says. “You want to know what fibers are in the garments you’re buying. That in and of itself is something everyone can do. That can be the first step toward getting more familiar with what quality garments might look and feel like.”
I hate to say that the onus is on us, but in many ways it is. Corporations aren’t going to do this work for us, or without us. Consumers need to be able to identify quality, learn to take care of what they own, and advocate for regulations and legislation wherever right-to-repair doesn’t yet exist. Buy less or secondhand, and when you do buy something new — it happens! — make sure to do your research.
This will be the fourth year in a row that the staff of Future Perfect has given itself the task of trying to predict, well, the future. It’s in the name of the section, but forecasting is something that can benefit you as a thinker whether or not you can accurately see what’s to come. As my colleague Dylan Matthews wrote last year, “the most critical skills for forecastingare thinking numerically, being open to changing your mind, updating your beliefs incrementally and frequently instead of in rare big moments, and — most encouragingly — practicing.” Practice makes Future Perfect, in other words.
So here are our best guesses — with probabilities attached — to what we think will happen as some of the most important stories of 2023 unfold. Will we dip into a recession? Will inflation continue unchecked? Will China launch an invasion of Taiwan, and will Vladimir Putin still be president of Russia at year’s end? Will the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl? (This one might be of interest only to me.)
It’s important to remember that each prediction is made probabilistically, meaning we assign each event a probability of between 10 and 95 percent. A very high percentage — say, 80 percent — doesn’t mean that an event will definitely happen (something we all should have learned after the 2016 election). It simply means that if we make five predictions at 80 percent, we expect four of them to come true. And we’ll be keeping track, reporting back next year on how we did. (You can read our review of our 2022 predictions here.) —Bryan Walsh
The United States
Joe Biden will be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination heading into 2024 (70 percent)
Presidential reelection years are approximately half as interesting to political reporters as open-seat races because only one party has competitive primaries. Naturally, this means that every such year features rampant speculation about improbable primary challenges or running mate swaps by the incumbent: Maybe Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan would challenge Trump in 2020! Or George W. Bush would swap Dick Cheney for Rudy Giuliani in 2004! (Neither happened.)
“Will Biden run again?” is perhaps the most understandable of these speculation cycles, given the incumbent’s age — he’d be 82 on Election Day 2025 — but I think it’s very unlikely he declines to run. The last two incumbents to decline an attempt at reelection (Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman) were former vice presidents who ascended following the death of their predecessor, had already served more than a full term, were prosecuting increasingly unpopular wars, and, most importantly, faced tough primary challenges.
Biden, by contrast, is not facing any equivalently large backlash within the Democratic Party. Moreover, there seems to be a substantial incumbency advantage to the presidency, making Biden by far Democrats’ most electable option. That’s why I think he’ll be the frontrunner heading into the election year, as measured by Polymarket (or, if Polymarket shuts down, another high-volume prediction market). —Dylan Matthews
Donald Trump will be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination heading into 2024 (60 percent)
We might as well start with the polls: Despite a recent dramatic outlier, the most recent ones listed by FiveThirtyEight tend to show Trump ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has emerged as his most likely challenger.
But of course, polls can only tell us so much this far out, especially in primaries, which tend to shift more rapidly and dramatically than general elections. Maybe Trump gets indicted by this or that prosecutor, which damages — or maybe helps! — his standing with GOP primary voters. While Trump dominated the 2016 primary cycle, there was a brief moment when Ben Carson was beating him. Anything’s possible.
My belief that Trump’s the frontrunner (and will remain so per Polymarket come December 2023) comes from having seen Trump perform in a competitive national primary before, and from knowing that DeSantis has not waged a campaign at this scale, and not against Trump.
Those of us who watched all of the 2015 debates will recall that Trump wiped the floor with his myriad opponents. In retrospect, this makes total sense: He’s a TV star who has spent decades practicing that kind of performance. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that Trump’s performance in debates and ability to control the news cycle wouldn’t be enough to overcome his inexperience and alienating persona. But they were enough. I suspect they’ll be enough again, though the messiness of primaries means my confidence is relatively low. —DM
The Supreme Court will rule that affirmative action is unconstitutional (70 percent)
My colleague Ian Millhiser listened to the oral arguments in the Students for Fair Admissions cases challenging affirmative action at both the University of North Carolina and Harvard, and left persuaded that explicit racial preferences for admission are a goner: “Even if one of the conservative justices who expressed some reservations today surprises us,” he wrote, “that would still likely leave five votes teed up against affirmative action.”
That makes sense. As Millhiser notes, there are six Republican appointees on the Court today, all by presidents opposed to affirmative action and all reared in a conservative legal movement where opposition to the policy is taken for granted. Even the most comparatively moderate of them, Chief Justice John Roberts, is famously hostile to considering race in attempts to address past discrimination.
The reason I’m not more confident is due to a nuance Millhiser noted, which is that Roberts appeared open to racial preferences at military academies, noting the federal government’s argument that the military needs a diverse officer corps to succeed. If such a carve-out is included in the ultimate ruling, my prediction here will be wrong: I’m predicting they’ll strike down affirmative action across the board at public or publicly funded institutions. —DM
The US will not meet its target for refugee admissions this fiscal year (80 percent)
President Biden has set the refugee admissions target at 125,000 for fiscal year 2023 — the same level as in 2022. I think the US will fail to hit that target for the same reasons it failed last year (when it admitted fewer than 20,000 refugees). Chief among them: The Trump administration gutted America’s resettlement infrastructure, and it still hasn’t fully recovered. Under Biden, there have been efforts to restaff the government agencies that do resettlement and reopen the offices that had been shuttered, but advocates say the rebuild has been too slow. There just doesn’t seem to be enough political will to make it a priority.
You might be wondering: What about all the Afghans, Ukrainians, and Venezuelans that the US has welcomed? Well, the thing is, those who came to the US via the legal process known as humanitarian parole only get stays of two years. They don’t count toward the number of refugees resettled as refugees are given a path to permanent residency. I hope the US will grant full refugee status to the full 125,000 it’s targeting for 2023, but sadly, I doubt that will happen. —Sigal Samuel
The US will slip into recession during 2023 (70 percent)
“The state of the economy is weird,” as New York’s Eric Levitz put it in a recent piece. The US keeps gaining jobs, and unemployment remains near historic lows. Inflation is declining, as are gas prices. Yet there is striking uniformity among economists and business executives that a recession is incoming.
What gives? Not the Federal Reserve, which has shown no sign that it is ready to significantly moderate interest rate increases, as it seeks to curb spending and investment and tame inflation. Pulling that off without thrusting the US into a recession would require orchestrating the kind of soft landing for the economy that the Fed hasn’t pulled off since 1994, as my Vox colleague Madeleine Ngo wrote recently. Every part of the economy that is vulnerable to high interest rates — home purchases, manufacturing output, retail sales — is already slumping.
Put the current data and the historical analogies together and it’s hard to believe that the US won’t avoid at least a mild recession next year, especially since economic decision-makers are all basically acting as though one is imminent. As John Maynard Keynes put it, many of our economic decisions — from whether to buy a house to whether to close a factory — come down less to hard data than “animal spirits.” And the spirits are flagging. —BW
Inflation in the US will exceed 3 percent (60 percent)
This past year, I predicted that inflation would stay below 3 percent because that’s what the Federal Reserve and private forecasters predicted. That was extremely wrong: The surge in household cash resources from various stimulus measures, combined with shocks like the semiconductor shortage and the disruptions of the Ukraine-Russia war, meant that prices by the Fed’s preferred metric were 4.9 percent higher in the third quarter of 2022 compared to the third quarter of 2021.
So, how does one go about trying to predict 2023 inflation when major forecasters all got 2022 wrong? For one thing, I’m going to be less confident. I was 80 percent certain last year; I am much less so this year.
As of December 14, the Fed is projecting that inflation will fall between 3 and 3.8 percent in 2023, and the Survey of Professional Forecasters suggests inflation will start at 3.8 percent in the first quarter and fall to 2.7 percent by the end of the year. So an undershoot below 3 percent is certainly possible, especially if the Fed continues to tighten and especially if the economy dips into a recession (see above).
But wage growth remains quite strong as of this writing, in a range where even the doves at Employ America think some tightening is required. That’s why I think a rate above 3 percent is more likely than not. —DM
There will be no Supreme Court vacancies in 2023 (90 percent)
Last year, Vox’s Dylan Matthews correctly predicted that Stephen Breyer would retire from the Supreme Court. Now, the whole court is relatively young, with four justices in their 50s and none in their 80s (the eldest justice, Clarence Thomas, is a spry 74 years old).
CouldJustice Sonia Sotomayor have retirement on her mind since there’s a high likelihood Republicans will gain control of the Senate in 2024? Hard to know for sure, but a 2023 retirement would certainlybe premature — if she goes that route, she could wait until the summer of 2024. Aside from retirement, there’s death. Using the Social Security Administration’s actuarial tables, the cumulative odds of any justice dying in 2023 (based on age alone) is a little over 11 percent, with Thomas the highest (3.1percent) and Barrett the lowest (0.3percent). But the justices aren’t your average Americans — their high education status and wealth reduce their chance of early death and increase their likelihood of survival, so I’m predicting just a 10 percent chance of a vacancy. —Kenny Torrella
Vladimir Putin will still be President of Russia (80 percent)
This past year has likely been the worst for Putin’s survival chances since he first ascended to the presidency at the end of 1999. He launched a brutal and illegal war that made his nation an international pariah; the resulting sanctions and mass mobilization of young men from that war are wreaking havoc on an economy that’s also suffering from now-falling oil prices. On top of all that, he’s losing that war to a country with less than a third of Russia’s population. All of these are conditions where coups start to become imaginable.
That said, it’s important to keep “base rates” in mind: How common are coups in dictatorships, generally? A 2021 paper from John Chin, David Carter, and Joseph Wright looked through a database of coup attempts and found that in autocratic countries, 6.3 percent of years featured a coup attempt. “Regime change coups,” their term for attempted coups that totally change a country’s governance structure (as opposed to, say, replacing one general with another), are much more common in personalist regimes like Putin’s, with attempts in 7 percent of years. But in general, only 48 percent of coup attempts they studied succeeded.
This paper might lead one to think there’s perhaps a 3.5 percent chance of a successful regime-change coup against Putin in a given year (and it’s hard to imagine a coup against him that doesn’t constitute a regime change). Given all the stressors listed above, I think that’s much too low an estimate. That said, the low overall rate of coups makes me think it’s more likely than not that Putin stays in power. —DM
China will not launch a full-scale invasion of Taiwan (90 percent)
People I take seriously are genuinely concerned that China is gearing up for an invasion of Taiwan this decade. Ben Rhodes has a thorough, thoughtful take in the Atlantic, and Phil Davidson, the retired admiral formerly in charge of US military operations in the region, has argued China will be ready for an invasion by 2027. Not controlling Taiwan is clearly a major psychic injury to Communist Party leaders, and taking over a world leader in semiconductor production that’s strategically placed in the South China Sea would have geostrategic benefits, too.
But I have a hard time getting over the fact that an invasion would be outrageously costly for China in terms of blood and treasure and international esteem, and that these costs would almost surely outweigh any benefits. Mattathias Schwartz at Insider has a useful rundown of the challenges an invasion poses, not least of which is that Taiwan is an island and amphibious invasions are extraordinarily difficult. John Culver, a veteran CIA analyst on China, argues that there would be clear signs before an invasion, like “surging production of ballistic and cruise missiles; anti-air, air-to-air, and large rockets for long-range beach bombardment; and numerous other items, at least a year before D-Day.”
While China has stepped up its probes of Taiwan’s defenses, none of those warning signs are visible yet. We saw preparations for the Russian invasion of Ukraine months ahead of time; it wasn’t clear whether Putin was serious or feinting, but he was definitely up to something. The situation with China and Taiwan just isn’t the same, and the debacle that is the Russian invasion of Ukraine probably doesn’t make Xi Jinping more inclined to repeat Putin’s mistake. —DM
At least one new country will join NATO (90 percent)
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion, in a massive reorientation of Nordic defense policy. While Sweden was secretly cooperating with NATO throughout the Cold War, it was publicly non-aligned during those decades and often vocally critical of the West. Meanwhile, Finland was so thoroughly under the Soviets’ thumb that the USSR once forced a Finnish prime minister they didn’t like to resign.
Turkey, a member since 1952, has reservations about the Swedes and Finns related to their support for Kurdish causes, which has been delaying their accession. This means that Sweden and Finland joining is not a totally sure thing, but I think it’s pretty close. The consensus among most observers is that Turkey is trying to extract a few concessions from its Western defense partners and understands that the massive benefits the new members bring to the alliance outweigh any downsides. —DM
Finland will remain the world’s happiest country, while America won’t crack the top dozen (75 percent)
Every year, the World Happiness Report ranks countries in terms of the happiness of their populations. It’s an attempt to pay more attention to indicators of subjective well-being as opposed to raw GDP.
Finland has been the happiest country for five years running, thanks to its well-run public services, high levels of trust in authority, and low levels of crime and inequality, among other things. And in 2022, researchers noted that its victory wasn’t even a close call: Its score was “significantly ahead” of every other country.So I think it’s likely to hold onto the top spot in 2023. As for America, its ranking did improve recently — from 19th place in 2021 to 16th place in 2022 — but it has never made it into the top dozen spots. —SS
Science and technology
A psychedelic-based mental health treatment will win US regulatory approval (60 percent)
Research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs has been undergoing a renaissance over the past decade, and it’s now bearing fruit. A May 2022 letter from the Health and Human Services Department disclosed that President Biden’s administration anticipates regulators will approve MDMA for PTSD and psilocybin for depression within the next two years.
MDMA will probably come first; some experts say that by the end of 2023, it’s very likely to become FDA-approved for PTSD. Meanwhile, psilocybin will probably get approved for depression the next year. But with such a delicate issue as this, it’s always possible that some late-stage questions will emerge around the clinical trials or plans for implementing an approval, and that could bog things down, so I’m only giving this prediction 60 percent odds. —SS
The US will not approve a nasal vaccine for Covid-19 (90 percent)
For a long time, we’ve been hearing about how Covid-19 vaccines delivered through the nose would likely prevent more infections than shots in arms. And China, India, Russia, and Iran have already greenlit vaccines taken through the nose or mouth. Alas, not the US. Nasal vaccines created by American researchers have been tested in animals, but human testing has been held back for a few reasons. A big one is the lack of funding: Biden has asked Congress for more money for next-generation vaccines, but Republicans have resisted. Current estimates put nasal vaccines years away for the US. That’s depressing, but the indications suggest it’s accurate. —SS
An AI company will knowingly release a text-to-image or text-to-video model that exhibits bias (90 percent)
AI that lets you turn a few words into an image or a video made stunning advances in 2022, from OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 and Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion to Meta’s Make-A-Video and Google’s Imagen Video. They were hailed for the delightful art they can make and criticized for exhibiting racial and gender bias.
They won’t be the last. I feel confident that this pattern will repeat itself in 2023, simply because there’s so much to incentivize more of the same and so little to disincentivize it. As the team at Anthropic, an AI safety and research company, put it in a paper, “The economic incentives to build such models, and the prestige incentives to announce them, are quite strong.” And there’s a lack of regulation compelling AI companies to adopt better practices.
In assessing whether this prediction comes true, I will judge an AI company to have “knowingly” released a biased model if the company acknowledges in a model card or similar that the product exhibits bias, or if the company builds the model using a dataset known to be rife with bias. And I’ll judge whether the product “exhibits bias” based on the assessments of experts or journalists who gain access to it. —SS
OpenAI will release GPT-4 (60 percent)
In its brief history, the research group OpenAI has released four large language models capable of producing intelligible text under the name “GPT,” or Generative Pre-trained Transformer. The first iteration came out in summer 2018. Then in early 2019, they unveiled GPT-2; in summer 2020 came GPT-3, and as part of the very high-profile ChatGPT product they revealed in late November 2022, they announced they had created GPT-3.5. The question then naturally arises: When is GPT-4 coming?
Impressionistically, I find GPT-3.5 outputs much more convincing than GPT-3 ones, but OpenAI did not judge the advance significant enough for the name GPT-4. The release schedule also seems to be slowing down somewhat. But the rumor mill points in the opposite direction, with the New York Times’s Kevin Roose reporting murmurs that GPT-4 will come out in 2023, and TechCrunch’s Kyle Wiggers more evasively suggesting “perhaps as soon as 2023.”
I’m inclined to give the rumor mill some weight, which is why I think GPT-4 in 2023 is more likely than not, but I’m not confident at all. —DM
SpaceX’s Starship will reach orbit (70 percent)
Starship, the new reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX, has been in the works for roughly a decade now. While the company has signaled that the next step is an uncrewed test flight reaching Earth orbit, that project has recently seen some delays. On November 1, industry news sites were reporting that the craft’s first orbital launch would come in December, but by December it was clear the launch wouldn’t come until 2023 at the earliest.
But smart observers are still optimistic. “Based on a couple of conversations, I think SpaceX has a reasonable chance of making Starship’s orbital launch during the first quarter of 2023,” Ars Technica’s Eric Berger wrote on December 9. More to the point, delays, which are pretty common with SpaceX and spaceflight generally, sometimes are a sign of caution, which means the actual launch attempt has better odds.
Starship is a totally new system, but SpaceX has an enviable track record with its other rockets: a 99 percent success rate on nearly 200 launches.Most of the drama with Falcon launches these days has to do with whether SpaceX also successfully lands the reusable first-stage booster without damage. The odds of a failure are higher in an early-stage program like Starship — and crewed launches like the shuttle operate under even more stringent safety standards — but SpaceX’s track record gives me hope.
I put the odds that SpaceX will attempt a launch in 2023 at around 90 percent. If it attempts a launch, I put odds of success at some point in 2023 (if not necessarily in the first attempt) around 80 percent. That’s lower than its 99 percent success rate for the Falcon rockets, but fair given the newness and relative complexity of the system. 90 percent times 80 percent gets us around 70 percent odds that a launch succeeds in 2023. —DM
At least three lab-grown meat companies will begin selling their products in the US (50 percent)
In November, the nascent lab-grown or “cultivated” meat field reached a major milestone: The US Food and Drug Administration gave Upside Foods, an early player in the sector, the green light to sell its cultivated chicken. But you won’t find it for sale just yet — the startup still needs USDA approval, which I predict it’ll get by the end of 2023.Not only that: I predict similar approval fortwo other startups in the coming year.
If these moves happen,cell-cultured meat won’t be available for mass consumption immediately. Upside has plans to first partner with one Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco, and cultivated seafood startups Wildtype and BlueNalu will first work with high-end sushi restaurants. The first movers will have to be high-end — cultivated meat is still costly to produce, especially compared to $1.50-per-pound factory-farmed chicken.
Availability at just a few elite restaurants is far from the industry’s real ambition: stealing a sizable share of the conventional meat market. But it’s significant that the startups in a sector that began less than a decade ago are now slowly migrating from the R&D lab to the manufacturing plant. It’ll be the first real test for the $2 billion gamble on lab-made meat. —KT
The Supreme Court will rule in favor of the pork industry in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross (70 percent)
In 2018, over 62 percent of California voters supported a ballot initiative called Proposition 12 to ensure that pork, eggs, and veal sold in the state come from uncaged animals, whether those animals were raised in California or not. The law inspired fierce backlash in the form of three lawsuits from meat trade groups, and the Supreme Court took up one of them intended to invalidate the part of the law that covers pork. (Disclosure: From 2012 to 2017, I worked at the Humane Society of the United States, which led efforts to pass Proposition 12.)
The industry’s core argument is that Prop 12 violates the “dormant commerce clause,” a legal doctrine meant to prevent protectionism, or states giving their own businesses preferential treatment over businesses in other states.
I think that argument is spurious — many producers have already begun to transition their operations to comply with Prop 12. But I’m not on the Supreme Court. My pessimistic instinct is to say that a majority of the justices will side with business interests, in keeping with the court’s increasingly business-friendly trends.
However, it’s not an open-and-shut case. There could be some swing votes, as Justices ClarenceThomas and NeilGorsuch don’t like the dormant commerce clause, and Justice Samuel Alito dissented when the Court struck down a federal animal cruelty law. Hence, I’m pegging my confidence in this prediction at 70 percent. —KT
Over 50 million birds will be culled due to US bird flu outbreaks (40 percent)
In 2015, a catastrophic avian influenza outbreak in the US wiped out 50 million chickens and turkeys raised for food. Most of them didn’t die from the disease but instead were culled, or proactively killed (in disturbing ways) to prevent further spread. It seemed like a black swan event, but as of mid-December, over 53 million birds have been culled in this year’s outbreak. Europe set its own bird flu outbreak record this year, too.
Some experts say the highly pathogenic influenza may be here to stay, and there’s good reason to worry they’re right. Usually, avian flu viruses subside during the summer months, but this summer they continued to circulate. European officials say the disease may now be endemic among the continent’s wild bird populations, who spread it to farmed birds as they migrate. And the virus is spreading faster, and to more species — including more mammals — than past outbreaks.
Given the alarm among those who closely track bird flu, increasing calls for vaccination against bird flu (a long-taboo topic among governments and poultry producers), and the fact that this year’s virus hit 47 US states (compared to 21 states during the 2015 outbreak), I think the chance of another disastrous bird flu outbreak is fairly high. —KT
Beyond Meat’s stock price will break $30 at the end of the year (30 percent)
It’s been a hell of a few years for Beyond Meat. Six years ago, its flagship Beyond Burger made plant-based meat cool, and its stock market debut in 2019 was the strongest-performing IPO since 2008.
As of mid-December, its stock price is half of its $25 IPO, and just 6 percent of its $235 high in July 2019. Beyond Meat’s sales have fallen sharply — a 13 percent decline in pounds of plant-based meat sold in this year’s third quarter compared to last year’s. And it has accrued a mountain of debt, due in part to its big plant-based jerky launch, which underperformed expectations. It has also launched a range of other products in the last year, including steak tips, new kinds of chicken, and at least nine distinct products for restaurant partnerships.
Beyond Meat isn’t alone in its struggles; the whole plant-based meat sector is down. To course-correct, the company recently laid off 19 percent of its staff and told investors it plans to get back to basics, with a focus on growing its core offerings: sausages, burgers, and beef. It may also benefit from a recent contraction in competitionand slowing inflation.
That could all help its stock price rise, but financial analysts are skeptical a short-term turnaround is possible. The mean price analysts predict for the end of 2023 ranges from $10 to $16, with the highest at $32. —KT
Antibiotics sales for farmed animals will increase in 2022 (65 percent)
Nearly two-thirds of medically important antibiotics in the US are fed to farmed animals, which worries public health experts as some bacteria are evolving to become resistant to the lifesaving drugs, ushering in a post-antibiotic area.
The FDA and the companies that produce and sell meat are under pressure to tackle the problem. But the FDA seems reluctant to wade into the issue, and advocacy groups say grocers and restaurant chains that pledged to reduce antibiotic use in their supply chains aren’t following through. Given governmental apathy and corporate laggards, and the fact that beef production — which uses far more antibiotics than pork and poultry — is projected to have grown 2 percent in 2022 (compared to 2021), I think antibiotic use will have slightly increased in 2022. —KT
Culture and sport
Top Gun: Maverick will not win Best Picture (75 percent)
After Dylan Matthews biffed it last year when he predicted that the 2022 Academy Award for Best Picture would go to Belfast, a movie that I’m still not 100 percent sure was real, I’m hesitant to wade into Carpetbagger territory. This is compounded by the fact that of the 10 films Variety projects have the best chance at taking home the gold statuette, I’ve seen precisely two: the honestly overrated Everything Everywhere All at Once and the 131 minutes of “America! Fuck yeah!” that is Top Gun: Maverick. You have that right: I am the reason that critically acclaimed films are bombing at the box office.
But even though I’m no cineaste, I’ve watched enough Oscar telecasts to have a pretty good idea of what the Academy is looking for. And it is not, apparently, movies that audiences go to see. While nearly every Best Picture winner between 1980 and 2003 was among the 20 top-grossing movies of the year, only three winners since have cracked that list.
Top Gun: Maverick isn’t just the highest-grossing film of the year, it has nearly doubled the performance of its closest competitor, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Add that to its summer release — recently, the Academy has mostly preferred films released near the end of the year — and the odds are bad for the fighter plane flick. If I had to choose a winner, it would be Tár, because why wouldn’t an industry facing an existential audience crisis choose a critically acclaimed film that no one has seen? But I do expect Top Gun: Maverick to take home the award for Best Visual Effects, both for the amazing, real-life dogfighting sequences and for whatever it is that keeps 60-year-old Tom Cruise looking ageless. —BW
The Philadelphia Eagles will win the 2023 Super Bowl (25 percent)
Let’s get this out of the way: I am part of that shadowy cabal of journalists, as described in a recent Ringer story, who are inexplicably devoted to the Philadelphia Eagles football team. And for most of my life, this has been a one-way relationship filled with disappointment and heartache. Sure, we’ll always have Nick Foles and the “Philly Special” at Super Bowl 52 (though my favorite memory from that game isn’t Foles catching a pass; it’s then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dropping one). But this is a franchise with an all-time loss record of .490 as of the end of 2021, one tick lower than the Cleveland Browns. The Browns!
This year has been different, though. With a 13-2 record as of the last week of December, my Eagles sit at the top of the NFL. We have an exciting young quarterback in Jalen Hurts, a trio of elite wide receivers who all for some reason have Batman-related nicknames, and a left offensive tackle approximately the size of two Jason Momoas. At of December 27, the sportsbooks at Fanduel put the odds of an Eagles win in Super Bowl LVII at 16.9 percent. That’s just behind the Kansas City Chiefs at about 18.2 percent and the Buffalo Bills at 22.2 percent,but I’m going to give the Eagles a boost on the basis of my “nothing good happens to Buffalo” theory, which historically has been very accurate, and because Philadelphia fans are familiar with Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s inability to read a game clock. And should the Eagles fail, I can offer a prediction with 100 percent certainty: We will boo them. —BW
This year has not been a great year for Big Tech. In 2022, the belt has tightened, with the economy faltering, stock prices falling, inflation soaring. Silicon Valley was one of the hardest hit places for him. One reason is that some of them have experienced explosive and sustained growth for so long that it seemed almost impossible to stop or even slow it down. Still, here I am.
With quarterly earnings calls beginning to use ominous terms like “economic headwinds” and business models upended, technology companies may be time to cut back on some loss-making projects and initiatives. I noticed. Some of them are big projects that companies have invested a lot of resources into, some of which they hope will pay off, and are, in Google’s words, “redefining what it is to be human.” As those resources dried up, efforts that might never see the light of day became obvious targets for cuts. are low, and a deteriorating economy has made the runway much shorter to make them happen.
Mark Zuckerberg continues to invest huge amounts of money in the Metaverse as he claims it is the future of his company and the internet. must be procured.
The ending of certain things probably won’t do much for our planet’s future, but the ending of some of these humanity-redefining moonshots could be a bigger loss. but none have been really successful, except for Waymo. At least one of them (a project called Minerals, an Alphabet project that wants to make food production more sustainable) is now being used by berry growers to test strawberries. everyone else.
Below are some of the more ambitious bets and more grounded projects that didn’t pay off in 2022.
Meta had some big problems in 2022. Apple’s 2021 rollout of app privacy changes that let users opt out of tracking across apps cost the company billions of dollars. Meta can use some of that data to target ads and tell businesses how those ads performed, so businesses sell more ads for more money. You will be able to
Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees in November, and the stock continued to plummet to historic lows. This reduction also meant saying goodbye to some of the non-metaverse hardware. The division has never done too much against the meta, in any case. RIP Portal is a camera that Facebook has installed in the kitchen. Also a smartwatch that didn’t get a chance to see the world. Could Meta’s smart sunglasses be next? It also truncated newsletter service Bulletin, which never caught on like Substack (Twitter has its own newsletter Revue rounded up, but it’s not clear if it’s because of the economy or Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk). Meta’s experimental product division is now reportedly scaled back to focus solely on short videos (very TikTok!), and recently launched a connectivity division that developed or improved how we access the internet. Closed.
Google and its parent company Alphabet do better than Meta in 2022. X, its famous ‘moonshot factory’, has a track record of flopping even in the best of times. One X Project Loon, which used weather balloons to send internet to remote areas but was shut down in 2021, has been spun off into an independent company. Area 120, Google’s incubator for employees to work on the company’s experimental ideas, has been scaled back. The Pixelbook, Google’s attempt to make an expensive Chromebook, has been discontinued. The Google Assistant team is undergoing significant headcount reductions. Also, Google’s cloud gaming service, Stadia, will be shutting down in January. Google also just pulled out of its long-planned data center construction (Meta also canceled data center work).
Amazon also faces some problems. Layoffs are looming and stock prices are down 50% for him in 2022 alone. The company has either closed or is not moving forward with plans to build several warehouses and distribution facilities. There are also product cutbacks, such as the reported reduction of Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. Alexa is expensive and not very profitable (much like Google Assistant). Glow, a video calling device for kids, was completed just one year after its debut. His telemedicine service, Amazon Care, will end in 2022, but Amazon spent billions earlier this year to acquire his one primary care and telemedicine service, One Medical. Amazon’s Moonshot-like division, Grand Challenge Labs, reportedly closed three of its five projects in October. Wickr, the end-to-end encrypted messaging app that Amazon acquired last year, will also be discontinuing its free version at the end of 2023, as will Drive, its cloud storage service.
And Apple and Microsoft. They’ve been around longer and have more recession experience, which may be why they’re doing better than their rivals. But the mysterious Apple Car is clearly scaled back (it won’t be fully self-driving) and is another year behind. It may have more to do with the non-existence of technology than the economy. However, Apple is expanding its advertising offerings. This could be a way to bring in extra income when people are cutting back, perhaps including buying Apple devices. It seems to be pausing its efforts to make its HoloLens VR headset a problem as well. However, the company has seen much worse times, with much more expensive flops over the years.
There are also some Big Tech-adjacent cuts. Snap, which was hit particularly hard by the changes in the advertising industry, scrapped its short-lived selfie drone, the Pixy, as inventory plummeted and it laid off thousands of employees. Snap is also actively working to monetize its AR division. Kitty Hawk, a Larry Page-backed attempt to create a flying car, made an emergency landing in reality and shut down. Twitter took a big hit, but that’s okay because of other factors.
Some streaming platforms have also struggled. Once one of his biggest success stories in the business, Netflix was losing subscribers and had to introduce advertising. Disney+ rolled out its own low-cost ad tier while increasing prices for its ad-free service.The merger of Warner Media and Discovery brought some big changes and cuts. While he’s been live on CNN+ for less than a month, HBO Max has shut down several ongoing projects and removed others from the platform entirely.
So yes, it hasn’t been a great year for Big Tech, Big Tech-adjacent companies, and cool experiments that require many years and money to have any chance of success. Buzzwords that promised to be the industry’s future earlier this year — Web3, metaverse, crypto — are currently on fire, if not forever. We are just seeing the potential of generative AI. The effort is led not by a tech giant, but by a relatively new company called OpenAI. For all the moonshot projects that are making huge profits, Big Tech may have missed its future. At least until the next big thing comes along.