Meta is augmented reality

There’s a lot of criticism and mockery of Facebook’s rebranding to Meta. The timing, coming so soon after revelations that Facebook was profiting off of disinformation and outrage, is certainly suspect. However, there is a key idea here that is lost in the meta-discussion about Facebook itself – the idea of augmented reality, or AR for short, which if is to be brought to reality, deserves genuine admiration.

I have previously written about how I thought Google Glass was the first real effort at AR, despite many skeptics and its eventual failure. The problem with Google Glass was that it was positioned as an interface to search and take photos, i.e., content acquisition rather than an augmentation of reality:

Note that Google describes Glass as having a primarily voice-directed interface, for initiating search queries, taking a picture, or real-time language transcription. The main function of Google Glass is to record video and take pictures (not content creation, but content acquisition), to facilitate access to information, and most importantly to overlay data onto the visual field, such as maps or translations. It’s the latter that is the “augmentation” of reality part, and is very, very crude.

This was eight years ago, well before smart assistants like Alexa and Google Home were mature, and of course, suffering from Moore’s Law limitations. Natural Language Processing has come a long way since then, with graph processing tools and other incredible advancements in neural networks.

Facebook’s Meta has the advantage of building on that foundation and learning from those pioneering failures. The mistake that I think Meta is making now is that it is distracted by visions of the Metaverse from Snowcrash or The Oasis from Ready Player One (the latter probably being more accurate, as an ultimate escapist repository for all our nostalgia and cultural baggage). You can see those influences in how Mark Zuckerberg himself describes it:

The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.

The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. That is why we are focused on building this.

Immersive. You’re IN the experience. In ANOTHER place. This language describes an alternate reality, a virtual reality. It does not describe a meta-reality or an augmented reality.

To be fair, in the same letter, Zuckerberg does allude to augmented reality to stay present in the real world while you interact with the virtual. But the framework here is an Otherworld where you can decide on a use-case basis to what degree you are present. Think of it as an opacity, with 0% being fully in the real world and 100% being fully immersed (using, say Oculus).

The difference between this and truly augmented reality is that there is no “other” world. You are always in the present reality – but there are added layers. I’ve evangelized the truly groundbreaking anime, Dennou Coil, as a visionary example of a truly AR future. One screenshot alone is sufficient to convey what the true potential is.

Screenshot from Dennou Coil

I don’t know if Facebook/Meta will ever be able to be AR, but I do know that succeed or fail, Facebook/Meta will definitely bring us closer.

Check out my earlier posts on Dennou Coil here.

Living through digital history

I graduated from high school in 1991* in the BBS era. The Internet didn’t open up to commercial use until 1992, and didn’t really take off until 1994 when Netscape released Mosaic.

Before email on the internet became a thing, most people used email from one of the Online Providers (mainly Compuserve, AOL, and Prodigy). Email was like an internal direct message on these systems. I don’t remember what year it was, but eventually gateway services between the Online Providers were established so a Prodigy user could email someone at AOL, etc. Hotmail was the first real internet email that I remember (named because it was HTML-mail), and Microsoft didn’t buy that until 1997, well after I had graduated from college and was already living in Boston at my first job at MIT.

When Mosaic came out, companies started moving away from internal pages at AOL, etc and started creating their first websites on the Internet. I assume that was a huge loss of revenue for those Online Services and contributed to their downfall. Eventually the email standards (X400? X something…) improved to where they all upgraded and we had true interoperability, though I don’t recall what year that was, I think it was 1995 (after Mosaic).

When you watch an episode of Friends – keep in mind that historically all of this was happening in the background. Email just wasn’t a thing in the 90s that people used routinely to keep in touch. Arguably we don’t use it today for that either, since social media has supplanted it**.

The bottom line is that I was in college from 1991 to 1995 at the precise moment in time when we went from BBSes and Online Services ruling the world to the dawn of the true Internet era. I don’t think many of my age-peers remember that this history overlapped with ours in this way.

The Wikipedia entry for Online Service Provider is well-worth a read, especially if you are in my age cohort. Gen-X FTFW!

*The senior class of 1990 made fun of my HS class by changing our slogan to “We’re the class of 91. We drink no beer and have no fun.” I remember this slogan better than our actual slogan, maybe because it was rather accurate in my case at the time. During high school, for me ’87 to ’91, I spent a lot of time dialing in at 14.4K to BBSes.

**much like social media has supplanted blogs, whose history overlaps my grad school years in exactly the same way that the history of email and the web overlaps my college years. I’m old-fashioned enough to have posted this to my blog here. But I’m modern enough to know that all my friends are here on FB and don’t read my blog, which is why I also cross-posted it to Facebook.

Ethereum as universal stock – from wall street to blockchain

I am mining on an EVGA RTX 3070 FTW obtained at MSRP via their step-up program. To date, I’ve averaged about 50 MH/sec on nanopool with essentially no overclocking of any kind.

My intention is to just accumulate ETH as a learning process. I am toying with launching a couple of coins myself to see how the process works and to better understand the ecosystem. I’ve gotten a good idea of how Uniswap works but am still struggling with Pancake.

The analogy to the stock market is the default when most people talk about crypto, and especially in the analyses of the price behavior. Some of this stuff comes from the forex world, like fibonacci retracements. There’s also a cultural influence and cross-pollination from the Reddit crowd at /r/wallstreetbets – where the rallying cry of HODL reigns. There’s an entirely new culture springing up around crypto and it has inherited toolchains from the stock market disruptor scene.

I find myself considering how far the analogy could go. Blockchain is already a public record of transactions – an early proposed use case was as a replacement for the county recorder’s office, as a way to track real estate ownership. Ethereum took that a step further with Decentralized Finance (DeFi) where “smart contracts” are executed directly on the blockchain. In essence, Ethereum added programming to the blockchain concept, creating a computational infrastructure. In all of these evolutionary steps, the stock market analogy reigns supreme, as a benchmark for competition against and innovation beyond. What if the entire idea of stocks itself could be disrupted by a smart blockchain? What if Wall Street could be entirely replaced by the Crypto Grid?

What if the entire idea of stocks itself could be disrupted by a smart blockchain? What if Wall Street could be entirely replaced by the Crypto Grid?

Consider the way a private startup works. The founder solciits money from a bunch of inventors. Those investors each receive a proportional ownership share (equity) of the company, to the amount of money they provide relative to the total investment received by the founder. The founder eventually goes public or sells the company, and in either case each investor receives a payout that is proprtional to their equity stake.

The analogy to Ethereum 2.0 staking is immediately apparent. If you hold a lot of ETH, and you stake some of it, you will receive “interest” payments as income based on that stake.

If the founder instead put out a callf or investors to donate crypto instead of fiat money, then the entire process would work identically. The only difference would be that the donated crypto could be sold to fund the startup (an extra step). However the equity stake of the investors is permanently recorded in the blockchain.

Suppose further that the founder issued their own Ethereum token at a 1:1 ratio to the donated ETH. That token could be capped so that each token represents an actual proportional share, and ownership of the company would then follow those tokens. It would be completely public.

If the founder solicited 100 ETH as investment, and issued 100 tokens to his investors, then those investors could then resell the tokens or fractions thereof as “stock”. The only thing that is unclear is how, legally, those tokens translated legally to ownership. The gap here is between the legal world where business is actually conducted and the crypto world where these constructs reside. Ultimately you need a legal entity to function as a DBA and to open a bank account, take on payroll, pay vendors, etc. However, if the nature of the business is entirely digital – for example, the gig economy on UpWork – then all of these transactions could be purely crypto. The dream of moving away from fiat is possible, and creates a way for people to pay for services and conduct transactions without any footprint in realspace. At least, until the people involved cash out.

H2G2 at Hulu begins production

Yay, I guess. No word yet on cast and crew though.

Though this is certainly an interesting tidbit:

The series is said to have a completely different plot from the 2005 movie and 1981 six-episode television series directed and produced by Alan J. W. Bell.

And yet later on we also find:

The series has reportedly renewed for season 2 as well with no official confirmation yet. It is likely to adopt all the five novels in the series which include, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” “Life, the Universe and Everything,” “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish,” and “Mostly Harmless.” 

So honestly who knows?

The 12 million body problem

Chinese authorities: “this is normal”

I’m aghast at this.

Five Republican US senators have asked Netflix to reconsider its plans to adapt the bestselling Chinese author Liu Cixin’s book The Three-Body Problem, citing Liu’s comments in support of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.

In a letter to Netflix, the senators said they had “significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda”. The letter cites Liu’s interview with the New Yorker last year, in which the Chinese novelist was asked about the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

“Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty,” Liu said, adding: “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.”

The Guardian, “Netflix faces call to rethink Liu Cixin adaptation after his Uighur comments”

The question of separating the art from the artist doesn’t have an easy answer. Usually, I can – for example, Orson Scott Card’s political views are at odds with mine, but I am still able to enjoy Ender’s Game. However, Dan Simmons went completely overboard back in April 2006 to an unforgivable degree and rendering Hyperion completely unreadable to me. The above, from Liu, is equivalent in my view and arguably worse as he is glibly parroting CCP propaganda and justifying religious and cultural genocide.

I just finished saying that I try to avoid politics on this blog, but the simple fact is that science fiction is about the human condition. When writers of other genres offend me, it doesn’t sting. And at least with Card I can see where he’s coming from (I disagree profoundly, but I get it). Liu and Simmons made it personal.

I don’t begrudge him his Hugo but I sincerely hope that Netflix doesn’t reward Chinese propaganda with a TV deal. If they do, then I will not be watching.

the politics of discontent

The last time I used my “politics” tag was about 3 1/2 years ago and my main point in that post was:

I consider respect to be the first and foremost responsibility of anyone engaging someone else. If you don’t respect someone, then don’t concern yourself with what they do or think or especially, post on the Internet. This is common sense and civility. 

me

This blog is my geekblog; it’s where I write about stuff I like that makes me happy. Politics is about what makes you mad, it seems, and I have avoided it here. Overall there isn’t that much politics in the otakusphere, and that’s why it’s great.

Unfortunately we are living through a pandemic and a recession and an election and all that on top of the usual bevy of dangerous planet stuff and foreign entanglements and whatnot. So I cant fault some of my otalu brethren for letting some of that hang out a bit.

However there are a couple cases where it’s become… blatant. And I don’t feel a need to point fingers, but today I did remove a link or two from my blogroll because I realized that their owners weren’t just otaku anymore but have decided to also become pundits. And that’s fine – not any of my business how anyone else runs their blog – but it’s not what I’m looking for here, so I’m choosing to filter that out.

I try not to express opinions (at this blog) that might make a reader think, hey, “he’s talking about me!” I think that there is an erosion of civility happening in real time. If someone agrees and their first thought is to assign blame, then they are part of the problem. The correct response is not to find out who to attack but to try and be part of the solution.

Lets talk about geeky stuff. Let’s be otaku, in the otakusphere. I like being happy more than being angry.

The Stars that Bore Us

This is a short story by Jonathan Edelstein. It’s set in the same literary universe as his published works, “First Do No Harm” (Strange Horizons, 2015), “The Starsmith” (Escape Pod, 2016), “Iya-Iya” (Kaleidotrope, 2019) and “The Stranger in the Tower” (Andromeda Spaceways, 2019) . Here’s a brief backgrounder on the Mutanda-verse. I am grateful to Jonathan for sharing this new entry with the public and encourage everyone to read the rest!

Continue reading “The Stars that Bore Us”

Month 48: prayers #50to50

This post is several months late. I am basically catching up to my 50to50 list all at once, but for aesthetic reasons prefer to break them out into separate posts and backdate them. So, for the record, month 48 should have been posted on February 14th, 2020 but was actually posted on April 14.

Spiritual health is just as important as physical health and mental health. I am fortunate to have a rich religious tradition whose entire existence is devoted to my spiritual health. Generally, I take this for granted.

The base minimum requirements of my faith boil down to a few specific pillars of orthoproxy (assuming orthodoxy as an axiom). Fasting in Ramadan, praying 5 days a week, etc. There is a vast space beyond these pillars, a rich tapestry of supplication and discipline. For example, there are beautiful prayers called dua that beseech the Creator to intercede on our behalf. The point of these dua – in my opinion – is to broaden awareness beyond our daily existence. These are not mandatory in my faith, but like money lying on the ground, have immense value that I have been ignoring rather than seizing.

Therefore, I resolve to recite more dua. There are duas for the morning, which ask for health and hapiness of friends and family. There are duas after every prayer, which praise the stewardship of the Fatimi Imams and their regents, the Duat Mutlaqin, of whom my own Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS, is the current office holder. And there are other duas that are poetic and powerful, some beyond my ability to really understand.

Concept Art from Star Wars: Duel of the Fates

This is official concept art created for the earlier version that would have been directed by Colin Trevorrow. Images have leaked online via https://twitter.com/DRMovieNews1/, which provides the following descriptions:

  • Force Ghost Luke blocking Kylo Ren’s saber with his hand
  • C3PO comforting a damaged R2
  • Rey being trained by Luke
  • Kylo Ren fighting Vader
  • Rey (with double bladed saber) fighting Kylo Ren
  • Rey taking out Stormtroopers
  • Hux commits suicide with a lightsaber after Coruscant falls to the Resistance
  • Leia delivering a message to BB-8 (callback to A New Hope)
  • C3PO & R2 exploring the Coruscant ruins
  • The Falcon lands on a new planet
  • The First Order resuming control over Coruscant (pre-defeat)
  • Finn yelling “REY!” during a battle scene
  • The Final Battle on Coruscant

The script itself was leaked and discussed by Robert Meyer Burnett in the following video:

Trevorrow was fired by Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, who also was behind the director change for the Solo movie for similar reasons of “different vision.”