New Week #75
The world's leading NFT brand wants to build One Metaverse to Rule Them All. An unprecedented heatwave strikes both the Arctic and Antarctic. Plus more news and analysis from this week.
Welcome to the mid-week update from New World Same Humans, a newsletter on trends, technology, and society by David Mattin.
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This week’s instalment comes later than usual; I was away on a speaking engagement. But it’s a packed edition!
The people behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club want to build a massive gamified virtual world that will triumph over every other metaverse.
Meanwhile, it’s been 40C hotter than usual in Antarctica. But it’s not all bad news; you can now appear as a fox on your next Zoom call.
Let’s get into it.
👑 One world to rule them all
This week, intriguing metaverse news.
Yuga Labs, the people behind the stunningly successful Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT series, say they’ll soon launch a massive multiplayer gaming world intended to ‘make all other metaverses obsolete’.
The company has raised $450 million in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
News of the metaverse project surfaced when what appears to be a Yuga pitch deck leaked on Twitter. Confirmation arrived in the form of this tweet: a trailer for a metaversal world called Otherside.
Yuga say Otherside will be a virtual world in which players can use their NFTs as characters. Earlier this month the company announced it had acquired the CryptoPunks and Meebits platforms from Larva Labs, meaning it now holds IP in the three best-known NFT brands.
Crucially, Otherside will be open and decentralised. Developer kits will allow others to build their own NFT series inside the world, and for users to adopt those NFTs as characters. This openness, or interoperability, is at the heart of Yuga’s plans to take on Meta’s Horizon VR world, Decentraland, and others, in the bid for metaverse supremacy.
⚡ NWSH Take: Everything about this story signals the frothiness of the NFT/metaverse space right now. Check out the numbers in the leaked Yuga deck; the company made $137 million last year at a 95% profit margin. The company also launched a new cryptocurrency, ApeCoin, this week. The price bounced wildly between $6 and $40 in the hours after launch. Holders of BAYC NFTs were each sent a stash of ApeCoin; at the peak price some found themselves sitting on an unexpected $500,000 worth of currency. // But the real signal, here? It’s the investment round. Yuga Labs created a series of cartoons that rode the NFT hype train to insane success. Kudos to them; but their building experience stops at jpegs. Now, they’ve been given half a billion dollars and told to compete with the biggest technology companies on the planet. Can Otherside really rule over Meta’s coming metaverse? // Everyone wants to own the next iteration of the internet — and the vast amounts of commerce that will take place inside it. The war for supremacy won’t stop here.
⛈ The gathering storm
Scientists say extreme temperatures in both the Arctic and Antarctica in recent days could signal faster than expected disruption in the Earth’s climate systems.
At the Concordia station on the Antarctic Plateau on Friday, temperatures hit a record -11.8C; that’s more than 40C warmer than the seasonal average.
Meanwhile, some measuring stations at the Arctic saw temperatures at 30C above average for this time of year.
Scientists say an ‘atmospheric river’ carrying warm air and moisture from Australia is partly responsible for the mega-temperatures in Antarctica. They warn these events – which are more extreme than those predicted by current climate models – are likely to hasten polar melting, which could result in a cascade of further climate disruption.
⚡ NWSH Take: See this story in the context of further news this week. A report from Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research says rich countries should decarbonise within 13 years if we’re to have a chance of keeping warming to 1.5C. This would allow poorer countries more time – up to 28 years – to do the same. // A rising number of climate thinkers say it’s time for radical honesty on these targets: it’s almost certain they won’t be met. Does anyone believe that the world’s richest 19 countries will decarbonise by 2034? That doesn’t mean we should stop trying to limit warming. But it means we need to think, also, about adaptation to a heated planet. This freak double heatwave at both poles is yet another reminder: the climate change-induced storms we’re living through now are real, but a far greater storm is coming.
🦊 Calling all avatars
Do you long to show up to your next team meeting as a dog? Maybe a fox?
Then you’re in luck; Zoom launched avatars this week. They allow you to appear as one among a range of animal characters, which mimic your body movements and expressions during a call.
Until now, the video call platform offered only filters that dropped a digital layer over the user’s own face. These avatars, though, offer a full body-and-face replacement service.
Zoom say further, non-animal avatars are coming soon.
⚡ NWSH Take: Just wait until Steve from accounts joins your next call as a rabbit; it will be hilarious. But there’s a deeper story taking shape here. // Across the next decade work will, for many, shift partly into virtual environments. We’ll become used to the idea of presenting ourselves to colleagues as an avatar. Professional anonymity, or an identity based entirely around a virtual avatar, will become unremarkable. And the gateway that led millions into this new world? It will be these friendly, non-threatening, easy-to-understand Zoom animals. // The work metaverse is coming. Choose your creature.
🧠 The networked brain
To close, a look at the evolution of mind/machine interfaces.
It’s the first time that someone who is fully ‘locked in’ has been able to communicate in full sentences. The man has spelled out numerous sentences, including: I love my cool son.
Late-stage ALS patients can spend years of their life on a ventilator, unable even to move their eyes to signal ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
⚡ NWSH Take: The overwhelmingly important truth here? If these technologies can be refined, they could prove transformative for millions who are partly or entirely paralysed, allowing them the ability to communicate and exercise a higher degree of control over their physical environment. // There are broader, albeit less life-changing, implications too. A world in which we can trigger digital events using only our minds is set to intersect with the emergence of worlds that are entirely digital (yes, we’re talking the metaverse again). One powerful signal? This week Snap announced the acquisition of NextMind, makers of a headband that reads brain signals to allow the user to communicate with devices using only thought. Snap say the startup’s technology will help them build the next iteration of their AR glasses, Snap Spectacles. The dream Snap is aiming for? A world in which you can think forest and and a forest will magically grow around you, seamlessly woven around the physical environment.
🗓️ Also this week
🥚 An Easter Egg has been discovered in Windows 1.0, only 36 years after its launch in November 1985. It’s a secret text box containing the names of the Microsoft team that coded the product. Look, it was 1985; what did you expect?
🚗 Ride sharing firm Waymo is set to launch fully driverless rides in San Francisco. The company, which is owned by Alphabet, began trialling a driverless service – plus ‘safety drivers’ – in the city last year. Now it says it’s ready to get rid of the safety drivers and make the service open to all.
👍 Meta is giving users more control over their personal boundary in the Horizon VR world. Back in New Week #69 I wrote on how the company has established personal space bubbles that prevented avatars from coming closer that four virtual feet to one another.
🚚 Automated trucks could erase 500,000 jobs in the US alone. That’s according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan.
⚡️ A Japanese startup is working on technology that will allows users to ‘feel pain in the metaverse’. H2L Technologies is working on a wristband that will deliver ‘small electric shocks’ at appropriate moments. The result, says CEO Emi Tamaki, will be virtual worlds that feel more real and are more immersive.
🛒 Retail giant Kroger are partnering with Nvidia to create simulated versions of their physical stores. These ‘digital twins’ will help Kroger develop more efficient stocking and store management processes. In New Week #62 I wrote about the rise of digital twins and the impact they’re set to have across the consumer arena.
🤖 A robotic cheetah made by scientists at MIT taught itself how to run. While the robot had previously been programmed to run, this time researchers deployed AI and simulated environments to allow it to teach itself. This resulted in it learning to run faster than it ever has before.
🌍 Humans of Earth
Key metrics to help you keep track of Project Human.
🙋 Global population: 7,935,916,068
🌊 Earths currently needed: 1.8056583814
💉 Global population vaccinated: 57.3%
🗓️ 2022 progress bar: 23% complete
📖 On this day: On 24 March 1882 the German microbiologist Robert Koch announces the discovery of of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis.
Thanks for reading this week.
It’s been something of a metaverse-heavy instalment. But that’s a sign of the times. The battle to own the next iteration of the internet is set to rage for years — we haven’t seen stakes like this since the early days of the internet. History tells us that the eventual winner probably doesn’t even exist yet.
It’s a story New World Same Humans will continue to track. And there’s one thing you can do to help: share!
Now you’ve reached the end of this week’s instalment, why not forward the email to someone who’d also enjoy it? Or share it across one of your social networks, with a note on why you found it valuable. Remember: the larger and more diverse the NWSH community becomes, the better for all of us.
I’ll be back next week. Until then, be well,
P.S Huge thanks to Nikki Ritmeijer for the illustration at the top of this email. And to Monique van Dusseldorp for additional research and analysis.