Hi, welcome to your Weekend!
While we can’t say that the start of 2022 was as disorienting as last year’s insurrection-impeachment-inauguration triple-whammy, the new year still began with a couple of pocket-sized bombshells.
Out here in Silicon Valley, the Elizabeth Holmes trial ended as many expected: with the ex-Theranos boss’s conviction on multiple felonies. (We recapped the soap opera of it all with our Holmesie Awards.) New York media was whipped into a lather over the departures of “The Smiths,” Ben and Justin, from their respective fiefdoms at the New York Times and Bloomberg. (Jessica writes about a related media trend in the return of her column, The Takeaway.) And there was the continued march across the land of Omicron, which was making everyone we know very, very tired.
But the beat must go on, and so we bring to you a collection of very different stories this weekend, all of which add up to one idea: These are some interesting times.
THE big read
What’s good for India—a reverse brain-drain, with highly skilled, U.S.-educated nationals returning home to launch startups—is most assuredly bad for the United States. Anita Raghavan tells the stories of the young, U.S.-trained workers, who, in spite of their entrepreneurial energy, feel their only choice is to leave America behind.
Back from maternity leave and brimming over with business insights, The Information’s fearless leader Jessica Lessin pens a column about a concerning trend in the news-media landscape: the proliferation of influencer-journalist outlets. While building a media company on the backs of star reporters might lead to sizable exits, Jessica writes, it also spells bad news for journalism.
Time to dust off your iPod Shuffle—a new wave of creators are bringing back now-obsolete technology for aesthetic purposes. Just as the 2010s saw the revival of the vinyl record and the Polaroid, the 2020s are ripe for repurposing iPods, flip phones, and computer mice. Annie Goldsmith explores four low-fi trends taking over social media.
“Within the dark caverns and crevices of Twitter, there is a singular sunny corner: the lair of the non-fungible token influencer,” writes Margaux MacColl. “It’s a place where meme-inspired jokes sing in harmony with calls for a radical, utopian future. However, on a fateful day in early December, the worst fear of every internet subculture became a reality. The brands arrived.”
Presenting the first-ever Holmesies, honoring the winningest content from Silicon Valley’s trial of the century.
For 17 emotional weeks, the Elizabeth Holmes trial had all the makings of a primo soap opera: heartache and drama, sex and lies, twists and turns and one helluva femme fatale. We had fascinating witnesses. We had intrigue, in the form of salacious text messages. We had bombshells. We even had whispers of an interpodcast blood feud (the “Bad Blood” gang are really not fans of the “The Dropout” crew, apparently). Given the cinematic tenor of the trial, we decided to honor its conclusion in true Hollywood style: by handing out Holmesies, The Information Weekend’s hand-picked awards for the best content, characters and courtroom exhibits that filled the past 120-odd days of our lives. Find the full list of winners here.
Watching: An eye-bleeding promo for a crypto island.
Despite our initial reaction that this project must be satire, we regret to inform you that it appears real. Spotted this week by software engineer Molly White, an 18-minute(!) promo video (which has since been made private on YouTube) introduces viewers to Cryptoland, “the world’s first physical crypto island.” Is it a tropical Yellowstone Club for the crypto set, or a $1.2 million-a-pop permanent Fyre Festival? Time will tell. Co-founders Max Olivier and Helena Lopez are relative unknowns and have divulged little about the island’s funding or, as one Twitter user brought up, its sanitation. But the project’s Discord channel has over 12K members and YouTuber Kyle Chassé and podcaster Charlie Shrem endorsed the venture. As for White? She’s since been blocked by Cryptoland.
Reading: In the future, retainers will be cool.
Wearing a retainer in high school: uncool. Wearing a retainer that lets you secretly text your friends using only your tongue: Now we’re talking! Per Buzzfeed, one of the creators of Google Glasses has developed SilentSpeller, a retainer equipped with 124 sensors that can read tongue movements, convert them to text, and relay that information to a computer or smartphone. Its uses go beyond surreptitious classroom texting: inventor Thad Starner envisions it helping people with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease to communicate with caretakers.
Listening: A surprise album drop from our namesake.
Little known fact: this section is named after Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd. Okay, not actually. (Though he is the inspiration for our Slack channel.) In any case, we’re loving his new album, Dawn FM, released yesterday. The tracklist is interspersed with narration from Jim Carrey, plus a 96-second storytime from Quincy Jones. The vibe is classic Weeknd, which is to say Michael Jackson meets 80s FM radio meets the Stranger Things theme song. It’s spooky and introspective and, at times, extremely fun. We recommend the punchy “Less Than Zero” (likely a Brett Easton Ellis reference) and “Here We Go… Again” featuring Tyler the Creator.
Makes You Think
Weird Al is right: 2022 is the year of Soylent Green. And Soylent Green is people!
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading!
Weekend Editor, The Information