Hi, welcome to your Weekend!
It’s been a few months since two Silicon Valley titans started passive-aggressively sniping at each other on Twitter, and I'm still thinking about what it all meant, and why it all started. The war of words, blocks, and memes between Jack Dorsey and Marc Andreessen wasn’t only fascinating because of the billionaire egos at play. They really did seem to be grappling with an important question: Is there a superior economic system waiting to be rolled out, and if so, who should control it?
This week’s cover story by Joel Stein gets to the heart of that debate, explaining what sparked it (besides a Cardi B tweet), what’s fueling it (besides untold riches), and what it might mean for all of our futures. I learned a lot from reading Joel’s piece, even if one of the story’s subjects has already quibbled with one of its characterizations. At least Andreessen hasn’t blocked us on Twitter...yet.
the big read
The fight that erupted on Twitter last December between the platform’s former CEO and one of its VC investors had all the makings of a five-alarm Silicon Valley dumpster fire—replete with “Real Housewives” memes, revenge blocks, photos of cats and, of course, Elon Musk. But the debate was an important one, with roots in both men’s pasts and hints of a continuing war between Dorsey’s Bitcoin maximalists and Andreessen’s “crypto polyamorists.” Journalist and author Joel Stein dives into the flame war between two of tech’s most famous names and tries to make sense of the nonsensical.
scene and heard
At the Shoptalk Conference in Las Vegas, E-Retailers Talk Problems. The Metaverse Isn’t One of Them.
Earlier this week, thousands of retail pros descended on Las Vegas to trade industry tips and predict future consumer behavior. Malique dropped in on the Shoptalk conference, where, in contrast to the metaverse hype at last month’s South by Southwest conference, CEOs are brushing off the term. Indeed, according to Julie Bornstein, CEO of mobile-first fashion marketplace The Yes, the immersive internet of the future is nothing more than a “big fat distraction.”
In this week’s Decamped, we chat with Max Makeev, co-founder and chief development officer of Owl Labs, a maker of videoconferencing devices. Makeev moved to Barnstead, N.H., when the pandemic hit. He has implemented a hybrid working model ever since, spending 25% to 40% of his time in his apartment in Somerville, Mass., and the rest at his lake house 90 minutes north.
Reporter Aidan Ryan on “After Yang”:
In mid-March, I eagerly bought tickets to see “After Yang,” a new sci-fi feature, at Greenwich Village’s intimate Quad Cinema. A fan of mononymous director Kogonada’s first feature film—the understated indie drama, “Columbus”—I had high expectations for his sophomore offering and wasn’t disappointed. Cinephiles who might have been racing to catch up on Oscar nominations over the past three weeks may have missed the movie, which began streaming on Showtime and playing in theaters in early March, but it’s worth your time. “After Yang” focuses on Jake’s (Colin Farrell) efforts to try and repair Yang (Justin H. Min), the android companion of his daughter, who one day completely shuts down. This is a world of androids and clones, but I appreciated how Kogonada spares viewers the rules of dystopian world-building to focus instead on personal themes of humanity, family and love as Jake, his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), their daughter Mika and others trek on “after Yang.”
Watching: The anti-Instamoms of TikTok
We’ve all seen the Instagram momfluencers, with their extensive, emoji-laden captions and perfectly curated feeds. But, as Kathryn Jezer-Morton’s Romper feature points out, the young mothers of TikTok are completely unlike their social media predecessors. They show a more complete picture of motherhood—as Jezer-Morton writes, “These girls appear to party. They appear to be sexual beings. They appear to be working on identities that don’t fully overlap with the mother role.” But, like motherhood itself, becoming a casual mom TikToker is far more difficult than it may appear to outsiders.
Reading: Creator fandom turned toxic
TikToker William White gained 1.9 million followers by being the perfect “cougar bait.” Dancing and lip-syncing to classic pop songs, the 22-year-old stole the hearts of fiercely loyal middle-aged women, who returned the favor by bankrolling his life. But Input’s Jessica Lucas writes, the “Whitey Nation” fandom has become toxic, with women maxing out their credit cards, showing up at his house, and doxxing anyone who dares insult the man they consider a “God-like figure.” White has yet to speak up about the disturbing behavior; maybe he’s too busy spending his $3,000 monthly stipend, courtesy of the cougars.
Noticing: Evidence of insider trading in NFTs
We’ve already suffered through metaverse art heists; it was only a matter of time before insider trading infiltrated the NFT world too. Forbes reporter Jeff Kauflin writes about Alexandre Arnault, son of LVMH billionaire Bernard, who hoped to get lucky in a blind auction for a popular NFT collection. And, boy, did Arnault get lucky: out of the seven NFTs he bid on, he scored three of the rarest ones, banking a $20,000 profit when he resold them shortly after. Maybe the NFT gods were watching over him that day, or maybe he’s very publicly friends with the collection’s founder. It’s one of many sketchy examples of wealthy, connected people miraculously buying NFTs right before their value skyrockets. The best part? None of this is technically illegal (yet).
Makes You Think
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading!
Weekend Editor, The Information