Hi, welcome to your Weekend!
We’re on week three of Elon–Twittergate and the hits just keep on coming. (Get it? Because Elon likes the weed. Anyway...) It seems like months since the rumors about Musk’s takeover began spinning, and we’ve got months more until the deal closes. Predicting how this drama ends is impossible, but if Musk’s past is precedent, he’ll probably pull off his coup. And what will change then? Jessica shares some ominous thoughts below.
But here’s another theory: Not as much will change as some fear. Twitter is already an endless torrent of conflicting information, some of it silty sludge that sinks to the bottom, some of it frothy jetsam that spills over the top. It’ll still be that unruly, unpredictable deluge after Elon tweaks the moderation rules and Trump belly-flops back into the current.
If you watch how Musk runs his other companies, you’ll notice he’s sometimes taken by surprise at what’s going on. Here’s guessing the same will be true for a Musk-run Twitter. With his attention divided between Tesla, SpaceX, the Boring Company, Neuralink and, well, this, he won’t have a ton of time to truly Musk the platform up. That’s my optimistic, if naive, hunch. Love to hear yours.
the big read
The world of virtual streaming has its first global superstar: A mysterious Puerto Rican woman with an immunodeficiency disease who streams to millions from her bed. Kaya teleports into the uncanny valley of VTubing, a fast-expanding empire of cartoon-veiled creators who are catching the eyes of advertisers as they notch video views in the billions.
“Those who dismiss Musk’s takeover of Twitter as just a modern example of a rich mogul buying printing presses or television stations fall into a dangerous trap,” writes Jessica in response to some “same as it ever was” hand-waving by Elon defenders. “They forget that the internet is unlike any communication technology that has come before it; they underestimate the power of the technology to scale and to control the public conversation.”
The 28-year-old creator of Web3 Is Going Just Great has become the unofficial ombudsperson of Web3, cataloguing the sector’s myriad disasters and flagging some of its most blatant offenders. As one admiring ally told Zoe: “She is the absolute nightmare of the DAO and Web3 zealous.”
department of elon studies
If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that no one can out-Musk Elon Musk. But some tech bros sure do try! Who comes the closest? To answer this urgent question, The Information developed a set of highly technical, empirically tested criteria and subjected 14 Silicon Valley men to the smell test.
Reading: Governments shutting down the internet
A fun quirk of the modern world is that governments can just…switch off the internet, plunging entire countries into digital darkness. For Rest of World, Peter Guest details the terrifying fragility of the internet, explaining how authoritarian governments silence citizens online. Over the last seven years, there have been 935 total internet shutdowns, usually as a (very effective) way to squash protests. It’s shockingly easy: last year, Myanmar only had to take control of four telecom companies to switch off service. As one Egyptian journalist told Guest, “The censors won.”
Noticing: Young influencers hawking plastic surgery
Forget diet teas and fast fashion hauls; the new hot fan merch is cosmetic surgery. NBC’s Kat Tenbarge interviewed Gen Z influencers who’ve become walking billboards for plastic surgeons and medical spas. TikTok doesn’t allow companies to advertise cosmetic surgeries, but they can provide discounted procedures in exchange for a “shoutout” from influencers. The rampant body dysmorphia and addiction issues aside, it can be a lucrative arrangement for creators. “When I started changing my appearance, the likes and views and shares went up,” one 22-year-old influencer said. “People will say it looks like an alien, it looks crazy. I fed into that.”
Questioning: Will virtual twins replace us all?
And for one last dystopian dopamine hit: Artificial intelligence company Hour One just scored $20 million to put “more virtual humans in the virtual workplace.” Willing participants sit for a filming session—letting the AI drink up all their mannerisms—and then meet their digital doppelganger. The twin is just like them, but better, because it can “speak in any language” and will never stutter during company presentations. One investor promised the technology will increase efficiency “in ways previously unimaginable.” Your boss might just start to wonder why they keep you around at all.
Makes You Think
Until next Weekend, thanks for reading!
Weekend Editor, The Information