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Bono Freaking Gets It

PLUS: How Thingtesting became Yelp for DTC and CPG
March 31, 2023

In a November, 2022, interview with the New York Times, Bono stole a bit of our thunder.

His claim: Commerce has the power to change lives: 

There’s a funny moment when you realize that as an activist: The off-ramp out of extreme poverty is, ugh, commerce, it’s entrepreneurial capitalism. I spend a lot of time in countries all over Africa, and they’re like, Eh, we wouldn’t mind a little more globalization actually.

Now, he said it with a bit of a grunt “ugh, commerce” — which we fully understand. Commerce can be subject to gross affectations. For instance, the recent dark pattern of persuasive design and manipulative offers beig called “site optimization.” Dude, like, gross.

Commerce is both a problem, and the solution, to many of the issues in the world. Why? Well, for one, it touches every living person. No matter who you are, you’re doomed to have to engage in the buying or selling of goods just to live in this world; something we covered extensively in this year’s 10-day meditation on the Power of Commerce.

Because you are obligated to engage in Commerce (big-C) means that it’s a default — you don’t need permission. The American Free Enterprise System is a great example of a “permissionless” model to create wealth.

That is, until now. The world is changing, thanks to AI and automation. There has never been a time in human history where one person can be so productive; and that has far-reaching implications on the future of commerce. This change may radically alter how we think about the nature of work, and our roles in society. 

But that doesn’t mean we’ll be happy, no no no. The human race possesses the marvelous skill to adapt; and that means the boredom and the apathy around this transformative technology will soon set in — along with the luddites who wish to tear it all down, even by violence.

We’ll still be in search of meaning, whispering to each other: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” 

Achtung, Baby.

— Phillip

P.S. speaking of AI, check out my deep-dive into a practical consumer use of GPT to validate the claims of two beauty brands over on a LinkedIn post. I compare two undereye serums based purely on ingredients alone, and discover novel uses for user experience in the process.

P.P.S. on the podcast this week we had Natalie Sportelli of Thingtesting, who dropped by to tell us how Thingtesting became the Yelp of DTC and CPG. It’s a fun listen, and she has a wonderful perspective on the nature of content in a community-based org. It’s worth your time.

Urban Greening. Attention all tree-huggers: a new hero has entered the arboreal arena! Meet Liquid Groot, the Serbian creation that's turning heads in the fight against climate change. Unlike its wooden counterparts, this liquid tree is made of a special polymer that can absorb and store carbon dioxide from the air. And when it's time to release the CO2 back into the wild, Liquid Groot can do it with style; just don't ask James Gunn for an 80’s-era needle-drop.

The Warm Glow of Nostalgia. Vacuum tubes have made a comeback, thanks to the recent nostalgia-bomb. After nearly a half-century of being manufactured primarily in Russia, a Colorado scientist, Russel Langley, is reviving the vacuum tube technology that was popular in mid-20th century electronics. He believes that vacuum tubes offer “unique sonic qualities that can't be matched by digital devices”, and has started a business, Vacuum Tube Valley, that sells vacuum tubes and provides information on how to use them in modern electronic projects.

More Sights & Sounds. 

Check on your local indie bookshop employee. They’re not okay. Boygenuis, the trio comprised of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, released a full length album today. Also, Tinder just banned photos of men holding fish. So long, bait-and-switch.

From Midjourney

Popecoatgate 2023. A Midjourney-generated image of Pope Francis has recently been featured on the cover of Italian magazine "Amica”, spurring a debate about the future of AI fashion. In the all-too-convincing image, the pontiff’s unique puffer coat showed a luxurious side of what the Holy Father would look like if he were a guest on Season 4 of Succession.The design was intended to explore the connection between fashion and technology.

MSCHF is Out of Ideas. MSCHF is running out of ideas in that apparently, they can only design impractical shoes. Once an absurdist cultural commentary on the state of consumer and commerce, it seems that MSCHF is now just a footwear company desperate for attention. 

More Touch. Fashion designer Vivienne Tam has debuted the world's first NFT dress at the Metaverse Fashion Week, a virtual event that showcases digital fashion.  Madhappy has collabed with Lululemon so now all the LA Yoga moms can wear tiedye to their hot yoga thursday am sesh.

That’s Amore. In a move that is supremely Italian, the Italian government has received a bill to ban lab grown meat in the country, citing the importance of Italy’s rich food traditions. This is in stark contrast to another story this week, where Australian researchers created a woolly mammoth meatball.

‘Plus Perks Promise Pre-Launch Pastries. Walmart is offering a new perk to its Walmart+ members, giving them early access to a new limited-edition Oreo flavor before it hits shelves. The move is part of Walmart's ongoing effort to incentivize customers to sign up for the membership program, which offers benefits like free shipping and discounts.

The History of Horses Has Hearty Implications. A new research paper proposes that the equine species was present in North America far sooner than originally thought. The study was commissioned by an intersectional panel of researchers and native tribes, including the Lakota and Pawnee. If accepted, the new theory would have far-reaching implications on the history of Western civilization and its various cultures, as well as the history of domestication of horses in the Americas, including farming and cultivation in surplus much earlier than previously thought.

The New Luddite is Here. As we predicted in the 2022 Visions report, the modern Luddite has returned. Enterprise business leaders have signed an open letter calling for the pause of AI experiments, including Elon Musk. However, artificial intelligence researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky argues that simply writing open letters to AI developers about the potential dangers of AI is not enough to ensure its safe development, and that more concrete steps are needed to address these risks; including inciting violence.

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