DataDownload: The world welcomes crypto as Coinbase goes public

DataDownload: The world welcomes crypto as Coinbase goes public A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

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Maybe it’s because it’s spring? But it does seem a bit like unbridled optimism is in the air — for the moment. Coinbase has everyone talking crypto. NFTs are all the rage. And — hiccups notwithstanding — the COVID-19 vaccine is an extraordinary medical miracle.

And this newsletter is full of fun surprises. The healing power of JavaScript? Wired has a great read. A look at an actual lightsaber… a great surprise from Gizmodo. ZDNet on Nvidia’s “Docs for 3D designers”… and a look at automated racism from Vox.

So read, consider, post — whatever suits your sharing mood. And, as always, notes and feedback appreciated.


Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read Coinbase’s Public Listing Is a Cryptocurrency Coming-Out Party

“Coinbase’s listing answers the question ‘Is crypto a real thing?’”

Crypto exchange Coinbase went public this Wednesday, fetching the company an $85.7B valuation — not too far from what Airbnb and Facebook were valued when they went public.

Forgoing an IPO, the company went for a direct listing. According to Forbes, “in a direct listing, the company isn’t issuing any new shares or raising any extra capital in its debut…. Instead of having a bank underwrite the listing and drum up buyers for the shares at an IPO price… the company is opening up their shares directly to the public instead.”

Despite Coinbase’s healthy profits, some have criticized the high valuation — after all, this is the first crypto exchange to go public. In a CNBC piece, Matt Hougan, CIO at Bitwise Asset Management, said there were similar doubts almost a decade ago…

From CNBC: “People said the valuation was absurd. People didn’t trust it because it was kids dressed in hoodies serving a new audience that they weren’t familiar with. That’s the same thing here. This is a giant company that’s churning out real revenue and real profits. I think those valuations may not be as absurd as people think, it’s just people aren’t comfortable with this corner of the economy in the same way they weren’t comfortable with Facebook back in 2012.”

NY Times / 7 min read Read More The Healing Power of JavaScript

A soothing ode to the transformative and alleviating power of code from Japan-based writer Craig Mod. Plenty of pretty passages that sound far-reaching if you’ve never written a for loop, and right at home if your version of an anti-depressant is a Python script. We particularly liked this paragraph:

“Romantic partners have regarded me with confusion and perhaps suspicion when I suddenly went fluent in bash (a flavor of terminal shell used to type commands). It was as if I had been keeping a dirty secret from them. I once dropped quick-fingered into text-land to help a friend’s teenage son install some Minecraft mods and by the look in his eyes, I could tell I had become a minor celebrity in real time. With a few hundred keystrokes, two generations were bridged.”

WIRED / 9 min read

Read more Tech+Media Latest Edelman Survey Rates Trust in Tech at a 21-Year Low

Compared to last year — actually, compared to the last few decades — trust in tech has plummeted. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer: Trust In Technology report, tech is the ninth most trusted sector this year (last year it was first). The survey gathered responses from 33k people in 28 countries, finding that trust in all information sources reached record lows in 2021.

“May 2020 and January 2021, when the public’s trust in technology dropped from 74% to 67%. People were increasingly concerned about AI and robots, and 53% of the respondents in Edelman’s survey worried the pandemic would accelerate the rate at which their employers would replace human workers with AI and robots. Cyberattackers capitalizing on the pandemic didn’t help matters, as 35% of respondents reported being fearful of attackers and breaches.”

VentureBeat / 4 min read Read More Disney’s ‘Real’ Lightsaber Is Inspired By… Tape Measures?

Disney has a 2018 patent for a “real” lightsaber — one that extends and retracts just like in the movies. During a presentation this month, Disney Parks chairman Josh D’Amaro presented a prototype (no videos available) and speculations ran wild online. VR developer Ben Ridout took to Twitter to explain how the concept worked… just think of tape measures.

Gizmodo / 3 min read Read More Nvidia Enters ‘Science-Fiction Metaverse’ With Omniverse Enterprise for 3D Collaboration

At Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference this year, the company announced Omniverse, part universal connector for various 3D tools like Maya and 3D Studio Max, part collaborative creation and simulation platform. In a nutshell, Omniverse plugins for various 3D tools allow assets — geometry, materials, textures, or any other data — to be synced to Nvidia’s Nucleus server via Pixar’s open-source Universal Scene Description (USD) format.

From Nucleus, these synced assets can be streamed to remote collaborators’ screens — be it a browser, a VR headset, or AR view on an iPad. Any changes made by participating designers are stored in Nucleus and published to the original 3D tools. As CEO Jensen Huang put it last year, it’s like Google Docs for 3D designers.

ZDNet / 3 min read

Read More What We’re Watching Are We Automating Racism?

Many of us assume that tech is neutral, and we have turned to tech as a way to root out racism, sexism, or other “isms” plaguing human decision-making. But as data-driven systems become a bigger and bigger part of our lives, we also notice more and more when they fail, and, more importantly, that they don’t fail on everyone equally.

Vox (YouTube) / 23 min watch

Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: Horror Tok — Who’s Been Pacing in the Woods?

TikTok user BettsnAngel69 films a shadowy figure pacing in the woods outside her home. Then she disappears from the internet. Loey and Eleanor investigate: Is it real? Is it sus? And what happened to BettsnAngel69?

Spotify / 25 min listen

Listen Now Virtual Events Free Event: Data Driven NYC with MongoDB & Dataiku
Date: April 20, 5PM EDT
“We’re thrilled to welcome two incredible guests, Dev Ittycheria (CEO of MongoDB) and Florian Douetteau (CEO of Dataiku).” Register Here.

Free Event: April NY Enterprise Tech Meetup with Yancey Spruill CEO of DigitalOcean
Date: April 21, 2PM-3PM EDT
“We’re excited to welcome Yancey Spruill, CEO of NYC cloud-computing company DigitalOcean, for a fireside chat on ‘From NYC Droplet to IPO: Lessons on Scaling DigitalOcean.’” Register Here. A Deeper Look Big Tech’s Guide to Talking About AI Ethics

A hilarious dictionary of Big Tech “we care” terms — the vocabulary that FAMGA adapted over the years… and what it actually means. We’d love to paste the whole list, but MIT Tech Review really put a lot of effort into it — it’s pretty lengthy. But here’s an excerpt:

ethics board (ph) — “A group of advisors without real power, convened to create the appearance that your company is actively listening. Examples: Google’s AI ethics board (canceled), Facebook’s Oversight Board (still standing).”

ethics principles (ph) — “A set of truisms used to signal your good intentions. Keep it high-level. The vaguer the language, the better. See responsible AI.”

explainable (adj) — “For describing an AI system that you, the developer, and the user can understand. Much harder to achieve for the people it’s used on. Probably not worth the effort. See interpretable.”

fairness (n) — “A complicated notion of impartiality used to describe unbiased algorithms. Can be defined in dozens of ways based on your preference.”

MIT Technology Review / 11 min read

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