Friday Five for November 5, 2021

1. Podcast: Enter the Metaverse!

So what exactly is the metaverse? What is the business case for Facebook’s pivot to such an undeveloped and complex technology? And how much was the decision to rebrand as Meta driven by the toxification of Facebook’s brand by months of damaging leaks from the US whistleblower Frances Haugen? In this episode, Nosheen Iqbal is joined by the Guardian’s UK technology editor, Alex Hern, who explains what we already know about the metaverse, its origins in science fiction stories, and its likely real-world applications. And he runs a sceptical eye over the value of such a change – and how likely it is to ever emerge as a reality. Listen here.

2. Adolescents’ recreational screen time doubled during pandemic

Spending more time on screens has mental health effects, including more depression and anxiety, said Jason Nagata, MD, lead author on the JAMA Pediatrics study and UCSF assistant professor of pediatrics.  “As screen time increased, so did adolescents’ worry and stress, while their coping abilities declined,” Nagata said. “Though social media and video chat can foster social connection and support, we found that most of the adolescents’ screen use during the pandemic didn’t serve this purpose.”free science festival, Exploring Your Universe, returns in a virtual format on Sunday, Nov. 7, from noon to 3 p.m. Continue reading.

3. Imagining the Future: Science Fiction and Social Science 

What do science fiction and social science have in common? Much in the way economists and political scientists forecast the results of social and economic structures, science-fiction writers envision future civilizations, both utopian and dystopian, through systematic world-building. Paul Krugman, distinguished professor of economics at the CUNY Graduate Center, joins in a conversation about the connection between the social sciences and fantasy fiction, and how they often inspire each other. The panel, including sci-fi novelists and social scientists who often refer to fiction in their writing and interviews. Register here.

4. Facebook sued by defunct photo app Phhhoto on antitrust grounds 

Defunct photo app Phhhoto is suing Meta, formerly Facebook, on antitrust grounds, claiming the social media platform feigned interest in working with it, but then copied its features and hid its name from search results, effectively driving it out of business.

Phhhoto’s technology allowed users to capture five frames “in a single point-and-shoot burst,” which could be looped into a short video (a phhhoto) to be shared either on its platform or Instagram. Sound familiar? That’s because, according to Phhhoto, Facebook copied Phhhoto’s main feature and released it on its Instagram platform as Boomerang in 2015, after blocking Phhhoto from Instagram’s API and from being pre-populated in Instagram posts. Continue reading.

5. ‘Is it OK to …’: the bot that gives you an instant moral judgment

Corporal punishment, wearing fur, pineapple on pizza – moral dilemmas, are by their very nature, hard to solve. That’s why the same ethical questions are constantly resurfaced in TV, films and literature.

But what if AI could take away the brain work and answer ethical quandaries for us? Ask Delphi is a bot that’s been fed more than 1.7m examples of people’s ethical judgments on everyday questions and scenarios. If you pose an ethical quandary, it will tell you whether something is right, wrong, or indefensible. Continue reading.