It’s 9 a.m. The average summer heat wave feels less intense today as you’re walking down your neighborhood. The strong craving for a croissant consumes your thoughts as you’re contemplating what to have for breakfast. Out of nowhere, a bakery appears next to you with various croissant options to satisfy your cravings. You stop, choose your breakfast, only to realize you forgot your wallet.
That’s not an issue though, as the brain-computer interface device recognizes the obstacle and immediately transmits a link to obtain your wallet with one click.
Welcome to the metaverse, a simulated mirror of our world which will soon become every Facebook user’s digital reality, according to Mark Zuckerberg.
The founder of Facebook told The Verge that the social networking platform will soon transform into a metaverse in five years, adding that online users are not meant to communicate in “small, glowing rectangles.”
“That’s not really how people are made to interact,” Zuckerberg said, addressing people’s dependance on mobile phones. “A lot of the meetings that we have today, you’re looking at a grid of faces on a screen. That’s not how we process things either.”
Zuckerberg described the metaverse as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content, you are in it.” For example, if a user is watching a concert on Facebook, they will have the option to dive virtually into a 3D concert.
“You feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness,” The Facebook CEO said.
Diving into the metaverse will also benefit businesses and working individuals, as Zuckerberg is currently planning an “infinite office” that would provide employees with their ideal customizable workplace through VR.
In five years, instead of just conducting job interviews over the phone, employees will be able to sit as a hologram on the hiring manager’s couch.
“Or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart,” Zuckerberg said. “I think that is really powerful.”
Granting people the ability to enjoy options beyond their physical circumstances is edging closer to becoming a reality, as Facebook has already spent $2 billion on acquiring Oculus, which develops all of Facebook’s VR products, including Facebook’s Horizon.
In 2019, Oculus launched Facebook’s Horizon service which invited users to a virtual reality where they can chat through a simulated cartoon avatar of themselves using Oculus’ headsets.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that the current VR headsets by Oculus are “a bit clunky” as people can’t work in them every day. However, the man behind the tech giant argued that the metaverse created by Facebook will be “accessible across different computing platforms” including outlets such as PC, mobile devices, and games consoles.
The origin of the metaverse concept was born in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it served as a virtual reality that came even before the internet’s creation.
The phrase “life imitates art,” the notion that an event in the real world is inspired by a creative work, will soon be witnessed by Facebook users worldwide.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
According to Verity McIntosh, a VR expert at the University of the West of England, Facebook is interested in producing a metaverse due to the enormous data it will provide on users that cannot compare with screen-based media.
“Now it’s not just about where I click and what I choose to share, it’s about where I choose to go, how I stand, what I look at for longest, the subtle ways that I physically move my body and react to certain stimuli. It’s a direct route to my subconscious and that is gold to a data capitalist,” Mclntosh said.
Zuckerberg’s announcement also comes after several lawmakers began reining in the power of U.S.-based tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook. In an effort to curb major market distortions and encourage competition as big tech companies dominate industries, lawmakers have been stretching out anti-trust laws to impose fines and behavioral remedies.
Earlier in June, Rhode Island Democrat and chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee David N. Cicilline, commented on the anti-trust law being issued on big tech companies, explaining that it would “level the playing field” and make sure these companies are held to the same regulations as other businesses.
“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy,” Cicilline said. “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put folks out of work.”
Yet, even with all the negative implications that are coupled with the technology, from a futuristic perspective, it’s not all doom and gloom.
We might be closer to achieving a metaverse than we might think. Services such as “Google Street View” already provide realistic and interactive panoramas of streets around the world. With developments such as paying for transit from Google Maps, to booking an online class or ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant.
Five years down the line, and the metaverse itself will become any street you want to visit, providing you with all of your desired services effortlessly. You might not be living in your dream country or district, but you’ll have the option to roam its streets and maybe even pay through cryptocurrency for your croissant.
Apple’s new iPhone 13 devices are facing technical difficulties
If you aren’t able to unlock your Apple Watch that’s connected to your new iPhone 13, you’re not alone.
Apple has recently announced that the tech giant has found an issue where the “unlock with Apple Watch” option does not work with new iPhone 13 devices.
A document posted on its support page explains the issue, noting that users “might see ‘Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch’ if you try to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask, or you might not be able to set up Unlock with Apple Watch.”
The issue first came to light when Reddit users on the r/AppleWatch subreddit began reporting that they were facing this technical difficulty, with some users complaining that the issue was never there with older iPhone devices.
Earlier this year, the smartphone giant released the unlock feature that utilized Face ID with a paired Apple Watch, hand-in-hand with the release of iOS 14.5. The feature requires both the iPhone and the Watch to have a stable Wi-Fi connection as a turned-on Bluetooth. “The Watch needs to have wrist detection turned on and be passcode-protected, and it has to be on your wrist and unlocked for the feature to work,” according to The Verge.
Apple didn’t explicitly mention what’s causing the problem with the iPhone 13 devices in its support document. However, the company reassured users that it will be “fixed in an upcoming software update,” but without mention a date.
Even though Apple has just begun testing the iOS 15.1 beta, the tech giant has a documented history of delivering quick fixes. So, tech experts believe that users should expect the issue to become part of the past in the upcoming few days.
For many Haitian migrants, journey to Texas started online
For the final leg of his journey from Chile to the United States, Haitian migrant Fabricio Jean followed detailed instructions sent to him via WhatsApp from his brother in New Jersey who had recently taken the route to the Texas border.
His brother wired him money for the trip, then meticulously mapped it out, warning him of areas heavy with Mexican immigration officials.
“You will need about 20,000 pesos (about $1,000 U.S. dollars) for the buses. You need to take this bus to this location and then take another bus,” recounted Jean, who spoke to The Associated Press after reaching the border town of Del Rio.
What Jean didn’t expect was to find thousands of Haitian migrants like himself crossing at the same remote spot. The 38-year-old, his wife and two young children earlier this month joined as many as 14,000 mostly Haitian migrants camped under a Del Rio bridge.
A confluence of factors caused the sudden sharp increase at the Texas town of about 35,000 residents. Interviews with dozens of Haitian migrants, immigration attorneys and advocates reveal a phenomenon produced partly by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies after authorities recently extended protections for the more than 100,000 Haitians living in the United States.
It also reflects the power of Facebook, YouTube and platforms like WhatsApp, which migrants use to share information that can get distorted as it speeds through immigrant communities, directing migration flows. That’s especially true for tight-knit groups like the Creole-and-French-speaking Haitians, many of whom left their homeland after its devastating 2010 earthquake and have been living in Latin America, drawn by Brazil and Chile’s once-booming economies.
In extending protections for Haitians this spring, the Biden administration cited security concerns and social unrest in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the temporary protections were limited to those residing in the U.S. before July 29 — but that condition was often missing in posts, leading Haitians outside the United States to believe they, too, were eligible.
Mayorkas acknowledged that this week, saying “we are very concerned that Haitians who are taking the irregular migration path are receiving misinformation that the border is open,” or that they qualify for protected status despite the expired deadline.
“I want to make sure it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States,” he said.
Thousands of Haitians have been stuck in Mexican border towns since 2016, when the Obama administration abruptly halted a policy that initially allowed them in on humanitarian grounds.
Online messages touting the Mexican town of Ciudad Acuña, across from Del Rio, started after President Joe Biden took office and began reversing some of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Ciudad Acuña has been spared the drug and gang violence seen elsewhere along the border. Some of the social media posts recommending it appear to have come from human smugglers seeking to drum up business, according to immigrant advocates.
Haitians began crossing there this year, but their numbers ballooned after a Biden administration program that briefly opened the door to some asylum seekers ended, said Nicole Phillips, of the San Diego-based Haitian Bridge Alliance, which advocates for Haitian migrants. The program allowed in a select number of people deemed by humanitarian groups to be at high risk in Mexico.
Once it ceased in August, people panicked, and the messages recommending Ciudad Acuña “went viral,” Phillips said.
“That’s why they rushed at this time to get in,” she said. “They realized they wouldn’t be able to get in legally through a port-of-entry like they were hoping.”
Del Rio is just one example of how technology that has put a smartphone in the hands of nearly every migrant is transforming migration flows, according to advocates. Migrants often monitor the news and share information on routes. The most popular platform is WhatsApp, which connects 2 billion people worldwide.
In 2020, after Turkey announced that the land border with Greece was open, thousands of migrants headed there – only to find the gates closed on the Greek side. Similar sudden mass migrations have happened elsewhere in Europe.
In 2018, social media posts and WhatsApp messages fueled caravans that swelled to 10,000 mostly Central American migrants who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Last week, in a Facebook group for Haitians in Chile with 26,000 members, one member posted specific instructions on routes through Mexico. It included paths to avoid and recommended certain bus companies.
“Good luck and be careful,” said the post, written in Haitian Creole.
Another member shared a different route in the comments. The group’s members have since relayed stories of horrific conditions in Del Rio and risks of being deported.
The International Organization for Migration found most of the 238 Haitians who were surveyed in March after passing through a 60-mile (100-kilometer) stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama known as the Darien Gap received route information from family or friends who had made the dangerous trek.
About 15% said they saw instructions on the internet.
Agency spokesman Jorge Gallo said the instructions led the migrants to believe crossing the gap was “difficult but not impossible.”
But just as similar messages drew many Haitians to Del Rio, news of the Biden administration deporting hundreds on the Texas border caused some to change their plans.
A 32-year-old Haitian woman who made it to Del Rio with her two teenage children bought bus tickets to Mexico City after receiving a cousin’s audio message via WhatsApp. She previously lived in Chile for four years.
“Wait in Mexico until this month is over. They will pick up everyone under the bridge. After that, they will give me the contact to enter Miami,” said the recording in Creole, which she played for an AP reporter. The AP is withholding the woman’s name to protect her safety.
Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp, allows people to exchange information about crossing borders, even illegally, but its policy bars posts that ask for money for services that facilitate human smuggling.
Robins Exile said he and his pregnant wife, who left Brazil after he lost his job amid the pandemic-wracked economy, headed to Tijuana, Mexico, instead after seeing warnings via YouTube and WhatsApp from fellow Haitian migrants.
“A lot of Haitians are advising now not to come to Acuña. They say it’s no longer a good place,” he said.
On Wednesday, Antonio Pierre, 33, who was camped in Del Rio with his wife and daughter, listened to the news on his friend’s cellphone.
“The U.S. is releasing some but just a few,” he said, referring to U.S. officials who told the AP on Tuesday that thousands of Haitians in custody were being let go and ordered to report to an immigration office, contradicting the Biden administration’s announcement that all Haitians camped in the town would be expelled to Haiti.
Nelson Saintil and his wife and four children had been camped in Texas but moved back to Mexico as they awaited word on where to go next to avoid deportation.
“I do not want to be like mice who do not find out that they are falling into a trap,” he said. “Because returning to Haiti is to bury a person alive.”
DEL RIO, Texas (AP)
Facebook footed $13 billion bill on security since 2016, report finds
Facebook publicized that since 2016 the social network mogul invested over $13 billion by onboarding 40,000 new staffers to endorse the platform’s security and safety measures, following a series of leaks by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Weeks after the Wall Street Journal’s “The Facebook Files” were published, the social media giant went back over to the same grounds and revealed in a blog post the extent it is willing to take to safeguard and maintain safety and security on its platform.
“In the past, we didn’t address safety and security challenged early enough in the product development process,” Facebook said.
“But we have fundamentally changed that approach. Today, we embed teams focusing specifically on safety and security issues directly into product development teams, allowing us to address these issues during our product development process, not after it,” the post added.
In its series of allegations, the WSJ averred that Facebook purposely postponed any action implementation during the COVID-19 period, even though the Big Tech giant was aware of the severity of the situation and the effects of spreading misinformation and misleading emotional burden on its userbase.
According to the newspaper, Facebook was aware of the affliction it was exposing its users to, and the platform refrained from dealing with or fixing these issues out of worry it might influence user engagement.
In a way to embellish the Big Tech giant’s public image, Facebook executive Nick Clegg issued a counterstatement accusing the publication of intentionally mislabeling what the company was trying to accomplish during the pandemic.
To highlight the Big Tech mogul’s efforts, the platform’s security teams executed a plan leading to a purge of more than 150 stealthy influence operations. Facebook’s sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) played a major role in blocking 3 billion fake accounts in the first half of 2021 and has upgraded itself since then.
“Today, we embed teams focusing specifically on safety and security issues directly into product development teams, allowing us to address these issues during our product development process, not after it. Products also have to go through an Integrity Review process, similar to the Privacy Review process, so we can anticipate potential abuses and build in ways to mitigate them. Here are a few examples of how far we’ve come,” the post declared.
In parallel, the company proceeded to exonerate itself from The Facebook Files by revealing that it consciously removed content that represented a direct violation of its standards on hate speech, in addition to removing 15 times more of similar content from its platform and Instagram in 2017 alone.
This happened by implementing advanced technology that acts by learning from one language to apply the same tactics on all posts in various languages to augment its performance level.
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