Friday, December 10 2021

Dive In


After the judgement, the Secretary General organised a photo session in the judges’ gallery outside Court No 1, below the Ashoka Chakra. In the evening, I took the judges for dinner to Taj Mansingh Hotel. We ate Chinese food and shared a bottle of wine, the best available there. I picked the tab, being the eldest.

That’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi describing how the justices celebrated marked the Ayodhya verdict—delivered in November, 2019—in his memoirs. 


Coming up soon: ICYMI, our guest of our next Ask Me Anything session is wildlife conservationist and photographer Aditya Dicky Singh. It is rare to get a chance to talk to someone who is in the business of conscious tourism, is deeply knowledgeable about the state and future of our sanctuaries, human-animal conflict and, of course, tigers! Check out an interview with him here. Time/Date: 6:30 pm on Saturday, December 11, via Zoom. Sign up here for one of the limited slots.

Stuff to check out: On the latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’, the splainer team looks at the big picture on Nagaland—and also the hijacking of body positivity language by weight loss apps. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.

Big Story

Wtf is Web 3.0: A quick explainer

The TLDR: Since we don’t have a big headline story today, we are offering a guide to the hottest term in tech: Web3. Both die-hard lefties and free market libertarians love it. Investors are throwing oodles of money at it—both here in India and around the world. But what is it? 


Editor’s note: This explainer was ‘commissioned’ by subscriber Shivangi Goel. We often do big stories on the request of our subscribers. So drop us a note at talktous@splainer.in if you have a topic in mind.


Web 1.0 and 2.0: A brief history

Web 1.0: Once upon a time, back in the 1990s and early 2000s, the internet was a collection of static web pages. You logged on and maybe read or bought a bunch of stuff, but there weren’t many ways for you to create content. And there wasn’t much money to be made off it.


Web 2.0: is the world we all live in now. This is when the tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Twitter etc. came along. We entered the era of giant platforms—where millions of people came together to post, share, shop at the same place. This had three big consequences.


One: Web 2.0 turned all of us into creators of content. Be it on TikTok or Instagram or Twitter, millions of people make the content—which is, however, monetised by these platforms in the form of advertising revenue. 


Two: It allowed these companies to collect huge amounts of data on their users—and monetise them via advertising. So you get Google Maps, Google Search, Gmail for free. But you become the product—which Google then sells to companies. As Charles Silver writes in Forbes:


“Indeed, the internet has become a massive app store, dominated by centralized apps from Google, Facebook and Amazon, where everyone is trying to build an audience, collect data and monetize that data through targeted advertising. In my opinion, the centralization and exploitation of data, and the use of it without users’ meaningful consent, is built into Web 2.0’s business model.”


Three: It led to the centralisation of the internet in every sense of the word. Data is all collected in the cloud by a handful of companies. They make all the rules to decide who creates content, what kind of content is okay etc. And it has also concentrated great amounts of wealth in the hands of a few companies and their investors. 


Quote to note: As one policy expert points out, Web 2.0 has not just become a data privacy nightmare for users, it has also stifled innovation:


“Right now, companies that own networks have unilateral power over important questions like who gets network access, how revenue is divided, what features are supported, how user data is secured, and so on. That makes it harder for startups, creators, and other groups to grow their internet presence because they must worry about centralised platforms changing the rules and taking away their audiences or profits.”


So how is Web 3.0 different?

Back to the future: The father of the internet—Tim Berners-Lee—envisioned the internet as a path to human freedom. And Web 3.0 is in many ways a return to original principles—the key among them being ‘decentralisation’: “No permission is needed from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure … and no ‘kill switch’!” 


Say hello to Web 3.0: Right now, everything you do on the internet requires an intermediary—a company which enables a transaction, allows you to share or search etc. This is also what allows these companies to collect data on you—and make money off it. Simply put, Web 3.0 aims to remove these middlemen:


“[I]nstead of users accessing the internet through services mediated by the likes of Google, Apple, or Facebook, it’s the individuals themselves who own and control pieces of the internet. Web3 does not require ‘permission,’ meaning that central authorities don’t dictate who uses what services, nor is there a need for ‘trust,’ referring to the idea that an intermediary does not need to facilitate virtual transactions between two or more parties.”


But how do we achieve all of this?


Headlines that matter

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The dirty secret about Delhi pollution

We’ve all been religiously tracking AQI numbers, but a new study shows that pollution levels are far higher inside a home than on the outside: “[T]he levels of PM2.5, the lung-damaging tiny particles in the air, indoors were ‘substantially higher’ than those found on the nearest outdoor government monitors.” And having more money to buy air purifiers only reduces the pollution levels by 10%: “In Delhi, the bottom line is—whether someone is rich or poor, no one gets to breathe clean air...It’s a complex vicious cycle.” For more background, check out our explainer on Delhi pollution. (BBC News)

A very bizarre Botox scandal

Saudi authorities have disqualified 40 contestants from a beauty pageant for the illegal use of cosmetic surgery. What’s unusual: The disgraced contestants are camels vying for the top $66 million prize in the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. 


“This year, authorities discovered dozens of breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of camels, used hormones to boost the beasts' muscles, injected camels' heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands and used fillers to relax their faces.” 

Associated Press has more but also check out Vice’s video report from the 2018 festival.


Say hello to a very tiny camera

Scientists have made a camera that is the size of a grain of salt. It can take “clear, full-color images—at the level of cameras that are 500,000 times larger.” How they did it: 


“Researchers… created a new type of optical system, called a metasurface, to shrink the camera’s hardware down to size, and combined this with machine-learning image processing that enables the camera to produce clear images in natural lighting.”


Why this matters: 


“The researchers envision these types of cameras being used in procedures like endoscopies, where high-quality photos from inside a patient’s body also need to be as minimally invasive as possible. They also foresee these metasurfaces as covering the whole surface of devices like cell phones.”

Vice has images taken by the camera—which looks like so:


Pantone colour of the year! 

The Pantone colour of the year for 2022 is called ‘Very Peri’—which, for the first time in its history, is a brand new shade created by the institute. Pantone describes it as a “dynamic periwinkle blue hue with a vivifying violet-red undertone” that blends the “faithfulness and constancy of blue with the energy and excitement of red.” Umm, okay. In any case, it’s very pretty. (USA TODAY)



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • The Congress party’s kickass ad for the Uttar Pradesh election


Weekend Advisory

  • Good stuff to watch this weekend
  • A list of good reads

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