The Profile: The fentanyl king & the people left inside the metaverse
This edition of The Profile features Usher, Gianni Infantino, Arvind Narayanan, and more.
Good morning friends,
The Profile’s first (and only!) staff writer Simran Bhatia interviewed Martin Webb, the filmmaker and director behind ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ and Break Point.
The whole interview is excellent, but there is one answer that sent shivers down my spine:
And that’s because I spend a lot of time thinking about the human experience. What is that one thing we all experience — regardless of our age, our religion, our geographic location, or our past experiences — that makes us authentically human?
Here’s what ‘Humans of New York’ creator Brandon Stanton said about interviewing strangers all over the globe:
“If you stop people one-on-one and ask them: ‘What are you thinking about all day long?’ There's very similar themes in those answers. We're mostly worried about our families — our son's drug addiction, our father's illness, our wife's struggles with alcohol. On the flip side, there's our daughter's graduation, the person we met and are wildly in love with — these are the stories that represent the life being lived.
“Even in countries like Iraq and Pakistan where all you hear coming out through the media is about the conflicts going on, still 99% of life being lived is inside the home and is much more intimate and relationship-driven.”
War photojournalist Lynsey Addario said that the biggest lesson she’s learned about the human experience is that no matter what is going on in the world, life goes on. Even in the midst of war, Addario shows scenes of people celebrating birthdays, weddings, and graduations.
“It’s human nature to try to have fun, to laugh, to have some normalcy despite the disruptiveness and the devastation that war brings,” she says. “People try to find some semblance of routine, peace, and happiness. I see those moments over and over in war, and it’s always surprising to me, but it always gives me this reassurance. At the end of the day, we are all so similar.”
What Martin Webb, Brandon Stanton, and Lynsey Addario have in common is that they are all professional observers. They notice (and document) the tiny mundane details that make us human, something we can all strive to do on a daily basis.
— The fentanyl king [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The people left inside the metaverse
— The researcher who would teach machines to be fair
— The most popular (and hated) president in the world
— The new king of Vegas
— The men paying to have their jaws broken
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The fentanyl king: When the United States invaded Iraq, Alaa Allawi was a 13-year-old living in a suburb of Baghdad. On his 18th birthday, he applied to become an interpreter for the US Army. He got the job. In 2012, Allawi emigrated to Texas as part of a special visa program offered to US Army interpreters to start a new life. With a promising tech career ahead of him, how on earth did he end up becoming one of the biggest drug dealers on the dark web? What a profile. (WIRED; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“There is American saying. If you hang around the barber-shop too long, you will end up with haircut.”
The people left inside the metaverse: Bodies stop at the waist in Horizon Worlds, which is Meta’s home base in the metaverse. In Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, the metaverse will be nothing less than the internet’s next iteration, one for which he will control both the hardware and the software. Zuckerberg doesn’t just want a lock on online experience; he’s planning to move all of experience online. So far, the gamble hasn’t paid off. Only 20 million Quest headsets have been sold — nowhere close to his goal of a billion users. So who are the metaverse’s true believers, those left behind when the rest of fickle reality has moved on? (New York Magazine)
“The greatest poverty is not to live in a physical world.”
The researcher who would teach machines to be fair: Computer scientist Arvind Narayanan and his team at Princeton has uncovered surreptitious ways that websites track users and extract sensitive data. His team found out that a group like the National Security Agency could use web browsing data (specifically, cookies placed by third parties) not only to discover the user’s real-world identity, but also to reconstruct 62% to 73% of their browsing history. In this Q&A, he discusses his work on de-anonymization, the importance of statistical intuition, and the many pitfalls of AI systems. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. (Quanta)
“Decision-makers, government agencies, companies and other people who are buying these AI tools might not recognize the serious limits to predictive accuracy.”
The most popular (and hated) president in the world: Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, woke up one morning last November, feeling like an entirely new man. “Today I feel Qatari,” he announced at a press conference in Doha. “Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel [like] a migrant worker.” His remarks drew swift condemnation. Activists called his comments “crass” and dismissive—an “insult” to the lives of workers. In spite of this, nothing happened. None of FIFA’s 211 member federations called for Infantino to step down, and no one dared suggest that FIFA could do better. Here’s why he is the personification of soccer’s gilded age. (Mother Jones)
“This will be the World Cup that really underpins just how dirty the game is.”
The new king of Vegas: Usher was one of the defining artists of the ’90s and 2000s (fun fact: he went to my high school!), but in the 2010s his output mellowed, and he seemed to disappear from the spotlight. He had gotten stuck in a creative rut. And then he discovered Las Vegas. Take a look inside Usher’s Vegas revival. (GQ)
“Las Vegas is very important because it actually speaks to my career, to be in a place where I can dream, where I can incubate ideas.”
The men paying to have their jaws broken: What will humans not to do in the name of beauty? Well, the latest trend is jaw-dropping (pun intended). A growing number of men are paying crazy sums of money to have their jaws broken and reshaped in the hope to get the “superhero jawline” and attract more romantic prospects. What a world we live in. (GQ)
“We often see patients who expect too much out of surgery. I cannot change your personality.”
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