The Instagram engineer had already packed his bags for a December holiday when his boss pulled him into a virtual meeting to talk about job goals for 2022.
Their conversation soon took an unexpected turn. Forget the goals, his boss told him. To succeed at Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, his boss said, he should instead apply to a new position in the burgeoning augmented reality and virtual reality teams. That’s where the company needed people, he said.
The engineer, who had worked at Instagram for more than three years and who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation, was taken aback by essentially having to reapply for a job. He said he hadn’t decided what to do.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, has upended his company ever since he announced in October that he was betting on the so-called metaverse. Under this idea, his company – renamed Meta – would introduce people to shared virtual worlds and experiences across different software and hardware platforms.
Since then, Meta has pursued a sweeping transformation, current and former employees said. It has created thousands of new jobs in the labs that make hardware and software for the metaverse. Managers have urged employees who worked on social networking products to apply for those augmented reality and virtual reality roles. The company has poached metaverse engineers from rivals including Microsoft and Apple. And it has officially rebranded some products, such as its Oculus virtual-reality headsets, with the Meta name.
The moves amount to some of the most drastic changes at the Silicon Valley company since 2012, when Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had to shift its social network away from desktop computers and toward mobile devices. The company restructured, focusing its energy and resources on making mobile-friendly versions of its products. The makeover was hugely successful, leading to years of growth.
But changing the company’s course now is far more challenging. Meta has more than 68,000 employees, more than 14 times its size in 2012. Its market value has risen by more than eight times over that period to $840 billion (€740 billion). Its business is entrenched in online advertising and social networking. And while the shift may give Meta a head start on the internet’s next phase, the metaverse remains a largely theoretical concept – unlike the 2012 move to mobile when smartphones were already widely used.
The result has been internal disruption, according to nine current and former Meta employees who were not authorized to speak publicly. While some workers were excited about Meta’s pivot, others questioned whether the company was hurtling into a new product without fixing issues such as misinformation and extremism on its social platforms. Workers were expected to adopt a positive attitude toward innovation or leave, one employee said, and some who disagreed with the new mission have departed.
What the metaverse focus means for the company’s existing social networking products such as Facebook and Instagram remains in flux, two employees said. At Facebook and Instagram, some teams have shrunk over the last four months, they said, adding that they expected their budgets for the second half of 2022 to be smaller than in previous years.
A spokesman for Meta, which reports quarterly earnings on Wednesday, said building for the metaverse was not the company’s only priority. He added that there hadn’t been significant job cuts to existing teams because of the new direction.
Adam Draper, a managing director of Boost VC, a venture capital firm that invests in companies focused on “sci-fi technology”, said Meta’s new bet was well-timed.
“There will be entire economies and countries built digitally through VR/Web3, and we are just scratching the surface,” he said, using terms to describe next-generation technologies for building the metaverse. He noted that Meta was in the lead with virtual reality because of products such as its Oculus headsets, adding: “This is the sci-fi future, and Meta made the bold move to make it a reality.”
Facebook’s pivot to the metaverse started in its top ranks. In September, Mike Schroepfer, the long-serving chief technology officer, said he would step down by the end of 2022. In his place, Zuckerberg appointed Andrew Bosworth, known as “Boz”, who has for the past few years led development on products such as the Oculus headsets and Ray Ban Stories smart glasses.
Bosworth’s ascendancy was a sign to insiders that Zuckerberg was taking virtual reality and the metaverse seriously. The two had met at Harvard in an artificial intelligence class, when Zuckerberg was a student and Bosworth was a teacher’s assistant. They kept in touch after Zuckerberg dropped out of the university. Eventually, Bosworth moved to Silicon Valley to work for Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg has since turned to Bosworth for major initiatives. In 2012, Bosworth was given the task of building out Facebook’s mobile advertising products. After management issues at the Oculus virtual reality division, Zuckerberg dispatched Bosworth in August 2017 to take over. The virtual reality business was later rebranded Reality Labs.
In October, the company said it would create 10,000 metaverse-related jobs in the European Union over the next five years. That same month, Zuckerberg announced he was changing Facebook’s name to Meta and pledged billions of dollars to the effort.
Reality Labs is now at the forefront of the company’s shift to the metaverse, employees said. Workers in products, engineering and research have been encouraged to apply for new roles there, they said, while others have been elevated from their jobs in social networking divisions to lead the same functions with a metaverse emphasis.
Of the more than 3,000 open jobs listed on Meta’s website, more than 24 per cent are for roles in augmented or virtual reality. The jobs are in cities including Seattle, Shanghai and Zurich. One job listing for a “gameplay engineering manager” for Horizon, the company’s free virtual reality game, said the candidate’s responsibilities would include imagining new ways to experience concerts and conventions.
Internal recruitment for the metaverse ramped up late last year, three Meta engineers said, with their managers mentioning job openings on metaverse-related teams in December and January. Others who didn’t get on board with the new mission left. One former employee said he had resigned after feeling that his work on Instagram would no longer be of value to the company; another said they did not think Meta was best placed for creating the metaverse and was searching for a job at a competitor.
Meta also lured away dozens of employees from companies such as Microsoft and Apple, two people with knowledge of the moves said. In particular, Meta hired from those companies’ divisions that worked on augmented reality products, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and Apple’s secretive augmented reality glasses project.
Representatives for Microsoft and Apple declined to comment. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal previously reported on some of the personnel moves.
Meta’s employees have been asked to contribute to the change in other ways. In November, they were asked to sign up for Project Aria, an effort to gather data for future augmented reality glasses, according to an internal memo that was reviewed by the New York Times.
Employees could “earn points and win swag” by wearing the glasses and gathering data through the device’s cameras and sensors, the memo said. To reduce people’s privacy concerns about being filmed with the glasses, employees were asked to wear a T-shirt identifying themselves as a “research participant” and were told they could not view or listen to the raw data captured by the glasses, according to the memo.
Employees have also been able to sign up to test the Oculus Quest headsets and to use them for meetings in Horizon Workrooms, the company’s virtual reality work-conferencing space.
Meta is working on other wearable-tech products, including a smartwatch with health and fitness tracking capabilities, said two people with knowledge of the project. The Information, a tech news website, reported earlier on the smartwatch. Ray Ban Stories, the smart glasses that people can use to capture video, are a stepping stone to making more people comfortable with putting smart tech on their bodies, the report said.
In a company-wide meeting days after Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was going all in on the metaverse, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, took questions from employees about the change.
She said she was “excited” about the metaverse’s possibilities and told attendees to imagine the endless opportunities that would be available to people around the world, two employees who listened to the virtual meeting said.
Many employees showed their enthusiasm using heart emojis. But in one private chat for engineers, which was reviewed by the New York Times, one employee wrote: “Who is the elephant in the room who is going to ask how all of it works? Not it.” – This article originally appeared in The New York Times
Welcome back, Samuel Beckett | Culture
The 20th century brought us Stalin, Mao, two world wars, the Holocaust, atomic bombs and a couple more carnages that I would rather not recall. Several million people died as a result, according to the most conservative calculations. Logically, the soul of Europeans was shaken, and it is admirable that we have survived as a species. A Martian would have expected us to commit suicide once and for all with a big nuclear bash.
The battered world conscience led to several new outcomes in terms of human representation. Living with the constant threat of extinction affected artists, who are the ones that truly represent us and not politicians. So the artists began to represent us as they saw us: strange, deformed, shapeless, anomalous, invisible, crippled, stuttering, or simply mute.
We have been more temperate for several years now, and it seems that we are now able to analyze that past, which was called “the avant-garde,” with some calm. Not everywhere, of course, but it is possible in a West that is fading, but which is no longer massacring its slaves. And the effect that this awareness of destruction had on literature was the emergence of a group of immense writers who could no longer represent humans in a luminous and heroic way, so to speak. However, it would be a very bad idea to leave them for dead. Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Faulkner, Bernhard, Manganelli, Benet, Rulfo — throughout the West, a literature took shape during the 20th century in which only the bare form remained with a capacity to simply be. And one of its main writers was Samuel Beckett.
It is a source of joy that this difficult, harsh, dark, but wise literature’s ability to fascinate, moralize and illuminate us has not run dry. And reading these artists is a very convenient way to understand that everything could go dark at any moment. I am currently celebrating the release of a new Spanish translation of Watt, Beckett’s last novel in English, by an affordable publishing house that can reach many students (Cátedra).
The story behind this novel is another novel in itself, well told by the translator José Francisco Fernández in his extensive foreword to the new Spanish version. Beckett wrote it while fleeing from one hideout to another as a member of the Resistance, pursued by the Nazis who were occupying France. In those absurd conditions, Beckett carried his notebooks, in which he was writing and annotating what would finally become the novel Watt, which is the name of the main character, who is as non-existent as Godot, the most famous of Beckett’s characters. Watt has a partner, Mr. Knott, whom he serves in a parody of the old novels of masters and servants that have been immortalized thanks to television series like Upstairs, Downstairs.
Rejected by the publishing world
Although he finished it in 1945, Watt was not published until 1953 after being rejected by almost all English and American publishers, who were very reluctant to recognize that this convulsive and sarcastic prose was a faithful portrait of 20th-century civilization. And once it was published it barely made an impact. It was not until 1968 (what a year!), when it was published in French by the Minuit publishing house, in the author’s version and with the help of the Janvier couple, that enthusiasm for the novel would begin to get some traction. The French powers-that-be recognized themselves in the portrait of the warped, disintegrated human race, described with a lacerating irony that the Irishman created out of nothing.
There were other effects that fascinated those who dominated literary opinion at the time. One of them was the obvious caricature of Descartes, a philosopher whom Beckett always counted among his favorites, and the reference to whom was immediately picked up by the masters of structuralism and deconstruction.
Welcome back, then, to our Beckett, a precise portraitist of terrifying years that could return at any moment.
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The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction
Yes, that’s $2.1 million!!
The signature broad, black hat, one of a handful still in existence that Napoleon wore when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe, was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s auction collected by a French industrialist who died last year.
But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.
‘’We are at 1.5 million (Euros) for Napoleon’s hat … for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8% in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).
While other officers customarily wore their bicorne hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style, known as “en bataille,” or in battle, made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.
The hat on sale was first recovered by Col. Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoleon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.
The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.
The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film Napoleon with Joaquin Phoenix, which is rekindling interest in the controversial French ruler.
The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries
THE VOICE OF EU | Widespread concerns have surged among artists and creatives in various domains – country singers, authors, television showrunners, and musicians – voicing apprehension about the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on their professions.
These worries have prompted an urgent plea to the U.S. government for regulatory action to protect their livelihoods from the encroaching threat posed by AI technology.
The Artists’ Plea
A notable rise in appeals to regulate AI has emerged, drawing attention to the potential risks AI poses to creative industries.
Thousands of letters, including those from renowned personalities like Justine Bateman and Lilla Zuckerman, underscore the peril AI models represent to the traditional structure of entertainment businesses.
The alarm extends to the music industry, expressed by acclaimed songwriter Marc Beeson, highlighting AI’s potential to both enhance and jeopardize an essential facet of American artistry.
Copyright Infringement Concerns
The primary contention arises from the unsanctioned use of copyrighted human works as fodder to train AI systems. The concerns about AI ingesting content from the internet without permission or compensation have sparked significant distress among artists and their representative entities.
While copyright laws explicitly protect works of human authorship, the influx of AI-generated content questions the boundaries of human contribution and authorship in an AI-influenced creative process.
The Fair Use Debate
Leading technology entities like Google, Microsoft, and Meta Platforms argue that their utilization of copyrighted materials in AI training aligns with the “fair use” doctrine—a limited use of copyrighted material for transformative purposes.
They claim that AI training isn’t aimed at reproducing individual works but rather discerning patterns across a vast corpus of content, citing precedents like Google’s legal victories in the digitization of books.
The Conflict and Seeking Resolution
Despite court rulings favoring tech companies in interpreting copyright laws regarding AI, voices like Heidi Bond, a former law professor and author, critique this comparison, emphasizing that AI developers often obtain content through unauthorized means.
Shira Perlmutter, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, acknowledges the Copyright Office’s pivotal role in navigating this complex landscape and determining the legitimacy of the fair use defense in the AI context.
The Road Ahead
The outpouring of concern from creative professionals and industry stakeholders emphasizes the urgency for regulatory frameworks to safeguard creative works while acknowledging the evolving role of AI in content creation.
The Copyright Office’s meticulous review of over 9,700 public comments seeks to strike a balance between innovation and the protection of creative rights in an AI-driven era. As the discussion continues, the convergence of legal precedents and ethical considerations remains a focal point for shaping the future landscape of AI in creative industries.
Thank You For Your Support!
— By Darren Wilson, Team VoiceOfEU.com
— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com
— Anonymous news submissions: press@VoiceOfEU.com
Country mansion which inspired best-selling book Watership Down when novelist Richard Adams was stationed there during WW2 goes on the market for offers of £1.5million or higher
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