Numlock News: December 5, 2022 • Feral Hogs, Webtoons, YIMBY
By Walt Hickey
New York area readers! I’m hosting a show at Caveat in NYC on December 15th. It’s a live play of the TTRPG game I designed for Insider’s “Red, White and Gray” project and it should be a ton of fun. We’ve got some excellent guests lined up; buy tickets here, I would love to see you there! There’s also a livestream option for out of town folks.
Investors have been rushing into the Korean comics space, with many seeing the format as a potential big winner on the global stage as the appetite for Korean-originating content grows. GVA Asset Management just invested $15 million into webtoon producer Kenaz, which follows larger investments or acquisitions by large internet companies like Naver and Kakao in the space, the latter of which plans to go public next year and has also attracted substantial investor attention. Sales of webtoons in Korea hit $800 million in 2020, up from under $300 million in 2017. Because if there’s anything the history of Marvel comics tells us, there’s nothing quite like a massive infusion of private equity money to ensure things get weird.
An art installation by Brooklyn collective MSCHF and debuted at Art Basel in Miami Beach sold for $75,000. The installation, called ATM Leaderboard, was a functioning automated teller machine that, when not dispensing cash, displays a leaderboard of the checking account balances of the people who used it before ranked in declining order of funds available. It’s a neat bit of tech that puts the conspicuous consumption of the scene in Miami on display in a fairly literal manner. On Friday, the DJ Diplo gained the top spot with $3 million on hand, which if anything means that if he’s rolling around with that kind of heat in a checking account, someone really needs to tell this DJ about CDs.
Distributed acoustic sensing, or DAS, is a scientific measurement approach that uses reflections of light in fiber-optic cables to measure things like seismic activity and animal activity in the vicinity of the cable. Originally developed by the oil and gas industry to monitor offshore wells, the resolution of the technique — about one meter — is really good and has lent itself well to science, allowing a 10-kilometer fiber cable to become the equivalent of 10,000 sensors. That’s allowed researchers to monitor earthquakes, plate tectonics and volcanic activity without the need for sensors that could set them back millions. One particularly cool technique, which uses a continuous beam of laser light rather than pulses, has been found to detect earthquakes on undersea fiber-optic cables up to 535 kilometers long in experiments, up from the normal cap of 100 kilometers.
Duolingo is far and away the largest language learning app, and recently fans of it have been fed up with a shift in how its lessons operate to be more gamified and riddled with in-app purchases. The company’s got 3.7 million subscribers, triple the amount since the beginning of the pandemic, and revenue is up to $365 million this year, up 45 percent year over year. The bulk of the app’s users are in the free, ad-supported version, though, counting 15 million daily active users, which itself is up 51 percent from a year ago. A key asset for the app is that it gets to use all the dark patterns, gamification and incentive-driven strategies used to ill effect by more unscrupulous hyperaddictive mobile games, but because the end outcome is people learning other languages, everyone involved is actually extremely cool with this.
In My Backyard
A new poll asked Americans how they felt about new kinds of development, but split the sample in two and asked half of them how they felt about building more things — playgrounds, hospitals, malls, stadiums — in their country in general, and then the other half asked the same questions but specifically asking locally, as in would they like those things in their local area. People like playgrounds (90 percent support nationally and 86 percent locally), grocery stores (86 percent and 84 percent, respectively) and bike lanes (77 percent/74 percent), but they don’t necessarily care for casinos (38 percent/34 percent) or strip clubs (26 percent/24 percent). What’s particularly fun to look at is amenities with a large gap between whether they want them in general and in their backyard in particular. For waste management facilities, 84 percent wanted more nationally but only 48 percent wanted more locally, a 36 percentage point gap, which was followed by psychiatric hospitals (25 percentage point gap) and prisons (25 percentage point gap). In terms of what they wanted far more of locally, it’s fast-food restaurants (a 26 point gap) and bars or clubs (14 point gap), which are far more desirable nearby than they are abstractly.
The advocacy group Real Women in Trucking has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission arguing that Facebook parent company Meta systematically discriminated against women when it posted job ads for lucrative truck driving opportunities. The complaint alleges that Facebook’s ad targeting algorithm promoted jobs in blue collar professions disproportionately to men, even when the marketer has said they are eligible for the general adult population. The filing alleged that, for instance, an employer wanting to hire truck drivers in North Carolina placed an ad for all genders, but Facebook showed the ad to an audience that was 94 percent men and where just 11 percent were 55 and older.
The War on Hogs
It’s been eight years since the U.S. government launched a federal program to combat the feral pigs that have taken over large swathes of the country and destroyed billions of dollars in farm production, and the data is clear: Listen, the hogs aren’t losing, we can say that. Sure, in light of $100 million of spending toward their destruction, the pigs have staged an ad hoc Fabian strategy, and have been wiped out from 11 of 41 states where they were reported in 2014 and 2015. But they persist, causing an estimated minimum of $2.5 billion a year in damages, and some 6 million to 9 million feral swine still roam the country. Four states — California, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida — all count over 750,000 hogs, with Texas’ population at a stable 3 million since 2011. I will just say, that “30-50 feral hogs” tweet having an extremely valid point is by far one of the most interesting face-turns in Twitter history.
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