07/31/2020

#62 – Doomscroll Days, Doomscroll Nights

#62 – Doomscroll Days, Doomscroll Nights

Adam, Kelly, and Mike are back with a collection of quick-hit articles, bringing you that classic Grepcast energy while not being all too mired in the constant pandemic-related technology coverage. While we kick it off with everyone’s new morning / evening routine, we take a glance at the past (2003 to be specific) before doing some future tripping.

Links and Extra Reading

Doomscrolling Is Slowly Eroding Your Mental Health

Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board

Beyond Zoom: The future of virtual meetings

Medivis – Pushing the limits of what’s possible

Looks like you need Iceland

 

Transcript:

Adam Fisk  

What’s up everyone? You’re listening to the Grepcast from TSP LLC, bringing you a bi-weekly look into the world of technology and technology-adjacent ephemera. My name is Adam Fisk, and today we are joined by Michael Oh and Kelly Ford!

 

Mike Oh  

Hello again!

 

Kelly Ford  

Hello!

 

Adam Fisk  

So I know it’s probably been some time since you heard our voices. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, technology and technology-adjacent information that is not just specifically COVID-related or protest-related has become a little, a little short to find. So in efforts to at least bring some non-doom and gloom to your feeds, we’re going to start bringing you some shorter episodes focusing more on these kind of “quick hit” articles that we’re finding where maybe they don’t have the meat of a 20 minute conversation, but they are worth discussing nonetheless. So the first one that we want to bring to you is very much technology-related. And I can at least speak from my personal experience, and Kelly’s: it is just the new normal of our lives, which is something that is called “Doom Scrolling.”

 

Kelly Ford  

I thought you weren’t going to talk about doom and gloom [laughs]

 

Adam Fisk  

Well, you gotta start with the doom. But this is actually brought to us not only by our day-to-day lives, but also from a Wired article written by Angela Watercutter. This was, while posted about a month ago, originally, still just what the world is. And it’s a really, really interesting look, at least to me because it is validating it and makes me not feel totally alone. And the fact that not only has it been profiled in the New York Times, but also medical professionals as well.

 

Mike Oh  

It was like a good session with your therapist, reading this. It’s like “Oh! This is what — yes, this is me. This is what’s happening. This is why I feel this way!”

 

Kelly Ford  

Everyone else is scrolling through the doom cycle as well? Hooray, I’m not alone. I’m alone, but not alone. Because I’m on my “Doom Box” is what I’ve started calling my phone.

 

Mike Oh  

Doom Box, I like that.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah,  that honestly just also sounds a little bit like Otterbox’s new product [laughs]

 

Kelly Ford  

Sarah definitely gets on the phone at night and — we used to call it “the Tiny Box of Terror.” And now it’s definitely the Doom Box. She does far more of the doom -scrolling at night and I’m far more of the doom-scroller in the morning.

 

Mike Oh  

Have you guys sort of allocated those times?

 

Kelly Ford  

Yeah, we’re on shifts!

 

Adam Fisk  

Doom scrolling, for those who are luckily not affected by it, the best description comes from Kevin Roose from the New York Times where it is [defined as] “falling into a deep morbid rabbit [hole] filled with Coronavirus content, agitating myself to the point of physical discomfort, erasing any hope of a good night’s sleep.” So in this case, this is the nighttime doom scroll. But I agree with Kelly, waking up in the morning, checking Twitter, understanding what happened the night prior is just as doom surfing as the evening times as well.

 

Mike Oh  

I think I saw it sort of on Twitter, somebody expressing, and I’ll have to find the citation on this, but somebody expressing this feeling of getting up in the morning and checking Twitter and waiting for civil war to have basically launched in America. Right? And it’s sort of, you know, what happened in the protests or what happened overnight what was said on Twitter, and I think people when Twitter was hacked this last week —

 

Adam Fisk  

— and it was a sweet respite

 

Mike Oh  

Yeah, because nobody who was verified could post. You know, people were saying, well, this could have started world war three and all this kind of stuff. And it’s like, things like that you wake up to and you’re like, “Oh, man.”

 

Kelly Ford  

It’s like we have in-times FOMO, right?

 

Adam Fisk  

Oh, yeah.

 

Kelly Ford  

“Oh God, you know, what if I miss the moment?” And of course, you’re not gonna miss the moment, because I don’t know about you guys, but we’re definitely in that phase where it’s an echo chamber. Everyone I follow is saying the same thing. Whether it’s about the pandemic or about civil unrest, or Black Lives Matter. And of course, all these things are super important. But definitely, I would say, since the first of July, everything finally started. The doom got a little too much for me. But I was also thinking this morning about how this feels like the natural nexus of our always-online culture. Remember way back when we were innocent? And on one of our episodes, we were talking about how we had changed the photos on our lock screens to be like, “don’t open me” or “don’t pick me up!”

 

Mike Oh  

So cute! Absolutely.

 

Adam Fisk  

When we thought that making a grayscale phone would let us get away from there.

 

Mike Oh  

Yeah, like Episode 20. Right? Yeah. Well, you know, those were like the years — around 2003 maybe? Was sort of when, you know, we didn’t care about these things. When something called Facebook didn’t exist. Something else did. 

 

Kelly Ford  

Oh, yeah. Facemash. 

 

Adam Fisk  

So moving right on to our next topic here. This is a fun flashback. This is from the Harvard Crimson, written in November of 2003 by Katherine A Kaplan, a then-Crimson staff writer, which chronicles one of, potentially, the first times on record, that a little guy named Mark Zuckerberg could not take responsibility for something he did

 

Kelly Ford  

Ugh, reading that article was just gritting through my teeth.

 

Mike Oh  

Yeah, it’s written in November of 2003. And it talks about Zuckerberg basically being called out for doing shitty things, which we all know, he’s very well capable of now just on a global scale. And then sort of being called in front of the Harvard authorities. When I saw this, I had this feeling of — so our office is right across from Harvard, you know, Mass Ave., and, you know, you’ve got Harvard Square there — thinking to myself, like, what, really bad judgments are being made right now in that university? That are going to ruin this world, you know, in another 16-17 years? Because that’s exactly what was happening here in Harvard in 2003. You get a glimpse of the manianthat is Zuckerberg, that basically affected all of our lives today.

 

Kelly Ford  

That’s one of my favorite things to do, future-trip, because I love history, sociology, and anthropology. And I’m like, “what, in this moment is happening right now that I wish we could just future-trip and see what it will be? Maybe I should write, like, speculative fiction or something.” Well, I don’t want to write it, I just want to see it.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah. It’s that near-future level.

 

Kelly Ford  

Yeah, near-future.

 

Adam Fisk  

But I will say: the rap sheet for Mark E. Zuckerberg of ’06? It is very consistent with his later work, where he was accused of breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy by creating the website, Facemash.com. At least he went on record with a quote to the Crimson via email, of course, that he “understood that some parts were still a little sketchy, and wanted more time to think about whether or not this was really appropriate to release.” Which means, “oops, I got caught by me legitimately hacking into these houses, scrubbing pictures, and then creating coding around them.” If that wasn’t the problem, it’s that too many people saw it. And it just still didn’t pass his own personal muster, but I don’t know, right?

 

Kelly Ford  

Imagine if Twitter had been around then. And his misogynistic website that rated women on whether or not they’re hot had, you know, been around on Twitter. I mean, I think it would have been another one of those “Oh, no, this is cancel culture!” But I mean, I’m like “you should be canceled, however,” especially given you know, his activities of late but, yeah, it’s just another example of how someone does something bad, gets a little slap on the hand, then does it anyway! And here we are. Here we are in 2020.

 

Mike Oh  

Well, it’s, you know, if you want to talk about sci-fi, it’s like, you sort of think of the equivalent of the time travel scenario of “what if you went back and killed Hitler,” right? What if you went back and Mark Zuckerberg actually had to suffer some sort of penalty that made him actually think about his consequences. Is it possible that he could have actually totally turned the course of Facebook, or would a different Facebook have just shot up and we would be exactly in the same place that we are now? These are the questions.

 

Kelly Ford  

Yeah, but what if we actually took action today on those potential offenders? And had actual consequences?! [Laughs]

 

Adam Fisk  

Would be nice, right?

 

Mike Oh  

Maybe cancel culture’s doing it! 

 

Kelly Ford  

Just like whack-a-mole. Whack-a-mole for all the offenders.

 

Mike Oh  

Well, we’ll just have to look at the the Crimson.com. For what their current Harvard administrative penalties like hearings are about whatever, and then just go around and start whacking those moles.

 

Adam Fisk  

I did, though laugh in a “watching a movie, and they say the name of the movie” type way in reading this article. Reading, specifically, “over his unauthorized use of online Facebook photographs, he said, which Facebook in this case, was just an internal directory,” But I don’t know. I just thought it was funny. A “point to the screen.” This was just a rip off. All of it was a rip off. Weird. [Laughs] But moving right on, this actually isn’t an article. This is a video coming to us from the BBC, and specifically, Chris Fox, who made a little segment called “Beyond Zoom, the Future of Virtual Meetings.” And since Mike was very interested in this, I will hold off my cynical yelling about it until he gives us some understanding of what he thought about this.

 

Mike Oh  

Well, you know, I thought it was interesting, because it’s sort of a mass media sort of review of technologies which are clearly sort of a little bit too early for real world [applications]. You know, the idea being that you can use VR technologies, put on a VR headset, and then become immersed into meetings, be them for social, for business, etc. So there’s all of these weird things where you kind of put your face on a being that sort of you’re seeing yourself virtually, you can kind of go inside your own head, and all you see is teeth. It’s really weird. But it’s, you know, they’re just basically companies just trying to push the boundaries of what VR can do and find that killer app for it, which clearly, they haven’t quite found yet. I mean, gaming is, you know, something that interests a lot of people with VR, but it hasn’t really jumped beyond that. But there are definitely some interesting applications around it. I’m just not sure that this is exactly how VR is gonna be unleashed upon all of us, at least in the lockdown year of 2020.

 

Kelly Ford  

Well, I will say that, before the pandemic, I was a hard no, but now that I’ve been stuck inside 600 square feet, and have rarely left the house, I’m like, “Yes, I would totally put on that heavy, you know, neck muscle VR set and pretend like I’m actually hanging around with people again, you know, friends.” If my friends had their VR headsets? I definitely would. I definitely would, guys. I — have I lost it? I think I’ve lost it. I’m okay with this now!

 

Adam Fisk  

Hey, maybe this is the mother of invention, which is desperation for contact?

 

Mike Oh  

Right? Is it? Is it better than doom scrolling? I would say yes. I mean, putting on a VR headset. And like if you had a VR, like — I think the thing you need to invent Kelly, and I think only the three of us, you’re the only one qualified to do it — is a drink vessel, which actually holds a drink, right? But then also, like exists in the virtual world. So it must have some sort of technology in the glass itself. So that you know, you can raise the glass and then obviously, you’re toasting in the virtual world, but then you can drink and really drink at the same time.

 

Kelly Ford  

I think you just invented it.

 

Mike Oh  

I think I did. 

 

Kelly Ford  

You don’t need me. I mean, that was all you. I would just like, dance and laugh in the same room with my friends or my nephews, you know? Like, I want to do like, super lame things. I just want human interaction. That’s not on a screen. I mean, not that I don’t love my human interaction with Sarah, but I mean…

 

Mike Oh  

Right, of course, of course.

 

Adam Fisk  

What’s really interesting about this is, on that note, is actually going back to the doom scrolling article from Wired. One of the key things that they’re [positing] is [that] why doom scrolling is taking such a heavy toll on people is because we don’t have those social outlets anymore. Yeah. In the article, they point [out that] “many of us are not going into work and standing around the coffeemaker, engaging in collective sensemaking,” which is us being like, “Hey, here’s all of this information, all these things that are going on. Like, what do you think? Let me talk out my perspectives”, and then you go and then we all feel maybe a little bit more comfortable? So VR in that point, yeah.

 

Kelly Ford  

Also when you mention that it made me think of just like the very — the watercooler talk and weather talk like, “Hey, are you doing? Like I would see you or Max every morning, you know, at the coffee and just be like, “Hey, how was your weekend?” Whatever. It’s just like, it’s we’re going directly into business.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah, it’s a lot harder to be like “Hey, what’s up?”

 

Mike Oh  

It’s all business all the time. There’s no — yeah, it’s a very active like, going on someone’s say Slack direct message and being like, “Hello Max, how are you feeling today?” Like it’s just not natural when you’re not in front of the person?

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah. Or it’s like, “Hey, did you also stare into the eternity?” And just like, I can guess how your night is. Yeah, like, it’s very, very difficult. I will say at least one of the things that I really did like — I loved — was specifically Chris Fox showing off the software Immersed. Where he created essentially a VR workflow where he had like a Google Doc, his editing suite and then the monitor, and he could fully move his head around. After multiple months working from my dining room, not having my like, really nice ultrawide monitor, 13 inches of real estate? That’s small. So like this, that’s cool. Especially when he was like “it had really no lag.” The only downside is not being able to see his hands. Like, I think that’s super interesting and super cool.

 

Mike Oh  

Well, and what it might end up being, when it comes to what actually gets VR to take off, ironically, is not a killer app that makes VR much more realistic or much better is the real world start sucking so much sure that like, we just want to escape. And video games are kind of like this too, where it’s like, how many people are  picking up a Nintendo Switch and Animal Crossing? Yeah, because you know what, that world is so much nicer to exist in than this world.

 

Kelly Ford  

Oh god. My screen time has gone down…I’d say by 75%.

 

Adam Fisk  

Because you’re trading it for a different screen [laughs].

 

Kelly Ford  

I no longer doom scroll. I have a new addiction and I don’t even care and it’s okay. It’s my therapy. I do not doom scroll in the morning at all anymore. The first thing I do is I go, I open up Animal Crossing, and I water my plants. It’s like my routine in the morning. I do gardening in the morning.

 

Mike Oh  

I mean, we’ve both introduced the new concept to people, we’ve validated that doom scrolling exists, you’re not alone, and we’ve given you the solution, which is —

 

Adam Fisk  

Nintendo.

 

Kelly Ford  

Animal Crossing. It’s so good, you guys. It’s just  — do you guys have it?

 

Adam Fisk  

We do, yeah. 

 

Kelly Ford  

I still need to log on and visit your island, Adam. I’m gonna do it.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah. Yeah, Amy puts a lot of work into it. I put some dumb crap outside and then she makes it look like —

 

Mike Oh  

It’s basically like real life! 

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah, of course!

 

Kelly Ford  

I know. That’s how Sarah and I do it. She’s just like, here’s a pile of something.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah, I’ll go fishing for a while. And then I’ll put a neon sign outside my house and then call it a day. 

 

Does it work, unlike [your] real one?

 

Kelly Ford  

Oh, the neon sign?

 

Mike Oh  

Sorry, did I bring up a sensitive subject?

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah, boy. I’m still…I’m still salty about that one.

 

Mike Oh  

Yeah, there is an irony.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah, my neon sign broke because a steer skull fell on top of it off my wall. Our Grepcast listeners who did not hear me ranting about it in real life now know. But moving right along! This one, I personally am very excited for, given that I have kind of some personal background on it slightly through kind of family and otherwise. This is a company called Medivis. Which is, “building the future of computer assisted surgery, and harnessing augmented reality and artificial intelligence.” This one also coming from Mike. I have always been more of a proponent of AR than VR personally, just because I think that’s…cooler. I don’t know. It feels more tangible in my life? But uh, even just watching the videos, this is just their website, it is showing off their product and what they’re doing. There’s articles kind of discussing their work. But one of the key things in here is that it is a augmented reality system for surgeons, using the power of augmented reality [and] AI to really bring — and I mean this with the best of intentions and the best of knowledge — the guessing game out of surgery. Even in their website copy is, they say and I’ll quote in here, “surgeons are forced to use their imagination to mentally fuse and display data in order to accurately plan and perform surgery with precision.” Hey, I don’t know if anybody knows: bodies are weird. And a lot of the stuff that’s gets broken is very, very small. So it is not only seeing monitors, it is also trying to feel it out. I know I have had situations where I’m trying to unscrew or screw something in by touch and feel alone without seeing it. Let alone muckin’ around in someone’s guts. So this, this was really, really cool. And this I would love to see more on.

 

Kelly Ford  

It’s almost like the surgical theatres of the 1800s being so fabulous. Right? And now, you know, thinking about the surgical theatres of 2020, what a laugh, guys! Speaking of future tripping. Sorry, I went there again, this is how I cope. And this is really cool, though. It’s also kind of, I think, part of those, I just shut down the idea of them just like poking around and not knowing because I’ve never had major surgery and thank God.

 

Mike Oh  

Yeah, you don’t actually think about it. I mean, we all know that CAT scans exist, we all sort of generally have this idea that like, you can get a CAT scan, and it shows up. But I’ve never actually thought about the fact of how a surgeon is trying to use that to perform surgery and how there’s really no direct relationship between what they’re seeing on screen, and what they’re doing. Right. It’s just like looking at a photo of Iceland, and then being able to sort of say, “Well, this is what the experience is like.” And it’s like, — the point is made by this company, is that until you have a way to connect those two things, because, you know, CAT scans, Art 3d representations, they’re just sort of sliced, you know, representations of a person’s body, until you can actually sort of visualize that within the reality of a sort of an operating room, it’s very difficult to really, unless you’re obviously highly skilled, and you’ve done this for, you know, decades or whatever. You know, it’s very difficult to do things properly. And I thought it was a fascinating insight into that world, but also a great application of AR.

 

Adam Fisk  

Yeah, and like, endoscopy is limited, like, sure yes, we have cameras that can show surgeons, show us what is in there. But it is limited. The best way that I’m seeing this is really, by bridging multiple technologies together, and trying to essentially like build a single pane of glass through a HoloLens of saying, “Okay, so we’ve have CAT scans, maybe we have endoscopy feeds, but how can we bring this all together?” And trying to make it more tactile to the benefit of patients, and that’s kind of the big thing is, it’s not this cool thing for doctors, it’s to maximize — and again, this is a little bit of an ad read for them, because this is their direct copy — it’s “maximizing accuracy, improving surgical outcomes and ensuring patient safety.” I personally have had surgery in the past, I’ve had kind of major surgery, it was bones, which are pretty obvious. But like, this is…I’ve known people who’ve had much more finite surgeries and anything to make that better, make it easier, make recovery time better is only going to improve.

 

Kelly Ford  

And then imagine when they advance beyond that, to have haptics.

 

Adam Fisk  

Ooh, yeah. 

 

Kelly Ford  

Wouldn’t that be cool?

 

Mike Oh  

Yeah. Well, one other nice thing about this story is that I found out [about] it through sort of a venture capital kind of email newsletter for MIT alumni that sort of talks about, you know, different companies that they invest in. And I was like, well, this is the type of thing that VCs and hedge funds need to be investing in. And if this is the kind of thing that gets money, this is awesome. Yeah, because application of technology to make surgery easier, make it more, hopefully, more accessible in the sense that like, you don’t have to have just one surgeon that’s ever done this type of surgery before but somebody else can have a little bit of experience before they open up your skull. You know, that’d be — all of these things could be transformational.

 

Kelly Ford  

Yeah. And slight tangent, I will say — so we don’t end on doom and gloom — but I would also say a benefit of the pandemic, because we got to find something, is telemedicine.  And so the idea of medicine, in access, that’s been a really cool thing. I don’t know if you guys have had that experience, but it’s been really cool to be able to have that access without having to go into a medical office. I mean, I don’t need anything cut into, thankfully. But, it’s kind of one of those things where you’re like, “why would I ever want to go into an office again?”

 

Adam Fisk  

So this has been your mini Grepcast episode. We have — we started with the doom scrolling, and we ended on the silver lining. Thank you again for joining us. And we’ll keep on bringing you little slices like this in the weeks to come. As always, you can find out everything we’re up to over on our websites, tsp.me, and tsp.space, and then also on our Instagram and Twitter handles over at @tspllc. In terms of plugs: Mike, what do you got?

 

Mike Oh  

Well, I have a website: lookslikeyouneediceland.com, which has gotten quite a bit of press recently, but allows you to record a scream, and then have it transmitted into the void of the Icelandic wilderness, which I thought was hilarious.

 

Kelly Ford  

That’s amazing.

 

Mike Oh  

The fact that anyone even came up with it is sort of like, amazing.

 

Adam Fisk  

It does make me think of Reddit, on the Boston subreddit, specifically, there was a post in the beginning of the pandemic, asking for suggestions on the best place in Boston to go scream. So now that I know that I can also scream into the wilderness of Iceland, I’m just adding to my options. In terms of plugs for you, Kelly, I know we have Animal Crossing.

 

Kelly Ford  

Yeah, it was gonna be that but you know, uh, I was saying because we were talking about the medicine thing. There’s that show on Netflix. It’s a docuseries called Lenox Hill. I don’t know if you guys have watched it, but it’s following four doctors at Lenox Hill. I think it’s called Lenox Hill Hospital? It’s in Brooklyn, Queens, anyway, it’s in New York City. And they actually recently had a special episode for the pandemic, but two neurosurgeons — so it was really cool too, because I think they were using more advanced equipment — but they’re kind of building up their department there and then also following an obstetrician. No, she’s a doctor who — sorry, I don’t know what the doctor’s called that delivers babies — that kind of doctor!

 

Mike Oh  

That’s an obstetrician, isn’t it?

 

Kelly Ford  

I don’t know. You know, I’m not really interested in babies. Sorry. But anyway, they follow her. She’s a resident and they follow an ER doctor as well. So it’s really fascinating and just really interesting people and interesting cases. So

 

Adam Fisk  

That’s awesome. Yeah, and I will say, even though we touched on earlier, Animal Crossing, is a great form of escapism. It is …it’s great. If you have your hands on a Nintendo Switch, I would certainly recommend it. Get out into nature, catch some fish, tend to some flowers, especially if you maybe don’t feel as comfortable doing it in the real world right now. But until we talk to you again, please wear a mask and stay cool.