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Culture March 14, 2023

Instagram Abandons its NFT Feature One Year After Launch



Instagram Abandons its NFT Feature One Year After Launch
NFTs on Instagram no more.

Instagram announced late Monday that it is shutting down its NFT feature. The decision, which came as shock to many in the non-fungible tokens community, means that creators will no longer be able to release and sell NFTs to the public via the platform.

In a short Twitter thread, Meta’s head of Commerce and Financial Technologies Stephane Kasriel, revealed that digital collectibles, or NFTs, will be disabled across the popular social media networking site. He did not say when this will happen. Instagram is owned by Meta.

“We’re looking closely at what we prioritize to increase our focus. We’re winding down digital collectibles (NFTs) for now to focus on other ways to support creators, people, and businesses,” Kasriel wrote.

Experiment gone wrong

Instagram began testing digital collectibles with select U.S. creators and collectors in May last year, letting them share NFTs that they created or bought with their followers or fans.

The feature included connecting a digital wallet, sharing digital collectibles and automatically tagging the creator and collector. Creators were not required to pay any fees related to posts or shares of an non-fungible token on Instagram.

Also read: ‘Ordinals Sparked a Fire for Bitcoin NFTs’ but Hardliners Scream Bloody Murder

By end of 2022, Instagram and Facebook had expanded the NFTs feature to users in around 100 countries across the world. Creators could make their own NFTs on Instagram and sell them to fans, both on and off the site. A small group of U.S. creators tested the sale option.

But it does not appear that Instagram could have the NFT functionality grow at the desired scale. While Stephane Kasriel emphasized that he looked “forward to supporting the many NFT creators who continue using Instagram…” there was also an admission of failure.

“Creating opportunities for creators and businesses to connect with their fans and monetize remains a priority,” he said on Twitter, adding:

“We’re going to focus on areas where we can make impact at scale, such as messaging and monetization opps for Reels.”

Instagram ‘quit before it started’

A non-fungible token is an immutable and unique unit of data stored on the blockchain. NFTs can be used to represent items such as photos, videos, audio and other types of digital files.

In 2020, non-fungible tokens emerged as a cultural storefront of the cryptocurrency industry, bringing up novel possibilities in the curation and circulation of art. NFTs swayed fascinated endorsements from pop celebrities such as Snoop Dog, Lindsay Lohan, and several others.

Digital artist Beeple, sold an NFT for more than $69.3 million in 2021. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, converted his first ever tweet into a non-fungible token and sold it for $2.9 million.

Instagram’s decision to suspend digital collectibles will come as a shock to many in the community, who cheered the official launch last year as a coming of age for NFTs.

Crypto artist and photographer Dave Krugman described the move as “short sighted [and] just wild.”

“Inclusion of digital collectibles has so much potential to help creators engage their communities and counterbalance the pitfalls of attention based advertising economies,” he wrote on Twitter.

“You guys quit before you even started. A real shame and undoing a lot of really. The trust earned over the past year is now squandered, pushing artists even further away.”

Identified only as Matthew, the creative lead at NFT platform Niffty Gateway commented:

“Instagram just figured out (again) it’s more profitable/easy to continue exploiting artists for eyeballs to sell to advertisers instead of helping artists make money on their platform.”

“Posts on IG [Instagram] never translated to more sales on NFT marketplaces anyways,” he added.

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is the world’s largest social media firm boasting 3.59 billion active daily users, according to Statista. The company pivoted to the metaverse in 2021, changing its name from Facebook to Meta to reflect the new focus.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.


Taco Bell’s Metaverse Wedding Actually Happened



Taco Bell's Metaverse Wedding Actually Happened

Last year, fast food chain Taco Bell claimed to have found a couple that would marry in its eponymous metaverse. Months went by without further updates from the outlet, but now it appears that the unusual wedding actually went ahead.

The lucky couple from California had the ceremony in February of this year, and details of the event have now become public.

Taco Bell wedding

The happy couple marry in the Taco Bell metaverse (Screenshot: Decentraland)

The Taco wedding bells

In August of 2022, Taco Bell ran a competition to find a couple it said would be married in its metaverse. The setting would be virtual but it was promised that the wedding would be real.

Sheel and Amruta from California were the lucky couple. To keep in theme with the high-tech nature of the metaverse event, Sheel said he wrote his vows with help from ChatGPT.

“I promise to always keep your phone charged,” Sheel said at the virtual altar.

“I promise to help you look for your AirPods every single morning… I promise to be your human gravity blanket whenever you ask for it. I promise to laugh at your jokes… I promise to never let our love become stale, and to always keep everything spicy and exciting. I will cherish and adore you for all eternity and spend all my days with you by my side.”

As it turned out, the Taco Bell metaverse was actually hosted within Decentraland, an open 3D virtual environment in which the land itself is owned by users. Unlike the common public perception of a metaverse that is accessed via headsets, Decentraland is browser-based, making the environment easy for anyone to enter.

Guests included people near and dear to the couple, but random Decentraland users were also apparently able to gatecrash.

A Twitch streamer going by the handle Legiqn recorded his attendance at the celebration to preserve the evening for posterity. As Legiqn pointed out, the couple had a long history with the fast food chain.

“Their first date was at a Taco Bell,” said the influencer. “I don’t think it gets anymore romantic than that.”

This takes the cake

Besides being Taco Bell-themed, the wedding also conformed to Indian traditions that the couple and their family wished to be respected.

Actor Kal Penn, known for the Harold & Kumar film series, was among those in attendance.

On conclusion of the wedding, when the couple were pronounced husband and wife, Penn interviewed the happy pair to see how they felt about their Taco Bell wedding experience.

 “I’m super stoked,” Sheel said.

“It’s real,” Amruta added. “We’re married.”

From there the guests headed to the reception so the pair could have their first dance as a married couple. That was not the end of the highlights, however; there was still the small matter of who might be the next lucky person to be married in the Taco Bell metaverse.

Twitch streamer Legiqn was determined to catch the bouquet when the bride threw it over her shoulder.

“Yes, bouquet time, this is what I’ve been most excited for,” said Legiqn as he prepped himself to ‘grab’ the flowers. “This is where my gamer skills come in,” he announced to his followers as the big moment arrived. Unfortunately for Legiqn those gamers skills did him little good, as a user named Bleace caught them instead.

With the formalities over, guests danced on the virtual dancefloor to celebrate the unforgettable occasion, as a QR code flashed on the screen so they could all order Taco Bell. If that’s not a happy ending, I don’t know what is.

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GPT-4: Users Share Its Wins and Losses on Social Media



GPT4 Users Share Its Wins and Losses on Social Media

OpenAI announced GPT-4 on Tuesday, the latest iteration of the world-famous chatbot that has captured the imagination of the internet since its launch last November. 

MetaNews took to social media to uncover what users have been doing with the upgraded tech, and to find out what the bot’s biggest wins and losses are so far.

The wins

Since the launch of GPT-4 users have been keen to share their victories with the chatbot, and the wins are stacking up.

One of the big headlines since the launch of GPT-4 is that the bot has an uncanny ability to pass standardized exams with little difficulty at all. The Bar Exam, which prospective lawyers must sit in order to practice law, is among those the bot can now pass with flying colors (90%). Other exams included the LSAT law exam (88%) and GRE Quantitative math (80%).

Here are a few more of the big wins for GPT-4.

From doodle to website

In one demonstration of its abilities, GPT-4 transformed a hand-drawn sketch into a functional website. The website is certainly very basic, but it’s a solid proof of concept.

£5,000 and 2 weeks saved

One canny user relayed how they were able to leverage GPT-4 to write code for 5 microservices for a new product. According to the user, a “very good” developer quoted £5,000 and stated they required 2 weeks to complete the job. Using GPT-4, the user was able to complete the job in a mere 3 hours.

Identify security holes in smart contracts

Another application for GPT-4 is identifying security holes in Ethereum smart contracts, which, when exploited, can result in the theft and loss of significant sums of money.

Conor Grogan, the Director of Coinbase, demonstrated the ability from his Twitter account on Tuesday.

“I dumped a live Ethereum contract into GPT-4,” said Grogan. “In an instant, it highlighted a number of security vulnerabilities and pointed out surface areas where the contract could be exploited. It then verified a specific way I could exploit the contract.”

The losses

One of the biggest losses for ChatGPT came directly from its own social media. The bot is predicting 20 jobs it can potentially replace in the near future, with roles ranging from Data Entry Clerk to Recruiter and Copywriter. 

Not so fast, GPT-4.

While the powers of GPT-4 may be impressive, the bot still has a considerable way to go before it can replace the work of a skilled human being. Case in point: CNET. When the tech publication recently replaced human writing staff with its own copywriting AI, the articles it discharged were nothing short of disastrous. Certainly, that bot wasn’t ChatGPT – but it illustrates how quickly things can unravel when you leave a chatbot to do human work with little oversight.

As for the notion that GPT-4 could replace a “Data Entry Clerk” or “Recruiter” – this strains credulity to absolute breaking point. No GPT-4, nobody is falling for this.

Here are some other examples of GPT-4 fails reported by social media users.

GPT-4 is bored of your terrible questions

One of the expected advantages of using a bot to write your code as that, unlike a hired software engineer, the bot will never tire, slow down or get bored. At least, that’s the hope.

A user reported that when asking GPT-4 for “lengthy segments of code” the AI appeared “to get bored” and simply stopped the task halfway through. Observing this behavior, the user went on to glibly state, “This thing is getting more human-like by the day…”

MetaNews suggests tasking GPT-4 with more interesting projects or paying it more.

The victory of failure

Yes, “fails only less spectacularly,” may be the faintest of faint praise, but it is still progress. Perhaps this one should be called a ‘ruined victory.’

Integer fail

It means you need to go back to doing integers in your head.

The loss that thought it was a win

Such has been the rush to identify significant use cases for GPT-4, not everyone has had time to stop and actually think out whether their win was really a win or not.

This phenomenon was epitomized by one overexcited user who explained how he was able to use Visual-ChatGPT to scan a picture of a fridge filled with fruits, cheeses, meats, eggs, and other staple ingredients into the chatbot. The user then commanded it to deliver five recipes from the ingredients it identified, all in just 60 seconds. 

The user then confidently shared GPT-4’s output with what he described as five “pretty decent food recipes.” Those recipes were fruit salad, cheese omelette, ham and cheese sandwich, fruit smoothie, and cheese and fruit platter.

The savage internet was quick to point out, however, that most of those suggestions are barely any kind of recipe at all, let alone a decent recipe. Worse still, three of the so-called recipes are simply variations of putting fruit on a plate or in some other receptacle. 

In fairness to GPT-4, of the 20 jobs it predicted it could replace, Chef was not one.

Still, if all this talk of food has worked up an appetite, please feel free to try out GPT-4’s “pretty decent” recipe for the “ham and cheese sandwich.”

ham and cheese

GPT-4’s ham and cheese sandwich recipe

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OpenAI Founder Still Wants Your Eyeballs for ‘Worldcoin’ Currency



OpenAI Founder Still Wants Your Eyeballs for ‘Worldcoin’ Currency

OpenAI founder Sam Altman believes the time may finally have come for Worldcoin –  a cryptocurrency project that is part global ID system, part payments app. The project demands its users to submit to a biometric iris scan or ‘proof of humanity’ to receive a small sum of cryptocurrency and join the network.

Worldcoin has been controversial from its 2021 inception due to its harvesting of biometric data, but at an evening event in January Altman claimed that this is because the company was “not ready to tell its story yet.”

Altman went on to add that “I think [Worldcoin will] do it soon, and I think it will go over well.”

The Worldcoin premise

According to its website, the stated goal of Worldcoin ‘is building the world’s largest identity and financial network as a public utility, giving ownership to everyone.’

Early investors in the project include the investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, the U.S. cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, and the disgraced former CEO of FTX – Sam-Bankman Fried.

While the stated goals of Worldcoin certainly have a ring of nobility to them, the practical steps to network adoption have always raised a number of questions from privacy-focused individuals. In short, there are users who doubt Worldcoin’s arguments for the public good.

Users who wish to join the Worldcoin network must first download the Worldcoin app and then submit to an iris scan from the ‘orb’ – a shiny sphere that looks a bit like a metal bowling ball. The iris scan is used to create a unique cryptographic hash to identify that person on the Worldcoin network.

Worldcoin has always argued that this iris scan does not risk user privacy because the scan never leaves the orb and it is deleted once the user hash is created. This still leaves some questions unanswered, and where knowledge gaps exist suspicions will grow.


Sam Altman comforts no-one

With OpenAI and ChatGPT Sam Altman has already brought one potentially dystopic product to market. It has been claimed that ChatGPT and its fellow AIs could automate a huge number of white-collar jobs including software engineers, paralegals and journalists.

Given the way that Altman talks about Worldcoin, some people may be forgiven for thinking that the eye-scan cryptocurrency could represent an equally dystopian premise.

OpenAI Founder Still Wants Your Eyeballs for ‘Worldcoin’ Currency

As Altman said in January, “I think at this point the need for systems that provide proof of personhood and the need for new experiments with wealth redistribution and the global governance of systems like an [artificial general intelligence] is higher.”

That statement offers considerable room for interpretation, but many of the terms Altman uses could be synonyms for more negative terms. It doesn’t take a genius to convert “proof of personhood” to “global electronic ID.” 

Combining that ID system with worldwide wealth distribution and “global governance” AI, and you have a fairly potent mix of conspiracy bait – only its real.

Not you America

The first launch of Worldcoin was met with scorn and ridicule from the cryptocurrency community, but now that the company feels more ready for public scrutiny, its can reset its marketing efforts and start over.

Worldcoin and its CEO, Alex Blania, are now on the front foot again as the company seeks to onboard new users. At present the company only has around 1.2 million users, but it has set its sites on at least a billion.

Today Worldcoin eye orbs can be found “everywhere from universities in Kenya to shopping malls in Lisbon,” according to Blania.

Yet still, one of the biggest hurdles for Worldcoin is getting enough people in front of their steely eye-capturing devices. To boost adoption Worldcoin has plans to entice more users into their network with coupons, loans, and single-player games.

Where you won’t find Worldcoin and its token is in the U.S.

As Blania concluded in a recent conversation with TechCrunch on Wednesday, “Due to regulatory considerations and that the token is not intended to be available in the U.S., I’m not in a position to speculate on how the token may potentially be used.”

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