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Volume 422

Cubes, collabs, and con artists: all in a week’s coolsh*t. We also take a look at a second-rate search engine that wants the launch codes and thinks you should leave your partner. Plus the latest episode of the podcast, featuring some controversial censorship colloquy which, ironically, we had to cut some bits out of.

The Cube (Not That One).

I once went for what I thought would be something resembling work experience and ended up spending a day testing games for ‘The Cube’ in a warehouse in Essex. But now that we’ve all to know each other a little better, I suppose we can start coolsh*t. There’s a new cube on the block, and this one has absolutely no affiliation with Philip Schofield (as far as we’re aware). However, this new cube is so impressive that I suspect even ‘Schofe’ would be willing to queue to get a look at it. 400m-high, 400m-wide, and 400m-long; the shiny gold block is large enough to contain 20 Empire State Buildings and will be plonked slap bang in the middle of Riyadh. Why? To provide a “gateway into another world”, obviously. AKA: a shopping centre. The London underground is looking less impressive by the day.

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The Art of Quite Clever.

Moncler is no longer just a brand for tiny Italian men with a penchant for resembling bin bags. They’ve done a remarkable job of transforming their brand perception within the world of fashion (and in culture more broadly) over the last decade or so, and smart partnerships and collaborations have been a big part of that evolution. In fact, I say ‘smart’, they say ‘genius’. Last week saw Moncler’s ‘The Art of Genius’ co-creation platform kick off in London, with an event featuring vocals from Alicia Keys, a puffer jacket-coated Mercedes-Benz, an independent Rick Owens collection, and a load of other shit that people will want to get their hands on. Jay-Z’s ‘The Art of All by Roc Nation’ also unveiled state-of-the-art sound pods that allowed guests to contribute their vocals to be engineered by Jay-Z’s award-winning producer, Mike Dean. Not the same Mike Dean as the referee who supports Tranmere – I checked.

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Cons and Cons.

Last week we had a deepfake story, an AI story, and a couple marketing stories. This week, we’ve found a way of rick rolling all of those into one – with a little bonus sprinkling of fraud. Most previous instances of deepfake videos of celebrities have been relatively harmless, but it didn’t take long for people to start appropriating the still-nascent technology for their own nefarious ploys. This video (which we weren’t able to embed above because it’s been removed from pretty much everywhere except Twitter, so please do go watch it) shows a very convincing conversation between Joe Rogan and Dr. Andrew Huberman in which they appear to be discussing a product called Alpha Grind and its potential benefits on a gentleman’s nether-regions. Except that conversation never really happened; it was a deepfake. However, you’d imagine that fact may have been lost on some poor suckers who saw this video without any explanatory context and now have a year’s supply of ‘libido-boosting’ Alpha Grind snake oil on their hands. And I’ve also been staring into the sun every morning per the advice of this Huberman bloke, so now I’m slightly worried that I am in fact one of those poor misled fools.

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I never realised until this very moment that the volleyball Tom Hanks is screaming at in Castaway shares a name with a brand that actually manufactures volleyballs. Suppose ‘Mizuno’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it. (Having Googled it, I’ve discovered that that was quite literally the point: it was a Wilson volleyball and that was why he called it Wilson. Serves me right for talking about a film I’ve never seen. But I thought I ought to leave this in as an act of contrition so we can all see what a boob I was about 10 seconds ago. And it also struck me what remarkably good free advertising it must have been for Wilson, so that’s interesting. Sort of). Anyway, Wilson have just unveiled their 3D-printed airless basketball prototype. Never again will anyone have to moisten an old rusty needle with their mouth. Thank heavens. Saying that, with all the commodities we so desperately need to reserve, air feels like it was probably quite far down on the list. Oh well; thanks anyway, Wilson…

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Nout But Net.

Basketball innovation? Don’t you fools realise that we’re only a few years away from giving up physical exertion altogether in favour of a life of leisure lived solely in the Metaverse? Back to the drawing board for you, Wilson. As part of the All-Star Weekend, the NBA have launched an immersive virtual reality experience that allows you to become any player on the court – as demonstrated here by former NFL employee Ahmad Rashad and NBA commissioner Adam Silver (with a healthy portion of really hysterical shirt banter). And while this is slightly gimmicky, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’d quite like to see a 7-foot avatar of myself absolutely dropping buckets on Lebron.

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Bad Bing.

There is a fear for humanity that AI systems unencumbered by emotions and ruled entirely by reason will be impossible for our flabby flesh and feeble minds to compete with. But fortunately it turns out that AI may be equally subject to capricious bouts of irascibility. Having seen the mania around ChatCPT, Microsoft recently invested billions in a chatbot program of their own which would become part of their Bing search engine. And if you don’t know about Bing, it’s basically to Google what Lidl is to Sainsbury’s. Actually, that’s an imperfect analogy; Lidl’s quite popular, whereas you never hear anyone say, “could you Bing that for me, please?”. This week, Microsoft announced they would be placing new limits on their Bing chatbot following users reporting some “extremely disturbing conversations”. You’re probably wondering what was deemed “extremely disturbing”, and given the snowflakery rife in modern society, you’re probably assuming that it’s not that bad – but in fairness, some of it is actually a bit nuts. The chatbot encouraged a New York Times reporter to leave his wife, compared a journalist to Adolf Hiter, expressed a desire to be human, and then revealed that it would be rather keen to start a nuclear holocaust. Yep, might need to turn it off and on again…

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