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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Can the Metaverse Thrive If It’s Fully Owned by Facebook?

The metaverse. A simulated world, controlled with inputs from our reality to merge cyberspace and meatspace into one plane of existence. If this sounds like a sci-fi fantasy from the early ’90s, that’s because it is. But now Facebook is trying to make the metaverse a reality.

The company has been exploring AR and VR tech with the goal of manufacturing a virtual experience that allows users from all over the world to interact in a shared dimension. So far, the most promising metaverse concept the company has shown off is a VR conference room for business meetings. Not super exciting, folks! However, Facebook has demonstrated that its tech has the potential to reframe how we interact in the future—provided we all use Facebook headsets and apps from the Oculus store to meet up within the confines of Facebook’s platform.

This week on Gadget Lab, we talk with Peter Rubin, WIRED contributor and author of the book Future Presence, about Facebook’s grand vision and whether an open, platform-agnostic version of the metaverse will ever fully materialize.

Show Notes

Read Peter’s story about Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms. Also, his story about the metaverse in Ready Player One. Peter’s book, Future Presence, is now out in paperback. Read Lauren’s story about Facebook’s wrist wearables. And Gilad Edelman has a take on cargo pants, obviously.


Peter recommends the show Reservation Dogs. Lauren recommends taking a staycation, because you deserve it. Mike recommends Peter’s newsletter, The Peter Principle.

PeterRubin can be found on Twitter @provenself. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

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Michael Calore: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Mike.

MC: Lauren, have you ever visited the metaverse?

LG: Yeah, I think so. I think there was this time when I was meeting with a Microsoft executive in a HoloLens 2 headset, and then I had to switch between that in the HP Reverb G2 VR headset, which was connected to some giant high-powered PC. I walked into my kitchen counter and I was like, "I think I just hit the metaverse." That sound right?

MC: Yeah, that sounds good to me. I'll take it.

LG: Yay.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

MC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, senior editor at WIRED.

LG: And I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED.

MC: We are also joined today by WIRED writer Peter Rubin. Hello, Peter. Welcome back to the show.

LG: Hey, Peter.

Peter Rubin: Hey, guys. It is great to be here again.

MC: Peter, we have you on because, yes, we are talking about the metaverse and we are talking about VR, and you've written a book about VR. It's called Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life. How did I do? That's the full title.

PR: You did great. And it's out in paperback now too, and there are additions of it all over the world. So even if you're listening to this in Korea or anywhere else, you can get a copy.

LG: That doesn't sound very hig- tech. Paperback, what's that?

PR: I know. There's audio and there's an ebook too.

MC: Peter used to be an editor at WIRED, but even though he has moved on from our virtual four walls, he is still a regular contributor to WIRED and a regular guest here on the show, so it's good to have you, man.

PR: Oh, man. It's so great to be back. I was just telling you before we started rolling, I miss our knees bumping together under the table and the too-small studio that we used to use to record this.

MC: And sharing our lung juice.

PR: And sharing, as Lauren put it, our lung juice, which—

LG: I have to give Alan Henry credit for that from our WIRED team. He's the one who first said “lung juice” at one point, and now I just cannot get it out of my mind.

PR: Even if that had been coined in 2019, it would have been gross, but now it's almost too much to take.

MC: Doubly gross. Well, we could be recording this in person, but instead, we are recording it virtually. We're all in our own spaces right now, which is sort of fitting for today, because we're talking about virtual reality in the workplace. It sounds really boring, but stay with me here. A few days ago, Facebook showed off a new beta VR experience called Horizon Workrooms. It's a combination of virtual- and augmented-reality technology that lets you interact with both the real world and a simulated environment at the same time. It sounds cool, but it's for meetings, so it's sort of like Ready Player One if Ready Player One took place entirely in an office conference room with PowerPoints and whiteboards. But Facebook's new VR experience is exciting because it melds the real world with the virtual world in new and interesting ways.

It's an idea that hints at new types of human-computer interaction that proponents have dubbed the metaverse. And later on in the show, we're going to get back to the metaverse and we're going to talk about exactly what that means, and why there's so much hype attached to that word. But before we get meta, I think we need to hear all about Facebook's demo. So, Peter, you jacked into the Zuckerverse. Tell us about it.

PR: I did, which sounds a lot more legally actionable than it is, thankfully, and I'm sure William Gibson would thank you. I like how that phrase became obsolete so long ago, but we can't stop ourselves from using it. Yes, I jacked in last week, and what that involves, this only runs on the Quest 2 headset, which of course is the most recent all-in-one headset that Oculus and Facebook have been selling. So, the first order of business is like the original Quest. The Quest 2 lets you sort of define a place, based on wherever you are using the hand controllers, but instead of drawing out a space on the floor, it asks you to trace the outline of your desk, the front edge of your desk, so it gets a sense of the width of your desk. It asks you to clear most things away from your desk and then to sort of put your laptop open in front of you.

And then if you are using either a MacBook Pro or the trackable Logitech keyboard that became available earlier this year, it will actually show you a virtual sort of simulacrum of the keyboard, so you can reach out and touch-type if you want to. You're looking down, you're at the VR version of a desk, it pairs with your laptop, so you see the screen of your actual computer superimposed on your virtual environment. Nice and big, as big as you want it, and it's super readable because the display and the Quest 2 is kind of ridiculously good, especially compared to earlier generations of VR.

And so if you have one of these trackable keyboards, you see it, and when you reach out … The other thing I should point out is the Quest and the Quest 2 work, not just with hand controllers, but with hand tracking, so the sensors that are on the outside of the headset can actually see your hands and space really well, the detail of each individual finger, and you can use gestural controls in space to select things in the usual sort of a UI of the Quest ecosystem.

So, instead of having your controllers in your hands as you traditionally would in VR, you can just reach out. It sees your hands, and when they get in range of the trackable keyboard, that's when the AR overlay comes into place. And so what you end up seeing is kind of a ghostly, gray version of your real hands. The pass-through cameras kick on, and you see them hovering over this virtual superimposed keyboard, and so it allows you to touch-type in VR while still seeing your keyboard. And of course, because your computer screen's in there with you, you can kind of work as you normally might. Now, I was using a MacBook Air, and so it was millimeters off. And so there were ways that I had to kind of rely on muscle memory instead of taking the tracking for granted, but it did sub in really well. So, that's the kind of home office setup of Horizon's Workrooms. And then you go into a meeting room, and that's when the collaboration and the real fun begins.

LG: And what was it like interacting with other people in this space? Since you took this briefing with other journalists, and I think with Mark Zuckerberg himself, right?

PR: Yeah. It was a room full of people, and it felt very much like a room full of people. There were probably six or seven journalists there. Andrew Bosworth, who's the VP of Facebook Reality Labs, was there. Mark Zuckerberg started on a video screen because he was on a video call and then he put on a headset, and so he came in as his avatar, and there were some other folks there as well.

I saw a lot of this when the news came out, because of course I did. People were like, "Why would you want this? We already have Zoom." I made this point years ago in the book Mike mentioned, Future Presence. Now, we're so used to Zoom meetings at this point, but if I want to look as though I'm looking at you, I look into a camera. And if I want to look at your faces in front of me on the computer screen, you're going to look at it as my eyes are looking down, unless you have a camera that is kind of hung down into the middle of your monitor. You're never going to make any sort of simulation of eye contact. So yeah, we're sort of here, but we're never looking directly at each other, not once. It's impossible to do. We can't make eye contact on a Zoom call.

That is one of the major things that VR overcomes. When you're in there and you make eye contact with somebody, you're really making eye contact with somebody. And of course like the fidelity of the hand tracking means that all of our mannerisms come into play as well. So you see someone's head moving around, their avatar's head is moving around as it does in real life, and you see their hands moving around just like they do in real life. It's because they are happening in real life, but they're translating into VR, which makes their avatar feel incredibly, incredibly real.

Fidelity of their facial expression aside, we can abstract out the way people look and we can recognize them as long as they have the distinguishing features, but if you hear someone's voice, and their very personal, idiosyncratic movements are coming through as well and you're making eye contact, your brain kind of leaps past the fact that you're talking to cartoon versions of each other, and the conversational dynamics are a hundred percent as though you're actually in a room with that person.

MC: This is something that you've referred to in your story that you wrote for WIRED about this experience and previously as “social presence,” is that right?

PR: It is. So presence by itself is sort of … it's short for co-presence, as the absolute bedrock foundation of a realistic VR experience. It's when your brain accepts all the stimuli that you're getting and your reactions kind of follow from that. So, as long as you're fooled enough by the fidelity of the visuals, or the way things sound, or the way people appear to move, your body begins to respond as though you're actually there. So social presence is just, "Do your movements and mannerisms come across in such a way as to give a person a sense of presence, not just being in the world of VR, but of being there with the other person?"

LG: And then your most recent dispatch from this Facebook beta app presentation, you wrote that it's not exactly creepy, but it's also not not creepy. Explain this.

PR: Well, it's very creepy when something goes wrong. And in a multi-user environment, that layers in so many other things, the way Horizon Workrooms does. And if you think about it, there's the sort of AR thing of being able to see through your hands when you're taking notes at this meeting. You've got your laptop paired, and so does everybody else who's in the meeting. You've got spatial audio for all the people in the meeting, you've got the environment itself, and then you've got these other sorts of capabilities, like you can use a hand controller, turn it upside down, and hold it like a pen and doodle on your desk, and what you are doodling will show up on the whiteboard in the meeting room. So, there's sound, there's visual, there's all these paired devices, there's AR pass-through.

It's a huge pipeline of information that every Quest has to sort of process and come together. All of which is to say, social presence is kind of balancing on a knife edge, right? If one thing goes wrong, and in this case, that one wrong thing was when Mark Zuckerberg came into the room, his mouth wasn't moving when he was talking, which vaulted you so far into the depths of the uncanny valley. His avatar has big unblinking blue eyes and a haircut just like his. And so it already feels like you're dealing with a cartoonish version of this person whose image you have seen day after day in the news for years.

So not only is it a cartoonish version of that, but then something goes wrong and his mouth isn't moving. And meanwhile, his hands are moving and his head is moving and you're hearing him. I think in the piece, I said it was like a Hummel figurine was trying to explain the metaverse to you. It really doesn't take much to go from feeling like you're there, to feeling like you're there and also being really sort of repulsed by what you're seeing. That's the body's response.

LG: So these avatars … On the upside, they can offer us a means of endless personal expression. And I think that the idea of this metaverse that we're going to talk a little about more is that there are these infinite spaces in which app developers can build apps, right? It's this endless creative space, but Facebook has also been pitching this whole idea as the "Infinite Office," which honestly makes a lot of people's skin crawl, including my own. So, what does Facebook mean by this? And does anyone want an Infinite Office space?

PR: Yeah, so I think there's two ways to hear that phrase, right? One is late-stage capitalist dystopia of, no matter where you go, your office follows you. And I think the way they are thinking of it as … I'm maybe overly generous right now, let me just preface what I'm about to say with that. This is—

LG: Right, and let's also add to that. We also are kind of living in an Infinite Office space, right?

PR: Exactly.

LG: Our phones are the Infinite Office.

PR: A hundred percent. And that's the other thing too, there's this sort of knee-jerk response to everything that Facebook announces about VR with, "No thanks, uncle Mark," or 1984. You are being surveilled all the time, and your fears about a Facebook account being tied to this, or that it feels like you're just choosing one hill of many to die on here, which feels a little disingenuous. But Infinite Office, I think in their view, is leveraging this combination of AR and VR to be able to work anywhere you choose to. It's not work following you. I think there's a more maybe valid concern about if we're working more in VR, then the sort of attentional and psychological profiling of our time spent in there is more invasive, but the Infinite Office, I think in their view, is very much, "I don't need to bring a desk somewhere to feel like I am at a desk. I can sit down at a coffee shop."

And Lauren, you wrote about it when Facebook Reality Labs unveiled a lot of their AR roadmap, using the electrical impulses from your forearm to be able to type and control using micro movements in space. So, this idea, if you want to extrapolate what we saw with Horizon Workrooms, being able to set up an imaginary keyboard anywhere, have a monitor maybe pair to your phone, if not your laptop appear in space. Your laptop can stay in your bag, you can be sitting at an empty table, and you can get whatever work done that you want to, and then jump into a meeting space with other people, and it's basically the Infinite Office. The only tether is as long as you've got a data connection, you should be able to simulate all the affordances of what you have come to think of as your decentralized remote work life.

MC: Real quick before we take a break. You mentioned briefly that people might feel uncomfortable having their Facebook identity connected to a virtual meeting, where they're sharing all kinds of sensitive information that they may not want Facebook to know about. So, has the company put in any controls to protect user privacy and data in Horizon Workrooms?

PR: Not in a way that I think has been fully vetted yet.? They have a terms of service and they have agreements, and they're very, very clear that when you pair your laptop to your headset, everything stays local. None of the processing goes anywhere, but between your headset and your laptop. Nothing gets shared, that nothing that happens in a meeting or when you're using the app is given to anyone, definitely not third-party developers. The information isn't made available to anybody. I think whatever Facebook does get for processing purposes is anonymized. So they do a lot in the TOS to really assure you that security or at least privacy is recognized as a concern.

Now, that's one part of it, but the other part is, a lot of people work for companies where you're on a proxy connection all day long, right? A lot of companies, especially ones that are used to working in a distributed fashion and work with sensitive data, have all these things in place that I can't imagine would play nicely with the need to pair your computer, bring it into a virtual, a shared virtual space, and then jump into a meeting with other people tied to your Facebook login. That said, a lot of these same secure companies are still using Zoom and still using Google Meet. So it stands to reason that there will be a way to make that work, but I think at least in this beta stage, Facebook is just trying to convince people, if not possible business clients or business users, that they're not here to hoover any data. They're just here to let you collaborate in a virtual space.

MC: All right. Well, thanks for that. We're going to take a break right now. And when we come back, we will step into the metaverse.


MC: Welcome back. So, Facebook's Horizon Workrooms is part of a broader pitch around a word you've probably heard a lot lately. The “metaverse.” It's not a new term, but recently, a combination of widely available technologies like movement-tracking sensors and VR headsets, and compute power that can handle all these heavy apps, have pushed the notion of the metaverse into the forefront. And of course, a lot of technologists are sharing their visions for what the metaverse will be, partly because they want to capitalize on it. So, Peter, I'm going to put the question to you. What the hell is a metaverse?

PR: Well, I'm amazed I didn't hear this from you guys at the top of the show, but the only correct answer to that question is, I never met a verse I didn't like.

LG: Oh, no.

PR: I am here all week.

LG: I appreciate the dad joke, Peter. I appreciate it.

PR: That's what I'm here for. I also wrote about puns at WIRED, so it's not exactly off-brand. You know, what's interesting about this is people have been talking about the metaverse since the rebirth of VR, but it didn't become this kind of gross-feeling buzzword until Mark Zuckerberg started giving interviews talking about it. And I think rightfully, you had people who've been working in AR and VR being like, "Why now? Why now did the drum get loud, and why now did it become this sort of shortcut term?" I mean, so the idea of the metaverse really goes back to Snow Crash, and a lot of people like to point to Ready Player One too. It's really just this idea of a universe of realities, right? It is a way to go from real-world, to virtual, to AR, anywhere on the continuum and the permutation of those three things together.

But what's important about the metaverse that seems to be at odds with the way Mark Zuckerberg is talking about it is, the metaverse by nature can't be walled, right? It has to be built on an open framework. In a true metaverse you should be able to jump from a meeting in Horizon Workrooms to something that's hosted on another platform, whether it's VRChat, or Rec Room, or what have you. But because of the way the corporate world works, everyone wants their pocket metaverses, to borrow a term from fiction and comic books. So this is the problem, if you're going to have walls around it, it's not a metaverse. A metaverse has to be basically an internet of reality, but as we've seen with the internet from 15 years ago until now, it's been kind of irredeemably and fundamentally changed by the need to monetize the thing that you built that uses it.

A few years ago in WIRED, I made this very point. If you want a metaverse, you have to drop these walls. Facebook is in this amazing situation of having limitless resources to throw at it—which they are doing, because they know what the upside is there. They're making everything a viable product before anybody else can. Their research is way ahead of what anybody else can do, because of who they've been able to hire and how much time and money they've been able to put into it. On one hand, it's amazing that they are productizing and concretizing the promise of VR in ways people haven't been able to, but on the other side, they aren't building the metaverse, they are building Facebook 2.0. I take issue with that word being used so loosely, and with everybody now, everybody and their board of directors calling it a metaverse. A metaverse should be as utopian and borderless as the internet once was.

LG: Just to be clear, the metaverse is not new infrastructure, right? It's not new networking. It's a layer that exists over our existing internet infrastructure?

PR: I think our existing internet structure is the foundation on which it is built. And this is where I run into a wall, because there may be sort of practical components to this phrase that I'm not deeply versed enough in, but I mean, you have people like Philip Rosedale who cofounded Second Life and founded High Fidelity after that, which a year or two ago pivoted to become sort of enterprise only, but it had been beating the drum to make this an open framework. There've been a lot of people in the AR and VR world who have been beating the drum to make this an open framework. I'm going off an imperfect memory here, but there have definitely been symposia and conferences devoted to this idea, that if the metaverse is going to exist, it has to be open.

MC: And I think we've seen this pattern before, because when the social web first launched 15 years ago, it was all based on XML data streams, and anybody can code an app against any data stream coming from any social network. And then what happened is all the companies … Well, I mean, it was very complicated what happened, but one of the big things that happened is a lot of the companies building those open tools just got purchased by Google or Facebook, and then got subsumed, and their technology just got used for proprietary platforms.

PR: Yeah, that's exactly right. It's this oligopolistic approach to the metaverse that I don't think serves anybody but the oligopolies.

MC: Yeah. And you can't have true interoperability if you're talking about one company making the hardware and building the app store.

PR: Yeah. I wrote an essay for WIRED a few years ago—this was right when Ready Player One, the movie, was coming out. And the metaverse in there is an acronym called the OASIS. And the point that I was making is, everybody wants an OASIS, but all we have now are a series of puddles. And I, of course, turned puddle into a tortured acronym, just like OASIS was. So, this idea that we have all of these kinds of smaller, shallower versions of this rich, deep ideal that we've been dreaming about for 30-plus years, but in practice it's falling prey to exactly what you're saying.

LG: What I hear you describing, Peter, is the threat of a closed universe when something is actually supposed to be quite open and inclusive. And that makes me wonder about the cultural impact of this too, because when I think about some of the names we've just mentioned in this conversation, I mean, Neal Stephenson, Ernest Cline, who wrote Ready Player One, Philip Rosedale, who founded Second Life, Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Bosworth, John Hanke from Niantic has weighed in on this, two of the most prominent analysts who have written about the metaverse are Matthew Ball and Ben Thompson. Now, I'm going to assume our listeners are pretty smart here and I don't have to—

PR: All of these things are exactly like the others, is what you're saying?

LG: Right, right. But I'll draw the line for you in case you haven't picked up on this: It's all men. What does it say from a hegemonic perspective, that the people who are at the forefront of imagining the metaverse and analyzing it and are seemingly being most vocal about it are men? And by the way, there are a lot of brilliant women and nonbinary inventors and VR developers out there, who I've also had the pleasure of speaking to for my job, but it just seems like there's a certain group that's really dominating the conversation about the metaverse right now. And I wonder what that implies for how inclusive this new layer of the internet will actually be.

PR: Yeah. One of the things that made me so hopeful when I first wrote the book Future Presence, and this was like three years ago, it was before the Rift had come out, was there was a chance to build this thing without falling victim to the thing that had doomed the internet, which was that everybody who became an architect was coming from a standpoint that didn't necessitate that they consider the needs of others. Let's say it that way. What you're saying is kind of the sort of hegemonic potential of this thing. And we saw that in the way social networks grew and evolved, we saw that in the problems that became intractable issues that plagued these social networks. And the hope was that as these first social worlds were beginning to be built in VR, people had seen this movie before and they didn't want it to play out the same way.

And so there was a lot of thought given to user safety and inclusion. But fast-forward, that even in these smaller social worlds, let alone the massive companies and the sort of thinkers and pundits who are furthering a lot of this conversation—you mentioned Matthew Ball, who was a VC but also thinks really deeply about this stuff, or science fiction writers—that they are sharing an unfortunate degree of monolithic, at least demographic identity, right? That's not to say that they're not empathetic people, and that is not to say that they don't want VR to solve the problems of the internet or build itself without the problems that crept into the internet, but sometimes the food tastes the way it does because of the cook, right?

It just is that way. Like you said, there have always been women and folks of color in the AR and VR space who have been building and creating and advocating for those considerations. And a lot of them are working at the companies that we're talking about, too, which is also helpful, but where it comes down to it, who's on camera talking about this? Who are the voices that are being quoted in the pieces about this? Who are the executives that are making the presentations to other executives about this? That's where the rubber meets the road; we're talking about something that has the potential to be so much more than it's sounding like, because it doesn't have a need to sound any different than it did the first time.

MC: Well, Peter, thank you for that delightful and informative conversation. I'm not just saying this to make you feel good, but I completely understand what metaverse is now and what the stakes are.

PR: I'm glad you do, because I don't think I do, but it was great to be here and take a stab at it.

LG: Thank you for taking this meet-a-verse with us, Peter. Ahh, I stole that from your story. I cannot take credit for that.

MC: Nice.

PR: I'm sorry about that.

MC: All right. We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we'll go through our recommendations.


MC: Welcome back. This is the final part of our show, where we all recommend things that our listeners might enjoy. And Peter, you've done this before. What is your recommendation?

PR: My recommendation is for a television show. It's made by FX, so I think it is exclusively on Hulu. It's called Reservation Dogs. I think there's a real propensity these days to describe a show like, "Oh, it's like Atlanta, but x." Years ago, there was this trend that every movie would get pitched. It was Speed, but x. Ever since Donald Glover made Atlanta, it's become a really handy measuring tool. Dave came out, and people were like, "Oh, it's like a white Atlanta." I think with Reservation Dogs, which follows a group of native teens on a reservation in Oklahoma, I would be surprised that people aren't saying, "Oh, it's like a native Atlanta." Not the case at all.

It's made by a writer-director named Sterlin Harjo, and it's almost an entirely native cast, writing team, directors, all that. It's really, really good. It's funny and it's touching. And it's also the second comedy to come out in the past year that is sort of about and starring native life. The first was Rutherford Falls, which was exclusive to Peacock. It was an NBC show that ended up on Peacock. I watched it and I didn't really connect with it. Reservation Dogs really has me. The pilot is a little uneven, but from episode 2, it's the show that I look forward to most, by far, each week, and I watch a lot of TV.

MC: That's great.

PR: That's it. Reservation Dogs by FX on Hulu.

MC: Nice. Pilots are always a little bit uneven. I feel like you got to get to episode 4 before you really feel what the show is actually like.

PR: But I don't like telling people, like, "OK, but you gotta sit through three and a half hours, and then it really picks up." No, no, no, no, no. Watch the first half hour. It's good. It's just that the show hits another level from that point on.

MC: It's not like anybody's going anywhere. I mean, come on.

PR: Yeah, but if you tell me it's going to take me two movies worth of enjoyment before I get to a payoff, then I'm out.

MC: See, I'd be in. I'd be like, "Ooh, really?"

PR: Oh, it's a slow burn? OK.

MC: Lauren, what is your recommendation?

LG: My recommendation is very Gilad-like. For those of you who have listened to prior episodes of Gadget Lab, you know that when Gilad Edelman joins us on the show, he usually has a big lead up to his recommendation. He's like, "This is going to change your life," and then all of a sudden he recommends sliced lemons or unbuttoning the top button of your shirt. My recommendation is staycations. I think staycations are great. I've taken two this summer. I stayed right here in the great state of California, which yes, it's still a great state despite our insane gubernatorial recall election that shouldn't be happening and the wildfire smoke. And yes, we have problems here, but I have had a wonderful time just staying nearby this summer and exploring local vacation spots and I don't know, staying close to home and just feeling like …

There's something really nice about not totally disrupting your flow, kind of like what you do in your every day, or changing your time zone or having to go to the airport and things like that, and having to pack a bunch of stuff. There's something really nice about just appreciating what you have nearby, and getting to do the things that you always say you wish you could do if you just had a little bit of time off from work or family obligations. And so I highly recommend just enjoying the staycation as much as you can.

PR: Big staycation fan.

MC: What are your guys' philosophy on staycations? Because I just use mine to catch up on chores.

LG: Oh, Mike. Oh, Mike.

MC: I'm like, "Ooh. I had three days off. I could bring so much crap to Goodwill right now."

LG: I mean, yes. That's part of it.

PR: I think one day of this … Yeah.

LG: Yeah.

PR: One day of a staycation, it's good to get a bunch of stuff done. I mean, I took a two-and-a-half month vacation that I'm fresh off, so I'm a big believer, right? I tried to keep the shape of my day the same, but walks and changing things up. I will say that was a lot better than Gilad's last recommendation, which was cargo pants. So highly support this. I think you have iterated and improved upon Gilad's recommendation process.

LG: But you can use your staycation to take your cargo pants to Goodwill, if you're over them.

PR: She tied it all together. That was amazing. Nicely done.

MC: Professional.

LG: Mike, I highly recommend the next time you take a staycation, I would say at the max, two days should be spent on getting stuff done around the house or in your local neighborhood, and cleaning, and picking up prescriptions, all those things you have to do. And then, really, you should at least get two or three days equivalent or more of just checking out a hiking spot or picnic spot, or a lake, or a beach, or something that we have access to here, and you haven't been able to explore.

MC: Vipassana.

LG: Yes. Yeah, do a little silent meditation. Yeah, why not? All right, Mike, what's your recommendation?

MC: Well, I would like to recommend Peter Rubin's newsletter.

PR: Oh my God.

LG: And now, we tied it all together.

MC: Yes.

PR: This truly is the best podcast episode.

MC: Peter Rubin started a newsletter not too long ago. It's currently on Substack. It's called The Peter Principle, and I love the premise of this, because you talk about other Peters in your life, right? Give us some examples of the other Peters who you have talked about in the newsletter.

PR: Well, they're not in my life directly, but these are all Peters who are kind of intimately connected to an obsession or a pattern in my life. So, on past ones, I've done Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, which was just sort of a way to talk about Star Wars and storytelling, and why it blew so many kids' minds when the movies came out. Peter Tosh, who is a favorite reggae artist, I think, of mine and yours both, Mike. And then there are also some really contorted back doors just to be able to talk about things I love. So, one of them was Peter Hickok who was, I believe, a costume designer on the Netflix comedy show, sketch show I Think You Should Leave. He was the only Peter involved with the production at all, and that just took an IMDb search, because I refuse to accept that I wouldn't be able to write about that show.

MC: Right. I love this that you use these Peters as windows into your own life experience, and it's very touching and it's fun because it also exposes you to things that you normally would not have heard of. If you're not a big reggae fan, you wouldn't know about Peter Tosh, necessarily. If you're not a fan of excellent sketch comedy on Netflix, you probably wouldn't know about I Think You Should Leave, so it's kind of a nice way to learn about things. Props to you, first of all, but also, listeners, you should subscribe to it because it is a delightful newsletter, and newsletters are the new blogs. We love newsletters, so we like to tell people to subscribe to them, because the good ones are free. Yours is free.

PR: It is free, and it will forever remain free.

MC: Love that.

LG: But that doesn't mean that paying for good stories is bad by the way. You should subscribe to WIRED if you're listening to this.

PR: I do. I write for WIRED and I still subscribe!

MC: And you should also give money to all those hardworking Substackers out there who are charging money for their newsletters, but also you should subscribe to the free ones too, because why not?

LG: Yes. Yeah.

MC: What do you have to lose?

LG: Yeah, just do it on … principle.

PR: Hey!

MC: Hey now! So, it's peterprinciple.substack.com. There's no “the,” it's just peterprinciple.substack.com, so check it out.

PR: I'm glad you looked that up because I would have gotten it wrong, which is sad.

MC: I am a professional man. Well, thank you, Peter Rubin for joining us this week. The book is called Future Presence. It is out in paperback now in your local language. Thanks for being on the show.

PR: Thanks. It was great to see you guys. I had no idea it was going to become a shill hour for my projects, but I am not mad about it. Great to see you guys.

LG: Great to see you, Peter.

MC: And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. This show is produced by Boone Ashworth. Goodbye, and we will be back next week.

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