Hello and welcome to the last weekend of 2022!
Because it feels nostalgic for everyone auld lang syne (rough translation: before everything sucks), we wanted to reflect on some lessons from the recent past. This week, the team asked some of the smartest people in tech about their most memorable conversations from 2022.
My most memorable conversation came during a family trip to Israel last summer. As is customary when Jews visit the Holy Land, I spent an entire afternoon arguing about politics with our Israeli tour guide, Shani. The details of our discussion, which took place during a three-hour minibus ride across the warring West Bank, are not as important as the outcome: Shani actually changed my mind a bit!
Later, I realized that such long, face-to-face conversations were in stark contrast to Twitter, a place where I had less productive conversations. In fact, he completely refuted Elon Musk’s view of how free speech and debate should work. I’ve spent far more hours on Twitter than in the back of an Israeli passenger van, and yet I never came out with my views significantly changed from before.
The idea that Twitter is the world’s public square or provides a healthy forum for lively and honest discussion has always been fictitious. Under Musk, it was fictitious. To meet the ideals that Musk advocates, we actually need to spend a lot less time on Twitter and a lot more time talking to a variety of people. It’s the kind of thing our smartest readers and best journalists do all the time.
If your 2023 resolution is to be more inspired, more knowledgeable, or open yourself up to someone else’s perspective, there’s only one good way to do it. Making an interview.
What was the most meaningful conversation you’ve had over the past year? We asked some of the most interesting and connected people we know to answer this question, and we gathered the answers. Alexis Ohanian, Arianna Huffington, Frances Haugen, Lo Toney and its founders and CEOs Bark, cloud flare, Fans Only, Magic Heaven, all birds, Hims & Hers, Career Mix and more.
In addition, our Weekend reporters turned their attention to themselves by presenting highlights from last year’s conversations. Read below about the encounters that keep them moving:
On Annie Goldsmith give priority to compassion
In May, I wrote about Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn’s struggle with bipolar disorder. Many components of this story have stuck with me—especially the idea that the tech industry values the same traits (like a relentless work ethic) that often harm the mental health of founders. But what I thought most about was a conversation I had with Dunn’s wife, Manuela Zoninsein. While the couple was dating, Dunn did not admit to having bipolar disorder, subjecting Zoninsein and others around them to recurrent manic episodes and incalculable hurts.
Miraculously, Zoninsein did not blame Dunn for his actions or for hiding the truth from him. I don’t know what I would do in the same situation, but I still admire her capacity for forgiveness. “Just like diabetes,” she told me about her husband’s bipolar disorder—as long as she takes her meds and goes to the doctors, she’ll be fine. Zoninsein’s example reminds me to show compassion to those around me, especially to those who act in ways that don’t make sense. You never know what someone else is going through.
on Margaux MacColl real crypto victims
Back in January, I wrote about scammers lurking on NFT projects’ Discord channels. The emotional center of the story was Kat Heart, an outdoor education teacher in Arlington, Washington, who loves unscathed tokens as seriously as possible—not for the chance to make millions, but for the community that has formed around them.
In 2021, Heart was struck by several tragedies in a row: First, his house burned down and his insurance couldn’t cover the damages. Then someone stole $80,000 worth of NFTs from him in a phishing scam. When the Discord community convinced the scammer to send Heart back $15,000, he didn’t spend it on home repairs. He used it to buy another NFT.
As the rest of the year brought even darker stories from the crypto world, my thoughts kept returning to Heart. Perhaps behind closed doors, the elite in Silicon Valley have always known that the grandiose promises of cryptocurrencies are a means to an end, a reason to print and sell useless tokens that make millions to early investors. But Heart did not share this cynicism. He found a home on Discords and scammers exploited his faith.
It’s tempting to mock people who lose money by betting on digital art. But my conversation with Heart reminded me that real people believe what tech leaders tell them, and now they’re the ones who will hurt the most.
Arielle Pardes the changing power dynamics of technology
In October, I was chatting with an executive at a tech company who, after waves of technical layoffs, had to fill a position on his team. He said he had sent so many resumes that the system had automatically removed the job posting – it was the first time in his career that he had received such intense attention. It reminded him of a scene from Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”; there was a scene in this scene where a flood of desperate people struggled to get ahead of the queues, regardless of the quality of the work.
I spoke with the same source about the power workers suddenly had in 2021 and how they used it to renegotiate workplace bonuses. Now, in 2022, that dynamic had completely reversed, leaving employees at the mercy of their bosses. I’ve been thinking a lot about this speech this year, especially after seeing Elon Musk’s edict to Twitter staff to be “extremely harsh.” It was as if Sinclair had written it himself.
Abe Brown take the pains of going back to the office
No one I know talks to more people every day than Rich, my Jersey City, NJ barber. In the fall, I asked Rich what his clients discuss most often. “The office,” he said with a smile. More specifically, going back to the office. Now, none of her clients will be able to see the cheerful, well-tattooed 20-something Rich roll their eyes over his shoulders. But verbally, that’s what Rich was pointing out: These people were whining about working from home when the epidemic broke out, and now they’re whining about having to go back to the office.
To be honest, I’m not very good at those barber chair complainers. I’ve had many of the same thoughts. But I do know that Rich has experienced few of the privileges and privileges enjoyed by many tech workers (and tech reporters) over the past few years; can work safely from home without sacrificing economic security. But while we complained, Rich remained resolutely positive. The man is Cézanne with a hair clipper, but what I admire most is his perseverance and perspective on the world.
makes you think
By the end of next week (and next year), thanks for reading.
Weekend Editor, Information