👉 UFOs are officially real. Your move, boring SaaS startups.

What happened on Tech Twitter the week of July 20th - 26th

Yo! ✌️ I’m Brett! I am a Product Manager and former Cognitive Science researcher. Social Studies is a semi-weekly newsletter for people building great products for humans. It includes recaps of what happened on Tech Twitter every week plus deep analysis using frameworks from Psychology, Economics, and the other Social Sciences.


What Happened Last Week?

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Community was debated - Some people debated the legitimacy of Community space. The need to belong is the most fundamental human need and Community is the part of a product that drives it.

🙁 GPT-3 turned out to be over-hyped - OpenAI’s breakthrough technology was definitely overhyped. Sam Altman had some ideas as for why, but humans are just prone to this stuff. Work from psychology, philosophy, and evolutionary biology explain.

👽 The Pentagon teased UFO findings - The Pentagon said it will make some findings relating to objects “not made on this earth” public soon. If it’s real, what does this mean for the tech industry? Probably a lot less boring SaaS companies and more crazy psychedelic religious cults.


👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Community was debated

Check out the hottest takes on community Twitter thread!

Last week there was a lot of discussion about the community space.

Community refers to the tools and processes for cultivating a “need to belong” amongst customers, partners, and others affiliated with a brand or influencer.

Why does it matter?

Ask most people in tech and you’ll get a similar answer: metrics go up and it makes people feel good.

Venture into the world of social psychology and you get a much clearer answer.

Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary proposed that the need to belong is one of the most fundamental and universal human needs. It drives virtually all human behavior and has a direct impact on mental and physical wellbeing. Having strong relationships has been shown to reduce drug addiction and even increase longevity.

“Community” is the part of a product that creates this sense of belonging. Thus, it is where you can have the highest impact on users’ overall wellbeing.

With communities springing up all the time, we’re also left wondering how many communities can you possibly be a part of?

Robin Dunbar suggested humans can only maintain 150 relationships. Considering the fact that many communities have well over 150 members, Mazzeo may have a point here.

Humans may have an infinite number of identities and interests that can be satisfied by different communities. But limitations of the human neocortex (as well as the finiteness of hours in the day) put a fairly low upper bound for the number of communities we can be a part of.

How many group chats can you honestly keep up with? For me, it’s just one: Twitter.

🙁 GPT-3 turned out to be over-hyped

Last week I published a piece called “How AI will upend labor, trust and what it means to be human over the coming decadeabout OpenAI’s new technology, GPT-3.

It seems clear that while GPT-3 is powerful, it isn’t as significant a development as many have made it out to be.

Many of the demos on Twitter do seem to have been cherry picked showing the best case output. I’m hoping that this is Sam Altman’s version of Elon Musk’s “Telsa stock price is too high imo” moment but it’s too soon to tell.

So why the hype? Sam has a practical answer.

We can apply concepts from psychology, philosophy, and evolutionary biology to understand hype on a deeper level:

  • The Pygmalion Effect (by psychologist Robert Rosenthal) - High expectations lead to better performance and are thus evolutionarily advantageous. So we have high expectations for GPT-3 (we hype it to ourselves) because we are predisposed to.

  • Reciprocal Altruism (by sociobiologist Robert Trivers) - We help others (sometimes at our own expense) with the hope that it will be reciprocated at some point. So we hype up GPT-3 to others to be helpful (as a kind of information resource sharing).

  • Mimetic Theory (by philosopher René Girard) - We base our desires and beliefs off of those around us. So we hype up GPT-3 because others hype up GPT-3.

👽 The Pentagon teased UFO findings

The New York Times published a piece saying that the Pentagon will make some findings relating to objects “not made on this earth” public soon.

Tech Twitter was mostly silent on the topic except Mike Solana, VP at Founds Fund and UFO stan. Based on conversations off Twitter, many more Silicon Valley elites seem to be taking the news very seriously as well.

So what would happen in the tech industry if a vehicle built by a highly technologically advanced civilization was recovered? Some ideas:

  • Marc Andreessen’s “It’s Time To Build” rallying cry would have rocket fuel behind it.

  • The space, energy, transportation, and defense spaces would explode.

  • Numerous scientific breakthroughs could be made within months and continue happening for years.

  • Fear, excitement, and all the existential crises in between (looking at you boring SaaS startup employees) could generate a swath of new religions.

There are very few scenarios where a recovered alien spacecraft inspires entrepreneurs to keep building boring enterprise SaaS products, so this story is worth keeping an eye on.

As a fun aside, UFO hype typically peaks around July 4th. Want to guess why? 🇺🇸🧨🍺

✌️ Other great tweets

Here’s what else happened on Tech Twitter last week!

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🙏 Thanks!

Is anyone else addicted to Oreos like I have been during lockdown?