A conversation with The Times’s technology editor, Pui-Wing Tam.
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This was a busy year for the tech world.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, laid off more than 11,000 employees, the most significant job cuts in the company’s history. Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion, and has begun suspending the accounts of journalists and others.
Social media’s disinformation problems only got worse. National security concerns continued to mount over TikTok, the Chinese-owned viral video app. And the entire cryptocurrency industry plunged into crisis.
I spoke with The New York Times’s technology editor, Pui-Wing Tam, about her takeaways from these major tech stories in 2022, and what she and her team will be paying attention to in the coming year. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited:
Let’s start with crypto. Late last year, the Staples Center was renamed the Crypto.com Arena, seemingly a reflection of how much cryptocurrencies were dominating the business zeitgeist. But things feel very different a year later.
The price of all of these coins had been going through the roof in 2021. NFTs had become super popular. Everyone was talking about crypto like it was the next big thing that was going to take over the world.
Then in May this year, a popular cryptocurrency called Luna basically lost all of its value, which had a bit of a domino effect on the rest of the market because it exposed how fragile these so-called currencies really are. That led to some crypto companies filing for bankruptcy. And most recently, FTX, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, filed for bankruptcy last month. FTX owes about $8 billion to its customers. So all of that has very much been a wake-up call as to how real this industry is.
Do you see crypto coming back from this?
The industry is tremendously volatile. It rises like crazy, then it totally crashes. There’s a bit of a pattern of this. But it’s not going away. It’s much more mainstream than it used to be, even though there are a lot of people who would never buy this stuff.
Amazon, Meta, DoorDash, Lyft and many other companies announced layoffs this year. What’s driving that?
Tech had been one of the most resilient parts of the economy — pandemic hiring had been through the roof. Then this year, as things slowed down, a lot of these tech companies said they had overexpanded during the pandemic and needed to correct that. That’s sort of changed the tenor of what’s going on in Silicon Valley.
The caveat is that tech is still much bigger and more robust than it was a decade ago. So even though there’s a slowdown, it’s far from the end of the world for the tech industry. It’s just a shift in growth and in expectations, and it’s a bit more of a sober time, but tech is still humongous. It’s still incredibly rich.
Is there more to the economic slowdown beyond layoffs?
Hiring is the most evident, but at Amazon, for example, they’ve decided to put the brakes on some of the expansion of warehouses. So these companies are looking at costs writ large — it’s not just people, it’s expansion plans, experimental initiatives, property, etc.
The epitome of that, obviously, is what Elon Musk has done at Twitter, where he’s cut thousands of employees, more than 50 percent of the company’s staff. He’s just cutting costs left, right and center. I don’t want to place it exactly in the middle of this tech slowdown story, because it obviously has its own dynamics. But if you look at what he’s done, it’s not that far off from other companies — they’re not making as severe a number of cuts, but they’re making cuts.
Speaking of Musk, is he going to continue to dominate tech news in 2023?
Musk was definitely one of our big themes over the past year, and obviously a lot of that had to do with Twitter, but it also became much broader than that. It was about Starlink, Tesla, SpaceX — he was sort of everywhere. He’s upending the way that management of tech companies is being done. Of course we’re going to be watching that — and how he influences free speech — going forward.
This week, Twitter suspended the accounts of roughly half a dozen journalists, as well as more than 25 accounts that track the planes of government agencies and billionaires — including one that followed the movements of Musk himself.
A tech industry trade association sued the State of California on Wednesday in an effort to halt a new children’s online safety law.
“Luddite” teens don’t want your likes.
The New York Times Magazine published a special project about child gun deaths.
U.C. strikes: Teams of striking U.C. graduate student workers are willingly getting arrested in acts of civil disobedience to push for higher wages, CalMatters reports.
Rooftop solar subsidies: California regulators voted unanimously to significantly reduce how much utilities have to pay homeowners with rooftop solar panels for power they send to the electric grid.
Drought: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared a regional drought emergency as the state faces the potential of a fourth consecutive dry year, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Southern California conservationists are also planning to install water stations in inland desert regions that are home to bighorn sheep, The Associated Press reports.
“My Kevin”: Former President Donald Trump has been working the phones, personally pitching right-wing lawmakers on voting to make Representative Kevin McCarthy the speaker of the House.
Fentanyl epidemic: Humboldt County had another record-breaking year in fentanyl overdoses in an epidemic that officials are struggling to contain and working to alleviate, The Lost Coast Outpost reports.
Police misconduct: San Francisco Police Department officers who are accused of committing a variety of crimes have been working office jobs in the department, The San Francisco Standard reports.
Check out the most read food stories of 2022.
Today’s tip comes from Victoria Edwards, who lives in Sierra Madre. Victoria recommends a visit to the Mount Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles:
“To reach the observatory, take a strenuous but beautiful hike from quaint and friendly Sierra Madre. Or if you are less inclined for that sort of exertion, take a drive on the beautiful Angeles Crest Highway. Be sure and make reservations for a tour. This is my favorite place in all of Southern California.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
Have you visited any of the travel destinations that we’ve recommended in the newsletter? Send us a few lines about your trip, and a photo!
We’d like to share them in upcoming editions of the newsletter. Email us at CAToday@nytimes.com. Please include your name and the city in which you live.
When Heather Ringo was a little child growing up in the Bay Area, she was connected to Nancy Frumkes through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Ringo’s mother struggled with addiction and her father was sick, so the girl was spending a lot of time indoors alone.
She and Frumkes started hiking together in Marin, and sometimes the older woman would make cookies for them to share. “I remember feeling the sun shining through the madrone or manzanita trees, the air smelling good, like fresh outdoor air,” Ringo, now in her 30s, told The Mercury News. “This person treated me like I had potential” and “like I was worthy of love and kindness.”
But after Ringo’s father died in 2001, she didn’t see Frumkes again. Until this year.
In August, Ringo, who is completing a doctorate in English at U.C. Davis, found an old photo of her and Frumkes together, but couldn’t remember Frumkes’s name to try to contact her. So she turned to Twitter, posting the photo and asking for help finding the woman in the picture. She had “saved my life when I was an at-risk youth enduring extreme trauma and abuse,” Ringo tweeted. “I want to tell her thank you.”
Within 24 hours, one of Frumkes’s friends had spotted it and contacted Frumkes, who works as an executive assistant in Marin. When she saw the photo, memories of those times “started flooding back,” Frumkes said.
The two women connected and spoke on the phone. The conclusion? “Let’s go for a hike.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Briana Scalia and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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