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Don't blame MKBHD for the fate of Humane AI and Fisker

Don't blame MKBHD for the fate of Humane AI and Fisker

Image credits: Ramsey Cardy/Contributor

Humane AI has raised more than $230 million before it even ships the product. And when it finally released Ai Pin — which costs $699 plus a $24 monthly subscription — nearly every tech reviewer came to the same disappointing realization: This much-publicized product, which promises to disrupt smartphone dominance, isn't very good.

However, some onlookers declare that Marquis Brownlee, the hugely popular YouTuber known as MKBHD, will be solely responsible if the company ultimately fails. Shortly after Humane AI dropped its long-awaited product, the conversation evolved away from the product itself and instead toward how Brownlee talked about it in his own review.

Brownlee video Admittedly, the title clicked a bit: “The worst product I've ever reviewed…at the moment.” But when you watch the actual video, the title lives up to its promise.

“It was really hard to come up with a title for this video,” Brownlee says in the review, which has now had more than 5 million views. “But I will say, at one point, my working title for this was, ‘This product is either the dumbest thing ever, or I'm an idiot.'”

Brownlee is unusually influential, with more than 18 million subscribers on YouTube, but his criticism is on par with other reviewers' comments: Pin life is bad for battery. It is difficult to wear. He makes mistakes so often that he is unreliable. Its laser display is completely ineffective outdoors. And it simply isn't worth the same sticker price as an Android phone.

However, the review caused quite a stir on social media.

“I find it distasteful, almost unethical, to say that when you have 18 million subscribers,” Daniel Vassallo, former AWS engineer books On the tenth of Sunday. “It's hard to explain why, but with great reach comes great responsibility. The prospect of killing someone else's startup reeks of negligence. First, no harm, no foul.”

Another tech creator, Alex Finn, Written on X: “MKBHD went bankrupt in 41 seconds,” referring to the opening of his video. Finn later added: “If that video had never been released, they would have sold more of it.”

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As the conversation grew heated, MKBHD tweeted back to Vassallo, saying: “We disagree on what my job is.”

When reached for comment, Vassallo said: “A lot of people thought I was defending Humane or its product. I wasn't. My observation was about how influential MKBHD is and how that power deserves more rigor than the incendiary YouTube headline: 'Worst Product I've Ever Made' “By reviewing it at all.” The power to crush a company should not be taken lightly, and that title is what most people will see. The actual review was fair and balanced.

YouTube sticker

An $800 million underdog

Critics of the MKBHD video act as if Humane AI is the underdog in this field. But this isn't an early-stage green startup trying to build new hardware. This is a company that raised a Series C round and attracted investors like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and several major venture capital firms before consumers even got their hands on the product.

“Call me cynical, but I'm wary of startups that have huge funds of capital but no commercial product to speak of,” TechCrunch reporter Kyle Wagers wrote after last year's Series C raise.

When asked for comment, MKBHD directed TechCrunch to its new site YouTube response To the situation.

“All any honest review actually does is merely accelerate what was already happening,” he says in his article. video.

Less than a day after it was posted, the following video had more than 2 million views.

This is not an isolated incident to MKBHD. The YouTuber was also accused of inciting the downfall of electric vehicle startup Fisker after he negatively reviewed the Fisker Ocean in a similarly titled video last month: “This is the worst car I have ever reviewed“.

After Brownlee published his review, Fisker laid off 15% of its employees and halted production. But Fisker was already in free fall before Brownlee said the Fisker Ocean was the worst car he had ever reviewed. In fact, at the time, it revealed in a regulatory filing spied by TechCrunch that it only had $121 million left in the bank.

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Furthermore, in the month before the MKBHD review, federal safety regulators began investigating the Fisker Ocean over complaints about its brakes not working well. TechCrunch has separately learned that Ocean drivers had been complaining to Fisker about poor brake performance, faulty switches, and sudden power outages for months. One customer wrote to Fisker that they feared for their lives when their car suddenly lost power while driving on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles.

So, did Fisker fail because it produced a seriously bad product, or because a popular YouTuber said the car was bad?

Fortunately, the Humane AI sub-pin won't put anyone in mortal danger. But these parallel incidents show the same misplaced anger toward Brownlee for his honest criticism of disturbing products.

An uncomfortable but familiar criticism

Some black technologists viewed MKBHD's critique through a different lens.

The Humane AI pin has been widely criticized across the Technology Review Board, but the only person who received significant, long-lasting criticism for its review was MKBHD, a Black man.

There were also some familiar tropes in the way it was criticized: constant bashing at how it presented the tradition of review Police tonea technique commonly used to dismiss what black people in particular say, just because the person doesn't like the way it was said.

“If Brownlee were anything other than Black, this would be an honest review highlighting the AI ​​bubble,” a Black co-founder told TechCrunch. “Instead, he is 'cruel', and 'it's not fair that he can bankrupt such a well-financed company.' He should be more graceful in his criticism. In a world full of deception and fraud, Márquez must do exactly what he believes is That's right, too.”

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The tone of the review title also depends on how you see it – MKBHD has included the word “for now” in the title, allowing for the possibility of Humane AI eventually improving what every reviewer now agrees is a flawed product.

It is also noteworthy that the tech community has reserved particular criticism for the black man who exerts power through his reviews, and not for the other white males in tech podcasts, voices, and online reviewers who are always sharing their voices and being praised for their observations and critiques of products. . It was as if some expected MKBHD to be held to a higher standard in a way not typically voiced against prominent white tech influencers.

“Tech has issues with anti-Black bias, and Tech has issues with the media being critical, not encouraging, so of course, Tech has issues with Black tech media being critical of fandom topics like AI and IoT,” the Black investor told TechCrunch. “That doesn't make his review any less valid or the crying any less sensitive, but it makes me wonder how anyone could watch this match without noticing all the dog whistles.”

But it's noteworthy in itself — both for Brownlee and for the creator economy in general — that YouTubers can have such a big impact.

In an interview with Colin and Samir, Brownlee reflects on an earlier era of media when technology reviewers for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were among the only voices people turned to for opinions on new technology. But now, anyone on the Internet can have an opinion, regardless of their institutional affiliation.

“When my video shows up on YouTube about a product, there are often hundreds of others showing up on the same product at around the same time,” he said. “There are a lot of voices now.”