Weekly Links & Thoughts #142

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

  • How to Build a Self-Conscious Machine (wired.com, 3+)
    A very long but absolutely fantastic feature explaining why there is no point in building machines with human-like consciousness (hint: Because human consciousness is mostly about making up stories about what we are doing, relating those stories to others – and being often wrong). I find the following argument proposed by the author to be worth pondering: “The best thing to come from AI research isn’t an understanding of computers, but rather an understanding of ourselves.”
  • The Human API (medium.com, 2)
    Mikko Alasaarela offers an unconventional, intriguing approach to describe technology’s impact on and influence over us, leading to the inevitable question about who controls whom: Do we control our technology, or does our technology control us? Or both, if that’s possible?
  • Chihuahua or muffin? My search for the best computer vision API (medium.freecodecamp.org, 2)
    A piece that is both informative and fun to read through. Among the big players, Microsoft’s image recognition technology appears to be the least sophisticated.
  • Now There’s an IQ Test for Siri and Friends (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Another test of artificial intelligence. Google Assistant is doing quite well, Siri (unsurprisingly) not so much. Apple really needs to get its act together if it wants to compete.
  • Stereotypes, STEM, and a sense of belonging (bold.expert, 2)
    Excellent overview of how adjustments to early education based on latest scientific and psychological insights can redefine what boys and girls think of the field of “Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” (STEM).
  • Deconstructing Amazon Prime: Loss Leader or Value Creator? (aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com, 2)
    If the average subscriber of Amazon Prime, who pays up to $99/year (depending on the market) for free shipping and added services, thinks that he/she is getting far more value out of Prime than what he/she pays, what does this say about the economics of the service? Aswath Damodaran takes a closer look.
  • The Rebundling of Craigslist (acrowdedspace.com, 1)
    First the U.S. classifieds behemoth was attacked by dozens of startups focused on unbundling its core offerings. Many years later, most of the startups are dead, and those that survived and thrive are starting to “rebundle” again by become horizontal players.
  • A Decade Watching the Craziest Game (collaborativefund.com, 1)
    Brief and intelligent list of a venture capitalist’s learnings on investing, digital and beyond.
  • What is the ‘why now’ of your startup? (jonathannen.com, 2)
    Which factors came together to make Uber’s approach to on-demand mobility successful? What can entrepreneurs learn from this? Here are some answers.
  • The scale of tech winners (ben-evans.com, 2)
    You think the “GAFAs” (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are big? Indeed they are. They have fundamentally changed what it means to be a leading tech company.
  • African cities could lead smart city innovation (itweb.co.za, 2)
    Another clear case in which technological leapfrogging could happen, as building urban infrastructure from scratch (where hardly any was before) has advantages over having to upgrade existing, but aging infrastructure.
  • Catalunya and beyond: what’s after the nation-state? (opendemocracy.net, 2)
    The Catalan crisis confirms that the traditional European nation state is no longer an adequate political form for our time, write Daphne Büllesbach and Lorenzo Marsili.
  • The rise and fall and rise again of 23andMe (nature.com, 2)
    DNA analysis is here to stay. Although I am sure somewhere on the internet an editor would be eager to find a reason to extend this headline template by another “fall again”.
  • A letter to everyone who is still struggling to understand cryptocurrencies (blog.chain.com, 3)
    Such a brilliant, clear-headed essay shedding light on what crypto currencies really represent, what they are and aren’t good for, and on how one should understand the current crypto mania. If you just want the brief bullet-point summary, scroll to the end of the article.
  • Crypto-network effects are driving Thin Protocols (medium.com, 2)
    One structural problem with today’s “mainstream” blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum: Developers are not rewarded enough for protocol improvements, but instead are rewarded for creating new blockchain protocols. That’s one reason why there are hundreds, if not thousands of “Altcoins“.
  • “Oh My God, What Have I Done”: Some Early Facebook Employees Regret the Monster They Created (vanityfair.com, 2)
    A case of “unintended consequences“.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Facebook bought tbh – but not the similar app with the same name that launched in 2013
    Facebook has announced the acquisition of an app called tbh, launched only a few weeks ago in the U.S. One person who might be frustrated now: The founder of an identically named app with a very similar approach that went online in 2013 but didn’t go anywhere. If my (brief and shallow) research is correct, he actually even gave the @tbh Twitter account away – which Facebook might want to buy one day, in case tbh flourishes.
  • The Silicon Valley’s four crises
    The famous mantras “Move fast and break things” and “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission” aren’t sexy anymore. Nowadays they stand as symbols for the Silicon Valley’s multiple crises.
  • Benevolent digital dictators, without control
    What is Mark Zuckerberg? What is Jack Dorsey? Are they just CEOs like any other CEO? Not really if one acknowledges that Facebook and Twitter are not just companies like any other company. Here is my proposal for describing what they are.

Podcast episodes of the week:

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Facebook bought tbh – but not the similar app with the same name that launched in 2013

Facebook has acquired a smartphone app named tbh (which stands for “To be honest“). It allows its currently 2.5 million users in the U.S., to give compliments to each other. According to TechCrunch, the app was launched in August by a Canadian startup called Midnight Labs, which according to its founder had built about 15 products since 2010. None of them really flourished. Until now.

The name “tbh” sounded familiar to me in an app context. I researched my old blog posts. Indeed, back in 2013, I had written an article (in German) mentioning an UK-based app called TBH. This service went nowhere. The app and website are not available anymore and any mentioning of it on the web dates back to 2013. The TBH website’s only available 2013 record on archive.org doesn’t produce a proper site anymore. But if you read the press release from TBH 2013, both apps’ philosophies sound very similar: Continue Reading

The Silicon Valley’s four crises

Here you can read this article in German.

The famous mantras “Move fast and break things” and “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission” aren’t sexy anymore. Nowadays they stand as symbols for the Silicon Valley’s multiple crises.

The Silicon Valley is going through its biggest crisis since the Dotcom crash. In fact, it’s engulfed in four different crises at once.

Loss of domestic political support

Some of the Silicon Valley’s biggest firms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are being used for systematic political manipulation. There is no doubt about that anymore. Only the extend remains unclear. Investigations are ongoing. Meanwhile, tech firms are facing harsh criticism for being both too generous with censorship and restrictions of speech, or too negligent with doing so. Additionally, more people are asking themselves to which extend the tech industry contributes to the increasing wealth inequality in the region. There perhaps is no other place in an economically developed country in which so many millionaires walk or drive by so many homeless people every day, than San Francisco. The consequence of all this: Both the political right as well as the political left are becoming skeptical of the Valley’s biggest players. Without political support or at least leeway, disruption will be a lot harder.

Polarizing cultural transformation

Since its emergence, the Silicon Valley’s technology industry has been dominated by males and has shown a lack of ethnic diversity. Criticism of this structural homogeneity and calls for change have become pretty loud lately. The stereotypical-male mono culture is being confronted with a new reality, in which sexual harassment, unequal treatment and decisions based on homogeneous life experiences and world views are being called out instead of swept under the carpet. This is necessary and important. As these debates easily become heated, emotional and ideological, and as a rapid cultural transformation seldom happens without severe internal tension (Google Memo anyone), the Valley’s focus is now on itself. Instead of disrupting markets, the Silicon Valley is forced to disrupt itself.

Global regulation

The European Union has been trying to limit the tech firm’s tax avoidance practices for a long time. Now the pressure is increasing. Signs of election meddling, monopolist tendencies and systematic rule breaking involving companies such as Google, Facebook and Uber, offer additional motives for regulators in Europe and elsewhere to tighten the screws on the Californian giants (as well as on their competitors from up North the Pacific coast, such as Amazon and Microsoft). The famous Valley mantras “Move fast and break things” and “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission” have lost their positive-rebellious tone. They now rather represent the arrogance and ignorance of the Silicon Valley ideology.

Anti-technology backlash

Every euphoria is succeeded by a period of disillusionment and disappointment. The technology sector has just entered such a period. Critical reports about the negative impact of gadget’s and digital networks’ ubiquity in daily lives aren’t longer being produced by and celebrated among technophobes, but rather by former internet evangelists and early adopters who have been trying out any new device, app and service imaginable, but who are now starting to discover the costs of the digital revolution for their own well-being and for humanity at large. This process is probably a healthy and normal one. First the pendulum swings to one side, then to the opposite one. Eventually, it reaches an equilibrium position. But the fading enthusiasm for a never-ending flood of digital consumer innovation will, at least in the short term, hurt Silicon Valley, as the Valley juggernauts have perfected the creation of this very digital consumer innovation and turned it into a vast and possibly historically unique source of profit.

It’s unclear where this all ends, but it’s clear that the Silicon Valley’s culture and companies are about to change dramatically.

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Benevolent digital dictators, without control

What is Facebook? That strange but relevant question was recently at the center of a long piece by Select All. Clearly, to describe Facebook and other highly influential tech firms simply as profit-driven companies like any other enterprise falls absurdly short, as it doesn’t allow us to grasp what they do and what they represent. It is like labeling every person as a “human”, and then ignoring what she/he does with their life. Obviously, it matters to our understanding of that person whether we are talking to a car mechanic, artist or president of a state.

The title of the article posed the question if Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows what Facebook is. Most likely he doesn’t. Facebook’s conflation with essentially every of our civilization’s and daily life’s major systems, has turned Facebook into a thing which doesn’t represent anything that humanity has seen before, and that lacks a proper descriptive name.

Bill Fitzgerald describes the status quo like this:

“For all the talk of disruptive innovation, how tech entrepreneurs are the smartest people in the room, etc, etc, we are now in a situation where billions of dollars have been spent creating platforms that the creators neither control nor understand.”

So we don’t know what Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies are. Neither do their leaders. Nor do they have control. Sounds awkward and uncomfortable.

This also leads to another question: Who/What is Mark Zuckerberg, who/what is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey? If Facebook and Twitter aren’t just companies like [enter any major brand or manufacturer of consumer goods or traditional media company], then these guys aren’t just CEOs. They are something else.

Here is my proposal: They are a type of dictator. A digital equivalent, not ruling over geographical nations but over something akin to a digital nation. For now, these dictators are not intentionally evil. They are, or at least want to be, benevolent. And last but not least, as we just learned, they are kind of clueless and have lost control.

Digital, benevolent, clueless dictators without control over what’s happening with their platforms. But with the (accidental and undemocratic) power to change the whole world. That’s something to chew on.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #141

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out to more than 500 people (October 2017) each Thursday(ish) before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 minutes or more

  • The basic laws of human stupidity (zoon.cc, 3)
    This essay from 1987 was my most favorite text this week. At least. While reading I could literally feel how some of my existing mental models were adjusting to take the hypotheses and insights presented here into account.
  • The Rise of Emotionally Intelligent AI (medium.com, 2)
    Machines and algorithms do not actually have to “feel” emotions the way humans do in order to read and manipulate the emotions of humans.
  • Could the Google Clips camera be used to spy on you? Google says no. (venturebeat.com, 2)
    Google is doubling down on hardware, but the company still has one major problem: So far its business model has been so deeply depended on commercial “surveillance” that it’s more than legitimate to wonder how much the privacy of owners of upcoming Google gadgets will be protected. And when in doubt, in this case the safe assumption might simply be: Not too much.
  • How Europe’s Last Dictatorship Became a Tech Hub (nytimes.com, 2)
    The question whether Belarus in fact is Europe’s last dictatorship aside, this is an informative read on the capital Minsk’s thriving tech scene. I spent a few days in Minsk in 2014 and did find it a pretty interesting experience.
  • What I Learned From Reading Every Amazon Shareholders Letter (medium.com, 2)
    Li Jiang read all of Jeff Bezos’ “Letter to Shareholders” dating back to 1997.
  • Spotify’s Discover Weekly: How machine learning finds your new music (hackernoon.com, 2)
    About the technology behind Spotify’s possibly best feature.
  • Can crows be trained to collect cigarette butts? (newatlas.com, 2)
    What a fascinating idea that the Dutch startup Crowded Cities is working on.
  • ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia (theguardian.com, 3)
    This long-read was shared widely over the past days. The general sentiment about where the digital revolution leads humanity is clearly changing right now, even within the industry itself.
  • 6 ways social media has become a direct threat to democracy (washingtonpost.com, 2)
    eBay Founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar isn’t happy with the consequences that widespread social media use has on society and democracy. He doesn’t need to convince me (see my post from January titled “The year when social media died“). Maybe it is good news then that teens are “rebelling” against social media.
  • Regulate Facebook Like AIM (motherboard.vice.com, 1)
    In 2001, AOL was forced via regulation to make its instant messenger AIM compatible with other chat apps (if it wanted to add new features). This prevented the company from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM. The other suggests a similar regulatory approach for Facebook.
  • Refind offers 1 billion coins for free to drive growth (startupticker.ch, 2)
    The Swiss startup Refind wants to create a Blockchain-based token to give to users in exchange for activities that contribute to a growing network of people using the service. Later, in case the company manages to generate profits, it plans to buy those tokens back. Whether the approach will lead to the desired outcome or not, it’s innovative and shows the right experimental mindset.
  • Yuval Noah Harari’s new book to cover global warming, God and nationalism (theguardian.com, 2)
    Yuval Noah Harari (“Sapiens”, “Homo Deus”) is possibly the most highly regarded book author right now who writes about the events and developments at the intersection of humanity and technology. His next book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, is due to be published in August next year.
  • The Real Value of Money (markmanson.net, 2)
    A great brief essay. My favorite part: “True wealth occurs when the way we spend our money is not simply compensating for how we earn it. Wealth occurs when the way we earn money and the way we spend money are aligned with one another — when our money is earned through a positive experience and spent on other positive experiences.
  • What’s the point of meditation? This. (medium.com, 2)
    I try to give an answer to a question I have heard several times from people who don’t understand what meditation is good for.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Facebook needs you to consume Stories, not news
    Speculating a bit that Facebook wouldn’t be unhappy if it finds a way to kill the newsfeed without losing profits, considering how much headache the feed and its utilization by dubious actors is causing the company at the moment.

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Facebook needs you to consume Stories, not news

Soon, Instagram will let users post Stories directly to their Facebook profile. This is huge. The launch of Stories has been a big success for Instagram. But Facebook’s own implementation of the functionality hasn’t seen widespread user adoption at all. With the latest move, Facebook makes clear that it is willing to do anything to make Facebook users consume Stories – even if the Stories “originally” have been uploaded to (Facebook-owned) Instagram.

By generating more Stories content on Facebook, the social network certainly hopes to create an additional opportunity to show ads. There is a natural limit on how many ads the company can show in the news feed before users get fed up. But, to speculate a bit, this is not the only reason for the introduction of a cross-posting feature from Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories: It might be simply that the Facebook management wants to get rid of the news feed altogether.

The news feed is the cause of many of Facebook’s current concerns and public conflicts in regards to fake news, (foreign) election meddling and the erosion of democracy and its institutions. Without the news feed, these issues would presumably become much less impactful. Even Stories can be utilized for malicious purposes, but Stories are created and consumed differently than the news feed, with a much bigger focus on people’s personal experiences, not world news. Re-purposing external content for viral distribution via Stories is, at least for the moment, harder, as is viral sharing. That could change in the future. But as a functionality in an early stage of its life cycle and with few to no expectations from Facebook users about their interaction with Stories, Facebook has the opportunity to leverage its learnings from the past to shape (and limit) Stories in a way so they’ll be less susceptible to systematic democracy hacking.

The news feed has become to Facebook what the Diesel now is for German car manufacturers: A big headache. The only reason why Facebook has to stick to it is because as long as the news feed is the heart of the Facebook experience, this is where people see ads, and so this is where Facebook needs people to spend as much time as possible. But there is no reason to believe that Facebook sees the existence of the news feed as essential to its future. In fact, in 2017 the news feed has become a weakness of Facebook, if not actually a threat to it. Aggressively pushing people to Stories is the best way for the company to put itself into a position where it can let go of the feed and all the issues associated with it.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #140

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out to more than 500 people (October 2017) each Thursday(ish) before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 minutes or more

  • Why Does Sweden Have So Many Start-Ups? (theatlantic.com, 2)
    Comprehensive and pretty accurate analysis. As is often the case with phenomenon of particular success, they are caused by combination of multiple factors.
  • Inside the World of the ‘Bitcoin Carnivores’ (motherboard.vice.com, 2)
    How does the principle “Use only Bitcoin, eat only meat” sound to you?
  • Voice is the next big thing (medium.com, 2)
    I’d also put my money on voice right now, which I expect to beat visual AR/VR in regards to the time until mainstream adoption.
  • First Evidence That Night Owls Have Bigger Social Networks than Early Risers (technologyreview.com, 2)
    According to new research, if you stay up late, your social network is likely to be bigger than those of morning people.
  • The secret online world of British teens: how streaks, deep likes and ghosting define young lives (wired.co.uk, 3)
    This is yet another piece trying to shed a light on teenage online behavior. Even if this format has become quite generic, I found the text to be quite insightful.
  • China’s Weibo Hires 1000 ‘Supervisors’ to Censor Content (thediplomat.com, 1)
  • Facebook Pledges to Hire 1,000 More Ad Reviewers Amid Russian Political Scandal (variety.com, 2)
    It seems as if the field of online moderation, monitoring, censorship and denunciation (the transition is fluid) will see an explosive growth of jobs in the time to come, as AI clearly isn’t up to the task for now.
  • How Apple is managing the iPhone buying dilemma (macworld.com, 2)
    Some speculation on how Apple’s added complexity to the iPhone product line (with the new iPhone 8 on sale but the even more sophisticated iPhone X not yet) will impact consumer behavior.
  • Books and Blogs (stratechery.com, 2)
    Blogs might be dead for some, but Ben Thompson has found a way to monetize blogging in a way which makes it financially superior over book deals.
  • Why testing self-driving cars in SF is challenging but necessary (medium.com, 2)
    Which strategy is better? To focus tests with self-driving cars on dense, tricky urban environments which might take longer but will then allow for a quicker, broader roll-out, or to focus on less challenging suburbs? The General Motors-owned startup Cruise chose the first option, letting cars drive around in San Francisco.
  • San Francisco: now with more dystopia (mhudack.com, 1)
    In more way than one, San Francisco could be the future everywhere. Or maybe suburban “company towns” are. Or both.
  • Highly ideological members of Congress have more Facebook followers than moderates do (pewresearch.org, 2)
    As Twitter and Medium co-founder Evan Williams stated recently: The big internet platforms reward extremes…
  • How Silicon Valley turned off both the left and right (mercurynews.com, 2)
    … but that does not change the fact that highly ideological people on both sides of the political spectrum are growing skeptical of Silicon Valley.
  • Stop Teaching Students WHAT to Think. Teach Them HOW to Think. (scottsantens.com, 2)
    “Human-automaton creation must end. To succeed in a world of automation will require being as unmachinelike as possible.”
  • The US Government is Forcing Coursera to Ban Iranian Users Again (techrasa.com, 2)
    Absurd. Because of U.S. export control regulations, the well-known U.S.-based online education and MOOC platform Coursera is forced to block users from Iran from using its services. So when you happen to live Iran (or in a few other places), U.S. regulations prevent you from accessing the knowledge the rest of the world can make use of.
  • Poor coding limits IS hackers’ cyber-capabilities, says researcher (bbc.com, 2)
    The global talent market is tough. Being rewarded with the promise of a future paradise doesn’t fare well against the big salaries that today’s tech companies pay qualified software engineers.
  • The state of data journalism in 2017 (blog.google, 2)
    42% of reporters use data to tell stories regularly. 51% of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe now have a dedicated data journalist.
  • Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation (cosmosmagazine.com, 2)
    Well, I guess that settles it. Except of course if the simulation has been designed in a way to ensure that its protagonist won’t find out that they are living in a simulation.
  • Women in crypto (medium.com, 1)
    Women are extremely underrepresented in the emerging field of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. This is unfortunate, and to some extend I do not understand it, as anyone can start reading up on the topic online, do some small experimental trades with BTC, ETH, start publishing a blog etc. However, for those women who are or want to become active in this segment as entrepreneurs, speakers or experts, the over-representation of men brings additional challenges (which, of course, are in large parts the typical challenges of women in tech in general). Linda Xie offers a good list of small actions everyone in this field can do to break down those additional barriers. She also has compiled a useful list of women who work in the crypto space or write about it.
  • Different Worlds (slatestarcodex.com, 3)
    Some interesting psychological reflections to wrap up this week’s edition: The practicing psychiatrist Scott Alexander explores the phenomenon that certain people repeatedly and reliably seem to bring out certain characteristics in other people. “Some people have personalities or styles of social interaction that unconsciously compel a certain response from their listeners.” I find this to be a highly fascinating point to ponder, as it could explain a whole lot about our sometimes remarkably differing social experiences.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #139

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #138

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 minutes or more

  • Want to Really Understand What all the Hype of Cryptocurrency is About? (bothsidesofthetable.com, 3)
    Investor Mark Suster brilliantly analyses both the huge potential as well as the risks and flaws of cryptocurrencies. Recommended for everyone who doesn’t only want to hear about one side of the coin.
  • Are ICOs diversification of speculation? (jonathannen.com, 2)
    This was probably obvious to many, but I hadn’t thought about it before: Lots of people are sitting on a considerable Bitcoin value, and investing parts of that value into ICOs (or token sales) is their way of diversifying risk and speculation. That sounds like a reasonable explanation for where the hundreds of millions worth of dollars are coming from that are, in the shape of Bitcoin or Ether, being pumped into startups and projects raising funds through ICOs right now.
  • The Apple Watch Series 3 ripoff: how carriers want to charge for zero data use (theoverspill.blog, 2)
    Unsurprisingly, the telecommunication carriers try to use the launch of the Apple Watch with LTE to rip of customers, by charging an additional fee for this connectivity via eSim, even if customers already pay for their smartphone mobile plan. As explained in the text, this is unreasonable considering that Watch users most likely will use less data traffic, and that cellular data use is not additive; it’s substitutive.
  • Courage (marco.org, 1)
    The iPhone X will be the first iPhone without the iconic home button. Instead, it’ll have a notch at the upper end of the device. Some people have mocked the notch. Marco Arment suggests that adding it is Apple’s way to ensure that everyone will recognize the device as an iPhone X, now that the home button is gone.
  • Will AI become a basic human right? Marc Benioff thinks it should (diginomica.com, 2)
    Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff made a couple of thought-provoking statements in a session at the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The International Unicorn Club: 107 Private Companies Outside The US Valued At $1B+ (cbinsights.com, 2)
    A great visualization. Europe doesn’t look too good compared to China. That is, if having lots of Unicorns is a competitive advantage (it probably is). Also notable: “In 2013, over 70% of companies that achieved unicorn status were US-based. Each year since 2013 – 2016, that share of unicorns has gone down, and last year, less than half of the unicorns added to the club (42%) were based in the US.”
  • Whole Foods Is Becoming Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Pricing Lab (hbr.org, 2)
    That’s a smart way to look at Amazon’s acquisition of U.S. high-end grocery chain Whole Foods: It’s the ultimate large-scale “lab” for experimenting with pricing strategies in an environment which Amazon previously didn’t have access to.
  • Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain (medium.com, 2)
    One shouldn’t take the headline or message from this post literally, but personally I do think the general point has merit: One’s first activities and routines in the morning do shape one’s mindset, goals and mental energy for the rest of the day. In the same way as most reasonably intelligent people wouldn’t eat a bunch of doughnuts covered with fudge first thing after waking up, it makes a lot of sense not to start the day with the digital equivalent to those doughnuts.
  • A convenience truth (jarche.com, 1)
    “Probably one the greatest barriers to positive change is convenience” […] Probably the most convenient form of communication today is Facebook.” Related: Why do we keep using Facebook?
  • You Are the Product: It Zucks! (lrb.co.uk, 3)
    If the previous two short pieces were not enough for you, here is an extensive, critical essay on Facebook which, unlike many texts about this topic, actually is fun to read. The headline sets the tone. Some people are simply better writers than the majority.
  • In an 8-Hour Day, the Average Worker Is Productive for 3 Hours (inc.com, 2)
    This does absolutely not match most entrepreneur’s and full-time freelancer’s experience. The fact that “reading news websites” and “checking social media” are mentioned as the two most popular unproductive activities indicates how much these industries are aligned with and benefiting from today’s strange mainstream work culture.
  • Study: 85% Of Jobs That Will Exist In 2030 Haven’t Been Invented Yet (huffingtonpost.ca, 2)
    Whether you consider this good or bad news probably depends on whether you are the glass half full or half empty type.
  • Dating app Tinder can be a tool for journalists (cjr.org, 2)
    Not only that. It can also be a great tool for travelers to connect with locals, beyond hookups. As pointed out in the text, the problem is potential misunderstandings about intentions. The question remains whether something like Tinder for non-dating related purposes should exist, and whether it can exist (would enough people use it?). Or maybe Tinder could just enable a way to indicate what people are looking for: “Dating”, “Networking”, for example. However, possibly the brand is too much associated with dating.
  • We have a new word for that feeling when travel makes everything new (aeon.co, 2)
    How do you call traveler’s tendency to pay attention to little, seemingly ordinary things in new environments? Things that the locals, being so familiar with their environment, wouldn’t consciously notice? There hasn’t been a word for this state. By introducing the term “Allokataplixis”, the author tries to change this. Something a bit easier to recall might work better.
  • The A.I. “Gaydar” Study and the Real Dangers of Big Data (newyorker.com, 2)
    In the age of Big Data, computers can reveal a lot of information about individuals that are not accessible through a human’s subjective perception. This should indeed be of concern, at least in a scenario in which governments, organizations and individuals haven’t uniformly adopted liberal principles (which, considering human nature, might remain the default scenario forever). Related: Should data scientists sign an ethical code?
  • Why 500 Million People in China Are Talking to This AI (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Like a much smarter, more knowledgable and more versatile version of Siri & co.
  • Here Be Sermons (meltingasphalt.com, 3)
    If you are interested in sociology and group psychology, then you might enjoy this essay about the mechanisms of sermons and its effect on movements (both in the “analogue” world as well as in the digital realm) a lot. I did.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The Apple Watch with LTE + AirPods is the future
    While during the recent Apple keynote most attention was on the presentation of the iPhone X, the Apple Watch with LTE in combination with AirPods is more likely to become Apple’s next revolution.

Podcast episode of the week:

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The Apple Watch with LTE + AirPods is the future

Here is a German version of this article.

In June 2015 I dubbed the emergence of smart assistants for the home the “next iPhone moment” (and the first since the launch of the actual iPhone). After Apple’s recent product announcements, another breakthrough of a new digital product appears to be imminent – or to be more precise, in this case it is a combination of two products: The Apple Watch LTE together with Apple’s wireless headphones, AirPods. I find it at least 80 percent likely that these two gadgets will massively grow in sales and completely redefine the mobile ecosystem over the next couple of years. Continue Reading