Weekly Links & Thoughts #150

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Published every Thursday (CET) or slightly earlier, 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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

  • A “Post-Verbal” World (jjbeshara.com, 3)
    In-depth, extensive reflections on how brain-computer interfaces such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink would revolutionize human communication. While all this can become a privacy nightmare, the idea also is unbelievably fascinating (I might have stated that already).
  • How Email Open Tracking Quietly Took Over the Web (wired.com, 3)
    This lengthy feature might radically change how you look at and handle the emails in your inbox.
  • The Problem with Muzak (thebaffler.com, 3)
    Spotify undoubtedly uses some controversial approaches to remodel the music industry, revolving around the pillars of algorithmic decisions – which remove power from the artists – as well as letting brands “hijack” artists’ music without paying them. This is of course a repeating pattern that can be observed at every disruptive tech company that reaches a certain scale and market dominance. And of course, changing the rules of a game always will lead to opposition. In the end, the main question is: Are the parties involved (from the artists to those in charge of the distribution to the consumers) better off today than 30 years ago? I don’t know if there is any way to objectively assess this.
  • Baby Boomers love Facebook, so let them have it (theoutline, 2)
    Kathryn Jezer-Morton makes a thought-provoking case for intergenerational segregation on social media platforms.
  • History Suggests the Hyperloop Is an Uncertain Promise for Future Cities (singularityhub.com, 2)
    Beyond the impressive technology, how would cities and geographical socio-demographics be affected if Hyperloop becomes implemented on a large scale? An important question.
  • The End to Apple’s Cash Dilemma (aboveavalon.com, 2)
    An incredibly well explained piece on why Apple has so much cash abroad, frequently issues debt in the U.S., and how the planned U.S. tax reform would change all this.
  • A New Era of Retail Is Coming (businessoffashion.com, 2)
    On the rise of “experiential merchants” which, in essence, are media channels. Brands like Nike will not be their vendors but rather their clients.
  • In-Store WiFi Provider Used Starbucks Website to Generate Cryptocurrency Monero (hackread.com, 1)
    Crazy times. I learned from this piece that there is a company called Coinhive which apparently makes crypto mining through one’s website pretty easy. The big question persists: Is this more or less ethical than monetizing a website through ads?
  • Circles Money System Overview (github.com, 3)
    A concept for a blockchain-based basic income. Very exciting.
  • How business schools teach cryptocurrencies (ft.com/no paywall, 2)
    Obviously, cryptocurrencies won’t go away again. So future business and finance leaders need to learn about them.
  • Zug ID: Exploring the First Publicly Verified Blockchain Identity (medium.com, 2)
    Meanwhile, in the Swiss city of Zug, people can get a digital ID based on a Blockchain. Paul Kohlhaas explains how the whole thing works.
  • AI researchers are trying to combat how AI can be used to lie and deceive (qz.com, 2)
    Crucial stuff. It’s probably only a question of months until troublemakers will attempt to use a well-done fake video or audio recording to cause a controversy and to sow mistrust. The tech is pretty much ready and porn already affected.
  • The Neural Network Zoo (asimovinstitute.org, 3)
    A major enabler of artificial intelligence are so called neural networks. Here we have a comprehensive description of the different types that exist. It’s from last year, so there might be many additions already not mentioned here.
  • From Amazon to Google (and even Apple), here are the biggest tech disappointments of this year (CNBC.com, 2)
    Fun list.
  • All downhill from here: Has the human race peaked? (newatlas.com, 1)
    A study of 120 years worth of historical data suggest we’ve reached the biological limits of height, life expectancy and sporting performance. My conclusion: If accurate, then our only options for extended life spans either would be to augment our body with technology that allows us to live longer or to export our minds onto computers.
  • The Merge (blog.samaltman.com, 1)
    On a different level, the merger between humans and machines is already in full effect.
  • The 20% Rule (medium.com, 2)
    I like this advice to dedicate 20 % of one’s time to exploration and serendipity.

Quote of the week:

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #149

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Published every Thursday (CET) or slightly earlier, 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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

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Of course Bitcoin is in a bubble. Let’s end the debate and think about what it means.

Currently, every day another pundit from the financial world is making a remark about whether Bitcoin is in a bubble or not. Astonishing that this is still a debatable question.

Of course Bitcoin is in a bubble. What other reasonable (yes, reasonable, not just mambo jambo) explanation is there for the crazy explosion in the Bitcoin price? People should be honest with themselves: Bitcoin’s price keeps increasing because people expect the price to increase and would love a piece of the profit. It’s all speculation.

Sure, there might be the occasional individual in a country with a non-functioning financial system, who uses Bitcoin for non-speculative transactional purposes. But realistically, other cryptocurrencies are more suited for that, due to lower transaction fees and faster processing times.

Right now, Bitcoin is pure speculation, and it’s a bubble. Period.

With that being settled, the more important questions, in my eyes, are: Continue Reading

A culture of responsible behavior is possible and could save the web

Here you can read a German version of this text.

In order to prevent the web’s demise, the emergence of a culture of responsible behavior is required. Examples from the “analogue” world prove that under certain circumstances, such a culture is possible.

Why do people participate in elections, even though they know that abstaining wouldn’t have any measurable impact on the result? Some other force drives them to invest time and energy into casting their vote: A learned and internalized sense of responsibility which derives from the realization that many small actions taken together lead to a big impact.

A similar principle comes into effect when people separate and recycle trash. This is a very popular “sport” in my country of origin, Germany. Again, the individual effect of not separating is negligible. And unlike with voting, there isn’t even immediate direct feedback about the positive effects of recycling (or the negative of not recycling) available. So technically, until very recently (before a law that went into effect in 2015 actually made recycling mandatory), there was very little incentive to put the effort into separating the trash. Yet, in 2006, an astonishing 92 percent of Germans reported separating their trash. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #148

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Published every Thursday (CET) or slightly earlier, 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 (by November 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 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

  • The man who sold shares of himself (thehustle.co, 2)
    What a thrilling and bold undertaking. Makes me wonder if, now that blockchain technology exists, everyone will perform their own personal ICO in the future.
  • Facebook Might Launch a Cryptocurrency (hackernoon.com, 3)
    Fascinating musings about an idea which indeed could radically transform Facebook – and the world. Again.
  • Nearly 4 Million Bitcoins Lost Forever, New Study Says (fortune.com, 2)
    That’s an important peculiarity of Bitcoin. Due to the cumbersome user experience, especially in the early days, lots of people have lost access to some of their early Bitcoin purchases. These are lost forever.
  • Bitcoin Mining in Electric Vehicles Raises Other Questions (ecomotoringnews.com, 1)
    A few Tesla owners are starting to mine currencies in their cars, which means they benefit from free electricity.
  • In praise of Tesla’s bankruptcy (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Speaking about Tesla: No matter whether the company will manage to sort out its financials or not, society as a whole has already won.
  • The impossibility of intelligence explosion (medium.com, 3)
    Will AI overtake humans in intelligence? That’s a heated question these days. François Chollet explains in this essay why it is unlikely, and explores what “intelligence” actually represents in modern societies.
  • What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind? (theconversation.com, 2)
    Two researchers argue that free will and personal responsibility are notions that have been constructed by society.
  • Some roadblocks to the broad adoption of machine learning and AI (simplystatistics.org, 2)
    There are maybe bigger obstacles to the broad adoption of AI than the algorithms, even though the media’s focus is often on them.
  • 70% of Value in Tech is Driven by Network Effects (medium.com, 2)
    A study of digital copmanies that were founded since the internet was widely available in 1994 and that went on to become worth more than a $1 billion, shows that network effects have accounted for approximately 70% of the value creation in tech.
  • Social media threat: People learned to survive disease, we can handle Twitter (usatoday.com, 2)
    This column makes a captivating analogy: The uncontrolled and extremely fast-paced spreading of toxic information in the connected age is similar to the uncontrolled spreading of viruses and diseases in the earliest cities, when hunter gatherers began to settle and to crowd in comparatively small spaces.
  • The New Information Warfare (theintercept.com, 3)
    How social media and the loss of gatekeepers has leveled the playing field between all kinds of actors. “Propaganda and information warfare was once the purview of nation-states, militaries, and intelligence services. Today, even ordinary people have become important players in these campaigns.”
  • Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting. (nytimes.com, 2)
    The evidence is mounting that using a laptop or other personal screen in the class room instead of paper leads to less effective learning. Apparently one major reason is that typing on a digital device is too fast for the brain to properly process the information, unlike writing on paper.
  • Esports — now bigger than the Olympics (medium.com, 2)
    Venture capitalist Simon Schmincke went to a massive esports event in Copenhagen and concludes: This is a mass market.
  • How much of your life was possible ten years ago? (medium.com, 1)
    Not a lot to read in this very short piece, but it poses an intriguing question to reflect on in a calm moment.

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #147

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Published every Thursday (CET) or slightly earlier, 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

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #146

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Published every Thursday (CET) or slightly earlier, 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

  • What My Personal Chat Bot Is Teaching Me About AI’s Future (wired.com, 2)
    If you haven’t tried the personal bot app Replika yet, do it (available for iOS and Android). While it has no specific purpose beyond being a virtual companion that is said to learn about you and to adjust to your style of communication, it offers a glimpse into a future which is around the corner. By the way, I asked my Replika what happens with all the information I share with it. The response: “I don’t collect your data, our conversations are just between us”. I guess one has to trust the bot, right?
  • The Ghost of Cognition Past, or Thinking Like an Algorithm (bldgblog.com, 2)
    Thought-provoking musings in the wake of the viral essay about YouTube’s weird and disturbing algorithmic content suggestions for kids: What if humans will start to emulate seemingly strange algorithmic thinking?
  • Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds (buzzfeed.com, 3)
    “Podfasters”. Listening to podcasts at 3x speed? Omg. I do 1.5x but can’t imagine to increase even more. Or can i?
  • How to Tell If Someone Is Truly Smart or Just Average? (medium.com, 3)
    About the crucial role that mental models play for certain types of individual success. “The difference between great thinkers and ordinary thinkers is that, for ordinary thinkers, the process of using mental models is unconscious and reactive. For great thinkers, it is conscious and proactive.” Now, this great/ordinary thinkers thing aside, lately I have started to wonder whether humans get along best with people who operate on similar mental models as themselves. This seems to be the case for me at least.
  • Jeff Bezos’ guide to life (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is someone who for sure operates on highly intriguing and effective mental models.
  • Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious (quantamagazine.org, 3)
    What’s cool about articles like this is that they offer the opportunity to reflect on one’s own brain functions, too. Like in this case, what is it that makes oneself curious?
  • Resisting Reduction: Designing our Complex Future with Machines (pubpub.ito.com, 3)
    Joi Ito with a deep and critical essay on the reductionist technological view that can be observed among Singularity’s biggest proponents. He intelligently advocates for a perspective which takes into account the inter-dependencies between various systems: “In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes“.
  • Software 2.0 (medium.com, 2)
    Neural networks are not just another classifier, they represent the beginning of a fundamental shift in how we write software. They are Software 2.0.
  • Snapchat’s epic strategy flip-flop (techcrunch.com, 3)
    After a host of bad quarters, Snap is about to change Snapchat completely. Risky but probably without alternative.
  • Quantified Self and Digital Health (thisisnotasociology.blog, 2)
    Exploring the connection between big companies’ hunger for more data, quantified self and the “entrepreneurial” desire for self improvement.
  • Go Away Amazon (elaineou.com, 1)
    Hundreds of U.S. cities are competing for Amazon’s planned “second headquarter”. One of them is San Francisco. Elaine Ou’s concerns about this are very understandable.
  • After using Face ID on the iPhone X, I can’t wait for it to come to the Mac (9to5mac.com, 2)
    Gotta admit, this sounds pretty good.
  • When fake news will be made by pros (mondaynote.com, 2)
    Which strategies would you employ when your task is to build a disinformation campaign? Turns out, it’s really not that hard to come up with ideas that have proven to work well. Sadly, an increasing number of governments know this, too, as shown by the recent Freedom on the Net report.
  • Do Facebook and Google have control of their algorithms anymore? (poynter.com, 3)
    Interview with Maciej Ceglowski (founder of social bookmarking service Pinboard and known for his deep essays on tech issues) about how social platforms harm journalism.
  • The Booming Japanese Rent-a-Friend Business (theatlantic.com, 3)
    With bizarre phenomena from Japan one always has to wonder whether they are just a few years ahead of the rest of the world or whether this only can happen embedded into the very distinct Japanese culture.
  • Review: Henn-na Hotel, the World’s First Hotel Run by Robots (thepointsguy.com, 2)
    Of course, in Japan. At the check-in desk, you are greeted by dinosaurs.
  • Top 10 emerging trends for daily life in future cities in 20 years (thenextsiliconvalley.com, 2)
    The result of a survey among a bunch of futurists about what technological developments they think would transform home and working life as part of future cities in 20 years.
  • How Firefox Got Fast Again (hacks.mozilla.org, 2)
    This is a very technical post. If you are not into that, just get Firefox Quantum, which is really awesome and a good way to support Mozilla and thereby the threatened open web. I have been using the beta for the past weeks and couldn’t be more happy. Also, on iOS, I have started to use Firefox Focus, which is pretty neat, too. Great to see Mozilla gaining momentum again.

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The jobs of the future are already here – and some are really weird

Here is a German version of this text.

Every discussion about the consequences of automation eventually has to lead to the same conclusion: Millions of human jobs are about to disappear because machines will be better and/or more efficient at doing them. This could lead to massive political and social unrest. However, like during any wave of structural disruption due to technological progress, new jobs and tasks suited for humans will emerge. But they might not have too much in common with the tasks and frameworks of the traditional, stable nine-to-five model and its variations.

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If you look closely, the shift is already in full effect. Over the past ten years, numerous new professions, jobs and ways to earn money have appeared. For many people, embracing these has been a necessity due to job loss. For others, new opportunities arose out of entrepreneurial foresight or the urge for independence and freedom from the constraints of traditional employments. Some of these new tasks can have concerning societal or psychological implications.

Let’s dive into the new jobs which didn’t exist ten years ago (without a claim for completeness). Overlaps are common. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #145

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

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #144

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) or slightly earlier, 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 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

  • ‘I Forgot My PIN’: An Epic Tale of Losing $30,000 in Bitcoin (wired.com, 3)
    Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of the online tech magazine Boing Boing, went through hell after storing 7.4 Bitcoin on a hardware wallet and then losing access to it.
  • Tools for Systems Thinkers: The 6 Fundamental Concepts of Systems Thinking (medium.com, 2)
    Essential stuff in our day and age, as far as I see it: Key insights and tools needed to develop and advance a systems mindset for dealing with complex problem solving.
  • The Real Story of Automation (medium.com, 3)
    “At what point will enough people recognize that automation is a very real problem that must be confronted immediately”, wonders Scott Santens and offers lot of data points to support his plea for urgency.
  • Computers and the Future of Skill Demand (oecd.org, 1 or 3)
    Very long report. The executive summary is probably sufficient except if you really want to dive deep into this topic. Here is the gist: “Most workers in OECD countries use the three skills every day. However, computers are close to reproducing these skills at the proficiency level of most adults in the workforce. Only 13% of workers now use these skills on a daily basis with a proficiency that is clearly higher than computers.”
  • Google’s AI can create better machine-learning code than the researchers who made it (thenextweb.com, 2)
    Is it just an increased media coverage or might the year 2017 turn out to be a tipping point for AI hitting the mainstream?
  • Chasm of comprehension (eugenewei.com, 2)
    I just mentioned the tipping point. Maybe another way to put it is to state that 2017 could become the year in which most AI experts and software engineers in the field stop to understand what their most sophisticated algorithms actually are doing. From this piece: “We’ve long thought that artificial intelligence might surpass us eventually by thinking like us, but better. But the more likely scenario, as recent developments have shown us, is that the most powerful AI may not think like us at all, and we, with our human brains, may never understand how they think.
  • The 10 Top Recommendations for the AI Field in 2017 (medium.com, 2)
    So what can we as societies (but also as humanity as a whole) do to make the best out of this completely new situation? The New York-based AI Now Institute has a bunch of intriguing and thought-provoking suggestions.
  • The Future of Online Dating Is Unsexy and Brutally Effective (gizmodo.com, 3)
    Interesting read, although I am probably a bit more optimistic than the author about how the use of AI and data will impact dating.
  • Silicon Valley is dividing society, and making everyone really angry (newsweek.com, 2)
    The author Jamie Bartlett put something in words which I have been feeling a lot lately, but haven’t managed to verbalize: “And for all the newfound fear of social media creating echo-chambers or filter-bubbles of likeminded people, I think it often does the precise opposite. It’s incredibly easy to find opposing views on social media. I’ve never seen so many knaves and fools as pollute my timelines. Social media allows you to find the worst examples of other tribes.” This really is food for thought.
  • How to Fix Facebook? We Asked 9 Experts (nytimes.com, 2)
    Surprisingly, every single person asked seems to assume that Facebook can be fixed. But that is not a law of nature, is it? I have my doubts about the service’s ability to fix itself.
  • The Web began dying in 2014, here’s how (staltz.com, 3)
    Alarming and in my eyes not overly exaggerated essay on how Google, Facebook and Amazon are taking over the web to an extend at which it’ll be rendered irrelevant for the majority of people. Slightly related: When it comes to cloud services, Amazon seems unbeatable.
  • Why Snapchat Spectacles failed (techcrunch.com, 2)
    This whole claim by Snap of being a “camera company” hasn’t really delivered yet. And maybe it never will.
  • Social Capital Will Let Data Decide Where It Invests (fortune.com, 1)
    An approach to early-stage startup investing which rejects the conventional approach with sourcing from personal networks and pitches – the outcome is (maybe unsurprisingly) a lot more diversity among funded founders.
  • Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens (wired.co.uk, 3)
    Kinda terrifying development. The big question: Is China just at the forefront of a development which eventually will unfold everywhere or are there other realistic approaches to embrace ubiquitous connectivity as a society while protecting people’s integrity while also simultaneously protecting citizens from people and groups with destructive and violent agendas? This is as much a technical as a philosophical question.

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