Weekly Links & Thoughts #130

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 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • The evolution of trust (ncase.me, 3)
    A fun, gamified demonstration of the dynamics of game theory and of why people seem to trust each other less instead of more.
  • This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit (medium.com, 3)
    Spot-on essay. One of my biggest hopes right now is that eventually, enough people will grow tired of participating in this destructive process. Without “eyeballs” and user engagement, there is no business model. But it would mean for people to significantly reduce (or even stop) using feed-based social media (aka the Facebook news feed and Twitter), and to acknowledge their role as exploited characters in someone else’s game. Without admitting this and without being willing to make sacrifices, things likely will get worse and the dumbing down of the media landscape (and subsequently of the public debates and political sphere) will continue.
  • The quitting economy (aeon.co, 3)
    Food for thought: “In a way new to the world, and begun by the re-orientation of companies to maximise shareholder value, quitting work is now central to what it means to have a job in the first place. People apply for jobs with the conscious plan to quit, with an eye toward what other jobs the job for which they are applying might help them get.”
  • Money Is A Consensual Hallucination (feld.com, 1)
    The more electronic or digital currency is finding its way into our lives, the more apparent gets the abstract concept of money.
  • The Rise of the “Retro Human” Business (medium.com, 1)
    If the vinyl can have its come back, the human worker can have too – in selected scenarios at least in which people crave nostalgia.
  • This Is Tesla’s Greatest Competitive Advantage (singularityhub.com, 1)
    Indeed often overlooked: Tesla is building technology platforms, not simply electrical cars.
  • A few points to keep in mind when reading any upcoming story about Elon Musk (observationalepidemiology.blogspot.com, 2)
    Or is this all just a house of cards and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s actual strengths don’t go beyond creating hype and raising money?
  • Daimler and Bosch create a driverless parking garage (techcrunch.com, 2)
    In my opinion this is an absolutely brilliant way of introducing people to the benefits of self-driving cars. Because, who likes navigating through a narrow parking garage to find a tiny parking spot between two huge pillars?!
  • A Discussion with Albert Wenger: Thoughts on a ‘World After Capital’ (hackernoon.com, 3)
    The German-born but NYC-based Venture Capitalist Albert Wenger is one of my favorite digital thinkers. Unsurprisingly, this interview is filled with plenty of smart observations and musings. One I find especially worth highlighting: “I think one of the most foundational steps is to just educate more people about what we now know about the brain. There’s this strange thing where you can go through high school and you have physical education, economics, math, but where’s the owner’s manual to your brain?”. Yes. Yes. Yes. 
  • 15+ Ways a Venture Capitalist Says “No” (unsupervisedmethods.com, 2)
    If you ever find yourself in need of raising a financing round from a Venture Capitalist or want to know what those who do have to go through…entertaining list.
  • Windows 10 is making too many PCs obsolete (computerworld.com, 2)
    It appears as if Microsoft really wants people to buy new PC hardware sooner than technically necessary. Not cool.
  • Intel packs a neural network into a USB stick (newatlas.com, 1)
    AI on a stick.
  • What It’s Like to Be a Woman at a Tech Conference (shift.newco.co, 2)
    Nice, non-angry write-up encouraging empathy and reflection without a “I’m the victim” tonality.
  • Where Do the Initial Coin Offerings End? (observer.com, 3)
    The untamed hype described in this intelligent and for the complex topic remarkably comprehensible analysis reminds me a bit of what I’ve read about the final days of the dotcom boom.
  • Facebook worker living in garage to Zuckerberg: challenges are right outside your door (theguardian.com, 2)
    That’s quite a dilemma and the result of a too big gap between the top earners and the rest of the population: The workers at Facebook’s cafeteria at the company headquarter in Menlo Park earn comparatively well, but way too little to be able to afford housing in the notoriously overpriced area. So they live in a garage.
  • YouTube And Latin America Are Taking Over The World (musicindustryblog.wordpress.com, 2)
    Fascinating point: Latin America is turning into a music streaming powerhouse, especially on YouTube, generating snowball effects for songs which then subsequently even receive global fame.
  • Shazam’s First Television Venture Is Already A Hit, And It’s Just Getting Started (forbes.com, 2)
    There is a show running on U.S. TV called “Beat Shazam” and it is exactly about what you imagine. As the author notes: “Beat Shazam only works because there aren’t many people left in America, or the world by this point, who don’t at least know what Shazam is and what it can do.”
  • Here’s Spotify’s biggest problem – in a Netflix-shaped nutshell (musicbusinessworldwide.com, 2)
    Both companies grow on the same rate. But the average revenue from a Netflix subscriber is going up, while the average revenue from a Spotify subscriber is going down.
  • Should you force quit your iOS apps? Let’s look at the data (birchtree.me, 2)
    No, the tiny savings in processing power are not worth it.
  • Say Goodbye to Spain’s Glorious Three-Hour Lunch Break (citylab.com, 2)
    Throwing in this article even if it is completely unrelated to everything I am writing and sharing here. But I learned a lot from this piece about why the Spanish work and meal schedule differs so much from most other countries in the world, and why this might be changing.

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Technological leapfrogging: Why rich countries lag behind in FinTech adoption

Here is a German version of this article.

The results of a study recently published by the consulting firm EY revealed that China and India have the highest adoption of FinTech services among its online population out of 20 countries. 69 percent of China’s and 52 percent of India’s digitally active citizens have used at least 2 FinTech services over the past 6 months. The statistic clearly shows a tendency towards a higher FinTech adoption in emerging countries compared to developed countries.

The notion of that the richest countries lag behind in regards to FinTech has been confirmed a few days ago by the Swiss watchmaker Swatch, when the company presented the second generation of its contactless payment solution. Unlike the predecessor, “Swatch Pay” will exclusively be launched in China, at least for now, and won’t be available in Swatch’s home country or elsewhere in Europe. According to a spokesperson cited by the Swiss business paper Handelszeitung, the reason for the decision are the “old-fashioned banks and credit card providers”. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #129

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 right after 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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Analyzing the Hacker News front page as a Python beginner

The following post might only be of interest to you if you want to know about my progress of learning to code or if you are an avid user of the tech news community Hacker News. Please also note that I cannot give a guarantee for the accuracy of the shown data, even though after thorough double-checking I think it is quite accurate. But don’t bet all your money on it.

As mentioned two month ago in this post, in my quest to teach myself programming with Python, I discovered the Hacker News API as an ideal way to learn about accessing APIs and to take first steps with data analysis and visualization. The API is rather simply structured and doesn’t require an authorization (although I subsequently managed to conquer the Reddit API as well which is more complex and requires an authorization via OAuth).

Something I have been curious about for a while is the dynamic with which articles submitted by a Hacker News user hit the front page of the site. So I went ahead and indulged in a little project to find out. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #128

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 right after 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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Stories, the Blockchain and the chance for a reboot of social networking

Here is a German version of this article.

Currently it looks as if the Stories format invented by Snapchat and copied and popularized by Instagram will become one, if not the major component of social networking. While predicting its exact adoption trajectory is impossible, one can not rule out that in 2018, the number of users who consume other people’s Stories or who contribute with their own, will cross the 1 billion mark. It would be a shame if this growth segment would be completely left to the 2 currently dominating, centralized and rather closed players.

But even suggesting that an open alternative to Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories is desirable likely puts many people off – understandably. After more than a decade of failed attempts to create successful social networking services based on open principles, decentralized infrastructure and data portability, one has to be a hardline optimist to still believe in such a possibility. It seems as if the common approach of centralized, ad-financed and data-hoarding platforms has unequivocally won.

Or maybe it hasn’t. With the rise of the Blockchain technology, there is reason for hope. With the Blockchain – in simplest terms a distributed database managed by a peer-to-peer network – new approaches to developing and operating a social network are becoming feasible. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #127

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 right after 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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  • Shedding Light on the “Black Box of Inappropriateness” (cherylyeoh.com.com, 3)
    After an exclusive New York Times story revealing the culture of (sexual) harassment in tech – in this case particularly involving venture capitalists – lots of new personal accounts emerged. Like this cringing one by the entrepreneur Cheryl (Yeoh) Sew Hoy, illustrating exemplary how male investors feel comfortable abusing their power to gain sexual favors from those who seek funding. Note that this specific example is not about an investor just asking someone out (though even that kind of harmless seeming move might not be wise in such a context). But this is about an investor explicitly begging for sex (“Just one night, please just this one time.”). On the same topic: Danah Boyd finds the right words describing how the culture in the industry can (and must) change.
  • The Rise of the Thought Leader (newrepublic.com, 3)
    Someone on Hacker News used the term “Eloquent Bullshitters” instead of “Thought Leader”, which might give you a hint on the direction of this long read.
  • The Problem with Being a Top Performer (scientificamerican.com, 2)
    The price top performers within an organization pay for their above-average results: They might be resented by peers who even could end up strategically undermining their work.
  • How Amazon’s Echo Is Making Major Labels Rethink Their Tunes (billboard.com, 2)
    New technology creates new challenges/opportunities, such as: What music gets played if someone tells a voice-controlled smart speaker that they want to listen to a certain artist or music style.
  • Beyond public key encryption (blog.cryptographyengineering.com, 2)
    A detailed post for the technically interested on new approaches to make encryption on the Internet more safe and more usable.
  • Beyond Bitcoin: Truly Decentralized Banking (hackernoon.com, 3)
    This piece challenged some of my assumptions about money, Gold, inflation and the potential of crypto currencies.
  • We need to talk about sex, robot experts say (reuters.com, 1)
    Provided that the following assumptions are true: 1) people won’t stop seeking sexual pleasure and novelty 2) robots, sex toys and virtual reality tech are getting increasingly sophisticated 3) lots of money is to be made – then I can imagine this becoming a huge topic and a giant market within a couple of years. So yeah, talking about it and the implications seems necessary.
  • AI Will Make Forging Anything Entirely Too Easy (wired.com, 2)
    Considering how easily influenced people already are by written fake news, once forging audio and video perfectly will become feasible, the concept of “truth” will get even more undermined. This is worrying.
  • The Faceless Boss: A Look Into The Uber Driver Workplace (npr.org, 3)
    One of the major “innovations” of Uber is how it has created a workplace with a faceless boss. Even though the company promises freedom to drivers, in fact, it heavily controls how they do their work.
  • As Uber Stumbles, Lyft Sees an Opening, and Bites Its Tongue (nytimes.com, 2)
    Over the years of its existence, Uber rival Lyft has branded itself as the “friendly” alternative to the aggressive juggernaut. That also means that its CEO and team now have to avoid any public display of Schadenfreude.
  • Music industry welcomes landmark ruling in Google delisting case (completemusicupdate.com, 2)
    A Canadian Supreme Court case which ended with the decision that Google has to delist an entire website globally on the grounds of intellectual property infringement might spell bigger trouble for the search giant.
  • Tech giants eating the advertising world (axios.com, 1)
    This year, two-thirds of all global ad dollars will go to the five tech companies Google, Facebook, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba.
  • German man hides machine dropping anti-Erdoğan leaflets from hotel room window (dailysabah.com, 1)
    Genius activism: Booking a hotel room, connecting a printer to a router and positioning it close to the open window, leaving the country and remotely initiating the printing of hundreds of political leaflets.
  • From Seed to IPO — 9 learnings by an early Delivery Hero investor (medium.com, 2)
    Last week, the German food delivery company Delivery Hero went public in one of the biggest tech IPOs in Germany for a while. One of his early investors has published an informative summary of learnings he gained about startups, entrepreneurship, marketplaces and early stage investing, from working with Delivery Hero. Turns out, it is entirely possible to build a really large tech company (from scratch!) in Europe.
  • As Paris’ mega startup campus Station F opens its doors, Silicon Valley has gone all in (venturebeat.com, 2)
    After years of political uncertainty, polarization and terrorist attacks, the French must be longing for some reason for optimism. Maybe the tech industry can help to deliver it.
  • Two Decades of Recommender Systems at Amazon.com (computer.org, 3)
    An in-depth analysis of how Amazon, the pioneer and major innovator when it comes to recommendation systems, figures out how products relate to each other.

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Amazon Echo and Spotify are a dream team in the smart home

It has become a rare occurrence that a piece of consumer software manages to impress me. It’s 2017, after all. But Spotify has just pulled that off. More specifically, Spotify’s seamless playback and sync ability across different devices.

Since I purchased an Amazon Echo speaker some weeks ago, I now frequently access Spotify on four different devices. Already before buying the Echo, I appreciated Spotify’s handover procedure to switch the device that you are listening music from (e.g. from the notebook to the smartphone). But with the addition of the Echo, the complexity of the cross-device integration has risen, without that I noticed a single issue so far.

I can ask Alexa (the smart assistant that runs on the Echo) to play Spotify, and then control the playback on the Echo either through voice or from any other of my devices that Spotify is installed on. I can skip the song playing on the Echo from my iPhone, hand over playback from the Echo to the iPad via my notebook, or reduce the volume of the Echo’s Spotify playback from my iPad. Or anything in between, except one thing: I cannot control playback on the other devices through the Echo/Alexa – but I never have felt I needed to either.

Having this kind of freedom to control one’s music playback at home is truly liberating, and it makes me wonder a bit what Apple plans to make better with its upcoming HomePod speaker. HomePod is supposed to offer a superior music experience in the smart home. But with Echo’s  outstanding music playback performance and a seamlessly integrated third party music app (such as Spotify, in my example), I wouldn’t know what to wish for more.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #126

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 right after 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 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • The Internet as existential threat (raphkoster.com, 3)
    In the wake of this week’s major cyber attack targeting Ukraine but causing crashed systems across the globe, it’s time to consider the dependency of an increasing number of critical infrastructures on a properly working Internet an existential threat. I also dig the term “ideological malware” mentioned in this important text. In a connected age, the term “critical infrastructure” actually could be extended to the human mind.
  • Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come (wired.com, 3)
    This Wired feature was published a few days before the most recent attack. Read it and ask yourself what else this situation can be called other than “cyberwar”. For us average people who don’t work in IT security or with physical critical infrastructure, this term feels pretty empty and harmless, mostly because we don’t immediately associate it with human casualties. But it is anything than harmless, as explained in the previous article.
  • The Hackers Russia-Proofing Germany’s Elections (bloomberg.com, 2)
    As a native German, I’ve never given much thought about the existence of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). It was just there and occasionally mentioned in the media. But this piece opened my eyes to the uniqueness of the group, if seen in a global context. From the article: “All this has made CCC into something that sounds alien to American ears: a popular, powerful, tech-focused watchdog group, one whose counsel has been sought by both WikiLeaks and Deutsche Telekom AG.”
  • Laptop Replacement (mattgemmell.com, 2)
    Ok, after this heavy start, now on to something less dramatic. Some journalists and tech pundits are obsessed with the narrative of the iPad as a potential “laptop replacement”. Matt Gemmell finds this puzzling. Humorous read. “The phrase itself is strange, like you’re consciously considering replacing your laptop (implicitly with something else, otherwise you’d just upgrade to a newer laptop, surely), are assessing the iPad as a candidate, and you find that it is indeed an entirely different thing… but that’s somehow a deal breaker.”
  • iOS 11 turns your iPad into a completely different machine (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Reading this made me look forward to the release of iOS 11.
  • Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid? (psychologytoday.com, 2)
    No, but stupid headlines make us stupid (see also this depressing analysis of 100 million headlines). Snark aside, the result of the research mentioned here is fascinating: “The mere sight of one’s own smartphone seems to induce ‘brain drain’ by depleting finite cognitive resources.” Nowadays, if I am with other people, I often try to remind myself to put my phone into my pocket. It’s more respectful anyway.
  • Now That Whole Foods Belongs To Amazon, What Happens To Conscious Capitalism? (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Good question: Whole Foods stands like few other companies for an economical philosophy called “Conscious Capitalism”. But will this idea survive at the retailer now that Amazon takes over?
  • Silicon Valley’s Overdue Cultural Pivot (medium.com, 1)
  • The Gig Is Up (gothamgal.com, 1)
    Uber-bro Travis Kalanick is out, a Silicon Valley-based VC firm close to collapse after a sexual harassment scandal, and the list of women working in tech who speak up against discrimination is getting longer and longer. Hard to say how this all will continue, but 2017 might become a transformational year for the industry. Social conditioning won’t just disappear in a day and biology won’t just suddenly stop interfering with reason. But awareness among all protagonists is a big step forward. So that mistakes by individuals can be fixed, instead of having hell break loose many years later.
  • Growth is getting hard from intensive competition, consolidation, and saturation (andrewchen.co, 2)
    Has the digital industry reached the end of a growth cycle? Andrew Chen thinks so and offers a bunch of solid arguments to support his point.
  • In a few years, no investors are going to be looking for AI startups (machinelearnings.co, 1)
    This seems indeed probable: As AI techniques are becoming the default approach for any complex IT solution, there will be no point anymore in promoting something as “AI”.
  • Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’ (techcrunch.com, 2)
    In my opinion, as a guiding principle, this is a good new mission statement and a timely change. Whether the goal described can be accomplished remains to be seen, though.
  • How I learned to code in my 30s (medium.com, 2)
    As I am in this situation right now, I found this account to be highly motivating.
  • Pornhub Is the Kinsey Report of Our Time (thecut.com, 3)
    A thought-provoking and insightful feature on the sociological peculiarities, cultural impact and business dynamics of online porn.
  • How Twitter Pornified Politics (nytimes.com, 2)
    Apropos porn: This is what politics has become thanks to Twitter.
  • China orders mobile app stores to remove VPN apps (boingboing.net, 1)
    Here we see a big problem with centralized app stores: They make it too easy for those in power to withhold basic tools for the protection of digital integrity from the people.
  • A battle for supremacy in the lithium triangle (economist.com, 2)
    The modern world wouldn’t work without lithium. The Economist details where the metal comes from and how it is obtained.
  • Easiest Path to Riches on the Web? An Initial Coin Offering (nytimes.com, 2)
    Whenever something promises an easy path towards riches, one has to be cautious. Having said that, it is an exciting phenomenon.
  • Fake news of a fatal car crash wiped out $4 billion in ethereum’s market value yesterday (qz.com, 2)
    Many Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) rely on the Ethereum Blockchain. Unlike with Bitcoin, the Ethereum inventor is actually a known individual. When a fake news report declared Vitalik Buterin dead a few days ago, the Ethereum price crashed.
  • The Crypto Valley: Best Practice Example of Hub Creation (digitalswitzerland.com, 1)
    Switzerland is currently working on becoming a major beneficiary of the crypto currency boom by creating a hub of crypto companies and researchers, labeled “Crypto Valley”.

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The brain’s bandwidth problem and its cost in the hyper-connected age

One of Elon Musk’s key arguments for the need of a brain-computer interface is the limited bandwidth which currently exists for each of us to access our brains. Ever since he officially launched Neuralink in March 2017, the bandwidth problem and its consequences for societies have been occupying my thoughts.

As the world is getting incredibly complex, the limitations in regards to the quality and speed of accessing our brains lead to largely destructive results, which can be witnessed every day in the heated, polarized and binary political debates as well as in the simplifying responses to news events.

One commentator on Quora depicts the core problem with the lack of bandwidth very well:

“Picture anything in your mind, then try to relate it to another human with so much detail that they can reproduce it the same way you see it. One picture, a thousand words, and whatnot.

So, its like having a very very powerful computer with a very very crappy internet connection. Youre f***ed.”

Continue Reading