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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  • 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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  • 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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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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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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  • 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

Weekly Links & Thoughts #137

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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  • Brain-machine interface isn’t sci-fi anymore (wired.com, 3)
    The startup CTRL-Labs is developing a brain-machine interface (BMI) which doesn’t require any kind of direct access to the brain. Instead, the technology reads signals sent from the brain to the muscles in order to let people type on an imaginary keyboard or otherwise control movement solely with their thoughts. Great profile of a startup pursuing a fascinating idea.
  • Wicked is the (New) Normal (workfutures.io, 2)
    Most of the bigger problems of a complex world are so called “wicked problems”. Wicked problems come with a different set of challenges and solution strategies than conventional problems. As outlined in the text, wicked problems cannot be approached by trying to “search for a solution” to a single issue such as for example inequality, chronic disease, asymmetric conflict, fake news, etc. —  because these phenomena are “features” of the system in which they occur, not bugs. Looking for the elusive silver bullet just produces all kinds of unintended effects.
  • Linear Thinking in a Nonlinear World (hbr.org, 3)
    Long, in-depth read on the importance of employing (counter-intuitive) non-linear thinking, because this is the dynamic shaping many, if not most of today’s events.
  • Did We Just Glimpse the Future of Augmented Reality? (medium.com, 2)
    John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, offers a smart take on the overall state and potential of augmented reality technology (AR). Considering Apple’s newest push into the field, it looks more than ever as if AR really will become a big deal. If you want to feel uncomfortable about this outlook, watch this video called “Hyper Reality” showcasting a future in which advertisment completely dominates AR.
  • iPhone X Marks Two Milestones For Apple’s Phone Pricing (news.crunchbase.com, 2)
    Analysis of the growing price spread of the various iPhone versions offered by Apple since 2011. So far, the company has managed to differentiate the device category in a way so it appeals to both the ultimate high-end as well as increasingly to people with a bit less spending power who still want to own a smartphone that comes with high status. With the new iPhone X, Apple now pushes even further along this path.
  • Why you shouldn’t unlock your phone with your face (medium.freecodecamp.org, 2)
    The iPhone X comes with a fairly controversial feature: It will allow owners to unlock the phone via facial recognition. But it is probably safer to just keep using the passcode.
  • AXA Is Using Ethereum’s Blockchain for a New Flight Insurance Product (coindesk.com, 1)
    A straight-forward real world use case for a smart contract based on the Ethereum blockchain: Paying out flight delay compensation to passengers if certain criteria such as minimum delay time and a corresponding customer rights law in the departure country are met. No manual handling of the process required.
  • Silicon Valley’s Politics: Liberal, With One Big Exception (nytimes.com, 2)
    Farhad Manjoo on the unique combination of political values in Silicon Valley: mostly left-leaning with a support for higher taxes and universal health care, but skeptical about regulations and unions.
  • Point/Counterpoint: Twitter Is An Echo Chamber (theonion.com, 2)
    Trenchantly put by The Onion: “Social media echo chambers in which communities of like-minded users simply listen to their own viewpoints being repeated back to them.” Don’t miss the counterpoint presented in the piece…
  • Infrastructure for Mature Cities (pedestrianobservations.com, 2)
    The needs of and opportunities for urban improvements and public transport differ between growing cities and mature cities. Educational analysis of strategies and best practices to renew and enhance infrastructure in mature cities such as New York.
  • Technology, complexity, anxiety, catastrophe (techcrunch.com, 2)
    There is a 90 % chance that you’ll recognize yourself at least partially in this not too uplifting depiction of an average day in the connected world of 2017. It has to be said though that an average day portrayal most likely didn’t sound more enthusiastic in past times either. It’s simply the Hedonic treadmill in full effect.
  • Are Teslas damaged goods? (digitopoly.com, 2)
    Tesla limits the technical maximum range of its cars through a software upgrade to owners who are willing to pay up for it. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the company decided to offer this upgrade for free to Tesla owners in Florida to allow them to escape the storm. While that was a nice gesture, Tesla’s approach to artificially limiting the performance of its cars raises eyebrows – at least as a first reaction, because it is uncommon in cars. But of course, this type of business model can be found in many other sectors. In this piece, Joshua Gans examines the economics behind this strategy for Tesla.
  • I Tried Shoplifting in a Store without Cashiers and Here’s What Happened (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Times are getting tougher for shoplifters.
  • Anand Sanwal is bringing love to finance data (tearsheet.co, 2)
    The B2B data company CB Insights has become an institution in investor and fintech circles. Its founder and CEO Anand Sanwal publishes a daily email newsletter to more than 300’000 subscribers using a personal tone and wit that’s probably unparalleled in the industry. Notably, he ends each of his emails with “I love you”.
  • Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (fieldguide.gizmodo.com, 2)
    Totally. RSS is still the core pillar of my news consumption and discovery of things to read. In fact, I have completely given up on any kind of app or service for discovery of written content which primarily relies on algorithmic personalization.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI (rodneybrooks.com, 3)
    If you frequently find yourself scratching your head when you read pundits’ warnings about the threat that AI could pose to humanity, this very long essay by an AI pioneer will help you to put things into perspective and to detect the hyperbole.

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #136

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 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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  • The Last Auto Mechanic (medium.com, 3)
    While any prediction about the timeframe for the emergence of a mass market for self-driving cars should be taken with a grain of salt, it doesn’t hurt to theoretically play through a scenario in which this is going to happen within the next 15 years, as the author has done. Clearly, the impact of such a shift on people’s lives and the economy at large would be tremendous.
  • Uber’s Achilles’ Heel (medium.com, 2)
    What will be Uber’s advantage over other companies in the transportation and automotive space once self-driving cars will be the norm, considering that the company’s big asset today is the well-established two-sided market of drivers and riders? Intelligent post from early 2016 about a question that most who are bullish on Uber seem to ignore.
  • Return of the city-state (aeon.co, 3)
    Modern technology tends to be distributed, decentralized and (compared to how things were in the 20th century) uncontrollable. The societal, logistical and bureaucratic consequences of this shift undermine the workings and benefits of the concept of nation states. Jamie Bartlett explains in this essay why the 21st century could see the big comeback of the city-state.
  • The Leisure Economy — where we all get paid to play games (venturebeat.com, 2)
    The idea of a future in which most people play games all day long only sounds ridiculous as long as one has a very fixed view on an alleged dichotomy between “real life” and games.
  • What’s the difference between apps we cherish vs. regret? (timewellspent.io, 1)
    That’s thought-provoking: An analysis of data collected from a pool of 200,000 iPhone users shows a correlation between time spent with an app and the level of happiness that users report about their app usage.
  • Google & Microsoft Are Building Software To Identify Influencers And Trendsetters (cbinsights.com, 2)
    The Google Trends graph about usage of the term “influencer” clearly shows it: There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the influencer frenzy. Tech giants want to capitalize on this.
  • Europe’s most entrepreneurial country? (weforum.org, 2)
    According to a new report published by the World Economic Forum and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Estonia, Sweden and Latvia are spearheading Europe’s entrepreneurialism. When looking at the map shown in the article, the north-south divide couldn’t be more evident. Speaking about Sweden, here is a piece investigating what the Nordic country needs to do next in order to become not only a European but global tech super-power.
  • Foursquare Data Shows Up Today in More Places Than You’d Think (streetfightmag.com, 2)
    New York-based Foursquare, a location startup beloved by many early adopters and tech geeks but that for a long time struggled with finding its purpose and business model, has turned itself into the primary provider of location data for many of the world’s leading tech firms.
  • How Seth Godin Would Launch a Business With a $1,000 Budget (indiehackers.com, 2)
    This is a very inspiring collection of advices from marketing big shot and business/life strategist Seth Godin.
  • The fraud curve (acrowdedspace.com, 2)
    Any successful online project or business will have to deal with fraudsters. Here is a matter-of-fact analysis of how to do that.
  • 10 marketplace monetisation strategies (medium.com, 2)
    Most people nowadays use online market places on a frequent base, for shopping, travel or service requests. How do these sites make money? This comprehensive and competent compilation of revenue streams offers answers.
  • Kik’s Pivot to Cryptocurrency (attentionecono.me, 3)
    On September 12, the messaging pioneer Kik will initiate the public sale of its crypto token Kin. To me this will be the most interesting ICO so far, considering that this is the first high-profile consumer web company trying to leverage the blockchain and essentially betting its future on it. Kik hopes that Kin will become a decentralized currency utilized by third party developers, so while fundraising is one part of the goal, the vision of establishing a widely used utility token that generates network effects is another one. Thomas Euler has spent what looks to be an insane amount of time analyzing and dissecting Kik’s undertaking. Here is the second (more technical) part.
  • The Bitcoin Bubble Is Not a Bad Thing (wealthdaily.com, 2)
    I agree with this. In fact, in my eyes a bubble only is a negative thing if its bursting makes a lot of people lose assets that they technically cannot afford to lose. As far as I can tell, at least for now, this is not the case with Bitcoin.
  • Blockchain: The right side of crazy (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Interesting recap of 6 years of following the rise of the blockchain from a VC perspective.
  • Identity Thieves Hijack Cellphone Accounts to Go After Virtual Currency (nytimes.com, 2)
    It seems increasingly true that using Two Factor Authentication with SMS as verification channel is a bad idea – at least as long as the carriers are vulnerable to social engineering.
  • Funding Your Bliss: Mindfulness Startups Scale Up (news.crunchbase.com, 2)
    Whenever I see a funding announcement by a startup in the mediation and mindfulness space, I ask myself why these companies need so much money. If there is any field which technically doesn’t require a constant expansion of content, technology, staff and growth for the sake of growth, it is this, in my opinion.
  • Definite optimism as human capital (danwang.co, 3)
    A long read offering lots of food for thought about the value of optimism for humanity’s future and related issues that shape our sense of the present time.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman: Uncut Interview — Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg
    After having listened to this interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, two things became clear to me: The duo Zuckerberg and Sandberg is the reason why I am only critical of Facebook’s dominance, but not terrified. Both appear to have a lot of integrity and a healthy ethical compass (this judgement is of course based on my limited insights as an external observer). Also I realize that if Zuckerberg ever would leave the CEO role, Sandberg could easily take over without the company taking any harm. This is relevant as Facebook and its founder often can seem to be so synonymous that it might be hard to imagine any other person leading the company.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #135

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 minutes or more

  • What We Get Wrong About Technology (timharford.com, 3)
    The most significant, game changing innovations and inventions often are those that seem so trivial that no one pays attention to them or realizes their long-term impact.
  • Proactive Paranoia (reallifemag.com, 2)
    Interesting read on a principle named “OPSEC”, following the idea of radical distrust of everyone one associates with, employed by the often shady personalities that run and contribute to market places on the dark web.
  • Will AI enable the third stage of life? (kurzweilai.net, 2)
    The Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark is out with a new book, named “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”. It apparently is more accessible than his masterful but pretty challenging (for those who don’t call math their passion) first one “Our Mathematical Universe”. Here is a short excerpt from his new book. Also note Sam Harris’ podcast interview with Tegmark linked further below.
  • Let’s face reality: US Teens engage with iMessage more than any other social platform (hackernoon.com, 3)
    As an iOS user, there is something special about sending a text message to someone only to see it being transformed into “iMessage”.
  • Reflections on a trip to crypto valley (medium.com, 2)
    Alexander Lange of Berlin-based Earlybird VC joined a crowd of about 25 crypto enthusiasts to visit Zug in Switzerland, also known as “crypto valley” (because many startups in the field of blockchain and crypto currencies have their legal base there).
  • How Blockchains mirror Nature (blog.consensusx.com, 2)
    Intuitively, it seems logical that human-made systems that represent aspects of social behavior follow certain mechanisms found it nature. Still, intriguing observation.
  • Burger King launches WhopperCoin crypto-cash in Russia (bbc.com, 2)
    We are living in crazy times. This news also made me wonder whether all loyalty programs soon will become blockchain-based and thereby enabling peer-to-peer trade of company-specific currencies? Which airline will be the first to reward frequent fliers with tradable coins on a blockchain instead of traditional miles?
  • The Top 10 Mistakes Crypto Newcomers Make (decentralize.today, 2)
    If you plan to put money into crypto currencies or tokens, you better read this. Note that this list only will make sense if you have acquired enough theoretical knowledge about how this stuff works.
  • Facebook Ditched The Red Cross For Hurricane Harvey Relief (buzzfeed.com, 2)
    One of the ever-growing number of second-order effects that Facebook’s dominance has on society: The company can channel donation money away from the established actors if its leaders think they are not effective enough, thereby disrupting how charity works.
  • The Difficulties Of Running A Sex-Inspired Startup (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Startups in the buzzy field of “sextech” (which is not the same as the porn industry) are facing various obstacles, from getting funding to access to essential b2b services – because of people’s fear about what other people might think (about them getting involved in this area).
  • ‘Link in Bio’ Keeps Instagram Nice (theatlantic.com, 2)
    The absence of abilities to effectively link to external content might actually be one of Instagram’s major features, even if it for creators of content can sometimes feel like a bug.
  • This VR cycle is dead (techcrunch.com, 3)
    Virtual reality has in fact managed to end up in another “Trough of Disillusionment” (to apply a stage from Gartner’s Hype Cycle here).
  • 8 Lessons from 20 Years of Hype Cycles (linkedin.com, 3)
    Speaking about the Hype Cycle: What one can learn about innovation and technology when revisiting and analyzing past versions of it.
  • It’s Time to Think Beyond Cloud Computing (wired.com, 2)
    With IT and AI integrating deeper into every part of our life, low latency becomes a necessity. In this regard, cloud computing has limitations. So here comes “Edge computing”.
  • Uber’s new CEO (stratechery.com, 2)
    Dara Khosrowshahi, who until now successfully ran Expedia, is Uber’s new CEO. Ben Thompson explains why he is a smart choice.
  • Skyscanner’s Gareth Williams On How Its Bet On Asia Led To Its Big Win, Being CEO and The Future Of Apps (webintravel.com, 2)
    Almost a year after its $1.7 billion acquisition by Chinese travel giant Ctrip, the founder of European flight and travel search engine Skyscanner talks about how it all happened.
  • Beyond anger (aeon.co, 3)
    A deep, essential essay from last year about the problem of giving in to anger. I wish the protagonists of the digital outrage machinery would reflect on this. One quote from the piece: “Whenever we are faced with pressing moral or political decisions, we should clear our heads, and spend some time conducting what Mandela (citing Marcus Aurelius) referred to as ‘Conversations with Myself’. When we do, I predict, the arguments proposed by anger will be clearly seen to be pathetic and weak, while the voice of generosity and forward-looking reason will be strong as well as beautiful.” The cited Marcus Aurelius was one of the key figures of the ancient Stoicism philosophy, which was my best discovery last year.
  • Maybe We All Need a Little Less Balance (nytimes.com, 2)
    “I don’t believe that balance — which essentially asks us to never go all-in on anything — is the right solution”. I would agree with the author if that’s how balance is defined.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Twitter and Trump: A truly destructive relationship
    Some people wish Twitter would ban Trump. But for Twitter, Trump is by far the biggest asset. Without him, the company’s notoriously weak performance would be even worse. This puts the company’s liberal CEO and staff in a very uncomfortable, almost pitiful position.
  • Learning to code, 420 hours later: How to teach yourself Python, for free
    After 420 hours of learning to code with Python, spread out over 20 months, I am formally completing the project (but of course I will continue with coding). Here is the whole chronological list of sites and resources I used, and how I did it.

Podcast episodes of the week:

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Twitter and Trump: A truly destructive relationship

Here you can read a German version of this article.

There probably is no other company in the world that has maneuvered itself into such a complicated and even pitiful position such as Twitter.

As the prime communication channel for infamously impulsive and notoriously conflict-ready U.S. President Donald Trump, Twitter’s platform is playing a critical role in the various minor and major squabbles which Trump is engaging in around the clock. In fact, Twitter’s platform is enabling these squabbles in an unique way, as the service’s unfiltered real-time character, brevity, viral dynamics and emotional user behavior amplifies any seemingly trivial 140 character message thousandfold, and – with helpful participation of click and outrage-driven media as well as tweeting anti-Trump activists – turning it into “world news”.

It’s hard to exactly pin down what would have happened in a world without Twitter (and without a service exactly like Twitter). But the world would look different for sure. It’s speculative but maybe Trump wouldn’t even be President. Presumably that’s the type of reasoning which led the former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson to launch a crowdfunding campaign intended to raise enough money to buy a majority stake in Twitter – in order to subsequently being able to ban Donald Trump from the service. Continue Reading