Weekly Links & Thoughts #121

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. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • If we’re living in a simulation, this UK startup probably built it (wired.co.uk, 3)
    The British startup Improbable is developing a platform for sophisticated large-scale simulations, available for external developers who want to build their models on it. I’ve written about my interest in real world simulations in an older post. I’m really curious to see what Improbable will come up with.
  • Donald Trump, Our A.I. President (nytimes.com, 2)
    Fascinating thought: Donald Trump’s unpredictability as President resembles how an artificial intelligence would act – purely relying on day-to-day data-driven decisions, without any attempts to try to appear consistent and coherent.
  • Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America (time.com, 3)
    The U.S. invented the Internet and U.S. companies took the lead in building global platforms on top of the Internet. Then came Russia and took the lead in leveraging these very platforms to shape the world in its interest. In hindsight, it’s an astonishing story for future history books.
  • As we may read: From print to digital and back to print (craigmod.com, 2)
    Speaking about books: Apparently there is a revival of print books and a stop in growth for ebooks. I would be surprised if this turns out to be more than a temporary trend though. However, it might take several generations for the print book to disappear as part of mainstream media.
  • Most people prefer friendly robots — but not in France and Japan (recode.com, 2)
    Cultural differences are one of the most wonderful things to investigate. According to a survey, the vast majority of Americans wants friendly robots. But in France, an equal percentage of survey respondents — 37 percent — prefers friendly and formal bots. Also France is the country where the largest number of people (even if only 8 percent) want a “hip” robot personality. In Japan, 51 percent want a formal robot, and only 20 percent a friendly one.
  • How Safe Will Autonomous Vehicles Need To Be? (hunterwalk.com, 1)
    There had been 35,092 automotive deaths in the U.S. in the year 2015. Hunter Walk asks if that means that the target number for autonomous vehicles has to be equal or below that in order to be accepted by society? Obviously, the answer is very complicated.
  • Bots will soon be able to borrow our identities (venturebeat.com, 2)
    Often when I have lengthy chat sessions with people, I pay attention to their different communication styles and ways of responding. Some patterns are always reoccurring. When human communication is reduced to just written words, it’s probably not too complicated to create bots that are able to imitate anyone’s personality. Actually I wrote a post titled “Twitter makes humans look like bots” about this topic about a year ago.
  • Google starts tracking offline shopping — what you buy at stores in person (latimes.com, 2)
  • Is Facebook Licensing this Intrusive Google Patent? (medium.com, 2)
    It’s damn hard to be enthusiastic about the creeping intrusion into people’s personal lives in the name of ad optimization.
  • Facebook can’t moderate in secret anymore (points.datasociety.net, 2)
    This sums up Facebook’s undertaking fairly good: “There’s no pretty way — maybe no way, period — to conduct this kind of content moderation.”
  • Tulips, Myths, and Cryptocurrencies (stratechery.com, 3)
    The only ting that matters for the success of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is whether enough people believe in it as a means of storing and exchanging value.
  • Bringing back the Somali shilling (jpkoning.blogspot.com, 2)
    An informative story also related to the previous topic: Even after Somalia’s Central Bank ceased to exist in 1991 due to civil war, people kept using the local currency shilling. However, its value decreased over time due to counterfeiting. Eventually, the exchange rate of the shilling moved close to the cost of producing fake shilling bills.
  • What’s The Deal With The Samsung Internet Browser? (smashingmagazine.com, 2)
    Among mobile browsers in Germany, Samsung’s own browser recently reached a market share of remarkable 18 percent. I found this text from 2016 explaining the background story of this not very acknowledged but seemingly not irrelevant piece of software.
  • The Rise of the Fat Start-Up (nytimes.com, 2)
    Farhad Manjoo writes about a new type of startup, characterized by massive cash needs due to high operational costs. Oddly, he then only profiles one and mentions those few directly created or inspired by Elon Musk. However, the recent emergence of a new Berlin-based Unicorn called Auto1 can be considered another indicator for the accuracy of the alleged trend spotted by Manjoo: Auto1 buys used cars with its own capital and sells them at a profit. The company just raised 360 million Euros in additional funding.
  • Uber in Silicon Valley is a whole different beast than in Europe (theverge.com, 2)
    A crucial point which helps to explain the discrepancy between Uber’s perceived (or actual) relevance and importance in its home market and elsewhere.
  • How Long Should Your Medium Posts Be? (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Apparently 8 minutes reading time is the sweet spot for getting the best engagement on Evan William’s publishing platform medium.com.
  • The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It (nytimes.com, 2)
    Apropos Evan Williams: He has regrets about what he unleashed with Twitter. Refreshing openness. He is still on the board of Twitter.
  • Kill Google AMP before it KILLS the web (theregister.co.uk, 2)
    There is a noticeable rise of negative sentiment towards Google’s AMP initiative aimed at speeding up mobile web pages. This rant offers some background why that might be.

Video of the week:

======
If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #120

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. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • How Hacker News benefited when I stopped tweeting
    I reached a milestone the other day: My first productive use of my newly acquired programming skills. I analyzed whether my posting activity on Hacker News increased after I stopped tweeting in November 2016. The answer: yes.
  • How to think about today’s larger than life tech moguls
    When very accomplished and respected people from the technology industry and neighboring fields forecast the future and explain their visions, we pay particular attention. But should we?
  • Jack Dorsey’s belief
    Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made it clear that he wants Donald Trump to keep tweeting. Well, he has no other option.

Podcast episodes of the week:

======
If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #119

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. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • The 1 Percent Rule: Why a Few People Get Most of the Rewards (jamesclear.com, 2)
    An intelligent explainer on the Pareto Principle’s power (aka 80/20 Rule), the phenomenon of accumulative advantage and the resulting 1 Percent Rule. A lot of the dynamics that shape our world and economy are based on these mechanisms.
  • The meaning of life in a world without work (theguardian.com, 2)
    Yuval Noah Harari debunks the myth of traditional work being the unique instrument to create meaning in life. An essential read, in my opinion (except if you have read his latest book Homo Deus, in which case you might be familiar with his line of thought).
  • Luddites have been getting a bad rap for 200 years. But, turns out, they were right (qz.com, 2)
    As a reminder, Luddites were people in Britain who fought against the industrialization. This is a thought-provoking piece, although the claim that the Luddites were right depends on the perspective. In fact, in most regards, living and working conditions are better nowadays than back then, thanks to this very technology they rejected. So in that case they were wrong. They were right about that the change that came with the technological shift would disrupt their lives. That’s the inevitable side effect of large-scale structural change. Learning from the past, the goal should not be to resist the change but to find ways to mitigate the negative effects on individuals and social stability.
  • Memes are serious business with their own stock exchange (cnet.com, 2)
    Why did it take so long? A stock exchange for memes called Nasdanq. But the formula follows a different rule than in the real economy, where stock value increases if a company’s products are popular. At Nasdanq, if a meme goes mainstream, its value tanks since everyone is on the joke.
  • The ‘Frightful Five’ Aren’t So Scary, as Long as They’re Competing (nytimes.com, 2)
    “Frightful Five” is another moniker for what sometimes is called GAFAs (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) but including Microsoft. The author makes an important point – there indeed is heavy competition going on. From my European perspective, this doesn’t change the fact though that they all are US (West Coast) companies. Even if you have 5 players that out-compete each other fiercely, there is little diversity, since they all represent the same cultural value set and ideological legacy – which particularly considering the far-reaching consequences of this industry’s activity might be questionable sometimes.
  • 21 Telling Photos From the Mark Zuckerberg Presidential Campaign Trail (observer.com, 2)
    Nice one. Zuckerberg and the “folks”.
  • Why the Surge in Violence Against Robots Matters (extremetech.com, 2)
    The likely way to reduce violent acts against robots? Making them look and behave more like humans (but maybe not so much that it leads to the effect of the uncanny valley?).
  • AI runs on rationality. Yet, we are the children of serendipity (medium.com, 1)
    Serendipity is definitely one of life’s spices. In order to make a AI-powered world worthwhile for humans, embedding the concept of serendipity into the core algorithmic philosophy is elementary.
  • Will Machine Learning and AI Ever Solve the Last Mile? (simplystatistics.org, 1)
    When AI-powered interactions between humans and machines are taking place, humans nowadays often have to intervene in the background and solve specific types of problems to support the AI. However, while this post frames it as a weakness of AI, maybe it’s a feature instead of a bug? Some think that the ideal scenario is not machines replacing humans for specific tasks, but machines and humans working together (re-recommending this article).
  • Stories vs. Statistics (collaborativefund.com, 2)
    Even in the age of big data, statistics are easily kidnapped and brainwashed by stories that thrive on millions of years of primal instincts.
  • Amazon’s ‘Echo Show’ Gives Alexa the Touchscreen It Needed (wired.com, 2)
    My first thought when I saw the photos and product videos was: “Wow, so ugly. Looks like it was designed in the 80s”. I personally like 80s design, but mostly due to a weird appreciation of that decade’s ugliness. Anyway, a commentator on Hacker News made a smart point: This is no accident. The Echo Show is targeting average Joe and Jane, including (or even especially) those belonging to older generations. The Echo Show’s resemblance of old school TV sets or radios could in fact help to tone down the creepiness factor of having a seeing and listening device standing in the kitchen or elsewhere in the home (related: “How Much Can An Amazon Echo Hear?“)
  • Microsoft and Harman Kardon put Cortana in the home (newatlas.com, 1)
    This partnership raises the question whether Microsoft will exclusively rely on third parties to compete with Amazon and Google (and soon with Apple) in the smart home speaker arena, or whether the company will to launch a flagship product of its own.
  • Transport app Citymapper trials its own smart bus and transport service in London (venturebeat.com, 2)
    Citymapper is a London-based startup that offers maps and services for efficient use of public transport in urban areas. And now, to the surprise of some, this company which in total has raised $50 million in venture capital, plans to launch a physical (smart) bus service in London.
  • Turkey Can’t Block This Copy of Wikipedia (observer.com, 2)
    One gotta love what the geekiest minds frequently come up with. A new way for addressing web pages called “InterPlanetary File System” pulls the same set of data from multiple places, and with this method, Turkey’s block of Wikipedia can be circumvented. This approach sounds very exciting in times in which governments get all too eager to censor the web.
  • What does $100 Ether mean? (medium.com, 3)
    Like Bitcoin, the Blockchain-based, programmable smart contract platform Ethereum is currently having a good run. So what does it mean to have $100 in Ether, and how is Ethereum different from Bitcoin? Her is an outstanding and comprehensive explainer by one of Ethereum’s leading figures. In another quite lengthy essay, he approaches the same topic from a very different angle. Both texts are great to wrap one’s head around the philosophy and technology of Ethereum and to understand how smart contracts could  change the world.
  • Jürgen Schmidhuber on the robot future​: ‘They will pay as much attention to us as we do to ants’ (theguardian.com, 2)
    I didn’t know that there is a German equivalent to Ray Kurzweil.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

======
If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #118

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.

New: Try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Tech Companies are Addicting People! But Should They Stop? (nirandfar.com, 2)
    Two years ago, Nir Eyal published “Hooked” which became somewhat of a holy book for tech companies and developers who strive for creating engaged users. Since then, he tries to navigate the thin line between advocating for the principles underlying the idea of getting users hooked on apps through intelligent design and the exploitation of primal impulses, and distancing himself from when the steps taken by companies are going too far. This new piece by him pretty much sums up the conflict he put himself in. He claims that tech companies have no interest in creating addicted users and therefore should implement concepts to prevent strong compulsive user behavior. I personally am not convinced that this claim is true. That being said, it’s well worth reading.
  • Sebastian Thrun Defends Flying Cars to Me (backchannel.com, 2)
    Tech billionaires are toying with ideas and projects to make flying vehicles reality. In this interview, the German-born computer scientist Sebastian Thrun who was a VP at Google and co-founded Udacity passionately defends the concept against an array of critical questions. However, not everyone in the industry agrees with him: Elon Musk prefers to dig tunnels and doesn’t believe in the feasibility of flying vehicles for the masses. See the “video of the week” at the bottom of this list.
  • This is How Google will Collapse (medium.com, 2)
    A comprehensive overview of the variety of actual or potential weaknesses in Google’s current market position and business model.
  • Quitting the Silicon Valley Swamp (pando.com, 2)
    The book author, blogger and writer Paul Carr, known for not mincing his words, writes about his long-standing habit of strategically quitting bad habits and removing destructive elements from his life. And he explains why it is now time for him to give up covering the Silicon Valley tech industry.
  • The death of the smartphone is further away than you think. And there is no ‘Next Big Thing’ (zdnet.com, 2)
    At the current moment I do subscribe to the assumption that we won’t move past the smartphone as prime personal device for a while – with maybe the exception of the home.
  • FOMO? Teens Can’t Put Down Their Phones (emarketer.com, 1)
    A statistic that encapsulates the difference between digital natives and the rest of the population: Teen users worldwide spend 48 more minutes every day using their smartphones for online activities (with a total of 3 hours 38 minutes) than average people ages 16 to 64.
  • We don’t want to be an office: Café owners are pulling the plug on WiFi (theglobeandmail.com, 1)
    Independent café owners are removing WiFi from their venues so that guests start to talk to each other again. What’s with this cliche that the (most likely) shallow small talk with strangers is in any way more desirable/better/important/valuable than reading, writing, programming, learning, messaging with loved ones far away or anything else that can be done on a device?!
  • Our world outsmarts us (aeon.co, 2)
    A great essay on an issue that I have been thinking about a lot lately: How the human brain’s inability to intuitively grasp statistical concepts and mathematics increasingly prevents us from understanding today’s complex problems and thereby from finding adequate solutions.
  • Facebook Stories is a total failure (mashable.com, 2)
    It totally is, but it also does not matter at all, as long as Stories are a huge success for Facebook-owned Instagram. This is the advantage of operating multiple leading services that are in some kind of competition with each other (for attention and user engagement): Not every feature needs to be a big hit in every one of the entities.
  • How Web Forums Make Neuroticism Viral (truthhawk.com, 2)
    Here we have an hypothesis which probably would require more research in order to be qualified as accurate. But as a possibility based on empirical observation it’s interesting to consider whether people featuring certain personality traits are dominating the online discourse and “exporting” certain patterns to a bigger audience.
  • Clayton Christensen, Doubling Down (insidehighered.com, 1)
    Clayton Christensen, the author of “The innovator’s dilemma” and father of the theory of “disruptive innovation”, expects half of the colleges (in the U.S.) to close within a decade, driven by the spread of online learning.
  • Mobile Payment Is Now Officially Available in Iran (techrasa.com, 2)
    Who knows, maybe mobile payment will become prevalent in Iran quicker than in many European countries. According to this text, one third of Point of Sale systems in the country can accept mobile payment.
  • Apple Can’t Ignore Microsoft’s Slick New Laptop (bloomberg.com, 2)
    Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that Microsoft will manage to make former Mac users switch in significant numbers back to a Windows device: It would be an incredible turn-around for the company. But of course, right now, this is hypothetical.
  • 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (thenextweb.com, 2)
    The Startup Genome project has released its third report on global startup ecosystems, including a top 20 ranking. Nice to see Stockholm receiving the recognition it deserves (although within the European Union, Berlin is considered the leading ecosystem). From the article: “When it comes to Europe the big news is Stockholm. For Gauthier, Stockholm had the most impressive upward movement this year by jumping into number 14, making its debut in the top 20”.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Video of the week:

  • Elon Musk’s TED 2017 Full Interview
    A must-watch if you haven’t seen it yet. If Elon Musk can pull of all the things he plans to, he will become one of the most important people of this century.

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #117

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.

New: Try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

Video of the week:

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science in America
    The big achievement of the enlightenment – science – is being questioned by ideological and religious actors wherever you look. Neil deGrasse Tyson has released a griping 5 minute video to raise awareness for what’s at stake.

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #116

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, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Cloud computing’s history foretells the future of automotive (diginomica.com, 2)
    About the parallels between how individual computing gave way to cloud computing (which in turn changed the role and characteristics of computers at large) and the shift from individual car usage to connected, distributed mobility. Fascinating analogy.
  • The Crisis of Attention Theft—Ads That Steal Your Time for Nothing in Return (wired.com, 2)
    “Attention theft” – what a brilliant term. Personally I find it applicable to many more circumstances than those commercials shown on TV screens in public mentioned in the article.
  • What it’s really like to work in a Chinese mega-factory, according to a student who spent 6 weeks there (businessinsider.com, 3)
    This interview with a guy who assembled iPhones is very long (about 30 minutes reading time), but exceptionally informative.
  • Sky Mining (reallifemag.com, 2)
    Contemplating conflicting motivators behind today’s re-surge in enthusiasm for space travel. It seems to be equally about escaping the destructive impact of the threats to planet Earth that at least in parts could be considered side effects of capitalism and about exporting capitalism (and inevitability its side effects) to other planets.
  • The despair of learning that experience no longer matters (newyorker.com, 2)
    This piece left me with a lot of thoughts which I have not been able to sort properly yet. In any case, I find it quite intriguing to ponder whether many populist voters’s realization that their decades-long professional experience is not valued enough anymore could explain their  frustration.
  • Facebook and the Cost of Monopoly (stratechery.com, 3)
    Ben Thompson is disappointed by the announcements made at Facebook’s developer conference F8 (which were mostly related to AR/VR and aimed squarely at squashing Snapchat – which the latter admittedly is making easier than it has to). He considers them a sign that Facebook’s (network-powered) monopolistic characteristics are harming innovation. The possible connection between monopolism of today’s Silicon Valley culture and lack of customer-centric innovation is also the topic of this piece arguing that the Valley’s tech industry is destroying itself.
  • Build a Better Monster (idlewords.com, 3)
    The founder of the beloved niche bookmarking site Pinboard, Maciej Cegłowski, has published the written version of a speech in which he connects a lot of dots and events of recent times to outline the problematic status of quo of today’s digital business models and monopolistic tendencies of a few large companies, the increasingly massive side effects on politics and public debate, as well as possible solutions. Long but worth it and filled with succinct and observant lines to remember for later (such as this one: “One problem is that any system trying to maximize engagement will try to push users towards the fringes.“)
  • Selling Mark Zuckerberg (buzzfeed.com, 3)
    A detailed look at Mark Zuckerberg’s personal transformation.
  • Will Tech-Driven Deflation Export Japan’s Economic Woes to the World? (singularityhub.com, 2)
    Japan historically has been chasing efficiencies through technologies, which in combination with a low birth rate is being seen as a major reason for the country’s economic woes. In the light of current technological and demographic trends, it’s not to be ruled out that this could become the fate for plenty of other nations.
  • Why Kickstarter Decided To Radically Transform Its Business Model (fastcompany.com, 3)
    Gotta love Kickstarter for adopting the new U.S. corporate entity type called Public Benefit Corporation. It came with the pledge to never sell the company or go public and to offer a “general public benefit.” Remarkably, the investors were on board with the decision.
  • AI: Process v Output (thewavingcat.com, 3)
    An in-depth, well-researched and well-curated analysis of what’s considered to be one of the major challenges of applied artificial intelligence: the inability of humans to understand the process with which an AI produces its output, and the trade-off which would happen if transparency of the computing process would be the goal. For the author, there is no question: “Transparent messiness is more desirable than oblique efficiency.” Meanwhile, Albert Wenger, who actually is the VC who according to the previous piece introduced the Kickstarter founders to the concept of the Public Benefit Corporation, puts things into perspective by pointing out that no one really knows how humans do what they do.
  • Primitive reflexes and artificial intelligence (medium.com, 1)
    That’s something which humans have for sure ahead of AI: We are born with reflexes that require no external teaching at all.
  • Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove (nytimes.com, 2)
    Traditionally non-innovating former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is back with a new project, and it seems to be quite useful (from a U.S. tax payer perspective). I loved how his new endeavor was commented here: “Those of us who have been in or around the technology space since the 1990s when Microsoft used to bulldozer all in front of it are completely unused to Steve Ballmer doing things that we can uncomplicatedly see as good”.
  • The Art of Writing One-Sentence Product Descriptions (medium.dave-bailey.com, 1)
    Especially useful advice for people building or promoting products/services, but essentially good advice for a lot of things one creates in life: “If we want our product to be shared by word of mouth, then we must accept that it will likely pass from person to person as a single sentence.”
  • Smartphones Are the New Cigarettes (markmanson.net, 2)
    An apt analogy if you consider how hastingly people pull out their phones after a longer period of forced abstinence (or forced offline mode). Not really accurate when comparing the use cases though. Unlike cigarettes, smartphones actually can be used for a lot of good and useful tasks.
  • Why Americans Don’t Understand The European Startup Scene (arc.applause.com, 2)
    The fragmentation of Europe makes the startup scene hard to understand even for Europeans, I’d argue.
  • On Growing: 7 Lessons from the Story of WeChat (blog.ycombinator.com, 3)
    The Chinese messaging and social media giant did a lot of things right and followed quite an innovative playbook.
  • Meet Algo, the VPN that works (blog.trailofbits.com, 2)
    Something different: I recently created my own VPN tunnel in the cloud with this self-hosted VPN server. It’s a slightly technical task but fun if you like to challenge yourself a bit. However, if you are technical, than you will laugh at me calling this a “challenge”. Important note: As you will run this software on a commercial cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or DigitalOcean where you’ll add your payment details, you should not use this if your goal is to be completely anonymous. Use cases are encryption in public WiFis and circumvention of locally blocked websites (when traveling) as well as possibly even of geo-blocking.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Exponent.fm Episode 110: Moral Hazard
    Great exchange between Ben Thompson and James Allworth about constructive and destructive entrepreneurship and the consequences for technology and capitalism.

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #115

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, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Critical States (medium.com, 2)
    The moment when water is ready to turn into ice is called a critical state. For shallow observers, the surface doesn’t look different to the previous state though. For success in life or business, it is crucial to identify those metaphorical critical states early on to spot and seize opportunities that others are missing. Inspiring.
  • What in the World Is Causing the Retail Meltdown of 2017? (theatlantic.com, 2)
    A sound compilation of causes for the massive number of retail bankruptcies in the US in 2017. There already have been as many this year (9) as in all of 2016. The most fascinating suggested reason on the list: “Many young people are driven by the experiences that will make the best social media content—whether it’s a conventional beach pic or a well-lit plate of glistening avocado toast. Laugh if you want, but these sorts of questions—“what experience will reliably deliver the most popular Instagram post?”—really drive the behavior of people ages 13 and up.” I’m not 13 anymore but I would be lying to say that I have never caught myself thinking “This would look pretty cool on Instagram!” before doing something.
  • An off-grid social network (staltz.com, 2)
    Compared to the freaky-sounding peer-to-peer social network called Scuttlebutt profiled in this piece, Mastodon suddenly looks like pure establishment.
  • Why Uber Won’t Fire Its CEO (backchannel.com, 2)
    Due in part to the dual-class share structure which many tech founders have come to embrace, company boards’ influence over who gets to be CEO is being diminished. In the case of Uber, according to Jessi Hempel, the only person who can decide whether Uber needs a new CEO is its cofounder and current CEO, Travis Kalanick. I guess, if we would talk about heads of state, such a scenario would be labeled “dictatorship”.
  • Autonomous Trucking Overlooks Skilled Labor Need (supplychain247.com, 2)
    The looming disappearance of millions of truck driver jobs is often cited as a consequence of the ongoing trends towards automation and the emergence of self-driving vehicles. However, as always, things are more multifaceted.
  • End of road for trucking startup Palleter (medium.com, 2)
    Staying on the topic of trucking: The European startup Palleter had an interesting idea: Using a smart technical platform to fill unused capacity in trucks on demand. However, as the founders detail in this piece, their hypotheses had a a few flaws which made the whole idea unfeasible. So they shut down the company instead of raising money. As their update at the end of text notes, after its publication they received a lot of ideas and proposals, so this might not be the end of Palleter after all.
  • How BlaBlaCar faced growing pains and had to change its focus (techcrunch.com, 2)
    One more article focusing on vehicles on four wheels: Informative account of the French ride sharing company BlaBlaCar’s pivot away from Western Europe towards the Russian market.
  • The Spiritual, Reductionist Consciousness of Christof Koch (nautil.us, 3)
    An Illuminating interview about consciousness. The more you think about this feature of the brain, the more enigmatic it appears.
  • Shenzhen is a hothouse of innovation (economist.com, 2)
    Yet another insightful profile of the southern Chinese city Shenzhen’s rise as a hardware and innovation hub.
  • OK Google, do you track ads? (internetofpeople.eu, 1)
    A controversial Burger King commercial deliberately triggered Google’s smart speaker Google Home. Here are two relevant observations/conclusions.
  • A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel (hbr.org, 2)
    Worth noting: The quantity of the Facebook usage matters according to the research. So checking Facebook occasionally won’t make people instantly feel worse. With extensive usage, the risk rises significantly.
  • The News Feed is Outdated: How Stories Changed the Way I Think About Social Media (blog.bufferapp.com, 2)
    But maybe all this will be obsolete very soon, considering the rise of stories as (possibly) the successor of the feed concept. The stories feature is being used very differently than a feed-based system, so researchers can start over.
  • This is the Jeff Bezos playbook for preventing Amazon’s demise (recode.net, 2)
    Jeff Bezos’s yearly letter to the shareholders, including lots of advice for professional flourishing. I instantly loved the concept of “disagree and commit” highlighted in the text.
  • It’s time for Google and Facebook to freak out about Amazon (mashable.com, 1)
    It’s certainly going well for Jeff Bezos’s company. Google is responding by turning its image search into a product search engine.
  • Apple’s AirPods make me feel like an alien (theverge.com, 1)
    What happens next is crucial: Will this feeling persist or will an increased number of people wearing AirPods help to normalize the AirPods product design? I am optimistic for the product.
  • Is Slack a product or a feature? The pros, cons and competition (diginomica.com, 2)
    A relevant question, well explained. Related observation: It’s a very subjective impression but lately I haven’t heard anyone rave about Slack anymore. Novelty definitely has worn off, which means the company is entering a more challenging stage.
  • The art inside you (medium.com, 1)
    A beautiful motto for the age of automation: Finding the art inside you.
  • Fuck virality, I want my ideas to be radioactive (markcarrigan.net, 1)
    I have made it my mission to only recommend radioactive articles in this weekly list, no viral ones… in all seriousness, while the label “radioactive” sounds pretty absurd, I like the point being made.
  • Singapore scientists teleport lemonade over the internet (cnet.com, 2)
    Eye-catching headline, and only a bit sensationalistic. The main difference to “real” teleportation is that the lemonade on the sender’s side didn’t vanish after the procedure. So it was rather a reproduction over a long distance instead of an actual “teleportation”. Still, kind of cool.
  • The new age of Ayn Rand: how she won over Trump and Silicon Valley (theguardian.com, 2)
    The works of the Russian-American novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand have influenced the world view of many of Silicon Valley’s tech libertarians – and not only those.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The internet brings people into space
    Tesla & SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazo founder Jeff Bezos have earned a lot of money with their web companies, which they now use to fund bold, visionary and pretty risky endeavors far beyond their initial focus areas. Seen through this lens, the effects of the internet are actually changing the world twice.
  • The end of roaming surcharges is a milestone for the EU
    For people living in the European Union, June 15 this year will be a date as import and symbolic as March 26 1995 was. At that day the Schengen agreement of open borders went into effect.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • The Knowledge Project: Naval Ravikant
    Naval Ravikant is the CEO and co-founder of AngelList and has invested in more than 100 companies. In this podcast interview he talks for a full 2 hours about a wide spectrum of topics, such as reading, habits, decision-making, mental models, and life. I was not bored a single second.

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #114

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 like this weekly selection and want to support it with a few bucks, you can do that through Patreon. A big thank you to the existing Patrons. You are great!

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Becoming a “better” human in the digital age
    In the digital age, the human brain can be tricked and manipulated more effectively than ever before, as most recently shown by Uber’s attempts to influence its drivers’ behavior. So how to maintain a level of autonomy then? Most probably by developing the ability to go against one’s nature and primal instincts – which humans have done many times before.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • a16z Podcast: Cryptocurrencies, App Coins, and Investing in Protocols
    This podcast offers rather challenging content due to the complicated nature of the topic, but the participants try their best to make it as comprehensible as possible. In my opinion, the potential of using cryptocurrencies to fund and finance startups, open source software and new protocols is too intriguing to be ignored.

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #113

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.

Personal note: Back from vacation!

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • The future of the open internet — and our way of life — is in your hands (medium.freecodecamp.com, 3)
    A griping depiction of the repeating dynamic that steers information technology towards corporate monopolies until a new technology comes and disrupts the old order. But when it comes to the Internet, there might be no disruptor.
  • Tech and the fake market tactic (anildash.com, 3)
    How the tech industry leverages the advantages of the free market in order to create rigged markets.
  • Systems smart enough to know when they’re not smart enough (bigmedium.com, 3)
    Machines have an over-confidence problem, writes Josh Clark, who also has some ideas about how to handle this situation. One might want to add that most humans have an over-confidence problem as well.
  • The Trade-Off Every AI Company Will Make (digitopoly.org, 2)
    Like a person who starts a new job, an AI with machine learning capabilities has to “practice” in order to get better. Companies that want to utilize AI are therefore faced with a tricky question: when to shift from in-house training to on-the-job learning.
  • The Wonders of the Future (collaborativefund.com, 2)
    Big breakthroughs don’t happen on their own. They are a conglomeration of small discoveries and often unforeseen.
  • Tech Bigwigs Know How Addictive Their Products Are. Why Don’t the Rest of Us? (wired.com, 2)
    In my eyes, psychological dependency (or addiction if you want to call it that way) on digital technology is a massive challenge. Those who fail to resist and fail to remain in control are, more than with any other information technology before, becoming subject to large-scale manipulation by commercial and ideological actors.
  • Why we can’t put our smartphones down – and what it’s doing to our relationships (newatlas.com, 2)
    Related to the previous article. It’s the first time I hear the term “phubbing”. It stands for “phone snubbing” – phone distractions that occur in the presence of other people. What’s described here makes a lot of sense to me: “The more one romantic partner perceives that they are being phubbed, the more it hurts their feelings, which ultimately fed into reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression.”
  • Reframe Work And Be Free (truthhawk.com, 1)
    A brilliant way to view work: investing time instead of spending time. An added thought from myself: If a certain work doesn’t feel like a good investment, it’s probably something one should try to let go as soon as possible.
  • Lessons in Tenacity from the Co-Founder of Foursquare (firstround.com, 3)
    For over ten years, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley had a vision, and he never gave up.
  • Is Netflix ringing the death knell for cinemas? (denofgeek.com, 2)
    Betteridge’s law applies of course. But Netflix undeniably is changing movie distribution and consumption patterns, so it will have an impact on cinema.
  • The Google Pixel does not exist (phonearena.com, 1)
    Google’s Pixel phone is said to be the best Android smartphone on the market – but it appears as if Google is not really keen on selling it to people.
  • Apple Is Pushing iPad Like Never Before (aboveavalon.com, 2)
    A lengthy, in-depth analysis of Apple’s latest strategy for the iPad. The tablet market is not as dead as some claim it to be.
  • Why Employees At Apple And Google Are More Productive (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Some companies from the tech sector are remarkably more productive than the average company, while having not significantly more “star players” among their employees. The key to this success lies in how these high performers are distributed among the teams.
  • Poaching passengers: An Uber driver endorses Juno (blog.wandr.me, 2)
    Occurrences during which Uber drivers try to get a passenger to join them on another ride-sharing app highlight Uber’s issue with lacking driver loyalty – which only remains unproblematic for Uber as long as no serious (global) competitor exists.
  • Upgrade your Medium (blog.medium.com, 2)
    Evan Williams, founder of Medium, outlines the rough details of the platform’s upcoming subscription system. This will be interesting to watch.
  • It Will Take Google 22 Days to Find You (motherboard.vice.com, 1)
    If you launch a website that you don’t index for search engines and that you solely tell a few friends about who you encourage to spread the word, how long does it take until Google finds you? One guy tried it.
  • Now We Know Why Microsoft Bought LinkedIn (backchannel.com, 2)
    At least in parts the reason my be: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who is extremely well connected, appreciated and influential in Silicon Valley.
  • Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse (vanityfair.com, 3)
    I have seen some criticism about this long read (for example here) but I found it to be pretty effective at making the reader feel how much the (possibly sensationalist) debate about AI as a potential threat is captivating the industry big shots’s minds. In the end, no one knows. In comparison to this superior AI that some are afraid and others are excited about, an Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking or Ray Kurzweil are not much more intelligent than anyone else. So everyone is just speculating about the future while being subject to the same cognitive limitations.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!

Weekly Links & Thoughts #112

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.

A personal note: I’ll be taking a few days off next week. Edition #113 of meshedsociety.com weekly will be published on March 30.

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like almost 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and 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. Example.
======

Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Is Facebook a Structural Threat to Free Society? (truthhawk.com, 3)
    I honestly have a hard time finding flaws in this comprehensive, well laid out argumentation. While I deeply admire Mark Zuckerberg for his achievements, the amount of power that he has been able to accumulate along the way is absolutely terrifying, as is the quasi-impossibility (for regular human beings who don’t want to go to the forest to talk) to completely remove oneself from his digital empire. Related: The Data Selfie extension for the Chrome browser shows what Facebook can learn about their users.
  • We didn’t lose control – it was stolen (ar.al, 2)
    The inventor of the WWW, Tim Berners-Lee, is worried that the public has lost control over their personal data and concerned about the general state of the web. Aral Balkan argues that Silicon Valley stole the data and the web as it was intended from the people and used it for the creation of “surveillance capitalism”.
  • The Token Economy (thecontrol.co, 2)
    The network effect is a powerful force for products to gain exposure and users/customers. With the rise of the Blockchain an iteration of the network effect is emerging, labeled by the author as “network ownership effect”. This effect is occurring when users of a service/product are being turned into owners through the purchase/provision of Blockchain-based tokens.
  • Airpods are Apple’s Best Product Since the iPad (calacanis.com, 2)
    Without having used them yet I am very optimistic as well. Read my previous post “Apple Airpods vs Google Glass”.
  • If Your iPhone is Stolen, These Guys May Try to iPhish You (krebsonsecurity.com, 2)
    When iOS devices get stolen, thieves often use third-party iCloud phishing services to get hold of the iCloud account credentials in order to remotely unlock their prey. Here is an inside look into this dubious industry.
  • What’s Apple’s next chapter in podcasting? (sixcolors.com, 2)
    Apple’s (and iTunes’s) leading role in the distribution of podcasts is remarkable considering how little focus Apple has put on the podcast ecosystem. It can only be a question of time though until the company gets serious about offering a superior podcast experience for both the consumer as well as the producer.
  • How Ed Sheeran Broke The Charts (musicindustryblog.wordpress.com, 2)
    The English musician Ed Sheeran is clocking up billions of plays on the leading music streaming services, leading to a massive domination of the official music charts which attempt to simultaneously measure sales and streams – a pretty flawed approach.
  • Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones? (nytimes.com, 2)
    If that’s the case, is that a better outcome or not? (part of the answer might be given in this week’s podcast recommendation, see below)
  • The body is the missing link for truly intelligent machines (aeon.co, 2)
    AIs need an embodied relationship with their environment in order to really “think” like a human, argues Ben Medlock, the co-founder of SwiftKey which was acquired by Microsoft.
  • Voice and the uncanny valley of AI (ben-evans.com, 2)
    A lot of people in the tech industry want voice to be the next big thing. While it in some regards definitely is, the existing concepts still struggle with huge unsolved problems. Expectations of an immediate shift of most digital interactions towards voice are therefore most likely way too optimistic.
  • Can you be friends with a robot? Aristotelian Friendship and Robotics (philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com, 3)
    Great food for thought which challenges one’s mental concept of friendship.
  • What Will Matter In The Future? (anothervoice.co, 2)
    A couple of smart suggestions for and ideas on how to think about the future and upcoming changes. I like the quote by Marshall McLuhan mentioned in the text a lot: “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
  • The Uber Bombshell About to Drop (danielcompton.net, 2)
    This post has been widely shared over the past days. In the wake of an ongoing lawsuit against Uber filed by Google, the author compiled a list of indicators that would suggest that Uber and a former Google employee came up with a canny (and highly unethical) plot to gain access to Google’s knowledge in the field of self-driving cars. As far as I can say, it is speculative but worth reading nonetheless.
  • Silicon Valley Is Having a Meltdown Because It Can’t Use Uber and Lyft at SXSW (slate.com, 2)
    The tech crowd complains about the absence of Uber and Lyft during the SXSW conference in Austin, and here is a response to that which I find very adequate. This paragraph nails it, especially the last sentence: “The outburst from SXSW reminds me that so many loud voices don’t just not participate in that conversation about general mobility improvements in cities, they’re not even conscious of its existence. They think a city like Austin could reach “full function” with a handful of multinational taxi companies. They didn’t even think to complain about how Austin’s transit system has cut service in recent years, and ridership has fallen along with it—down an astounding 12 percent in 2016. Looking for a bus isn’t an instinct they have anymore.”
  • Airbnb CEO Says Its IPO Is ‘Halfway’ Ready (skift.com, 2)
    Considering how well tech IPOs of unprofitable companies are often doing, the upcoming public listing of profitable Airbnb should break records.
  • ShatChat (500ish.com, 2)
    A justified rant about Facebook’s introduction of a Snapchat-like Stories feature in its Messenger app.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Towns, commerce and the future
    The creation of shopping clusters outside of city centers and the rise of e-commerce are leaving the hearts of towns (in Europe) or the suburbs (in the US) deserted and in decay. But there is a solution. It requires to put conventional thinking aside.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Cracked podcast about online outrage culture
    The cracked editors discuss the little “outrage machine” in our pockets, the addictive character of micro-outrage which now can be had as many times as one wishes during a day, and how certain actors are extremely skilled at using this situation for their own benefit. This is stuff with serious implications for public discourse, politics and individual health.

======

If you like what you read, you can support meshedsociety.com on Patreon!