Weekly Links & Thoughts #146

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

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

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #145

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

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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out to more than 500 people (by November 2017) each Thursday(ish) before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #144

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out to more than 500 people (October 2017) each Thursday(ish) before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #143

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 to more than 500 people (October 2017) each Thursday(ish) before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

  • Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot (nautil.us, 3)
    A truly outstanding essay from 2015 pointing out how people in the technology field get things wrong: They fail to take into account and extrapolate cultural changes, even though these often happen at a more rapid pace than technological progress.
  • Why are we so confident? (medium.com, 3)
    The term “confidence calibration assessment” might not fill you with excitement, but this is a great piece investigating people’s tendency to be too confident in predictions (and it links to a fun test in which you can check your own overconfidence).
  • Could Cryptocurrency kill online advertising? (linkedin.com, 2)
    An increasing number of (often shady) websites are being caught secretly mining cryptocurrencies using visitors’ computing capacity. Critics see this as a malicious act which has to be stopped. But one could also choose a positive framing, as done in this piece: The possible emergence of a new business model for websites which could enable them to abandon (widely hated) online advertising as revenue source. Worth thinking about.
  • The Battle For The Soul Of Bitcoin (forbes.com, 3)
    Skip this long feature if you don’t consider yourself at least “significantly interested” in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. If you are significantly interested though, then this extensively researched, comprehensive look at the debates and turmoil surrounding Bitcoin’s upcoming, highly polarizing hard fork expected to happen around November 16 might be an essential read. Impressive work by Laura Shin considering how convoluted this whole topic is.
  • How I Socially Engineer Myself Into High Security Facilities (motherboard.vice.com, 2)
    Sophie Daniel has an incredibly interesting but also highly challenging job: She gets hired by companies that want to test their (information) security procedures. Usually she uses social engineering to get access to areas and information that no outsider is supposed to have access to.
  • Antisocial media? (techcrunch.com, 2)
    This hits the nail on its head: “Maybe social media’s openness actually ends up fostering the opposite of connectedness. Maybe it’s really rather better-suited to fracturing the consensus narratives traditionally used to glue societies and peoples together because it’s so good at isolating and magnifying differing viewpoints — and thus at ripping apart the social fabric along existing fault lines.”
  • Teens’ online friendships just as meaningful as face-to-face ones, UCI study finds (news.uci.edu, 1)
    I am sure this does not only apply to teens: “Online contact enhances companionship between friends via conversations that can continue throughout the day and night without disrupting others, and it also allows more time to control emotions and calm down before crafting and sending a response to something upsetting.”
  • Selfies as a second language (eugenewei.com, 2)
    Smart reflections on the role of selfies and the question why “oldies” respond to Snaps with a text message, while young people tend to respond with a selfie (at least based on the experience of the author).
  • In a Distracted World, Solitude Is a Competitive Advantage (hbr.org, 1)
    This makes a lot of sense.
  • Introducing Neom, the 500 billion-dollar, ultra-high tech future megacity of Saudi Arabia (newatlas.com, 2)
    A “blank sheet” approach for building a new megacity, promised by Saudi Crown Prince Mohhamed bin Salman (“There is no room for old thinking.”), has undoubtedly allure. It remains to be seen though if an otherwise ultra-conservative country can deliver on this promise. In other news from the region: Neighboring United Arab Emirates is the first country in the world with a Ministry dedicated to artificial intelligence. It’s led by a 27-year old. Kinda cool.
  • Returning to Second Life (arstechnica.com, 3)
    Quite a fascinating look inside the virtual daily life in Second Life, which – surprisingly – has survived ever since its hype back in 2007.
  • Singapore Will Stop Increasing Car Numbers From February 2018 (bloomberg.com, 1)
    People living in Singapore who want to own a car have to buy an expensive permit. Permits are auctioned monthly by the government. From next year, the number of permits in circulation will not be increased anymore.
  • After the end of the startup era (techcrunch.com, 2)
    The dominance of ever-expanding technology giants and the large investment and data requirements of cutting-edge tech makes today a very bad time for startups, argues Jon Evans.
  • Why Facebook Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Buy tbh (stratechery.com, 2)
    It seems indeed as if the only pragmatic way to allow for actual competition in today’s social networking space is to prohibit a dominating player such as Facebook from buying small, potential future rivals.
  • Why Uber is The Revenge of the Founders (steveblank.com, 3)
    Compelling analysis of how tech CEOs became as powerful as they are today, and how boards and investors simultaneously lost a lot of influence.
  • This Little-Known Startup Just Hit a Valuation of $30 Billion (bloomberg.com, 1)
    Meituan Dianping, the world’s fourth-most valuable startup, is completely unknown to most people outside of China.
  • Can Basic Income Plus The Blockchain Build A New Economic System? (fastcompany.com, 2)
    An article bringing together two of the most hyped ideas of our times is guaranteed to attract storms of enthusiasm as well as ridicule.
  • The (near) future of data is linked (blog.data.world, 2)
    Data linked to other data in a similar way as the World Web Web linked information on webpages to each other? It’s still a bit abstract to me how this will look like, but interesting to ponder.
  • Mobile Has Largely Displaced Other Channels for Email (emarketer.com, 1)
    More than half of emails worldwide are read on a mobile device.
  • How to Remember What You Read (farnamstreetblog.com, 3)
    An astonishing long list of hacks and strategies to get the most out of reading (focusing on nonfiction books). I thought of myself as a well-versed reader but after this I guess I have to adjust my self image.

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #142

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out to more than 500 people (October 2017) each Thursday(ish) before this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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

Podcast episodes of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #141

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

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

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #140

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

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

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

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #139

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

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #138

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

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

  • 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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