Weekly Links & Thoughts #110

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

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

  • Deep Work => Flow – A proven Path to Satisfaction (robinwieruch.de, 3)
    I enjoyed this summary of the two books Deep Work by Cal Newport and Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a lot. It made me question my own approach to work and the numerous situations during the day at which I allow myself to inadvertently lose focus. If you haven’t read both books, I’d highly recommend spending 30 minutes to read this.
  • Uber Is Doomed (jalopnik.com, 3)
    It’s easy to misunderstand this headline as a prediction of an imminent collapse of Uber, but that’s not the case. The author basically summarizes everything that he thinks is wrong with Uber, its culture, its business model, and its impact on the economy. The list is pretty long.
  • Everything is fucked and I’m pretty sure it’s the Internet’s fault (markmanson.net, 3)
    “Civilization was built on people’s ability to suppress their baser instincts—their tendencies towards tribalism and narcissism, their penchant for slaughtering each other over superficial and imagined differences. It took millennia of education and advancement for us to learn how to not do this.” Yes, and now, thanks the Internet, a reverse process has set in. Hopefully, it’ll only be temporary.
  • Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence? (scientificamerican.com, 3)
    Digitally-fueled neotribalism is not the only challenge for modern civilization. Big Data and AI also force us to face uncomfortable questions.
  • LinkedIn endorsements are dumb. Here’s the data. (blog.interviewing.io, 2)
    LinkedIn’s endorsements feature does not exist to tell the truth about a user’s skills, but primarily as a justification for LinkedIn to be able to sell expensive services to recruiters, argues
  • The rise of artificial intelligence is creating new variety in the chip market, and trouble for Intel (economist.com, 2)
    The rise of AI leads to more demand for specialized processors such as Nvidia’s. For Intel, that spells trouble.
  • Supercomputers for Weather Forecasting Have Come a Long Way (top500.org, 2)
    Probably something few people think about: The weather forecasts that they seek are created based on simulations by incredibly powerful supercomputers.
  • Why Learning Is A New Procrastination (thecoffeelicious.com, 2)
    Been there, done that. But I’d argue that learning still is one of the better forms, if not the best form of procrastination
  • What we lose when we rely on streaming (hallama.org, 2)
    For collectors, the streaming age poses big challenges.
  • This site is “taking the edge off rant mode” by making readers pass a quiz before commenting (niemanlab.org, 2)
    Removing some of the impulsiveness of online comments and coming up with ways to ensure that those who comment an article actually have read it appears to be a smart approach towards improving the quality of comments without removing the comment possibility.
  • Want to Know the Future? Most People Don’t, Study Suggests (livescience.com, 1)
    “The research, which surveyed more than 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain, found that 85 to 90 percent of participants said they wouldn’t want to know about certain future negative events in their lives, and 40 to 70 percent said they wouldn’t want to know about certain future positive events.”
  • Even China Can’t Kill Bitcoin (bloomberg.com, 1)
    This is essentially a law of nature, and it also applies to Bitcoin: “Every time a government sets out to abolish something people like, the well-liked thing moves to where it can’t be stopped.”
  • The Governance of Blockchains (thecontrol.co, 2)
    Nick Tomaino describes one of the essences of the concept of Blockchains: They enable a new paradigm in governance. The Blockchain allows people who do not know each other to agree to a set of rules and coordinate it in a way that’s beneficial for the group – without relying on centralized organizations to reach consensus.
  • Japan takes step toward enormous bank of personal data (asia.nikkei.com, 1)
    Japan wants to launch a so-called “information bank” that would store data on customers currently held by companies and public entities. Individuals then would be able to consent to the data being shared with third parties. A centralized approach like that seems more feasible in the short-term, but still falls short in comparison to a scenario in which each and every individual “owns” their data in a decentralized manner, as described in this essay by Aral Balkan.
  • You are building a self driving AI without even knowing about it (hackernoon.com, 1)
    Speculative, but not unlikely: Google’s Captchas keep asking users to identify street signs and storefronts as part of a data collection effort for Google’s self-driving car algorithms.
  • Stop Fabricating Travel Security Advice (medium.com, 2)
    Over the past weeks, plenty of advice about how to get through immigration checkpoints without having to reveal personal data stored on one’s devices has been circulating on the web. Here’s someone who self-identifies as “Information Security Researcher” who suggests not to listen to these recommendations.
  • One year in and only now are we getting to know Apple Watch owners (medium.com, 3)
    Who are the people who own and use an Apple Watch? Here are some answers, based on a (non-representative) survey among more than 1300 people who bought the gadget.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #109

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.

By the way, meshedsociety.com weekly has now its own landing page where you can subscribe for the email: weekly.meshedsociety.com. If you tell your friends and colleagues, I’d be more than happy.

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

  • 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump (medium.com, 3)
    When I saw the headline and the name “Trump”, I expected yet another interchangeable think-piece with little substance. But boy how I was wrong. This is a griping and well-informed feature detailing the significance of the legendary online messaging board 4chan for the emergence of a lot of contemporary cultural and political patterns and trends. While reading I realized how little I knew about 4chan. The author does a great job explaining how the community – which based on its own self-image has been made up of mostly young males living in their parent’s basements – is connected to cult memes, Anonymous, Gamergate, Pepe the frog, outdated left vs right politics, and the cultural war that eventually brought Trump into power. The text is extremely well-written and – according to a friend of mine – even offers new insights to people who already possess a fair share of knowledge about 4chan.
  • Zoltan Istvan on transhumanism, politics and why the human body has to go (newatlas.com, 3)
    Zoltan Istvan is an American transhumanist who intends to run for Governor of California in 2018 as Libertarian. In this interview, he talks about what he calls the “universal right to indefinite lifespans”, explains why he thinks that moving beyond the human body is better than trying to fix it, and drops a couple of other catchy lines that some people certainly will find crazy. But so would have been the thought of being able to do a wireless video call from one side of the planet to the other 100 years ago. So while Istvan clearly represents a form of fundamentalist ideology, there is no reason to at least entertain the ideas proposed by him and a few like-minded individuals. Which is something Yuval Harari has done – more about that further down below in the “Podcast episode of the week” section.
  • How Silicon Valley Is Trying to Hack Its Way Into a Longer Life (time.com, 2)
    So what are people associated with the Silicon Valley-centric transhumanist mindset doing in order to extend their life? Here is a list of undertakings.
  • Norway is reaching tipping point for electric vehicles as market share reaches record breaking 37% (electrek.co, 1)
    Incredible, particularly the fact that this is happening in oil-rich Norway.
  • In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant (theguardian.com, 2)
    Valid point, I guess. Adjusting to the age of automation means equipping today’s children with the skills that robots wont be able to compete on.
  • Interactive competence (medium.com, 1)
    One skill to learn, not only for children: interactive competence: The ability to connect with information and people, as and when needed.
  • George Orwell and Useless Work (shift.newco.co, 2)
    How does a person live day to day in poverty, being exclusively concerned with survival? George Orwell, widely known for his dystopian novel 1984, personally experienced such a state of existence, and wrote about it 80 years ago.
  • The race for autonomous cars is over. Silicon Valley lost (autoblog.com, 1)
    The verdict in this post might be premature, but for the moment it indeed looks as if the tech giants have realized that building and selling complete cars should better be left to other players, who know how to do it.
  • The Myth of the Entrepreneur (thinkgrowth.org, 2)
    Entrepreneurship is often glorified as the pinnacle and main driver of innovation. What these stories routinely ignore is the crucial role government funding for academic research plays in order to get to those entrepreneurial breakthroughs that captivate everyone’s attention.
  • Social Media Needs A Travel Mode (idlewords.com, 2)
    This is an intriguing idea: During travel, most people leave important stuff at home, or in a safe place. But with data stored on social media services, it’s all or nothing (unless you use a dedicated “travel smartphone”) – which can become a problem if you have to deal with overly invasive immigration officers.
  • Accuracy on the Internet: The Price of Freedom is Personal Responsibility (seapointcenter.com, 1)
    I’m linking to this short piece mostly because of the statement from the headline. It seems as if while many people have been embracing the freedom brought by the Internet, they have not understood the personal responsibility that comes with it.
  • Trump is causing a political app boom, data shows (techcrunch.com, 1)
    No surprise here. The demand for coverage of politics and Trumpism seems insatiable.
  • UberEVENTS is anything but über (hackernoon.com, 2)
    In the U.S., Uber offers less known service called “UberEVENTS”, which allows event organizers to provide rides for attendees free of charge. These rides are instead billed to the organizer. The author describes his rather frustrating experience using the service.
  • Apple Doesn’t Need to Buy Netflix (aboveavalon.com, 2)
    Why Apple would or wouldn’t have to buy Netflix, based on the performance of Apple Music.
  • The Robot Tax And Basic Income (avc.com, 1)
    Bill Gates is a proponent of a robot tax. Not everyone else agrees. But the topic will for sure be subject to intensifying debates.
  • Rule by Nobody (reallifemag.com, 3)
    A critical analogy of bureaucracies and algorithms, which share certain self-preserving and evasive characteristics.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #108

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, do like more than 300 other smart people (as of January 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.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Universal Basic Income Accelerates Innovation by Reducing Our Fear of Failure (evonomics.com, 2)
    A brilliant text. One of the best I’ve read about the potential of a basic income. When it comes to the core argumentation for considering such a solution, usually the focus lies on the angle of smarter, more efficient social welfare – about ensuring that even when millions of additional jobs are being automated, people will still be able to pay for basic needs. In this essay, the other, in fact more exciting angle is being emphasized: That a basic income would empower more people to take risks such as becoming entrepreneurs, by reducing fear of the consequences of failure. If you decide to read it, pay particular attention to the insurance analogy. I find that one very intriguing.
  • When Good Intentions Backfire (points.datasociety.net, 3)
    Engineers and journalists should think 10 steps ahead in order to imagine how products, ideas or principles that are born out of good intentions might be manipulated or repurposed in much less desirable ways later, suggests Danah Boyd.
  • Channeling Steve Jobs, Apple seeks design perfection at new ‘spaceship’ campus (reuters.com, 2)
    Amazing how much effort and focus on details Apple is putting into creating its new headquarter. Of course, if any company would be a candidate for such an approach, it’s Apple.
  • I’ll never bring my phone on an international flight again (medium.freecodecamp.com, 2)
    An eye-opening text that makes a gruesome prediction: “It’s only a matter of time before downloading the contents of people’s phones becomes a standard procedure for entering every country.”
  • Amazon Go For China? WeChat Store Of The Future (chinachannel.co, 1)
    A completely automated physical store that handles customer identification and payment through WeChat. Incredible.
  • Amazon’s Friction-Killing Tactics To Make Products More Seamless (firstround.com, 3)
    An interesting read even if you are not specifically involved with building products – it’s valuable to learn about the drive towards less and less friction even if you are just a user/customer. Often, it’s the presence of friction which makes incumbents vulnerable to the upstarts.
  • Trust: the inside story of the rise and fall of Ethereum (aeon.co, 3)
    Very thought-provoking take questioning Blockchain enthusiasts’ hope that technology could replace the human dimension of trust.
  • Why our company’s remote work system failed (medium.com, 2)
    When people prefer to keep coming to the office despite the availability of remote work opportunities, then this is a clear statement.
  • Inside Medium’s Meltdown (businessinsider.com, 2)
    After reading this I am undecided whether I now believe less or more in Medium. If the problems are caused by the personality and ideals of his founder & CEO Ev Williams, then the question is if he can put those aside.
  • How tech ate the media and our minds (axios.com, 2)
    This sums it up well. Also, this process happened while no one noticed it (the neo luddites don’t count, because they are generally against everything that has to do with digital technology).
  • In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books (qz.com, 2)
    A striking point.
  • A fuck-you money attitude (m.signalvnoise.com, 1)
    “Fuck-you money” means being well-off enough to be able to tell anyone off for any reason without risking one’s livelihood. But how often does this really happen? Asks David Heinermeier Hansson aka DHH.
  • The Disease of more (markmanson.net, 2)
    Maybe part of the answer to this question is the “disease of more”. Nothing is ever “enough” and relative happiness quickly plunges back to the famous “7” on a 1-10 scale, meaning that the next venture has to happen, and it has to be bigger than the previous one.
  • One person at a time (jarche.com, 1)
    A brief note on the importance of individuals as nodes in the networked society – which is what we are headed to right at this moment. These nodes become so crucial because “our institutions and markets will fail to deliver in a network era society because they were never designed for one.”
  • The Meaning of Decentralization (medium.com, 3)
    Apropos networks: These networks sometimes tend to show decentralized characterics. Here is a well thought out explanation of what decentralization actually means, what different types exist and why some of them are harder to achieve than others.
  • Here’s What Happens When @realDonaldTrump Tweets A Link (buzzfeed.com, 1)
    Trump uses the public version of the URL shortener Bitly which allows everyone to check click statistics for any Bitly URL.
  • Has Facebook slipped up with VR? (bbc.com, 3)
  • Google Daydream hasn’t done anything to fix VR’s biggest problem – it’s just not very good (androidpolice.com, 2)
    Two pieces that illustrate how the optimism about the short-term impact of VR is currently taking a few hits. Is there any limit to the number of times VR can loop through the different stages of the hype cycle?
  • Don’t Look Now, but the Great Unbundling Has Spun into Reverse (nytimes.com, 2)
    The great unbundling of traditional media is followed by the great bundling of digital media. The economics of bundling are too attractive and powerful to be neglected.
  • Mass entertainment in the digital age is still about blockbusters, not endless choice (economist.com, 2)
    That’s an interesting point considering how frequently it is lamented that during water cooler talks, people today are lacking this one single show or movie which everyone watched the evening before on TV. Other than that the consumption does not happen at exactly the same time for everyone, might that just be myth?
  • How Sonos will take on Alexa and Google: by integrating them (theverge.com, 3)
    Sonos could have been the company that introduced the concept of smart home speakers instead of Amazon. Now the iconic maker of wireless speakers is trying to catch up – by wanting to play nice with all the new contenders in the field.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The crisis of optimism
    People have lost their optimism for the future – with the exception of the technology industry in Silicon Valley. And so they turn to the banal methods of the past. What could bring optimism back?

Video of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #107

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, do like more than 300 other smart people (as of January 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.
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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Zuckerberg’s Lock-in Effect
    Facebook has become a revenue and profit machine. But the company’s success comes at a cost for politics, societies and the maintenance of social peace. The undesirable effects of the “Facebook world” have become so apparent lately that CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be seriously concerned. Tragically, even if the 32-year-old would start to have doubts about what he has unleashed, it wouldn’t matter: He cannot fix the damage anymore. He has locked the company into a highly effective business model. Abandoning it is not an option. It’s his very own Lock-in Effect.
  • Medium can be the better Twitter
    When looking at Medium.com not as a publishing platform but as a social network around smart ideas and constructive discussions, it has huge potential to actually become the better Twitter.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #106

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, do like more than 300 other smart people (as of January 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.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • On Progress and Historical Change (3)
    An absolutely brilliant essay shedding light on questions about inevitability of progress and historical changes. I found especially the second half to be truly enlightening and educating.
  • The Data That Turned the World Upside Down (3)
    This comprehensive article detailing the impact that big data analysis has on political marketing and opinion-making made huge waves when it was published in German a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s available in English as well. The authors drew criticism for too far-reaching conclusions and for buying all the claims made by Cambridge Analytica – the big data firm profiled. But in my eyes certain flaws of this work don’t invalidate its important message: That large-scale data collection and the new possibilities for microtargeting of single individuals based on their digital interest profiles offer powerful tools to subtly and effectively manipulate people’s political positions, thereby influencing public opinion.
  • More than one million people will work from coworking spaces in 2017 (1)
    To be honest, I found this number to be surprisingly low, considering how many people I know who at least occasionally hang out at co-working spaces. But that only shows in how much of a bubble we “tech people” live in.
  • The Schedule and the Stream (3)
    Thanks to the Internet, media consumption is moving from a schedule- to a stream-based paradigm. That also shifts the public space, which in the stream is currently quite contested. Thought-provoking reflection.
  • Does the era of No Interface also mean No Revenues? (2)
    Will the looming shift from screen to voice interaction kill large parts of the advertising market? A captivating question to ponder, and one which Amazon does not need to worry about too much. Theoretically, one could make a case for that Google (or Facebook) should buy e-commerce companies, to mitigate possible risks that will affect their advertising-based business models in a voice-first world.
  • Apple strategy in ‘smart home’ race threatened by Amazon (2)
    This piece offers interesting details on the different approaches by Apple and Amazon towards how third party manufacturers get their products connected to their respective company’s smart home platform. It’s a slow but thorough vetting approach taken by Apple vs a quick but less quality-focused one by Amazon, akin to the different app approval procedures for Apple’s App Store and Google Play. As we have learned, both paths come with their own particular set of weaknesses.
  • Silicon Valley’s criticism of Donald Trump (2)
    I’m admittedly rather thrilled by how the U.S. technology industry is being forced to take clear sides now that Donald Trump sits in the White House. For too long, the leading companies of the industry were able to adopt “good” policies only when it helped their PR or recruiting efforts. The rest of the time, they were busy externalizing the costs of their disruptive business models. Now they have to face reality like everyone else.
  • Is Tech Disruption Good for the Economy? (2)
    The study presented here, focusing on 85 years worth of patents, suggests that overall and seen over a long period, tech disruption is indeed good for the economy (in terms of total wealth created), despite its destructive impact on certain industries.
  • Google, in Post-Obama Era, Aggressively Woos Republicans (2)
    Is this an indicator for a broken system, or just an inevitable aspect of how the world works?
  • Instagram Stories is stealing Snapchat’s users (2)
    Snapchat must hate this narrative. Just imagine if Facebook’s Instagram would mange to screw up Snapchat’s imminent IPO in the last moment.
  • Hideo Kojima says games and films will merge together (2)
    That’s what I expect as well. My guess is that people will eventually be able to switch between a lean back (passive consumption) and a lean forward (active participation) experience as they please.
  • Earn Anywhere with the 21 App (1)
    A curious concept. 21 offers users a personal online profile and messaging inbox which pays users Bitcoins for reading messages as well as for accomplished micro tasks advertised through the service. Here is my personal profile.
  • Why is Successful Change so Difficult? (3)
    Intelligent analysis of the difficulty of getting an organization to accept and embrace change. Many of these insights should be applicable to other contexts such as a incentivizing change within a society as well.
  • India Is Building the Infrastructure for a Truly Digital Economy (2)
    Along with the controversial cash ban and ambitions to investigate a future implementation of an universal basic income, India appears to push hard towards transforming its society.
  • Smartphone orders clog Starbucks shops, forcing coffee giant to revamp store designs (2)
    The phenomenon of unintended consequences is always fascinating.
  • Software Is Politics (2)
    Not sure if the majority of IT engineers and tech entrepreneurs are aware of how political their actions are.
  • With the Internet of Things, we’re building a world-size robot (3)
    Renowned security expert Bruce Schneier comes up with an effective metaphor for the Internet of Things and explains in detail why the market is unable to ensure that all the parts of this “world-size robot” are properly secured.
  • United we stand, divided we fall (2)
    Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, wrote a passionate, gripping letter to the 27 EU heads of state or government, summarizing the challenges faced by the EU but also outlining the potential of a united Europe. Completely resonates with me.
  • The Throughput of Learning (3)
    This philosophical & somewhat abstract look at the goals and process of learning will require 100 percent focus of you, but it can change your perspective on the topic.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • What’s next?
    I am scratching my head about the state of the world, but don’t have any good conclusions. However, a few thoughts keep swirling through my mind, so I wanted to pen them down. Featuring Hegel, brain hacking, counter-intuitive outcomes and more.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #105

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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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The year when social media died
    It was nice while it lasted, but for me it’s time to move on. (please note: obviously the headline requires some abstraction. As everyone is aware of, social media services are still there and see a lot of activity. I hope what I mean with “dead” will get apparent when reading the article).
  • The internet does to the world what radio did to the world
    In finally found the time to (re)read Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding media”.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Rationally Speaking: Jason Brennan on “Against democracy”
    An extremely thought-provoking interview about the flaws of democracy and a concept called Epistocracy (knowledge-based voting) which could replace it. Here is a review of the interviewee’s recent book, “Against democracy”. Personally I don’t think making voting-rights depending on a basic competency test akin to a driver’s license (but of course free) necessarily would have to be labeled as abandonment of democracy, but I am not an expert on this topic so I keep the option open to change my mind (or to reject the whole idea of Epistocracy).

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #104

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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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Saving obsolete jobs
    Does it really make sense to artificially save jobs that technically become obsolete? For politicians apparently it does. For society? Most likely not so much.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #103

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.

I have been sick over the past days, which caused this week’s edition to be a bit more compact than usual.

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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #102

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.

I hope everyone had a good start into 2017! Let’s make this a good year, against all odds!

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  • Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People (3)
    Brilliant, critical, very extensive examination of the favorite topic of today’s smartest minds in tech.
  • On the Exponential View (3)
    Information technology is changing the face of humanity and leading to exponential developments. This very informative transcript of a talk explains why it is happening, what opportunities this offers and how it is the cause of a lot of today’s tension in politics and society. Basically, a lot of dots are being intelligently connected here.
  • At CES 2017, Amazon revs Alexa everywhere strategy (1)
  • AirPods Kick off Apple’s Battle for Our Ears (2)
    I group these two pieces together because both Amazon’s Echo hardware and Alexa personal assistant as well as Apple’s AirPods represent the “battle for our ears” proclaimed in the headline. In my eyes this will probably be the major story in consumer tech this year: Voice control and personal assistants are capturing everyone’s mind. For the moment, Amazon is focusing on homes (read here about simple things to use Echo with Alexa for), Apple on use outside of the home. Eventually of course, these use cases will merge, promising a pretty thrilling race. The competition currently lags behind, even if Google is trying its best with Google Home (and the software “Google Assistant”), while Microsoft pushes Cortana. But Amazon has definitely a leg up on the competion.
  • Alexa: Amazon’s Operating System (3)
    Smart explainer on the importance and history of consumer operating systems, culminating in the conclusion that Amazon has found its very own mass-market ready operating system in Alexa.
  • It’s too bad soft sexism isn’t a civil liberties issue (1)
    With personal assistants becoming ubiquitous, the issue of them reinforcing gender stereotypes is moving into the spotlight as well. I see why it is problematic that these assistants usually carry female names and default “personalities”. From that perspective, Google has made a better choice with “Google Assistant”. However, it sounds super boring. In my opinion, the ideal name would be one which does not instantly gets associated with a specific gender. Then users could make their own choice what “personality”/gender they prefer.
  • Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players (1)
    A sign of things to come: A tech company testing a new AI program in public initially pretending for it to be an individual. Basically, a bot when you don’t expect a bot.
  • Virtual Reality Can Leave You With an Existential Hangover (2)
    When it comes to Virtual Reality, employing some systems thinking might be wise. There could be significant and possibly completely unexpected side-effects around the corner. Just think about if suddenly millions of people would develop strange mental conditions. I know, I know, this sounds like those fear mongers who thought the human body would be severely damaged when riding a train at 40 km/h. But with the immersion level that VR is promised to deliver, any comparison to earlier technology is kind of skewed.
  • The internet is broken. Starting from scratch, here’s how I’d fix it. (1)
    To stop the decline of what made the internet great, Walter Isaacson suggests a couple of improvements and changes to its core infrastructure, including a voluntary system for those who want to use it, to have verified identification and authentication.
  • How Digital Nomads Went From Niche to Normal (2)
    As someone who practices it myself, I don’t have the impression that location independent work (or “digital nomadism”, if you fancy that label) really has left its niche, but the headline makes more sense with some context from the article: For many startups and tech companies, having people working from other places than the office has become normal.
  • The Tesla Advantage: 1.3 Billion Miles of Data (2)
    Tesla’s big competitive advantage: Through its autopilot software, it can collect massive amounts of driver data, which is exactly what a car company needs for a future of self-driving vehicles.
  • The Difference Between Impatience and Having No Tolerance for Inefficiency (1)
    I dig that distinction proposed here: Impatience and having no tolerance for inefficiency are two different things. And boy, how little tolerance for inefficiency I have!
  • Why Hasn’t a Killer App Emerged for Finding Local Events? (1)
    The market of services for finding local events has indeed seen surprisingly little action and success stories.
  • Dropbox Could Have One of 2017’s Most Interesting IPOs (2)
    The narrative about Dropbox is changing quickly. From a company struggling to compete in an environment of fast-moving giants the outlook seemingly has gotten brighter again. At least according to this text.
  • Be Recklessly Confident when “Learning How to Code” (2)
    Highly motivating for everyone who is learning to code, and generally thought-provoking for everyone else as well: How to think and behave when learning a skill characterized by a steep and fluctuating learning curve.
  • Quantum computers ready to leap out of the lab in 2017 (2)
    Some high tech stuff here. I can’t say I understand everything about Quantum computing yet but things are clearly heating up.
  • Why Emojis are failing to evolve into a form of Language (2)
    “Emoji are so popular they’re killing off netspeak” – but not sufficient enough to form a totally new language.
  • Finland trials basic income for unemployed (1)
    I am excited that Finland’s highly anticipated basic income experiment has been launched. But I am also disappointed that it focuses on unemployed people only. That means this experiment won’t tell anything about how those who are employed would be impacted (e.g. whether they would quit current jobs and move to something they perceive as more meaningful, or for example start companies). It will neither help to position the basic income as a neutral type of social welfare, instead connecting it with the negative associations that many people already think of when hearing of social welfare. The goal of Finland’s trial is simply to incentivize unemployed people to get a job, even if it is pays little, because they’d keep the basic income. Basically, this is not an unconditional basic income, but one on the condition of being unemployed in order to be eligible in the first place – which is a completely different type of concept. But in order to remain optimistic, maybe this nevertheless turns out to be a smart way to get started; to slowly get the public used to it. The first of many small steps forward.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Really too big to fail
    Can today’s tech giants fail? The list of blunders, complaints and pessimistic predictions is long. But Facebook, Google, Amazon and a few others don’t seem to be affected at all. It’s time to make peace with the idea that these companies are becoming too big to fail.
  • The obsession with “Fast-moving consumer news”
    Some people promote the idea of quitting or at least significantly reducing the consumption of day-to-day news. But wouldn’t that be just looking away from the problems? Somehow, yes. But considering the sad state of online media today, maybe that’s still the better option? A couple of notes about a debate which is gaining relevancy.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • Philosophize This: Are you living in a simulation?
    If you have read the first article linked to in this week’s list and haven’t totally lost your appetite for pondering the (admittedly obscure) idea of our existence being a simulation, you might like this podcast episode. Generally this is a recommended podcast, approaching a heavy topic such as philosophy in a lightweight, but (as far as I can judge) still not too shallow way.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #101

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.

This is the last edition of 2016. The next meshedsociety.com weekly will be published on January 5. Happy New Year!

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Length indicator: 1 = short, 2 = medium, 3 = long

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