Weekly Links & Thoughts #153

Here is this week’s issue 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 Wednesday/Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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

Quote of the week:

  • “Most of history is made by those who mastered the art of doing nothing when nothing needed to be done.”
    Morgan Housel in Making History By Doing Nothing (collaborativefund.com, 1)

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The lost blog post about “World Leaders on Twitter”


Twitter just published a blog post justifying why the company isn’t banning Donald Trump for breaking the messaging service’s rules with his inflammatory tweets.

However, it seems as if the wrong draft made it through the internal approval process. I am sure that the actual post should have looked like this:

There’s been a lot of discussion about political figures and world leaders on Twitter, and we want to share our stance.

Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation.
Twitter has significantly contributed to the current polarized state of the global, public conversation. We might even have been complicit in “creating” Donald Trump as U.S. President.

Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society. Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.
Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society. The trivial nature of Twitter, the character limit as well as our need to earn money with people’s attention at all costs means that the service is not suitable as a tool nor environment for world leaders to communicate with the public and to carry out their work responsibly.

We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly. No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind.
However, the truth is that we need Donald Trump. He is driving our current growth. Without Donald Trump’s tweets, we’d face severe business risks, as fewer and fewer people would pay attention to us. Also the media wouldn’t constantly mention us anymore.

We are working to make Twitter the best place to see and freely discuss everything that matters. We believe that’s the best way to help our society make progress.
We have no other choice than to pretend that Twitter is highly important for the the world and to achieve progress, even if we are well aware of that we are part of the problem, not the solution.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #152

Here is this week’s issue 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 Wednesday/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 (January 2018). Here is an archive of previous issues.
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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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

  • American reams: why a ‘paperless world’ still hasn’t happened (theguardian.com, 3)
    Well-written, insightful and in parts amusing feature exploring the paper industry’s perspective on the rise of digital and the reasons for why the protagonists aren’t too pessimistic – yet.
  • A Concise History Of The Smartwatch (hodinkee.com, 3)
    Over the past decades (and long before Pebble and the Apple Watch) and to my surprise, some pretty bold “smart watches” had been introduced to the market.
  • Finstagram (theawl.com, 2)
    Apparently, operating two separated Instagram accounts is becoming a widespread trend: One for a small circle of trusted people and friends, and one for public display. From the piece: “A friend explained finstas to me as uncurated content for a curated audience, in contrast to the curated content for an uncurated audience represented by public accounts.”
  • AI and Deep Learning in 2017 – A Year in Review (wildml.com, 3)
    At the risk of stating the obvious, 2017 saw a lot of (headline-making) breakthroughs in the field of AI and deep learning. It was also the year in which the topic of AI bias has gained attention. Although that debate might itself be impacted by bias – human ones.
  • The Christmas crypto correction. What really happened (jamescrypto.com, 1)
    Speculation on what caused the dramatic correction of crypto currency prices around Christmas, suggesting that the so called “whales” jointly decided to sell off but tried hard to avoid the total crash in order to be able to repeat the whole procedure again in 2018. Could be just an unfounded conspiracy theory, but who knows.
  • A beginner’s guide to IOTA (medium.com, 2)
    IOTA appears to be the next stage in the evolution of crypto currencies, doing away with blockchain principle and need for mining. While I’m not able to make any statement regarding the potential here and while IOTA is not free from controversy, it’s a technology worth keeping an eye on.
  • Stories From 1999 (joefahmy.com, 2)
    This was written in 2013, with the intention of refuting warnings of alleged similarities between the dotcom era and market trends of 2013. Interestingly, when comparing the depictions with what’s going on today in the crypto world, one clearly can see parallels.
  • China’s Digital Wallets Offer a Glimpse at the Future of Payments (visualcapitalist.com, 2)
    Compact and visualized overview of the various payment and commerce features of WeChat.
  • The Network Effects Map | NFX Case Study: Uber (medium.com, 2)
    An in-depth analysis of the network effects that Uber has created or, so far, has failed to create in order to keep competitors from gaining market share.
  • What Elon Musk Doesn’t Get About Urban Transit (citylab.com, 2)
    Elon Musk expressed some rather unintelligent sounding views on public transit. Jarrett Walker takes Musk’s arguments apart.
  • Has music lost that loving feeling? (om.co, 2)
  • The Age of Abundance (500ish.com, 2)
    Om Malik and MG Siegler get all nostalgic (or maybe even melancholic) about their appreciation of music in the past and what’s possibly being lost in the age of on-demand streaming and abundance.
  • Albania 2017 – Startups and more (kathleenfritzsche.com, 2)
    A brief report about the still tiny startup scene in this small but up-and-coming European country. I visited Tirana last year as well and liked it a lot.
  • ‘Saluton!’: the surprise return of Esperanto (theguardian.com, 2)
    Maybe it indeed is time to learn Esperanto. In the networked age, an exponential increase in momentum is at least in the realm of possibilities.
  • Help Me Or Soon I Will Die (logicmag.io, 3)
    Green Bank, a town in the U.S., is one of the only places left in the world where cell towers and Wi-Fi networks are banned. And so it becomes somewhat of a refuge for people who say that they suffer from “electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS)”. Very informative.
  • My favorite guidelines for life, inspired by Buddhism and Stoicism (medium.com, 1)
    A short post from yours truly.

Video of the week:

  • How Do Machines Learn? (youtube.com)
    The principles of machine learning and the impact of algorithmic content recommendations, well explained in 8:30 minutes.

Quote of the week:

  • “Many people overestimate the importance of the status quo while underestimating or ignoring the rate of change. I say that, in general, looking at the rate of change is a better indicator of the future than the status quo.”
    Can Olcer in in Rate of change > status quo (hackernoon.com, 1)

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #151

Here is this week’s issue 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 Wednesday/Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

Please note: The next issue of meshedsociety.com weekly will be published in the first week of 2018.

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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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Quote of the week:

  • “When I left Myspace, I didn’t shake hands for like three years because I figured out that people were disgusting. And I just could not touch people.”
    A content moderator quoted in “The Basic Grossness of Humans“. Things were bad already back in the early days. (theatlantic.com, 2)

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Is Digital Capitalism Aligned With Public Interest? Probably not.

2017 has been (another) very eventful year. The consequences of the shift to digital are more apparent and far-reaching than ever. When reflecting on the trends that currently are reshaping the world, one can take many perspectives. What I consistently end up with when pondering current events, is the following question: In the digital age, is “traditional” capitalism still sufficiently aligned with the interests of the people? And my answers is: probably not. Read on why, and what Swiss cheese has to do with it.

The basic idea of capitalism is clever: acknowledging that the pursuit of self-interest is the best motivator for people to get stuff done, and then building a framework which ensures that the results of this pursuit are channeled into overall improvements for everybody. Genius. And this approach indeed has led to unprecedented wealth, growth and prosperity, over many decades, if not centuries (depending on where you look and when you start counting). Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #150

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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

  • A “Post-Verbal” World (jjbeshara.com, 3)
    In-depth, extensive reflections on how brain-computer interfaces such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink would revolutionize human communication. While all this can become a privacy nightmare, the idea also is unbelievably fascinating (I might have stated that already).
  • How Email Open Tracking Quietly Took Over the Web (wired.com, 3)
    This lengthy feature might radically change how you look at and handle the emails in your inbox.
  • The Problem with Muzak (thebaffler.com, 3)
    Spotify undoubtedly uses some controversial approaches to remodel the music industry, revolving around the pillars of algorithmic decisions – which remove power from the artists – as well as letting brands “hijack” artists’ music without paying them. This is of course a repeating pattern that can be observed at every disruptive tech company that reaches a certain scale and market dominance. And of course, changing the rules of a game always will lead to opposition. In the end, the main question is: Are the parties involved (from the artists to those in charge of the distribution to the consumers) better off today than 30 years ago? I don’t know if there is any way to objectively assess this.
  • Baby Boomers love Facebook, so let them have it (theoutline, 2)
    Kathryn Jezer-Morton makes a thought-provoking case for intergenerational segregation on social media platforms.
  • History Suggests the Hyperloop Is an Uncertain Promise for Future Cities (singularityhub.com, 2)
    Beyond the impressive technology, how would cities and geographical socio-demographics be affected if Hyperloop becomes implemented on a large scale? An important question.
  • The End to Apple’s Cash Dilemma (aboveavalon.com, 2)
    An incredibly well explained piece on why Apple has so much cash abroad, frequently issues debt in the U.S., and how the planned U.S. tax reform would change all this.
  • A New Era of Retail Is Coming (businessoffashion.com, 2)
    On the rise of “experiential merchants” which, in essence, are media channels. Brands like Nike will not be their vendors but rather their clients.
  • In-Store WiFi Provider Used Starbucks Website to Generate Cryptocurrency Monero (hackread.com, 1)
    Crazy times. I learned from this piece that there is a company called Coinhive which apparently makes crypto mining through one’s website pretty easy. The big question persists: Is this more or less ethical than monetizing a website through ads?
  • Circles Money System Overview (github.com, 3)
    A concept for a blockchain-based basic income. Very exciting.
  • How business schools teach cryptocurrencies (ft.com/no paywall, 2)
    Obviously, cryptocurrencies won’t go away again. So future business and finance leaders need to learn about them.
  • Zug ID: Exploring the First Publicly Verified Blockchain Identity (medium.com, 2)
    Meanwhile, in the Swiss city of Zug, people can get a digital ID based on a Blockchain. Paul Kohlhaas explains how the whole thing works.
  • AI researchers are trying to combat how AI can be used to lie and deceive (qz.com, 2)
    Crucial stuff. It’s probably only a question of months until troublemakers will attempt to use a well-done fake video or audio recording to cause a controversy and to sow mistrust. The tech is pretty much ready and porn already affected.
  • The Neural Network Zoo (asimovinstitute.org, 3)
    A major enabler of artificial intelligence are so called neural networks. Here we have a comprehensive description of the different types that exist. It’s from last year, so there might be many additions already not mentioned here.
  • From Amazon to Google (and even Apple), here are the biggest tech disappointments of this year (CNBC.com, 2)
    Fun list.
  • All downhill from here: Has the human race peaked? (newatlas.com, 1)
    A study of 120 years worth of historical data suggest we’ve reached the biological limits of height, life expectancy and sporting performance. My conclusion: If accurate, then our only options for extended life spans either would be to augment our body with technology that allows us to live longer or to export our minds onto computers.
  • The Merge (blog.samaltman.com, 1)
    On a different level, the merger between humans and machines is already in full effect.
  • The 20% Rule (medium.com, 2)
    I like this advice to dedicate 20 % of one’s time to exploration and serendipity.

Quote of the week:

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #149

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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Of course Bitcoin is in a bubble. Let’s end the debate and think about what it means.

Currently, every day another pundit from the financial world is making a remark about whether Bitcoin is in a bubble or not. Astonishing that this is still a debatable question.

Of course Bitcoin is in a bubble. What other reasonable (yes, reasonable, not just mambo jambo) explanation is there for the crazy explosion in the Bitcoin price? People should be honest with themselves: Bitcoin’s price keeps increasing because people expect the price to increase and would love a piece of the profit. It’s all speculation.

Sure, there might be the occasional individual in a country with a non-functioning financial system, who uses Bitcoin for non-speculative transactional purposes. But realistically, other cryptocurrencies are more suited for that, due to lower transaction fees and faster processing times.

Right now, Bitcoin is pure speculation, and it’s a bubble. Period.

With that being settled, the more important questions, in my eyes, are: Continue Reading

A culture of responsible behavior is possible and could save the web

Here you can read a German version of this text.

In order to prevent the web’s demise, the emergence of a culture of responsible behavior is required. Examples from the “analogue” world prove that under certain circumstances, such a culture is possible.

Why do people participate in elections, even though they know that abstaining wouldn’t have any measurable impact on the result? Some other force drives them to invest time and energy into casting their vote: A learned and internalized sense of responsibility which derives from the realization that many small actions taken together lead to a big impact.

A similar principle comes into effect when people separate and recycle trash. This is a very popular “sport” in my country of origin, Germany. Again, the individual effect of not separating is negligible. And unlike with voting, there isn’t even immediate direct feedback about the positive effects of recycling (or the negative of not recycling) available. So technically, until very recently (before a law that went into effect in 2015 actually made recycling mandatory), there was very little incentive to put the effort into separating the trash. Yet, in 2006, an astonishing 92 percent of Germans reported separating their trash. Continue Reading

Weekly Links & Thoughts #148

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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode.

  • The man who sold shares of himself (thehustle.co, 2)
    What a thrilling and bold undertaking. Makes me wonder if, now that blockchain technology exists, everyone will perform their own personal ICO in the future.
  • Facebook Might Launch a Cryptocurrency (hackernoon.com, 3)
    Fascinating musings about an idea which indeed could radically transform Facebook – and the world. Again.
  • Nearly 4 Million Bitcoins Lost Forever, New Study Says (fortune.com, 2)
    That’s an important peculiarity of Bitcoin. Due to the cumbersome user experience, especially in the early days, lots of people have lost access to some of their early Bitcoin purchases. These are lost forever.
  • Bitcoin Mining in Electric Vehicles Raises Other Questions (ecomotoringnews.com, 1)
    A few Tesla owners are starting to mine currencies in their cars, which means they benefit from free electricity.
  • In praise of Tesla’s bankruptcy (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Speaking about Tesla: No matter whether the company will manage to sort out its financials or not, society as a whole has already won.
  • The impossibility of intelligence explosion (medium.com, 3)
    Will AI overtake humans in intelligence? That’s a heated question these days. François Chollet explains in this essay why it is unlikely, and explores what “intelligence” actually represents in modern societies.
  • What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind? (theconversation.com, 2)
    Two researchers argue that free will and personal responsibility are notions that have been constructed by society.
  • Some roadblocks to the broad adoption of machine learning and AI (simplystatistics.org, 2)
    There are maybe bigger obstacles to the broad adoption of AI than the algorithms, even though the media’s focus is often on them.
  • 70% of Value in Tech is Driven by Network Effects (medium.com, 2)
    A study of digital copmanies that were founded since the internet was widely available in 1994 and that went on to become worth more than a $1 billion, shows that network effects have accounted for approximately 70% of the value creation in tech.
  • Social media threat: People learned to survive disease, we can handle Twitter (usatoday.com, 2)
    This column makes a captivating analogy: The uncontrolled and extremely fast-paced spreading of toxic information in the connected age is similar to the uncontrolled spreading of viruses and diseases in the earliest cities, when hunter gatherers began to settle and to crowd in comparatively small spaces.
  • The New Information Warfare (theintercept.com, 3)
    How social media and the loss of gatekeepers has leveled the playing field between all kinds of actors. “Propaganda and information warfare was once the purview of nation-states, militaries, and intelligence services. Today, even ordinary people have become important players in these campaigns.”
  • Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting. (nytimes.com, 2)
    The evidence is mounting that using a laptop or other personal screen in the class room instead of paper leads to less effective learning. Apparently one major reason is that typing on a digital device is too fast for the brain to properly process the information, unlike writing on paper.
  • Esports — now bigger than the Olympics (medium.com, 2)
    Venture capitalist Simon Schmincke went to a massive esports event in Copenhagen and concludes: This is a mass market.
  • How much of your life was possible ten years ago? (medium.com, 1)
    Not a lot to read in this very short piece, but it poses an intriguing question to reflect on in a calm moment.

Podcast episode of the week:

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