Weekly Links & Thoughts #125

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

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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after 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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  • Howard Schultz Has Something Left to Prove (fortune.com, 3)
    For its effectiveness in the attention economy, this might be one of the worst headlines in history (which ironically makes me put it on top of this week’s article selection). Howard Schultz is the longtime CEO of Starbucks. He has just “stepped down” to become executive chairman. This long feature looks at what made Starbucks a global brand, which role Schultz played in this, and how the coffee chain responds to the challenge to maintain its position and keep expanding in a market which is changing rapidly due to the rise of artisan coffee trends.
  • Should Uber’s next CEO be a robot? (roughtype.com, 2)
    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is history. And now Nicholas Carr has an interesting suggestion: The next CEO should be a machine. He has a point: “Let’s face it: Kalanick’s great failing was that he was not quite robotic enough. His flaws were not analytical but human. He was a victim of his own meat.” But who knows if a robot would be better. One day, we’d probably wake up to a headline akin to this one by CNN (“The rise and fall of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick”), just replaced with “Uber’s robot CEO” .
  • Leaked recording: Inside Apple’s global war on leakers (theoutline.com, 3)
    Once you read this depiction of Apple’s measures to prevent leaks, it becomes obvious how much of a challenge such an undertaking actually is when you run a global operation.
  • The secret origin story of the iPhone (theverge.com, 3)
    This excerpt from a new book will take 45 minutes to read, but it found it worth the time investment.
  • Conglomerates Didn’t Die. They Look Like Amazon (nytimes.com, 2)
  • Amazon’s new customer (stratechery.com, 3)
    Two good takes concerning Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods which was announced last Friday.
  • Facebook’s AI accidentally created its own language (thenextweb.com, 1)
    This is both impressive and a bit creepy.
  • Turn To Email For Millennial Engagement (mediapost.com, 1)
    Who would have guessed? 58 % of U.S. Millennials (born in the 1980s and 1990s) have a separate email address for brand communication. And: “Millennials are more likely than any other generation to find email and mobile apps important when making a purchase decision.”
  • Are we building artificial brains and uploading minds to the cloud right now? (mrfuturist.com, 2)
    A fascinating thought. Indeed, if one considers that hundreds of millions of people around the planet continuously post their emotional responses, judgments, and biases online, then this data, in a gathered form, might be a potent foundation for artificially brains – that is, if these artificial brains are supposed to come with the same characteristics (and flaws) as the human brain. Recall what was written about Travis Kalanick above.
  • Bitcoin is the Most Stable Store of Value in History (hackernoon.com, 2)
    There is a case to be made that, seen over the complete period of its (still comparatively young) existence, Bitcoin has indeed been pretty “stable” – today a Bitcoin is worth orders of magnitudes more than when it emerged.
  • Network Learning Cities (jarche.com, 2)
    Insightful points regarding the importance and potential of cities in the networked age.
  • Getting Past the Dominance of the Nation State (continuations.com, 1)
    To some extend, this plea for de-emphasizing the nation state will lead to an even bigger role for cities. Coincidentally, both this and the previous article refer to the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that social and political issues should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level that is consistent with their resolution.
  • Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg (estonianworld.com, 2)
    Estonia is at it again. No other country iterates so much with digital variations of the traditional building blocks of nation states.
  • Can We Mobilize Education Like Manufacturing in WWII? (thisisgoingtobebig.com, 2)
    In order to tackle today’s major challenges regarding ideological conflicts, environment and technology, we should be undergoing the most massive mobilization of human intelligence we’ve ever seen, argues Charlie O’Donnell.
  • The most revolutionary thing about self-driving cars isn’t what you think (weforum.org, 2)
    Because self-driving cars require real-time responses and latency gets in the way of that, self-driving cars will become their own powerful data centers.
  • Adobe shows how to transition to the cloud (diginomica.com, 2)
    I remember some experts’ concerns about Adobe’s future when the company was still in the market of downloadable software. Turns out, its transition to the cloud went down exceptionally well.
  • French President Macron launches tech visa to make France a ‘country of unicorns’ (cnbc.com, 2)
    This will be one to watch.
  • What does it mean for a journalist today to be a Serious Reader? (cjr.org, 3)
    Great feature on the importance of reading for journalists. And obviously, this is not about reading tweets.
  • Why are The Economist’s writers anonymous? (medium.economist.com, 1)
    “Accordingly, articles are often the work of The Economist’s hive mind, rather than of a single author.
  • My thoughts on flight hacking and airline loyalty after 7 years of traveling (medium.com, 2)
    I wrote about my learnings and experiences in “hacking” air travel. As many of you presumably fly a lot, some of you might find some inspiration here.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • If you are worried about “hacked” democracy, quit Facebook
    People who consider Facebook to play a critical role in malicious actor’s undertaking to weaken democracy, should stop using Facebook (I’m not including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram here), thereby preventing themselves from contributing to the business model’s sustainability.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #124

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Here is an Example. Also, check out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • Phil Libin Hasn’t Eaten Since Sunday (backchannel.com, 2)
    I have no comment on what the former Evernote CEO is doing here, but it is a pretty interesting read.
  • Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That’s OK. (For Now) (reason.com, 3)
    “The surprising thing about the stereotypical aimless young man, detached from work and society, playing video games in his parents’ basement: He’s actually happier than ever.”
  • We Are All to Blame for Uber (bloomberg.com, 2)
    Agreed. Uber in its current, overly aggressive and morally kinda rotten state is how it is because the systems in which it exists have been rewarding the company’s way of doing things. At least until now. With the leave of absence of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and a couple of action points announced this week by Uber board member Arianna Huffington at an all-hands meeting, the company gets the chance to prove that it can succeed while being a bit “nicer”. Whether this actually can work remains to be seen. There is at least a possibility that without its asshole-like corporate personality and execution, the company will fail to fulfill its global hyper-growth targets.
  • Susan Fowler’s Uber Exposé Should Win A Pulitzer (forbes.com, 2)
    Pulitzer or not, with her blog post about Uber’s toxic work culture and the chain reaction it caused, Susan Fowler has changed the course of history. That’s actually a more meaningful and lasting thing than a prize, isn’t it?
  • The Coming War: Browsers Against Advertising Pollution (mondaynote.com, 2)
    Both Chrome and Safari will soon block and/or punish hostile ad formats. While in the case of Chrome that comes with questions about a conflict of interest, generally, browser makers taking the lead here is a good thing.
  • Facebook’s Safety Check is a stress-inducing flip of social norms (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Except for the use during large-scale catastrophes when a big number of people helping each other is crucial, the Safety Check is one of the worst features offered by Facebook. This text explains well why: “But by making Safety Check a default expectation Facebook flips the norms of societal behavior and suddenly no one can feel safe unless everyone has manually checked the Facebook box marked “safe”.” During April’s terrorist attack in Stockholm, about 100 out of my around 110 Stockholm-based Facebook contacts had marked themselves safe. I resisted but I clearly felt the pressure. It’s ridiculous.
  • “Google is bad for the airline industry” says CarTrawler. Airlines need vastly better data skills (centreforaviation.com, 2)
    The airline industry is worried that Google accumulates too much power in directing customers to flight fares through its (brilliant) flight search engine Google Flights.
  • In Products, as in Life, Not All Friction Is Bad (medium.com, 2)
    Most of what the tech industry is coming up with is intended to remove friction. But there are situations in which friction actually is a good thing. Interesting examples in this text.
  • This Startup Wants to Turn ‘Unboxing’ Videos Into a Big Business (fortune.com, 1)
    Every month, unboxing videos on YouTube get an estimated 10 billions views. Apparently, there are also “unboxing stars”. And now a company wants to capture this strange but lucrative niche.
  • The Other Shoe (mattgemmell.com, 2)
    A short while ago, the iPad was almost declared dead. With Apple’s upcoming release of iOS 11 and iPad Pro, the tablet device suddenly has its momentum back. It is now (for the second time) considered a potential replacement for laptops.
  • If you care about cities, Apple’s new campus sucks (wired.com, 3)
    This text might be a bit too long, but it offers a thought-provoking perspective.
  • We Need to Talk About the Power of AI to Manipulate Humans (technologyreview.com, 2)
    It has been shown multiple times: Even if they might state the opposite, humans have a tendency to become emotionally attached to robots or chatbots. The risks of being manipulated are obvious. Although, to be fair, this same is true for human-to-human interactions. Humans constantly manipulate other people to further their own agendas or goals.
  • Cryptocurrency Mining Is Fueling a GPU Shortage (motherboard.vice.com, 2)
    How did the old adage go again? “Don’t dig for gold, sell shovels”. Probably some companies are working hard right now to scale up GPU production for the Ethereum crowd.
  • The days and nights of Elon Musk: How he spends his time at work and play (qz.com, 2)
    Crazy guy.
  • Instagram’s most-followed celebs failed to label 93 percent of ads, report finds (theverge.com, 2)
    Is this due to lack of knowledge or lack of integrity?
  • This is how Big Oil will die (medium.com, 3)
    The money quote from this lengthy analysis: “This is what will kill oil: It will cost less to hail an autonomous electric vehicle than to drive the car that you already own.” Still worth reading if you are interested in how the economics of this field are going to change.
  • Inside The Chaotic Battle To Be The Top Reply To A Trump Tweet (buzzfeed.com, 2)
    One of the most absurd strategies to build a following on Twitter.
  • Quantum thought (medium.com, 1)
    A short post by me about an intriguing (and, in my opinion, fundamentally necessary) way of thinking.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Podcast episode of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #123

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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  • Society Is Destroying and Rebuilding Itself for the Networked Age (singularityhub.com, 2)
    A summary of the book “The Seventh Sense”, which offers a fascinating explanation for why controversial and seemingly unfit leaders such as Donald Trump or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were able to accumulate so much power: They have what the author of the book, Joshua Cooper Ramo, calls “the seventh sense”, meaning an intuitive ability to look at an object and see the way in which it is changed by connection. As unfortunate as it is in the case of the individuals I just mentioned, this type of skill is a key recipe for success in a time in which everything is connected to many networks. A quote to remember from the article: “The connection of something to a network changes the essence of what it is”. I’m getting goosebumps of musing about the dimensions of this shift of how the world works.
  • Crowdsourced Reality (truthhawk.com, 2)
    A thrilling analysis of the new dynamics for media and public discourse: Unlike in the age of mass media gatekeepers which was characterized by designed, definite narratives controlled by very few, today each member of the public is exposed to a diverse and fragmented mix of narratives and “realities”; essentially, of a crowdsourced reality. In the same vein, I once labeled the Internet “the first global platform for the exchange of ideologies”.
  • What Intelligent Machines Need to Learn From the Neocortex (spectrum.ieee.org, 3)
    Reading about neurology in the context of artificial intelligence can make for a dry, overly complicated or simplifying experience. This article on the topic, however, hit a sweet spot for a layman like me (or maybe that just means that it oversimplifies, who knows).
  • Expiring vs. Long-Term Knowledge (collaborativefund.com, 1)
    This is an awesome principle to utilize for assessing what to pay attention to and what to skip: Is it expiring or long-term knowledge?
  • Here is what banning crypto would cost and why it won’t work anyway (boingboing.net, 2)
    It’s flabbergasting how politicians can’t stop asking for something which won’t be technically feasible without cutting off a whole country from the open Internet.
  • New data on the types of ads internet users hate the most (medium.freecodecamp.com, 2)
    People hate the modal ad format, yet it is ubiquitous.
  • The Problem With Our Maps (visualcapitalist.com, 2)
    Maybe this is embarrassing to admit, but I have been unaware of how the standard model of the world map is showing completely inaccurate dimensions for the various continents.
  • In search of the early adopter (HomePod edition) (theoverspill.blog, 2)
    Charles Arthur wonders who’ll be left to buy Apple’s new pricey HomePod speaker considering that most innovators and early adopters already purchased a competing product. He might underestimate people’s loyalty to Apple products. I would prefer an Apple smart speaker over any other company, simply because I trust Apple with my data slightly more than the other internet giants. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Amazon Echo and Google Home are only available in very few countries. If Apple is smart, it’ll make HomePod available in a vast number of countries as fast as possible once it has been officially launched in December.
  • Fuck Facebook (daringfireball.net, 1)
    This brief post by John Gruber received a record amount of up votes on Hacker News. Gruber describes why he doesn’t link to Facebook content (because one never knows how long these links will last). I think, in the 123 issues of this weekly reading list, I have not been linking to Facebook more than once or twice. I intuitively don’t accept Facebook as part of the web, at least when it comes to hyperlinks.
  • Facebook Election Turns Into a Protest (bloomberg.com, 2)
    Maybe unsurprisingly, the special class of stock held by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg which gives him almost dictator-like control over the company despite only owning 14 percent of it, is widely unpopular among the stockholders who casted ballots in the company’s annual stockholder election last week.
  • Where is eBook Interoperability? (kirkville.com, 1)
    The DRM-fueled lack of ebook interoperability is most likely one reason for the current growth crisis within the ebook sector.
  • Traditional sports have an esports problem (venturebeat.com, 2)
    I’m starting to wonder if one day, professional “sports” competitions might be exclusively held digitally (maybe involving certain physical activity involving VR).
  • What the hell is happening to cryptocurrency valuations? (techcrunch.com, 2)
    On April 1st the total market cap of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ether or Ripple was just over $25 billion. Now it’s around $100 billion. Let that sink in.
  • Cryptoeconomics 101 (thecontrol.co, 2)
    With the rise of crypto currencies, a new field of economics is emerging: Cryptoeconomics, defined in this piece as “the study of economic interaction in adversarial environments.”
  • How air conditioning changed the world (bbc.com, 2)
    An eye-opening read. I never thought of air condition as a transformative technology. But without it, there would be no server farms, no modern cities in many parts of the world, and apparently human productivity would be lower.
  • A New Era for Location-Independent Entrepreneurs Has Begun (summit.startupnations.co, 2)
    A post by Kaspar Korjus, who manages Estonia’s remarkable e-Residency initiative, detailing the current progress. It’s a bit self-congratulary. But I think for pulling this kind of groundbreaking project off, they have earned that. While I personally have not benefited from my e-Residency yet (mostly due to that my country of residence Sweden offers fairly good e-gov services already), I am very curious to see how far Estonia can push this idea of a virtual citizenship and a global platform for location-independent entrepreneurs.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #122

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • Why Germany Still Has So Many Middle-Class Manufacturing Jobs (hbr.com, 2)
    As a native German, I am quite amazed by how well my home country has fared in regards to manufacturing despite a radically changing global environment. Correspondingly, unemployment is the lowest in 25 years. Certainly the weak Euro has helped, but still – there are several reasons for the strength of the “Mittelstand”, as explained in this informative piece.
  • The Future of European Transit: Driverless and Utilitarian (nytimes.com, 2)
    While companies in the U.S. focus on self-driving cars for individuals, in Europe transit authorities and mobility providers invest in self-driving public transit, which is said to be a significantly easier challenge.
  • There are bots. Look around. (ribbonfarm.com, 3)
    Comparing high-frequency trading of stocks with the automated distribution dynamics of news through bots in the digital space – an intriguing analogy.
  • The Illusion of Measuring What Customers Want (jtbd.info, 3)
    Reading the title, one might suspect to be very familiar with everything written in this text. I did think so, but it turned out to be an educative read. I learned a few new things.
  • The world’s biggest problems and why they’re not what first comes to mind (80000hours.org, 3)
    A fascinating long read that definitely helps to realize which areas to focus on if one should decide to go on a mission to contribute to a better world.
  • China censored Google’s AlphaGo match against world’s best Go player (theguardian.com, 1)
    When machines beat humans at a skill humans thought they excelled at, that hurts the ego. So much that some might even choose censorship to protect people from this reality.
  • The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits (scmp.com, 2)
    Something else remarkable that’s going on in China.
  • Thoughts on Tokens (medium.com, 3)
    Bubble or not, Blockchain-based tokens as fuel and facilitators for startups and software projects are making lots of people within tech quite excited right now.
  • Blockchains are the new Linux, not the new internet (techcrunch.com, 2)
    But it is still totally unclear whether the Blockchain is the new internet or the equivalent to a highly geeky operating system doomed to be neglected by the masses (but still with an important role in the grand scheme of things).
  • A year of Google & Apple Maps (justinobeirne.com, 3)
    Detailed comparison of how Google and Apple improve and adjust their maps product over the period of a year. Google clearly is much more active in that regard.
  • This Is How VR and AR Kill Smartphones (virtualrealitypop.com, 2)
    No, this is not how VR and AR kill smartphones, but how some of the scenarios that we use smartphones for today will be better served through VR and AR. Potentially.
  • Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness? (spectrum.ieee.org, 2)
    By now I have read a fairly large amount of texts about the phenomenon of consciousness and the big question whether machines one day could be given a consciousness. I still have no clue what the answer is, but no one seems to really have. Yet, super fascinating stuff.
  • Is Humanity Obsolete? (battellemedia.com, 2)
    After having read Yuval Harari’s latest book Homo Deus and experiencing certain unsettling emotions while doing so, John Battelle wonders about the most existential issue. By the way, somewhat of an important question related to this: How will religions and their worshipers respond to the era of “Dataism” described by Harari, since Dataism does away with the core idea of human exceptionalism and of being “the chosen ones”? Could the rise of religious extremism, maybe in an indirect manner, be part of religion’s backlash against the technologically-driven demystification of humans?
  • A quick trip to Amazon Books in NYC… (500ish.com, 2)
    How customers experience Amazon’s physical book stores that are now popping up at several locations in the U.S.
  • Airbnb Employees Speak Out About Company Bullying Tactics & ‘Toxic’ Work Environment (brokeassstuart.com, 2)
    These reports, if they are representative, are a bit more surprising than what has been revealed about the climate at Uber’s offices, considering that Airbnb fairly successfully has built its brand on positive values such as openness, kindness and trust.
  • How Unity convinced investors it’s worth $2.6 billion (venturebeat.com, 2)
    A fun interview with the CEO of Unity, a company whose platform plays a key role for most of today’s videos games as well as for the up and coming VR scene, and which generally seems to do a lot of things right at the moment.
  • The Right to Attention in an Age of Distraction (philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com, 3)
    In our current attention economy, everyone and their mom tries to capture everyone’s attention (and, if I may say so, Donald Trump is probably the biggest attention thief of them all), which pegs the question if there is a need for a “right to attention”, which would protect people from having their attention constantly and unwillingly captured. Sounds impractical? Definitely. Still, thought-provoking reflections.
  • The Domino Effect (reallifemag.com, 2)
    A philosophical take on the wider implications and background of a curious quasi-rule: Any interface to which we have access can likely be used to order pizza.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The Exponential Five
    The debate is intensifying about whether Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft have too much power. Considering the exponential tendencies of today’s technological advancements, I do side with those who are concerned.

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

Weekly Links & Thoughts #121

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

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

Video of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #120

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example. And try out the meshedsociety.com chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
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Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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

Podcast episodes of the week:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #119

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

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

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #118

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

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

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

Video of the week:

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

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #117

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

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

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If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Video of the week:

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

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #116

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

======
If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like more than 350 other smart people (as of March 2017) and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.
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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

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

Podcast episode of the week:

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

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