Weekly Links & Thoughts #112

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

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

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

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

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

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

Podcast episode of the week:

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

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