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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- How Humans Are Shaping Our Own Evolution (nationalgeographic.com, 3)
This amazing feature investigates the question of whether modern technology enables us humans to accelerate our own evolution way past the slow biological evolutionary process. There are indications for this being the case.
- How tech created a global village — and put us at each other’s throats (bostonglobe.com, 2)
There is no shortage of think pieces about Facebook. This one stands out, in my opinion: Author Nicholas Carr points to what he observers being a long-standing misconception in Western thought: The assumption that communication technology promotes social harmony. I wonder, after everything Mark Zuckerberg has been right about (and he has been right a lot, otherwise his company wouldn’t be such a dominating force today), if this could be his giant mistake? That his company’s mission to “make the world more open and connected” and the deriving actions actually contribute to a tendency towards the opposite?
- Why Instagram Is Becoming Facebook’s Next Facebook (nytimes.com, 2)
Could happen. And maybe facebook.com is being cannibalized along the way.
- The Sceptical Optimist: A philosopher’s take on technological progress (foundingfuel.com, 2)
Practicing “skeptical optimism” is a brilliant way to position yourself in between Luddites and one-dimensional techno-optimists, don’t you agree?
- We Are Entering the Era of the Brain Machine Interface (backchannel.com, 2)
- With Neuralink, Elon Musk Promises Human-to-Human Telepathy. Don’t Believe It. (technologyreview.com, 2)
I feel it would be irresponsible to formally recommend the 36.000 word piece by superhuman writer Tim Urban about Elon Musk’s plans to build a brain computer (however, here it is – but you most likely have stumbled upon it already). So I’ll share two divergent takes on the extraordinary sounding undertaking.
- Stop calling them flying cars (theverge.com, 2)
The flurry of sudden news about attempts to build “flying cars” seems a bit absurd to me – not only because these are technically not cars. Is this really more than herd mentality in full effect?
- Our Puny Human Brains Are Terrible at Thinking About the Future (slate.com, 2)
We humans don’t always act in our own long-term self interest (which is one reason why am not principally against the idea of fixing some of our mental flaws through technology). Here is interesting research that sheds light on one process that encourages short term behavior: When we imagine our future selves, the brain stops acting as if we’re thinking about ourselves. Instead, it starts acting as if we’re thinking about a different person.
- Google’s ‘Project Owl’ — a three-pronged attack on fake news & problematic content (searchengineland.com, 3)
A comprehensive look at Google’s newly presented measures to deliver trustworthy search results and civilized search suggestions.
- One for the thumbs (sixcolors.com, 2)
Initially I felt an urge to disagree with Netflix’s switch from a five star rating system to a binary one consisting of only 2 options (thumbs up or thumbs down). But I am in the process of changing my mind (and this piece contributed to that). As an avid Tripadvisor hotel reviewer I also remember my frequent struggle with awarding the “right” rating when having more than 2 options.
- Police Now Using Facial Recognition to Spot Jaywalkers in Shenzhen (thatsmags.com, 1)
A little taste of things to come.
- The Quick vs the Strong (crookedtimber.org, 2)
New technology leads to a battle between the quick and the strong. As it looks now in regards to the Internet, the governments (aka the strong) seem to gain the upper hand over the quick.
- Why is Russia so good at encouraging women into tech? (bbc.com, 2)
“According to Unesco, 29% of people in scientific research worldwide are women, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia”.
- The Future of the Venture Capital Business (originventures.com, 2)
The industry behind most of the technologies and services mentioned in this weekly reading list is built on venture capital – which ironically hasn’t experienced much change for decades. Until now. Informative overview of what causes this sector to face its very own disruption.
- The new status symbol: it’s not what you spend – it’s how hard you work (theguardian.com, 2)
I would have liked this article even more without the unnecessary judgemental tone, but I guess staff at The Guardian cannot help it – and maybe I only react that way since I am also quite productivity focused and therefore feel ideologically attacked. Anyway, the described phenomenon is indeed quite remarkable: “Tim Cook is approximately 500,000% richer than the average American – but he wakes up at 3.45 in the morning”.
- Learning is Earning (medium.com, 1)
Pouring some oil into the “productivity” fire. The headline qualifies as witty catchphrase.
- How Elon Musk Learns Faster And Better Than Everyone Else (medium.com, 2)
And one more on that topic. Very inspiring. Also related to the text recommended last week about the revelation by some that experience (in only one area) no longer matters.
- Stop Guessing Languages Based on IP Address (medium.com, 2)
Yes, please! Especially annoying when one uses a foreign VPN server.
- Reflecting on 3 years as a founder (kathleenfritzsche.com, 2)
“It always looks much more professional from the outside” – so easy to forget, and so true.
- How We Got 10 Million Teens to Read Fiction on Their Phones (medium.com, 2)
The story behind Hooked, a startup founded on the basis of the quite clever idea to offer users chat-styled fictional stories and to allow them to create their own ones.
- Amazon Strategy Teardown: Building New Business Pillars In AI, Next-Gen Logistics, And Enterprise Cloud Apps (cbinsights.com, 3)
As Amazon is poised to be one of the defining companies of the decades to come (and that might even be an understatement), setting aside half an hour to educate oneself in detail about the company’s strategy is probably not the worst thing to do.
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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