Weekly Links & Thoughts #131

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

  • World’s Richest Person Escapes Scrutiny From His Own Paper—and Its Rivals (fair.org, 2)
    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (who now is back at the second place in the richest person ranking, but most likely will conquer the throne soon again) has not only built up an incredibly successful global company, but also managed to escape a lot of the usual scrutiny that comes with being in his kind of position. Strange.
  • Amazon’s name pops up on 10% of U.S. earnings conference calls (venturebeat.com, 1)
    Meanwhile, an increasing number of business executives is impressed by and/or terrified of Amazon.
  • The Tech Humanist Manifesto (medium.com, 2)
    Very thought-provoking essay. I love particularly this part: “As we develop an increasingly machine-driven future, we need to encode machines with the best of who we are. And in that way, infuse the future with our brightest hope, our most egalitarian views, our most evolved understandings.
  • Big brother in Berlin: Face recognition technology gets tested (dw.com, 2)
    The German police is launching a six month trial of a facial recognition system at a Berlin train station, involving a few hundred volunteers. I am very conflicted about this. When a crime or terror attack at a public place happens, I always find myself hoping that surveillance footage exists. On the other hand, especially when face recognition technology is being implemented, how will this not lead to an ever growing surveillance society, and an increasingly broadening application of these types of systems? Which maybe is not a threat in a democratic, liberal state. But any country could turn autocratic at one point, and then mass surveillance becomes a threat to anyone in opposition.
  • Understanding Complexity (medium.com, 2)
    When is a system obvious, when complicated, and when is it complex? Intelligent analysis using the games Tic Tac Toe, Chess and Poker as object of study.
  • A Primer on Critical Mass: Identifying Inflection Points (farnamstreetblog.com, 3)
    Extensive investigation of another theoretical concept – one which has massive impact in the digital era.
  • Self-Driving People, Enabled by Airbnb (nytimes.com, 2)
    The metaphor of “self-driving” might appear a bit overdone here, but this piece offers an intriguing perspective of what Airbnb could turn into: The world’s biggest jobs platform; with “jobs” not to be understood in the traditional cubicle 9-5 sense of course.
  • Silicon Valley Censorship (meforum.org, 2)
    The author asks why Silicon Valley does believe it should decide what is valid speech and what is not. To me, it seems the answer is obvious: Because the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter have concluded that in order to achieve their business goals, they have to. Sadly, the result is devastating.
  • Do Targeted Digital Ads Work Better? (naofumi.castle104.com, 2)
    About the seemingly unbreakable ceiling for digital ad spending (about 1% of the GDP) and the possibly ineffective ad targeting based on intrusive data harvesting. Naofumi Kagami suggests that tech needs to stop relying on advertising and that this is starting to be an urgent issue.
  • Klarna launches a peer-to-peer payment app called Wavy (techcrunch.com, 1)
    I am bullish on this new app, even though, admittedly, I haven’t tried it out yet, since I am not living in a country which has Euro as currency. But Klarna, a Sweden-based payment and fintech company, knows what it is doing and has been able to collect lots of learnings and best practices when it comes to handling money and transactions. The Euro countries are still lacking an universal p2p payment app, so the potential is definitely there.
  • NeoBank skeptic (medium.com, 2)
    The well-known European VC Fred Destin describes why, from an investor perspective, he is rather skeptical of “NeoBanks” (fintech startups that are reinventing banking for the digital and mobile age).
  • How BuzzFeed’s Tasty Conquered Online Food (nytimes.com, 2)
    Gotta respect Buzzfeed for how it champions a trial and error approach to find the next big (Buzzfeed) thing.
  • Surviving as an Old in the Tech World (wired.com, 2)
    Age discrimination in tech does not receive a lot of public attention so far. However, this will probably change over time as more of the previous youngsters are discovering their first grey hair.
  • The Inside Story Of SoundCloud’s Collapse (buzzfeed.com, 3)
    Chances are that you have already read this lengthy piece. If not: It’s very informative and offers some lessons learned.
  • Why Europe’s next $100B company could be German (medium.com, 2)
    My (gut feeling-produced and therefore rather weak) prediction is that this won’t be a startup but one of the old economy giants. Diesel scandal aside, the German car companies for example are busy reinventing themselves, in large parts through startup acquisitions and investments in companies from all around the globe that develop cutting edge technology. The probability for that old, spoiled behemoths remain innovative in an environment characterized by a new technological paradigm is not large, but is has happened before.
  • The Uber of Startup Lingo: A translation of 47 startup one-liners (unsupervisedmethods.com, 3)
    To wrap up, a very entertaining and comprehensive list of the terms that you have to know in order to be considered part of the startup scene.

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