Weekly Links & Thoughts #86

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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Length indicator: 1 = short, 2 = medium, 3 = long

  • Yuval Noah Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will (3)
    A brilliant analysis of our age of “dataism”, put into an historical context, by the author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari.
  • Robots Can Restore Our Humanity (2)
    And here we have an optimistic take on how robots and automation will force our society to give up on the scalable efficiency model which is increasingly disfunctional anyway, and to find ways to evolve human work. One of many smart pharagraphs from the piece: “Go check out a children’s playground and show me a child that doesn’t have creativity and imagination. We all have that potential and a strong desire to express that potential. The challenge is that we have been processed by a series of institutions, starting with our school systems, that were designed to squeeze out these attributes in the name of scalable efficiency.”
  • Which Country Would Win in the Programming Olympics? (2)
    In part surprising and generally very insightful rankings about where the world’s best programmers come from. Switzerland is among the leading countries, whereas the U.S. and India didn’t make it into the top 20.
  • Other People’s Money: The Apple Story (1)
    A brief, knowledgeable commentary on the various aspects of the EU commission’s billion dollar tax decisions regarding Apple.
  • Nations Can Be Startups, Too (1)
    The metaphor of a nation as startup is useful because it can totally change one’s thinking of what’s possible.
  • No Filter: DJ Khaled and the FTC’s Snapchat Problem (2)
    With the rise of Snapchat’s and Instagram’s stories feature, ephemeral user-generated content is becoming widespread. That causes headache for regulators such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): One of its tasks is to ensure that advertisements and paid-for product endorsements are clearly marked as such. However, the investigation of violations is difficult if celebrities and influencers such as DJ Khaled get paid for saying things in a Snapchat or Instagram Story that vanishes 24 hours later.
  • How Uber’s Failure in Japan Can Help Startups Everywhere (3)
    A smart analysis of Uber’s failed attempt to apply the “U.S. playbook” everywhere in the world.
  • How Nextdoor reduced racist posts by 75% (2)
    Intelligent user design and dialogues can help to build a less hostile online environment, as the experiments of leading U.S. neighborhood network Nextdoor have proven.
  • Qwant: The encrypted search engine that really could challenge Google (2)
    Informative profile of Qwant, an ambitious search engine founded and based in France, highlighting among other things the challenges that competitors of Google are facing.
  • Alexa, give me the news: How outlets are tailoring their coverage for Amazon’s new platform (3)
    There is a chance that Amazon’s smart home speaker Echo and the corresponding software-based personal assistant Alexa will emerge as an important platform for news distribution. This report details the early trials and experimental approaches by media outlets.
  • How I Used & Abused My Tesla (3)
    The ultimate hype article, featuring a Tesla that has been used as an Uber car as well as the “world’s fastest hotel” on Airbnb. However, apart from the evangelism, the post also provides plenty of interesting insights.
  • Volvo is quietly becoming a tech superpower (2)
    While Tesla is the tech community’s favorite car, most incumbents from the automotive industry are scaling up their tech ambitions as well. Another frontrunner is Volvo, according to this piece.
  • Facebook recommended that this psychiatrist’s patients friend each other (2)
    The strange thing with Facebook is that it is uncomfortably “aware” in moments when users don’t appreciate it, but it fails to be intelligent when it actually would be useful: Like when I am adding a person who stands next to me by typing his/her name, and Facebook doesn’t seem to leverage our (approximate) location to make a quick suggestion.
  • The Difference Between “Remote” and “Remote-First” (2)
    My favorite way of working is remotely, so no one needs to convince me of the appeal of a “remote first” company culture.
  • Rethinking Retail: When Location Is a Liability (2)
    Giant retail chains are struggling in an environment in which their cost-intense portfolio of local stores and the attached old-school mindset is becoming a burden.
  • Indian ISPs Speed Up BitTorrent by ‘Peering’ with a Torrent Site (1)
    Fantastic example of how the torrent technology can be used for innovation.
  • Using the Blockchain to Fuel a P2P Solar Revolution (2)
    One of the sheer unlimited possible use cases of the Blockchain.
  • Victory for Net Neutrality in Europe (1)
    I am putting this link at the end of the list, despite its huge importance. But hopefully everyone has heard the good news already. Thanks to all the activists who relentlessly fought for this over so many years.

Recently on meshedsociety.com

  • The one big question about today’s groundbreaking emerging technologies
    Will Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, automation & robots, drones, Blockchains and 3D printing reach mass-market adoption all at once, or will a few of these emerging technologies go through more years or even decades of maturing? The answer will shape the next years and decades.

Video of the week

  • Flow of People
    A video showing how long time it takes for 200 people to cross a starting line, depending on their means of transportation. Not sure what to conclude, but obviously, cars take much more space, which causes delays.

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