meshedsociety weekly #194

Here is issue #194 of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


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Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love with Their Principal Doomsayer (nytimes.com, 12 minutes)
    Why does the tech elite love Yuval Harari, even if he describes the technology sector and particularly the Silicon Valley as an engine of dystopian ruin? He also is wondering that, according to this lovely feature. Meanwhile, John Battelle suggests an answer: Every member of the tech elite believes he/she will be part of the tiny ruling class whose emergence Harari predicts.
  • Crazy Work Hours and Lots of Cameras: Silicon Valley Goes to China (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    Meanwhile, representatives of the Western tech sector are both deeply impressed by and kind of worried about the rise of China’s tech industry. The piece quotes the German entrepreneur Alexander Weidauer with the following words: “Every time I go to the U.S., I feel that I’ll need to grow 10 times faster. Now I feel I’ll need to grow 100 times faster. The pace in China is crazy.”
  • Winds of Change: The Case for New Digital Currency (imf.org, 10 minutes)
    The transcript of a speech given by Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, highlighting the opportunities and risks with government-backed digital currencies.
  • When Accounts are “Hacked” Due to Poor Passwords, Victims Must Share the Blame (troyhunt.com, 8 minutes)
    It’s pretty unbelievable that this obvious fact requires such a lengthy defensive post.
  • Where the streets have no change: how buskers are surviving in cashless times (theguardian.com, 12 minutes)
    Tapping a card isn’t the same as giving some coins to a street musician, according to this piece. But maybe this is just nostalgia and people will get used to it.
  • Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it. (washingtonpost.com, 9 minutes)
    Bailey Richardson was one of the 13 original employees working at Instagram in 2012 when Facebook bought the viral photo-sharing app for $1 billion. Now she laments what Instagram has became.
  • Are You Ready for the Nanoinfluencers? (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    Who knows, maybe soon even people with only a few hundred followers will become vehicles for advertising and product placement.
  • Chelsea is using our AI research for smarter football coaching (theconversation.com, 4 minutes)
    This could change football (soccer): researchers are building an AI which will be able to state with statistical confidence which action players should have taken instead of whatever they did, based on their complete past performance, which the AI has analyzed in depth.
  • Is this AI? We drew you a flowchart to work it out (technologyreview.com, 2 minutes)
    This flowchart is handy.
  • This former venture capitalist is reinventing the way a company works (bostonglobe.com, 5 minutes)
    The former Evernote CEO Phil Libin says that the whole venture capital model is stupid.
  • Initiative Q doesn’t exist. But its marketing is genius. (mashable.com, 6 minutes)
    Some people (like those behind Initiative Q) are just a bit better than others at exploiting human psychology.
  • People are “consistently inconsistent” in reasoning about controversial topics (digest.bps.org.uk, 4 minutes)
    No one is consistent about their view on the world and controversial topics of course, because we lack sophisticated, structured understanding of and access to our inner mind sphere. So we don’t see how the moral values, mental models and principles that we’ve adopted since childhood regularly contradict each other. About this topic, I’ve also just finished the book “The Elephant in the brain“, which is fantastic but also won’t directly help to make you more confident in your own or other people’s reasoning.
  • Financial Times tool warns if articles quote too many men (theguardian.com, 2 minutes)
    This seems to be a smart example for augmentation of human work through (what potentially is an application of) AI.
  • Let’s talk about startup costs (justinjackson.ca, 5 minutes)
    The general advise from this post is valuable even beyond the startup world: Sometimes, instead of focusing on the revenue side, cutting costs can be the smarter move. Often when people discuss salary, they ignore implications for their cost-base. From a financial perspective, a high-salary job offer from a tech firm in Silicon Valley gets significantly less attractive once one factors in the massive increase in costs to maintain a good standard of living.
  • Explore/Exploit for Conversations (lesswrong.com, 6 minutes)
    For me, this is a new way of thinking about conversations:  There is an explore and an exploit mode. You are in explore mode if you are introducing ideas/topics to the conversation and aren’t sure how much the others will enjoy them. You are in exploit mode if you are talking about stuff that you already know everyone will enjoy.
  • The Thing about Rabbit Holes (hackernoon.com, 8 minutes)
    The rabbit hole is an interesting phenomenon particularly easy to go down to since the emergence of the internet.
  • From Memes to Infowars: How 75 Fascist Activists Were “Red-Pilled” (bellingcat.com, 13 minutes)
    Some rabbit holes lead to good things. Others don’t. In a study of 75 people who were radicalized and became convinced fascists, 39 credit the internet for this to happen. 4 fascists say they were “red-pilled” while tripping on LSD and watching Hitler documentaries.

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Podcast episode of the week:

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Algorithmic survival of the fittest

In Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the concept of survival of the fittest stands for the phenomenon that the traits of life forms that have the biggest reproductive success will, over time, become prevailing, while other traits disappear.

I would like to adopt this framework for the age of algorithms. On the leading tech platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok (gotta be inclusive here), algorithms play a key role in selecting what information people get to see, and who gets to be seen. Since these services’ business models are centered around advertising, their algorithms are optimized for making people spend as much time as possible on them.

Thanks to the vast amounts of usage data generated by billions of daily users as well as the ever-improving capabilities of machine learning (or “Artificial Intelligence”), one has to expect this optimization process to eventually become highly effective, if not truly perfect. Continue Reading

meshedsociety weekly #193

Here is issue #193 of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.



Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • The Art of Making You Feel Small (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    “Work in Silicon Valley long enough and you’re sure to have experienced this: you sit down to talk with someone… and get up feeling small”, writes Ceci Stallsmith. But: From the most accomplished people she has worked with, none made her feel small. Thought-provoking reflections and a few suggested action points.
  • The Algorithmic Trap (perell.com, 13 minutes)
    A fascinating, critical exploration of how the internet’s dominant algorithms lead to increasingly homogenic physical environments, and how this negatively impacts local culture and travel. My thoughts on this are overall a bit more ambivalent than the author’s, but I do think his overall description of the situation is correct.
  • To Make AI Smarter, Humans Perform Oddball Low-Paid Tasks (wired.com, 10 minutes)
    A new phenomenon is emerging, dubbed “crowd acting”: People getting paid for recording themselves while repeatedly doing everyday tasks (such as drinking from a can). These videos are then used to train AIs.
  • Like Being Judged by Strangers? Get Used to It (bloomberg.com, 5 minutes)
    There is no escape: Everybody is being rated by various companies and has their habits as consumers, borrowers, investors and producers quantified.
  • Believing without evidence is always morally wrong (aeon.co, 5 minutes)
    I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement while reading. One of several important points the author makes: “Careless believing turns us into easy prey for fake-news pedlars, conspiracy theorists and charlatans.”
  • Hunting for a Hot Job in High Tech? Try ‘Digitization Economist (hbswk.hbs.edu, 6 minutes)
    Amazon is the largest employer of tech economists—with more working full-time than even the largest academic economics department. But the company is far from alone in this trend. Some 50 tech companies “have been snapping up economists at a remarkable scale”.
  • The Original Sin of Internet Culture (thefrailestthing.com, 2 minutes)
    “We burdened the internet with messianic hopes—of course we were bound to be disappointed.”
  • LinkedIn Is Now Home To Hyperpartisan Political Content, False Memes, And Troll Battles (buzzfeednews.com, 7 minutes)
    It’s almost a bit of an insult to LinkedIn that armchair hyperpartisan commentators and trolls saw the platform only as their last resort.
  • Why the Google Walkout Was a Watershed Moment in Tech (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    After the recent protest of more than 20,000 Google employees against how the company handled high-profile cases of alleged sexual harassment, little at the internet search giant — and, perhaps, little in Silicon Valley — will be the same again, predicts Farhad Manjoo.
  • Can Spotify Ever Meet Investors’ Expectations? (musicindustryblog.wordpress.com, 3 minutes)
    In music industry terms Spotify is doing a great job, in tech stock terms, less so. Pleasing both groups of stake holders – labels and shareholders – might be impossible.
  • The Quest to Build the Impossible Laptop (gizmodo.com, 4 minutes)
    Creating a superior 2-in-1 device (combining laptop and tablet) is actually quite a challenge.
  • The very human challenge of safe driving (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    Here is the Alphabet subsidiary Waymo explaining that a recent collision between a self-driving car and a motorcycle in Silicon Valley could have been avoided. How? Well, the crash happened shortly after a human safety driver had taken over the control over the car to avoid a potential accident with another car – and unfortunately missed the motorcycle. From the post: “Our simulation shows the self-driving system would have responded to the passenger car by reducing our vehicle’s speed, and nudging slightly in our own lane, avoiding a collision.
  • Technology Myths and Urban Legends (nngroup.com, 6 minutes)
    Technology myth: An (often inaccurate) user-generated theory about how a system functions, based on personal perceptions or second-hand experiences rather than any true understanding of the system’s functionality.
  • Relationship of gender differences in preferences to economic development and gender equality (science.sciencemag.org, 3 minutes)
    New research adding to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the gender equality paradox is a real thing. It comes down to this: The more that women have equal opportunities, the more they – on average – differ from men in their preferences.
  • In Praise of the Coin Flip (medium.com, 4 minutes)
    Sometimes, making a random choice is great. I also like rock–paper–scissors as a decision-making mechanism.
  • The three princes of Serendip: Notes on a mysterious phenomenon (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 7 minutes)
    If one allows randomness to take decisions, one effect is that serendipity comes as a by-product.
  • Half of YouTube viewers use it to learn how to do things they’ve never done (theverge.com, 3 minutes)
    Been there done that. Most recently I searched for videos showing how to make Eggs Benedict.

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Universal Basic Income and human dignity

Convinced critics of an Universal Basic Income (UBI) often point to the importance of work for human dignity as a major argument against the UBI. The most recent example gave AI pioneer Andrew Ng in this interview:

“Silicon Valley has a lot of excitement about unconditional basic income. I don’t support that. There’s a lot of dignity to work. For someone that’s unemployed I really support the government giving them a safety net with the expectation that they’ll do something to contribute back, such as study, so they can gain the skills they need to re-enter the workforce and contribute back to the tax base that is hopefully paying for all of this.”

But why is the UBI often presented as a dichotomy to working, and thus in consequence as a way to rob people of their dignity?

To me, the way an UBI would have to be constructed and framed is straightforward and very much in harmony with the critical role of work for people’s mental well-being:

An UBI is NOT meant to discourage people to work. It is meant to offer them more freedom to align how they spend their time with their areas of interest and with other life priorities. It is meant to offer more room for calculated risk-taking, as well as the ability to choose work which is deeply meaningful to them, but badly paid (such as helping people in need). And it is meant to remove the most basic existential fears from everyone’s mind, such as homelessness, not being able to buy food or not being able to pay for a necessary health procedure – while at the same time reducing the stigmatization and bureaucracy associated with traditional social welfare support.

The UBI is not meant to enable or encourage people to have a comfortable life without doing any work. Sure, if an individual who receives an UBI chooses to move to the most affordable place in a country, to only eat instant Ramen and to be content with that, good for him or her. But most humans would not be satisfied with that kind of lifestyle, so they’d still have to look for an occupation. However, unlike today, they could do this with a mind freed from the most pressing existential pressure, and maybe they would only choose a 20-hour- or 30-hour-week-job.

So the point of the UBI, according to my view, should be to give people more freedom in regards to their occupational choices. An UBI done right (according to me) would not rob anyone of their dignity.

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meshedsociety weekly #192

Here is issue #192 of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.



Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • How a Handful of American Tech Companies Help Radicalize the World (buzzfeednews.com, 15 minutes)
    The most frustrating part is that there just does not seem to be any way to stop this from continuing. Maybe this is how the end of capitalism will look like: Capitalism incentivizes the unstoppable creation of highly destructive and corrosive business models (attention, polarization, controversy + personalization = billion dollar profits) which eventually leads to the collapse of modern civilization and with it, capitalism itself. See also the quotation of the week at the end of this list.
  • Meditation in the Time of Disruption (theringer.com, 25 minutes)
    Great long-read on the tech-driven commercialization of mindfulness meditation.
  • Do People Trust Algorithms More Than Companies Realize? (hbr.org, 8 minutes)
    The answer to the question posed in the headline appears to be “yes”. Particularly when people have to choose between relying on an algorithm or relying on advice from another person. However, when it comes to a choice between an algorithm and their own judgment, their trust in algorithms decreases.
  • Uber’s Secret Restaurant Empire (bloomberg.com, 4 minutes)
    When the Uber Eats team perceives an unmet demand for a certain type of cuisine in an area based on customer searches, it approaches local restaurants suggesting that they start expanding their offering for Uber Eats. It works well.
  • In Amazon Go, no one thinks I’m stealing (cnet.com, 7 minutes)
    Thought-provoking perspective: Ashlee Clark Thompson describes how black people in the U.S. are used to being specifically targeted and discriminated in stores due to a general suspicion of theft. However, when she spent time in a cashierless Amazon Go store, the experience was different.
  • Categories of Unintended Consequences (unintendedconsequenc.es, 5 minutes)
    The phenomenon of unintended consequences receives way too little attention from the broader public in my opinion, considering how present it is in our complex societies. Here is a useful summary of categories of unintended consequences, touching on unexpected benefits, unexpected drawbacks and perverse results.
  • Twitter gave you 280 characters, and your tweets got shorter (cnet.com, 1 minute)
    Not an “unintended consequence”, but at least a counter-intuitive outcome.
  • The ultimate guide to Bluetooth headphones: Wired is still king for quality (soundguys.com, 7 minutes)
    Wired headphones are still superior to Bluetooth ones. Yet, most people won’t be able to hear the difference if they’re older than 24, have some form of noise-induced hearing loss, or are in the presence of outside noise.
  • What are the best stories about people randomly (or non-randomly) meeting Steve Jobs? (quora.com, a few minutes)
    The first comment is good (but if you are into Steve Jobs, you might enjoy reading them all).
  • Working at Netflix Sounds Like Hell (gizmodo.com, 5 minutes)
    It does. On the other hand, people who worked with Steve Jobs had to put up with a lot, yet many still found a lot of meaning and satisfaction in it. In the end, many people accept extraordinary circumstances or pressure as long as they get the chance to work with a product or service that they are proud of. Which I assume Netflix employees are. This company single-handedly changed global television.
  • The internet of things is becoming a surveillance tool (staceyoniot.com, 7 minutes)
    This might be this decade’s most predictable development.
  • Driven to Distraction – the future of car safety (steveblank.com, 16 minutes)
    Car cockpits are following a similar path as airplane cockpits have done over the past decades. So there are a lot of things the car industry can learn from the airline world and from how the tasks of pilots have changed.
  • Do We Worship Complexity? (innoq.com, 4 minutes)
    Musings on the complexity of (software) systems. “There are times when complexity is worshipped – consciously or unconsciously – leading to unnecessarily complex systems.”
  • Half Of The Crypto News Outlets We Asked Would Take Cash To Post Our Content (breakermag.com, 9 minutes)
    Is anyone surprised that the crypto sector is populated by a large number of folks with questionable or non-existing ethics?
  • Waking up early serves capitalism (qz.com, 3 minutes)
    This resonates with me. The widely propagated cult of early rising is absurd, because of the opportunity costs explained in the text. I’m so happy about my current privilege of sleeping until I wake up by myself. It’s usually around 7 hours 45 minutes to 8 hours after I fell asleep.
  • How to get the most out of iOS 12 Shortcuts (theverge.com, 8 minutes)
    Personally I have still not found anything I could optimize with Shortcuts. But the Subreddit r/Shortcuts mentioned in this article looks like it could change that. And it shows quite some activity.
  • iPhone X and the tyranny of choice (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    Let’s hope that Apple’s tyranny of choice in regards to the iPhone really remains a momentary misadventure.
  • Google’s new AI scans thousands of books to answer your questions (weforum.org, 4 minutes)
    Ok, this is cool! “Type a question into ‘Talk to Books’, and the AI-powered tool will scan every sentence in 100,000 volumes in Google Books and generate a list of likely responses with the pertinent passage bolded.
  • Why Jupyter is data scientists’ computational notebook of choice (nature.com, 7 minutes)
    Jupyter, the free, open-source, interactive web tool known as a computational notebook, has within a few years emerged as a de facto standard for data scientists.

Quotation of the week:

  • “The internet is the technology paradox writ more monstrous than ever. It’s a nonpareil tool for learning, roving and constructive community-building. But it’s unrivaled, too, in the spread of lies, narrowing of interests and erosion of common cause. It’s a glorious buffet, but it pushes individual users toward only the red meat or just the kale. We’re ridiculously overfed and ruinously undernourished.”
    By Frank Bruni in “The Internet Will Be the Death of Us” (nytimes.com, 5 minutes)

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #191

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • No More Glorification of Entrepreneurial Struggle (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    On the phenomenon of “strugglepreneurs” and how their gurus keep perpetuating the myth that endless entrepreneurial struggle signals progress.
  • Did I Make a Mistake Selling My Social-Media Darling to Yahoo? (nymag.com, 7 minutes)
    Most of you probably remember Delicious, the legendary web 2.0 social bookmarking site. Here its founder Joshua Schachter looks back on its early days and wonders what had happened if he hadn’t sold the company to Yahoo (where it started its demise).
  • YouTubers Will Enter Politics (buzzfeednews.com, 17 minutes)
    Primarily, this is a text about the changes in Brazilian politics. But a secondary narrative is how YouTube’s algorithms create politicians. This will happen elsewhere, too. And of course, these algorithms bring people to the foreground who are primarily good at one thing: optimizing for maximum attention.
  • Are We Already Living in Virtual Reality? (newyorker.com, 27 minutes)
    A captivating longread from earlier this year around the multilayered question of when a human experience qualifies as “real”.
  • Do journalists pay too much attention to Twitter? (cjr.org, 7 minutes)
    They do, and its a problem.
  • Interpretability and Post-Rationalization (medium.com, 8 minutes)
    Insightful perspective from a machine learning and robotics scientist on what it means for explainability of decisions made by artificial intelligence that humans tend to post-rationalize their decisions and actions, thus actually are unable to give proper explanations at all.
  • Your next doctor’s appointment might be with an AI (technologyreview.com, 12 minutes)
    Talking to a chatbot instead of a doctor to get a first opinion on a health issue – despite some challenges, I love it.
  • AI in 2018: A Year in review (medium.com, 11 minutes)
    Year in review posts are coming earlier and earlier. But this excerpt from a talk by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker, co-founders of the AI Now Institute, about the events and concerns that occupied the minds of the AI community in 2018, is great!
  • How should autonomous vehicles be programmed? (sciencedaily.com, 4 minutes)
    “The most emphatic global preferences in the survey are for sparing the lives of humans over the lives of other animals; sparing the lives of many people rather than a few; and preserving the lives of the young, rather than older people.
  • The Gray Market’s Impact on iPhone Pricing (aboveavalon.com, 9 minutes)
    One major difference between Android phones and iPhones: There is a big and growing gray market for refurbished iPhones, which in fact helps Apple to boost sales for higher-priced flagship iPhones.
  • Even a censored Google would be better for China than Baidu (scmp.com, 5 minutes)
    Democracy-loving and Google-using Americans are actually deciding the fate of Chinese internet users – isn’t that paternalism? The Chinese are the ones who suffer from the lack of access to Google.”
  • Swedish Competition Agency Rejects Forcing Banks to Handle Cash (bloomberg.com, 3 minutes)
    In an almost cashless society, who is in charge of ensuring that access to physical money is maintained, despite lacking demand and therefore unattractive economics? This is a question Sweden currently has to figure out.
  • DAPPs are not Apps! (medium.com, 2 minutes)
    “DAPP” stands for “decentralized app” (typically relying on a blockchain), but a DAPP is not what people usually think of when hearing the term “app”. Instead, it is a layer between the protocol and the client.
  • Is Your Product Designed to Be Calm? (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    Amber Case wrote a scorecard for creating human-centered, anxiety-free technology solutions. According to her, a product is “calm” if it is designed to seamlessly, unobtrusively integrate with person’s life and daily habits. Obviously, many consumer apps are not calm at all, although things are getting better.
  • What Emails Reveal About Performance at Work (joshbersin.com, 7 minutes)
    “A study among 650 top leaders shows a 74% statistical correlation between communication patterns and the highest levels of individual performance. The finding: The highest performing leaders use simpler words to communicate, they respond faster, and they communicate more often. In other words, they are more engaged, more efficient, and more action-oriented.”
  • Networking for Nerds (benjaminreinhardt.com, 8 minutes)
    A bunch of tactics developed by the author that all boil down to one thing: make it easy for the other person – to remember you, to help, and to meet.
  • Growth Without Goals (investorfieldguide.com, 7 minutes)
    Brilliant take. One can grow without having clearly outlined goals. One can explore for the sake of exploration, without expectation. Great habits and practices make a great and successful life. Cultivate those and the rest will take care of itself.
  • What do 1980s concept cars and 2000s cell phones have in common? (uxplanet.org, 21 minutes)
    The author is very disappointed in the current and future state of technology, which “has no physicality”. But I’m sharing this mainly for the many truly stunning photos of 1980s concept cars’ cockpits

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #190

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Please Purchase My Personal Data From Me Directly (mcsweeneys.net, 4 minutes)
    Cutting out the middle men aka the big tech platforms. Actually, why not?!
  • Why Doctors Reject Tools That Make Their Jobs Easier (blogs.scientificamerican.com, 7 minutes)
    There was a time when doctors rejected the use of the thermometer and preferred to define whether a patient had fever by feel alone.
  • Movement rises to keep humans, not robots, in the driver’s seat (freep.com, 7 minutes)
    People who don’t want to give up driving a car themselves because they love it so much. Depending on how many they’ll become and how much influence they will be able to gain, this could become yet another serious obstacle for the protagonists of the self-driving car race.
  • The amazing ascent of Priscilla Chan (qz.com, 26 minutes)
    A very interesting profile of Priscilla Chan and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which she runs together with her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Gotta admire when a romantic couple manages to be a great team even in professional regards, which certainly seems to be the case here.
  • Pack Experience (ribbonfarm.com, 15 minutes)
    A fascinating sociological perspective! The offline world is designed around “pack experience” – families ride in cars together, groups of coworkers, take elevators together, dating couples go to movies in pairs. The internet is disrupting this default mode. Online, individual experience reigns supreme. Disruptions of higher-order social realities, at troop, tribe, or nation-state levels, can all be traced back to pack-level disruptions.
  • Five Questions for rethinking civilization (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    This is the beginning of an upcoming ten-part series called “The Next Enlightenment”, and it provides plenty of food for thought in the form of questions such as “What kind of freedom can a solitary person achieve?” and “Why do we teach our children responsibility, but not integrity?”.
  • Instagram Has a Massive Harassment Problem (theatlantic.com, 20 minutes)
    In this long piece, Taylor Lorenz completely destroys the cliche of Instagram being the friendly, polite platform where people can exist without having to deal with trolls and harassment.
  • Interviews with former Google employees to find out why they decided to leave (businessinsider.com, 11 minutes)
    Google is widely considered as one of the best places to work. But that doesn’t mean that all employees stay forever. Here is an informative collection of individual reasons why people left Google.
  • Brave New World Revisited, Revisited (spectator.us, 6 minutes)
    While George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is often brought up as a cautionary example for where we are headed, Huxley’s Brave New World should not be ignored – because in large parts, his vision has already come true.
  • Algorithmic merchandising will erode trust in Amazon (shift.newco.co, 7 minutes)
    Amazon is increasingly seduced by the short-term profit potential of using algorithms against customer interest.
  • Why doesn’t Silicon Valley just give Saudi Arabia its money back? (sfchronicle.com, 4 minutes)
    In the light of recent news events, Silicon Valley is finding itself in deep trouble about its close ties to Saudi Arabia. For example, the Saudi royal family owns about 14 percent of Uber, both directly and through its part-ownership of the SoftBank Vision Fund.
  • How Index Ventures became Europe’s startup success factory (wired.com, 7 minutes)
    For a VC firm with European roots, London-based Index Ventures has been remarkably successful. But judging from this portrait, the major reason for this accomplishment ironically appears to be that the firm does also operate from San Francisco, and that it sees itself as a “global firm with European outlook”.
  • The new Palm is a tiny phone to keep you away from your phone (theverge.com, 10 minutes)
    Do you feel like getting a second, tiny phone to help you get away from your main phone? Sarcastic tone aside, in the end that’s one of the promises of smartwatches as well.
  • Lord Keynes Would Be Proud (medium.com, 8 minutes)
    A clever thing suggested by the author: The most rational way to spend Bitcoin is to buy something with a regular credit card and sell just enough Bitcoin to pay the credit card bill. Ideological cryptoheads don’t like this suggestion, because it doesn’t get them closer to their libertarian utopia.
  • On Podcasts, News and Well-being (blog.amitgawande.com, 3 minutes)
    Maybe there is a case to be made to not fill every available minute of one’s day with a podcast in order to create some periods of intentional boredom? I’m undecided.
  • Scaling Audio Service: How we launched a high-quality Text-To-Speech service at NZZ (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    But nothing against audio, of course. In fact, an increasing number of people prefer to listen to newspaper articles instead of reading them. So the Swiss newspaper NZZ built a system which lets users listen to its stories. Here its head of digital product explains how it was done.
  • Noticing internal experiences (lesswrong.com, 2 minutes)
    This could be en enlightening exercise: Sitting down, observing one’s thoughts, and writing them all down, no matter whether they make sense or are connected to each other in any way.
  • Animals that are currently monitored using facial recognition technology (nymag.com, 6 minutes)
    Salmon are the latest entry in a growing cornucopia of animal faces loaded with AI into databases.

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #189

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


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Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #188

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • The Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years (gq.com, 11 minutes)
    Yuval Harari is kind of all over the place right now. In my opinion, rightly so (but he also seems to have hired someone with amazing PR skills). Even though I’ve read his most recent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, I still found this interview with him highly interesting to read. Harari explains that he considers emotional intelligence and mental balance to be the most important skills needed to handle the upcoming decades. “The hardest challenges will be psychological”.
  • Why Animal Extinction Is Crippling Computer Science (wired.com, 4 minutes)
    Fascinating perspective from a computer scientist: Animals represent biological problem-solving algorithms created by natural selection. When a species is lost because of questionable human behavior, it’s also the loss of algorithmic secrets.
  • The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job (theatlantic.com, 10 minutes)
    The other type of automation: The one that isn’t forced on people, but that people (primarily programmers) create themselves. It’s not always appreciated and sometimes does backfire.
  • The Myth of The Infrastructure Phase (usv.com, 7 minutes)
    A very smart framework. The history of new technologies shows that apps beget infrastructure, not the other way around. It’s not that first we build all the infrastructure, and once we have the infrastructure we need, we begin to build apps. It’s exactly the opposite.
  • How Bird & Lime can build moats (blog.usejournal.com, 8 minutes)
    How to compete and differentiate in the (over?)hyped field of dockless e-scooters.
  • How a Small Start-Up Reverse-Engineered Swedish Banks and Hacked Its Way to Over 500,000 Users (netguru.co, 3 minutes)
    The Swedish startup Tink reverse-engineered the non-public APIs of the banks, aggregating data (mostly account details and savings rates) from the top 30 banks in Sweden into one single place and built it into an app. Instead of suing Tink, the banks started cooperating with it.
  • For Rent: 98-Square-Foot BR in Co-Living Apt., Community Included (wsj.com, 5 minutes)
    Flat sharing is now being branded as “co-living” targeting millenials, enhanced with services and turned into big, tech-powered business.
  • Data Factories (stratechery.com, 11 minutes)
    What is Facebook? A data factory. It processes data from its raw form to something uniquely valuable both to Facebook’s products and also to advertisers.
  • World’s Oldest Torrent Still Alive After 15 Years (torrentfreak.com, 3 minutes)
    Being covered as the oldest torrent still alive by the media comes with the perk of people seeding it as a torrent just for the sake of it.
  • The Rise of Netflix Competitors Has Pushed Consumers Back Toward Piracy (motherboard.vice.com, 3 minutes)
    Apropos torrents: They seem to experience a kind of comeback, caused by exclusivity streaming deals which mean that people would have to subscribe to and pay for not only one but several streaming services at once to get access to the most talked about shows.
  • In Praise of Mediocrity (nytimes.com, 4 minutes)
    Tim Wu laments the loss of the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.
  • Risk Management (collaborativefund.com, 4 minutes)
    “Risk management comes down to serially avoiding decisions that can’t easily be reversed, whose downsides will demolish you and prevent recovery.”
  • Your Work Is the Only Thing That Matters (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    Ryan Holiday (author of “The obstacle is the way” and “Daily stoic”), points out an unintended consequence of, what one might call, total brand and business control for creatives: It diverts attention away from the most essential part of any creative profession: Making great stuff.
  • “Social network” of brains lets people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads (technologyreview.com, 5 minutes)
    Scientists have created a network that allows three individuals to send and receive information directly to their brains.
  • Fitbit may have helped catch a killer, again (techcrunch.com, 2 minutes)
    If someone who wears a fitness tracker or health monitoring smartwatch dies, the device can help the authorities to figure out whether the death is the cause of a crime or not. If these devices keep catching on, investigators can rejoice.

Quotation of the week:

  • If politics becomes a behavioural science of triggers and emotional nudges it’s reasonable to assume this would most benefit candidates with the least consistent principles, the ones who make the flexible campaign promises.
    Jamie Bartlett in “The war between technology & democracy (medium.com, 17 minutes)

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Weekly Links & Thoughts #187

Here is this week’s issue of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Usually published every Wednesday/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.



Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Why the Apple Watch Series 4 is a big deal (thealeph.com, 6 minutes)
    While the first versions of the Apple Watch were a solution looking for a problem, with the Series 4, Apple really has made clear what it will be good for: to help people to live healthier lives in a radically changing world which requires people to take care of themselves and to stay fit. The author makes a great point when he writes: “Apple didn’t come out with a compact ECG to compete with hospitals. What Apple wants is to skip hospitals altogether through an early detection system.” The company is ahead of the curve, plus it can leverage its pro-privacy positioning. This is much harder for Google/Android. And “indies” such as Fitbit will struggle anyway to compete with Apple head on, so they must look for niches.
  • FOMO in China is a $7 billion industry (marketplace.org, 7 minutes)
    The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) that the headline refers to is a particular kind of FOMO: one of fearing to miss out on information and knowledge that can bring people ahead. As a consequence, there is a thriving “pay-for-knowledge” (podcast) economy in China.
  • Startup Nation? Entrepreneurs Still Toil in Macron’s France (bloomberg.com, 4 minutes)
    Changing a culture takes much longer than a few years. I’d like to propose a “readiness test” for the mostly export oriented European countries to understand at which point a nation really is ready to become a “startup nation” (which would mean global success and recognition): if the lingua franca within the ecosystem (and for example on conferences) is not the country’s native language, but English; even when two natives talk to each other within a business context. Unless this is the case, it’s impossible to break out of local cultural programming and thinking patterns, to attract large numbers of startup-minded foreign talent, and to fully internalize the necessary mindsets. I’m not claiming that language is the only important criteria. By far. But I consider it a Litmus test.
  • Artificial Intelligence Will Keep Our Loved Ones Alive (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    This will very likely happen, and people might be shocked how little data from text conversations will be needed in order to create a bot which at least in 80 % of the situations resembles an actual person.
  • Computers can solve your problem. You may not like the answer. (apps.bostonglobe.com, 11 minutes)
    The Boston Public Schools used an algorithm to reconfigure start times in order to make more efficient use of buses required for transportation to the school. The algorithm was created by the MIT and promised racial equity. It seemed to be a smart solution for BPS – except that many parents didn’t like the changing start times suggested by the algorithm. It’s an interesting aspect of the increasing use of algorithms in society: They might present humans with objectively better solutions for certain tasks or processes, but require an openness to change among people which isn’t the norm.
  • Amazon just pulled an Apple on the smart home (staceyoniot.com, 7 minutes)
    Amazon is taking over the smart home by getting both developers and manufacturers on board and providing an outstanding user experience. But of course, given Amazon’s dominance, from a macro perspective, this is not necessarily something to be celebrated.
  • Want to See What’s Up Amazon’s Sleeve? Take a Tour of Seattle (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    Seattle is a special city. As the home of Amazon, it is the place where the giant tests various stationary retail and logistics concepts.
  • Revolut’s Nikolay Storonsky Is Building The Amazon Of Banking (forbes.com, 6 minutes)
    Profile of one of Europe’s most interesting startups right now (at least for a b2c fintech fan like me).
  • The Post-Sale Stay-Period (avc.com, 2 minutes)
    When a startup is acquired, this is a logical step for most founders to make their own exit, writes Fred Wilson. The fact that the Instagram founders stayed with the buyer Facebook for a whole 6 years after the acquisition actually is astonishing.
  • How to have a good conversation (marginalrevolution.com, 2 minutes)
    Do you favor the common approach to “good” conversations or Tyler Cowen’s suggestions?
  • Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room (quantamagazine.com, 7 minutes)
    It is still ridiculously easy to confuse an AI. Here it was done by adding a picture of an elephant into a living room scene and to task a computer vision algorithm with correctly identifying the objects it saw. It totally failed.
  • Why McDonalds & Starbucks are All-In on Native Mobile Apps (medium.freecodecamp.org, 5 minutes)
    It’s a bit of an obvious read, but it raises awareness about a phenomenon which I only recently became consciously aware of: Restaurant chains (at least here in Sweden even smaller ones) release their own native mobile apps, which sometimes include exclusive discounts and other goodies to incentivize people to download and spread the word about it. Remarkable that it took 10 years since the launch of the app economy for this to become a major trend (or for me to realize this).
  • The Problem with Facebook Is Facebook (logicmag.io, 13 minutes)
    Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy” says in this interview that all the negative effects that Facebook has on society and which emerged over the past years are not mistakes – they’re fulfillments of a vision. They happen by design.
  • The Mines (pedestrianobservations.com, 4 minutes)
    A fascinating analogy: People moving to San Francisco or the Silicon Valley to work in tech is similar to how in the past ambitious young man went to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which they went back home. The various issues that the Bay Area is struggling with are at least in part a consequence of this.
  • How Dieselgate saved Germany’s car industry (theverge.com, 4 minutes)
    Imagine if in the end, Dieselgate would in fact turn out to be the thing that the German car industry needed to free itself from the innovator’s dilemma.
  • 13 cities that are starting to ban cars (weforum.org, 7 minutes)
    This is not a list of cities that want to ban cars completely at this point, but that are limiting car access at least temporarily or in certain areas. It’s a good trend.
  • The Publisher’s Patron: How Google’s News Initiative Is Re-Defining Journalism (en.ejo.ch, 13 minutes)
    “How did Google become so popular among publishers? The answer could be money. Google appears to have turned itself into a Renaissance-style patron of journalism. It is rare that a private company hands out so much cash to other private companies, with apparently so few conditions.”
  • Apple News Is Giving the Media Everything It Wants—Except Money (slate.com, 12 minutes)
    Apple News has been kind of an under-the-radar service. But it appears to become increasingly important for many publishers. However, there is a catch: “Slate makes more money from a single article that gets 50,000 page views on its site than it has from the 54 million page views it has had on Apple News this calendar year.

Quotation of the week:

  • If you have food, friends, and a comfortable place to live, you are all set to live an incredible life. Everything you buy, and every experience and commitment you add to the plate beyond this point is a tradeoff: a guaranteed reduction in cash and free time, in exchange for a possible increase in thrills delivered by fun or novelty.
    Peter Adeney in “Why you should Get your Shit Together Before you Make it Big” (mrmoneymustache.com, 8 minutes)

Podcast episode of the week:

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