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.

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  • How a Handful of American Tech Companies Help Radicalize the World (, 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 (, 25 minutes)
    Great long-read on the tech-driven commercialization of mindfulness meditation.
  • Do People Trust Algorithms More Than Companies Realize? (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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? (, 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 (, 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 (, 7 minutes)
    This might be this decade’s most predictable development.
  • Driven to Distraction – the future of car safety (, 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? (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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” (, 5 minutes)

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