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.

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  • The Art of Making You Feel Small (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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? (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 3 minutes)
    Been there done that. Most recently I searched for videos showing how to make Eggs Benedict.

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