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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  • 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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