meshedsociety weekly #196

Here is issue #195 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 rise of 8D Audio (mel.com, 9 minutes)
    A phenomenon called “8D Audio” music has taken off on YouTube in the past several months, seemingly out of nowhere. At least some of its roots are at the University of Medellin in Colombia, from where the 18-year-old student of audiovisual communication Samuel Correa runs one of the biggest YouTube accounts dedicated to this sound effect. Here is one of his 8D Audio reworks of an existing song. The suggestion is to use headphones and close one’s eyes for the best experience. It’s actually quite intense!
  • Electric scooters are causing injuries and accidents (cnet.com, 12 minutes)
    Really no surprise here. Riding on a little electric scooter through urban environments makes you quite a vulnerable protagonist. It’s similar for people on bikes, however, at least subjectively, I feel more unsafe and unstable on a scooter. Of course this could simply be due to lack of practice.
  • The $100 Million Bot Heist (nautil.us, 17 minutes)
    The story of Evgeniy Bogachev, the world’s most-wanted cybercriminal, and of how he stole millions with a giant global botnet. Some people’s criminal energy is astonishing.
  • The problem with invisible branding (fastcompany.com, 5 minutes)
    I find the application of the term “branding” confusing in this context, but the author makes a thought-provoking point: Sites like YouTube, which make heavy use of AI to create the user experience (and choice of content), ought to market their heavy use of AI to the users, and maybe even allow them to be active participants (unlike currently – unknowing participants) in the machine learning used to train AI systems.
  • What Kind of Happiness Do People Value Most? (hbr.org, 5 minutes)
    Interesting distinction: experienced happiness over remembered happiness.
  • Swiss hotels are hiring Instagram “sitters” to post photos for you (quartz.com, 3 minutes)
    This appears mostly to be a marketing campaign. Still, it has to be said again: Weird times we’re living in.
  • Time is different now (theverge.com, 2 minutes)
    Maybe another factor contributing to today’s weirdness? Or just in fact the same as it always has been? Bijan Stephen writes that our perception of time has been totally skewed. Something that happened last week has flattened into things that happened in the past, a category that holds everything. People are “living in a perpetual present, where events are disconnected from their antecedents and where history is counted in minutes and days rather than in months and years”.
  • You probably won’t make it to the top (m.signalvnoise.com, 3 minutes)
    Love this! “The top is full of people who hate what they had to do or who they had to become to get there. Even for the people who get there with a clean conscience often end up disappointed by how shallow the satisfaction really is.
  • My battle with ‘Post Founder Depression’ (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Deep reflections by a former founder who struggles with the tricky question of: What now?!
  • What made me go to the doctor? (vowe.net, 2 minutes)
    Some people trust the data about their body from a health tracker more than signals the body sends via the brain. Understandable. The body’s signals are often ambiguous and rather confusing (think, psychosomatic symptoms).
  • Study shows Apple Watch health insurance deals yield substantial increase in exercise (9to5mac.com, 2 minutes)
    Leveraging the cognitive bias of loss aversion: If you offer people a fitness smartwatch and make them pay part of its price through variable monthly fees dependent on the amount of exercise – with those most active not paying any monthly fee – people on average become more active.
  • Cafe opens with robot waiters remotely controlled by disabled people (japantoday.com, 2 minutes)
    “Five robots, 1.2 meters tall, controlled by disabled people with conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neuron disease, took orders and served food at the cafe that opened on a trial basis.”
  • Finland’s digital-based curriculum impedes learning (yle.fi, 3 minutes)
    What if it turns out that learning with analogue tools overall generates better results in school than with digital-based ones? Would that create a moral and ethical requirement to go back to paper, pen and books only?
  • Wanted: The ‘perfect babysitter.’ Must pass AI scan for respect and attitude. (washingtonpost.com, 9 minutes)
    That parents will do everything to minimize the risk of picking an unsuitable or even dangerous babysitter is entirely understandable. It’s a typical case where accepting false positives (not choosing a potential babysitter who’s inaccurately deemed unsuitable by an AI) over false negatives (picking a babysitter which turns out to be unsuitable) makes sense for the individual. The issue is that this fact encourages the provider of the software to make its AI really picky, selective and possibly even discriminating. In aggregate, that creates ethical challenges, and a tension between individual and collective needs.
  • How a Mysterious Tech Billionaire Created Two Fortunes – And a Global Sweatshop (forbes.com, 14 minutes)
    “The world is going to a cloud wage“, says Andy Tryba, chief executive of Crossover. The firm is looking for anyone who can commit to a 40- or 50-hour workweek, but it has no interest in full-time employees. It wants contract workers who are willing to toil from their homes or even in local cafes.
  • Can Engineers Boost Corporate Value? (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    New research studies the returns on technological talent and investments in Artificial Intelligence. One result: An additional engineer at a U.S., publicly traded firm is correlated with approximately $854,000 more market value for the firm. But obviously, an additional engineer also costs the company lots of money.
  • The ‘Neo-Banks’ Are Finally Having Their Moment (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    Great! It took too long though.
  • Best non-fiction books of 2018 (marginalrevolution.com, 2 minutes)
    Tyler Cowen writes that 2018 was a remarkably strong year for intelligent non-fiction.

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