meshedsociety weekly #197

Here is a new issue 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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  • A roadblock to productivity is the smartphone on your desk (nytimes, 7 minutes)
    Isn’t it a bit tragic that the human will power is so easily sabotaged?
  • How to use Google Duplex to make a restaurant reservation (theverge.com, 5 minutes)
    When Duplex was presented, I speculated that Google might never have the intentions to actually release it. I was clearly wrong. It’s now available for users in certain U.S. cities who own the latest Pixel phones. This article describes the experience in the current early stage of Duplex. Notably, “some Duplex calls are placed by human operators at Google”.
  • Tech company patterns (richg42.blogspot.com, 10 minutes)
    A marvelous taxonomy of different company types and organizational dynamics, ranging from the “megacorp pattern” and the “acquired company pattern” to the “wealthy dictator pattern” and the “world domination pattern”.
  • Emotion Science Keeps Getting More Complicated. Can AI Keep Up? (howwegettonext.com, 13 minutes)
    Human emotions are complicated and very much culturally-dependent. So how is AI going to deal with this? Thought-provoking reflections.
  • Uber Is Headed for a Crash (nymag.com, 10 minutes)
    No one knows whether the authors conclusion will turn out to be correct or not. But in one regard, Uber has certainly failed: Even after nine years of its existence and after having created a global transportation empire beloved by dozens of millions of customers, the narrative of the company’s inevitable upcoming crash still is alive and thriving – regularly fueled by new reports of billion dollar losses.
  • Tumblr’s anti-porn algorithm is flagging basically everything as NSFW (dailydot.com, 3 minutes)
    Tumblr is banning pornographic content – but its algorithm to identify this content appears to be rather clueless of what to look for.
  • Tips on Getting Through a Bear Market (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    This piece is specifically about the crypto bear market and a pretty good read even if one isn’t a cryptohead. Good point here, I guess: “Bear markets suck because of social pressure. It’s not enough that there’s financial pressure, but the I-told-you-so’s of the critics that come out at every bear market can be a lot to bear (pun intended). “
  • I quit Instagram and Facebook and it made me happier (cnbc.com, 8 minutes)
    Totally. Apart from direct messaging, groups (on Facebook) and the benefits of using either service as a casual networking tool, the endless comparison, narcissism and presentation of only the best aspects of people’s lives are true happiness killers. I’m still opening Instagram way too often, sadly.
  • French riots: When Facebook Gets Involved With Local News (buzzfeednews.com, 12 minutes)
    This is a tricky one! How much has Facebook’s algorithm influenced the recent riots in France? That it plays a role is undeniable based on this article. But to what extend? What would have happened in alternative scenarios, in which a) the algorithm would have been optimized for other things b) there wouldn’t have been an algorithm c) Facebook would not have existed (but maybe a different platform) d) the internet would not have existed?
  • From aliens to immigration, international study finds most believe a conspiracy theory (newatlas.com, 4 minutes)
    The research mentioned surveyed over 11,000 adults across the US, Britain, Poland, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, and Hungary. Sweden was the most skeptical country with 48 percent of people disbelieving every conspiracy presented.
  • Why Xiaomi’s fancy phones aren’t selling (techinasia.com, 5 minutes)
    Turns out: The smartphones of Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi are sold at such a low price that despite their good features, people don’t feel comfortable buying them or pulling them out of their pocket when being with others. There is such a thing as “too cheap”.
  • Hero worship and the Sheryl Sandberg takedown (medium.com, 4 minutes)
    An intelligent defense of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who has been subject to a lot of criticism lately. I agree with Fred Destin: The focus on individuals is mostly irrelevant. What matters is that we are faced with platforms that have aggregated insane economic power.
  • Daniel Kahneman: Your Intuition Is Wrong, Unless These 3 Conditions Are Met (thinkadvisor.com, 2 minutes)
    1. Regularity so that repeating patters can be picked up 2. A lot of practice 3. Immediate feedback.
  • Subtract (sivers.org, 1 minute)
    “Life can be improved by adding, or by subtracting. The world pushes us to add, because that benefits them. But the secret is to focus on subtracting.”
  • It *Should* Be Freakin’ Hard To Be In Media (rafat.org, 2 minutes)
    Various digital media companies are struggling. But starting something in media, building in, being in it, building a career in it, should be hard and a struggle, argues Rafat Ali.
  • Starting a Business in Silicon Valley (tlalexander.com, 21 minutes)
    What’s also hard, actually: Starting a hardware business in Silicon Valley.
  • European tech start-ups are having a record year — and the US isn’t keeping up (cnbc.com, 4 minutes)
    What a great angle to London-based VC firm Atomico’s  recently published “2018 State of European Tech Report”. There might be serious momentum building up for Europe’s tech industry.
  • South Korea’s “Hikikomori” health crisis (unherd.com, 6 minutes)
    Hikikomoris (“the departed”) are recluses who have retreated from offline life and live entirely online. At a rehab center in Seoul, some of them are being helped in taking their first steps on the long journey from the bedroom back into society.
  • The World’s Most Efficient Languages (theatlantic.com, 9 minutes)
    Fascinating. Some languages are more efficient than others. How does that impact people’s thinking? It’s evident that language does impact thinking. I witness it myself: I am communicating differently in German, English or Swedish. Certain ideas, values and sentiments are easier to express in one language than in another.

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