meshedsociety weekly #204

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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  • Fortnite Is the Future (redef.com, 24 minutes)
    Tremendously informative and nuanced analysis of Fortnite’s remarkable success. The author manages to both put some of the hype into perspective but also to outline the massive future potential which the game presents to its developer Epic Games. Spoiler: To create the Metaverse before Facebook figures that one out.
  • AirPods Are Now One of Apple’s Most Important Products (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Yes. It even might be Apple’s most important product right now, period, seen from its promise to disrupt the existing paradigms of how people interact with digital devices. Here in Stockholm for example (as presumably in many other places elsewhere), one nowadays sees people from all generations, backgrounds and social classes, alone and in groups, sporting AirPods. This is a “silent” revolution in the making, which will unfold once a tipping point has been reached (and we’re close).
  • Apple redistributes more wealth upward than any corporation or country on earth (bostonreview.net, 11 minutes)
    Thought-provoking perspective.
  • Is Alexa working? (ben-evans.com, 5 minutes)
    Beyond the large number of Amazon Echo devices sold and even bigger install base (due to other companies integrating Alexa into their hardware), what purpose does Alexa serve for Amazon? At least for now, it doesn’t seem to be a major driver of sales on Amazon. Possibly the answer is this: “The end point has become much more strategic for web platform companies. So, anything you can do to get an end-point of your own has value for the future, even if no-one today uses it to buy soap powder.”
  • Self-driving cars may worsen traffic by cruising instead of parking (newatlas.com, 2 minutes)
    What an outlook! For owners of self-driving cars, it might be cheaper to have a car circle around at low speed instead of paying for parking. Of course, there are those who believe that self-driving cars won’t be owned by individuals but instead only by Uber & other companies. In that case, there is hardly a point in having to park the cars anyway. Either way, congestion might become worse.
  • Flying Cars Are Closer to Reality Than You Think (medium.com, 10 minutes)
    Maybe congestion will decrease with “flying cars”, aka VTOL (“vertical take-off and landing”) aircrafts.
  • Money Machines (logicmag.io, 25 minutes)
    Extensive interview with an anonymous algorithmic trader. He/she believes that in financial trading, tons of jobs are on the verge of getting wiped out because technology can do those jobs.
  • Four Lessons after Eleven Years in Silicon Valley (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Not the first post about lessons learned in Silicon Valley, but Ashley Mayer expresses a few insights which – to me who has never worked there – were quite informative. Among other things, she mentions the high value of relationships with former coworkers and the little respect that people working in non-tech/founding/investing functions receive.
  • Philippines tops world internet usage index with an average 10 hours a day  (theguardian.com, 1 minute)
    The top five countries in the world ranked by screen time according to HootSuite and We Are Social: Philippines, Brazil, Thailand, Colombia and Indonesia. I suspect this is partly due to the extreme popularity of chat apps in these countries. In Colombia for example, everything (private and business matters) is managed via WhatsApp. Without it, the country would come to a standstill. Furthermore, because of zero-rating, the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp are excluded from monthly data caps, so using those services for many hours is really free (minus what it costs to charge the smartphone).
  • The Bleak Reality of the Instagram Experience (thewalrus.ca, 8 minutes)
    On the rise of “pop-up experiences” appearing in various cities of North America, where people can take social-media-optimized photos and videos in particularly unconventional environments.
  • Why Friendships Are Dead (hackernoon.com, 5 minutes)
    I disagree with the pessimistic tone of this post, but it is intriguing food for thought. Friendships are certainly changing radically these days. But whether one is able to create deep friendships depends in parts on one’s skill and willingness to break with shallow norms of communication (see next piece).
  • The Power of Negotiating Boundaries (designluck.com, 8 minutes)
    Reading this was eye-opening for me: Personal relationships remain at a shallow level as long as norms of communication are constantly upheld, and societal boundaries are always respected. Achieving a level of depth directly correlates with the courage of breaking with existing norms to create new, personal norms.
  • Machine learning leads mathematicians to unsolvable problem (nature.com, 4 minutes)
    On the question of “learnability” — whether an algorithm can extract a definite pattern from limited data.
  • Is fraud-busting AI system being turned off for being too efficient? (scmp.com, 6 minutes)
    Some Chinese cities and counties are using an algorithm to spot corruption among officials. But it is working too well and creating increasing resistance (Meta remark: According to Betteridge’s law of headlines, the headline of this article would have to be answered with a “no”. But it in fact seems to require a “yes”. Thus, the editors chose the wrong type of headline).
  • The Onion headlines could teach AI what makes satire funny (sciencenews.org, 3 minutes)
    Talking about headlines: A new analysis of the differences between real and joke headlines reveals a how-to formula for aspiring satirists — human and AI alike.
  • Why one VC investor invites entrepreneurs to go for a walk (sifted.eu, 4 minutes)
    In my opinion, pretty much everything that requires thinking, expressing of ideas and brainstorming but doesn’t rely on visual material is best done while walking. If I may make a deliberately exaggerated claim (which shouldn’t be understood literally): The perfect office has no traditional meeting rooms but is located in an area with excellent walkability or has facilities for “walking meetings”.
  • How Much Would You Pay for a Foldable Smartphone? (nymag.com, 4 minutes)
    For the moment, nothing. Still waiting to understand the point of that hyped device category.
  • Nobody Knows How To Learn A Language (blog.usejournal.com, 13 minutes)
    It’s not the most humble thing to say, but I do know. Aside from obligatory English at school, I’ve learned 2 languages so far, taught to myself. One (Swedish) I do speak fluently, and one (Spanish) I’m at maybe 60 to 70 % and will speak fluently eventually. And I’m certainly not a “language talent”. The formula is quite simple: Give yourself a 10-year horizon, spend a tiny amount of learning every day (5 minutes is enough. What matters is to do it daily. Duolingo is a great way to start), be patient, don’t choose too hard tasks because they’ll discourage you, slowly scale up (through news articles, books, movies, podcasts, local immersion).

Recently on meshedsociety:

Quotation of the week:

  • “Software is now more important than camera hardware when it comes to mobile photography.
    Sam Byford in “How AI is changing photography” (theverge.com, 5 minutes)

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