meshedsociety weekly #207

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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Please note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • In China, This Video Game Lets You Be a Parent (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    “Kong Qingxun, a 21-year-old blockchain entrepreneur in the southern city of Guangzhou, has raised eight generations of sons in the game. He let the first boy play lots of soccer and video games. But he didn’t get into college, so Mr. Kong changed his approach.” Fascinating. Lots of thoughts about this: Could a software that lets people “play” being parents be a way to train future parents for the challenges of having a child? How probable is that one day successfully playing such game will be “obligatory” for future parents? And what about this: Could for some having a “simulated” child eventually be the preferred choice over a real one?
  • 5G will change your business faster than you think (thealeph.com, 13 minutes)
    Beyond all the marketing hype, 5G is truly disruptive. Great piece.
  • Foldable phones: a brief history of their beginning (theverge.com, 6 minutes)
    Will foldable phones also be disruptive? Gadget reporters are clearly excited about the new paradigm, and this bullish take is just one example. The question is: How much can gadget enthusiasts be trusted here? After years of stagnation in the smartphone sector, they are longing for renewed excitement, and foldables satisfy that. But is that a relevant sentiment from the perspective of the average consumer?
  • Wikipedia’s Lamest Edit Wars (informationisbeautiful.net)
    Stuff Wikipedia editors have been fighting about: Is it a neutral point to say “an animal is cute”? Is the main character of Grand Theft Auto IV Serbian, Slovak, Bosnian or non-specificially Eastern European? Are Bono’s harmonica skills relevant? Entertaining visualization.
  • The future of Instagram face filters is glossy, metallic, and surreal (theverge.com, 5 minutes)
    According to the article, Instagram came up with a clever approach to user-generated augmented reality filters: In order to use one, you had to follow their creator. I’m using past tense because it worked for me without following the creator. So they might have changed it by now.
  • The complex allure of cursed images (mashable.com, 10 minutes)
    From the “investigating internet culture” department: the “cursed images” meme; pictures or photographs that are disturbing to the viewer due to the poor photo quality or content within the image that is abnormal or illogical.
  • Y Combinator accidentally let 15,000 people into an exclusive program — and now has decided to do it on purpose (recode.net, 5 minutes)
    Sounds like quite a bold decision for the Western world’s arguably most renowned startup accelerator.
  • Humans Who Are Not Concentrating Are Not General Intelligences (srconstantin.wordpress.com, 8 minutes)
    Food for thought on human intelligence, doing things on autopilot (such as reading a text or talking without actually being concentrated) and the appearance of being smart.
  • Poor-quality relationships linked to greater distress than too few relationships (digest.bps.org.uk, 4 minutes)
    Interesting research on “social loneliness” (having too few friends) and “emotional loneliness” (having friends but not feeling emotionally close to them)”: The quality of relationships appears more important to mental health than the sheer number of them. Also: “Every childhood traumatic experience increased the odds of belonging to the emotional loneliness class by 28 per cent”.
  • Smarter Parts Make Collective Systems Too Stubborn (quantamagazine.org, 6 minutes)
    Improving the sophistication level of the parts of a system, counter-intuitively, doesn’t necessarily improve the performance of the system as a whole.
  • Universal Music CEO to artists: Fine-tune your lyrics for smart speakers (cnet.com, 4 minutes.com)
    First streaming changed music (for example the album or the length of songs), now smart speakers do it again: People can’t ask for a song when they don’t know what title is, so the logical consequence seems to be that the title of a song must be front and center in its lyrics.
  • Acing the algorithmic beat, journalism’s next frontier (niemanlab.org, 9 minutes)
    With the rise of AI in all parts of daily life, politics and business, there’s a lot to cover for journalists.
  • AI is reinventing the way we invent (technologyreview.com, 15 minutes -> use browser’s icognito mode)
    Two strenghts of AI in comparison to humans: recognizing patterns in huge amounts of data, and “thinking” out of the box. This could help save science from its current “productivity problem”.
  • Finnish is too complicated for AI (Twitter thread)
    Joose Rajamäki explains why the Finnish language breaks any natural language processing algorithm.
  • Netflix Is Shrinking the World (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    Instead of trying to sell American ideas to a foreign audience, Netflix is aiming to sell international ideas to a global audience.
  • Meet the “minotaurs”: The companies that have raised more than $1 billion (axios.com, 2 minutes)
    If a startup manages to find a really big market with winner-takes-all-economics and then raises $1B in funding, this investment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, explains Felix Salmon.
  • Survey shows deep skepticism toward the press among tech workers (buzzfeednews.com, 6 minutes)
    “Tech’s newfound place under the media microscope has led to grousing among tech executives, in public and private, that the press has overcorrected, going too far in its antagonistic coverage toward the industry, blaming it for problems it didn’t create, and ignoring its successes.”
  • Rule Thinkers In, Not Out (slatestarcodex.com, 5 minutes)
    Reframing troubled geniuses and controversial yet evidentially smart figures of the “idea industry”: They are like black boxes: generators of brilliant ideas, plus a certain failure rate.
  • Quadratic voting (wikipedia.org, 2 minutes)
    Probably I’m late to learn about this approach to voting, but I love the idea: Participants cast their preference and intensity of preference for each decision (as opposed to a simple for or against decision). I want to live in a country which implements this.

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