meshedsociety weekly #208

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).

  • The A.I. Diet (nytimes.com, 8 minutes)
    This is cool: According to the latest research, a truly healthy diet may have to be personalized. With the right amount of data and an algorithm to detect the patterns, this is becoming feasible.
  • VR: You are not your thoughts (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    Absolutely fascinating: Using virtual reality to explore one’s own mind. It could be an approach to treat anxiety and other disorders in the future.
  • Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious (nautil.us, 6 minutes)
    The 21st century is in dire need of a Turing test for consciousness, argues Joel Frohlich. Although he doesn’t provide the definite answer promised in the headline (could be an editor’s fault, though).
  • Competitive Hormone Supplementation Is Shaping America’s Future Business Titans (palladiummag.com, 10 minutes)
    This seems to be a bit of a speculative post, but the probability should indeed be quite high that tech heavyweights such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Sergey Brin are using testosterone supplementation – which would influence their behavior and decision making. On a more high level, the author wonders about the general impact of increased consumption of supplementation on trends in business behavior – and society.
  • The Servant Economy (theatlantic.com, 6 minutes)
    A critical summary on the last half decade of the consumer internet: Venture capitalists have subsidized the creation of platforms for low-paying work that deliver on-demand servant services to rich or at least wealthier people, while subjecting all parties to increased surveillance.
  • Lyft’s IPO filing shows how founders create their own supremacy in Silicon Valley (recode.net, 4 minutes)
    Uber rival Lyft is about to go public. The two co-founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, own about 7 percent of the company’s stock. But they maintain close to majority control of the company thanks to a dual-class stock structure that awards them 20 votes for every one vote held by other investors.
  • The new French Tech Visa for Employees (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    France introduces what is “probably the most open Startup Employee Visa in the world“.
  • Delete Never: The Digital Hoarders Who Collect Terabytes (gizmodo.com, 12 minutes)
    If the trend towards streaming and commercial access to content and information on demand from the cloud continues, these digital hoarders profiled here might one day turn into a valuable, unique non-corporate source for all kinds of digital data that otherwise has vanished.
  • Which type of Smart City do we want to live in? (thewavingcat.com, 3 minutes)
    The question posed in the headline is not a rhetorical one. It’s an actual one. What should smart cities be optimized for in the first place? For efficiency, resource control, and data-driven management? Or for participation & opportunity, digital citizens rights, equality and sustainability? Not sure if this is really as binary as suggested in the post, but probably for thinking it through and making fundamental decisions, this is helpful.
  • Limiting Your Digital Footprints in a Surveillance State (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    How a technology reporter in Shanghai protects himself against the surveillance state.
  • Drowned out by the algorithm: Vaccination advocates struggle to be heard online (nbcnews.com, 8 minutes)
    Quote from an “amateur vaccine advocate” cited in this piece describing social media’s negative impact on scientific and medical knowledge: “We can do more inflammatory stuff that the World Health organization can’t do. And the inflammatory stuff, as you can tell by the anti-vaxxers, does well on Facebook.”
  • From Co-ops to Cryptonetworks (a16z.com, 8 minutes)
    A thought-provoking analogy between cooperatives (participatory enterprises that are owned and operated by their members) and cryptonetworks.
  • A Word Use That Doesn’t Add Up (nytimes.com, 5 minutes)
    A mathematics professor laments the inflationary and imprecise use of the term “exponential” to describe all kinds of growth.
  • The Difficulties of Elimitigation (unintendedconsequenc.es, 6 minutes)
    It’s said that to successfully eliminate something one must replace it with something new. But this method is applied poorly. One reason: When deciding what to eliminate, people often assume best case scenarios without regard to second-order effects.
  • It’s Not Enough To Drive Change, You Also Have To Survive Victory (digitaltonto.com, 6 minutes)
    In a similar vein as the previous post: Achieving change is not enough if then backlash is too strong to ensure survival. Here the focus is on business, but this insight obviously also has relevancy for politics and other parts of society.
  • Anti-dating apps (jwtintelligence.com, 3 minutes)
    Might there be a market for this? On apps that promise to help modern daters to heal after heartbreak.
  • 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2019, curated by Bill Gates (technologyreview.com, 15 minutes)
    On Bill Gates’ list, among other technologies: Robot dexterity, new-wave nuclear power and the cow-free burger.
  • Microsoft Excel will now let you snap a picture of a spreadsheet and import it (theverge.com, 1 minute)
    Clever! For people who deal a lot with spreadsheets, this might come extremely handy.

Video of the week:

  • Rachel Botsman: The Currency Of Trust
    An entertaining and insightful 23-minutes long talk by author and lecturer Rachel Botsman who researches trust and particularly how it is changed and impacted by technology. One point she makes: Trust is not created by transparency, but by integrity.

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