meshedsociety weekly #212

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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  • Machines Shouldn’t Have to Spy On Us to Learn (, 5 minutes)
    Before public key cryptography was invented, people had to rely on extremely primitive and flawed methods when trying to communicate securely. With machine learning and AI, we’re in the equivalent to the pre-cryptography era, according to this intelligent piece by Zeynep Tufekci, with the main flaw being the massive trade-off of data intrusion & surveillance that usually needs to happen to facilitate machine learning. Tufekci hopes (and appears to be optimistic) that eventually, machine learning on encrypted data will become possible, doing to AI what public key cryptography did to secure communication.
  • Gutenberg’s moving type propelled Europe towards the scientific revolution (, 9 minutes)
    An enlightening look at how printing transformed competition in the “market for ideas“. There are plenty of parallels to today’s changes caused by the internet, such as this one: “With the introduction of printing, the incomes associated with elite human capital rose, and there was a ‘great expansion’ in inequality.
  • Texting Means Never Having to Say Goodbye (, 6 minutes)
    Texting changes norms of human communication and introduces generational gaps.
  • Warner Music signed an algorithm to a record deal — what happens next? (, 5 minutes)
    The Berlin-based startup Endel is creating 100 % algorithmically-generated (ambient) music and Warner distributes the songs on streaming services.
  • A comparison of scooter startups in Europe (, 8 minutes)
    Scooter mania is sweeping across Europe, as VCs throw cash at a handful of scooter startups in a race to conquer the continent.
  • Why “Doing Nothing” Is the Best Self-Care for the Internet Era (, 9 minutes)
    Interview with Jenny Odell, author and artist, on the attention economy, the difficulty to get rid of the idea that one constantly should be “producing” something, and the need to find something else one could focus one’s attention on if one decides to give less attention to social media.
  • It takes approximately 1.5 megabytes of data to store language information in the brain (, 2 minutes)
    That’s less than the 128 kbps MP3 file you might have downloaded back in the days from a filesharing service.
  • It’s Tough Being the First Birth Control App (, 17 minutes)
    Insightful profile of Swedish startup Natural Cycles, maker of the first birth control app. Being in this space comes with challenges.
  • Why Evernote failed to realize its potential (, 33 minutes)
    In-depth analysis of what the iconic note taking service Evernote got right, and how everything went downhill once the company started to release badly executed product extensions while allowing its core service to gain a reputation for bugs and lack of performance.
  • In defense of “blitzscaling” (, 20 minutes)
    LinkedIn founder and investor Reid Hoffman and his entrepreneur colleague Chris Yeh wrote a lengthy defense of their fast-scaling philosophy for startups, responding to criticism of “blitzscaling” by Tim O’Reilly, who worries about the monopolist tendencies the approach creates.
  • The Design of Apple’s Credit Card (, 4 minutes)
    Apple’s upcoming credit card is another product out of Cupertino which gives its loyal fans plenty of opportunity to obsess about attention to detail.
  • When Food Knows Your Face (, 5 minutes)
    Various changes are happening related to the availability, personalization, and niche focus of food…
  • The World’s Greatest Delivery Empire (, 10 minutes)
    …not the least in China, where Meituan and Alibaba have changed food delivery, making it often cheaper to have food delivered than to get it oneself.
  • Only The Rich Are Poisoned: The Preference of Others (, 5 minutes)
    A short, thought-provoking excerpt from Nassim Nicholas Table’s book “Skin the game”, about why wealthy people in a restaurant might prefer a complicated chef experience for $200 instead of a pizza for $6.95, leading him to the ultimate question of whether our choices are our own or those of salespeople. The answer, often, is obvious, of course.
  • What It’s Like Using the Internet When You Have OCD (, 7 minutes)
    One of the many questions that might arise in someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder: “What if there’s a thread I should be commenting on? What if there’s some post I should be liking? What if, what if, what if… “. Others are unable to send emails concerned that they might write something offensive or use foul language, even though such modes of communication are totally out of character for that person.
  • The Rise of Online Dating, and the Company That Dominates the Market (, 4 minutes)
    It’s astonishing how concentrated the online dating market is. With a few exceptions, Match group has captured it all.
  • House-Hunting in Silicon Valley (, 5 minutes)
    Housing prices in Silicon Valley are already sky-high. With the current wave of tech IPOs (Lyft, Uber, Slack and others) and the additional crowd of newly minted multi-millionaires, things can only get more crazy.
  • What I learnt on a men-only retreat… (, 17 minutes)
    Something different to wrap up. Entertaining to read and an invitation for self-reflection.

Quotation of the week:

  • “It’s 2019, AI is about to take off, and are we really going to just keep on doing the same thing and assume the rules of the economy are going to be the same as they were in the ‘70s? To me that’s ridiculous, that’s a stupid approach. We need to evolve and advance as fast as possible.”
    Andrew Yang, who’s gunning to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, interviewed by Matt Simon (, 8 minutes)

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