meshedsociety weekly #218

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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  • Smartphones Are Toys First, Tools Second (raptitude.com, 6 minutes)
    The possibilities for individual flourishing that were introduced with smartphones are almost endless. Yet, many people are desperately exploring strategies to reduce their smartphone use. Why this conflict? David Cain: The smartphone “might be the most compelling object ever created and not because of its value as a tool, but because of its value as a toy.
  • Hobbling Huawei: How America woke up to the threat from 5G (reuters.com, 17 minutes)
    Due to the transience of daily news, it’s easy to miss the significance of the geopolitical conflict surrounding Huawei. This looks like the beginning of a technology cold war between China and the US, and 5G is at the heart of it.
  • America’s newest stock exchange wants to fix one of capitalism’s fundamental challenges (vox.com, 9 minutes)
    Eric Ries, the author of one of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurship bibles, “The learn startup”, is creating a new stock exchange, called “Long-Term Stock Exchange”. It’s mission is in the name: Fighting the short-termism that characterizes the incumbents.
  • Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard on Mindful Consumption (bthechange.com, 16 minutes)
    Great read! I find the philosophy of mindful consumption more compelling and promising for achieving a collective reduction of emissions than the environmentalist dogma of sacrifice as a moral virtue. Mindful consumption is not that hard, actually. In the end, one just has to ask oneself two questions: Is the thing one is about to buy really needed? Or does it create actual happiness? Admittedly, prerequisite is awareness of the workings of one’s mind, which require its own effort. The author’s experience resembles mine, as well: “In recent years, as my mindfulness practice has deepened, I naturally began buying less stuff”.
  • All London Underground users will be track using Wi-Fi (wired.co.uk, 6 minutes)
    Researching how people move through utilizing the Wi-Fi sensors of their smartphones. Smart (and possibly not too intrusive, although it depends).
  • The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet (onezero.medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Yancey Strickler writes about the flocking towards online spaces where “depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments” (such as newsletters, podcasts, private chat groups), and the possible negative consequences for individual influence. Personally, I worry about a scenario in which the loudest, most extreme, most neurotic people are those left with the online megaphones (who then are being amplified by traditional media), whereas people who understand that constant arguing and engaging in outrage on social media is bad for their sanity and well-being, withdraw. My impression is that this trend is in full effect (and I am complicit because I withdrew, too).
  • The platform patrons (cjr.org, 19 minutes)
    Facebook and Google have committed more than half a billion dollars to various journalistic programs and media partnerships over the past three years. These mega-platforms are now two of the largest funders of journalism in the world.
  • Google’s Duplex Uses A.I. to Mimic Humans (Sometimes) (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    This is just so surreal: Google launched Duplex as a technology which, at this stage, is capable of calling restaurants and booking a table, while sounding like a human. But in 25 percent of the calls, an actual human is doing the live-talking. However, the person on other end doesn’t know whether she/he is speaking to a machine pretending to be a human, or to a human who sounds exactly like a machine acting like a human.
  • SoFar Sounds house concerts raises $25M, but bands get just $100 (techcrunch.com, 4 minutes)
    A London-based startup called SoFar lets musicians play in intimate venues, such as people’s living rooms or small shops. The company pays $100 per band for a 25 minute set according to the article, and keeps the rest – which can be significantly more, depending on the number of attendees.
  • Minecraft Earth Wants to Be the Next Pokémon Go—But Bigger (wired.com, 8 minutes)
    This could turn into something big: Microsoft plans to launch a global, augmented-reality version of its cult game Minecraft.
  • Automakers Are Rethinking the Timetable for Fully Autonomous Cars (designnews.com, 9 minutes)
    Was there really anyone who seriously believed that this technology would be ready to be deployed at a large-scale within a few years?! Technological challenges aside, I still see the ethical dimension as the biggest obstacle. There simply is much less acceptance for any fatality caused by a computer driver than caused by a human driver, for all kinds of reasons, rational and irrational ones. Which means that as long as self-driving cars won’t be absolutely perfect (if that is even possible), their break-through will be severely hampered. A workaround could be the introduction of a dedicated road system which is exclusively reserved for self-driving cars, and which basically comes with a new, opt-in ethical framework. Such a system could then slowly expand.
  • Habits always form (m.signalvnoise.com, 1 minutes)
    Short and wise: Most of the habits we have are habits we ended up with after years of unconscious behavior. So it’s good to be aware of that process, which is happening with every single thing we do.
  • Precrastination: The Dark Side of Getting Things Done (nickwignall.com, 9 minutes)
    Wow, I had never put a label on this mechanism, but I certainly know it too well, and most likely some of you do, too: “Pre-crastination is the compulsion to immediately work on new tasks, despite long-term costs and tradeoffs.”
  • What Happens When You Always Wear Headphones (theatlantic.com, 3 minutes)
    “Urban Millennials like me don’t inhabit a world that allows for much privacy. We’ve been squeezed into closely packed offices, closely packed subway cars, and closely packed apartments. Everyone else’s noises are constantly everywhere, so your head is the only personal space you can get.”
  • Toward a New Frontier in Human Intelligence: The Person-Centered Approach (blogs.scientificamerican.com, 10 minutes)
    With the adoption of new technologies, researchers have begun to view an individual’s intelligence at a more microscopic level, able to capture all sorts of fascinating variations – across days, within days, and even moment-to-moment. That might undermine the validity of the IQ score, which represents a one-time intellectual deviation from other people who all took the test at different times in a sterile testing environment. Related: “IQ rates are dropping in many developed countries“.
  • Facebook’s A.I. Whiz Now Faces the Task of Cleaning It Up. Sometimes That Brings Him to Tears. (nytimes.com, 14 minutes)
    Would you want to work at Facebook as the person in charge of building the automated tools to sort through and erase the millions of posts with toxic content?! I seriously thought to myself “poor guy” while reading.
  • This Software Giant Runs on One Man’s Gut (bloomberg.com, 6 minutes)
    Marc Benioff, chairman and co-chief executive officer of CRM giant Salesforce.com, apparently has a reputation as an “emotional buyer”. “Sometimes he’ll buy a company during a meeting that had nothing to do with acquisition talks”.

Podcast episode of the week:

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