meshedsociety weekly #227

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant information bits, thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world, and a bit serendipity.


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  • What Technology Is Most Likely to Become Obsolete During Your Lifetime? (paleofuture.gizmodo.com, 11 minutes)
    Five historians of technology present their suggestions. Among them, tongue in cheek: the neck tie. There’s probably no point in starting to argue about whether this counts as “technology”. In any case, 2020 US Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang seems to agree about the fate of the tie.
  • The Banana Trick and Other Acts of Self-Checkout Thievery (theatlantic.com, 3 minutes)
    From last year but not less relevant today: Apparently, at least in the US, self-checkout cashiers turn some people into thieves who would not engage in such an activity under other circumstances.
  • Hidden Networks: Network Effects That Don’t Look Like Network Effects (a16z.com, 13 minutes)
    There are more network effects playing out online and elsewhere than the conventional, obvious ones. Examples are “slow networks”, “unfinished networks” and “throttled networks”. Very informative analysis if you are interested in network effects (which are a significant force driving our connected world).
  • What should Apple do with its $210 billion in cash? (saastr.com, 2 minutes)
    The answer to the question has some counter-intuitive aspects. For example, using the money to hire more engineers or invest in more R&D decrease profits and thus “earnings per share”. At least seen from the logic of the market, it’s the hardest thing to do for a company such as Apple.
  • We Need a New Science of Progress (theatlantic.com, 9 minutes)
    Progress and how to most effectively achieve it is understudied, argue Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen.
  • Calls for an AI to be credited as an inventor (bbc.com, 3 minutes)
    Currently patents offices insist innovations are attributed to humans. But a team of academics says that it should be possible to credit an artificial intelligence that produces ideas as inventor, too.
  • On Hanging Out (raptitude.com, 4 minutes)
    An inspiring tribute to the practice of hanging out with other people at the end of a day on porches, benches facing some kind of water, or coffee places.
  • When Having Friends Is More Alluring Than Being Right (theferrett.com, 6 minutes)
    This connects well to the previous point: Since most people experience a lot of positive feelings from being with friends (whether on a porch or elsewhere), oftentimes, they prefer acquiring and maintaining friendships over being right. This is one likely factor which makes fringe conspiracy theories such as the one of a flat earth so sticky and attractive to some.
  • How older generations share news articles in the smartphone era (mashable.com, 4 minutes)
    “When millennials head home, a lot of them are greeted with a pile of newspaper clippings. Others receive highlighted articles sent in the mail, usually from grandparents or old-school parents. The more “with it” parents snap a photo of articles and email or text that over. And yes, some parents have figured out how to email or text over a link to a news story.”
  • The Beginning of the End of the Beef Industry (outsideonline.com, 11 minutes)
    An extremely bullish take on “alt meat” (yes, that’s the term the author uses for plant-based “meat”).
  • A Founder Metric That Matters (om.co, 1 minute)
    When founders and executives are active users of their product, it shows. Om Malik wonders if Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi actually uses Uber.
  • In Hong Kong Protests, Faces Become Weapons (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    Signs of the looming age in which no one is anonymous anymore in public.
  • Iranians manage to surf the web despite tide of censorship (apnews.com, 4 minutes)
    Using the internet in Iran in an uncensored manner is not impossible, but it is a daily struggle.
  • Coincidence and the Law of Large Numbers (theness.com, 5 minutes)
    If we do the math, then it becomes clear that very unlikely events should happen all the time. Yet, the narrative value of coincidences is so tempting.
  • Consent Matters: When Tech Takes Remote Control Without Your Permission (puri.sm, 8 minutes)
    Increasingly, tech companies are coming to the consensus that they can change a user’s computer remotely (and often silently) without their knowledge or permission.
  • How to keep buildings cool without air conditioning (theconversation.com, 4 minutes)
    It looks as if this will be very valuable knowledge.
  • The Paradox of Ambition (perell.com, 6 minutes)
    “We’re taught that hard goals are hard and easy goals are easy. In entrepreneurial environments, the inverse is true. Paradoxically, hard goals can be easier to accomplish.”

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