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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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).

  • Machines Shouldn’t Have to Spy On Us to Learn (wired.com, 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 (blogs.lse.ac.uk, 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 (slate.com, 6 minutes)
    Texting changes norms of human communication and introduces generational gaps.
  • Warner Music signed an algorithm to a record deal — what happens next? (theverge.com, 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 (sifted.eu, 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 (gq.com, 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 (medicalxpress.com, 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 (bloomberg.com, 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 (usefyi.com, 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” (qz.com, 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 (arun.is, 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 (nicholasjrobinson.com, 5 minutes)
    Various changes are happening related to the availability, personalization, and niche focus of food…
  • The World’s Greatest Delivery Empire (bloomberg.com, 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 (medium.com, 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 (onezero.medium.com, 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 (visualcapitalist.com, 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 (theguardian.com, 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… (bbc.co.uk, 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 (wired.com, 8 minutes)

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meshedsociety weekly #211

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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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).

  • Technological aging (lemire.me, 3 minutes)
    I can just guess that what’s described here as “technological aging” is what many of you are afraid of to experience (and so am I): “The idea that with chronological age, people tend to fail to adopt new technologies up until the point where it becomes too hard for them to catch up”. With this weekly list, I’ll try to do my part in helping us to protect us from this phenomenon :)
  • Measuring the Value of Digital Goods and Services (medium.com, 4 minutes)
    The gross domestic product (GDP) fails to measure intangibles (such as free online services), and how they relate to consumer well-being. Now researchers propose an interesting way to measure their impact and perceived economic value to consumers: Asking them how much money it would take to relinquish the products for a period of time. “In Europe, digital maps on phones are valued at 59 euros (currently about $67) per month. And the free messaging tool WhatsApp, is worth fully 536 euros ($611) per month, the survey indicates”.
  • It’s Ecosystems, Not Inventions that Truly Change the World (inc.com, 5 minutes)
    A smart way to look at the structure of large-scale (technological) changes: It’s not one great event or invention that tips the scale and changes everything, but (initially) hardly noticeable connections that complete a network/ecosystem. My take: This also applies to societal/global changes and could help to understand why predicting the future is so hard for humans to get right: One has to notice a lot of seemingly non-related and often subtle, non-obvious dots and connect them in a multi-dimensional way. This requires system’s thinking, which is not exactly a human strength. What humans are “good” at instead is connecting a few seemingly related but in reality arbitrary dots and come up with a big story for them. A story that usually is wrong.
  • The Amish, and Strategic Norms around Technology (lesswrong.com, 4 minutes)
    Fascinating insight: The Amish relationship to technology is not “stick to technology from the 1800s”, but rather “carefully think about how technology will affect your culture, and only include technology that does what you want.” In the end, it’s mostly about adding friction to transportation and communication.
  • Scientists Like Me Are Studying Your Tweets—Are You OK With That? (howwegettonext.com, 9 minutes)
    What you post “publicly” on a social media app or on a dating profile could very likely end up being part of some researcher’s work or used to train an artificial intelligence. That brings up ethical questions such as to what extend a public tweet is “public”.
  • 10 years of Grindr: A rocky relationship (bbc.com, 5 minutes)
    Years before Tinder launched and changed (casual) dating for the masses, the dating app for gay men Grindr already was available on the iPhone.
  • How Spotify and Discover Weekly Earns Me $400 / Month (stevebenjamins.com, 5 minutes)
    Very informative insights from an indie musician who manages to make a few bucks by ending up in people’s personalized Discover Weekly playlists on Spotify. As an artist he prefers Spotify over Apple Music, because Spotify offers indies more ways to reach listeners.
  • Expanding Our Horizons – Efficiently (edgeperspectives.typepad.com, 7 minutes)
    On the superiority of a “scalable learning model” over a “scalable efficiency model” in a rapidly changing world.
  • Microsoft leads the way in banning April Fools’ Day pranks (theverge.com, 2 minutes)
    Please, can all other companies follow suit?!
  • The danger of ‘I already pay for Apple News+’ (techcrunch.com, 7 minutes)
    Josh Constine really, really – really – doesn’t like the philosophy behind Apple’s new subscription service for magazines and newspaper content.
  • Many options – none good. Why Apple may not have 5G before 2021 (digitstodollars.com, 6 minutes)
    Apple is facing a challenge when it comes to bringing 5G support to the iPhone, which has to do with the fact that the current manufacturer of modems for the iPhone, Intel, most likely won’t have a 5G modem available until next year. The options available to Apple to work around this are all not ideal, as described in this informative piece.
  • The Sometimes Catastrophic, but Mostly Just Embarrassing Consequences of Screen Sharing at Work (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    A downside of using the same device for professional and personal matters.
  • William Grant & Sons released ‘world’s first’ blockchain whisky to monitor consumer habits (thedrinksbusiness.com, 3 minutes)
    A Scotch whisky which can be traced from source-to-bottle on a blockchain. Here is the general dilemma with news like this: It’s hard to evaluate from the outside whether the use of blockchain actually makes business sense for the specific scenario or is just the result of someone wanting to look tech savvy and get some easy media attention.
  • So Much For ICOs Taking Over VC (news.crunchbase.com, 2 minutes)
    ICOs are effectively dead.
  • How to Deliver Constructive Feedback in Difficult Situations (medium.dave-bailey.com, 10 minutes)
    A very useful introduction and guide to Marshall B. Rosenberg’s extremely intriguing (but challenging) “Nonviolent Communication” (NVC) framework, with a focus on professional situations. But NVC is as helpful in private matters (too bad I only learned about it very recently).
  • The Startup Empathy Dilemma: As Power Grows, Empathy Often Diminishes (leowid.com, 9 minutes)
    Evolutionarily, it is a very new phenomenon that 1 person can hold power over hundreds of thousands of people like Jeff Bezos or Tim Cook or even millions of people like politicians do. That this literal power imbalance has brought about many unforeseen effects, not least directly impacting our brains.
  • 7 principles for utopian communities (kristoffer.substack.com, 1 minute)
    This is a compelling list for ways to allow a startup/product/idea to transform into some type of small-scale utopia.
  • American consumers spent more on Airbnb than on Hilton last year (recode.net, 3 minutes)
    Meanwhile, Airbnb itself is increasingly branching out into the hotel space, as stressed by the recent acquisition of hotel booking service HotelTonight.
  • What We Can Learn From the World’s Centenarians (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    How to live like the people in the so called “blue zones”, places where people have the longest life expectancy and healthiest lives.

Quotation of the week:

  • “Culturally the iconic white AirPods and jewel-like Apple Watch embody the spirit of the iPod.
    Horace Dediu in “Airpods” (asymco.com, 3 minutes)

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meshedsociety weekly #210

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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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).

  • Stages, Structures, and the Work of Being Yourself (thefrailestthing.com, 8 minutes)
    Profound essay! If one, as suggested by the sociologist Erving Goffman in the book “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” from 1956, sees every interaction with others similar to being on stage at a theater, where people perform impression management, then in a virtual environment and particularly on social media, the stage is potentially everywhere, leading us to internalize the performative mode, while at the same time being exposed to a constantly expanding variety of perspectives, stances, and forms of life performed by others. Like at a theater, after a while, everybody needs a backstage. And backstages are increasingly rare.
  • In Andrew Yang, Internet Finds a Meme-Worthy Candidate (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    The 44-year old Yang is among the many candidates who want to become the Democratic party’s candidate for the US presidential election. He’s an entrepreneur, political neophyte, and in favor of introducing a monthly $1,000 basic income.
  • Wikipedia and the Wisdom of Polarized Crowds (nautil.us, 10 minutes)
    A study of 205,000 Wikipedia topics and their associated “talk pages” reveals that the highest quality articles are overseen or written by an ideologically diverse group of people. Politically diverse editor teams on Wikipedia put out better entries—articles with higher accuracy or completeness—than uniformly liberal or conservative or moderate teams. 
  • What Would Happen to Uber & Lyft if the Economy Went Downhill? (therideshareguy.com, 7 minutes)
    Uber and its rival Lyft never had to deal with a recession, because the economy has been doing well during most of their growth phase. Worth pondering what a worsening economy would do to their already shaky economics.
  • Do one thing every day that an algorithm didn’t choose for you (medium.com, 3 minutes)
    Nice little suggestion for a daily task. I have an additional one (although it can be combined) which I have been trying to implement myself lately: Do one thing every day that the algorithms which know your patterns likely would not have predicted.
  • The News Audit: An Easy Way to Make Time to Be Productive (nickwignall.com, 13 minutes)
    The psychologist Nick Wignall outlines his structured approach to eliminating unnecessary news consumption, which he calls “News Audit”.
  • I Rode an E-Scooter as Far From Civilization as Its Batteries Could Take Me (gizmodo.com, 8 minutes)
    An amusing report from what the author speculates might be the “deepest ride into the wilderness on a startup e-scooter in human history“. For the 134 minute ride into the outskirts of San Francisco, he paid $34.50, plus an expected $25 drop off charge for a ride which ended outside of the service territory area.
  • Human chipping – will it ever go mainstream? (sifted.eu, 9 minutes)
    You might have read about the Swedes who have chosen to put a chip under their skin. Here is a status update on that trend, as well as a personal experience report by the author, Mimi Billing. She writes that since two years ago she has a microchip implant, but so far she never got the chance to use it.
  • Let big data unlock the secrets of our bodies (theguardian.com, 3 minutes)
    Ida Tin, co-founder of Berlin-based women’s health app Clue, on how femtech could provide a technological liberation of women.
  • Lean ICT: Towards Digital Sobriety (theshiftproject.org, 7 minutes)
    According to a report published by the French carbon transition think tank The Shift Project, the share of ICT in global greenhouse gases emissions has increased by half since 2013, rising from 2.5% to 3.7% of global emissions – with no change of this trend in sight. The solution according to the organization is an approach it calls “Lean ICT”, which includes measures such as buying the least powerful equipment possible, changing equipment as rarely as possible, and reducing unnecessary energy-intensive uses.
  • I tried to understand location tracking. It’s nearly impossible (fastcompany.com, 8 minutes)
    Hyperbolic headline, but informative article on where New York-based tech company Foursquare gets its vast trove of realtime location data from: Lots of apps that use Foursquare’s location technology and for which users have chosen to activate constant location tracking.
  • Being An Instagram Influencer Is Hard Work, So This Guy Made A Bot To Do It For Him (buzzfeednews.com, 5 minutes)
    If you know how to code, you can automate the whole process involved in becoming an influencer on Instagram, and then use your newly won credibility and great follower count to ask for free stuff.
  • Increasingly, Your Brand Is Its Reviews (streetfight.com, 6 minutes)
    Insightful exchange on the importance of reviews for people’s choices and brands’ perception.
  • Inverting the Effects of Facebook (haxel.ca, 8 minutes)
    A theoretical concept of how an hypothetical “Anti-Facebook” could look like. “No longer is it a system of zombified consumption but is instead a system of self-sustaining and meaningful social reciprocity.”
  • The New Social Network That Isn’t New at All (nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
    In the meantime, there are newsletters as social network ;) (from a curator perspective at least).
  • Finding Gold in the AI Value Stack (medium.com, 9 minutes)
    A look at the best entrepreneurial opportunities in the mainstream adoption of machine learning.
  • The Crash of the Boeing 737 Max Is a Warning for Drivers, Too (slate.com, 6 minutes)
    When the role of automation reaches a point at which humans become the backup, problems arise. Catchy quote from the text: “Robots make excellent backup drivers to humans. Humans make terrible backup drivers to robots”
  • Britain’s porn watchers likely to be caught with their pants down by porn block (yougov.co.uk, 2 minutes)
    In April the UK will implement a restriction for visitors to porn sites which is a first of its kind anywhere in the world: They have to confirm their age using a driving license, credit card, passport or mobile SMS. As this survey shows, many Brits are unaware. Gotta love the headline, by the way.
  • 130 EU businesses sign open letter against Copyright directive Art. 11 & 13 (nextcloud.com)
    The European Parliament is due to vote on the controversial Copyright directive next week, March 26. As a protest against it, German Wikipedia has been blacked out today.

Quotation of the week:

  • “The bulk of the systems we currently interact with online are designed on purpose to appeal to our cognitive biases instead of helping us overcome them.”
    Albert Wenger in Freedom to Learn (continuations.com, 5 minutes)

Podcast episode of the week:

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meshedsociety weekly #209

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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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).

  • Discord: How an App for Gamers Went Mainstream (theatlantic.com, 7 minutes)
    Discord, founded four years ago as a chat service for gamers, is having a moment. It’s essentially like Slack but for all non-work scenarios, and feels a bit like IRC (for those of you who remember).
  • This Guy Is Charging People For Every Character They Text (motherboard.vice.com, 3 minutes)
    “Expensive Chat” is a public chat room where everyone has to pay a penny per character typed. A business model for Discord to look into? :)
  • TikTok Is Rewriting the World (nytimes.com, 12 minutes)
    With more than 500 million users, TikTok (which Musical.ly became part of in 2018) has already come further than Discord in regards to mainstream adoption. Unlike all the other major social media services, TikTok does away with the friend/contact/follower-first (and algorithm-second) model. Instead, at TikTok the algorithm decides from the first second who/what people see and do on the app. Also worth mentioning: TikTok is the first Chinese social media app which managed to capture the hearts of (mostly younger) users in the West.
  • Human Nature as a Service (nicholasjrobinson.com, 5 minutes)
    People seek status. Social platforms have enabled status-building to be ten times easier and better, thus their success. Now, emerging platforms are going deeper into human instinct. Such as TikTok, which has created 10x social capital from dancing, writes Nicholas J. Robinson.
  • AI Superpowers – A History of Chinese Startups and the Implications for the Future of Startupland (tomtunguz.com, 4 minutes)
    Investor Tom Tunguz highlights two ideas from the book “AI Superpowers”: The influence of machine learning (aka AI) in the world and the fierce competitive dynamics in China.
  • Rules for the Design of Algorithmic Systems (algorules.org, 10 minutes)
    The German Bertelsmann Stiftung and iRights.Lab have created 9 formal criteria for enabling the socially beneficial design and oversight of algorithmic systems. By the way, if you understand German and are interested in the ethics of AI, I’m creating a weekly curation about the topic for the Bertelsmann Stiftung. You can read it and sign up for it here.
  • Tracking urban gentrification, one building at a time (techxplore.com, 3 minutes)
    How to continuously spot gentrification trends in cities? By using artificial intelligence and Google Street View to systematically capture changes on buildings.
  • Facebook’s News Feed and self-perceptions of knowledge (journals.sagepub.com, 10 minutes)
    A study shows that Facebook’s article previews generate knowledge. However, there is a disparity in the effect of this knowledge: Audiences who only read article previews on Facebook think they know more than they actually do, especially individuals who are motivated to seek emotions.
  • Compulsory licensing is better than blocking acquisitions (digitopoly.org, 4 minutes)
    How to deal with ever more powerful tech giants buying up innovative startups that one day might have turned into a competitor? Here is an intriguing suggestion: Instead of regulators blocking these kind of mergers (which 2020 Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren aspires to do), the acquiring market leader could be forced to license the startup innovation it wants to buy, to the laggards.
  • Self-Driving Car Fleets: Transportation As A Service (medium.com, 11 minutes)
    Ideas and assumptions about the business models that are likely to emerge around self-driving cars.
  • Would you be happy being interviewed by a robot? (bbc.com, 6 minutes)
    Using a robot instead of a human recruiter to find out whether this could reduce unconscious biases.
  • Amazon’s Alexa Has 80k Apps–and No Runaway Hit (bloomberg.com, 6 minutes)
    True. So maybe it is time to get rid of the mental analogies to the world of visual mobile apps?! I’m totally happy using Alexa (or any other smart assistant) only for playing music/podcasts, asking for the time or weather, and setting the alarm/timer (in addition to controlling the smart home which I certainly would do if my home would be “smart”).
  • Apple vs. Spotify: Who’s Really Right? (tomsguide.com, 6 minutes)
    Nuanced analysis of Spotify’s antitrust complaint against Apple and accompanying campaign. While reading I had the following idea: Would it be a viable solution if Apple agreed to remove the 30 % App Store fee for all app categories for which Apple itself is competing with an app in the App Store? The fact that Spotify has to pay 30 % of the revenues generated through the App Store while Apple Music does not clearly creates an uneven playing field and an unfair competitive advantage for Apple. Not being present in the App Store isn’t really an option for a worldwide consumer-focused tech company.
  • Why podcast fans will always reject a “Netflix for podcasts” (fastcompany.com, 6 minutes)
    Agreeing with the author: “I don’t want celebrities who have many other ways to reach an audience to become the extent of what people think “podcasting” is.
  • Founders flee to Estonia’s digital paradise (sifted.eu, 6 minutes)
    Interesting, but sadly only scratching the surface. This article could have been more in-depth. Anyway, the philosophy of “government as a service” is just very sexy!
  • It’s Winter – a simulator of the depressing, cold Russian urban outskirts (tass.com, 2 minutes)
    “It’s Winter” is a first-person indie game without an end or purpose. “The player is confined to a tiny apartment in a block of flats somewhere in urban Russia on a snowy winter night. Many of the objects are interactive: fry the eggs, throw away the shells, take out the trash, open the window, turn on your rusty old radio or broken TV.”
  • Why does the London Underground still not have Wi-Fi in tunnels? (wired.co.uk, 5 minutes)
    The London Underground does have much worse connectivity than most other public transport systems below ground, and zero phone connectivity. Causes for this are among others the high costs, the very narrow tunnels that have lots of twists and turns as well as lack of space to install on-the-train infrastructure.
  • There will soon be a whole community of ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes (fastcompany.com, 5 minutes)
    For people living in shantytowns ultra-low-cost 3D-printed homes could one day become a real boon.
  • Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same (technologyreview.com, 4 minutes)
    The hipster effect: “The counterintuitive phenomenon in which people who oppose mainstream culture all end up looking the same”. 

Podcast episode of the week:

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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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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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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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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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meshedsociety weekly #206

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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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).

  • How AI Will Go Out Of Control According To 52 Experts (cbinsights.com, 15 minutes)
    This is actually quite a good summary of all the worries that some experts and some well-known non-experts have about AI. Fairly one-sided but that’s obviously the point.
  • OpenAI Trains Language Model, Mass Hysteria Ensues (approximatelycorrect.com, 6 minutes)
    You might have read about the “dangerous” text algorithm which OpenAI has developed but chosen not to release. In the light of all the worries about AI, the hysteric reactions aren’t exactly surprising. But according to the author not justified in this case.
  • When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online (theatlantic.com, 7 minutes)
    Parents are engaging in so called “sharenting” and the result is a weird realization for many kids when they get older.
  • We’re Entering the Golden Age of Podcasts (chartable.com, 11 minutes)
    Podcasts are booming, and this post does an excellent job outlining why. One smart observation from the text: “Many people are creating podcasts for the same reason journalists and others are starting newsletters: Podcasts are a great way to connect directly to an audience. There’s no single gatekeeper, or gatekeeping algorithm, that will prevent you from reaching your audience—if someone subscribes to your podcast, they’ll see all your new episodes.” Let’s hope it stays that way.
  • What happens when social media manipulation targets religious faith? (thedailybeast.com, 14 minutes)
    Enlightening read: An ex-Mormon used Facebook ads to expose thousands of Mormons to information intended to raise their awareness of critical aspects of their faith – something Mormons try to avoid at all costs.
  • Come for an Action, Stay for the Community (usv.com, 5 minutes)
    As the excitement over major social media services fades, the coming years will likely be a time of renewed opportunity in new forms of social systems, the kind that has been difficult to come by during the major platforms’ ascension and dominance, writes Rebecca Kaden. It’s good times again for startups in this field.
  • The Search for the One Perfect Answer (wired.com, 17 minutes)
    Fueled by the increasing importance of voice control, there is a move toward one-shot answers, which would kill off the internet as we know it.
  • Study blames YouTube for rise in number of Flat Earthers (theguardian.com, 3 minutes)
    How long can this type of insanity continue? I mean the fact that the tech platforms are not prevented from polluting minds and pushing people back into the pre-enlightenment era.
  • I got banned for life from AirBnB (thenextweb.com, 4 minutes)
    It’s a problem if you get banned from a dominating tech platform without any form of explanation, particularly if you actually didn’t do anything wrong.
  • Give Me What You Want (reallifemag.com, 9 minutes)
    A critical piece on the “Spotification” (derived from “Spotify”) of retail: Consumers pay by the month to receive a stream of algorithmically chosen goods.
  • The Long Reach of Short-Term Interests (unintendedconsequenc.es, 6 minutes)
    How should short-term (or immediate) vs long-term interests be measured, and what types of short-term interests do exist? Here are some answers.
  • Emoji are showing up in court cases exponentially, and courts aren’t prepared (theverge.com, 5 minutes)
    Emoji are showing up as evidence in court more frequently with each passing year. Unfortunately, emoji experts who can help to “translate” evidence which involves Emoji such as text messages, don’t really exist. Yet, one should add.
  • The Reddit Protests and China’s Control of American Culture (nicholasjrobinson.com, 5 minutes)
    If Chinese companies keep investing in Western tech platforms, will that lead to self censorship? It’s likely.
  • Technology could make a hard border disappear, but at a cost (economist.com, 7 minutes)
    The concept of borders doesn’t necessarily need its physical representation anymore.
  • Scooters for Sustainable Suburbs (medium.com, 12 minutes)
    Unpacking the social, environmental, and business case for scaling micromobility aka e-scooters, from a North American perspective.
  • Wish List: Whole-home AirDrop (sixcolors.com, 3 minutes)
    AirDrop, Apple’s smart technology to transfer files wireless, requires physical proximity. But this limitation could and should be removed so files could be sent around seamlessly in large houses or offices, argues Jason Snell.
  • How We Lost Our Ability to Mend (dieworkwear.com, 8 minutes)
    “Everyone has a stash of spare buttons rattling around in some drawer, with each button still neatly tucked inside its original packaging until we gather the will to throw it away.”

Quotation of the week:

  • In the past, it often made sense to believe something until it was debunked; in the future, for certain information or claims, it will start making sense to assume they are fake. Unless they are verified.
    Zeynep Tufekci in “The Imperfect Truth About Finding Facts in a World of Fakes” (wired.com, 5 minutes)

Podcast episode of the week:

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meshedsociety weekly #205

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).

Quotation of the week:

  • “Some good advice is simple but made complicated because professionals can’t charge fees for simple stuff.”
    Morgen Housal in “Short Money Rules” (collaborativefund.com, 2 minutes)

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meshedsociety weekly #204

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.


If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email.


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).

  • Fortnite Is the Future (redef.com, 24 minutes)
    Tremendously informative and nuanced analysis of Fortnite’s remarkable success. The author manages to both put some of the hype into perspective but also to outline the massive future potential which the game presents to its developer Epic Games. Spoiler: To create the Metaverse before Facebook figures that one out.
  • AirPods Are Now One of Apple’s Most Important Products (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Yes. It even might be Apple’s most important product right now, period, seen from its promise to disrupt the existing paradigms of how people interact with digital devices. Here in Stockholm for example (as presumably in many other places elsewhere), one nowadays sees people from all generations, backgrounds and social classes, alone and in groups, sporting AirPods. This is a “silent” revolution in the making, which will unfold once a tipping point has been reached (and we’re close).
  • Apple redistributes more wealth upward than any corporation or country on earth (bostonreview.net, 11 minutes)
    Thought-provoking perspective.
  • Is Alexa working? (ben-evans.com, 5 minutes)
    Beyond the large number of Amazon Echo devices sold and even bigger install base (due to other companies integrating Alexa into their hardware), what purpose does Alexa serve for Amazon? At least for now, it doesn’t seem to be a major driver of sales on Amazon. Possibly the answer is this: “The end point has become much more strategic for web platform companies. So, anything you can do to get an end-point of your own has value for the future, even if no-one today uses it to buy soap powder.”
  • Self-driving cars may worsen traffic by cruising instead of parking (newatlas.com, 2 minutes)
    What an outlook! For owners of self-driving cars, it might be cheaper to have a car circle around at low speed instead of paying for parking. Of course, there are those who believe that self-driving cars won’t be owned by individuals but instead only by Uber & other companies. In that case, there is hardly a point in having to park the cars anyway. Either way, congestion might become worse.
  • Flying Cars Are Closer to Reality Than You Think (medium.com, 10 minutes)
    Maybe congestion will decrease with “flying cars”, aka VTOL (“vertical take-off and landing”) aircrafts.
  • Money Machines (logicmag.io, 25 minutes)
    Extensive interview with an anonymous algorithmic trader. He/she believes that in financial trading, tons of jobs are on the verge of getting wiped out because technology can do those jobs.
  • Four Lessons after Eleven Years in Silicon Valley (medium.com, 6 minutes)
    Not the first post about lessons learned in Silicon Valley, but Ashley Mayer expresses a few insights which – to me who has never worked there – were quite informative. Among other things, she mentions the high value of relationships with former coworkers and the little respect that people working in non-tech/founding/investing functions receive.
  • Philippines tops world internet usage index with an average 10 hours a day  (theguardian.com, 1 minute)
    The top five countries in the world ranked by screen time according to HootSuite and We Are Social: Philippines, Brazil, Thailand, Colombia and Indonesia. I suspect this is partly due to the extreme popularity of chat apps in these countries. In Colombia for example, everything (private and business matters) is managed via WhatsApp. Without it, the country would come to a standstill. Furthermore, because of zero-rating, the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp are excluded from monthly data caps, so using those services for many hours is really free (minus what it costs to charge the smartphone).
  • The Bleak Reality of the Instagram Experience (thewalrus.ca, 8 minutes)
    On the rise of “pop-up experiences” appearing in various cities of North America, where people can take social-media-optimized photos and videos in particularly unconventional environments.
  • Why Friendships Are Dead (hackernoon.com, 5 minutes)
    I disagree with the pessimistic tone of this post, but it is intriguing food for thought. Friendships are certainly changing radically these days. But whether one is able to create deep friendships depends in parts on one’s skill and willingness to break with shallow norms of communication (see next piece).
  • The Power of Negotiating Boundaries (designluck.com, 8 minutes)
    Reading this was eye-opening for me: Personal relationships remain at a shallow level as long as norms of communication are constantly upheld, and societal boundaries are always respected. Achieving a level of depth directly correlates with the courage of breaking with existing norms to create new, personal norms.
  • Machine learning leads mathematicians to unsolvable problem (nature.com, 4 minutes)
    On the question of “learnability” — whether an algorithm can extract a definite pattern from limited data.
  • Is fraud-busting AI system being turned off for being too efficient? (scmp.com, 6 minutes)
    Some Chinese cities and counties are using an algorithm to spot corruption among officials. But it is working too well and creating increasing resistance (Meta remark: According to Betteridge’s law of headlines, the headline of this article would have to be answered with a “no”. But it in fact seems to require a “yes”. Thus, the editors chose the wrong type of headline).
  • The Onion headlines could teach AI what makes satire funny (sciencenews.org, 3 minutes)
    Talking about headlines: A new analysis of the differences between real and joke headlines reveals a how-to formula for aspiring satirists — human and AI alike.
  • Why one VC investor invites entrepreneurs to go for a walk (sifted.eu, 4 minutes)
    In my opinion, pretty much everything that requires thinking, expressing of ideas and brainstorming but doesn’t rely on visual material is best done while walking. If I may make a deliberately exaggerated claim (which shouldn’t be understood literally): The perfect office has no traditional meeting rooms but is located in an area with excellent walkability or has facilities for “walking meetings”.
  • How Much Would You Pay for a Foldable Smartphone? (nymag.com, 4 minutes)
    For the moment, nothing. Still waiting to understand the point of that hyped device category.
  • Nobody Knows How To Learn A Language (blog.usejournal.com, 13 minutes)
    It’s not the most humble thing to say, but I do know. Aside from obligatory English at school, I’ve learned 2 languages so far, taught to myself. One (Swedish) I do speak fluently, and one (Spanish) I’m at maybe 60 to 70 % and will speak fluently eventually. And I’m certainly not a “language talent”. The formula is quite simple: Give yourself a 10-year horizon, spend a tiny amount of learning every day (5 minutes is enough. What matters is to do it daily. Duolingo is a great way to start), be patient, don’t choose too hard tasks because they’ll discourage you, slowly scale up (through news articles, books, movies, podcasts, local immersion).

Recently on meshedsociety:

Quotation of the week:

  • “Software is now more important than camera hardware when it comes to mobile photography.
    Sam Byford in “How AI is changing photography” (theverge.com, 5 minutes)

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Leaving Social Media, one step at a time

After about 2 years of having been mostly inactive on my personal Twitter account, I decided to initiate the next step in my ongoing process to withdraw from Social Media, by deleting 24,300 tweets. It didn’t hurt at all. It feels pretty good actually, although the high number of tweets that I had accumulated since getting “hooked” on Twitter in around 2009 kind of shocked me. It made me realize how much time I’ve spent with the service; and how things have changed. There was certainly a time when I truly loved Twitter. This was before it became a place for polarized, impulsive political and ideological discussions and group think.

A few weeks ago I also finally deleted my Facebook account. It wasn’t such a big step because I already had stopped consuming the news feed and stopped posting way before, also about 2 years ago. Before I deleted the account, I accessed each 3rd party service where I previously had used Facebook as login, and generated a separate login, to make sure not to be locked out later.

Currently I’m working on reducing my Instagram usage. I’ve found somewhat of a primitive hack: When I want to have a look or check private messages, I download the app, browse around for a few minutes, and delete it again.

There are still some aspects of Instagram that I appreciate. It’s a nice way to connect with people one meets for example during travel, or to share some shots from places few people have visited before (= meaning places which I consider at least potentially interesting for others, if I happen to be at such as a place), but that’s it.

I’m still ambivalent about Instagram. But like all other major Social Media services, Instagram is built for distraction and as a way for the company to gain as much user attention as possible. Because Facebook has to make money with Instagram, the experience has gotten much worse lately, in my eyes.

I know some people who appear to be neurologically “immune” against the various habit forming patterns of social media apps. Good for them. I am not, which is why I have to take to radical measures such as deleting accounts.

In some ways, I am cheating a bit: I created a new Facebook Messenger account to be able to keep participating in a few messaging groups. Also I am operating 2 publication-specific Twitter accounts for promotional reasons. Both have a very clear narrow content profile and little activity on my part. In addition, I use Nuzzel to get a quick overview of the articles shared by those I follow with my personal Twitter account.

So am I happier without the major social media services, as several recent studies have been suggesting? No idea. But I don’t miss them at all, I definitely have more time, and it’s easier to focus again. That’s good enough. It also feels great not to contribute anymore to the business models of the giant tech firms which increasingly get into people’s minds and impact the way everybody thinks. I like to think for myself, and to come to my own conclusions, instead of being exposed around the clock to algorithmically-reinforced impulsivity and outrage, mob mentality, dogmatism, moral grandstanding and narcissism. It’s also pleasant to free oneself from the temptation to blare out any impetuous thought through the big digital megaphones that comes to my mind – a behavior which the platforms reward and incentivize. For me, adding some friction in that regard has been a good choice. So has been leaving social media, one step at a time.


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