Algorithmic survival of the fittest

In Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the concept of survival of the fittest stands for the phenomenon that the traits of life forms that have the biggest reproductive success will, over time, become prevailing, while other traits disappear.

I would like to adopt this framework for the age of algorithms. On the leading tech platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok (gotta be inclusive here), algorithms play a key role in selecting what information people get to see, and who gets to be seen. Since these services’ business models are centered around advertising, their algorithms are optimized for making people spend as much time as possible on them.

Thanks to the vast amounts of usage data generated by billions of daily users as well as the ever-improving capabilities of machine learning (or “Artificial Intelligence”), one has to expect this optimization process to eventually become highly effective, if not truly perfect. Continue Reading

Facebook, Snapchat and others must hate Pokémon Go

Here you can read a German version of this article.

When it comes to mobile consumer tech, the past days have in my opinion been the most interesting so far this year. First, an utterly impressive iPhone app called Prisma emerged and shortly after blew up. Then the AR/mixed reality smartphone game Pokémon Go was released (in English-speaking app stores, other markets are expected to follow soon) and managed to captivate casual gamers, geeks and curious people alike. In the US alone, a reported 7.5 million people have downloaded the Pokémon Go app over the course of only a few days, instantly bringing activity key performance indicators to levels of famous, well-established apps such as Tinder, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Update: According to estimations, on Monday the game saw almost 21 million daily active users in the U.S. alone. Let this sink it.

I haven’t been playing the remake of the iconic Pokémon franchise (largely to protect myself from getting obsessed with it) but have observed people who have. They got instantly hooked. Yesterday evening, one said something remarkable: “I haven’t been using Snapchat once today, and Facebook (the feed) neither”. Continue Reading