Weekly Links & Thoughts #121

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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Reading time indicator: 1 = up to 3 minutes, 2 = 3 to 10 minutes, 3 = more than 10 minutes

  • If we’re living in a simulation, this UK startup probably built it (wired.co.uk, 3)
    The British startup Improbable is developing a platform for sophisticated large-scale simulations, available for external developers who want to build their models on it. I’ve written about my interest in real world simulations in an older post. I’m really curious to see what Improbable will come up with.
  • Donald Trump, Our A.I. President (nytimes.com, 2)
    Fascinating thought: Donald Trump’s unpredictability as President resembles how an artificial intelligence would act – purely relying on day-to-day data-driven decisions, without any attempts to try to appear consistent and coherent.
  • Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America (time.com, 3)
    The U.S. invented the Internet and U.S. companies took the lead in building global platforms on top of the Internet. Then came Russia and took the lead in leveraging these very platforms to shape the world in its interest. In hindsight, it’s an astonishing story for future history books.
  • As we may read: From print to digital and back to print (craigmod.com, 2)
    Speaking about books: Apparently there is a revival of print books and a stop in growth for ebooks. I would be surprised if this turns out to be more than a temporary trend though. However, it might take several generations for the print book to disappear as part of mainstream media.
  • Most people prefer friendly robots — but not in France and Japan (recode.com, 2)
    Cultural differences are one of the most wonderful things to investigate. According to a survey, the vast majority of Americans wants friendly robots. But in France, an equal percentage of survey respondents — 37 percent — prefers friendly and formal bots. Also France is the country where the largest number of people (even if only 8 percent) want a “hip” robot personality. In Japan, 51 percent want a formal robot, and only 20 percent a friendly one.
  • How Safe Will Autonomous Vehicles Need To Be? (hunterwalk.com, 1)
    There had been 35,092 automotive deaths in the U.S. in the year 2015. Hunter Walk asks if that means that the target number for autonomous vehicles has to be equal or below that in order to be accepted by society? Obviously, the answer is very complicated.
  • Bots will soon be able to borrow our identities (venturebeat.com, 2)
    Often when I have lengthy chat sessions with people, I pay attention to their different communication styles and ways of responding. Some patterns are always reoccurring. When human communication is reduced to just written words, it’s probably not too complicated to create bots that are able to imitate anyone’s personality. Actually I wrote a post titled “Twitter makes humans look like bots” about this topic about a year ago.
  • Google starts tracking offline shopping — what you buy at stores in person (latimes.com, 2)
  • Is Facebook Licensing this Intrusive Google Patent? (medium.com, 2)
    It’s damn hard to be enthusiastic about the creeping intrusion into people’s personal lives in the name of ad optimization.
  • Facebook can’t moderate in secret anymore (points.datasociety.net, 2)
    This sums up Facebook’s undertaking fairly good: “There’s no pretty way — maybe no way, period — to conduct this kind of content moderation.”
  • Tulips, Myths, and Cryptocurrencies (stratechery.com, 3)
    The only ting that matters for the success of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin is whether enough people believe in it as a means of storing and exchanging value.
  • Bringing back the Somali shilling (jpkoning.blogspot.com, 2)
    An informative story also related to the previous topic: Even after Somalia’s Central Bank ceased to exist in 1991 due to civil war, people kept using the local currency shilling. However, its value decreased over time due to counterfeiting. Eventually, the exchange rate of the shilling moved close to the cost of producing fake shilling bills.
  • What’s The Deal With The Samsung Internet Browser? (smashingmagazine.com, 2)
    Among mobile browsers in Germany, Samsung’s own browser recently reached a market share of remarkable 18 percent. I found this text from 2016 explaining the background story of this not very acknowledged but seemingly not irrelevant piece of software.
  • The Rise of the Fat Start-Up (nytimes.com, 2)
    Farhad Manjoo writes about a new type of startup, characterized by massive cash needs due to high operational costs. Oddly, he then only profiles one and mentions those few directly created or inspired by Elon Musk. However, the recent emergence of a new Berlin-based Unicorn called Auto1 can be considered another indicator for the accuracy of the alleged trend spotted by Manjoo: Auto1 buys used cars with its own capital and sells them at a profit. The company just raised 360 million Euros in additional funding.
  • Uber in Silicon Valley is a whole different beast than in Europe (theverge.com, 2)
    A crucial point which helps to explain the discrepancy between Uber’s perceived (or actual) relevance and importance in its home market and elsewhere.
  • How Long Should Your Medium Posts Be? (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Apparently 8 minutes reading time is the sweet spot for getting the best engagement on Evan William’s publishing platform medium.com.
  • The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It (nytimes.com, 2)
    Apropos Evan Williams: He has regrets about what he unleashed with Twitter. Refreshing openness. He is still on the board of Twitter.
  • Kill Google AMP before it KILLS the web (theregister.co.uk, 2)
    There is a noticeable rise of negative sentiment towards Google’s AMP initiative aimed at speeding up mobile web pages. This rant offers some background why that might be.

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