Weekly Links & Thoughts #122

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

  • Why Germany Still Has So Many Middle-Class Manufacturing Jobs (hbr.com, 2)
    As a native German, I am quite amazed by how well my home country has fared in regards to manufacturing despite a radically changing global environment. Correspondingly, unemployment is the lowest in 25 years. Certainly the weak Euro has helped, but still – there are several reasons for the strength of the “Mittelstand”, as explained in this informative piece.
  • The Future of European Transit: Driverless and Utilitarian (nytimes.com, 2)
    While companies in the U.S. focus on self-driving cars for individuals, in Europe transit authorities and mobility providers invest in self-driving public transit, which is said to be a significantly easier challenge.
  • There are bots. Look around. (ribbonfarm.com, 3)
    Comparing high-frequency trading of stocks with the automated distribution dynamics of news through bots in the digital space – an intriguing analogy.
  • The Illusion of Measuring What Customers Want (jtbd.info, 3)
    Reading the title, one might suspect to be very familiar with everything written in this text. I did think so, but it turned out to be an educative read. I learned a few new things.
  • The world’s biggest problems and why they’re not what first comes to mind (80000hours.org, 3)
    A fascinating long read that definitely helps to realize which areas to focus on if one should decide to go on a mission to contribute to a better world.
  • China censored Google’s AlphaGo match against world’s best Go player (theguardian.com, 1)
    When machines beat humans at a skill humans thought they excelled at, that hurts the ego. So much that some might even choose censorship to protect people from this reality.
  • The rise of the QR code and how it has forever changed China’s social habits (scmp.com, 2)
    Something else remarkable that’s going on in China.
  • Thoughts on Tokens (medium.com, 3)
    Bubble or not, Blockchain-based tokens as fuel and facilitators for startups and software projects are making lots of people within tech quite excited right now.
  • Blockchains are the new Linux, not the new internet (techcrunch.com, 2)
    But it is still totally unclear whether the Blockchain is the new internet or the equivalent to a highly geeky operating system doomed to be neglected by the masses (but still with an important role in the grand scheme of things).
  • A year of Google & Apple Maps (justinobeirne.com, 3)
    Detailed comparison of how Google and Apple improve and adjust their maps product over the period of a year. Google clearly is much more active in that regard.
  • This Is How VR and AR Kill Smartphones (virtualrealitypop.com, 2)
    No, this is not how VR and AR kill smartphones, but how some of the scenarios that we use smartphones for today will be better served through VR and AR. Potentially.
  • Can We Quantify Machine Consciousness? (spectrum.ieee.org, 2)
    By now I have read a fairly large amount of texts about the phenomenon of consciousness and the big question whether machines one day could be given a consciousness. I still have no clue what the answer is, but no one seems to really have. Yet, super fascinating stuff.
  • Is Humanity Obsolete? (battellemedia.com, 2)
    After having read Yuval Harari’s latest book Homo Deus and experiencing certain unsettling emotions while doing so, John Battelle wonders about the most existential issue. By the way, somewhat of an important question related to this: How will religions and their worshipers respond to the era of “Dataism” described by Harari, since Dataism does away with the core idea of human exceptionalism and of being “the chosen ones”? Could the rise of religious extremism, maybe in an indirect manner, be part of religion’s backlash against the technologically-driven demystification of humans?
  • A quick trip to Amazon Books in NYC… (500ish.com, 2)
    How customers experience Amazon’s physical book stores that are now popping up at several locations in the U.S.
  • Airbnb Employees Speak Out About Company Bullying Tactics & ‘Toxic’ Work Environment (brokeassstuart.com, 2)
    These reports, if they are representative, are a bit more surprising than what has been revealed about the climate at Uber’s offices, considering that Airbnb fairly successfully has built its brand on positive values such as openness, kindness and trust.
  • How Unity convinced investors it’s worth $2.6 billion (venturebeat.com, 2)
    A fun interview with the CEO of Unity, a company whose platform plays a key role for most of today’s videos games as well as for the up and coming VR scene, and which generally seems to do a lot of things right at the moment.
  • The Right to Attention in an Age of Distraction (philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com, 3)
    In our current attention economy, everyone and their mom tries to capture everyone’s attention (and, if I may say so, Donald Trump is probably the biggest attention thief of them all), which pegs the question if there is a need for a “right to attention”, which would protect people from having their attention constantly and unwillingly captured. Sounds impractical? Definitely. Still, thought-provoking reflections.
  • The Domino Effect (reallifemag.com, 2)
    A philosophical take on the wider implications and background of a curious quasi-rule: Any interface to which we have access can likely be used to order pizza.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • The Exponential Five
    The debate is intensifying about whether Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft have too much power. Considering the exponential tendencies of today’s technological advancements, I do side with those who are concerned.

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