Weekly Links & Thoughts #126

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

  • The Internet as existential threat (raphkoster.com, 3)
    In the wake of this week’s major cyber attack targeting Ukraine but causing crashed systems across the globe, it’s time to consider the dependency of an increasing number of critical infrastructures on a properly working Internet an existential threat. I also dig the term “ideological malware” mentioned in this important text. In a connected age, the term “critical infrastructure” actually could be extended to the human mind.
  • Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come (wired.com, 3)
    This Wired feature was published a few days before the most recent attack. Read it and ask yourself what else this situation can be called other than “cyberwar”. For us average people who don’t work in IT security or with physical critical infrastructure, this term feels pretty empty and harmless, mostly because we don’t immediately associate it with human casualties. But it is anything than harmless, as explained in the previous article.
  • The Hackers Russia-Proofing Germany’s Elections (bloomberg.com, 2)
    As a native German, I’ve never given much thought about the existence of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC). It was just there and occasionally mentioned in the media. But this piece opened my eyes to the uniqueness of the group, if seen in a global context. From the article: “All this has made CCC into something that sounds alien to American ears: a popular, powerful, tech-focused watchdog group, one whose counsel has been sought by both WikiLeaks and Deutsche Telekom AG.”
  • Laptop Replacement (mattgemmell.com, 2)
    Ok, after this heavy start, now on to something less dramatic. Some journalists and tech pundits are obsessed with the narrative of the iPad as a potential “laptop replacement”. Matt Gemmell finds this puzzling. Humorous read. “The phrase itself is strange, like you’re consciously considering replacing your laptop (implicitly with something else, otherwise you’d just upgrade to a newer laptop, surely), are assessing the iPad as a candidate, and you find that it is indeed an entirely different thing… but that’s somehow a deal breaker.”
  • iOS 11 turns your iPad into a completely different machine (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Reading this made me look forward to the release of iOS 11.
  • Are Smartphones Making Us Stupid? (psychologytoday.com, 2)
    No, but stupid headlines make us stupid (see also this depressing analysis of 100 million headlines). Snark aside, the result of the research mentioned here is fascinating: “The mere sight of one’s own smartphone seems to induce ‘brain drain’ by depleting finite cognitive resources.” Nowadays, if I am with other people, I often try to remind myself to put my phone into my pocket. It’s more respectful anyway.
  • Now That Whole Foods Belongs To Amazon, What Happens To Conscious Capitalism? (fastcompany.com, 2)
    Good question: Whole Foods stands like few other companies for an economical philosophy called “Conscious Capitalism”. But will this idea survive at the retailer now that Amazon takes over?
  • Silicon Valley’s Overdue Cultural Pivot (medium.com, 1)
  • The Gig Is Up (gothamgal.com, 1)
    Uber-bro Travis Kalanick is out, a Silicon Valley-based VC firm close to collapse after a sexual harassment scandal, and the list of women working in tech who speak up against discrimination is getting longer and longer. Hard to say how this all will continue, but 2017 might become a transformational year for the industry. Social conditioning won’t just disappear in a day and biology won’t just suddenly stop interfering with reason. But awareness among all protagonists is a big step forward. So that mistakes by individuals can be fixed, instead of having hell break loose many years later.
  • Growth is getting hard from intensive competition, consolidation, and saturation (andrewchen.co, 2)
    Has the digital industry reached the end of a growth cycle? Andrew Chen thinks so and offers a bunch of solid arguments to support his point.
  • In a few years, no investors are going to be looking for AI startups (machinelearnings.co, 1)
    This seems indeed probable: As AI techniques are becoming the default approach for any complex IT solution, there will be no point anymore in promoting something as “AI”.
  • Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’ (techcrunch.com, 2)
    In my opinion, as a guiding principle, this is a good new mission statement and a timely change. Whether the goal described can be accomplished remains to be seen, though.
  • How I learned to code in my 30s (medium.com, 2)
    As I am in this situation right now, I found this account to be highly motivating.
  • Pornhub Is the Kinsey Report of Our Time (thecut.com, 3)
    A thought-provoking and insightful feature on the sociological peculiarities, cultural impact and business dynamics of online porn.
  • How Twitter Pornified Politics (nytimes.com, 2)
    Apropos porn: This is what politics has become thanks to Twitter.
  • China orders mobile app stores to remove VPN apps (boingboing.net, 1)
    Here we see a big problem with centralized app stores: They make it too easy for those in power to withhold basic tools for the protection of digital integrity from the people.
  • A battle for supremacy in the lithium triangle (economist.com, 2)
    The modern world wouldn’t work without lithium. The Economist details where the metal comes from and how it is obtained.
  • Easiest Path to Riches on the Web? An Initial Coin Offering (nytimes.com, 2)
    Whenever something promises an easy path towards riches, one has to be cautious. Having said that, it is an exciting phenomenon.
  • Fake news of a fatal car crash wiped out $4 billion in ethereum’s market value yesterday (qz.com, 2)
    Many Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) rely on the Ethereum Blockchain. Unlike with Bitcoin, the Ethereum inventor is actually a known individual. When a fake news report declared Vitalik Buterin dead a few days ago, the Ethereum price crashed.
  • The Crypto Valley: Best Practice Example of Hub Creation (digitalswitzerland.com, 1)
    Switzerland is currently working on becoming a major beneficiary of the crypto currency boom by creating a hub of crypto companies and researchers, labeled “Crypto Valley”.

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