Weekly Links & Thoughts #137

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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  • Brain-machine interface isn’t sci-fi anymore (wired.com, 3)
    The startup CTRL-Labs is developing a brain-machine interface (BMI) which doesn’t require any kind of direct access to the brain. Instead, the technology reads signals sent from the brain to the muscles in order to let people type on an imaginary keyboard or otherwise control movement solely with their thoughts. Great profile of a startup pursuing a fascinating idea.
  • Wicked is the (New) Normal (workfutures.io, 2)
    Most of the bigger problems of a complex world are so called “wicked problems”. Wicked problems come with a different set of challenges and solution strategies than conventional problems. As outlined in the text, wicked problems cannot be approached by trying to “search for a solution” to a single issue such as for example inequality, chronic disease, asymmetric conflict, fake news, etc. —  because these phenomena are “features” of the system in which they occur, not bugs. Looking for the elusive silver bullet just produces all kinds of unintended effects.
  • Linear Thinking in a Nonlinear World (hbr.org, 3)
    Long, in-depth read on the importance of employing (counter-intuitive) non-linear thinking, because this is the dynamic shaping many, if not most of today’s events.
  • Did We Just Glimpse the Future of Augmented Reality? (medium.com, 2)
    John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, offers a smart take on the overall state and potential of augmented reality technology (AR). Considering Apple’s newest push into the field, it looks more than ever as if AR really will become a big deal. If you want to feel uncomfortable about this outlook, watch this video called “Hyper Reality” showcasting a future in which advertisment completely dominates AR.
  • iPhone X Marks Two Milestones For Apple’s Phone Pricing (news.crunchbase.com, 2)
    Analysis of the growing price spread of the various iPhone versions offered by Apple since 2011. So far, the company has managed to differentiate the device category in a way so it appeals to both the ultimate high-end as well as increasingly to people with a bit less spending power who still want to own a smartphone that comes with high status. With the new iPhone X, Apple now pushes even further along this path.
  • Why you shouldn’t unlock your phone with your face (medium.freecodecamp.org, 2)
    The iPhone X comes with a fairly controversial feature: It will allow owners to unlock the phone via facial recognition. But it is probably safer to just keep using the passcode.
  • AXA Is Using Ethereum’s Blockchain for a New Flight Insurance Product (coindesk.com, 1)
    A straight-forward real world use case for a smart contract based on the Ethereum blockchain: Paying out flight delay compensation to passengers if certain criteria such as minimum delay time and a corresponding customer rights law in the departure country are met. No manual handling of the process required.
  • Silicon Valley’s Politics: Liberal, With One Big Exception (nytimes.com, 2)
    Farhad Manjoo on the unique combination of political values in Silicon Valley: mostly left-leaning with a support for higher taxes and universal health care, but skeptical about regulations and unions.
  • Point/Counterpoint: Twitter Is An Echo Chamber (theonion.com, 2)
    Trenchantly put by The Onion: “Social media echo chambers in which communities of like-minded users simply listen to their own viewpoints being repeated back to them.” Don’t miss the counterpoint presented in the piece…
  • Infrastructure for Mature Cities (pedestrianobservations.com, 2)
    The needs of and opportunities for urban improvements and public transport differ between growing cities and mature cities. Educational analysis of strategies and best practices to renew and enhance infrastructure in mature cities such as New York.
  • Technology, complexity, anxiety, catastrophe (techcrunch.com, 2)
    There is a 90 % chance that you’ll recognize yourself at least partially in this not too uplifting depiction of an average day in the connected world of 2017. It has to be said though that an average day portrayal most likely didn’t sound more enthusiastic in past times either. It’s simply the Hedonic treadmill in full effect.
  • Are Teslas damaged goods? (digitopoly.com, 2)
    Tesla limits the technical maximum range of its cars through a software upgrade to owners who are willing to pay up for it. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the company decided to offer this upgrade for free to Tesla owners in Florida to allow them to escape the storm. While that was a nice gesture, Tesla’s approach to artificially limiting the performance of its cars raises eyebrows – at least as a first reaction, because it is uncommon in cars. But of course, this type of business model can be found in many other sectors. In this piece, Joshua Gans examines the economics behind this strategy for Tesla.
  • I Tried Shoplifting in a Store without Cashiers and Here’s What Happened (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Times are getting tougher for shoplifters.
  • Anand Sanwal is bringing love to finance data (tearsheet.co, 2)
    The B2B data company CB Insights has become an institution in investor and fintech circles. Its founder and CEO Anand Sanwal publishes a daily email newsletter to more than 300’000 subscribers using a personal tone and wit that’s probably unparalleled in the industry. Notably, he ends each of his emails with “I love you”.
  • Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (fieldguide.gizmodo.com, 2)
    Totally. RSS is still the core pillar of my news consumption and discovery of things to read. In fact, I have completely given up on any kind of app or service for discovery of written content which primarily relies on algorithmic personalization.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI (rodneybrooks.com, 3)
    If you frequently find yourself scratching your head when you read pundits’ warnings about the threat that AI could pose to humanity, this very long essay by an AI pioneer will help you to put things into perspective and to detect the hyperbole.

Podcast episode of the week:

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