Weekly Links & Thoughts #141

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 = 4 to 9 minutes, 3 = 10 minutes or more

  • The basic laws of human stupidity (zoon.cc, 3)
    This essay from 1987 was my most favorite text this week. At least. While reading I could literally feel how some of my existing mental models were adjusting to take the hypotheses and insights presented here into account.
  • The Rise of Emotionally Intelligent AI (medium.com, 2)
    Machines and algorithms do not actually have to “feel” emotions the way humans do in order to read and manipulate the emotions of humans.
  • Could the Google Clips camera be used to spy on you? Google says no. (venturebeat.com, 2)
    Google is doubling down on hardware, but the company still has one major problem: So far its business model has been so deeply depended on commercial “surveillance” that it’s more than legitimate to wonder how much the privacy of owners of upcoming Google gadgets will be protected. And when in doubt, in this case the safe assumption might simply be: Not too much.
  • How Europe’s Last Dictatorship Became a Tech Hub (nytimes.com, 2)
    The question whether Belarus in fact is Europe’s last dictatorship aside, this is an informative read on the capital Minsk’s thriving tech scene. I spent a few days in Minsk in 2014 and did find it a pretty interesting experience.
  • What I Learned From Reading Every Amazon Shareholders Letter (medium.com, 2)
    Li Jiang read all of Jeff Bezos’ “Letter to Shareholders” dating back to 1997.
  • Spotify’s Discover Weekly: How machine learning finds your new music (hackernoon.com, 2)
    About the technology behind Spotify’s possibly best feature.
  • Can crows be trained to collect cigarette butts? (newatlas.com, 2)
    What a fascinating idea that the Dutch startup Crowded Cities is working on.
  • ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia (theguardian.com, 3)
    This long-read was shared widely over the past days. The general sentiment about where the digital revolution leads humanity is clearly changing right now, even within the industry itself.
  • 6 ways social media has become a direct threat to democracy (washingtonpost.com, 2)
    eBay Founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar isn’t happy with the consequences that widespread social media use has on society and democracy. He doesn’t need to convince me (see my post from January titled “The year when social media died“). Maybe it is good news then that teens are “rebelling” against social media.
  • Regulate Facebook Like AIM (motherboard.vice.com, 1)
    In 2001, AOL was forced via regulation to make its instant messenger AIM compatible with other chat apps (if it wanted to add new features). This prevented the company from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM. The other suggests a similar regulatory approach for Facebook.
  • Refind offers 1 billion coins for free to drive growth (startupticker.ch, 2)
    The Swiss startup Refind wants to create a Blockchain-based token to give to users in exchange for activities that contribute to a growing network of people using the service. Later, in case the company manages to generate profits, it plans to buy those tokens back. Whether the approach will lead to the desired outcome or not, it’s innovative and shows the right experimental mindset.
  • Yuval Noah Harari’s new book to cover global warming, God and nationalism (theguardian.com, 2)
    Yuval Noah Harari (“Sapiens”, “Homo Deus”) is possibly the most highly regarded book author right now who writes about the events and developments at the intersection of humanity and technology. His next book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, is due to be published in August next year.
  • The Real Value of Money (markmanson.net, 2)
    A great brief essay. My favorite part: “True wealth occurs when the way we spend our money is not simply compensating for how we earn it. Wealth occurs when the way we earn money and the way we spend money are aligned with one another — when our money is earned through a positive experience and spent on other positive experiences.
  • What’s the point of meditation? This. (medium.com, 2)
    I try to give an answer to a question I have heard several times from people who don’t understand what meditation is good for.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Facebook needs you to consume Stories, not news
    Speculating a bit that Facebook wouldn’t be unhappy if it finds a way to kill the newsfeed without losing profits, considering how much headache the feed and its utilization by dubious actors is causing the company at the moment.

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