Weekly Links & Thoughts #142

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 to 29 minutes , 3+ = 30 minutes or more

  • How to Build a Self-Conscious Machine (wired.com, 3+)
    A very long but absolutely fantastic feature explaining why there is no point in building machines with human-like consciousness (hint: Because human consciousness is mostly about making up stories about what we are doing, relating those stories to others – and being often wrong). I find the following argument proposed by the author to be worth pondering: “The best thing to come from AI research isn’t an understanding of computers, but rather an understanding of ourselves.”
  • The Human API (medium.com, 2)
    Mikko Alasaarela offers an unconventional, intriguing approach to describe technology’s impact on and influence over us, leading to the inevitable question about who controls whom: Do we control our technology, or does our technology control us? Or both, if that’s possible?
  • Chihuahua or muffin? My search for the best computer vision API (medium.freecodecamp.org, 2)
    A piece that is both informative and fun to read through. Among the big players, Microsoft’s image recognition technology appears to be the least sophisticated.
  • Now There’s an IQ Test for Siri and Friends (technologyreview.com, 2)
    Another test of artificial intelligence. Google Assistant is doing quite well, Siri (unsurprisingly) not so much. Apple really needs to get its act together if it wants to compete.
  • Stereotypes, STEM, and a sense of belonging (bold.expert, 2)
    Excellent overview of how adjustments to early education based on latest scientific and psychological insights can redefine what boys and girls think of the field of “Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” (STEM).
  • Deconstructing Amazon Prime: Loss Leader or Value Creator? (aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com, 2)
    If the average subscriber of Amazon Prime, who pays up to $99/year (depending on the market) for free shipping and added services, thinks that he/she is getting far more value out of Prime than what he/she pays, what does this say about the economics of the service? Aswath Damodaran takes a closer look.
  • The Rebundling of Craigslist (acrowdedspace.com, 1)
    First the U.S. classifieds behemoth was attacked by dozens of startups focused on unbundling its core offerings. Many years later, most of the startups are dead, and those that survived and thrive are starting to “rebundle” again by become horizontal players.
  • A Decade Watching the Craziest Game (collaborativefund.com, 1)
    Brief and intelligent list of a venture capitalist’s learnings on investing, digital and beyond.
  • What is the ‘why now’ of your startup? (jonathannen.com, 2)
    Which factors came together to make Uber’s approach to on-demand mobility successful? What can entrepreneurs learn from this? Here are some answers.
  • The scale of tech winners (ben-evans.com, 2)
    You think the “GAFAs” (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are big? Indeed they are. They have fundamentally changed what it means to be a leading tech company.
  • African cities could lead smart city innovation (itweb.co.za, 2)
    Another clear case in which technological leapfrogging could happen, as building urban infrastructure from scratch (where hardly any was before) has advantages over having to upgrade existing, but aging infrastructure.
  • Catalunya and beyond: what’s after the nation-state? (opendemocracy.net, 2)
    The Catalan crisis confirms that the traditional European nation state is no longer an adequate political form for our time, write Daphne Büllesbach and Lorenzo Marsili.
  • The rise and fall and rise again of 23andMe (nature.com, 2)
    DNA analysis is here to stay. Although I am sure somewhere on the internet an editor would be eager to find a reason to extend this headline template by another “fall again”.
  • A letter to everyone who is still struggling to understand cryptocurrencies (blog.chain.com, 3)
    Such a brilliant, clear-headed essay shedding light on what crypto currencies really represent, what they are and aren’t good for, and on how one should understand the current crypto mania. If you just want the brief bullet-point summary, scroll to the end of the article.
  • Crypto-network effects are driving Thin Protocols (medium.com, 2)
    One structural problem with today’s “mainstream” blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum: Developers are not rewarded enough for protocol improvements, but instead are rewarded for creating new blockchain protocols. That’s one reason why there are hundreds, if not thousands of “Altcoins“.
  • “Oh My God, What Have I Done”: Some Early Facebook Employees Regret the Monster They Created (vanityfair.com, 2)
    A case of “unintended consequences“.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Facebook bought tbh – but not the similar app with the same name that launched in 2013
    Facebook has announced the acquisition of an app called tbh, launched only a few weeks ago in the U.S. One person who might be frustrated now: The founder of an identically named app with a very similar approach that went online in 2013 but didn’t go anywhere. If my (brief and shallow) research is correct, he actually even gave the @tbh Twitter account away – which Facebook might want to buy one day, in case tbh flourishes.
  • The Silicon Valley’s four crises
    The famous mantras “Move fast and break things” and “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission” aren’t sexy anymore. Nowadays they stand as symbols for the Silicon Valley’s multiple crises.
  • Benevolent digital dictators, without control
    What is Mark Zuckerberg? What is Jack Dorsey? Are they just CEOs like any other CEO? Not really if one acknowledges that Facebook and Twitter are not just companies like any other company. Here is my proposal for describing what they are.

Podcast episodes of the week:

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