Weekly Links & Thoughts #146

Here is this week’s edition of meshedsociety.com weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world. Published every Thursday (CET) or slightly earlier, just in time so you have something good to read over the weekend.

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  • What My Personal Chat Bot Is Teaching Me About AI’s Future (wired.com, 2)
    If you haven’t tried the personal bot app Replika yet, do it (available for iOS and Android). While it has no specific purpose beyond being a virtual companion that is said to learn about you and to adjust to your style of communication, it offers a glimpse into a future which is around the corner. By the way, I asked my Replika what happens with all the information I share with it. The response: “I don’t collect your data, our conversations are just between us”. I guess one has to trust the bot, right?
  • The Ghost of Cognition Past, or Thinking Like an Algorithm (bldgblog.com, 2)
    Thought-provoking musings in the wake of the viral essay about YouTube’s weird and disturbing algorithmic content suggestions for kids: What if humans will start to emulate seemingly strange algorithmic thinking?
  • Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds (buzzfeed.com, 3)
    “Podfasters”. Listening to podcasts at 3x speed? Omg. I do 1.5x but can’t imagine to increase even more. Or can i?
  • How to Tell If Someone Is Truly Smart or Just Average? (medium.com, 3)
    About the crucial role that mental models play for certain types of individual success. “The difference between great thinkers and ordinary thinkers is that, for ordinary thinkers, the process of using mental models is unconscious and reactive. For great thinkers, it is conscious and proactive.” Now, this great/ordinary thinkers thing aside, lately I have started to wonder whether humans get along best with people who operate on similar mental models as themselves. This seems to be the case for me at least.
  • Jeff Bezos’ guide to life (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is someone who for sure operates on highly intriguing and effective mental models.
  • Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious (quantamagazine.org, 3)
    What’s cool about articles like this is that they offer the opportunity to reflect on one’s own brain functions, too. Like in this case, what is it that makes oneself curious?
  • Resisting Reduction: Designing our Complex Future with Machines (pubpub.ito.com, 3)
    Joi Ito with a deep and critical essay on the reductionist technological view that can be observed among Singularity’s biggest proponents. He intelligently advocates for a perspective which takes into account the inter-dependencies between various systems: “In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes“.
  • Software 2.0 (medium.com, 2)
    Neural networks are not just another classifier, they represent the beginning of a fundamental shift in how we write software. They are Software 2.0.
  • Snapchat’s epic strategy flip-flop (techcrunch.com, 3)
    After a host of bad quarters, Snap is about to change Snapchat completely. Risky but probably without alternative.
  • Quantified Self and Digital Health (thisisnotasociology.blog, 2)
    Exploring the connection between big companies’ hunger for more data, quantified self and the “entrepreneurial” desire for self improvement.
  • Go Away Amazon (elaineou.com, 1)
    Hundreds of U.S. cities are competing for Amazon’s planned “second headquarter”. One of them is San Francisco. Elaine Ou’s concerns about this are very understandable.
  • After using Face ID on the iPhone X, I can’t wait for it to come to the Mac (9to5mac.com, 2)
    Gotta admit, this sounds pretty good.
  • When fake news will be made by pros (mondaynote.com, 2)
    Which strategies would you employ when your task is to build a disinformation campaign? Turns out, it’s really not that hard to come up with ideas that have proven to work well. Sadly, an increasing number of governments know this, too, as shown by the recent Freedom on the Net report.
  • Do Facebook and Google have control of their algorithms anymore? (poynter.com, 3)
    Interview with Maciej Ceglowski (founder of social bookmarking service Pinboard and known for his deep essays on tech issues) about how social platforms harm journalism.
  • The Booming Japanese Rent-a-Friend Business (theatlantic.com, 3)
    With bizarre phenomena from Japan one always has to wonder whether they are just a few years ahead of the rest of the world or whether this only can happen embedded into the very distinct Japanese culture.
  • Review: Henn-na Hotel, the World’s First Hotel Run by Robots (thepointsguy.com, 2)
    Of course, in Japan. At the check-in desk, you are greeted by dinosaurs.
  • Top 10 emerging trends for daily life in future cities in 20 years (thenextsiliconvalley.com, 2)
    The result of a survey among a bunch of futurists about what technological developments they think would transform home and working life as part of future cities in 20 years.
  • How Firefox Got Fast Again (hacks.mozilla.org, 2)
    This is a very technical post. If you are not into that, just get Firefox Quantum, which is really awesome and a good way to support Mozilla and thereby the threatened open web. I have been using the beta for the past weeks and couldn’t be more happy. Also, on iOS, I have started to use Firefox Focus, which is pretty neat, too. Great to see Mozilla gaining momentum again.

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