Weekly Links & Thoughts #157

Here is this week’s issue 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 Wednesday/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
Note: Some of the publications may use “soft” paywalls. If you are denied access, open the URL in your browser’s incognito/private mode (or subscribe if you find yourself reading a lot of the content on a specific site and want to support it).

  • Bad Romance (logicmag.io, 2)
    What the mainstream movies Her, Lucy, and Ex Machina have in common: They represent a new genre of AI love stories that isn’t about the fear of being replaced by robots, but about the fear of being rejected by them (and, specifically, about men fearing to be rejected by “female” AIs).
  • South Korea’s Crypto Craze Explained by Seoul’s Largest Investor (cryptoambit.com, 3)
    Great to finally have some solid explanations on why the people of South Korea became the world’s biggest proponents of cryptocurrencies.
  • Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico (nytimes.com, 2)
    While the cryptocurrency prices are falling to new lows (which of course were record-breaking heights only a few months ago), a bunch of libertarian crypto investors are trying to turn Puerto Rico into their safe haven.
  • ‘Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth (theguardian.com, 3)
    With 1.5 billion active users, YouTube is a massive force that’s often forgotten when negative effects of algorithmic content recommendation systems are being discussed.
  • Optimization over Explanation (medium.com, 3)
    An informative longread on the challenge of maximizing the benefits of machine learning for society without sacrificing its intelligence.
  • How Delivery Apps May Put Your Favorite Restaurant Out of Business (newyorker.com, 2)
    The boom of food delivery platforms is creating economical challenges for many restaurants, even those who are highly popular.
  • Have Self-Driving Cars Stopped Getting Better? (spectrum.ieee.org, 2)
    The piece does not really answer the question posed in the headline, but it offers an indicator for that maybe, there has been too much optimism about the immediacy of the big breakthrough for self-driving cars. Being fairly good is just not good enough in this field.
  • Can VR Survive in a Cutthroat Attention Economy? (wired.com, 2)
    This is an intriguing perspective to assess virtual reality’s ongoing failure to break through into the mainstream: The attention economy simply is too cutthroat for VR to thrive. For specific purposes though, VR can be very valuable. Such as for readying prisoners for release.
  • Intel made smart glasses that look normal (theverge.com, 3)
    AR, if done well, won’t have the same struggle with the attention economy as VR. Intel might be onto something here. However, considering the growing public concern about the damage done to the mind through constant, compulsive connectivity (see: “Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built“), the chip maker and its partners will have to be careful in what advantages of such glasses to promote. “Now you can check social media even without your friend noticing” won’t cut it.
  • Can an app that rewards you for avoiding Facebook help beat smartphone addiction? (theguardian.com, 2)
    In Norway, 40 % of students are using an app called Hold, which allows users to earn rewards such as cinema tickets for not using their phone.
  • Facebook hired a full-time pollster to monitor Zuckerberg’s approval ratings (theverge.com, 2)
    This full-time pollster which the article is about said he left Facebook after only six months after coming to believe that the company had a negative effect on the world. It’s remarkable how the general view of Facebook has turned absolutely negative over the course of the past 1-2 years.
  • No Cutting Corners on the iPhone X (medium.com, 2)
    This is a serious case of paying attention to details (which designers of course do).
  • HomePod (daringfireball.net, 3)
    John Gruber is reviewing Apple’s new HomePod (see also my post below on how the device is putting Spotify into an uncomfortable situation).
  • How to protect privacy in a world awash in data (staceyoniot.com, 2)
    “Inadvertently disclosing new information will be the new challenge of our age.”
  • Europe’s new data protection rules export privacy standards worldwide (politico.eu, 2)
    This is a good thing and somebody has to push this forward. Drawing parallels to European colonialism as the authors do, adds no constructive value to the debate.
  • WHATIS Going to Happen With WHOIS? (motherboard.vice.com, 2)
    With the upcoming European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the fate of the domain WHOIS  (which allows anyone to see who has registered a domain) is uncertain.
  • Where Dutch directness comes from (bbc.com, 2)
    I haven’t had many interactions with Dutch people in my life, so I wasn’t aware of their reputation as being direct. I know that as a native German, I am direct, and I also know that in my country of residence Sweden, people are not direct at all. This really makes Europe such an interesting (and sometimes tricky) place.

Recently on meshedsociety.com:

  • Spotify’s voice platform problems
    My analysis on why and how Apple’s HomePod and the rise of voice platforms and smart speakers pose a new kind of problem for the music streaming pioneer Spotify.
  • Humans have handed over their minds to the AI
    Whatever decision you’ll make next (even if it is only what to eat tonight), it will at least indirectly have been influenced by an algorithm. Here I describe how humans have handed over their minds into the hands of the AIs, while tech pundits still debate about when the AI will take over. It already has.

Quotation of the week:

  • “Thanks mostly to the cryptocurrency boom and because a lot of early investors in cryptocurrencies were among our donors, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute is no longer strapped for cash, so much it is strapped for engineering talent.”
    Eliezer Yudkowsky, decision theorist and computer scientist, in “Waking Up Podcast #116 with Sam Harris”: “AI: Racing Toward the Brink” (samharris.org)

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