Weekly Links & Thoughts #158

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.

If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, sign up for free for the weekly email. It is being sent out to more than 500 people (January 2018). Here is an archive of previous issues.

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).

  • Meet Fashion’s First Computer-Generated Influencer (businessoffashion.com, 2)
    This could be just an one-off, or it is the beginning of a major trend.
  • What is it like to live in the world’s biggest experiment in biometric identity? (howwegettonext.com, 3)
    Aadhaar, operated in India, is the world’s largest, most ambitious digital identity scheme. This text discusses problems that arise from the growing dependency of everyday processes on the system, in a country with significant parts of the population still living in poverty.
  • What happens when I choose to “Suppress Ads” on Salon? (salon.com, 2)
    Salon asks its users to either turn off ad blockers or to be fine with crypto mining on their machines. Thumbs up for testing this approach. I am sure other media and news sites will watch closely. Then again, there are already browser plugins that block website crypto mining (which unlike in the case of Salon, often happens without the users’ consent), and possibly every ad blocker soon will include such a feature. But maybe people who block ads would be fine with mining, considering that it doesn’t come with privacy intrusions and questionable tracking?
  • Inside Facebook’s Two Years of Hell (wired.com, 3+)
    I usually only recommend articles that I actually did read. But this monstrous piece (45 minutes reading time) is an exception. I simply didn’t find the time to check it out yet. However, only hours after it was published on Monday, I noticed on Nuzzel how it was praised by dozens of people on social media. Beats me how they managed to read through it so quickly on a Monday morning (if they did?), but anyway: It seems to be a must read.
  • He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse. (buzzfeed.com, 3)
    “Reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and “human puppets” are names for predicted phenomenons characterizing a not-very-distant future of news and media. This feature article might seriously spoil your mood.
  • Clone Wars (reallifemag.com, 3)
    A deep philosophical exploration of the fact that humans appear to behave like robots when joining political movements on social media.
  • My professional opinion as a blockchain researcher: I don’t see the point (yet) (jmkorhonen.net, 2)
    Excellent food for thought. I increasingly find myself annoyed by some of the extremist libertarian positions that fuel the crypto currency and blockchain movement.
  • The Sacred and the profane (finiculture.com, 2)
    Hyper-libertarianism aside, cryptocurrencies indeed seem to challenge the current “sacred sphere” of money creation, which explains the “borderline hysteria exhibited by most if not all central banks”.
  • Cognitive Ability and Vulnerability to Fake News (scientificamerican.com, 2)
    When people learn that their attitudes are based on false information, they adjust them, but people with low cognitive ability adjust attitudes to lesser extent than those with high cognitive ability. If the study results are accurate, this would suggest (to me) that in order to maintain a stable democracy, a focus on increasing the cognitive abilities of every single member of a society (through high-end and relevant education – for example about how the mind and brain works, and how easily it is tricked) should have the highest priority.
  • Why Competitive Advantages Die (collaborativefund.com, 2)
    “Brands are hard to build and even harder to span across generations. You can do everything right and still fail because customers don’t want to be associated with products of their parents’ generation.”
  • A curated life: the lost art of human interaction (roadlesstravelled.me, 2)
    An interesting read which accurately describes one of the most important functions of smartphones: The smartphone frees us from the burden of interactions and prolonged eye-contact with strangers. While the author calls “human interaction” an art and sounds a bit romanticizing, it’s important to remember that sharing small spaces with strangers who do not belong to our kin/tribe is a rather new experience for humans, seen over the total existence of human life. So it makes sense that people usually look for an escape.
  • Why Toys? (blog.ycombinator.com, 2)
    Some of the biggest technology companies look like toys in the beginning. This trend does not fit with history. Why? Aaron Harris discusses a particular phenomenon of the tech industry.
  • Radio Is Streaming’s Next Frontier (musicindustryblog.wordpress.com, 2)
    Despite pressure from music streaming, radio still has some time left to figure out how to survive.
  • Don’t Compete. Create! (dariusforoux.com, 1)
    A plea for adopting an “abundance mindset” instead of one obsessed with competition.
  • World After Capital: Digital Technology – Zero Marginal Cost (continuations.com, 2)
    Because of the zero marginal cost dynamic of digital technology, an abundance mindset is indeed justified.
  • Why Google Stories will save, not screw, Snapchat Discover (techcrunch.com, 2)
    Last year I asked for an open alternative to Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories. A system for Google’s fairly open but not uncontroversial AMP protocol was not what I had in mind, but it’s probably a step into the right direction. Yet, there needs to be something even better and more decentralized.
  • How Isaac Asimov shaped robotics and space exploration and predicted the Internet (rossdawson.com, 1)
    There probably are at least a few Isaac Asimov fans among readers/subscribers of meshedsociety.com weekly.
  • Eight flying taxis that are so crazy, they just might work (newatlas.com, 2)
    This overview also offers a brief, informative interview with a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering on the potential and challenges of flying taxis.
  • Artists envisioned the future of work, and the results are pure fantasy (technologyreview.com, 1)
    Awesome illustrations and ideas.
  • Is reading better for you than a spa? (bbc.com, 2)
    “Reading retreats” are now a thing.

Quotation of the week:

  • In a perfect world, I could hop in the bunk in Salt Lake City, optimize my speed settings for fuel economy, literally set it at 55, and say, ‘I’m taking my siesta,’ wake back up, and take over in Reno. I get that people think I’m smoking bird shit, but that’s what we are ultimately talking about with this technology.”
    Joe Rajkovacz, a director of and spokesperson for a trucking association, in “Could Self-Driving Trucks Be Good for Truckers?” (theatlantic.com, 2)

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