Weekly Links & Thoughts #165

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. Usually 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).

  • Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult (aeon.co, 3)
    Possibly the best thing I’ve read on the topic of filter bubbles and echo chambers – two terms that are often used interchangeably. In this essay the philosophy professor C Thi Nguyen explains the crucial difference: Filter bubbles (or as he calls them, epistemic bubbles) happen when people don’t have access to different viewpoints and facts. This phenomenon is less common than widely assumed. Echo chambers on the other hand are social structures from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited. In echo chambers, there usually is no lack of access to different view points or facts – but there is no trust in them. This is why just throwing more facts at people in echo chambers does not work. Nguyen also offers a very helpful check: “Does a community’s belief system actively undermine the trustworthiness of any outsiders who don’t subscribe to its central dogmas? Then it’s probably an echo chamber.”
  • An Apology for the Internet — From the Architects Who Built It (nymag.com, 3+)
    What went wrong with the internet? Why did many of its lofty promises didn’t come true, whereas an ugly side of it has emerged that no one expected? A bunch of early internet architects and leading figures offer their critical and partly self-critical views.
  • The Price of Free is Actually Too High (feld.com, 1)
    Hard to make an objective statement here, but it seems reasonable to state that there should be a cap to the price of free.
  • The Half-Life of Danger: The Truth Behind the Tesla Model X Crash (thedrive.com, 3)
    Smart analysis of the uncanny valley of automated driving, where understanding it requires a level of driver training equivalent to that of pilots. You also find some really funky matrices in here.
  • When algorithms surprise us (aiweirdness.com, 2)
    When machine learning algorithms solve entirely different problems from the ones the programmer intended.
  • Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain (technologyreview.com, 3)
    Critics say one might easily just use a traditional database. But there is something to the idea of owning and controlling one’s data, and for this, a blockchain is presumably the more feasible approach.
  • Post-Authenticity and the Ironic Truths of Meme Culture (medium.com, 3)
    A thought-provoking attempt to connect contemporary phenomena and trends such as fake news, authenticity, irony and memes.
  • Want to feel unique? Believe in the reptile people (aeon.co, 2)
    Why do some people believe in extreme conspiracy theories? It might be because of a deep-seated need for uniqueness.
  • Consumers don’t need experts to interpret 23andMe genetic risk reports (statnews.com, 1)
    Anne Wojcicki, the CEO and co-founder of 23andMe, a company that has pioneered providing accessible consumer DNA tests, believes that people don’t need a medical professional nearby when learning about genetic risks. In a recent essay, Mikaela Pitcan pointed out though that the reaction towards learning about risks differs significantly from person to person.
  • How to save your privacy from the Internet’s clutches (techcrunch.com, 3)
    A comprehensive list of tips to escape “surveillance capitalism”.
  • The New Octopus (logicmag.io, 3)
    What to do when corporate entities become too big and too powerful? The recipes of the past don’t necessarily work anymore with today’s new giants.
  • The Paradox of Universal Basic Income (wired.com, 2)
    Joi Ito with a very nuanced take on the UBI.
  • World After Capital: Scarcity (continuations.com, 2)
    How scarcity has shifted over time from food to land to capital and is now shifting to attention.
  • Duolingo Suddenly Has Over Twice As Much Language Learning Material (fastcompany.com, 2)
    I’d call Duolingo one of the best, most beneficial commercial web services in existence. Recently a cab driver in Colombia told me that he learned English through Duolingo and by subsequently talking with passengers. There must be hundreds of thousands, if not millions of similar cases.
  • The axes of HomePod evolution: don’t judge what you can’t yet see (theoverspill.blog, 2)
    Every major Apple product has been an MVP (minimal viable product) when it first hit the market and gradually received missing features and services. HomePod most likely is no exception.
  • A Big Phone (mattgemmell.com, 2)
    Attempts to use an iPad as a notebook replacement have been a thing ever since the iPad was introduced. Reading this makes me wonder if now maybe is the point at which this actually could work without too many sacrifices.
  • Why New York City Stopped Building Subways (citylab.com, 3)
    Insane if you think about it: “Since December 16, 1940, New York has not opened another new subway line“.

Quotation of the week:

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