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.
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).
- System Failures: Planned Obsolescence and Enforced Disposability (medium.com, 3)
Our modern systems are designed to maximize waste, and it’s extremely easily to forget about it while constantly perpetuating it. Leyla Acaroglu does a great job of opening the readers’ eyes.
- The rise of the pointless job (theguardian.com, 3)
This is far from the first essay by David Graeber on bullshit jobs – but in this one, he offers quite an informative classification of different types of bullshit jobs. You’ll read about “flunkies”, “goons”, “duct-tapers”, “box tickers” and more.
- The billion-dollar, Alibaba-backed AI company that’s quietly watching everyone in China (qz.com, 2)
Interesting profile of China’s emerging AI giant SenseTime.
- Your Instagram #Dogs and #Cats Are Training Facebook’s AI (wired.com, 2)
Accumulative advantage at its best. Outside of China, how will startups be able to compete with Facebook and other tech giants when it comes to improving AI, without access to comparable datasets? While some data might be available as open source, the companies will make sure not to give away more than necessary.
- There’s no clear evidence Autopilot saves lives (arstechnica.com, 3)
This contradicts Elon Musk’s claims.
- The economics of artificial intelligence (mckinsey.com, 3)
According to strategy professor Ajay Agrawal, AI serves a single, transformative economic purpose: It significantly lowers the cost of prediction.
- The Formula Behind San Francisco’s Startup Success (news.crunchbase.com, 2)
It’s actually simple: Be able to sustain big losses, have investors who have done it before, pick a business model that relatives understand.
- How to Raise a Unicorn (medium.com, 3)
The seven shared fundamentals of history’s most valuable companies.
- Cambridge Analytica: how did it turn clicks into votes? (theguardian.com, 3)
A comprehensive explainer on how to use data about user preferences for personalized, psychometric ad targeting and what could be done with it at least in theory (irrespective of whether Cambridge Analytica managed to use this method to sway the U.S. Presidential election).
- ‘Google go home’: the Berlin neighbourhood fighting off a tech giant (theguardian.com, 2)
Berlin’s ethos, the perceived threat of gentrification and the (to some) scary outlook of becoming a prosperous, economically strong city – it’s complicated. The tension is understandable though: Over the past months, almost every person I’ve met outside of Germany had a very positive story to tell about their Berlin experience. The big question is if Berlin can maintain its cool if it would turn into a well-functioning, wealthy city like many others. However, the good news for those worried: The probability for this happening is tiny, with or without Google. There is so much structural/cultural debt that I don’t see my home town turning into yet another polished, organized and thereby common metropolis. At least not before the BER airport will be open. This is cool Berlin’s canary in the coal mine: As long as BER is “under construction”, Berlin is still what it used to be.
- Three-quarters Facebook users as active or more since privacy scandal (reuters.com, 1)
This can be framed in different ways. The fact that one quarter has actually reduced its usage is not unremarkable.
- Facebook’s Gollum Will Never Give Up Its Data Ring (shift.newco.co, 2)
Nails it. Facebook has no reason to “sell” data. Selling user data would not be nearly as profitable as leasing access to users, via advertising— over and over again.
- Snap Inc. again shows why it should not have become a public company (latimes.com, 2)
Meanwhile, it doesn’t look good for Snap.
- Fail by design: Banking’s legacy of dark code (dw.com, 2)
The big dilemma many banks are facing: They have to update their legacy code to ensure safety, but no one understands it anymore.
- On how to grow an idea (thecreativeindependent.com, 2)
Intriguing text about the approach of “do-nothing farming”, natural intelligence in existing ecosystems, and about adapting the philosophy to the process of idea creation.
- Nobody Planned This, Nobody Expected It (collaborativefund.com, 2)
On the importance of room for error. “Room for error doesn’t just protect you from risk you’ve experienced in the past; it guards against future risk you haven’t thought of.”
- The Subtle Art of Connecting With Anyone (medium.com, 2)
Thought-provoking piece on the “culture” of individual relationships. It also comes with a brilliant quote by George Carlin: “I love individuals. I hate groups of people” (video here).
- People Who Have “Too Many Interests” Are More Likely To Be Successful According To Research (medium.com, 3)
I guess there is little harm in trying to be interested in as many topics as possible, even if one doesn’t have world-changing ambitions. Well, except one thing maybe… (see next link).
- Judge the value of what you have by what you had to give up to get it (timharford.com, 2)
…Opportunity costs! One often neglected mental model to evaluate the value of what one has or does. For people with an eclectic set of interests, the struggle is having to choose where to direct attention at any given moment.
- How much does Apple know about me? (usatoday.com, 2)
Service of the week:
- The GDPR Checklist
Not very exciting, this topic, but possibly useful for some.
Quotation of the week:
- “In a loose sense, WeWork’s business model is getting SoftBank to buy beer for software workers.”
Matt Levine in “WeWork Accounts for Consciousness” (bloomberg.com, 2)
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