Weekly Links & Thoughts #174

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).

  • The Machine Fired Me (idiallo.com, 3)
    Gripping write-up. In a world in which an increasing number of decisions are automated, things can become pretty unpleasant in the case of a technical error.
  • Fatalities vs. False Positives: The Lessons from the Tesla and Uber Crashes (hackaday.com, 2)
    The crux of self-driving at the moment is figuring out when to slam on the brakes and when not. The more false positives, the more often the cars brake needlessly under normal driving circumstances. Reducing the number of false positives (with current technology) means that the risk of actually missing a situation in which the car should have hit the breaks increases.
  • The War on Tesla, Musk, and the Fight for the Future (dailykos.com, 3)
    A long defense of Elon Musk and his endeavors. There is serious polarization going on surrounding his personality and projects.
  • What it’s like to watch an IBM AI successfully debate humans (theverge.com, 2)
    An AI that can engage in a series of reasoned arguments with no awareness of the debate topic ahead of time and no pre-canned responses. The system has “several hundred million articles” that it assumes are accurate in its data banks, around about 100 areas of knowledge.
  • AI Can Track Humans Through Walls With Just a Wifi Signal (inverse.com, 2)
    Wifi signals pass through walls but bounce off living tissue. Now an AI has been trained to use this characteristic to monitor the movements, breathing, and heartbeats of humans on the other side of those walls.
  • Apple’s Airpods Are an Omen (theatlantic.com, 2)
    Apples’ wireless earbuds foreshadow startling changes to the social fabric, writes Ian Bogost.
  • The “Facebook Nevers” (500ish.com, 2)
    The fall of Facebook (the site, not the company) will not happen due to people quitting in large numbers. Instead, if it happens, then because of a growing number of young people who simply never became habitual Facebook users in the first place. Obviously, the time horizon for this process is long.
  • Mapping the Emerging Non-Fungible Token Landscape (medium.com, 2)
    Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique crypto assets: they can be distinguished from one another and have varying properties. Cryptokitties are probably the most well-known representative of this category, but far from the only one. Good overview of this dynamic new space.
  • Mary Meeker’s annual valentine to Silicon Valley reminds us tech utopianism is alive and well (venturebeat.com, 2)
    Reasonable criticism of Mary Meeker’s yearly report on the tech industry (which everybody from the industry always raves about, year after year).
  • What’s Wrong With Startup Competitions (medium.com, 1)
    “Stop wasting your time and stop entering startup competitions. Win customers, not competitions.” Tough stance. There are probably different ways to look at this.
  • The Next Trend In Travel Is… Don’t (brightthemag.com, 2)
    Personally I don’t consider abstaining from travel being the right response to the increasing issues caused by mass tourism. I prefer going where fewer others are going instead. And there are still many places like that. Probably we are looking at a typical pareto distribution: 80 % of the people travel to 20 % of the destinations suited for tourism.
  • How the 12.9-inch iPad Pro took me by surprise and replaced my laptop (paulstamatiou.com, 3+)
    A very extensive piece. It’s not the first one of that kind that makes it into this link selection. Yes, I am definitely considering this option for myself.
  • You Never Want To Be The Smartest Person In The Room (medium.com, 2)
    This mindset might be helpful in making certain choices.
  • What is wrong with tolerance (aeon.co, 3)
    A thought-provoking essay arguing for replacing the flawed concept of (religious) tolerance with a philosophy of reciprocity.
  • What Do Men Think It Means To Be A Man? (fivethirtyeight.com, 2)
    Some instructive charts and statistics, even if they only show attitudes of men in the U.S.

Quotation of the week:

  • “It’s bad to have an opinion you’re proud of if you can’t state the arguments for the other side better than your opponents.”
    By Charlie Munger according to “The Work Required to Have an Opinion” (fs.blog, 1)

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