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).
- Challenging the Tech Companies from Within (librarianshipwreck.wordpress.com, 3)
Intelligent, well-reflected thoughts on the rise of tech employee activism, why the tech giants and its leaders probably are happy about it, and the moral responsibility that employees of Facebook, Google etc. need to face.
- How Tech Companies Conquered America’s Cities (nytimes.com, 2)
Slowly, tech firms are taking over US cities, leveraging new channels of influence and dictating how local services are being provided where in the past the government was in charge.
- The Unbearable Awkwardness of Automation (theatlantic.com, 3)
This piece is well worth a read, pointing out the tension and partially awkward side effects of replacing human workers with automation at places that were specifically planned and built with the human workers in mind. I cannot find myself agreeing with the overall negative sentiment though. Is this really so “unbearable”? Personally, I much more prefer to interact with a computer instead of a human if the human only follows a robot-like protocol, which many service workers do. But certainly personal preferences vary.
- I talked to Google’s Duplex voice assistant. It felt like the beginning of something big. (recode.net, 2)
Ok so Duplex is real. Let’s see though if it’ll really ever become accessible to the public.
- The Truth about Smart Contracts (medium.com, 2)
Blockchain-based smart contracts sound great in theory. But in reality they are less smart than they pretend to be, and that’s just one of several issues, writes Jimmy Song.
- Facebook’s retreat from the news business (slate.com, 3)
When it comes to its role as distributor of traffic to news websites, Facebook peaked in January 2017. Since then, the platform’s importance for media outlets as declined, leaving some in troubled circumstances. But hey, no one forced media outlets to make themselves so dependent on Facebook traffic.
- Cosmik Debris (kneelingbus.com, 1)
Very short, thought-provoking take on the nowadays pretty much extraordinary practice of not providing personal data to an external entity – and what this means for the concept of consumer surplus.
- Startups Don’t Need to Make Financial Sense (thealeph.com, 2)
An intriguing systems thinking perspective on the impact of startup crashes on the greater ecosystem and technology industry.
- The US startup is disappearing (qz.com, 1)
Talking about startups: They are slowly becoming a rare breed, at least in the US.
- Ways to think about machine learning (ben-evans.com, 2)
Ben Evans thoroughly analyzes what machine learning actually means for companies and the world, beyond the popular narratives of seemingly magical AI.
- Instagram Is Estimated to Be Worth More than $100 Billion (bloomberg.com, 1)
There is a chance that Instagram one day will be bigger and more powerful than what Facebook is now.
- IGTV: Another brick in the wall of a content conundrum (hackernoon.com, 2)
Solid analysis of Instagram’s new IGTV service and the consequences for Instagram/YouTube as well as for the content consumer.
- The case against teaching kids to be polite to Alexa (fastcompany.com, 2)
Tricky question. There are good arguments both for and against being polite to smart assistants.
- San Francisco Restaurants Can’t Afford Waiters. So They’re Putting Diners to Work. (nytimes.com, 2)
San Francisco is basically a case study of how high housing costs alter the economics of everything else, including restaurant service.
- Focus on What’s Common to Good Transit Cities, not on Differences (pedestrianobservations.com, 3)
“The biggest problem with figuring out things all good transit cities have in common is that in the developed world, the US (and to some extent Canada and Australia) is unique in having bad transit. “
- The surprising reason people change their mind (bbc.com, 2)
We humans rationalize the things we feel stuck with. Another way to change minds: Show people charts.
- I Wore an Expensive Watch While Traveling, and People Treated Me Wayyy Differently (thrillist.com, 2)
Piece from 2016. Sometimes people act in weird ways.
- Germany Will Win the World Cup, UBS Says After 10,000 Simulations (bloomberg.com, 1)
So much about that.
- In Defense of Being Irrational (medium.com, 2)
I like this pragmatic approach of combining reason and emotions: “Reason gives us a huge edge, and we need to respect that edge, but the seeming irrationality of a well-tuned emotional system, within the right context, can fill in gaps that reason misses.”
Quotation of the week:
- “Maybe what happens is that all civilizations get far enough to where they generate huge amounts of information, but then they get done in by attention scarcity. They collectively take their eye off the ball of progress and are not prepared when something really bad happens such as a global pandemic”
Albert Wenger in “World After Capital: Getting Past Capital (Attention Cont’d)” (continuations.com, 1)
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