Weekly Links & Thoughts #179

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 Wisdom And/or Madness of Crowds (ncase.me, 3)
    Amazing interactive visualization of network science and the dynamics that make crowds either become mad or wise.
  • The death of Don Draper (newstatesman.com, 3)
    The ad business (aka tech and data firms) has thrown the ad industry (traditional advertising agencies building brands and image campaigns) into an identity crisis. Yet, the efficiency-driven ad business has some flaws, which the firms representing the ad industry hope will keep them in business. This article does a very good job explaining why the ad industry has fallen behind, but also what the tech-powered ad business does not get right about advertising – such as the importance of ensuring that people see what other people see. Or to use a line from the text: “Messages can be microtargeted, but meaning has to be mass-produced.”
  • Humanity Is Deciding If It Will Evolve Or Die (caitlinjohnstone.com, 3)
    Excellent essay on what I also think is the only way for humanity to tackle today’s big challenges in a lasting way: a journey out of egoic consciousness. It means a radical change in thinking and behaving, away from our evolutionary and cultural programming, on an individual as well as on a collective level. Can it be done? In my most misanthropic moments I have huge doubts. In other moments I remain optimistic. It has to work.
  • Why Westerners Fear Robots and the Japanese Do Not (wired.com, 2)
    Joi Ito explores the hypothesis that because of Japan’s indigenous Shinto religion (as well as Buddhism), people in Japan have an easier time integrating robots into society than people in the West.
  • An Optimist’s Guide to Solving Climate Change and Saving the World (vice.com, 3)
    A few years ago, most people hadn’t heard of Tesla. Today a complete industry is transforming itself to capture the rapidly growing market of electrical cars, following the path opened by Tesla. So despite all justified concerns about the impact of climate change, some reason for optimism definitely remains. Optimism that the innovation required to drastically cut emissions as well as necessary changes in consumer behavior can actually happen much faster than assumed. Particularly if external pressure mounts and the subjective perception of global warming (for example following unusual heat waves – regardless of whether there actually is a statistical connection) gets more widespread.
  • Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular (theatlantic.com, 3)
    Creating real-world simulations to find out how different policies impact people’s behavior, thinking and religiosity.
  • Is Your Fertility Data For Sale? (howwegettonext.com, 2)
    An increasing number of women use contraceptive apps to track fertility. Sian Williams Page asks an important question: Will the sexual history information of women collected by period trackers eventually be used by governments, corporations, or legal professionals to control or persecute women?
  • True Transformation: From the Caterpillar to the Butterfly (edgeperspectives.typepad.com, 2)
    For organizations in our time, transformation is an imperative and incremental change is a death sentence, writes John Hagel.
  • How the Need for Growth Failed Our Social Network Experience (thisisgoingtobebig.com, 2)
    This post describing a particular and potentially unique “community” moment in social networking only experienced by people who are today old enough not to have Facebook in college, but young enough to be an avid user of tech, made me think.
  • Does Patreon have a crisis quirk? (medium.com, 2)
    Often when an online personality who already has a strong following faces a public crisis, this person’s Patreon revenue increases significantly.
  • We’re Lucky Mark Zuckerberg Is in Charge (medium.com, 2)
    Yes, we are lucky that not someone else than Mark Zuckerberg is in charge of Facebook. But at the same time it is bad luck that the question of who should be in charge of this way too powerful company that is being used to systematically manipulate the opinions of billions of people and that absorbs all their attention for the purpose of selling ads has to be asked in the first place.
  • The future is ear: Why “hearables” are finally tech’s next big thing (fastcompany.com, 3)
    Tech companies don’t know if it will be possible to create a general purpose, in-ear computer that allows consumers to leave their phone in the desk drawer – but none want to be left behind should it be possible.
  • Uber and Lyft Are Overwhelming Urban Streets, and Cities Need to Act Fast (nyc.streetsblog.org, 2)
  • Pave Over the Subway? Cities Face Tough Bets on Driverless Cars (nytimes.com, 2)
    Two insightful articles on two related issues US cities are confronted with: How to deal with Uber and Lyft, and whether to keep investing in the often crumbling and generally lacking public transportation infrastructure or not.
  • 10 top “turnkey titles”: Books with titles so good, you don’t have to read them (writingcooperative.com, 2)
    Amusing thought. Theoretically that should make writing a “good” book rather easy.
  • Are you guilty of tsundoku or bibliomania? (bbc.com, 1)
    The art of owning a lot of unread literature. This happens particularly if one buys books with titles so good that one doesn’t have to read them.
  • The Instagram Forums Where Teens Go to Debate Big Issues (theatlantic.com, 2)
    If you search for “flop” on Instagram and then browser through the results, it seems as if the main thing these teens debate are questions about gender.
  • The Official and Ceremonial Vehicles of World Leaders (visualcapitalist.com, 1)
    Fun illustration showing the vehicles that world leaders drive around in. The dominance of Mercedes in this “sector” is impressive.

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