Weekly Links & Thoughts #181

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).

  • What’s driving Elon Musk? (wired.co.uk, 3)
    Even though Elon Musk in 2018 has become a bit of a public annoyance in my eyes, that doesn’t change the fact that he is an incredible person with an insatiable hunger for pushing the envelop. In this piece, people who know Musk well talk about what drives him and what makes him able to pull off so many seemingly impossible things. It might also be a helpful read in a moment in which one experiences a lack of motivation and drive. “What would Elon do? Probably not sitting here procrastinating!”.
  • The Art (and Lies) of the Public Apology in the YouTube Age (melmagazine.com, 2)
    YouTube apologies are kind of becoming their own genre of content.
  • The Tech Industry’s Psychological War on Kids (medium.com, 3)
    That the social media (and gaming) industry’s reliance on persuasive technology and exploitation of the brain’s weaknesses causes lots of problems is no news – but it’s particularly effective on children, as extensively explained in this essay by child and adolescent psychologist Richard Free.
  • Why Wikipedia Works (nymag.com, 2)
    Instead of leaving everything to the “marketplace of ideas” like the ad-financed algorithmic tech platforms do, Wikipedia relies on a collection of fairly effective mechanisms which prevent clearly untrue information to gain any major weight.
  • Trust Me I’m Lying (quanticle.net, 2)
    In 2012, Ryan Holiday published a book called “Trust Me I’m Lying”, in which he explained how media manipulation works in the age of blogs and social media based on his own successful method. This is an insightful review of the book (which I haven’t read) and explainer of the practices outlined by Holiday. Feels completely relevant even in 2018, even though methods for media manipulation have evolved of course.
  • How Two Years of Instagram Stories Has Altered the Way We Love, Act and Play (esquire.com, 2)
    From January this year but in no way outdated. Rather the opposite: Stories are becoming a more crucial part of many people’s social media experience, and thus increase their impact on behavior and content consumption.
  • Not enough people are paying attention to this economic trend (gatesnotes.com, 2)
    Bill Gates reviews the book “Capitalism without Capital” and highlights a major trend which is changing the rules of the global economy: The growing share of intangible assets among consumed goods (aka software) and all the consequences this has.
  • Consumption as Identity (collaborativefund.com, 1)
    People’s day-to-day choices and the companies they support are increasingly important to how they define their identities.
  • In the Tesla drama, Saudi Arabia reminds Silicon Valley of its weight (recode.net, 2)
    Will history repeat itself? During the 20th century, the Western progress and accumulation of wealth relied heavily on Saudi Arabian oil, thereby contributing to the country’s unfortunate ability to export fundamentalist religious values to all the corners of the world. Now the kingdom tries to secure its role as a continued essential enabler of global prosperity and sustainability for the 21st century. Even though one should acknowledge the small positive changes which seem to be happening in the kingdom at the moment, I’m not happy about this renewed push for global influence by a country with the ideology of Saudi Arabia.
  • New study finds it’s harder to turn off a robot when it’s begging for its life (theverge.com, 2)
    A study confirming a well-known phenomenon: Once a machine resembles certain features of another living creature (or a human being), we tend to treat it accordingly.
  • The Spacebar That Broke the Camel’s Back: Why I Switched from Mac to Windows (medium.com, 3)
    In a time in which a renewed momentum for Microsoft and a growing disappointment about Apple’s apparent negligence of the Mac product line overlap, some people are switching back. This is an educational read.
  • Every Generation Learns The Same Lessons (feld.com, 1)
    The “crypto generation” is just learning the lessons that all the previous generations had to learn as well.
  • Bitcoin’s Open Secret: Lightning Is Making Better Online Payments Possible (coindesk.com, 2)
    There is still hope that at some point, Bitcoin’s theoretical promise of fast and cheap micro-transactions will become reality.
  • What the f*** is the edge? (arcentry.com, 2)
    The edge is a computer that’s closer to you than another computer, and it’s a growing trend shaping computing.
  • Google will lose $50 million or more in 2018 from Fortnite bypassing the Play Store (techcrunch.com, 1)
    Once you offer something that people really really want, you can define your own rules and even defy the big platform gatekeepers.
  • 23 People with the World’s Most Ridiculous Job Titles (cleverism.com, 2)
    Digital Prophets, Chief Storytellers, Meme librarians, Namer of Clouds and more.
  • The Disadvantages of an Elite Education (theamericanscholar.org, 3)
    An eye-opening essay. It has a focus on US elite education, but the points of criticism expressed here are probably fairly universal.
  • The mind as a collection of algorithms (medium.com, 2)
    When trying to understand my own thinking as well as the thinking of other people, I use the analogy of algorithms. Here I explore this topic a bit.

Data of the week:

  • Smoking around the world (ourworldindata.org)
    Several fascinating visulizations of data about global consumption of cigarettes. Why are there so many smokers in Europe?

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