Weekly Links & Thoughts #182

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 Tyranny of the Coming Smart-Tech Utopia (blogs.scientificamerican.com, 2)
    The author of this piece makes a thought-provoking point: In order to thrive, humans need friction in their lives. But the tech industry is focused on eliminating every single occurrence of friction. What will happen to our human experience in case one day all friction will be gone?
  • The robots won’t take over because they couldn’t care less (aeon.co, 2)
    Robots lack intrinsical motivation and the feeling of satisfaction when accomplishing tasks, which is why they won’t actually take control over the world, argues Margaret Boden.
  • “Coerced into tipping”? How apps are changing the culture of tipping in SF (sfgate.co, 2)
    Tablet-based point of sale payment systems such as Square coerce people into paying higher tips than what they otherwise would have done, or to tip on purchases which previously wouldn’t have been subject to tipping.
  • The 30 % Tax (avc.com, 1)
    That Apple and Google are still able to require 30 % (or in certain scenarios 15 %) of the revenues generated on the App Store and Play Store is quite scandalous, in my opinion. I’m hoping that Netflix’ current experiment as well as Fortnite’s similarly motivated circumvention of the Play Store mark the beginning of a bigger trend, which eventually forces the two gatekeepers to significantly lower their cut.
  • Gartner’s Great Vanishing: Some of 2017’s emerging techs just disappeared (theregister.co.uk, 2)
    There is something wrong with the hype cycle.
  • After the Bitcoin Boom: Hard Lessons for Cryptocurrency Investors (nytimes.com, 2)
    Lots of late-stage crypto speculators are facing financial ruin.
  • We can’t all be friends: crypto and the psychology of mass movements (tonysheng.com, 3)
    Reflections about the tribalism and conflicts within the crypto sphere, which now, in the light of the crash, are in full swing.
  • Venezuelan Petro: An unfortunate start for government-backed cryptoccurrencies (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Venezuela is the first country with a state-backed cryptocurrency. But the country’s “Petro” sets a problematic example not only for its investors but also for the cryptocurrencies as whole.
  • Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, New Research Suggests (nytimes.com, 3)
    By now everybody has realized that large-scale one-to-many social networks are quite a trade-off between positive and negative effects. While many of the positive outcomes had been understood early, nowadays, more and more of the negative outcomes become evident (see also: the situation with Facebook in Myanmar). How many more will emerge? How many more should society be willing to accept? And what can there even be done to stop this, if a hypothetical consensus would emerge that positive effects wouldn’t justify the numerous negative outcomes?
  • Who needs democracy when you have data? (technologyreview.com, 3)
    Hopefully, a combination of democracy (possibly with some necessary iterations) and data will turn out to be a better approach.
  • When China Rules the Web (foreignaffairs.com, 2)
    If China’s rise in the technology sphere continues, the Internet will be less global and less open. A major part of it will run Chinese applications over Chinese-made hardware. And Beijing will reap the economic, diplomatic, national security, and intelligence benefits that once flowed to Washington.
  • Connect‘s Julian Gough: We’re Being Algorithmically Sorted & Controlled (unboundworlds.com, 3)
    A wide-ranging interview with the author of the science fiction book Connect, touching the topics of Minecraft (for which he wrote the ending), challenges of the future, gene editing with CRISPR, the surveillance society and manipulation through social media.
  • The World’s Most Disruptive Technology, Part 2: Quantum Computing (abovethelaw.com, 2)
    A lawyer’s perspective on Quantum Computing.
  • An Open Letter to Elon Musk (thriveglobal.com, 2)
    After Elon Musk’s unusual and revealing interview from last week in which he admitted that he’s not feeling very well right now, Arianna Huffington recommends him to work more efficiently – and less. Meanwhile, here is a rather skeptical assessment of what Musk said during the interview and of the media’s way in dealing with him.
  • Teaching iteration (m.signalvnoise.com, 2)
    A nice idea: Jason Fried would like to see the education system to teach the principles of iteration and problem solving.
  • Resilience (sethlevine.com, 1)
    Venture Capitalist Seth Levine writes that the most important feature of a successful entrepreneur is resilience. I’d add that this might even be one of the most important features of a successful human being, in general.
  • Drawing a Larger Circle (president.yale.edu, 2)
    An inspiring speech given by Peter Salovey, President of Yale University, earlier this year, on the importance of increasing the size of one’s social circle and the benefit of engaging in several circles at the same time in order to achieve greater “self-complexity.

Podcast episode of the week:

  • The Knowledge Project: Thinking About Thinking with Tyler Cowen
    This is the second time I am recommending a podcast interview with the economist, author, NYT columnist and frequent traveler Tyler Cowen. When he says things, I always find myself listening unusually carefully. During the talk, he drops the term “epistemological modesty”, which I instantly love. It refers to the knowledge of how little we know and can know. More here.

Quotation of the week:

  • “In the ’70s, Ford sold a car whose fuel tank had the propensity to explode in the event of a rear-end collision. Instead of quickly doing a complete recall of the Ford Pinto, some beancounters in Dearborn, Michigan, found out that it would be less expensive to deal with lawsuits resulting from accidents than making the necessary change on the cars. When it comes to fighting misinformation Facebook is making exactly the same kind of calculation.”
    Frederic Filloux in “Facebook’s Flawed DNA Makes It Unable to Fight Misinformation” (mondaynote.com, 2)

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