Weekly Links & Thoughts #183

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
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  • Programming My Child (bostonreview.net, 3)
    Amazing essay which manages to capture and convey the fascinating similarities of a developing child and a maturing complex network of algorithms – and which also explains at which point the analogy suddenly ends. This is one of those pieces that has the potential to seriously advance one’s perspective if one allows it to happen. One of many good remarks from the text: “Now that large systems such as Google and Facebook are persisting and growing for years and decades, we can contemplate the possibility of an evolving, maturing network whose intelligence is not intrinsic to its algorithms but lies in its evolved complexity, developed over great periods of time and through repeated, varied, and error-prone interactions with the world—just like a child.
  • The best life hack for 2018 that isn’t on any life hack list (medium.freecodecamp.org, 2)
    Praising touch typing – a skill which is extremely useful, while at the same time totally underappreciated by those who have learned it once and today just take it for granted. Reading this made me remember how I taught myself touch typing as a teenager with a CD-ROM course.
  • The Approval Economy (zandercutt.com, 2)
    It has become almost impossible to detach any action from the external approval that will accompany it. The best way to sell a discretionary good in a saturated market is to convince people that others will approve of them if they purchase that good.
  • The four ways that ex-internet idealists explain where it all went wrong (technologyreview.com, 2)
    A fun read (despite the unfortunate topic) for ex-internet idealists like myself. Personally I find myself somewhere in between the 4 options given, possibly with a tilt towards the “revisionist”.
  • Hackable humans and digital dictators: Q&A with Yuval Noah Harari (aljazeera.com, 2)
    I particularly love what Harari says about “culturism”. Culture is not about biology. Cultures change and adapt. Even if one is born into a particular culture, it doesn’t mean that for the rest of your life one can’t change their worldview, morality, behavior.
  • The struggle of VR (innospective.net, 2)
    At the moment, there still is too much wrong with VR for it to finally evolve past its notorious status as eternal “next big thing”. Although even among techies, the excitement is waning.
  • Understanding What Artificial Intelligence Actually Sees (hackernoon.com, 2)
    Intelligibly illustrations of the trickiness of making sure that an image recognition AI sees the “right” thing.
  • Some Techies Are Shunning Silicon Valley for the Japanese Dream (bloomberg.com, 2)
    There is no indication that this might be a bigger trend, but it is an interesting read nonetheless. Hard to deny the fascination that Japan can have.
  • People Spent 85 Billion Hours In WhatsApp In The Past 3 Months (Versus 31 Billion In Facebook) (forbes.com, 1)
    Let that number (and the comparison to Facebook) sink in.
  • Why “Uber for X” startups failed: The supply side is king (andrewchen.co, 1)
    Rideshare has better economics, at the same acquisition cost, than many other sectors.
  • Everybody lies in the Blockchain and AI industries (medium.com, 2)
    Lying is probably widespread in all industries surrounding a seemingly “magical”, hyped, emerging technology.
  • Vodacom launches Africa’s first commercial 5G service in Lesotho (venturebeat.com, 1)
    The kingdom of Lesotho is now one of the few countries on Earth that already has a commercial 5G service. Good example of leapfrogging.
  • How TripAdvisor changed travel (theguardian.com, 3)
    Undoubtedly, TripAdvisor is one of the most impactful online services in existence.
  • Paradise Lost: How Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love (spiegel.de, 3)
    In Europe and elsewhere, over-tourism is becoming a serious issue, fueled by technology.
  • ‘I hate them’: Locals reportedly frustrated with Alphabet’s self-driving cars (cnbc.com, 1)
    Something tourists in some places and self-driving cars have in common: They annoy the locals.
  • In Defense of Feeling Bad (medium.com, 2)
    “If we’re unwilling to experience emotional pain—constantly trying to manage and control how we feel—we’re teaching our brain to fear any and every uncomfortable emotion.”
  • What to Do When Algorithms Rule (behavioralscientist.org, 3)
    From the wish to control a space capsule’s angle of attack on re-entry, to unwillingness to get into a lift without an operator, the reluctance to have our decisions and actions replaced by automated systems extends through a range of human activity and decision-making.
  • Norway’s plan for a fleet of electric planes (bbc.com, 2)
    Please, yes. It’s hard nowadays to fly with a good conscious when knowing how much harm it does to the environment. But giving up on flying is just not an option. For me at least. I love it too much. I’m not willing to make this sacrifice. The way out of that dilemma would be: much cleaner planes.

Quotation of the week:

  • “Things can be both relative and absolute in relation to each other. The differences we see are matters of perspective, the speed of personal growth, directionality, our ability to observe. Increasing entropy is nothing but a lack of observational capacity. There is _always_ an integral view. Always the shift you can make to understand even if you don’t agree. “
    By Max Niederhofer in “Spacetime and the order of things” (blog.maxniederhofer.com, 1)

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