Weekly Links & Thoughts #186

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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  • The European Union Versus the Internet (stratechery.com, 15 minutes)
    Ben Thompson makes strong arguments for why the European Union is misunderstanding regulation of the internet and tech giants (caveat: see my comment for the next article). At the end of the piece he suggests a much smarter approach than the one currently favored by Europe’s politicians.
  • EU’s Copyright Directive and the P2P Internet (staltz.com, 6 minutes)
    However, one reason why I am not extremely worried about the consequences of this kind of bad regulation is explained well here. In short: The decrease of user experience as a result of new regulation could eventually kill the “old” internet (the one dominated by giant centralized platforms) and pave the way for a new iteration which circumvents this regulation by design. While I am writing this, I’m starting to wonder if the hidden intention of the EU’s regulation might in fact be to decrease the user experience of the likes of Facebook and Google to the point at which users will flee these services. Seen from that perspective, any criticism of the latest regulatory measures (such as the one voiced by Ben Thompson) would entirely miss the point. Because then the regulation would neither be primarily aimed at protecting copyright nor at being balanced, pragmatic and at finding a good compromise for all parties. Instead, it would be meant to actively sabotage the workings of today’s commercial internet, while simply accepting plenty of collateral damage. This wouldn’t have to be an explicit “hidden agenda”. It’s enough if this scenario would be discussed during informal backroom conversations and would exist in the collective awareness of the members of the EU parliament. No one can just say “We want the U.S. tech giants to lose a lot of users so they eventually will go where MySpace went”. But this might exactly be what some people hope for.
  • How AI changed organ donation in the US (qz.com, 19 minutes)
    Insightful and educational read about one of the success stories of AI: Enabling the creation of complex organ donor chains to more effectively match donors and those in need. Lots of lives have been saved.
  • This AI Predicts Obesity Prevalence—All the Way from Space (singularityhub.com, 3 minutes)
    How does the AI predict obesity prevalence when looking at satellite images? Correlations between the physical makeup of a neighborhood and the prevalence of obesity. Lots of things that could skew the results, but fascinating approach in any case.
  • Forget the new iPhones, Apple’s best product is now privacy (fastcompany.com, 8 minutes)
    In the current climate and with all the issues surrounding big tech, it is almost comically easy for Apple to position themselves as the “better” guys. And at least to some extend and from the point of someone who can afford Apple products, there is truth to it.
  • The $1,500 iPhone (500ish.com, 7 minutes)
    Speaking about Apple: M.G. Siegler discusses the decline and subsequent explosion of the iPhone price and outlines Apple’s path towards one day potentially launching a monthly subscription offering akin to Amazon Prime – but for Apple’s products and services. By the way: Who invented the iPhone? At least if you look at the technological achievements that underpinned it, many people.
  • What cardiologists think about the Apple Watch’s heart-tracking feature (washingtonpost.com, 4 minutes)
    One more Apple thing: The Apple Watch Series 4’s heart-tracking feature (initially only available in the U.S.) is cool. But there is at least a small risk that it will create lots of hypochondriacs and cause many unnecessary visits to the doctor. However it will for sure also lead to a few necessary visits to the doctor. So it is benefits vs costs.
  • The strength of a monopoly can be guessed at by calling customer support (blogs.harvard.edu, 2 minutes)
    Intriguing point.
  • Are Ride-hailing Platforms Keeping their Drivers Honest? (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    The frequent occurrence of dishonest taxi drivers is one of the main reasons why people in many countries choose on-demand transportation services such as Uber. A study tried to find out whether Uber drivers really are less prone to taking advantage of riders. Turns out, yes.
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You (commoncog.com, 15 minutes)
    A critical review of the concepts and strategies proposed in the 2012 book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” written by Cal Newport about how to personally become successful and have a fulfilling profession. The overall philosophy described by Newport is solid.
  • It’s Like Amazon, But for Preschool’ (hackeducation.com, 4 minutes).
    For those of you who enjoy cynical commentary on tech billionaire’s philanthropic endeavors. In this specific case, Jeff Bezos and other’s who target the education “market”.
  • 100 Days of Digital Minimalism (nickwignall.com, 9 minutes)
    Whether one agrees with his radical approach or not (no podcasts?! 😱), it’s an inspiring read.
  • Cycling Is Key to Safer, Healthier, More Vital Cities (citylab.com, 11 minutes)
    Cities that are built around cycling as a primary means of non-pedestrian transportation are clearly doing it right. Related read: Life in the Spanish city that banned cars.
  • Proof of Work is Efficient (medium.com, 11 minutes)
    A contrarian, in-depth take on the common narrative of Bitcoin and other crypto currencies being highly energy-inefficient.
  • What was the one book that you read and it actually changed your life? (news.ycombinator.com)
    Lots of contributions to this comment thread on Hacker News.
  • What Most Remote Companies Don’t Tell You About Remote Work (blog.doist.com, 9 minutes)
    Remote work clearly is not for everybody. This post depicts the experience of someone who clearly belongs into an office surrounded by colleagues. I on the other hand have a hard time imagining ever working non-remotely again. I’ve done it for 8 years now and I love it. There is no one-size fits all solution. In the ideal world, all information workers would get the chance to find their best setup, and thrive.
  • Amazon Maintains Smart Speaker Market Share Lead, Apple Rises Slightly to 4.5% (voicebot.ai, 4 minutes)
    Numbers for the U.S.: “Amazon Echo device share stands at 64.6% with Google Home products is use by 19.6% of smart speaker owners. Apple HomePod has been adopted by 4.5% of smart speaker owners while 11.3% say they have access to a smart speaker that is not made by Amazon, Google or Apple. “
  • How WhatsApp Destroyed a Village (buzzfeednews.com, 25 minutes)
    How does WhatsApp exactly contribute to lynchings in India (which, by the way, happened also before WhatsApp existed)? This feature offers a good understanding of the situation and of the challenges that arise when people in areas where a lack of education, media/internet literacy and trust in authorities prevails, suddenly are carrying a powerful device which connects them to everybody else.

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