Weekly Links & Thoughts #187

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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  • Why the Apple Watch Series 4 is a big deal (thealeph.com, 6 minutes)
    While the first versions of the Apple Watch were a solution looking for a problem, with the Series 4, Apple really has made clear what it will be good for: to help people to live healthier lives in a radically changing world which requires people to take care of themselves and to stay fit. The author makes a great point when he writes: “Apple didn’t come out with a compact ECG to compete with hospitals. What Apple wants is to skip hospitals altogether through an early detection system.” The company is ahead of the curve, plus it can leverage its pro-privacy positioning. This is much harder for Google/Android. And “indies” such as Fitbit will struggle anyway to compete with Apple head on, so they must look for niches.
  • FOMO in China is a $7 billion industry (marketplace.org, 7 minutes)
    The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) that the headline refers to is a particular kind of FOMO: one of fearing to miss out on information and knowledge that can bring people ahead. As a consequence, there is a thriving “pay-for-knowledge” (podcast) economy in China.
  • Startup Nation? Entrepreneurs Still Toil in Macron’s France (bloomberg.com, 4 minutes)
    Changing a culture takes much longer than a few years. I’d like to propose a “readiness test” for the mostly export oriented European countries to understand at which point a nation really is ready to become a “startup nation” (which would mean global success and recognition): if the lingua franca within the ecosystem (and for example on conferences) is not the country’s native language, but English; even when two natives talk to each other within a business context. Unless this is the case, it’s impossible to break out of local cultural programming and thinking patterns, to attract large numbers of startup-minded foreign talent, and to fully internalize the necessary mindsets. I’m not claiming that language is the only important criteria. By far. But I consider it a Litmus test.
  • Artificial Intelligence Will Keep Our Loved Ones Alive (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    This will very likely happen, and people might be shocked how little data from text conversations will be needed in order to create a bot which at least in 80 % of the situations resembles an actual person.
  • Computers can solve your problem. You may not like the answer. (apps.bostonglobe.com, 11 minutes)
    The Boston Public Schools used an algorithm to reconfigure start times in order to make more efficient use of buses required for transportation to the school. The algorithm was created by the MIT and promised racial equity. It seemed to be a smart solution for BPS – except that many parents didn’t like the changing start times suggested by the algorithm. It’s an interesting aspect of the increasing use of algorithms in society: They might present humans with objectively better solutions for certain tasks or processes, but require an openness to change among people which isn’t the norm.
  • Amazon just pulled an Apple on the smart home (staceyoniot.com, 7 minutes)
    Amazon is taking over the smart home by getting both developers and manufacturers on board and providing an outstanding user experience. But of course, given Amazon’s dominance, from a macro perspective, this is not necessarily something to be celebrated.
  • Want to See What’s Up Amazon’s Sleeve? Take a Tour of Seattle (nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
    Seattle is a special city. As the home of Amazon, it is the place where the giant tests various stationary retail and logistics concepts.
  • Revolut’s Nikolay Storonsky Is Building The Amazon Of Banking (forbes.com, 6 minutes)
    Profile of one of Europe’s most interesting startups right now (at least for a b2c fintech fan like me).
  • The Post-Sale Stay-Period (avc.com, 2 minutes)
    When a startup is acquired, this is a logical step for most founders to make their own exit, writes Fred Wilson. The fact that the Instagram founders stayed with the buyer Facebook for a whole 6 years after the acquisition actually is astonishing.
  • How to have a good conversation (marginalrevolution.com, 2 minutes)
    Do you favor the common approach to “good” conversations or Tyler Cowen’s suggestions?
  • Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room (quantamagazine.com, 7 minutes)
    It is still ridiculously easy to confuse an AI. Here it was done by adding a picture of an elephant into a living room scene and to task a computer vision algorithm with correctly identifying the objects it saw. It totally failed.
  • Why McDonalds & Starbucks are All-In on Native Mobile Apps (medium.freecodecamp.org, 5 minutes)
    It’s a bit of an obvious read, but it raises awareness about a phenomenon which I only recently became consciously aware of: Restaurant chains (at least here in Sweden even smaller ones) release their own native mobile apps, which sometimes include exclusive discounts and other goodies to incentivize people to download and spread the word about it. Remarkable that it took 10 years since the launch of the app economy for this to become a major trend (or for me to realize this).
  • The Problem with Facebook Is Facebook (logicmag.io, 13 minutes)
    Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy” says in this interview that all the negative effects that Facebook has on society and which emerged over the past years are not mistakes – they’re fulfillments of a vision. They happen by design.
  • The Mines (pedestrianobservations.com, 4 minutes)
    A fascinating analogy: People moving to San Francisco or the Silicon Valley to work in tech is similar to how in the past ambitious young man went to work in the mines for a few years to earn an income with which they went back home. The various issues that the Bay Area is struggling with are at least in part a consequence of this.
  • How Dieselgate saved Germany’s car industry (theverge.com, 4 minutes)
    Imagine if in the end, Dieselgate would in fact turn out to be the thing that the German car industry needed to free itself from the innovator’s dilemma.
  • 13 cities that are starting to ban cars (weforum.org, 7 minutes)
    This is not a list of cities that want to ban cars completely at this point, but that are limiting car access at least temporarily or in certain areas. It’s a good trend.
  • The Publisher’s Patron: How Google’s News Initiative Is Re-Defining Journalism (en.ejo.ch, 13 minutes)
    “How did Google become so popular among publishers? The answer could be money. Google appears to have turned itself into a Renaissance-style patron of journalism. It is rare that a private company hands out so much cash to other private companies, with apparently so few conditions.”
  • Apple News Is Giving the Media Everything It Wants—Except Money (slate.com, 12 minutes)
    Apple News has been kind of an under-the-radar service. But it appears to become increasingly important for many publishers. However, there is a catch: “Slate makes more money from a single article that gets 50,000 page views on its site than it has from the 54 million page views it has had on Apple News this calendar year.

Quotation of the week:

  • If you have food, friends, and a comfortable place to live, you are all set to live an incredible life. Everything you buy, and every experience and commitment you add to the plate beyond this point is a tradeoff: a guaranteed reduction in cash and free time, in exchange for a possible increase in thrills delivered by fun or novelty.
    Peter Adeney in “Why you should Get your Shit Together Before you Make it Big” (mrmoneymustache.com, 8 minutes)

Podcast episode of the week:

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