Weekly Links & Thoughts #188

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 Most Important Survival Skill for the Next 50 Years (gq.com, 11 minutes)
    Yuval Harari is kind of all over the place right now. In my opinion, rightly so (but he also seems to have hired someone with amazing PR skills). Even though I’ve read his most recent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, I still found this interview with him highly interesting to read. Harari explains that he considers emotional intelligence and mental balance to be the most important skills needed to handle the upcoming decades. “The hardest challenges will be psychological”.
  • Why Animal Extinction Is Crippling Computer Science (wired.com, 4 minutes)
    Fascinating perspective from a computer scientist: Animals represent biological problem-solving algorithms created by natural selection. When a species is lost because of questionable human behavior, it’s also the loss of algorithmic secrets.
  • The Coders Programming Themselves Out of a Job (theatlantic.com, 10 minutes)
    The other type of automation: The one that isn’t forced on people, but that people (primarily programmers) create themselves. It’s not always appreciated and sometimes does backfire.
  • The Myth of The Infrastructure Phase (usv.com, 7 minutes)
    A very smart framework. The history of new technologies shows that apps beget infrastructure, not the other way around. It’s not that first we build all the infrastructure, and once we have the infrastructure we need, we begin to build apps. It’s exactly the opposite.
  • How Bird & Lime can build moats (blog.usejournal.com, 8 minutes)
    How to compete and differentiate in the (over?)hyped field of dockless e-scooters.
  • How a Small Start-Up Reverse-Engineered Swedish Banks and Hacked Its Way to Over 500,000 Users (netguru.co, 3 minutes)
    The Swedish startup Tink reverse-engineered the non-public APIs of the banks, aggregating data (mostly account details and savings rates) from the top 30 banks in Sweden into one single place and built it into an app. Instead of suing Tink, the banks started cooperating with it.
  • For Rent: 98-Square-Foot BR in Co-Living Apt., Community Included (wsj.com, 5 minutes)
    Flat sharing is now being branded as “co-living” targeting millenials, enhanced with services and turned into big, tech-powered business.
  • Data Factories (stratechery.com, 11 minutes)
    What is Facebook? A data factory. It processes data from its raw form to something uniquely valuable both to Facebook’s products and also to advertisers.
  • World’s Oldest Torrent Still Alive After 15 Years (torrentfreak.com, 3 minutes)
    Being covered as the oldest torrent still alive by the media comes with the perk of people seeding it as a torrent just for the sake of it.
  • The Rise of Netflix Competitors Has Pushed Consumers Back Toward Piracy (motherboard.vice.com, 3 minutes)
    Apropos torrents: They seem to experience a kind of comeback, caused by exclusivity streaming deals which mean that people would have to subscribe to and pay for not only one but several streaming services at once to get access to the most talked about shows.
  • In Praise of Mediocrity (nytimes.com, 4 minutes)
    Tim Wu laments the loss of the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.
  • Risk Management (collaborativefund.com, 4 minutes)
    “Risk management comes down to serially avoiding decisions that can’t easily be reversed, whose downsides will demolish you and prevent recovery.”
  • Your Work Is the Only Thing That Matters (medium.com, 7 minutes)
    Ryan Holiday (author of “The obstacle is the way” and “Daily stoic”), points out an unintended consequence of, what one might call, total brand and business control for creatives: It diverts attention away from the most essential part of any creative profession: Making great stuff.
  • “Social network” of brains lets people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads (technologyreview.com, 5 minutes)
    Scientists have created a network that allows three individuals to send and receive information directly to their brains.
  • Fitbit may have helped catch a killer, again (techcrunch.com, 2 minutes)
    If someone who wears a fitness tracker or health monitoring smartwatch dies, the device can help the authorities to figure out whether the death is the cause of a crime or not. If these devices keep catching on, investigators can rejoice.

Quotation of the week:

  • If politics becomes a behavioural science of triggers and emotional nudges it’s reasonable to assume this would most benefit candidates with the least consistent principles, the ones who make the flexible campaign promises.
    Jamie Bartlett in “The war between technology & democracy (medium.com, 17 minutes)

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