Weekly Links & Thoughts #190

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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Please 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).

  • Please Purchase My Personal Data From Me Directly (mcsweeneys.net, 4 minutes)
    Cutting out the middle men aka the big tech platforms. Actually, why not?!
  • Why Doctors Reject Tools That Make Their Jobs Easier (blogs.scientificamerican.com, 7 minutes)
    There was a time when doctors rejected the use of the thermometer and preferred to define whether a patient had fever by feel alone.
  • Movement rises to keep humans, not robots, in the driver’s seat (freep.com, 7 minutes)
    People who don’t want to give up driving a car themselves because they love it so much. Depending on how many they’ll become and how much influence they will be able to gain, this could become yet another serious obstacle for the protagonists of the self-driving car race.
  • The amazing ascent of Priscilla Chan (qz.com, 26 minutes)
    A very interesting profile of Priscilla Chan and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which she runs together with her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Gotta admire when a romantic couple manages to be a great team even in professional regards, which certainly seems to be the case here.
  • Pack Experience (ribbonfarm.com, 15 minutes)
    A fascinating sociological perspective! The offline world is designed around “pack experience” – families ride in cars together, groups of coworkers, take elevators together, dating couples go to movies in pairs. The internet is disrupting this default mode. Online, individual experience reigns supreme. Disruptions of higher-order social realities, at troop, tribe, or nation-state levels, can all be traced back to pack-level disruptions.
  • Five Questions for rethinking civilization (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    This is the beginning of an upcoming ten-part series called “The Next Enlightenment”, and it provides plenty of food for thought in the form of questions such as “What kind of freedom can a solitary person achieve?” and “Why do we teach our children responsibility, but not integrity?”.
  • Instagram Has a Massive Harassment Problem (theatlantic.com, 20 minutes)
    In this long piece, Taylor Lorenz completely destroys the cliche of Instagram being the friendly, polite platform where people can exist without having to deal with trolls and harassment.
  • Interviews with former Google employees to find out why they decided to leave (businessinsider.com, 11 minutes)
    Google is widely considered as one of the best places to work. But that doesn’t mean that all employees stay forever. Here is an informative collection of individual reasons why people left Google.
  • Brave New World Revisited, Revisited (spectator.us, 6 minutes)
    While George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 is often brought up as a cautionary example for where we are headed, Huxley’s Brave New World should not be ignored – because in large parts, his vision has already come true.
  • Algorithmic merchandising will erode trust in Amazon (shift.newco.co, 7 minutes)
    Amazon is increasingly seduced by the short-term profit potential of using algorithms against customer interest.
  • Why doesn’t Silicon Valley just give Saudi Arabia its money back? (sfchronicle.com, 4 minutes)
    In the light of recent news events, Silicon Valley is finding itself in deep trouble about its close ties to Saudi Arabia. For example, the Saudi royal family owns about 14 percent of Uber, both directly and through its part-ownership of the SoftBank Vision Fund.
  • How Index Ventures became Europe’s startup success factory (wired.com, 7 minutes)
    For a VC firm with European roots, London-based Index Ventures has been remarkably successful. But judging from this portrait, the major reason for this accomplishment ironically appears to be that the firm does also operate from San Francisco, and that it sees itself as a “global firm with European outlook”.
  • The new Palm is a tiny phone to keep you away from your phone (theverge.com, 10 minutes)
    Do you feel like getting a second, tiny phone to help you get away from your main phone? Sarcastic tone aside, in the end that’s one of the promises of smartwatches as well.
  • Lord Keynes Would Be Proud (medium.com, 8 minutes)
    A clever thing suggested by the author: The most rational way to spend Bitcoin is to buy something with a regular credit card and sell just enough Bitcoin to pay the credit card bill. Ideological cryptoheads don’t like this suggestion, because it doesn’t get them closer to their libertarian utopia.
  • On Podcasts, News and Well-being (blog.amitgawande.com, 3 minutes)
    Maybe there is a case to be made to not fill every available minute of one’s day with a podcast in order to create some periods of intentional boredom? I’m undecided.
  • Scaling Audio Service: How we launched a high-quality Text-To-Speech service at NZZ (medium.com, 5 minutes)
    But nothing against audio, of course. In fact, an increasing number of people prefer to listen to newspaper articles instead of reading them. So the Swiss newspaper NZZ built a system which lets users listen to its stories. Here its head of digital product explains how it was done.
  • Noticing internal experiences (lesswrong.com, 2 minutes)
    This could be en enlightening exercise: Sitting down, observing one’s thoughts, and writing them all down, no matter whether they make sense or are connected to each other in any way.
  • Animals that are currently monitored using facial recognition technology (nymag.com, 6 minutes)
    Salmon are the latest entry in a growing cornucopia of animal faces loaded with AI into databases.

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