Weekly Links & Thoughts #64

Here is a weekly selection of thoughtful opinion pieces, interesting analyses and significant yet under-reported information bits from the digital and technology world. Published and annotated every Thursday (CET), just in time so you have something good to read during the weekend.

If you want to make sure not to miss this link selection, do like about 200 other smart people and sign up for free for the weekly email. It is sent out each Thursday right after this post goes live, including all the links. Example.

  • Disrupt Emergency Alert Systems — #brusselsattack
    A thought-provoking piece describing how the civil and official emergency alert systems need to be improved with the help of digital technology in order to let everyone act faster and more constructive in the case of a terrorist attack or other major incident.
  • New Technologies as Social Experiments: An Ethical Framework
    An excellent point: Companies which create drugs are heavily regulated and forced to conduct extensive trials before being able to launch new products. Technology gadgets on the other hand, while being massive drivers of large-scale social change, do not have to deal with any comparable requirements. Thus ethical considerations become extremely important when bringing a new technology to the market.
  • Two Years Later: Facebook’s Oculus Acquisition Has Changed Virtual Reality Forever
    If Facebook neither any other technology giant would have acquired the VR startup Oculus VR 2 years ago, maybe only a few hardcore gamers would talk about VR today. A quite remarkable realization actually. On the other hand, the rise of VR would only have been postponed by a few years max, I guess.
  • Why Google Wants to Sell Its Robots: Reality Is Hard
    The recent news that Google is looking for a buyer for its robotics subsidiary Boston Dynamics surprised me initially. This article offers a reasonable explanation for what motivates Google: It’s really hard to build that kind of stuff. However, I would not rule out that another contributing factor is Google’s realization that being associated with creepy-looking robots does damage its public image.
  • Chartbeat Study: How News Consumption Gets Less Diverse Around Major Events
    During major news events, the infamous filter bubble is becoming more pronounced.
  • The Uber Model, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Translate
    It looks as if with the end of the Unicorn hype, even the startup philosphy of being the “Uber for X” has reached the end of its short life cycle.
  • Learning from Tay
    Tay is an experimental chatbot launched by Microsoft mimicking the personality of a 19-year old American girl. Users on Twitter and some other platforms can interact with it and thus help it to improve its understanding of human communication. It took not more than 24 hours until Tay was transformed by Twitter users into a troll with very questionable “opinions”. Fascinating, disconcerting and enlightening at the same time.
  • Notes on Apple’s refresh – cheaper iPhones and iPads for real work
    I don’t think anyone gets really excited anymore about Apple’s product updates for the iPhone and iPad, but this is a thoughtful analysis of the latest additions.
  • AlphaGo and the Clash of Civilizations
    This is a less discussed angle regarding the win of a computer over the world’s Go champion, and a thought-provoking one: In Asia, the victory of a machine over a human could be seen as a victory of Western technology over Eastern culture.
  • World’s biggest startup? Samsung Electronics to reform corporate culture
    Speaking about Eastern culture: Samsung, South Korea’s juggernaut which employs 300.000 people worldwide and is known for its strict and hierarchical work culture, has decided it wants to become more like a startup. That means moving away from a top-down culture and towards a working environment that fosters open dialogue. Sounds like quite a challenge.
  • Google Self-Driving Car Will Be Ready Soon for Some, in Decades for Others
    While market-ready self-driving cars might become available within a few years in specific areas characterized by ideal conditions, most people will probably have to wait many more decades, according to the director of Google’s self-driving car project.
  • Zalando: the online fashion retail giant that’s trying very hard not to stay an online fashion retail giant
    Berlin-based Zalando, launched as a Zappos clone, is turning into one of Europe’s most successful and exciting tech companies.
  • The mobile games industry is kept afloat by less than 1% of users
    I am not aware of any other major field of the technology industry with such a high dependency on a very small percentage of the total users.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Nixes Idea of Expanding 140-Character Limit
    In my eyes this is a missed opportunity, but I realize that the Twitter management must be scared to change the product in a way which would lead to uncontrollable and hard to predict consequences.
  • Niuws meets Slack
    I apologize for the shameless plug, but some of you might find this interesting: At Niuws, the curated news service that I work for, we have just launched a neat integration with Slack. You can now read the carefully selected articles from our currently 61 expert curators right inside Slack. Most of the content is German at the moment though. Feel free to get in touch if you want to curate a topic in English.

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