Welcome to meshedsociety – an occasional email in which I share some of the most informative, insightful and inspirational pieces that I've recently been stumbling on, focusing on technology, digital, and some serendipity. This is issue #238.
Like probably many of you, I've been reading a lot about the (new) coronavirus , COVID-19 and what it does to our world. In this issue of meshedsociety, I'll post some kind of a subjective "best of" of coronavirus-related articles that do fit to the overall theme of this newsletter – so no pieces focusing on the virus or illness itself. Basically, a coronavirus-free coronavirus special edition!
By the way, after last issue's experiment, I am reverting to annotating every article at least briefly.
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).
Last issue's top 3 most clicked articles:
- A Failure, But Not Of Prediction
(slatestarcodex.com, 16 minutes)
The failure in the global response to the new coronavirus wasn't one of prediction, but of properly responding to uncertainty. However, of course good predictions are pretty useful, too. Just very very hard. A few years ago I read Philip E. Tetlock's and Dan Gardner's book "Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction". It has impacted my thinking like few other books. Highly recommended if you haven't read it yet and are interested in improving the quality of predictions.
- Preserving Optionality: Preparing for the Unknown
(fs.blog, 9 minutes)
"Preserving optionality means avoiding limiting choices or dependencies. It means staying open to opportunities and always having a backup plan."
This is me. I certainly always have a backup plan. Sometimes even 2 :)
- Why Time Has Slowed
(collaborativefund.com, 3 minutes)
For many, March 2020 felt like it lasted longer than some years. February feels like a different lifetime. Morgan Housel: "Time slowed in March because for the first time since childhood many of us are being bombarded with new and surprising experiences."
(subpixel.space, 14 minutes)
The pandemic invites the inquisitive mind to some reflections, such as: Which of one's beliefs and assumptions remain unchanged? Which trends will be accelerated, which delayed, and which stopped entirely? What has become newly relevant, and what no longer matters? Here are some ideas.
- World 2.0 — “There are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen”
(marginalrevolution.com, 2 minutes)
A concise, thought-provoking list of before and after.
- What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage
(maker.medium.com, 7 minutes)
According to Will Oremus, the toilet paper shortage in many countries is less about hoarding and more about the sudden changes in demand for the two, largely separate markets: commercial and consumer toilet paper.
- How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation
I'm not usually an infographic person, but this one is great.
- How Chinese Apps Handled Covid-19
(dangrover.com, 17 minutes)
In China, apps played a pivotal role in supporting some of the most effective tactics the country used in fighting Covid-19.
- The rise of the bio-surveillance state
(newstatesman.com, 8 minutes)
This is the downside. Gloomy.
- The Coming Age of Dispersion
(quillette.com, 11 minutes)
One possible consequence from the coronavirus pandemic is an acceleration of the end of the megacity era: "In the future, cities may not be defined as physical places but as what MIT’s late futurist William Mitchell described as 'cities of bits.'"
- The Rise of Lifestyle Streamers
(a16z.com, 8 minutes)
As the shelter-in-place restrictions have tethered many people to their homes, livestreaming—broadcasting user-created video in real time—has skyrocketed. And nowadays, livestreaming isn't synonymous with gaming anymore.
- How Coronavirus Infected My Brain
(jborichevskiy.com, 7 minutes)
On anxiety, the internet, and keeping up-to-date with complex situations.
- Virtual worlds: Can we travel without travelling?
(bbc.com, 8 minutes)
The question of how travel will change is a very interesting one. My mind is constantly jumping between "everything will be back to where it was before in a year" to "people will travel much less than before, for many years to come".
- Positional Scarcity and the Virus
(alexdanco.com, 8 minutes)
Alex Danco outlines why business travel (and higher education) might rebound more than what people think, even though now everyone has seen that a lot can be accomplished digitally, at much lower costs: Scarcity makes physical attendence valuable. E.g., getting on a plane for a meeting signals being serious. "The way we’ll finally get rid of business travel isn’t by coming up with something that’s cheaper and just as good; it’s by coming up with something that is equally expensive, or contains equal friction".
- As humans go home, Facebook and YouTube face a coronavirus crisis
(wired.co.uk, 7 minutes)
When content moderators at large tech companies are forced to stop working due to a pandemic, they cannot correct the content moderation AI, and that spells trouble.
- Why Bitcoin’s Safe-Haven Narrative Has Flown Out the Window
(coindeskc.om, 5 minutes)
It never was a safe haven actually. But now we know. Although certainly one cannot be entirely sure that Bitcoin will fail as a safe haven forever.
- Inside the Strip Clubs of Instagram
(nytimes.com, 6 minutes)
Many bars and strip clubs were forced to close nearly overnight around much of the world. Thousands of bartenders, bottle service girls and dancers have been left with no income. As with many other organizations, from elementary schools to Twelve Step meetings, strip clubs have also sought to recreate the experience digitally.
- Why games like Animal Crossing are the new social media of the coronavirus era
(technologyreview.com, 5 minutes)
Can't deny: A few days ago the thought hit me that I wish I had a Nintendo Switch.
Thanks for subscribing, take care!
P.S. another newsletter that I create: Swedish Tech Weekly.