Welcome to issue #220 of meshedsociety weekly.
Here are this week's recommended reads!
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:
- How close are we to a smart toilet?
(versionone.vc, 3 minutes)
I let the first paragraph speak for what this piece is about: “Imagine a future, maybe 20-25 years from now, when there’s a smart toilet in every home. Picture it: the smart toilet, a device that collects our fecal matter and provides information about our health via our microbiome.” Actually, doesn’t that sound like a no-brainer?
- The Inevitable Same-ification of the Internet
(matthewstrom.com, 4 minutes)
Why do many leading websites and apps end up looking so similar to each other? It’s not a sign of a broken system, but an emergent phenomenon that arises from a few simple rules, writes Matthew Ström. He draws an analogy to birds: They don’t communicate directly with each other, but they still form a cohesive and ever-evolving flock.
- When Grown-Ups Get Caught in Teens’ AirDrop Crossfire
(theatlantic.com, 7 minutes)
Almost surprising that sending memes and other images to friends (or strangers) via AirDrop only now is becoming a wider trend.
- Augmented reality affects people’s behavior in the real world
(news.stanford.edu, 4 minutes)
Fascinating: If people see a virtual avatar sitting on a chair in front of them, they tend not to want to sit on this chair afterwards. The presence of AR content appears to linger after the goggles are taken off.
- On YouTube’s Digital Playground, an Open Gate for Pedophiles
(nytimes.com, 7 minutes)
The tech giants’ recommendation engines are increasingly becoming the worst of what tech has to offer.
- An oral history of USB, the port that changed everything
(fastcompany.com, 22 minutes)
Computer history. The early (idea) work on USB began in 1992. Then, in 1998, with the release of the iMac, Apple became the first to include USB as the only plug on its computers.
- Swedish Startup to Bring Pogo Sticks to Cities as E-Scooter Alternative
(sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com, 2 minutes)
This actually appears to be a serious undertaking. Right now I cannot really imagine people moving through cities in large numbers on pogo sticks, but I’d love to be wrong on this one.
- Tech & the Trade Wars
(om.co, 2 minutes)
The supply chains in technology are incredibly enmeshed. With the escalating trade war between the US and China, significant, complicated and expensive transitions have to be expected.
- How To Reduce Social Media
(medium.com, 2 minutes)
12 creative ways to reduce social media consumption. Among them (and possibly the least serious one): “I choose to have a windows phone”.
- Apple’s $1000 monitor stand is a massive and unnecessary PR fail
(9to5mac.com, 4 minutes)
Did Apple really not foresee why announcing a $1000 monitor stand for a $5000 monitor (instead of selling a $6000 monitor including the stand) would provoke negative and mocking reactions? It’s hard to believe. Either this is a serious case of lost contact with reality (not entirely to be ruled out for that company), or: Could this have been a deliberate provocation of outrage which only looks like a PR fail, but in reality is simply a way to make people pay attention to the company’s new high end display? Because this clearly worked. The Apple brand is strong enough that there won’t be any serious damage anyway.
- The iPad turnaround
(medium.com, 4 minutes)
Meanwhile, the iPad is taken seriously again by Apple.
- How does Apple privately find offline devices?
(blog.cryptographyengineering.com, 7 minutes)
I hope you excuse this issue’s large amount of Apple-related pieces. But this is really interesting: For the new “find my” feature, Apple turns its existing network of iPhones into a massive crowdsourced location tracking system. “Every active iPhone will continuously monitor for Bluetooth Low Energy beacon messages that might be coming from a lost device”. It does sound like having potential for a privacy nightmare, but the company claims that the system actually does provide strong privacy.
- Problems with Tesla’s dashboard touch screens
(fastcompany.com, 6 minutes)
One of the issues pointed out here: Unlike with physical buttons, the Tesla’s touch screen makes no-look operation impossible—which raises the stakes for any non-ideal button positioning.
- Uber eats Uber Eats, embedding it in the main app
(techcrunch.com, 3 minutes)
Just a speculation, but could Uber be tempted to try to become another “super app”? In North America and Europa, there so far isn’t one.
- How Early-Stage VCs Decide Where to Invest
(wired.com, 8 minutes)
An informative excerpt from the new book “Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It”, by Andreessen Horowitz’ managing partner Scott Kupor. According to him, the fundamental question VCs are trying to answer is this: “Why back this founder against this problem set versus waiting to see who else may come along with a better organic understanding of the problem?”
- Jevons paradox
(en.wikipedia.org, 12 minutes)
This is new for me and quite a useful concept/mental model for understanding certain trends: Jevons paradox occurs when technological progress or government policy increases the efficiency with which a resource is used (reducing the amount necessary for any one use), but the rate of consumption of that resource rises due to increasing demand.
- The Collapsing Crime Rates of the ’90s Might Have Been Driven by Cellphones
(theatlantic.com, 6 minutes)
A new theory: The arrival of mobile phones made holding territory for gangs in the US less important, which reduced intergang conflict and lowered profits from drug sales.
- The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan
(wired.com, 16 minutes)
The author did an epic walk, 620 miles alone across Japan, over six weeks. To be able to use digital networks for sharing without being used by them (and lose the meditative, contemplative experience), he came up with a couple of very creative solutions (thanks Moritz for pointing me to this one).
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