Welcome to issue #229 of meshedsociety weekly.
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I hope you are doing well! 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).
- Major Technological Changes Are Coming More Slowly Than They Once Did
(scientificamerican.com, 4 minutes)
It's a well popularized narrative by now that technological progress has been slowing down significantly over the past decades. This article stresses this point once again. Yet, at the same time, another common narrative we hear about often is pointing towards accelerating change, which leaves people struggling for stability and certainty. Can both be true at the same time? My theory is: yes. While technological change appears to be slowing and becoming more incremental, cultural, social and economical change is accelerating, fueled by the new technologies of the past decades, from the airplane and the mainframe computer to the internet and the smartphone.
- The Nightmare of Disintermediation
(medium.com, 4 minutes)
When middlemen and institutional gatekeepers are gone, they are replaced by chaos and polarization. I share the concerns laid out by Jill Carlson.
- Parlez-Vous Anglais? Yes, of Course.
(nytimes.com via msn.com, 5 minutes)
Europe is turning into a continent of people who speak English almost as good as native speakers. That has various implications.
- Jeff Bezos is quietly letting his charities do something radical — whatever they want
(vox.com, 10 minutes)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hasn’t made itself a name as a big charity giver so far. But with this, he suddenly appears to be an innovator when it comes to philanthropy.
- WeWork IPO Shows It’s the Most Magical Unicorn
(bloomberg.com, 6 minutes)
I’m extremely skeptical about WeWork’s IPO, and about WeWork as a company. There are just too many risky and even dubious aspects around this whole undertaking, and if the global economy will go into a recession which is how it looks like right now, the consequence will be lower demand for WeWork’s office real estate. Framing itself as a “tech business” won’t change any of this. Also: “WeWork isn’t a tech company; it’s a soap opera“.
- How a Norwegian Viking Comedy Producer Hacked Netflix’s Algorithm
(hollywoodreporter.com, 3 minutes)
With a carefully targeted advertising campaign on social media, producers can get Netflix' recommendation algorithm to notice their show and start promoting it.
- Your Apple Card changes colors depending on what you buy
(businessinsider.com, 1 minute)
One typical example of Apple’s attention to detail. Seemingly a minor thing, but sometimes minor things get people excited.
- Europe’s Cobbled Streets Are Breaking Scooters
(bloomberg.com, 5 minutes)
That’s quite a symbol for the occasional clash of old and new.
- The original Kindle was crazy
(fastcompany.com, 5 minutes)
Amazon's first version of the e-book reader Kindle, released in 2007, "got a lot of things wrong but it was daring. It was unapologetically strange".
- Disregard ideas, acquire assets
(blog.bumblebeelabs.com, 4 minutes)
From some nobodies' genius idea to the creation of a startup that changes the world? Not the way how things usually go. Here is a plea for a new startup narrative to emerge: “One that focuses on the less sexy aspects of building a startup which is the 10 years before you write the first piece of code."
- Promise of “instant”
(blog.amitgawande.com, 1 minute)
Amit Gawande laments the lack of patience in an age of instant, which “has ruined us”. I have a different view on this. In my eyes, there are at least 2 types of patience: Waiting for the pay offs of one’s work (whether on oneself or external projects), and waiting for things one needs. I consider the first type a virtue. The latter type however, seems to be mostly a mental hack to make a virtue out of necessity. Have to wait for 4 hours to get your 5 minutes at the doctor? Be patient! Have to wait one week to get the thing you bought online? Be patient! Have to wait one day until your bank transfer has been processed? Be patient! In these cases, there is nothing inherently virtuous or positive in waiting; no personal growth attached to it. The better solution would be to actually improve the processes, so people don’t have to wait for things and can use their time for more enjoyable things.
- Twelve Virtues of Rationality
(yudkowsky.net, 10 minutes)
Apropos virtues: Rather deep guide outlining the different parts that make a rational thinker and debater.
- The 2 “Oh Shit!s”
(medium.com, 9 minutes)
“Oh shit” is the first reaction when people realize that a system designed from a trust approach (such as Wikipedia) actually can work out fairly well, writes Jerry Michalski.
- A new book asserts that rich countries grow with lighter environmental impacts
(technologyreview.com, 4 minutes)
“Andrew McAfee makes a strong case that some long-held assumptions about the inevitable costs of growth are simplistic and frequently wrong. And while it may clash with some of our deeply ingrained intuitions, it’s clear that technology can play, and perhaps must play, a role in solving some of the same problems it creates.”
- Inside the Hidden World of Hacking Elevator Phones
(wired.com, 9 minutes)
US elevators are legally mandated to have emergency call boxes. If you can determine their numbers, you can call in and chat with whoever happens to be in there.
- QAnon – A New Kind of Conspiracy
(theness.com, 6 minutes)
Compelling perspective: QAnon represents the evolution of conspiracy theories; a phenomenon that combines elements from social media, video games, and live-action role playing. Essentially, a conspiracy internet roleplaying game which blurs fiction and reality.
- His mission: Meet 10,000 people, one at a time, for an hour at a time
(inquirer.com, 6 minutes)
Interesting experiment. It’s probably quite fun if one, like this guy, is a “full-blown extrovert”.
Quotation of the week:
Last issue's top 3 most clicked articles:
- “There are no original thoughts around a shared cultural experience (political, entertainment, sports, news). Every idea or observations that passes through your head has not only been thought of by a number of other people, it’s also been posted on social media. The hive mind is always one step ahead.“
Ranjan Roy in The Rule of 140 (themargins.substack.com)
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