Welcome to issue #225 of meshedsociety weekly.
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Let's get started right away with this week's recommendations!
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).
- Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?
(rootsofprogress.org, 13 minutes)
Enlightening essay that offers insights into and speculations about the technological requirements that had to be met so the bicycle could become a success, but also the underlying structural mechanism that enables innovation and progress.
- A hospital introduced a robot to help nurses. They didn’t expect it to be so popular
(fastcompany.com, 5 minutes)
Turns out, nurses and patients alike can appreciate a hospital robot which supports nurses by running approximately 30% of their tasks – the repetitive, simple ones.
- Instagram Turns Obscure U.S. Sights Into Social-Media Destinations
(wsj.com, 5 minutes)
It might not be an exaggeration to state that Instagram (and social media in general) have radically changed tourism (you might be lucky and the article will open without paywall. Otherwise, sorry for this. But the headline has the key information anyway).
- Myths and Realities in the E-Scooter Business
(medium.com, 7 minutes)
A tech investor perspective on e-scooters. Not impartial, but still an interesting take.
- The Rise of Influencers and the Decay of Journalism
(mondaynote.com, 5 minutes)
Traditional journalism is slowly yielding to influencer-driven ”information”.
- Tech journalism’s ‘on background’ scourge
(cjr.org, 7 minutes)
The big tech firms made it a habit to inform journalists by insisting on off-the-record briefings and denying quotes. This practice turns press conversations into sales pitches and shields tech companies from accountability, laments Brian Merchant.
- Commercial Labs are Stealing Academia’s AI Thunder
(medium.com, 9 minutes)
Aspiring AI talents and professors are choosing big tech firms instead of working in academia, with worrying consequences.
- It’s absurd that we’re even entertaining Facebook’s Libra currency idea
(businessinsider.com, 5 minutes)
It absolutely is absurd. But I am very happy to see the massive resistance from politics and regulators. I hope at least some of the partners which joined the Libra association realize that this is a good moment to pull out of the project. They shouldn’t become Facebook’s useful idiots.
- Amazon’s Vanishing Cardboard Box
(cnn.com, 8 minutes)
Retailers and shippers are working to shrink, make lighter, and re-use all that extra packaging — and eventually, maybe, get rid of it altogether.
- How WeChat censors private conversations, automatically in real time
(technologyreview.com, 3 minutes)
There is a lot that people absolutely must not say or share on WeChat, which means that censorship needs to work in real time and is constantly getting more sophisticated.
- American and UK kids would much rather be YouTubers than astronauts
(arstechnica.com, 2 minutes)
… unlike Chinese kids.
- YouTube’s autocomplete feature has a huge spoiler problem
(futurism.com, 2 minutes)
Arguably one of the less devastating side effects of YouTube, but still…
- We can’t get enough of audiobooks
(theguardian.com, 7 minutes)
This remark from the article explains well why the audiobook market is growing rapidly: “Some people I spoke to use audiobooks to send them to sleep after a stressful professional day; others listen while walking, or looking after a baby, or as an alternative to TV”. Audiobooks expand the scope of situations in which one can consume a “book”.
- Why Netflix Cancels Shows After A Couple Of Seasons & Why They Can’t Move To New Homes
(deadline.com, 9 minutes)
The economics and merciless reasoning behind Netflix’s decisions about whether to continue a show or not.
- From Binge Watching to Appointment Viewing
(500ish.com, 3 minutes)
Would hyped shows such as Game of Thrones or Stranger Things benefit from single episodes being released over the course of a longer time period instead of being available for instant binge consumption, all at once?
- For digital goods, focus less on supply and more on demand
(tonysheng.substack.com, 4 minutes)
Like with physical goods, there are luxury virtual goods, which signal belonging to a certain elite. It’s not scarcity which makes them valuable, but the narrative that they are valuable. Scarce comes only after the establishment of the narrative, writes Tony Sheng.
- The Role of Doubt
(matthewstrom.com, 5 minutes)
How to doubt constructively and avoid being a “question machine”.
- The Impossible Dream
(laphamsquarterly.org, 15 minutes)
Some light philosophy to wrap up: On the impossible, futile and self-defeating pursuit of happiness in consumer culture, and what famous thinkers of the past centuries contributed to today’s status quo.
Quotation of the week:
Last issue's top 3 most clicked articles:
- “I believe that it makes sense to run your whole life on the lean startup model. Always be figuring out simple experiments that you can run and get data from. Always be ready to pivot.”
Duncan Riach in “I spent all of my millions. This is what I learned” (hackernoon.com, 20 minutes)
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