Welcome to issue #221 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).
- WeChat and the Surveillance State
(bbc.com, 4 minutes)
The Chinese surveillance state is already quite scary. Defending indivdiual freedom will clearly be one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century, alongside fixing the climate crisis.
- The New Wilderness
(idlewords.com, 9 minutes)
Same topic, and something which does happen in democratic countries as well: We are slowly losing “ambient privacy”, writes Maciej Cegłowski. He describes this form of privacy as the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered. He also makes the following crucial point: “Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don’t have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society. “
- The Solution to Free Speech is a Functional Marketplace of Varied Venues
(nextbison.wordpress.com, 4 minutes)
Important observation by moderator at Reddit: When there are multiple spaces with different social norms, we can have a marketplace of ideas, and people can choose the space where they are most comfortable. This is the case on Reddit, where – for example – different subreddits for science topics have different norms and rules (e.g. “no jokes” in one, but not in another). But that type of marketplace doesn’t work unless people have alternatives and make smart choice.
- A restaurant owner who asked for 1-star Yelp reviews
(thehustle.co, 9 minutes)
I wasn’t aware of how controversial Yelp is among restaurant owners, and how questionable its sales practices are considered to be. One restaurant owner had the truly ingenious idea to fight back and to create awareness by asking customers to write 1-star reviews.
- Does the news reflect what we die from?
(ourworldindata.org, 8 minutes)
No, they don’t. Entirely unsurprising, but the discrepancy is nicely visualized. Personally I don’t think this is fixable with the current evolutionary state of the human mind. Factoring in statistics into our thinking and emotional processing isn’t something that comes natural for most (for many, it doesn’t seem to function at all). Therefore, both the reporting as well as the demand for certain types of news are skewed.
- Google’s 7 best acquisitions
(om.co, 3 minutes)
Not only Facebook hit the jackpot with its past acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Google also made some important strategic deals that have helped the giant evolve and keeping it a dominant player in the ever-changing Internet ecosystem.
- How Did WeWork’s Adam Neumann Build a $47B Company?
(nymag.com, 30 minutes)
The WeWork founder appears to be yet another megalomaniacal entrepreneur type. Although he doesn’t want to build a colony in space but instead to “elevate the world’s consciousness”.
- How Dropbox is finally breaking free of the folder
(fastcompany.com, 9 minutes)
Reinventing oneself at this stage is not without risks. Let’s see how this’ll go.
- Parts List for the Metaverse
(highfidelity.com, 9 minutes)
The Metaverse is the name for a collective AR/VR-powered shared virtual space. describes the key parts that need to be in place to make the concept become reality: 3D audio, big crowds, reputation, interconnected spaces, infinite detail, live editing, programmable atoms, payments.
- Estonia’s government AI will tell you when to see the doctor
(sifted.eu, 5 minutes)
Estonia doesn’t worry about the risks of AI and instead looks to embrace it wherever possible. It’s a boon and very useful to have pioneers like this. Other, more cautious countries should observe and try to adopt what works well (although there isn’t a guarantee of course that what works in one country and culture would produce similar outcomes elsewhere).
- Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes
(technologyreview.com, 14 minutes)
Much of the latest research in AI neglects efficiency, and that’s a problem.
- Driverless Congestion
(ethz.ch, 5 minutes)
A simulation for the city of Zurich shows that driverless taxis would not displace personal transport in cities as long as automated private vehicles are also available, simply because people would find their own driverless vehicle extremely convenient to use, and might even increase their driving.
- Finland leads list of Europe’s most digitally advanced nations
(venturebeat.com, 2 minutes)
According to the European Union’s (EU) annual report on digital societies, Finland, Sweden and The Netherlands are the 3 most digitally advanced countries in the EU.
- The Discipline of Mastering Mental States
(zenhabits.net, 5 minutes)
For doing meaningful work, the right mental state matters, which is why it is important to monitor mental states. However, an advanced skill is to be able to do what one needs to do, regardless of the mental state one is in. Either way, it requires mastery.
- The Surprisingly Simple Method to Get Good at Anything
(optimizemy.life. 6 minutes)
Repetition. Maybe it is too obvious, but this piece does a good job of explaining why this applied to all the historical geniuses as well, from Isaac Asimov to Thomas Edison, from Mozart to Picasso.
- They See It. They Like It. They Want It. They Rent It.
(nytimes.com, 9 minutes)
Many young (American) urbanites have resigned themselves to a life of non-ownership, abandoning the dream of their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before them, often out of financial necessity. But renting isn’t just a matter of necessity these days. It’s become almost posh.
- IKEA creates easily packable furniture for urban nomads
(newatlas.com, 2 minutes)
Smart idea! If you, after all, want to own furniture (instead of renting it), it should be easy to move it to a different location.
- Micropayments-for-news pioneer Blendle is pivoting from micropayments
(niemandlab.org, 5 minutes)
Time to face it: The business model of charging on a per article-basis doesn’t work well when targeting a broader, general interest audience. The mental costs for the user are too high.
Quotation of the week:
Last issue's top 3 most clicked articles:
- “Putting more and more mental models into your brain is like putting more and more windows into a house: more light comes in, and you see things better and better.“
Oussama Ammar in “Learn to learn” (salon.thefamily.co, 12 minutes)
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