What we read this week (13 September)

The legacy of Red Burn, something new from Nick Knight, two Bitcoin articles and more.

Quotes of the week

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

Roy Amara, former president of The Institute for the Future

the battle for your digital soul has turned strongly towards Privacy’s corner because we now know what we are up against.

Mike Janke, Silent Circle

Articles of the week

  • Wired US: Let’s Stop Focusing on Shiny Gadgets and Start Using Tech to Empower People
    Margaret Stewart reflects on the legacy of Red Burns who co-founded the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU. Her approach to technology and education needs a much bigger audience.
  • Showstudio: #powershift
    Nick Knight, the founder of the legendary SHOWstudio.com, embarks onto a new project. With #powershift he portrays an all female group of social media moguls. Appropriately he only uses an iPhone and social media tools to communicate the projects. As always: inspiring and extraordinary.
  • Polygon: The ghost of Bitcoin
    Polygon set out to uncover the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the ominous inventor of the crypto-currency Bitcoin. They didn’t succeed, but they managed to learn a lot about the currency in the process. Also check out this article with the focus on the protocol Bitcoin is based on and what other applications beyond monetary use it can have. An interesting line of thought, especially with all the down sides of centralized internet infrastructure that are being revealed to us these days.
  • Fingerprints and Passwords: A Guide for Non-Security Experts
    Lots of discussions this week about how secure fingerprints are for authenticating a person1. This guide give a good overview why this is actually a discussion.
  • The Verge: The end of kindness – weev and the cult of the angry young man
    Coated in a mostly privileged life, the white, male employee of the technology world rarely sees the discrimination that is happening to women in the industry every day. In this monumental piece, The Verge documents such a story in all its complexity.

  1. It is fascinating to observe how the discussion climate has changed when the first reactions to a new iPhone is focused on the security aspects and how secure they really are. 

What we read this week (6 September)

We’re trying to be a bit broader this week with articles on BERG, the YouTube economy, the Acronym brand and BuzzFeed, but in the end Bruce Schneier leaves us even more disillusioned about the internet broken by the US government.

Quotes of the week

I don’t want you to think ‘outside the box’. I want you to think about the box.

Paul Graham Raven

Infrastructure space is the secret weapon of some of the most powerful people in the world

Keller Easterling

Articles of the week

  • GigaOM: Berg’s CEO on the experience of connected devices & avoiding the creep factor
    Interview with Mr. Webb of the mighty BERG about their pivot (sorry the SV jargon) and his view on the term ‘Internet of Things’ and much more.
  • ReadWrite: The Current YouTube Economy Is In Peril
    Fruzsina Eördögh reports from the VidCon in Anaheim, California about the state of the YouTube economy of the Multi-Channel-Networks (MCNs). The mood is getting darker and darker as many content creators are pissed with YouTube keeping what they think is too much of the ad revenues.
  • The Business of Fashion: Acronym’s Uncompromising Focus on Function
    Adam Wray takes a closer look at Acronym, the think tank for the future of urban clothing, disguised as an exclusive apparel brand. As always, Errolsons approach to design and running the company way beyond the business of fashion.
  • Memo To The BuzzFeed Team
    Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, send out this memo to his employees, basically giving a blueprint for how to become a successful, read profitable, media company in our age. Long-term thinking, data-driven, technology-focused, the right mix of topics and media-formats, it’s all in there.
  • The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back
    Bruce Schneier is on of the most trusted experts on internet security. The Guardian has given him access to the documents leaked by Snowden, and his reaction to what he has seen should make even the last one of us feel unease, to put it mildly. This is his call-to-action to do our thing to fix what the NSA has broken. Also have a look at his recommendations of what to do to stay as secure as possible in these days.

What we read this week (30 August)

The Weekly Reads are back with a few longer reads around the surveillance scandal, Chelsea Manning and Marissa Mayer.

Quotes of the week

Surveillance and spying are signs of suspicion, all of which are symptomatic of fear.

Boris Anthony

Articles of the week

  • Necessary and Proportionate
    Eleanor Saitta has been a joy to follow in this time of weekly milestones in how deep the surveillance scandal goes. In this essay, Saitta digs into the root problem of states, being basically unable to go without intelligence work. Also, check out her rant from the OHM conference.
  • NSA-Proof Your Email! Consider your Man Card Re-Issued. Never be Afraid Again.
    Just putting this here to make sure that really everybody has read it. Tim Maley delivered on of the most interesting texts about the surveillance scandal.
  • Bradley Manning and the Two Americas
    Another big one from the last weeks. Quinn Norton gives a detailed history of the Chelsea Manning case and America’s way of dealing with her.
  • Ring of Steel
    It’s not really a big surprise that our first link to a paywalled article would be one by James Bridle. His essay on license plate recocgnition in the UK is a must read if you’ve ever wondered about the consequences of surveillance. If you don’t want to give Matter the well deserved 99 cents right away, check out this excerpt. And in case you haven’t seen it yet, check out his latest talk from the Media Evolution Conference.
  • The Truth About Marissa Mayer: An Unauthorized Biography
    This bio on Mayer by Business Insider’s chief-correspondent Nicolas Carlson is the perfect read for the weekend. Lots of insights into the career of Mayer and her first year at Yahoo. Did we mention that it’s loooong?

What we read this week (12 July)

Emulating brains to improve businesses, differing perspectives on what cryptography is, the story of urban planner Robert Moses, and Prism and The Californian Ideology.

Quote of the week

Digital communities are a perfect hallucinatory cocktail of hyper-tech building and idealised nature.

Sam Jacobs

Articles of the week

  • What the Digital Brains of the Future Might Be Like
    Alexis Madrigal interviews Jeff Hawkins, entrepreneur and neuroscience buff, on his new company Grok and how to help businesses automate some of their processes by emulating the human brain.
  • Is Cryptography Engineering or Science?
    Bruce Schneier on two conceptions of cryptography – the theoretical, mathematical component in which cryptographic algorithms are developed, and the implementation of these algorithms as usable products. As he sees it, “the world needs security engineers even more than it needs cryptographers. We’re great at mathematically secure cryptography, and terrible at using those tools to engineer secure systems.”
  • In the footsteps of Robert Moses
    On a road trip and discovering the work and impact of Robert Moses, the power-hungry “quasi-dictator” of New York City urban planning from the Great Depression to the post-WWII years.
  • “Prism is the dark side of design thinking”
    Sam Jacobs on design thinking’s effects on digital culture, and our understanding of public and private, looking in particular at Prism as an example of the inversion of what the openness of digital culture set out to accomplish.
  • The Californian Ideology
    We stumbled upon this essay by English media theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster via Sam Jacob’s article. Written in 1995, it’s a description of the thinking of Silicon Valley as “a fatalistic vision of the natural and inevitable triumph of the hi-tech free market – a vision which is blind to racism, poverty and environmental degradation and which has no time to debate alternatives.” More than 20 years later, the analysis seems more on point then ever.

What we read this week (5 July)

Overview about crypotcurrencies, on governance of technology, first hand insights about receiving a NSL, a definition of skeuomorphism and a brilliant paper by Mark Weiser about building computers for the 21st century dated all the way back to 1991.

Quotes of the week

Machines that fit the human environment, instead of forcing humans to enter theirs, will make using a computer as refreshing as taking a walk in the woods.

Mark Weiser, 1991

The essence of technology is by no means anything technological.

Martin Heidegger

Articles of the week

  • The crypto-currency ecosystem
    Andreas Antonopoulos gives an account of the spinoff technologies that have combined the fudamental elements of Bitcoin in various ways.
  • Technology: Governing the Ungovernable?
    An insightful paper by Daniel J. Paré and Jeremy Geelen about the governance of technology and how it is not about technology at all.
  • What It’s Like to Get a National-Security Letter
    Maria Bustillos in conversation with Brewster Kahle, one of very few people allowed to discuss ever having received a national-security letter from the US government.
  • What is skeuomorphism?
    The Economist explains what skeuomorphism originally meant and discusses the semantics of the term as it applies, or perhaps doesn’t apply, to digital interfaces.
  • The Computer for the 21st Century
    A bit of early 1990s future forecasting from Mark Weiser. It’s surprising to see how early tablet computing actually started. Researchers like Weiser envisioned ubiquitous computing in a way that has a lot in common with the way mobile computing has turned out, but the vision is more advanced, more integrated into physical life. It seems like we’re on our way to being in Weiser’s future, though in many ways we’re not quite there yet.

What we read this week (28 June)

Infrastructure fiction, life lessons from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Booz Allen and its relationship with US intelligence, barriers for growth in emerging markets and using data more effectively in marketing.

Quote of the week

Focusing on a clearly identified destination is highly overrated.

Adam Brault

We owned the devices, but they owned the servers. They won.

Shoshana Zuboff

Articles of the week

  • An Introduction To Infrastructure Fiction
    Writer, futurist and infrastructure researcher Paul Graham Raven in a piece for Superflux, in which he describes how the thought processes of design fiction can be used to work on serious, though perhaps less sexy, infrastructural problems, with the goal of creating a more sustainable way of living. Some great argumentation, complete with helpful Douglas Adams metaphors.
  • Six Things We Learned From Patagonia’s Founder Yvon Chouinard
    A refreshingly direct Chouinard on making the world better through pessimism, the importance of connecting to nature and taking things slow, avoiding consumerism and cheating, and other life lessons.
  • Booz Allen, the World’s Most Profitable Spy Organization
    More on the Snowden saga, this time with a portrait of the company he worked for, Booz Allen, its cooperation with government intelligence agencies, and how this relationship inadvertently made room for events like the recent leaks to happen.
  • Emerging Markets, Hitting a Wall
    “Sustained, meteoric growth in emerging economies may no longer be possible,” as this New York Times article explains, as a result of increased automation, global supply chains, greater economic gaps and aging populations, and why this all means that developing countries may never fully develop.
  • The ‘Big Data’ Fallacy
    Eoin Townsend makes the case for a operating system of sorts for marketing, which would combine Data Management Platforms (DMPs), Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and other sources of data to ensure that the data isn’t simply collected, but put together in such a way as to be useful in developing strategies.

What we read this week (21 June)

Iain Banks’ poignant last interview, piecing together scattered information on a drone strike, an argument for viewing cyberutopianism less disparagingly, how much of a bargain Airbnb is, and a profile of quiet software company Palantir.

Quote of the week

The trouble with writing fiction is that it has to make sense, whereas real life doesn’t.

Iain Banks

Articles of the week

  • Iain Banks: the final interview
    A touching interview with acclaimed science fiction author Iain Banks, shortly before his death. He reviews his literary work, discusses politics and his predictions for the near future, and talks openly about dealing with a terminal diagnosis.
  • OB298 — A Preliminary Atlas of Drone Strike Landscapes
    Tim Maly deconstructs a drone strike, piecing together the various nodes in the network – the site of the strike, weapons manufacturers, airbases, testing facilities – that brought it about, and in doing so, demonstrates just how little can be known about attacks carried out in this way.
  • Is Cyberutopianism Really Such a Bad Thing?
    An excerpt from Ethan Zuckerman’s recently published book, Rewire, in which he defends the cyberutopian perspective that society can and should use technology to do good.
  • Airbnb vs Hotels: A Price Comparison
    Priceonomics breaks down the cost difference between Airbnb stays and hotel stays in the USA. A whole apartment on Airbnb is, according to their research, 21.2% cheaper on average than a hotel room.
  • Palantir, the War on Terror’s Secret Weapon
    Silicon Valley software company Palantir, whose software helps unify and make sense of various data points collected on a person, and is used extensively by US intelligence. Though the article is nearly a year and a half old, in the context of recent discussions on PRISM it becomes clear just how eerily powerful this type of software can be.

What we read this week (14 June)

Impending doom for high-frequency trading and ebook DRM, impressive advances in medical 3D printing, James and his drones, and conversations in preparation for the robot future.

Quote of the week

I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things.

Edward Snowden

Articles of the week

  • How the Robots Lost: High-Frequency Trading’s Rise and Fall
    Matthew Philips follows the story of HFTs from their inception to the present, from raking in piles of cash to fighting each other for tiny scraps of profit.
  • What Amazon’s ebook strategy means
    How Amazon’s clever strategy and wild success is revealing its unsustainability in the book market (and others), and why this means that DRM on ebooks must die.
  • Children of the Drone
    Vanity Fair’s portrait of James Bridle and a review of the New Aesthetic’s evolution in its first two years as a concept, covering various perspectives that have surfaced in that time on what this “found art movement (but, confusingly, not a movement of found art)” is.
  • One day it will be possible to 3D-print a human liver
    A look into the current and future uses of 3D printing in medicine. Though it isn’t yet possible to print organs, we are actually surprisingly far along when it comes to implementing 3D printing in this area. Examples of applications range from converting MRI scans of pregnant women’s wombs to produce models of the fetus, to replacing a jawbone with a printed titanium substitute.
  • Will robots boost middle class unemployment?
    “Dinnertime conversation starters” from a roboticist’s point of view to get us thinking about how robots change the traditional relationship between productivity and employment, and another warning that we need to think critically in order to protect the existence of a middle class.

What we read this week (7 June)

A rough week for Google Glass, Istanbul, Eric Schmidt’s book and MOOCs.

Young programmer, I urge you to consider both sides of the startup coin. There are so many ways to make a dent in the world.

Alex Payne

  • Glass
    Dustin Curtis provides a levelheaded review of Google Glass and makes the long road ahead for Google fairly obvious.
  • Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style? An Analysis From #jan25 to #geziparki
    Zeynep Tufekci has been studying social media, politics and social movements and is one of the best sources on Twitter for what’s happening in Istanbul and all over Turkey these days. Here she gives a lot of background to the current protests and her perspective about the connection between social media and protests.
  • The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’
    Another brutal take-down of Eric Schmidt’s book “The New Digital Age,” this time by Julian Assange. We’re always a bit wary about his conspiracy theories. But his jabs at Schmidt’s agenda are a welcome antidote to the techno-determinism of the Silicon Valley.
  • You Can Stop Worrying About Moocs Now
    The MOOC hype seems to be running out of its disruption fuel. Unsurprisingly, the VCs are more interested in returns than “free education for everyone.” Time for companies like Coursera and FlatWorld Knowledge to refine their business models, which is not a bad thing, just not so revolutionary anymore.
  • Aaron Swartz: hacker, genius… martyr?
    A couple of months after his death, Elizabeth Day sits down with his girl-friend Stinebrickner-Kauffman to reflect on Swartz and the circumstances of his death. A good opportunity for us to keep remembering him.

What we read this week (31 May)

Entropy and The City, Thick Data, an elegy and bots buying all the concert tickets.

If your dystopian scenario includes no signs of human resilience, it’s probably bad futurism.

Jamais Cascio

The algorithm is the alchemy of our age.

Jay Owens

  • Civilization and the War on Entropy
    The mind-blower of the week comes from Drew Austin. With sentences like “Algorithmic recommendation systems will eventually descend into entropic noise unless fed by the real cultural wealth that cities generate,” we really don’t know how to sum this one up. Just read it, ok?
  • Big Data Needs Thick Data
    Will Big Data make the work of ethnographers redundant? Au contraire. Tricia Wang argues that Big Data needs what she calls Thick Data to uncover the meaning behind visualizations and analysis. Where Big Data delivers the numbers, Thick Data delivers the stories.
  • Concert Industry Struggles With ‘Bots’ That Siphon Off Tickets
    Bots will not only steal your job, now they will also snatch up your Justin Bieber tickets before you can. Next: music fans deploying their own bots to fight back.
  • Elegy for the Text Box
    Paul Ford mourns the demise of the text form field on the web, being replaced with WYSIWYG editors like Medium that leave us without the satisfying moment of seeing our text published online for the first time. It also means that text design plays a bigger role right from the start of the writing process. Another reason why we like to write our texts in Markdown and offline first before putting them online.
  • Is Coding the New Second Language?
    Although we don’t believe that everybody needs to know how to code, we think it’s an important skill for the future to have some basic understanding of how the machines work that make up our lives (some Germans disagree). So hurray for more computer sciences in school. But it’s not so easy as Peg Tyre describes in this article from a US perspective.