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 (24 May)

Drones and what they represent in our society, fully digital lifeforms, a new take on smart cities, Morozov critique, musing about social networks and the a take on what it means to buy cheap clothing.

Quote of the week

We need a new language and framework for understanding the world as it actually is, rather than a world underserved by old metaphors, or confused by notions of remote, cartoonish capital-F “Futures”.

James Bridle

Articles of the week

  • Is This Virtual Worm the First Sign of the Singularity?
    A small, independent team is attempting to build the first digital life form based on the basic principles of the brain. A fascinating tale about the creation of a digital worm that re-evaluates the definition of being alive.
  • U MAD??? Evgeny Morozov, The Internet, And The Failure Of Invective
    A detailed dissection of Evgeny Morozov, his latest books, but more specifically his methods. The conclusion to which Maria Bustillos and a growing number of other writers are coming about the Belarus-born writer is that his intentions are not to start a comprehensive, transformative discussion, though on the exterior they may seem to be.
  • The too-smart city
    Top down vs. bottom up – the future of the term “smart city” seems to be up for grabs. On the one side, we see corporations like IBM and Cisco, on the other side advocates like Adam Greenfield and Dan Hill who argue that that smart city governance would use technology to find new ways to build and govern our cities in the future.
  • The Next Facebook
    Josh Miller muses about what and how the next Facebook will emerge. While we are not particularly interested in the basic premise of the article itself, Josh does make very good observation about the current state of affairs in the field. Recommended reading for near-future product development.
  • The Hidden Costs of Buying on the Cheap The collapse of the factory in Bangladesh, the cost of buying cheap clothing has been made obvious in a rather dramatic and cruel way. Naturally, this sparked a debate about buying clothes on the cheap. On a more fundamental level, we need to ask ourselves where our priorities are, what we value and how we want to use the money that we have accordingly.

What we read this week (26 Oct)

This week we read about that the continuity of thought is not necessarily a positive thing, geopolitics of energy, the Micheal Brutsch and Reddit case, drones and the modern design.

Quote of the week

(…)the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved.

Jeff Bezos

Articles of the week

  • 37signals: Some advice from Jeff Bezos
    We tend to criticize people who are like a flag in the wind, i.e. changeable, but Jeff Bezos serves us a completely different view on that. He believes the smartest people are those whose regularly change and revise their opinions.
  • Steve Le Vine: Ten indicators you should watch to predict the geopolitics of energy
    Hillary Clinton said that global occurrences connected to the energy supply often result in weighty geopolitical consequences. They lead to disharmony in the power division across the globe. Often, but not always. Not all of the events have an impact on the geopolitics. In order to learn how to distinguish them, Steve Le Vine came up with a set of 10 indicators which might help us understand what event may lead to a serious geopolitical disruption.
  • Lauren Weinstein: An Internet Monster, Reddit, and Free Speech
    Even though it is not the easiest for the author to write about certain topics, he decided he needed to make a firm stand. Lauren picked up the very important subject of free speech and responsibility of the online social media services, which provide an audience and a certain type of nourishing feedback for some nasty thinkers to thrive on. The Michael Brutsch and Reddit case.
  • BookTwo: Under the Shadow of the Drone
    James Bridle writes about the drones and describes the network they are a part of. He also points at very important issues connected with the usage of a drone: how we all now live under the shadow of a drone, even if we can’t see it, how the technology of obscuration and violence boldly makes its way into our daily lives.
  • Helge Tennø: How do we design for the everyware
    Helge Tennø’s insightful slideshow where he dissects the idea of the “design”, discusses the common mistakes the past and the modern designers keep committing without learning from each other and points out that it is not the visuals that matter, but the behavior that should determine the way in the design.