What we read this week (22 November)

Our favorite articles of this week. Have a great weekend.

Articles of the week

  • What Screens Want
    Brilliant web essay by Frank Chimero, and not only because he features James Burke and The West Wing. I bet that this one will come up in a lot of conversations in the next months.
  • Prada Revolutionaries
    “Bright Green has become the left's version of right-wing transhumanism: an excuse to not solve today's problems, because tomorrow's technology will fix them for us.”
  • Tom Armitage » Driftwood
    “Driftwood is a talk I gave at Playark 2013. It was meant to be a talk about leftovers (the theme of the conference being ‘reclaim’), and about Hello Lamp Post. In the writing, it turned into a broader overview of my own work – on six years of projects around cities and play.”
  • Meet The ‘Assassination Market’ Creator Who’s Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins – Forbes
    “Assassination Market, a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations.”
  • Ross Andersen – Humanity’s deep future
    "When we peer into the fog of the deep future what do we see – human extinction or a future among the stars?"
  • Bitcoin As Protocol | Union Square Ventures
    “There is no other widely used protocol in the world today that accomplishes this: with bitcoin anyone can make a statement (a transaction) and have this be recorded in a globally visible and fixed ledger.”
  • Content economics, part 4: scale | Felix Salmon
    "It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of the CMS when it comes to the question of who’s going to win the online-publishing wars."
  • InMoov » Project
    "Here is “InMoov”, the first life size humanoid robot you can 3D print and animate. You have a 3D printer, some building skills, This project is for you!!"
  • Apple and Google Maps, and Defaults | Matt Mullenweg
    “If Microsoft did this a decade ago we’d call for the DoJ to reopen their investigation. Apple has the best phone, best tablet, and in many ways the best operating system — we should not give them a pass for this blatantly self-interested and user-hostile stance.”
  • Instagram and Youtube — Benedict Evans
    "WhatsApp and Instagram are not in different categories – they're direct competitors for time and attention." – This spot on.

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 (17 May)

Skepticism about Big Data, the hiccups that come with replacing employees with robots, “social lasers of cruelty,” Google’s new cutting-edge toy and the bizarre story of a con man and government collaborator.

Quote of the week

Society will develop a new kind of servitude which covers the surface of society with a network of complicated rules, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Articles of the week

  • Foreign Policy: Think Again: Big Data
    Kate Crawford, prinicipal researcher at Microsoft, makes the case for curbing our enthusiasm when it comes to Big Data and instead employing more caution and forethought. Most of the concerns she highlights here stem from the fact that data out of context can be misconstrued, and can therefore be a liability.
  • Caixin Online: Why Foxconn’s Switch to Robots Hasn’t Been Automatic
    Johannes’ recent talk at re:publica discussed what happens when machines replace us at work. Foxconn is an interesting example of a company in the midst of just such a transition, and demonstrates many of the social and logistic difficulties that come with the territory.
  • Smithsonian Magazine: What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?
    Jaron Lanier is another voice advocating caution to the techno-utopians – a group he used to belong to. He’s especially critical of the notion of the “wisdom of the crowd”: “This is the thing that continues to scare me. You see in history the capacity of people to congeal—like social lasers of cruelty. That capacity is constant.”
  • New York Times Bits Blog: Google Buys a Quantum Computer
    The D-Wave quantum computer that was in the news a while back has been bought by Google and NASA, who are collaborating to work on AI and machine learning. Take note of the other companies and organizations mentioned in this article – it’s an interesting crew.
  • Wired Threat Level: Drugstore Cowboy
    A long read and a crazy story about a con man who cooperated with the US government to nab Google for supporting illegal drug sales through AdWords.

What we read this week (May 3)

How robots are eating our jobs, Mailbox’s Gentry Underwood on his app and design thinking, why it’s weird when technology turns your body into an interface, how Facebook designs the “perfect empty vessel” into which you pour your content, and how the internet is both destroying and creating middlemen.

Quote of the week

Broad dissemination and individual choice turn most technologies into a plus. If only the elites have access, it’s a dystopia.

Ramez Naam

Articles of the week

What we read this week (15 Mar)

A web-based “brain” for robots, a disturbing culture revolving around hijacked webcams, the trickiness of making digital publishing sustainable for its workers, misgivings about Google Glass and a former Pixar employee’s storytelling tips.

Quote of the week

No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

Emma Coats

Articles of the week

  • The Atlantic: A Day in the Life of a Digital Editor, 2013
    A long piece by Alexis Madrigal on the tricky state of digital publishing, in response to a similarly-titled post by Nate Thayer. Madrigal’s assessment: “So far, there isn’t a single model for our kind of magazine that appears to work.”
  • BBC News: Web-based ‘brain’ for robots goes live
    Rapyuta is a project that seeks to make robots smarter by freeing up some of their internal memory and giving them a central, online “brain,” or reference resource, to draw upon when they come across something new. There are many parallels here to the way we deal with unfamiliar situations these days – consulting YouTube, Wikipedia and Quora, for example.
  • Ars Technica: Meet the men who spy on women through their webcams
    A disturbing report on “ratters,” people who use RATs (Remote Administration Tools) to spy on their victims (“slaves”) by hijacking their webcams.
  • The Guardian: Google Glass: is it a threat to our privacy?
    Google Glass brings an element of uncertainty and distraction into human interactions, and raises even more questions than we already have about the boundaries of personal privacy. This article raises some interesting points as to how we could get around some of these problems, and in what situations society might object to this type of technology altogether.
  • Story Shots: 22 #storybasics I’ve picked up in my time at Pixar
    A list of tips that apply to much more than movie-making. (Many of them are in fact quite relevant for business consulting, among other things.)

What we read this week (24 Aug)

Reads on the topics of robots replacing human precision, designing platform-specific e-books, setting the right pace for sharing and media consumption, what startup workers can learn from master craftsmen, and how the social sciences are changing.

Quotes of the week

I believe it’s time to envision another community of the future—one slightly less dystopian than all information and media pouring down on our heads, whether it be night or day, whether it makes sense for that content to travel at high frequencies or not.

Hannah Donovan

Articles of the week

  • Edge: A New Kind of Social Science for the 21st Century
    Nicholas Christakis discusses how the way we study people is changing as a result of “a biological hurricane, computational social sciences and the rediscovery of experimentation,” and how these factors may even be changing the people themselves.
  • Amy Hoy: Why Blacksmiths are Better at Startups than You
    Amy Hoy shows us, using the example of a BBC series called Mastercrafts, what psychological hurdles entrepreneurs have to overcome, why these obstacles exist, and what conclusions one has to reach to begin doing real work.
  • A List Apart: Everything in its Right Pace
    Hannah Donovan, designer of music products Last.fm and ThisIsMyJam.com, makes some great observations about the pace at which we process different kinds of information, and explains why slowing things down can create new value.
  • New York Times: Skilled Work, Without the Worker
    Machines – robots – aren’t a new phenomenon in manufacturing, but they are new to areas where they replace human precision. A whole new wave of robotic manufacturing is emerging.
  • Craig Mod: Platforming Books
    In this long, detailed and rather beautiful article, Craig Mod outlines the thought and execution processes behind designing platform-specific electronic editions of his book, Art Space Tokyo (co-written by Ashley Rawlings). He also gives his take on the state of e-publishing and what gaps he sees that should be filled.