Newsletter No.21 — Feb 04, 2018

Sentiers No.21

Heads up: For a couple of reasons related to early writing methods, the first forty-five issues archived here are “pre last review” and haven’t been fully re-reviewed yet. Please forgive typos and miscellaneous mistakes if you see them! They are also less structured than more recent issues and thus haven’t been split into multiple notes. (Yet?)

Had a lovely time working from a public library yesterday, nice change from hipster third wave places (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I encourage you to give that a try.

Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs
Good piece but, like anything that mentions Universal Basic Income, I have yet to see one with minimally detailed and credible numbers for how this would work. I don’t see how taxing the corporations who benefit from automation will cover it, especially worldwide. Those companies are few and far between, not every country will have opportunities to tax them. I always come back to the same thing; properly valuing and charging for people’s data, re-enforcing commons and charging corporations for the benefits they gain from access. And more fairly valuing all human effort, including caring for others like parents at home and taking care of the elderly. When everything has its just value and corporations pay for what they use, then maybe we can find an equation that works. (For which I also don’t provide numbers so feel free to debunk!)
If you can get me this, I’m in:

Post-work may be a rather grey and academic-sounding phrase, but it offers enormous, alluring promises: that life with much less work, or no work at all, would be calmer, more equal, more communal, more pleasurable, more thoughtful, more politically engaged, more fulfilled – in short, that much of human experience would be transformed.

How to tame the tech titans
Related to what I’m saying above:

Second, trustbusters need to think afresh about how tech markets work. A central insight, one increasingly discussed among economists and regulators, is that ::personal data are the currency in which customers actually buy services::. Through that prism, the tech titans receive valuable information—on their users’ behaviour, friends and purchasing habits—in return for their products.

Amazon Go and the Future
Come for the Amazon analysis, stay for the surprisingly hopeful future outlook. (Also not providing numbers or other proof.)

The Latest Data Privacy Debacle
A ‘heat map’ of jogging and walking paths by Strava was shown to inadvertently reveal secret military bases, and that it was even possible to identify and locate individuals’ homes. Not good. Zeynep Tufekci explains some of the implications and ways forward. Notice that again, it’s about free data and extraction.

Data privacy is not like a consumer good, where you click “I accept” and all is well. Data privacy is more like air quality or safe drinking water, a public good that cannot be effectively regulated by trusting in the wisdom of millions of individual choices. A more collective response is needed…
… This creates an incentive for companies to collect and store as much data as possible, and to bury the privacy ramifications, either in legalese or by playing dumb and being vague.

How Dockless Bikes From Mobike and Ofo Could Fix America’s Cities
Felix Salmon explains how he thinks dockless share bikes can fix ‘young’ cities’ centres and act as desire paths for planners.

He mentions pre-car cities as being our favorites and new ones as being broken by cars, which reminded me of Why Paris will be the first post-car metropolis. And of course talk of dockless bikes always brings me back to New Transport Horizons or Mobility Spam?

The Churn
The CDC Is About to Fall Off a Funding Cliff
45 is really burning it all down, isn't he?

“We’ll leave the field open to microbes, the surveillance systems will die, so we won’t know if something happens. The lab networks won’t be built, so if something happens, we won’t know what it is. We can’t be safe if the world isn’t safe. You can’t pull up the drawbridge and expect viruses not to travel.”

That Game on Your Phone May Be Tracking What You’re Watching on TV
If your phone runs Android but this is the kind of crap companies pull when almost every business models online and in mobile are based on advertising.

Using a smartphone’s microphone, Alphonso’s software can detail what people watch by identifying audio signals in TV ads and shows, sometimes even matching that information with the places people visit and the movies they see. The information can then be used to target ads more precisely and to try to analyze things like which ads prompted a person to go to a car dealership.

After Building New AU Headquarters, China Spies on Addis Ababa Facility
Can’t say this was totally unexpected.

There’s No Great Future in Plastics
Very well researched and produced (as usual) podcast episode on plastics by the wonderful Rose Eveleth. Talks about the history of plastics, how difficult they would be to ban, some of the hard to replace uses, and much more. Some links from the extensive show notes + a few I grabbed from elsewhere:

Weird Objects
It seemed like AI May Have Just Decoded a Mystical 600-Year-Old Manuscript That Baffled Humans for Decades, alas AI didn’t decode the cryptic Voynich manuscript — it just added to the mystery. Still, a good excuse to include this weird object in here, which also gives me the opportunity to include this article talking about the Antikythera Mechanim, Jacques Cousteau, and the Memex: Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines.

AKQA Imagine The Jobs Of The Future As Predicted At Davos
Included here for the way the work is created more than the validity of the vision; “At the end of each panel discussion we sat down our strategist and worked out the narrative of conversation.” They would then come up with a related idea, develop and illustrate it. I'm always interested in new formats for events or kind of 'meta' ideas around them.

++ Guatemala's Maya Society Featured Huge 'Megalopolis,' LiDAR Data Show
“A vast, interconnected network of ancient cities was home to millions more people than previously thought.”

++ 100+ Makers and Mavericks — 2017
Looooong list of fantastic people and projects, assembled by team Hiut Denim Co.

A few beautiful galleries of pictures.

I haven’t been paying close enough attention to where I find things and crediting accordingly (+ so many come from multiple sources), I’ll try to do better and thank people more often. This week, thanks to @jkleske, @flashforward, @cfd, and @kottke.