Thought Starters: Facebook’s M, Privacy, Driverless Cars, the Dating Apocalypse and more

The following is a collection of articles and thought pieces highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in, with an emphasis on technology.

Research from Flurry profiled by Yahoo points to the dominant role that apps have in the mobile ecosystem. The following graph doesn’t tell the entire story given the ability to reach web pages within a mobile app but does show the comparatively marginal role of the mobile browser:

Time_spent_on_Mobile

Facebook has launched its M virtual assistant as part of its Messenger offering and was recently profiled in Wired.  It has been rolled out to only a limited audience at this stage and what’s particularly interesting about the service is its use of humans as the system’s artificial intelligence develops a robust knowledge base:

“In the larger world of AI-driven personal assistants, M may seem like a regression. And as Facebook tests the tool with the public, it’s unclear whether this human-machine partnership can keep pace as the project expands to an ever-larger audience. But in a counterintuitive way, M may actually be a step forward for AI.”

Instagram now offers consumers and brands the opportunity to share photos and videos that are rectangles and not simply the iconic squares that we’ve become so used to.  Advertising Age has a look at the likely impact for brands:

There has been an awakening… #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

A post shared by Star Wars (@starwars) on

WeAreSocial follow up their profile of China with a profile of the world’s other fast developing behemoth with topline digital, social and mobile statistics for India:

A lot of noise has been made by commentators and critics about the cost in privacy that consumers are paying for the free services provided by Facebook and Google (“If you’re not paying for it; you’re the product”). Andrew McAfee jumps to their defence arguing that consumers are getting a fair deal, particularly given the plethora of consumer information already available to marketers:

“It’s true that all the information about me and my social network that these companies have could be used to help insurers and credit-card companies pick customers and price discriminate among them. But they already do that, and do it within the confines of a lot of regulation and consumer protection. I’m just not sure how much “worse” it would get if Google, Facebook and others started piping them our data.”

Maxwell Wessel looks at how the introduction of driverless cars is likely to restructure the auto industry, with the car forecasted to become less of a personal luxury and more of a utility.

The launch of UberPool brings Uber into closer competition with public transport with users picked up along what are being labelled as Smart Routes.  Given this, it was encouraging to see Nate Silver and Reuben Fischer-Baum argue that Uber and public transport are complementary and will hopefully get more cars off the road in urban centres:

Uber and Public Transport versus the Car

China’s economy seems to have hit the skids recently with Tyler Cowen giving a good overview of some of the key reasons for the downturn.  The BBC put together the following infographic which show why China’s economy isn’t significant just for the Chinese and investors in the country’s economy:

China's central role in world trade

Nancy Jo Sales‘ report on the impact of Tinder on relationships kicked up more than its fair share of criticism. Moira Weigel rightly points out that there’s been a long list of societal and technological changes that have created significant changes in courtship rituals without human society falling apart. Looking at the issue from another angle, Jon Birger’s analysis points to imbalances in education levels among men and women as creating a source of growing tension in relationship patterns.

Europe’s refugee crisis has deservedly dominated news headlines recently and the following infographic from the Washington Post illustrates why the scale of the crisis in Syria is so tragic. Please show your support:

Syria_popIf you’re in London between now and the 20th of September, I’d recommend a visit to the Photographers’ Gallery where the Shirley Baker exhibition Women Children and Loitering Men is well worth a view:

Hulme, May 1965 © Shirley Baker Estate Courtesy of the Shirley Baker Estate

The feature image was produced by Eko and published in his Flickr stream.

THOUGHT STARTERS: CONTENT THAT HAS GOT ME THINKING 11

Enders Analysis figures point to the increasingly important role of mobile as consumers onramp to the internet in the UK. Mobile apps apparently account for 4 in 5 of consumers mobile minutes.

UK average time spent online per month by device

Ofcom figures point to UK having the fastest broadband access among the big five economies of Europe. UK also has the highest broadband take-up (83%); highest proportion of people to have bought goods online over a year (77%); highest weekly usage of the internet (87%); and lowest proportion of people who have never used the internet (8%). Figures aren’t always so flattering when comparisons include the Nordics and Denmark.

Mathilde Collin provides a valuable look at where email is and isn’t relevant within organisational communications on the Intercom blog.

The Unbundling of Email at Work

Venture capitalist Chris Dixon looks at where we’re seeing innovation and startups in the Bitcoin sector.

The “outing” of Dorian Nakamoto as founder of Satoshi Nakamoto has prompted a whirlwind of press interest and some valuable analysis of the role of the media. Felix Salmon has used RapGenius as a novel means of analysing Dorian Nakamoto’s recent statement denying involvement whilst Mike Hearn gives a breakdown of some of the key holes in the Newsweek story.

Debate continues on the pros and cons of Google Glass. Among the range of opinions is Joe Schoech arguing that the product is poorly implemented whilst Mike Elgan argues that concerns about privacy are misplaced.

Nate Silver puts forward his agenda with the newly launched FiveThirtyEight data journalism platform which should  provide a valuable new voice to the media sector. Building on this is Ben Thompson looking at FiveThirtyEight’s launch in the context of an increasingly rich selection of journalism that’s available online:

No longer are my reading choices constrained by time and especially place. Why should I pick up the Wisconsin State Journal – or the Taipei Times – when I can read Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, Bill Simmons, and the myriad other links served up by Twitter? I, and everyone else interested in news, politics, or sports, can read the best with less effort – and cost – than it ever took to read the merely average just a few short years ago.

The New Yorker profiles the shopping mall whose role in American society is beginning to fray in the face of  online competition  and consumers quest for a more authentic experience.

The malls are busy, well-tended, and vibrant, though they are still malls: a simulacrum of culture, in the same way that the Cinderella Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is a representation of medieval life, without the chamber pots and periodic sieges.

Einar Öberg  has developed a website that provides you with the opportunity to turn your neighbourhood into an urban jungle.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 10.10.53The featured image is a Drew Tyndell, Ben Niznik and Derek Bruno mural from Living Walls and was found on Drew’s Flickr page.

 

The Foxes and the Hedgehogs

I recently started reading Nate Silver’s book The Signal and the Noise and it’s proving an enlightening read. His comparisons of specialist (hedgehogs) versus more generalist thinkers (foxes) particularly caught my attention .

Silver points to ‘hedgehogs’ as garnering more media attention but unfortunately this is not reflected in the accuracy of their predictions, pointing to the work of Philip E Tetlock :

While the experts’ performance was poor in the aggregate, however, Tetlock found that some had done better than others. On the losing side were those experts whose predictions were cited most frequently in the media. The more interviews that an expert had done with the press, Tetlock found, the worse his predictions tended to be.

Silver points to generalists as being more able to bring together a range of views and sources and not being so hidebound to ideology.

The following gives a run through of how the two groups are characterised:

Attitudes of foxes and hedgehogs

The book is well worth adding to your reading list, particularly for those of you who are interested in the shortcomings of crystal ball gazing.

The featured image is the Know Hope x Aakash Nihalani  collaboration Uncornered and was found on StreetArtNews.