Articles & Podcasts of Note (Week of 11/02/2020)
Every Friday I highlight the most interesting or entertaining items from my media diet of the past week.
- A Nameless Hiker and the Case the Internet Can’t Crack (wired.com): Is it possible to die in the information age and truly “leave no trace”? The story of a friendly hiker who died on the Appalachian trail and the ensuing investigation to figure out who he was.
- As a Social Media Analyst, I’m Quitting Twitter (substack.com): “Anyone interested in controlling the news cycle has a stake in virality...the naturally edgiest voices were the ones to gain prominence.” Good reminder that social media rewards the loudest and most extreme voices in the room.
- Ben Thompson’s Stratechery (medium.com): A critique of Thompson’s “Aggregation Theory” and its underlying assumptions by Tim Wu, legal scholar at Columbia and author of “The Master Switch” and “The Attention Merchants.” Here’s Thompson’s response.
- Board to Death: How Scrabble Blew Its Big Moment (si.com): In the mid-2000s Scrabble was in its “golden age” but a recession, internal power-struggles, the #MeToo movement, and the nation’s racial reckoning have rocked the professional Scrabble community.
- The Cheap Pen that Changed Writing Forever (bbc.com): Fun look at the history of the ballpoint pen, a relatively recent innovation that only hit the mass market in the 1940s.
- How Americans See U.S. Tech Companies as Government Scrutiny Increases (pewresearch.org): Eight key findings from a recent Pew Research study.
- Intelligence Isn’t Just for Government Anymore (foreignaffairs.com): “Tech company leaders may want no part of American national security policy or global politics, but their decisions unavoidably affect both.”
- Common Probability Errors to Avoid (fs.blog): Helpful list based on Charles Wheelan’s book “Naked Statistics.”
- No-Code and the Ikea Effect: How Software Lock-In Evolved and Made Us Never Want to Churn (capiche.com): An overview of lock-in strategies (feature, format, subscription lock-in, etc.) culminating in “creation lock-in” whereby consumer effort and customization, e.g. Ikea furniture or LEGO, activates key behavioral biases: “effort that ultimately creates long-term satisfaction.”
- Scientism, the Coronavirus, and the Death of the Humanities (oup.com): “The dominant Darwinian approach to the college curriculum fights against humanistic values.”
- The Simple Reason Polls Failed So Hard in 2020 (danielmiessler.com): Stated vs. real preferences: “Asking people their opinion is one of the worst ways to find out what they’re thinking.”
- Why It’s Hard to Make Decisions (Especially Good, Fast Ones) (effectiviology.com): Multiple factors conspire to make decision-making difficult: the complex cognitive process itself, emotions, uncertainty.
- Conversations with Coleman: My Open Letter to Ibram X. Kendi (youtube.com): Coleman Hughes critiques Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.”
- Making Sense: The Key to Trump’s Appeal (samharris.org): Sam Harris asserts that Trump offers what no priest can: “a total expiation of shame.”
- People I Mostly Admire: Nathan Myhrvold (freakonomics.com): Conversation with the former Microsoft CTO, polymath and inventor. If you enjoy listening to intelligent people discuss their interests, this is a fun episode.
- Wild Wild Tech (apple.com): Fortnightly episodes about the crazy ways tech shapes culture. Two favorite episodes: (1) How scientists learned to respond to pandemics from World of Warcraft and (2) How an Englishman created a fake restaurant that ended up being listed as the #1 restaurant in London by TripAdvisor.
- Yuval Noah Harari on The Story of Sapiens, Forging the Skill of Awareness, and The Power of Disguised Books (tim.blog): Interview between the historian and Tim Ferriss. Wonderful look into the ideas behind Sapiens and Harari’s approach to meditation, writing, and thinking.