20T9

What if we did not accept technology as the answer but approached it as questions

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

I was stunned in Tokyo. Knew where I had to go, but didn’t know how. I was already late, the lunch meeting was already supposed to have started and all I knew was that I was one hour away. I just didn’t know where I was supposed to go. My phone was dead or maybe it just didn’t have data. In any case, I couldn’t use Google Maps to check the direction and I couldn’t access my email to retrieve the address.

Luckily it was just a dream. A simple twist to the classic “I am running late” dream. However, the dream was quite vivid and I felt extremely helpless as I stood on the streets of Tokyo knowing I was far away from where I should be and not being able to rely on technology to find the way.

I rarely remember my dreams as vividly as this one. I’d say last time is ten years ago when I was backpacking alone around South East Asia eating malaria pills and reading Murakami. The combination mixed up my sense of reality in ways where I often had a hard time really knowing what was real.

These days I am back at reading Murakami. I’ve started reading 1Q84 and thoroughly enjoy following the journey of Aomame as her world unfolds in ways that makes her question everything. She lives in 1984, but given the glitches she starts to notice, she decides to label the year 1Q84, with Q standing for question. What seemed certain has to be questioned.

Today we live in a world where technology increasingly is seemed as the answer. My mobile phone is the central subject in my dream and when I no longer can rely on its smartness I realize my own dumbness. Why wouldn’t I write down the address in my notebook? Why wouldn’t I bring a printed city map? Why wouldn’t I ask someone to log-in to my email on their phone?

In 1Q84 Aomame’s world’s starts to change the moment she decides to get off from a taxi stuck in traffic on an expressway. She has a job to finish and with the traffic jam she won’t make it. It is the taxi-driver who tells her about a secret emergency staircase that will take her down to the subway. After a moment of hesitation she pays the driver and makes a run for the staircase. On her way out, the taxi-driver warns her that the moment she does something non-ordinary, ordinary things will look different and reminds her that there is always only one reality.

Maybe it is time for us to question our reality to figure out what that reality is. In the last decade technology has been the answer, what if it was the question? What if we allowed ourselves to doubt?

Highlights from the Internet Black Hole

Empty Day

On October 12 we’ll celebrate a day without social media. I adore everything around this project, from the letter you write to the playful challenges, mindful readings and images the website provides you with. As they write: Social media is like the weather. It's always changing. Find your place in the weather.

Apple’s App Store Control

One day before Apple’s annual September event, The New York Times published an article showing how Apple have used their AppStore control to push their own apps above third party apps. For many app developers, the app store is the most important store front - it is where the majority of their customers find them. Naturally it is a problem for fair competition when your main competitor is your unregulated landlord.

The Internet Is Fake

Zeynep Tufekci’s latest op-ed in Wired argues that the Internet has become a low-trust society. We expect everything to be fake, with little to no recourse. Through the article, I was happy to get to know ReviewMeta, an independent site that analyses Amazon ratings and filters out those reviews that look unnatural to give a more balanced rating.

Code and Design Can Be Copied

When Medium articles are best, they are like this one. The founder of Roman wrote a story on behalf of his competitor’s customers where he thanks the competitor for copying their design one-to-one.

The War on Cars in Japan

Lately I have been reducing my podcast listening drastically. From consuming on the heavy side of 20 episodes per week, I hardly reach a handful these days where I am more pulled by flow radio, music and the sound of the surroundings. One episode that stood out was the latest episode of The War on Cars focusing on transportation in Japan. Japan is such a fascinating country, for example you are not allowed to buy a car if you cannot prove you have a space to park it. Genius. Bonus link: See how people use parking spots for everything but not parking.

The Fake Town Where Everyone Knows Your Name

The Outline has a story about a fictional town that is run as a subreddit. The town is called Lower Duck Pond and has roughly 87,000 residents. Every day John Levee will announce the weather, while other stories that occupy the local citizens are milk shortage, a mysteries murder or a senil granddad.

Fake Influencers?

A few weeks ago a tweet by Matt Navarra went viral. The tweet showed four photos by an influencer, from four different locations, with the exact same clouds. It turns out that she actually did travel to those places, but used the app Enlight Quickshot to add clouds to overexposed photos of the sky. To take the story full circle she has now been offered to work with the company behind the app to create new filters.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Regular readers might notice the increase of images in the newsletter. I’m not sure if I think it is becoming too much. I’m curious what you think, so if you are opinionated about the layout and flow of this newsletter, please hit reply. It is work in progress.

And as always a big thanks to the (now!) nine Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, LukasAngela!

<3

Kristoffer

Ephemeral Progress

It is only because of our binary minds that we need a direction to progress

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Yesterday this year’s Techfestival came to an end. It is a project that has been close to my heart over the last couple of years. In a world where technology is slipping through any door, closed or open, I believe it is important to have a conversation where we raise all of our stupid questions and take time to reflect on the purpose and wider impact of technology.

On the open, public stage in the middle of the gentrified meatpacking district of Copenhagen, Aydo entered the stage Saturday afternoon to moderate a one hour panel-discussion on the difference between innovation and progress.

In the panel were David (founder, Unity), David (founder, Arduino) and Pia Henrietta (founder, Carbo Culture). People I respect a lot. People who have created tools leveling the playing field for technology. People who are generally speaking left-leaning and whom I have had good conversations with in the past.

Yet I was rather unsatisfied with the panel discussion.

Reflections on progress are probably the most meaningful conversations we can facilitate on a stage like Techfestival. Having founders, investors and leaders take time to consider the externalities of what they are doing is something that is not happening enough. The current system is created for monthly targets, quarterly earning reports and the annual shareholder report, not daily meditation as Aydo suggested the panelists to practice.

Neither Aydo, nor the panelists did bad, but in reality they all represented the same system and I highly doubt that you can change a system while being in a vacuum. To move the discussion about innovation and progress anywhere we’d need different voices on the stage. People who run mom and pop stores, performance artists and Eastern philosophers. We would need a deeper conversation about our capitalist growth cycle, linear understanding of time and what is beauty.

I hope Aydo continues his work on progress. Hopefully in public. And maybe even on a stage with greater variety at next year’s Techfestival?

Highlights from the Internet Black Hole

  • Removing Like Buttons - Following experiments at Instagram, now Facebook is also trying out hiding the like counts. I know this is also a high priority at Twitter, so I am expecting it to be mainstream by 2020. Ideally, I’d love to see the platforms remove the like feature completely, but I think there is one major hurdle for this to happen: how should the data team teach the algorithms what content to promote if we removed the signals

  • Wait But Why - The Internet went crazy when Tim Urban announced a new series of blog posts. Tim has previously covered everything from Elon Musk to Generation Y, but despite promising to publish every sometimes, his website has been rather silent for a long time.

  • Fire and Light - … is the title of the first chapter in his series. The series is about humans and society and to me the first chapter peaked towards the end when our primitive mind is caught in self-caused smoke, resulting in the higher mind being blocked in doing its job. Yes, this will make sense if you take time to read the article.

  • Emoji WTF - Apparently unicode is implemented badly on certain platforms resulting in some terrible situations. For example, if you want to delete an emoji of a female runner, you’d first have to delete her race and then her gender before you can delete her.

  • Army of Scooters - I know it is easy to hate on the electric scooters, but can we all just take a moment and appreciate this army of teens cruising by the traffic jam in San Jose on their scooters.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As a kid I would change my favorite number every single year. When I was four, my favourite number would be four, when I was five, it would be five. This continued until I turned nine, from then on, nine has always been my favourite number.

This week the ninth person decided to become a paying subscriber. It is obviously crazy and I still don’t get why anyone would pay for receiving my weekly scribbles. Regardless of me not understanding, it makes me super happy every single time.

Therefore please welcome another curator and festival organizer: Lukas. For close to five years, Lukas build up one of Europe’s leadings conferences for creatives. Not long ago we had the opportunity to spend a week together in Tokyo, and I am excited to be spending more time with him in the future. If you are free next Saturday, you can meet Lukas (and me) on a farm 1.5hrs outside of Copenhagen.

And as always a big thanks to the (now!) nine Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, LukasAngela!

<3

Kristoffer

Wind Blows

When it rains, put on rain clothes. When it is dark, sleep.

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

My great-granddad died in a work accident. He was operating the local windmill when one day things went wrong and he lost his life. I was reminded of this story this week when attending The Conference in Malmo.

Arriving with a train from Barcelona, Kris De Decker was standing in front of the crowd presenting his Low Tech Magazine. Kris used to be a high-tech journalist covering new technological innovations to the gospel of investors and young talent looking for the new-new. However, sooner or later Kris realized that he could not comply to the high-tech vision of sustainability and he diverged his energy into exploring low-tech visions in his online magazine.

Every single day the Internet gets heavier. The websites have more scripts, higher definition images and larger code-bases. What used to take kilobytes takes megabytes, what used to require megabytes now requires gigabytes. The energy consumption of the internet growths faster than the total amount of users and there is no sign of things slowing down.

When websites become heavy it is not only bad for the environment. In large parts of the world the devices and internet grid doesn’t allow for high-speed downloading and uploading, ultimately creating an invisible barrier of accessing the information and content that I can consume sitting in my flat in Copenhagen.

Kris did not go on the stage to talk about technological solutions for how we can beam high-speed internet to “the rest of the world”, instead he asked us a simpler, and much harder question: what if we actually need less?

And now it is time to return back to the windmill. Windmills were builld across Europe in the late 19th century and were corner stone architecture in agriculture. Corn was milled between large stones using the power of the wind. Just like today, occasionally the wind wouldn’t blow leaving the miller with the option to wait another day or mill the corn using a different method - for example by using cows to turn the stones.

Today we expect everything to be online and ready-available all the time. It is great that our hospitals and other key public infrastructure is operating even at night, but it is unlikely that we can manage to shift to a sustainable world without sacrifices. One of those sacrifices could be to ban Netflix and YouTube when there is no sustainable (solar, hydro or wind) energy available. Another sacrifice could be to require the largest websites to have “energy friendly” versions in place when energy is environmental expensive.

Kris himself already started showing the way by setting up his own solar powered server for his Low Tech Magazine. When it has been rainy for too many days the battery runs out and his website switches off. It might sound scary to let the weather decide whether people should be able to interact with your projects, but I think it is pretty clear that we have reached the point where inaction and the continuation of status quo is even more scary.

Highlights from The Conference

I didn’t take time to fall into the Internet blackhole this week, hence I am going to share a few highlights from The Conference with you instead.

Kris De Decker spoke about a low tech vision of the future. Calling for a seasonal production powered by nature, we automatically have less.

Meghan O'Gieblyn linked her own past in the church to the technologists dream of singularity. The path to divinity is incredible similar between those believing in the bible and those in the neurons. I want to expand on this later.

Paul Soulellis started printing the web. It does sound like a stupid idea at first, but then you start to think how often websites actually change and how much information gets lost. Removing information from the internet can be an innocent act, but often it is a power game and we can fight it through maintenance and the slow urgency.

Claire Evans told the story of the women we forgot. Asked what gender the internet has, most would immediately think it is masculine, but up until the 80s, it was much more balanced. For some reason I can’t find Clarie’s talk on the website of The Conference, so instead you have to do with a shorter version she held at least year’s Techfestival.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

This week a friend of mine made me extra happy. Two years ago I had the chance to work together with Aydo on the first version of Techfestival. It was inspiring to work closely with a mind as progressive and sharp as Aydo’s, and the many late-night conversations we had that summer very directly has shaped this newsletter and my ongoing thinking. Therefore my heart made an extra beat when I got the notification from Substack that Aydo had decided to become a paying subscriber. Thank you Aydo.

And as always a big thanks to the (now!) eight Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo & Angela!

<3

Kristoffer

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I cannot honestly hope for a better future, so instead I am hoping for a better present

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

This week I was in Tokyo. Since the flight there was 11 hours I went to the airport bookstore to stock up on some readings so I could avoid being frustrated with the selection of the in-flight entertainment system.

I was happily surprised to find a collection of Greta Thunberg’s writings and the handbook of Extinction Rebellion among the usual suspect of airport paperbacks. Reading those books while exhausting CO2 seemed like a proper Titanic move.

In essence each of the two books offer a collection of essays with a common theme: the current capitalistic system are causing the sixth mass extinction, exhausting human and ecological resources and making the earth unliveable for the many by benefiting the few.

It is a system where companies can be build based on future promises despite losing an insane amount of money. This year alone WeWork, Uber and Doordash are projected to lose $13 billion.

While these companies are burning endless cash, they are destroying the foundations for local businesses who have been operating steadily for many years and are turning unified employees into disconnected contractors. Only a few weeks ago one food delivery company decided to pull out of Berlin leaving behind more than 1000 riders with less than one week’s notice.

I’d like to think that society is progressing, but if progress rhymes with a burning Amazonas, I think it is time that we reevaluate what the heck we are currently doing.

Highlights from the Internet Black Hole

  • WeWork is all about Adam - In connection to the WeWork IPO, Alison Griswold totally deconstructs WeWork’s CEO and founder Adam Neumann, in the latest issue of her newsletter. WeWork is the epitome of capital and ownership concentration. And in case you don’t know Ali, she is a writer at Quartz who covers the sharing in economy in one of the best newsletters out there called Oversharing.

  • Unlimited Capital - Investor Ben Thompson explains why there is a case for investing in WeWork even though the company lost more than $4 billion since 2016. In a world of unlimited capital, WeWork is aiming to switch office space from fixed to variable cost, similar to how Amazon Web Services made server costs variable.

  • #WhereHaveYouBen - This is one of the better pranks I have ever seen. For Ben’s 30th birthday one friend made a t-shirt with his face on and donated it to a series of thrift stores around town.

  • Technology Is Slowing Down - We tend to think that everything is accelerating, however there are a number of signs that scientific progress is actually slowing down. This article is in Scientific American focuses on space flight, but I have read similar stories from the pharmaceutical industry. Is the iPhone really the greatest contribution of the last decades?

  • What is Haberman? - Nice tale of a person discovering an unknown area in New York on Google Maps. It is a story that involves human errors, maps from the 60s, an abandoned train station and results in Haberman being removed again from Google Maps.

  • Netflix is a TV Company - I always enjoy reading what a16z’s in-house researcher Benedict Evans is coming up with. This time he puts a pin into the mythology of Netflix. We tend to think of it as a tech company, but the reality is it is a TV company - not much different from Sky in the 90s.

  • The Planet Needs a New Internet - Did you know that digital technologies now accounts for 4 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire aviation sector?

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the seven Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina & Angela!

<3

Kristoffer

Post Post Truth

Finally we have democratized access to propaganda so we can end the white male patriarchy

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

I don’t watch much TV and generally suck at recognizing celebrities. Therefore I had to watch the YouTube clip above a few times before I noticed what actually went on. Once I started to see how Bill Hader seamlessly transformed into Tom Cruise I got why the Internet had a post truth moment last week.

There is no doubt that deepfakes are going to become the thing of 2020. We’ll see an endless stream of fake videos of US President candidates because the technology to change the voice and face of people in videos is now so good that soon anyone can do it.

Obviously it is scary to think this scenario to its ends. How will you know when to rely on a video clip? What happens when distrust to all videos becomes default? What happens to society when it no longer can agree on established truths?

These are important questions, but the question the video left me with was: what happens to our society when propaganda technologies are democratized?

We are constantly told that fake-news and the post-truth society is a result of the Internet. This is as false as it is true. In reality people in power have always used technology to control public perception. In the Middle Age the royalties and churches controlled the books. Later the technologies became the printing press and broadcasting.

There is nothing new in technology being used to change the perception of people. There is nothing new in society not having one universal truth. What is new is that an increasing amount of people have the knowledge, skills and networks to define what is truth.

Highlights from the Internet Black Hole

  • True Fans Nightmare - “Get yourself 1000 true fans and you are good”. If you have ever heard or repeated this statement by Kevin Kelly, you might want to read this tale of Robert Rich. It is published on Kevin’s blog and offers a cautionary counter-picture to the rosy dreams.

  • Data is CO2 - For the better part of a decade people have repeated that data is the new oil. It is true, but in more ways than you realize. Just like oil, data is only valuable when refined and what’s more, the data actions of other people leaches and pollutes your life and social relationships no matter how much you protect yourself.

  • 33,000 Gun Deaths - More than 33,000 people are fatally shot in the U.S. each year. FiveThirtyEight makes your heart hurt with this visual breakdown of the deaths. Ps. can we please stop blaming video-games? It honestly feels like the sugar industry lobbying against fat. Instead of blaming video games, why not just remove weapons, period.

  • $12,000 Speed Tickets - One nerd decided to get “Null” as his personal numberplate. One year later he had tickets for more than $12,000. When you get hit by the algorithms things can escalate quickly.

  • Racial Dynamics - This photo series by Chris Buck fits today’s theme of post-truth quite nicely. Futures are written in plural.

  • Youth Meme Culture - What Nirvana was for kids in the 90s, Playboi Carti is for the youth today. Carti represents the copy-paste culture of exploring personal boundaries that is characteristic for TikTok. Or at least this was what the writer of this post made me believe.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the seven Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina & Angela!

<3

Kristoffer

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