Ian Fitzpatrick

Dark Matter: 20 June 2017

If you read nothing else this week, make it Longreads‘ excerpt from Adam Greenfield’s new book Radical Technologies— which is next up in my reading list — on the sociology of the smartphone (27min). It’s a long piece, yes, but with some absolutely bang-on points. For example:

“The individual networked in this way is no longer the autonomous subject enshrined in liberal theory, not precisely. Our very selfhood is smeared out across a global mesh of nodes and links; all the aspects of our personality we think of as constituting who we are—our tastes, preferences, capabilities, desires—we owe to the fact of our connection with that mesh, and the selves and distant resources to which it binds us.”

Hat-tip to reader (and Almighty co-founder) Chris Smith for the link.

* * *

This week in be the algorithm you want to see in the world:

Now you can own that co-worker who started dropping oblique references to neural nets and machine learning in morning stand-ups: Machine Design has published a quick guide to the distinctions between machine learning and AI (3min). Commit it to memory.

* * *

It’s Tim Hwang’s world, and the rest of us occasionally get to occupy it: Y-Combinator has a fascinating, wide-ranging interview posted with Google’s new Global Public Policy Lead on AI (12min) that gets to some really interesting points on the relationships between government and AI policy. To wit:

one of the most interesting aspects of the GDPR, which is a new privacy regulation in Europe, is the potential for this, what they call kind of a rights explanation. So the idea is for certain kinds of automated decision-making, it might be so significant as to require or give citizens the right for that system to be able to produce some kind of human understandable explanation for what it’s doing.

* * *

All of the cool kids in Cannes this week are going to be talking about  “quantum supremacy” (5min) is going to be a really important idea over the next few years.

* * *

What happens when you put portable DNA sequencing in a $1,000 package you can fit in your pocket (7min)? Things we never imagined. The possibilities presented by MinION are mind-boggling.

* * *

This week in the lost productivity attributable to clever GIF-related Slackbots:

It’s been true for a while, but it’s still wonderfully refreshing to hear someone like BBH CCO Pelle Sjoenell say it into a microphone (5min) (in a terribly candid interview with Shots):

Historically, the only route to mass communication was to hire an agency, that’s why we still bill by the hour like lawyers. But now someone on YouTube could make better ads than I do. They have the tools, the tech, the access and we have to compete with that. ​

* * *

Mike Davidson’s written a thoughtful piece on a remarkably under-addressed topic: how to give product feedback that’s useful to product teams (6min). Bookmark and share liberally.

* * *

It sounds heretical, but Amir Salihefendic’s piece on why Doist quit Slack cold turkey (10min) is a story I’m hearing with increasing frequency. To summarize:

  • it’s addictive
  • it’s built for shallow conversations
  • it’s disorganized
  • it only simulates transparency

I’ve not tried the product their team developed in response, Twist — but there are some nice notes within the piece on design decisions that operated in direct response to the perceived tyranny of Slack’s UI (the online status indicator chief among them for me).

* * *

Lara Hogan’s Github repository of HR docs and resources from her time at Etsy is an absolute goldmine. Download immediately or bookmark forever, kids.

* * *

I wasn’t going to do much with Amazon + Whole Foods, but now I am because Ben Thompson. His point: Amazon acquired a customer, not a retailer (12min) — a point laid out in extraordinary detail and with a strong understanding of the dynamics of the grocery business. It’s wonderfull stuff.

* * *

This week in ‘I’m a voice designer’ is the new ‘I’m an organizational designer’:

Anab Jain is a superhero, and her work on alternative futures at Superflux is the kind of vocation many of us dream about building for ourselves. Her April TED keynote is finally available, and it’s extraordinary. Seriously, the best fourteen minutes you’ll spend today.

* * *

Ana Andjelic has, as usual, written a really on-point piece on the choices facing fashion houses (4min) as their industry, too, moves from a focus on the corporation to a focus on the customer.

* * *

Fjord has shared a set of principles for voice UI design, wrapped up in their own nifty web UI. Some of this is well-trod, but other parts break some new ground. I’m particularly drawn to reminders that in conversation, ‘everything happens in sequence’. Well-worth a bookmark, though it’s a clubhouse leader for most-cited report in 2017 pitchware writeups.

* * *

Amal Graafstra and his friends are norm-coring human chip implants (4min), folks. From a piece this week by The Institute for the Future:

“A good implant,” Amal explains, “becomes so integrated with your daily life that it disappears. It’s unmanaged. You think about it about as much as you think about your kidneys doing their job. Every time I come home, I go to my door, I swipe, I grab the doorknob. I don’t think about it at all.”

* * *

Grant McCracken has a smart, short piece this week on the validity of using Google Trends data to make life decisions (4 min). I’d love to see him build out an entire series on this topic, as I think it lends itself well to exploration. In the meantime, are you caught up on his Artisanal Economies Project?

* * *

As always, my thanks to each of you who makes room in your inbox for Dark Matter. Thanks for all of the kind words on the Twitter. If you’ve enjoyed it, why not pass it along to a colleague or co-worker.

Until next week, I leave you with a complete history of mutually assured destruction (9min).