Dark Matter: 18 August 2017

It’s a remarkable time to be alive — or, at least it was until my decade-in-the-making startup, Authenticanshad its thunder stolen in the Washington Post by something called Surkus.

If you like Dark Matter, you should probably be reading Scott Smith’s Changeist newsletter, too.

On to the Interweb.

This week in the hidden predictive power of Pop Will Eat Itself lyrics:

Separate, and yet inextricably linked: ArenaFPV bills itself as a next generation gaming platform (3min) — effectively a physical world arcade in which competitors can race drones and remote control cars through obstacle courses, but from home. Václav Mlynář has built what looks to be a board game version of a Monument Valley puzzle (2min) that uses object recognition to unlock levels and worlds in an accompanying tablet experience.

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Sam Rolfes has launched an entire genre of video performances recorded live inside game engines. His video for Lunice’s ‘Trust’ (4min) is absolutely mesmerizing.

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I love Frances Ng’s integration of coreML into ARKit : an augmented layer to her living space that handles real-time translation and object recognition. This is hella primitive, but you can absolutely imagine what it portends.

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From Jane Hu’s contribution to How We Got to Next, on real-life cyborgs and hacking our way to sensory amplification (18min):

there are already mundane devices that can detect and give us a readout of electromagnetic waves, but it’s different to sensing those waves. By translating them into something audible, we experience something new, just as people who lose their sight find that they can start to interpret other sensory information in new ways to “see”. Babitz explains this distinction between knowing and sensing by contrasting finding true north from reading a compass versus feeling the vibration from the North Sense magnet attached to him, which buzzes whenever he’s facing magnetic north. Consulting a compass takes conscious effort; getting a buzz when you’re facing north does not.

Read the whole thing, friends. It’s wonderful.

This week in it’s gonna be awesome:

I wrote last week about the potential of blockchain to transform microbusinesses — street merchants and remote vendors. This week a similar story from Knowledge @ Wharton on the capacity of blockchain models to enhance the process of environmental cleanup in Nigeria’s famously-dangerous Niger Delta (7min). The implications are staggering:

the blockchain coalition are looking to use “smart contracts” to bypass corruption and solve the problem of distrust in Ogoniland. These digital contracts automatically execute when all parties fulfill their responsibilities. For example, if Shell has set aside $10 million to clean up an oil spill, funds would be released to the contractor after the work has been verified as finished. “The total monies for the contract won’t be fulfilled until the community members have confirmed that this project has been completed,” Nnadi says. Ordinarily, he notes, the contractor helps himself to some of the money.

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Jeff Sauro’s post on coding and processing verbatims in research and testing feedback cycles (5min) is bookmark-worthy in every way.

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If you’ve not read it yet, Alexandra Samuel’s piece for JSTOR on smartphones and parenting behaviors (11min) makes for fantastic, if ever-so-slightly heavy-handed reading. This stuck with me:

if we’ve let smartphones run roughshod over our lives, it’s not just because they offer respite from our annoying kids, but because they offer respite from our annoying selves.

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Rick Webb talking about early Barbarian (30min) is still one of my favorite things.

This week in moving at the pace of ideas:

It’s not sexy, but spend a few minutes with Toby Park and Ariella Kristal’s piece for the Behavioral Insights team blog on cognitive biases that impact project planning and delivery teams (4min). Circulate it wildly.

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Matt Webb is a fantastic writer, and his Upsideclown project well merits any time you can give it. It was Matt’s observations on publishing and measurement interfaces (5min) though, that — as a long time writer of my own things for the Internet — caught my eye:

This isn’t because I want to optimise an audience; this isn’t because I want to sell ads. This is because it’s nice to know that 17 people read the website and 21 people opened the newsletter, and 36 people read the same story on Facebook, and 6 in an RSS reader — and gosh that’s like the whole top level of a double decker bus, all those people read my story! When companies deal with millions and billions, I think perhaps they forget how the intimate feels. How sometimes it’s not about a thousand retweets but instead about an audience of readers who come back. With whom you have a relationship. Who appreciate you, and you appreciate them. Yes it’s a pleasure to write, and yes I will do it without needing to get 1,000 likes on each and every story, but also let’s not forget that it’s more pleasant with company.

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“Are there any new aliens lately?” : I love this, and so will you: “Anab Jain is trading tiny Mars Orbiter probe models on the streets of India in return for stories of dreams and visions of the future.

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Ben Terrett has a brief, provocative piece on desire paths and pace layering (1min). Now you’re going to see it everywhere you look.

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Martin Weigel wrote what might be my favorite post of the Summer, an extended treatise on the modern corporation, unified theories, and Allan Wilson’s famous milk seal experiments. A particularly great slice:

For once you squeeze out creativity’s ability to surprise, disrupt and delight, once you’ve taken human imagination out of the equation, you’re entirely reliant on buying as much timely, well-located, well-branded real estate as you possibly can.  And as analyses by both Nielsen and the IPA have shown, you’re going to have to spend in excess of your current market share if you want to see any growth. Some lazy readers have bastardised or skim-read the work of marketing scientists to arrive at the belief that well-branded, broadly distributed wallpaper is all that is required. But the simple truth is that as Binet and Field have shown, creativity makes marketing monies work harder.

I’ll be off next week, and back at it the week after. Have a great few weeks.