July 20, 2014

A documentary worth watching: The Story of Aaron Swartz

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I highly recommend to watch this 1 hour 44 minute documentary about IT-wunderkind and political activist Aaron Swartz. He took his life in the face of a potential decades long prison sentence – for trying to fight the lack of common access to public knowledge and the copyright laws that lie at the base of that. A documentary that illustrates how much out of proportion the legal sanctions against infringement of (partly outdated) copyright laws can be today.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (for free on YouTube)

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July 19, 2014

12 articles that I really enjoyed reading this week

Some reading tips for the weekend. If you do not want to miss future posts, subscribe via FacebookRSS or E-Mail.

» What to do when an Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace’ is out of reach
Intelligent comment: What Israel & Palestine need is not (“god given”) peace but a serious compromise that requires sacrifices.

» Helsinki’s ambitious plan to make car ownership pointless in 10 years
I’m excited about this!

» Kara Swisher: Tech’s Most Powerful Snoop
Inspiring and interesting piece about one of the best journalists (in my eyes) covering the Internet and Technology business.

» Report around the clock: How some news orgs use time zones to their advantage to operate 24/7
Clearly a trend that makes a lot of sense.

» Programming is not math
Good post clearing up with the old stereotype that one has to be good at Math to be able to code.

» #Love: Virtually No Sex
To enjoy this post, first agree with yourself to put aside all assumptions and prejudices you have about sex and intimacy. Otherwise you waste your time.

» How “I Don’t Know” Can Make You An Authority in Your Industry
Insightful! Say “I don’t know” more often and earn respect and credibility.

» Technology journalists are facing extinction
Because every part of life is being touched and disrupted by technology, technology journalists and bloggers need to reinvent themselves.

» From Alzheimer’s to ADHD: what doctors can diagnose from your voice alone

» Amazon’s Cloud Is One of the Fastest-Growing Software Businesses in History
Amazon’s (comparatively) little known side business is becoming a main business.

» Japan’s new Cruise Train is a luxury hotel on rails
Who would not want to go on a ride with this train.

» Meet Cups: Endless Coffee for $45 a Month
A coffee flatrate for New Yorkers, spanning together many independent coffee shops. Why not.

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July 18, 2014

The idea of the basic income might be flawed, but it makes more sense than today’s system

The photo above is from this article on pando.com. It shows a billboard campaign of American lobbyists against initiatives promoting a higher minimum wage. A topic that currently enjoys lots of political and media spotlight both in the U.S. and Europe.

The message of the billboard is that the higher the minimum wage, the more likely it is that jobs will be automated.

This is both right and wrong. Naturally, the more expensive it is for a company to employ a worker, the more incentive the company has for cutting down jobs to reduce costs.

So from this perspective, the claim that higher salaries will lead to less jobs might be true.

But the initiators of this billboard are also (and probably intentionally) wrong: Because they imply that with no increased minimum wage, jobs won’t be automated. But that is a fairy tale.

In a scenario where a computer/machine is fully capable and suitable to replace a $15/hour worker, it would also be capable and suitable to replace a $10/hour worker. Or a $5/hour worker. As long as the quality of the output of the work is comparable and the total cost/hour for purchasing and running the machine is lower than paying a human worker, this worker will eventually be replaced by a machine. And the costs for acquiring and running machines are constantly shrinking, thanks to technological advancements and economies of scale.

Here is the thing: Replacing human workers with machines makes total sense: If you for one second ignore the challenges for our current economic and social system, what reason would there be left to keep “using” a human for a job that a machine could do with the same quality of output? I do not find any (also because for me, this situation is an indicator for a likely lack of fulfillment and stimulation this job offers to a human being).

Thus, I believe this whole minimum wage thing is a short sighted discussion and solution. In the long run, these jobs that are supposed to be protected by minimum wages will disappear, no matter what. And thus, in my opinion a more dramatic change is needed. Like the basic income for example, which I hardly see any alternative to for the future.

Turning back to the billboard from above: It is a pretty good illustration for the contradiction that is at the core of today’s system: We cannot or do not want to pay workers an income that enables them to cover all the costs that modern life (housing, food, entertainment, education, health) comes with. At the same time we somehow actively or at least morally support the idea that – even if machines would be able to do the job – we need to keep employing humans to do these (badly paid, low stimulating, low fulfilling) jobs.

It really does not make any sense. Which is why, however flawed the idea of the basic income might be, it hardly can be more flawed than the current approach.

Fortunately, the idea of and discussion about a basic income is spreading more and more. Even some die-hard capitalists are warming up for it.

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This post on Hacker News
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July 16, 2014

It’s unlikely that we can prevent the total surveillance society from happening

As shown by the ongoing leaks by Edward Snowden, we are heading towards complete surveillance societies. Personally, I am not too optimistic that we ever will be able to avoid that from happening. Here are three reasons why:

1. Security is addictive.
People get used to the level of security they have, and then eventually want more. One just has to compare today’s safety and security measures with 100 years ago.

2. Politicians won’t ask for less surveillance (when it counts).
Nobody wants to be the person with blood on their hands (or being accused for it).

3. There will be new incidents.
It’s unlikely that surveillance will prevent new ugly stuff from happening. Too many people, too many loopholes. And as soon as something happens, the first consequence will be the introduction of additional security measures. And the “game” goes on.

But let’s assume that we really won’t see any more incidents or terrorist attacks… well, then we most likely have reached the total surveillance state.

Of course, I hope I’m wrong with my pessimism.

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This post on Hacker News
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July 12, 2014

10 articles that I really enjoyed reading this week

Some reading tips for the weekend. If you do not want to miss future posts, subscribe via FacebookRSS or E-Mail.

» Psychiatry in the Age of Justifiable Paranoia
An interesting, unconventional angle to look at in regards to the consequences of the global (Internet) surveillance.

» How the ‘PayPal Mafia’ redefined success in Silicon Valley
This is a unique success story: The members of the early team of PayPal have on their own created lots of billion Dollar companies.

» Samsung’s Race To The Bottom
The big giant is struggling: “Samsung has to compete with everyone. Apple only has to compete with itself”.

» The tragedy of the Arabs
The Economist analyses the misery and stagnation of the Arab world in a time when other parts of the world develop rapidly.

» 1 of 107 people in the U.S, adult population are imprisoned
America has a thing for putting people in prison. Especially affected: black males. Hard to believe but among black young men, one in nine are in prison. That’s what happens when a society rejects taking care of less advantaged members.

» The Country That Invented The Car Is Now One Of The World’s Biggest Users Of Car Sharing
Interesting things are hapening in Germany.

» A Gentlemen’s Guide To Rape Culture
An important piece about an issue that many are hardly aware of.

» Work Is the Worst When You’re in Your 30s
No surprise but when people become parents, the balance between private and work life is shaken.

» The New Fast Food
High-end mail delivery startups are revolutionizing fast food.

» Best Business Class Cabins
I could make those gorgeous looking business class cabins my permanent office.

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July 7, 2014

What makes a good dance club according to me (and why most clubs do not live up to that)

Since I was 17 I have been an avid guest of dance clubs focusing on electronic music. Even though the number of club nights I went to has shrunk significantly lately, I still appreciate the occasional night at the dancefloor. Unfortunately, many clubs within the electronic music genre deliver poor quality and make it hard to enjoy yourself.

Here are some thoughts on what makes a good dance club, in my eyes:

1. Short entrance lines

2. Staff and security guards that are friendly, not arrogant.

3. As little VIP sections and drinking tables as possible. A great club is a place where everybody can escape the hierarchies and differences in status of the “real” world. I generally try to stay away from clubs that are all about satisfying the VIPs (which is usually at the expense of the rest of the crowd), and I wish more people would do that.

4. Getting a drink from the bar must not take 30 minutes. I actually believe there should be an automatic process to provide those drinks that do not involve actual drink mixing (water, soda, beer, wine etc).

5. Visibility of guards and “officials” should be as limited as possible. Nothing kills a great vibe more than an angry looking security guy (maybe even with a flashlight in his hand) standing in your way.

6. At the restroom, I do not need 3 guys standing there handing me a paper towel, expecting a tip. Seriously, how ridiculous is that?!

7. Free and easy access to tap water.

The reason why most clubs in most cities and countries I have been to hardly live up to any of these personal expectations is because a) I am quite picky (in regards to clubs) and b) people come despite being treated lousy.

So in the end, I guess it’s also my own fault.

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July 6, 2014

11 articles that I really enjoyed reading this week

Some reading tips for the weekend. If you do not want to miss future posts, subscribe via FacebookRSS or E-Mail.

A funny side note: For the third week in a row, my final selection ended up to be 11 articles, totally by accident.

» The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats
Fantastic piece about the possible dangerous consequences of rising wealth inequality. I am not sure if minimum wages really would be a solution, but nevertheless the text contains many significant thoughts. And it is written by someone who considers himself being part of the “1 %”.

» Sleep as a Competitive Advantage
Sleep more and be more effective and successful.

» Not-So-Social Media: Why People Have Stopped Talking On Phones
I so can resonate with this perspective: Calling on a phone has become a violation. I want to decide when I give somebody X minutes of my time. Texts are perfect for that, calls are not.

» The secret to America’s most “disruptive” supermarket—fruits and vegetables
An American grocery store chain successfully builds its whole business and store model around selling fruits and vegetables at lower costs. Smart and with a pretty huge potential. Not to speak of benefits for society and health.

» Puerto Rico: Tropical Tax Haven for America’s Super-Rich
This poor Island close to the U.S. East Coast is about to become the “Singapore of the Caribbean” by establishing itself as a place where rich people move to pay less taxes.

» Ken Fishkin’s answer to Why are conservative talk shows so popular and liberal talk shows a failure?
Pretty good point: People easily fall for conservative opinions because they blame “the others” for problems and free the supporters from the idea that they themselves have to change.

» The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

» Meet the Brothers Behind the Web’s Most Controversial Social Network
Ask.fm, a controversial and highly successfully social network from Latvia, especially popular among teens.

» Android Wear review: the everything inbox
A review of the new Android software that was made for smartwatches.

» Why the first world war wasn’t really
A short history lesson: The first world war actually was the second world war.

» Impostor Travelers
There might be some truth to this: Many people don’t want to travel a lot. They just want to pretend. The travel magazine industry capitalizes on this.

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July 2, 2014

What happened when I stopped drinking coffee (for 6 days)

Last week I tried a little experiment: I did not drink coffee for 6 days. For me, this was kind of a big deal.

I otherwise consume huge quantities of coffee. 4-5 larger cups a day are not unusual. If somebody would refer to me as a coffee addict, that maybe might not be correct in the medical term, but it is not far from the truth.

So I wanted to see what happens when going “cold turkey” and quiting coffee. Turns out, for the first 2 days I became quite cranky and hard to deal with. I did not feel any physical withdrawal symptoms, but my mind was constantly thinking about coffee and debating whether I should give in. The habit of sipping from a cup while writing an article or reading on my iPad or doing other things had become so powerful that not doing it meant lots of mental work and quite a need for self-discipline.

From day 3 on, skipping coffee got easier. The habit weakened, and replacing coffee with many cups of green tea did help as well. By day 6 I gave in. Not because of huge cravings (that largely had disappeared) but rather because I had decided from the beginning that this experiment only would last for a work week. After I succeeded with that, I had nothing more to fight for. Coffee is simply too delicious. And after having read about many studies describing the effects of coffee on the body and health, I learned that the potential benefits seem to be much bigger than the possible side effects. In short: There is little reason to quit coffee completely.

Nevertheless, it was quite interesting to see how “dependent” I am on coffee, while at the same time realizing that breaking a habit is usually only hard in the beginning and gets easier after a while. It feels good to know that – if necessary – one can do it.

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June 28, 2014

11 articles that I really enjoyed reading this week

Some reading tips for the weekend. If you do not want to miss future posts, subscribe via FacebookRSS or E-Mail.

» We have the potential to solve the biggest problems of today
This is what’s on my mind a lot: Thanks to the Internet and digital technology, entrepreneurs could solve really huge problems. Instead they built products for entertainment.

» Shocking as it once seemed, Snapchat’s decision to turn down $3B now looks like a no brainer
The founder of photo/video app Snapchat said no to a $3 billion offer by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg himself rejected a similar offer when he was in the early stages of building Facebook.

» North Korean restaurants springing up around Asia to raise money for regime
The North Korean government is running restaurants in a couple of countries to raise foreign exchange and launder money. There is even one in Amsterdam.

» Forget Bitcoin: There’s A Better Model For Mobile Money
A profile of M-Pesa, a mobile phone-based service that has become synonymous with money in Kenya.

» Is Cold Brew Coffee In A Box The Single Greatest Invention Of Mankind Ever?
It could be!

» Ireland is the best country in the world according to Good Country Index
The remarkable thing with rankings like these is: They always confirm some assumptions and include some surprises.

» What God does to your brain
Why some people believe and others not might be explained with differences in their brains.

» Interviewing with Y Combinator: Our Story
The story of how a German startup almost got into the world’s most renowned startup accelerator, Y Combinator. Lots of insights and learnings in this piece.

» Idle Jet in Singapore a Sight for Sore Planespotting Eyes
Nobody wants to take responsibility for a Boeing 747 that was left abandoned on Singapore’s Changi Airport almost three years ago.

» Flipping The Model
I agree: It’s likely that the TV of the future (and other screens we often interact with, like in cars) will only act as a large screen connected to our mobile devices through Bluetooth and WiFi.

» Tesla is now most important automaker in world, Morgan Stanley says
Speaking about cars: Quite a success story that Tesla has created.

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June 27, 2014

It’s a commercial, but so inspiring!

Watch this inspiring 3 minute video below, or on Vimeo.

Dewar’s White Label “Live true” / Alex Honnold from Mireia Pujol on Vimeo.

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