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  1. AI Is Coming for Your Favorite Menial Tasks
    theatlantic.com

    Fred Benenson:

    When people talk about the effects of automation and artificial intelligence on the economy, they often fixate on the quantity of human workers. Will robots take our jobs? Others focus instead on threats to the quality of employment—the replacement of middle-class occupations with lower-skill, lower-wage ones; the steady elimination of human discretion as algorithms order around warehouse pickers, ride-hailing drivers, and other workers.

    What’s less understood is that artificial intelligence will transform higher-skill positions, too—in ways that demand more human judgment rather than less. And that could be a problem. As AI gets better at performing the routine tasks traditionally done by humans, only the hardest ones will be left for us to do. But wrestling with only difficult decisions all day long is stressful and unpleasant. Being able to make at least some easy calls, such as allowing Santorini onto Kickstarter, can be deeply satisfying.

    “Decision making is very cognitively draining,” the author and former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes told me via email, “so it’s nice to have some tasks that provide a sense of accomplishment but just require getting it done and repeating what you know, rather than everything needing very taxing novel decision making.”

  2. Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs
    wired.com

    Kevin Kelly:

    In the coming years our relationships with robots will become ever more complex. But already a recurring pattern is emerging. No matter what your current job or your salary, you will progress through these Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, again and again:

    1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do.
    2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can’t do everything I do.
    3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.
    4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.
    5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.
    6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!
    7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.
  3. The World-Wide Work
    ethanmarcotte.com

    Finally watched Ethan Marcotte’s talk from this year’s New Adventures conference. It’s as good as everyone said.

    The sewing machine was introduced to the public in the middle of the 19th century. When it was made commercially available, it was advertised as an appliance that would free women from the routine drudgery of hand-sewing.

    A few short decades later, this pamphlet said that a female operator could use a Singer sewing machine to produce 3,300 stitches per minute.

    That shift in tone is really intriguing to me: as the technology improved, the messaging around sewing machines shifted from personal liberty to technical efficiency.

    People are promised that technology will free them; ultimately, as the technology matures, it captures them.

    I’d like to propose that what happened with the sewing machine is currently happening with the Web: that the Web is becoming industrialized in the same way that the sewing machine was.

  4. Catalina Vista
    mjtsai.com

    The macOS Catalina situation seems to be pretty bad. My biggest reasons for upgrading are Apple Arcade and Reminders, but in return I’d have to:

    • give up Photoshop CS6
    • give up a bunch of games on my Steam library
    • deal with my old Aperture libraries as the app is finally broken
    • learn a new shell, or replace it
    • fix all the tooling stuff that will break due to the new read-only system volume
    • put up with all the permission annoyances
    • deal with all the damn bugs

    Marco Arment’s take on ATP is right: “not enough carrot to take the stick”. For the first time ever I might actually skip a major version of macOS.

  5. Are China’s Tantrums Signs of Strength or Weakness?
    theatlantic.com

    Zeynep Tufekci wonders about China’s motivations around the Hong Kong situation:

    So why is China demanding significant censorship from Western companies—as in the case of this app—in the absence of a real threat? One thing to note is that while the original events being censored are minor to the point of trivial, the backlash creates a huge amount of publicity. You might be tempted to think that China has a Streisand-effect problem, in which trying to censor an event creates even more publicity. But that assumes the Chinese government doesn’t understand the Streisand effect, and that can’t be right, because if one government understands attention dynamics online, it’s China’s.

    Significant amounts of scholarship show that the Chinese government has been very good at burying important news by distracting from it with other, flashy but unrelated news. This shows a subtle and powerful understanding of the Streisand effect: Instead of censoring, China diverts attention.

  6. Youtube’s Biggest Lie
    youtube.com

    Nerd City:

    We tested fifteen thousand common words and phrases against YouTube’s bots, one by one, and determined which of those words will cause a video to be demonetized when used in the title.

    If we took a demonetized video and changed the words “gay” or “lesbian” to “happy” or “friend”, every single time, the status of the video changed to advertiser-friendly.

    YouTube’s apparently unassailable dominance over web video is a real shame. I dream of a world where web video is like podcasts: a decentralized system where anyone can participate without ceding control to a giant corporation with black box policies.

    Monetization is already going the way of podcasts: crowd-funding and ad reads. Big video creators just can’t afford to trust that YouTube’s ever-changing policies will be on their side. The next step is decentralizing distribution, which seems like a harder problem to solve. But we’ve done it before: let’s bring back video podcasts. Let me get my video subscriptions in my RSS reader. Let’s take video away from YouTube and give it back to the web.

  7. The China Cultural Clash
    stratechery.com

    Ben Thompson:

    I am increasingly convinced this is the point every company dealing with China will reach: what matters more, money or values?

    John Gruber summarizes Ben’s points really well:

    The gist of it is that 25 years ago, when the West opened trade relations with China, we expected our foundational values like freedom of speech, personal liberty, and democracy to spread to China.

    Instead, the opposite is happening. China maintains strict control over what its people see on the Internet — the Great Firewall works. They ban our social networks where free speech reigns, but we accept and use their social networks, like TikTok, where content contrary to the Chinese Community Party line is suppressed.

    Worse, multinational mega corporations like Apple and Disney are put in a bind — they must choose between speaking up for values such as the right to privacy and freedom of speech, or making money in the Chinese market.

    And Nilay Patel makes a great comparison:

    It’s not hard to understand that carmakers in the US market build to California emissions standards because they are the strictest - it’s the most efficient choice.

    Not a leap to think global companies will hold themselves to China’s speech restrictions for the same reason.

  8. The imitation game
    adactio.com

    Jeremy Keith:

    Jason shared some thoughts on designing progressive web apps. One of the things he’s pondering is how much you should try make your web-based offering look and feel like a native app.

    This was prompted by an article by Owen Campbell-Moore over on Ev’s blog called Designing Great UIs for Progressive Web Apps. He begins with this advice:

    Start by forgetting everything you know about conventional web design, and instead imagine you’re actually designing a native app.

    This makes me squirm. I mean, I’m all for borrowing good ideas from other media—native apps, TV, print—but I don’t think that inspiration should mean imitation. For me, that always results in an interface that sits in a kind of uncanny valley of being almost—but not quite—like the thing it’s imitating.

    People have been gleefully passing around the statistic that the average number of native apps installed per month is zero. So how exactly will we measure the success of progressive web apps against native apps …when the average number of progressive web apps installed per month is zero?

  9. The Nerdwriter: The Real Fake Cameras of Toy Story 4
    youtube.com

    Toy Story 4 looks incredible, almost hyper-realistic. And it’s not a simple matter of technology getting better; there is artistic intent in the imperfections that give it that edge. Among other techniques, Pixar is simulating real-world camera lenses (along with their limitations). Evan Puschak explains:

    Animation has always drawn from the lessons of live action film, from the visual language of cinematic storytelling. Everyone who worked on Toy Story 4 understands that the imperfections — the way a lens distorts, or a camera operator shakes, or a light bounces — contain their own expressive potential. And when you combine these with the limitless world of animation, the results can be stunningly tactile.

    I hadn’t noticed that split diopter shot — it’s brilliant.

  10. The hard truths of climate change — by the numbers
    nature.com

    Nature has put together a comprehensive series of charts that do a really great job at showing just how fucked we are.

    Whatever they decide, nations will have to reckon with some difficult numbers that will ultimately determine whether the world can avoid the rapidly approaching climate meltdown. Nature documents the scale of the challenge in an infographic that explores energy use, carbon dioxide pollution and issues of climate justice. At a time when countries have pledged to curb greenhouse gases sharply, the data show that annual emissions spiked by 2.1% in 2018 — owing in part to increased demand for coal in places such as China and India.

  11. Simplicity (II)
    bastianallgeier.com

    Bastian Allgeier:

    I have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to programming:

    less code === less potential issues

    This rule of thumb controls my own feelings towards a solution. It shouldn’t take 120 MB of code to uglify some JS. But maybe I’m wrong.

    In practice, this dependency hell has bitten me so often already that my life expectancy probably sank by 2-3 years. You want to build a JS file? Please update Webpack first. Oh, that new version of Webpack is no longer compatible with your Node version. Oh, your new Node version is no longer compatible with that other dependency. Oh, now you have 233 detected security issues in all your node_modules but you can’t fix them because that would break something completely unrelated.

  12. 5G Will Definitely Make the Web Slower, Maybe
    filamentgroup.com

    Scott Jehl:

    Faster networks should fix our performance problems, but so far, they have had an interesting if unintentional impact on the web. This is because historically, faster network speed has enabled developers to deliver more code to users—in particular, more JavaScript code.

    Ugh. Jeremy Keith comments:

    The longer I spend in this field, the more convinced I am that web performance is not a technical problem; it’s a people problem.