The loneliness of the long distance lockdowner

Antonym No 11

When a problem stems from your own lack of talent or skill, most people feel shame. Get over it. I cannot emphasize this enough: Acknowledging your weaknesses is not the same as surrendering to them.
– Ray Dalio, Principles


Dear Reader

Anniversaries are usually celebrations or remembrances. This week (and the coming weeks’) one-year-since sequence of Covid-19 flashbacks needed a trigger warning.

We are all still in it. Looking at how lucky you are compared to some doesn't always work anymore. Even looking at how much more hopeful things are today than a year ago only gets you a little way.

Hatsumi

There's an incredible project being run by a mental health/VR start up called Hatsumi. They used a 3D painting app for people with chronic pain or mental health problems to map the sensations over a representation of a human body.

This is similar to a form of therapy where people draw on an outline of their own body. It helps express something that is very complex and nuances and doesn't fit easily into standardised medical forms or come across in typically short conversations with their doctors.

What a VR version of this process does is bring out new possibilities for comparison and diagnosis. Founder Sarah Ticho talk about imaging a “terracotta army” of representations of symptoms so that they can be compared. Also for public information, how much better if you could see how depression feels rather than rely on vague descriptions.

I imagine being able to remap depressive episode from start to end world be useful for the sufferer. Living inside a mind affected by mental illness is disorientating and it's hard to remember how you felt the day before unless it is recorded. Being able to look back through experiences in this way might help us understand what's happening to our bodies and minds.

Deliveroo offers a slice of the action

Merryn Webb in the FT is annoyed she hasn’t been invited to put her name in for the Deliveroo IPO, but thinks the public offer is a good thing:

I’m a little cross I haven’t had one of these emails — my family are enthusiastic Deliveroo users and I like being on VIP lists (any kind will do). But I am also a little thrilled. One of the maddening things about the recent boom in both IPOs and secondary offerings in the UK over the past year has been the way that ordinary investors have been excluded.

The first tree

The move of our business into the Plus X innovation space continued this week. The building is part of one of the biggest development projects the city has seen in decades. I happened to look at the window and see the first tree being delivered for the kilometre-long strip of park that will sit on one side.

The offices in the Plus X development are varied and adaptable. There’s a whole floor office, one that can be divided, and then batches of studios and co-working spaces and workshops that companies and individual workers can be used in different ways. The commercial property reckoning that is coming may not hit the investors here as much as in other places.

Harari’s hot takes

At the opening of the FTWeekend Spring Festival, which ended yesterday, Yuval Noah Harari was interviewed. The author of Sapiens, Homo Deus an 21 Lessons for the 21st Century was on fine form as usual.

Perspective is what Harari does best. This is a collection of some of his most useful insights and clarified a couple that I had slightly misunderstood in his writing.

If you have a log–in for the FT the videos of his and all sessions should be available for a while at https://ftweekend.live.ft.com/agenda.

  • People think that living through a period of history think it is the most important time ever, but this pandemic may be remembered less than we expect after a couple of decades. Pandemics leave less of an impression than people think – just think of how large the First World War figures in our cultures compared with the influenza epidemic which immediately followed it.

  • As he made clear in his essay a few weeks ago, what may make the coronavirus pandemic different in human history this time is that it is a political phenomenon than a natural disaster. 2020 was a story of scientific success (vaccines were developed very quickly using new technologies) and political failure (management of public health and international cooperation to distribute the virus).

  • A many have noted, the Harari says that the pandemic has given a boost to the digital revolution.

  • If we don't have global cooperation we will not be able to deal with climate change. But global cooperation is more efficient than it has been for a long time.

  • It’s not an either/or choice between nationalism and internationalism - nationalism and global cooperation are not mutually exclusive.

  • One of the main reasons that centralised economies failed is that they couldn't process all of the information available. Dispersing control was more efficient. The rise of AI may mean that centralised economies will work better. It may even have an advantage over free-market capitalism.

  • The health or privacy debate is a false choice. We should be asking how we can have both and designing for that.

  • Whenever you increase top-down surveillance, we should increase bottom-up surveillance. It creates balance in the system and protects against tyranny..

  • We need to avoid over-concentration of data in one place. "A little inefficiency is a good thing".

  • AI is the first thing we have created that will understand us. Everything before gave humans more power. This may take over the decision-making and therefore power.

  • Harari advocates digital retreats / “detoxing”. “We almost never see the world as it is but have a veil of stories over it.”

Preparing our minds for the digital age

In an interview on The Pivot podcast Kevin Roose made a challenge to the ways we’ve been thinking about how our brains work:

We’ve been training people for the future entirely wrong. We’ve been teaching them to become machine like: to major in STEM, to optimise and lifehack their way to success.

Roose, is a New York Times tech reporter and author of the new book, Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation, which sounds interesting.

DuckDuckGo in row

DuckDuckGo has used the new Apple Store rules about disclosing how an app access your personal information to make an anti-Google point:

For a long time I would try search engines like DuckDuckGo and then end up going back to Google because they were easier. One of these days the change may stick – Google seems more ad-packed than ever, which can be especially frustrating on a mobile device.

If you follow tech news you may know that Apple is forcing companies to give users more information about when and how they are tracked. Two groups do not like this at all. First, Chinese developers, who think they can come up with ways around it. And Google/Facebook.

Don’t be evil. Remember that. It’s an embarrassing teenage phase that the surveillance capitalist megacorp once went through.

Don’t expect Apple to win completely. This is an arms race between Apple and adtech and as the FT reports:

Dina Srinivasan, a US-based antitrust scholar, said the issue highlighted how Apple’s policies alone could not solve glaring privacy issues. “The big picture is that there is simply too much money at stake,” she said. “There will always be an arms race to track consumers. Only legislation can make it stop.”

Quick links

That’s all for this week. I hope there was something there you liked.

Antony