Two recent articles from BBC Future deal with meta-data and possibilities of surveillance in two everyday technologies:

A blog post at Boardgamegeek collects some recent links discussion changes in boardgames. Some of the points mentioned concern how the industry has changed because of crowd-funded games through the Kickstarter platform and reference an interesting article from Wired that discussed how the company behind the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons is dealing with racial stereotypes in the game. From the article:

In its post, WotC detailed the changes it planned to make to Dungeons & Dragons. This included overhauling the way its books talked about orcs, drow, and other “evil” races, updating past books like Curse of Strahd with an eye to removing racially charged language and stereotypes, releasing new rules that deemphasize racial negatives during character construction, hiring sensitivity readers, and hiring a more diverse pool of freelance writers and artists.

This article from Smithsonian Magazine that dispells some of the myths surrounding the tulipmania is well worth a read:

So if tulipmania wasn’t actually a calamity, why was it made out to be one? We have tetchy Christian moralists to blame for that. With great wealth comes great social anxiety, or as historian Simon Schama writes in The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, “The prodigious quality of their success went to their heads, but it also made them a bit queasy.” All the outlandish stories of economic ruin, of an innocent sailor thrown in prison for eating a tulip bulb, of chimney sweeps wading into the market in hopes of striking it rich—those come from propaganda pamphlets published by Dutch Calvinists worried that the tulip-propelled consumerism boom would lead to societal decay. Their insistence that such great wealth was ungodly has even stayed with us to this day.

A humorous article from The Economist explains how “Netflix is creating a common European culture” through their efforts of promoting shows from different European and translating/subtitling in all languages:

Umberto Eco, an Italian writer, was right when he said the language of Europe is translation. Netflix and other deep-pocketed global firms speak it well. Just as the eu employs a small army of translators and interpreters to turn intricate laws or impassioned speeches of Romanian meps into the eu’s 24 official languages, so do the likes of Netflix. It now offers dubbing in 34 languages and subtitling in a few more.

Read the full article here.

With the recent general election in the Netherlands, I became more interested in the political philosophies of prime minister Mark Rutte and his party the VDD. While it is sometimes argued that they do not have a real political vision, this article from Merijn Oudenampsen at De Groene makes clear some of their background:

Wie de huidige koers van de vvd en de toespraken van Rutte wil begrijpen, doet er goed aan om de publicaties van de toonaangevende vvd-denkers uit de jaren tachtig en negentig te lezen, zoals Frits Bolkestein, Paul Cliteur en Andreas Kinneging. De lezer treft hier een intellectuele tendens die in veel opzichten posities verdedigt die tegengesteld zijn aan die welke Rob Wijnberg met het liberalisme associeert. Deze conservatieve stroming verdedigt sociale en economische ongelijkheid en is sceptisch ten opzichte van verandering en vooruitgang. Zij benadrukt het beperkte menselijk kenvermogen en brengt de wet van onbedoelde effecten in stelling tegen de vooruitgangsoptimisten. Een pessimistisch mensbeeld staat in deze filosofie centraal, tezamen met een sterke nadruk op traditie en cultuur.

The following video from Deutsche Welle recalls why the supply of semiconductors have become geopolitical.

So as the coronavirus crisis reshapes supply and demand, chip companies are scrambling. And if there’s an industry that can’t simply ramp up production in a hurry, or ask clients to do without their product for a while, or shift around parts of their manufacturing rapidly, it’s the chip industry.

Apparently rare user names on big social media platform have become so valuable that there is even a marketplace for such names that have been obtained by hackers. As an article at The Verge details:

These usernames tend to be single words — in rare cases, individual letters or numbers — and they can fetch tens of thousands of dollars on underground markets for stolen digital goods. And because platforms like Instagram and Twitter have rules barring the buying and selling of accounts, the hackers interested in procuring one of these coveted handles often resort to illegal means to obtain them.

Philosopher Peter Singer writes in a Project Syndicate about a medical doctor Texas that facing criminal persecution because he “refused to let a vial of vaccine expire and sought out eligible recipients before the doses would have to be discarded.” In the article Singer makes some interesting reflections on ethical and rule based systems.

Some more interesting articles and quotes critical of the newly popular non-fungible tokens (NFT):

In a blog post on medium user everest pipkin claims that the “current ecological cost of cryptoart and cryptocurrency is very real and very large, and while steps can be taken to reign in some of that energy cost, the crypto- market is still based in a value system that fundamentally ties worth to spent physical resources.

Author Seth Godin furthermore warns that NFTS are “a dangerous trap”:

The more time and passion that creators devote to chasing the NFT, the more time they’ll spend trying to create the appearance of scarcity and hustling people to believe that the tokens will go up in value. They’ll become promoters of digital tokens more than they are creators. Because that’s the only reason that someone is likely to buy one–like a stock, they hope it will go up in value. Unlike some stocks, it doesn’t pay dividends or come with any other rights. And unlike actual works of art, NFTs aren’t usually aesthetically beautiful on their own, they simply represent something that is.

Vox published an article about the recent deal between the financial services company Square and the steaming music service Tidal. They note that a possible outcome of the deal may involve using so-called NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to sell digital collectibles of musicians:

More intriguingly, given Dorsey’s love of All Things Blockchain, and the current mania over NFTs, it won’t be surprising to see Square + Tidal work on their own NFT scheme. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are blockchain-enabled digital pieces of … anything that investors and speculators and collectors are hoovering up at a crazy rate. Even if none of this makes sense to you, you may have heard about people paying real money — a lot of money — for digital ephemera like cartoon cat GIFs or animated trading cards of NBA players dunking or blocking. It’s a thing, for now.

Read the full article here.

Someone recently posted a funny picture on the memes Reddit forum about their struggles with Google’s CAPTCHA test that checks if the user is a bit. There are also some funny comments, check it out here.

In an article by Yuval Noah Harari at the Financial Times, he talks about how Israel has “vaccines for data” deal with the company Pfizer:

Meanwhile, Israel has the seventh highest average confirmed case rate, and to counter the disaster it resorted to a “vaccines for data” deal with the American corporation Pfizer. Pfizer agreed to provide Israel with enough vaccines for the entire population, in exchange for huge amounts of valuable data, raising concerns about privacy and data monopoly, and demonstrating that citizens’ data is now one of the most valuable state assets.

Read more about it also in an article titled “Vaccines For Data: Israel’s Pfizer Deal Drives Quick Rollout — And Privacy Worries” at NPR.org.