A weekly summary of what I’ve found interesting at the intersection of economics, finance and technology.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. ban accounts and some advertisers in the wake of the Hong Kong protests. The different platforms were targeted by coordinated accounts or outright advertising bought against the keywords used by the protests, to promote the officially sanctioned view from China. This is the new reality today, and however much they might resist it, social media platforms have no choice but to take sides in this. Read (BBC)
Online culture wars are moving into the real world: in the wake of Gamergate, students are now filming their teachers in class to catch them out saying something too “politically correct”. Teachers, in response, are becoming more cautious about what they’re trying to teach and challenge. More evidence, if any was needed, that online polarisation is not to be taken lightly. Read (The Verge)
One of DeepMind’s founders took a leave of absence, or was forced to, triggering speculation. The default expectation is now that something ethically dubious must have happened, which is a sad reflection of the state of the industry. Read (Bloomberg $)
Several original backers are looking to distance themselves from Facebook’s Libra. Allegedly they were surprised by governments’ and regulators’ backlash, which doesn’t speak well about the executives’ ability to read the environment they operate in… Read (FT $)
Small cities are jumping on the esports bandwagon. Some big tournaments are being held in places you wouldn’t normally think of, and generating solid economic returns to boot. Read (VentureBeat)
Some people left Apple’s health team because it’s moving too slow. Taking it slow and steady in healthcare-related issues actually strikes me as a rather good thing. Read (CNBC)
Would there ever be an ethical obligation to provide personal data to an AI algorithm? With the state of the industry being what it is, I think the answer is a firm “no”, at this moment. Read (Wired)
A company introduces an iPad-sized chip to power AI. Might this breathe new life into Moore’s law? Read (Wired)
If there was any doubt, paying salaries in cryptocurrency should be prohibited. Read (FT $)
Biometrics are perceived as better and more convenient alternatives to passwords, but once compromised, you have an issue for life. Read (FT $)
Longer-form shows on YouTube are giving lesser-known political candidates a boost. This is arguably positive, a glimpse of the original promise of the internet. Read (The Verge)
Ben Thompson makes an interesting bullish case for WeWork, at least for the market opportunity. I think these concepts of “addressable market” are always a bit fanciful, but the reasoning is interesting. Read (Stratechery)
This academic paper finds that firms that invest in automation end up employing more people. The automation leads to reallocation of labour to more productive tasks and economies of scale, which enable the firms to generate more revenue and hence increase employment. The paper doesn’t address the aggregate labour market effects however, so by extrapolating, firms that automate could end up dominating their sector, at the expense of those that don’t. Summary (VoxEU), Full paper (Aarhus University)
Interesting deep dive into Facebook’s internal IT infrastructure. It does everything itself basically, and the tools aspire to the same experience as their consumer-facing products. They’d probably be better off commercialising this rather than launching Libra… Read (TechCrunch)
That’s it for this week’s edition. As always, thanks for reading and please forward this to anyone who you think might be interested, it would be much appreciated.