a16z Podcast: Brains, Bodies, Minds … and Techno-Religions

One of my favorite episodes of this podcast. Yuval Harari’s work is on my reading list for 2017 and he comes across as someone who’s thought a lot about the future and what it will look like.

Check it out right here.

Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?

Matt Richtel writing for The New York Times:

Amid an opioid epidemic, the rise of deadly synthetic drugs and the widening legalization of marijuana, a curious bright spot has emerged in the youth drug culture: American teenagers are growing less likely to try or regularly use drugs, including alcohol.

With minor fits and starts, the trend has been building for a decade, with no clear understanding as to why. Some experts theorize that falling cigarette-smoking rates are cutting into a key gateway to drugs, or that antidrug education campaigns, long a largely failed enterprise, have finally taken hold.

But researchers are starting to ponder an intriguing question: Are teenagers using drugs less in part because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones?

I think it’s an interesting concept. However, I would argue that the lack of drug use could be for a variety of reasons. Technology in this case is an easy culprit, the same way video games are for violence.

I would also love to see if there is correlating data to see there’s been a drop off in athletics as well. In other words, are teenagers dropping out of real life social activities (good or bad) for online activities?

via Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones? – The New York Times

Will Snapchat Be as Fleeting as Its Photos?

From Julia Skylar in the MIT Technology Review:

With Instagram Stories, pictures and videos come out much clearer and sharper, and more generally, it’s simply easier to find people on Instagram than on Snapchat. You don’t need to know a specific username; you can very easily search for people and companies to follow—and receive stories from—just by typing in their actual name.

But whether more millennials flee Snapchat for Instagram might not even matter that much, because both platforms may face an even bigger issue: what if it turns out that disappearing photos and videos are simply another digital fad?

Interesting to pose the idea that disappearing photos and videos as a fad. I just had a conversation with a group of young adults who said that the disappearing aspect of photos and videos were annoying.

I’ve never been a fan of disappearing content, I think it promotes carelessness as an art form versus taking the time to curate your work.

via Will Snapchat Be as Fleeting as Its Photos? – MIT Technology Review

Why Typography Matters — Especially At The Oscars

Benjamin Bannister writes:

With a modified card, even if the presenters had gotten the wrong one, none of this would’ve happened because the presenters would’ve looked at it and one of two things would’ve happened: their eyes would’ve read “Best Actress,” or, “Emma Stone.” Reading either of those would indicate that this wasn’t the card for Best Picture, and they would’ve asked Jimmy Kimmel or a producer to the stage to get it corrected.

As a creator, the importance of typography is an absolute skill to know, and people — not just designers, should consider learning it. Typography can be immensely helpful when writing a resume that’s well-structured, creating a report that looks exciting, designing a website with an intuitive hierarchy — and definitely for designing award show winner cards.

This article is a fantastic breakdown on how with just a few small tweaks, the whole Oscar catastrophe could’ve been avoided.

via Why Typography Matters — Especially At The Oscars

Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends

From Owen Williams:

When Instagram Stories launched well over a year ago, I thought it was cute, but couldn’t understand why I’d ever jump from Snapchat. Simply put, like you, I was hooked on snapping everything as it was. I loved sharing photos into my story, and rarely send pictures directly to others, because it’s a fun way to passively share what I’ve been up to over the course of the day.

Throughout each day, friends browse my story and fire back a chat message if they like it, and I do the same. Before I switched, I was probably checking Snapchat once an hour to see if anything new had happened. Like you, I was addicted to the service — more than a disturbing amount.

But I’ve noticed over recent months a shift: less people are using Snapchat around me, and I’ve stopped entirely. Photos in my stories that regularly got over 5,000 views a day, now get less than half of that — and only a handful of the people I actively followed along with are even sharing anymore.

I’ve tried Snapchat and I thought the user interface was a mess. However, I thought the their value was unique and they would have staying power. But if Facebook keeps innovating and mimicking their features, they could go the way of Vine.

via Why I’m leaving Snapchat and so are all your friends – Charged Tech – Medium

On Value and Digital Minimalism

Cal Newport on the lowest value that technology can provide:

Invented Value. A technology offers you invented value if it solves a problem that you didn’t know existed before the tool came along. A Snapchat user, for example, might note that it’s the most convenient app for keeping friends posted on what you’re up to throughout the day (it doesn’t even require typing!). But this same user, in an age before SnapChat, probably didn’t even know he wanted constant updates from his friends — the app created the behavior that it optimizes.

I’m increasingly finding that most technology that is being created today falls in this category. It’s technology that claims to help, however it does little in the long run to actually improve life.

via On Value and Digital Minimalism – Study Hacks – Cal Newport

The Death Of Expertise

From Tom Nichols writing in The Federalist:

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.

Later on in the article he states the following:

This isn’t just about politics, which would be bad enough. No, it’s worse than that: the perverse effect of the death of expertise is that without real experts, everyone is an expert on everything. To take but one horrifying example, we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine. (Yes, I mean people like Jenny McCarthy.

I see this problem consistently appear in the Church and with people I know in church communications. It seems we have entered an age where every pastor is an expert on social issues due to the fact they oversee a congregation of people and have a sense of authority in their community.

On the church communications side, I see more people entering the conversation who are either currently not in the midst of working at a church or doling out information that lacks the depth needed to understand the issues at hand (I’ve been guilty of this).

My fear for the church and my profession is that we’re slipping into a soundbite culture that is based on grabbing attention and touting numbers that have no true meaning. (As I write this, we’re in the middle of preparing our annual report which more than likely include some of those meaningless numbers.)

via The Death Of Expertise