AI Speculations, 📱Social Media vs Mental Hygiene, Creative Collectives for Culture & More

Sawubona!

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I was quite intrigued by the idea that as artificial intelligence grows, it won't just render us jobless, but as Tyler Cowen offers, it will turn us all into marketers. Take this example he shares:

Let’s consider the ATM. Contrary to what many people think, the widespread adoption of Automated Teller Machines in the 1990s didn’t significantly diminish the demand for bank tellers. ATMs made bank branches easier and cheaper to operate, and that led banks to hire more staff, including tellers.These tellers play a smaller role in counting cash and handling deposits than before, so what are they doing instead? Economist James Bessen explained: “Their ability to market and their interpersonal skills in terms of dealing with bank clients has become more important. So the transition — what the ATM machine did, was effectively change the job of the bank teller into one where they are more of a marketing person. They are part of what banks call the ‘customer relationship team'."

There's a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence and as is the case with Africa, leapfrogging. This is one of the perspectives that has intrigued me so far. Here's hoping African brands, businesses and organisations compete on value for the customer, over mere artificial intelligence band-aids and banter.

That said, we're jumping headfirst into your usual tasting menu of links for the weekend:

What to Sip (<30 Min read)

"If we can accept that our physical health can be shaped by society – by secondhand smoke or a bad diet – then we must accept that our mental health can be too (by social media).

"Matt Haig lays it down with a compelling case for managing your 'mental hygiene' on social media. He doesn't pull any punches when he's putting across that he used to think social media was a force for good. Now the evidence, he says, proves him wrong. The article holds a lot of hard-hitting points worth chewing on.

What to Nibble (<5 Min read)

We're thinking through ways to combat the increasing fluidity of facts, I can't recommend this piece by Danah Boyd enough. The respected researcher on the lives of connected teens has spent much time mulling over whether Media Literacy has failed. The opening paragraphs grip you all the way through the piece.

This challenge is for more than Africa's 650 million unconnected (those without Internet access, but will inevitably, over the next few decades, gain some access). She mulls over the consequences of what it means to have better Internet-based media literacy.

"I remember a casual conversation that I had with a teen girl in the midwest while I was doing research. I knew her school approached sex ed through an abstinence-only education approach, but I don’t remember how the topic of pregnancy came up. What I do remember is her telling me that she and her friends talked a lot about pregnancy and "diseases" she could get through sex. As I probed further, she matter-of-factly explained a variety of “facts” she had heard that were completely inaccurate: You couldn’t get pregnant until you were 16. AIDS spreads through kissing, etc. I asked her if she’d talked to her doctor about any of this, and she looked me as though I had horns. She explained that she and her friends had done the research themselves, by which she meant that they’d identified websites online that “proved” their beliefs.

The United States of America.

What to Bite (<20 Min read)

There’s no doubting the emotional and psychological power possessed by Facebook. The company keeps probing – constantly testing to see what we crave and what we ignore, a never-ending campaign to improve Facebook’s capacity to give us the things that we want and things we don’t even know we want and to keep us scrolling for longer. One of these methods is the automation of thinking.

Algorithms are created that erode free will, relieve humans of the burden of choosing and nudge them in the right direction.This article on how technology is making our brains redundant, with a focus on Facebook, is what I recommend you bite into this week.

I released another video on my new YouTube channel Digital Africa with Mark Kaigwa this week. This time on the ten most downloaded apps in Kenya. You won't want to miss it, I talk about how social media and online payments make the difference for this market.

I personally think on the African continent creative collectives are the future. It could be Maya Varichon, Selly Raby Kane et al, with their provocative work in Dakar, Senegal as part of the Le Petits Pierres collective. Or Accra's Chale Wotea Street Art, Fashion & Cultural festival in Jamestown ran by Mantse Aryeequaye and his venerable cofounders and collaborators. They push boundaries, society-wise and culturally.

Closer to home, we do have such collectives and I can even speak to the fact that the typeface Charvet, that wrote Nendo's wordmark in our logo, is African. It is Kenyan. It is local. It was created as part of a residency at The Nest Collective by 18-year-old Kevin Karanja. The Nest's work reaches far and wide and is culture-shifting in film, art, fashion and more.A recent feature on the WeTransfer blog brought my attention to some of their new work from a resident artist. Kawira Mwirichia has embarked on an ambitious art project, creating a khanga for every country in the world, each built off of a different application of the colours of that country's flag.

This piece by author Ndinda Kioko on the importance of khangas is a great accompaniment speaking to the texture, language, symbolism and sayings the cotton cloths contained.

I've been getting some great feedback from newsletter readers and people on social media alike. I'd always love to hear where you think we can be better —be it here in the newsletter.

If you can't wait for Friday, we now have a Nendo Telegram channel where you can hear and discover what we're reading, listening to and hear from us more often. There's Telegram exclusives, as well. So join us by searching @Nendogram or clicking here.

Yours,

Mark & Team Nendo

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