Reads: Digital Detox, Facebook Alternatives & More

A wrap on some of the favourite reads from across the web...

China's Mistress Dispellers - The New Yorker
About a new blooming business in China which hopes to help women rid of the other woman in their marital lives, whether be it the man's casual trysts, secret affairs or kept women.

His clients are women who hope to preserve their marriages by fending off what is known in Chinese as a xiao san, or “Little Third”—a term that encompasses everything from a partner in a casual affair to a long-term “kept woman.” Mistress dispellers use a variety of methods. Some Little Thirds can be paid off or discouraged by hearing unwelcome details of their lovers’ lives—debts, say, or responsibility for an elderly parent—or shamed with notes sent to friends and family. If the dispeller or the client is well connected, a Little Third may suddenly find that her job requires her to move to another city. 

If You Need a Digital Detox, You'll Love This Smart Dumbphone - Wired
These days it's almost inconceivable to live without a smartphone. They have become the ultimate gadgets for just about anything and everything, making digital detox (aka technocamping) so hard a task to achieve, it induces unnecessary anxiety and stress at the mere thought of not having them by your side. That's where Punkt MP01 comes, a minimalist dumb handset that aims to break our non-stop dopamine addiction to smartphones. Available for US$ 295, MP01 is quite expensive, but I suppose that's the hefty price you pay for going off the grid once in a while?

Antarctic Dispatches - The New York Times
Climate change is real and nowhere it's more evident than it's in Antarctica where the seemingly impenetrable ice-laden continent is all but slowly melting in the face of rapidly rising global temperatures.

If that ice sheet were to disintegrate, it could raise the level of the sea by more than 160 feet — a potential apocalypse, depending on exactly how fast it happened... In the 19th century, ethnographers realized that virtually every old civilization had some kind of flood myth in its literature. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, waters so overwhelm the mortals that the gods grow frightened, too. In India’s version, Lord Vishnu warns a man to take refuge in a boat, carrying seeds. In the Bible, God orders Noah to carry two of every living creature on his ark. “I don’t think the biblical deluge is just a fairy tale,” said Terence J. Hughes, a retired University of Maine glaciologist living in South Dakota. “I think some kind of major flood happened all over the world, and it left an indelible imprint on the collective memory of mankind that got preserved in these stories.”

The secret lives of Google raters - Ars Technica
The world of content moderation is a prickly minefield. Microsoft earlier this year faced a lawsuit after two workers on the online safety team said they didn't receive adequate psychological help for a job that required them to view videos of sexual assaults, horrific murders and child abuse. As extremist and violent content becomes increasingly more and more common on the web, companies are developing different means to combat the problem, including but not restricted to Google's use of artificial intelligence to fight online trolls. But how much of a task is actually powered by an algorithm and not a person? Ars Technica's Annalee Newitz covers the secret lives of Google raters, contractual employees who slog it out to test the effectiveness and smooth functioning of its myriad services, in this fascinating but troubling story.

We Need More Alternatives to Facebook - MIT Technology Review
Facebook's mission was once "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected", but now it is "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This new mission, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on to elaborate earlier this week, speaks volumes about the next direction for the social network, which is not only to connect people but also engage in meaningful discourse on political and civic engagement. But can the platform, well-known for cataloging huge amount of information about its users (98 data points, according to a Washington Post report last year) in exchange for displaying targeted ads by combining online behaviour with their offline lives, be trusted? Is it worth the privacy costs and tradeoffs? Can there ever be an alternative to Facebook, even if they cater to a niche audience?

By cross-referencing your behavior on Facebook with files maintained by third-party data brokers, the company gathers data on your income, your net worth, your home’s value, your lines of credit, whether you have donated to charity, whether you listen to the radio, and whether you buy over-the-counter allergy medicine. It does this so that it can give companies an unprecedented ability to post ads that are presumably likelier to appeal to you... The News Feed is engineered to show you things you probably will want to click on. It exists to keep you happy to be on Facebook and coming back many times a day, which by its nature means it is going to favor emotional and sensational stories.