The Master AI Poker Player, and 3 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while you were celebrating Bey’s big baby bonanza

The Atlantic: What Killed the Pay Phone?

Selected by Craig Davis, editorial intern

After a peak of 2.6 million public pay phones in the mid-1990s, the once ubiquitous fixtures started to disappear. While most assume the cell phone is to blame, Renée Reizman explains in The Atlantic that “fear and paranoia” are the real culprits.

This fear stems from the pay phone’s role as an enabler of criminal activity. Ever since a 1967 Supreme Court case protected the privacy of pay phone conversations, the devices have been a popular place for making and receiving illicit calls. As a result, many cities enacted legislation to limit their placement or eliminate the pay phone altogether.

However, the regulation had an unfortunate side effect. The laws “are vague and expansive in language, and they disproportionately affect minorities,” Reizman writes. “For the dwindling numbers of people without access to cellular networks, [the] phone’s removal may cut them off from a world that increasingly eschews face-to-face interaction.”

The Drum: Medium to launch consumer subscription product within months

Selected by Joe Lazauskas, editor-in-chief

I found out about Medium’s new subscription-service business model when my friend Ari snapped me a video of Ev Williams’ announcing the new move yesterday at Upfront Summit. It made me realize two things: My friends and I are total dorks, and Medium is probably screwed.

When Medium first announced its layoffs and departure from an ad-based business model last month, our team immediately began speculating how the platform could make money in the future.

A subscription service to publishers like The Ringer and The Awl seemed like the most obvious solution, and that’s where things get scary. If there’s a target audience for a subscription service for those sites, it’s us. But in an informal poll of our team, I was the only one willing to pay for them. It’s damn near impossible to see how this will work out.

Stratechery: Inspired Media

Selected by Dillon Baker, tech editor

As always with Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, this article gets to the core of a critical issue: how digital marketing is fundamentally different than previous media.

Thompson uses Trump’s quick rise to power and Clinton’s ignominious defeat as the purest examples yet of how the internet’s gatekeepers (Facebook and Google) reward extremism, passion, and emotion. I’m not sure the marketing space has fully reckoned with the shift, but one thing is clear: The ones who do will win.

Wired: Inside the Poker AI That Out-Bluffed the Best Humans

Selected by Jordan Teicher, managing editor

In a game of poker, an algorithm has no tells. It can’t sit back in a chair or smile without blinking. It doesn’t fidget nervously with a watch or bracelet. It just wins.

Over the last few weeks, Wired writer Cade Metz has been chronicling an ongoing competition between Libratus, an artificial intelligence system that runs on a supercomputer, and some of the top No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker players in the world. As is the case in most battles of man vs. machine, man lost. Badly.

The result has interesting implications for the future of AI. In a game like chess, computers can understand every possible move at any time. But in poker, even if you calculate odds based on your own hand, you can’t see another player’s cards. You have to study betting patterns unique to the individual and constantly adapt. That an algorithm could destroy the best poker players shows just how much power AI can wield. It doesn’t even need to know all the facts anymore. It’ll just keep getting better until we fall in defeat.

Image by Pexels / CC Zero