84 posts tagged internet
The Internet’s Original Sin
It’s not too late to ditch the ad-based business model and build a better web.
Ron Carlson’s short story “What We Wanted To Do” takes the form of an apology from a villager who failed to protect his comrades from marauding Visigoths. It begins: What we wanted to do was spill boiling oil onto the heads of our enemies as they attempted to bang down the gates of our village. But as everyone now knows, we had some problems, primarily technical problems, that prevented us from doing what we wanted to do the way we had hoped to do it. What we’re asking for today is another chance. There’s little suspense in the story—the disastrous outcome is obvious from the first paragraph—but it works because of the poignancy of the apology. All of us have screwed up situations in our lives so badly that we’ve been forced to explain our actions by reminding everyone of our good intentions. It’s obvious now that what we did was a fiasco, so let me remind you that what we wanted to do was something brave and noble. The fiasco I want to talk about is the World Wide Web, specifically, the advertising-supported, “free as in beer” constellation of social networks, services, and content that represents so much of the present day web industry. I’ve been thinking of this world, one I’ve worked in for over 20 years, as a fiasco since reading a lecture by Maciej Cegłowski, delivered at the Beyond Tellerrand web design conference. Cegłowski is an important and influential programmer and an enviably talented writer. His talk is a patient explanation of how we’ve ended up with surveillance as the default, if not sole, internet business model. The talk is hilarious and insightful, and poignant precisely for the reasons Carlson’s story is. The internet spies at us at every twist and turn not because Zuckerberg, Brin, and Page are scheming, sinister masterminds, but due to good intentions gone awry. With apologies to Carlson: What we wanted to do was to build a tool that made it easy for everyone, everywhere to share knowledge, opinions, ideas and photos of cute cats. As everyone knows, we had some problems, primarily business model problems, that prevented us from doing what we wanted to do the way we hoped to do it. What we’re asking for today is a conversation about how we could do this better, since we screwed up pretty badly the first time around. (via The Internet’s Original Sin - The Atlantic)
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that as we spend more time communicating via social media, we are disappearing into bubbles. We receive information from the same sources and witness the views of the same people in our personalised newsfeeds every day. But it also seems like living in our bubble is having an effect on our own opinions and how we formulate them. An interesting statistical regularity has been documented about group deliberation. This phenomenon has been called group or attitude polarisation, or just polarisation for short. It’s something that has been intensively studied by Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor and former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Sunstein says that deliberation appears to move groups of people of accord opinion “toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own pre-deliberation judgments”.
How the Web Became Our ‘External Brain,’ and What It Means for Our Kids
Recently, my two-year-old nephew Benjamin came across a copy of Vanity Fair abandoned on the floor. His eyes scanned the glossy cover, which shone less fiercely than the iPad he is used to but had a faint luster of its own. I watched his pudgy thumb and index finger pinch together and spread apart on Bradley Cooper’s smiling mug. At last, Benjamin looked over at me, flummoxed and frustrated, as though to say, “This thing’s broken.” Search YouTube for “baby” and “iPad” and you’ll find clips featuring one-year-olds attempting to manipulate magazine pages and television screens as though they were touch-sensitive displays. These children are one step away from assuming that such technology is a natural, spontaneous part of the material world. They’ll grow up thinking about the internet with the same nonchalance that I hold toward my toaster and teakettle. I can resist all I like, but for Benjamin’s generation resistance is moot. The revolution is already complete. (via How the Web Became Our ‘External Brain,’ and What It Means for Our Kids | Opinion | WIRED)
Web and mobile phone users willingly share personal data in exchange for free stuff, but not everyone is ready to throw in the towel on privacy
"No single vice causes so much mental and physical debility,” began a section of a popular home medical guide published in 1921, “than masturbation. It impairs the intellect, weakens the memory, debases the mind, ruins the nervous system and destroys body, mind and soul." Its author, Isaac D Johnson, wasn’t saying anything particularly new. At the turn of the 20th century, moral panic about masturbation was so widespread, everyone from the Boy Scouts of America to Kellogg’s – who sold Cornflakes on the basis they were a “non-stimulating” dietary option for adolescent boys – was telling young men to keep their hands out of their pants. Believing it to cause everything from acne to depravity, the anti-masturbation movement saw the creation in 1876 of such devices as the “Stephenson Spermatic Truss”, a metal cage that fitted like a pair of boxer shorts and made an erection physically impossible (or at least, extremely painful). Like something from a Game of Thrones torture scene, there was even, in 1903, the development of an electrified version that would frazzle your penis like a fly if it dared venture upwards.
go read ..
irony..! sort of..
You’ve Been Obsessing Over Your Likes and Retweets Way Too Much
The digital age version of the proverbial tree falling in the woods question is: Does something exist if it hasn’t been liked, favorited, linked to, or re-tweeted? According to many tech critics, the tragic answer is no. Like Lady Gaga, we live for the applause. But if constantly chasing other people’s approval is a shallow way to live that leads to time and energy being wasted over pleasing others and recurring feelings of insecurity and emptiness, how can we course correct? The first step is to acknowledge a problem exists. Too many people are desperate for attention and build their self-esteem with bricks made of external recognition. Take Rameet Chawla, founder of the mobile app company Fueled. Feeling spurned by friends who didn’t appreciate that he simply was too busy to like their pics on Instagram, Chawla became desperate and resorted to a depressing measure: outsourcing faux sentiment to technology. He actually designed a program that automatically liked the photos other people posted, and then, voilà, his “popularity soared.” (via You’ve Been Obsessing Over Your Likes and Retweets Way Too Much | Opinion | WIRED)
Will the Internet Achieve Sentience? If it does, (or rather when it does), should we expect hoards of robot armies to soon rise up under its control? Or would a less dramatic outcome be more likely? This book explores the topic of this possible emergent sentience, and its ramifications for Humanity. This exposition from the mind of the rogue philosopher, Bill M. Tracer, takes his readers on a thought provoking journey to explore possible answers to that title question. Bill takes his readers along on his train of thought, and quite a ride it is. Throughout this work of futurist’s speculations, you too can take this ride with him, first into the burgeoning mind of an emerging Internet sentience, then further into a possible future in which the ultimate symbiosis of the biological, and the synthetic could transform humanity forever more, even as we someday spread from this world and outward to the stars, together with our artificially sentient ally, known as VOX, for the purposes of this book. Taking us into an alternative to the Transhumanists vision of the Singularity, this book unfolds a metaphysical path that could ultimately open the doors toward the ascension of our species to a non-corporal pure energy form, someday.
Anthony Fisher, a lecturer at Nottingham University, has become the latest casualty of unwise social media use after causing outrage with Facebook posts about his students and their intellectual ability, or lack thereof. Public humiliation ensued, which in turn prompted official institutional statements on the matter that could leave Fisher with a mark against his name for the rest of his career. He is by no means the first to become a pariah for failing to think before he posts. Fellow academic Geoffrey Miller, from the University of New Mexico, felt the heat last year after tweeting about “obese” PhD applicants and PR executive Justine Sacco was fired after sending an offensive tweet about AIDS just before getting on an 11-hour flight to South Africa. By the time she landed, her missive had been retweeted thousands of times. Unfortunately, the media frenzy that so often surrounds these cases only fuels the fire for those who oppose social media and can be devastating for the people involved. They find themselves at the centre of debates being carried out across continents between people they don’t even know and become the subject of mocking memes, as Sacco quickly found.
Sometimes, the backlash is so extreme, it could even be defined as cyberbullying. Messages posted in response can be threatening and can involve the friends and family of the person who sent the original.