Bloomberg on Trump and Twitter: News or Advice from Left Field?

June 1, 2020

I read “Twitter-Trump Spat Signals New Chapter for Social Media.” News, Dear Abby, or a wanna be consultant CxO memo? The write up has a news hook: “Twitter Inc. added a fact-check warning label to two of president’s posts about mail-in voting.  In response, Trump threatened in a set of tweets Wednesday to “strongly regulate or close” down social-media platforms.”

What’s interesting about the write up is that the “news” story shoots into an interesting direction: Consulting and legal advice combined in one “real news” story:

Now, with another presidential election just months away, they made a calculated gamble that it was time to take a stand. It will be hard to retreat from here. When the dust settles, Trump’s threats will likely be seen as political theater without any lasting ramifications for Twitter’s business. Technology companies will challenge the president’s executive order in court on the grounds he can’t unilaterally change precedent without Congressional approval.

Is this Bloomberg’s official position? Nah, that would imply accountability for using news as a platform for a well written blog type commentary. The “author” has an email address, but Bloomberg adds:

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Fascinating. “Real news” with advice, a slightly “annoyed parent” tone, and a disclaimer. Hey, we published this, but we are not really backing up the writer or the content. Are we on the “Verge” of a new type of “real news”?

There you go.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2020

Biased? You Betcha

March 11, 2020

Fact checkers probably have one of the hardest jobs, especially with today’s 24/7 access news stream. Determining what the facts are is difficult and requires proper research. Fact checkers, however, have a tougher nut to crack with confirmation bias a.k.a. this article from Nieman Lab: “The Fact-Checker’s Dilemma: Humans Are Hardwired To Dismiss Facts That Don’t Fit Their Worldview.”

The article opens with a poignant statement about polarized, insulated ideological communities ratified by their own beliefs. Some examples of these communities are autism is caused by vaccines, global warming is a hoax, and different political mish mash.

Refuting false information should be simple, especially with cold, hard facts, but that is not the case. Political, religion, ethnicity, nationality, and other factors influence how and what people believe. What is the cause behind this behavior?

“The interdisciplinary study of this phenomenon has exploded over just the past six or seven years. One thing has become clear: The failure of various groups to acknowledge the truth about, say, climate change, isn’t explained by a lack of information about the scientific consensus on the subject. Instead, what strongly predicts denial of expertise on many controversial topics is simply one’s political persuasion.”

What is astonishing is this:

“A 2015 metastudy showed that ideological polarization over the reality of climate change actually increases with respondents’ knowledge of politics, science, and/or energy policy. The chances that a conservative is a climate change denier is significantly higher if he or she is college-educated. Conservatives scoring highest on tests for cognitive sophistication or quantitative reasoning skills are most susceptible to motivated reasoning about climate science.”

While the above example is about conservatives, liberals also have their own confirmation bias dilemmas. This behavior is also linked to primal human behaviors, where, in order to join a social group, humans had to assimilate the group’s beliefs and habits. Personally held prejudices do affect factual beliefs and these can be anything from politics, religion, etc.

Unwelcome information also increases people to cling to wrong information. Anything that threatens an established system encourages close minded thinking. This also gives rise to deniers and conspiracy theories that can also be regarded as fact, when there is not any information to support it.

It is basic human behavior to reject anything that threatens strongly held interests, dogmas, or creeds giving way to denial. Politicians manipulate that behavior to their benefit and the average individual does not realize it. “Waking up “ or becoming aware how the human brain works in relation to confirmation bias is key to overcoming false facts.

Whitney Grace, March 11, 202

China Develops Suicide Detecting AI Bot

December 10, 2019

Most AI bots are used for customer support, massive online postings, downloading stuff, and criminal mischief. China has found another use for AI bots: detecting potential suicides. The South China Morning Post shared the article, “This AI Bot Finds Suicidal Messages On China’s Weibo, Helping Volunteer Psychologists Save Lives.” Asian countries have some of the world’s highest suicide rates. In order to combat death, Huang Zhisheng created the Tree Hole bot in 2018 to detect suicidal messages on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Tree Hole bot finds potential suicide victims posting on Weibo, then connects them with volunteers to discuss their troubles. Huang has prevented more than one thousand suicides.

In 2016, 136,000 people committed suicide in China, which was 17% of world’s suicides that year. The World Health Organization states that suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 15-29. Other companies like Google, Facebook, and Pinterest have used AI to detect potential suicidal or self-harmers, but one of the biggest roadblocks are privacy concerns. Huang notes that saving lives is more important than privacy.

The Tree Hole bot works differently from other companies to find alarming notes:

“The Tree Hole bot automatically scans Weibo every four hours, pulling up posts containing words and phrases like “death”, “release from life”, or “end of the world”. The bot draws on a knowledge graph of suicide notions and concepts, applying semantic analysis programming so it understands that “not want to” and “live” in one sentence may indicate suicidal tendency.

In contrast, Facebook trains its AI suicide prevention algorithm by using millions of real world cases. From April to June, the social media platform handled more than 1.5 million cases of suicide and self-injury content, more than 95 per cent of which were detected before being reported by a user. For the 800,000 examples of such content on Instagram during the same period, 77 per cent were first flagged by the AI system first, according to Facebook, which owns both platforms.”

Assisting potential suicide victims is time consuming and Huang is developing a chatbot that can hopefully take the place of Tree Hole volunteers. Mental health professionals argue that an AI bot cannot take the place of a real human and developers point out there is not enough data to make an effective therapy bot.

Suicide prevention AI bots are terrific, but instead of making them volunteer only would it be possible, at least outside of China to make a non-profit organization staffed by professionals and volunteers?

Whitney Grace, December 10, 2019

Who Owns the Future? Leonardos That Is Who

November 25, 2019

I found “The Future Belongs to Polymaths” oddly disturbing. The message is that people who are really smart and have mastered many field will own the future. People like Leonardo Da Vinci were identified to me in grade school as really smart people. I think one of my teachers, maybe Miss Soapes introduced the concept of Renaissance man to me in the fourth grade. This was good because I had missed two or three years of regular grade school because my family lived in Brazil. My local school had no provisions for an English speaker beyond “Yankee, go home.” My Calvert Course teacher died from an insect bite with complication from some obscure disease. Renaissance anything I wasn’t.

But the write up states:

Still, it’s clear that whenever we have had giants like Aristotle, Galileo, and Da Vinci, the contributions they made even in specialized fields may not have been made in the same way if they hadn’t attacked a problem with a diverse inventory of mental knowledge and understanding. Polymaths see the world differently. They make connections that are otherwise ignored, and they have the advantage of a unique perspective.

I think Facebook, Google, and the other members of the FAANG hire polymaths.

What’s the result?

Perhaps the reality created by polymaths is not so good for the other 99.8 percent of the population?

Here are some reassuring thoughts:

Now, in a world where Artificial Narrow Intelligence systems are going to displace most routine, specialized work, it isn’t too much of stretch to assume that this skill of learning to learn across disciplines may just be the difference between those who reinvent themselves and those who don’t. In fact, chances are that our current distinctions between disciplines will start to fade away and new ones will arise. Many of them will likely reside between areas that aren’t currently covered by specialization.

And the point of the write up is?

Stephen E Arnold, November 25, 2019

Thin is In: Just Not for Software

October 20, 2019

Editor’s Note: This item is neither search nor cyber crime. DarkCyber found it interesting.

Scientific studies and research cannot be trusted depending on who conducts the study and who sponsors it, such as a big pharmaceutical company. Some organizations, however, do release unbiased studies that are simply the facts and research observations. The Guardian reports on a study that proves exercise does help older humans, “Older Adults Can Boost Longevity ‘With Just A Little Exercise.’”

According to the study, even a little activity such as washing the dishes, moving from one part oft house to another, and even walking to the water closet fends off death. Sedentary lifestyles have been proven through multiple studies to increase the chance for many diseases, including heart failure. A Norwegian study backs up the previous confirmed research, but this specific study concentrates on the elderly.

“It is important for elderly people, who might not be able to do much moderate-intensity activity, that just moving around and doing light-intensity [activity] [will have] strong effects and is beneficial,” said Ulf Ekelund, a professor and first author of the study at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. However, the study finds that there is more “bang for your buck” if you engage in intense activity compared with light activity. A short stint of intense activity is viewed as beneficial as much longer periods of lesser activity.”

The Norwegian study released by the BMJ followed 36,000 people for five to six years with an average age of sixty-three years. During the study there were a total of 2,149 deaths. Participants were divided into four groups based on their active time, risk of death, with other factors taken into consideration such as sex, body-mass, socioeconomic status, and BMI. Participants who had the most intense physical activity, about 380 minutes a day, were 62% lower death rate than other groups.

The death rate increased for less physical activity in the other test groups. It is better to be physical than sitting around all day. No one messed with this study, including governments and big pharmaceutical companies. We need more tests conducted in this manner.

Now about that 65 megabyte download for Google Lens?

Whitney Grace, October 20, 2019

Understanding Social Engineering

September 6, 2019

“Quiet desperation”? Nope, just surfing on psychological predispositions. Social engineering leads to a number of fascinating security lapses. For a useful analysis of how pushing buttons can trigger some interesting responses, navigate to “Do You Love Me? Psychological Characteristics of Romance Scam Victims.” The write up provides some useful insights. We noted this statement from the article:

a susceptibility to persuasion scale has been developed with the intention to predict likelihood of becoming scammed. This scale includes the following items: premeditation, consistency, sensation seeking, self-control, social influence, similarity, risk preferences, attitudes toward advertising, need for cognition, and uniqueness. The current work, therefore, suggests some merit in considering personal dispositions might predict likelihood of becoming scammed.

Cyberpsychology at work.

Stephen E Arnold, September 6, 2019

Memes and an App Apocalypse?

November 5, 2018

It used to be all about the apps and their versatility, but now apps are clunky especially when you want to make a meme. Memes are one of the Internet’s currencies, a good meme can hook a ton of views, hits, subscribers, and potentially go viral. Going viral ranks a meme’s longevity and can even go down in Internet infamy. Making memes are not as simple as one would think, take a look at The Atlantic’s article, “What’s The Best App For Making Memes?”

The answer: none. App meme makers available in the Apple App Store used to be a useful tool, but these apps have not been maintained and do not make the quality memes now in demand. The only time these apps are used are when they are being made fun of. The current meme creation app offerings are very poor, some meme creators rely on their computers instead of their mobile devices.

There is a high demand and someone can make money if a meme app was designed correctly:

“Recognizing this need, some apps have emerged in recent months to corner the market. But building the killer meme app is incredibly challenging. Many memers say that for one app to have everything they’d need, it would have to incorporate advanced photo- and video-editing tools and a highly precise eraser. And it would have to be flexible enough to adapt to new formats in real time.”

Memes are not one size fits all, however, and anything that works for one individual is fine. Memes are jokes and casual entertainment for quick Internet consumption. The goal is that memes generate laughter for an instant, then you one onto the next one. Whatever process that works for making them is fine.

Whitney Grace, November 5, 2018

Speed Shifting Cultural Gears

July 18, 2018

Social scientists have often speculated what percentage of a population must object to a behavior before that behavior is seen as abnormal (sexual harassment in the workplace, for example). Due to the complexity of the issue, it has been a difficult statistic to pin down; conclusions have ranged from 10% to 40% of the population. Classically, conventional wisdom has called for an even higher tipping point of 51%. According to a blog post from the U. of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, “Research Finds Tipping Point for Large-Scale Social Change,” we now have a more accurate answer. We learn:

“In this study, ‘Experimental Evidence for Tipping Points in Social Convention,’ coauthored by Joshua Becker, Ph.D., Devon Brackbill, Ph.D., and Andrea Baronchelli, Ph.D., 10 groups of 20 participants each were given a financial incentive to agree on a linguistic norm. Once a norm had been established, a group of confederates — a coalition of activists that varied in size — then pushed for a change to the norm.,,, When a minority group pushing change was below 25% of the total group, its efforts failed. But when the committed minority reached 25%, there was an abrupt change in the group dynamic, and very quickly the majority of the population adopted the new norm. In one trial, a single person accounted for the difference between success and failure. The researchers also tested the strength of their results by increasing the payments people got for adhering to the prevailing norm. Despite doubling and tripling the amount of money for sticking with the established behavior, Centola and his colleagues found that a minority group could still overturn the group norm.”

The real world being what it is, the researchers allow for the need to adjust that 25% target according to circumstances. The study’s lead author Damon Centola says his team’s research can inform political activism online, or can empower organizations to engineer their environments to “push people in pro-social directions” through purposely shifting their underlying beliefs. Interesting observations; see the article for more details.

Cynthia Murrell, July 18, 2018

Silicon Valley Hubris

November 1, 2017

Are today’s big tech companies leading our culture down foolish paths? Writer Scott Hartley at Quartz declares, “Silicon Valley Is Suffering from an Icarus Complex.” After briefly summarizing the story of Daedalus and Icarus, Hartley extrapolates that, today, the same examples of hubris would be cast as a pair of tech entrepreneurs, lauded for their bold wing-building initiative and attracting eager investors. He observes:

The Greeks distinguished between craftsmanship, known as technae, and knowledge, known as espisteme. But today we conflate doing with knowing: We believe that doers are wise, when perhaps they are only clever. Silicon Valley is so obsessed with crafting new wings—to harness the power of the Gods and tame the heavens—that it has overlooked the notion that cleverness is not necessarily wisdom. The ability to harness technology alone may be clever, but it isn’t wise unless it is contextualized within a greater human need. For example, someone might design the cleverest new system to optimize ad delivery—but few of us would call such an entrepreneur sagacious or wise. We might justly lionize them for their capitalistic prowess or for their ability to abstract value from the ever-tightening mechanics of how pixels are dangled before us like candy—but we wouldn’t call them a ‘genius.’ We require great technologists and clever doers, but we require those who question, probe, and seek to contextualize our advances in equal measure.

Yes. Just because we can “reinvent every human process with something mechanistic,” as he puts it, does not mean we should. We need more wise minds to consider what technology goals are worthy, and fewer who would pursue anything they can devise to make a buck, regardless of the consequences to society as a whole.

Cynthia Murrell, November 1, 2017

Crowd Wisdom Adjusted to Measure Information Popularity

June 2, 2017

The article on ScienceDaily titled In Crowd Wisdom, the ‘Surprisingly Popular’ Answer Can Trump Ignorance of the Masses conveys the latest twist on crowd wisdom, or efforts to answer questions by asking many people rather than specialists. Unsurprisingly, crowd wisdom often is not very wise at all, but rather favors the most popular information. The article uses the example of asking various populations whether Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. Those who answered yes also believed that others would agree, making it a popular answer. The article goes on to explain,

Meanwhile, a certain number of respondents knew that the correct answer is “no.” But these people also anticipated that many other people would incorrectly think the capital is Philadelphia, so they also expected a very high percentage of “yes” answers. Thus, almost everyone expected other people to answer “yes,” but the actual percentage of people who did was significantly lower. “No” was the surprisingly popular answer because it exceeded expectations of what the answer would be.

By measuring the perceived popularity of a given answer, researchers saw errors reduced by over 20% compared to straightforward majority votes, and by almost 25% compared to confidence-weighted votes. As in the case of the Philadelphia question above, those who predicted that they were in the minority deserve the most attention because they had enough information to expect that many people would incorrectly vote yes. If you take away nothing else from this, let it be that Harrisburg, not Philly, is the capital of Pennsylvania.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 2, 2017

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